Mignonette

Mignonette is a traditional accompaniment to chilled, raw oysters containing a mix of pepper, shallots, and vinegar the name is thought to come from a traditional spice mix of peppercorns, cloves, and other spices.

Chilled Oysters Mignonette
Traditional Oysters Mignonette

 

Mignonette

75 ml quality White Wine Vinegar or Champagne Vinegar

1 medium Shallot, peeled and very, very finely diced

¼ teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper

Stir together all ingredients and allow the flavours to infuse for thirty minutes before serving.

If you like things a little fierier, add one teaspoon of Sriracha sauce.

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Sriracha

Thai Sriracha Sauce
Sriracha Hot Sauce

Sriracha is a hot chilli-based condiment from Thailand used predominantly in Thai and Vietnamese cooking and used in soups, sauces and as a dip for seafood and spring rolls. It is made from red chillies, garlic, sugar, salt, and vinegar. As its popularity has spread the sauce is now used to flavour mayonnaise served with seafood and burgers, as a glaze for grilled bacon and in cocktails. In America, the sauce is commonly known as Rooster sauce from the logo on the most predominant brand available.

Brine

Putting meat into a salt-water solution or brine is an age-old method of preserving and flavouring food. Feta and halloumi cheeses are both aged in brine for flavour, and pork is cured in brine to make bacon and ham where the salt inhibits bacterial spoiling and flavours the meat. Brining is increasingly popular with professional chefs to help chicken, other poultry and pork stay juicy and moist during cooking, it increases the yield of joints so saves money. Brine is used a lot in American home cooking especially preparing meat for barbecuing and grilling. There are slight risks in home curing but using the brine to add flavour and moisture and not preserve the meat is perfectly safe.

Bacon Rashers
Streaky Bacon Slices

Using a brine is simple, economical and tasty. Just follow the steps below and remember the following, you don’t have to salt brined meat before cooking. Once brined, pork and chicken cooks faster so be careful and use a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat, check the temperature and do not overcook. Brining any meat will add a significant amount of liquid to it before cooking, you can actually increase the total weight of a cut of pork by 15% or more.Therefore the amount of water that remains in a piece of meat during cooking can increase greatly and the resulting cuts and joints will be juicier and tenderer.

The Science Bit

The process by which additional moisture, salt ( and flavourings ) are added to the meat is called osmosis.Osmosis happens under laboratory conditions when water flows from a lower concentration of a solution to a higher concentration through a semipermeable membrane. In your piece of meat, this is the membrane that surrounds the individual pork or chicken cells. When the meat is placed in a brine solution, the fluids in each meat cell are less concentrated than the salt water in the brining solution. Water flows out of the cells in the meat and salt is absorbed. The salt then dissolves some of the fiber proteins, and the meat cell fluids become more concentrated. Water is now absorbed back into the cell. Brining adds salt and water to the cells so that when the meat is cooked and water is squeezed out, there is still water left in the cells because more water was added before the cooking process.

Preparing the Brine

You can use sea salt and some people believe the mineral content is beneficial to the end flavour, it is however expensive. Americans use Kosher salt which is also used in manufacturing and commercial meat processing and has a large flat crystal shape. For our basic brine recipe table salt, preferable without iodine, is absolutely fine. We want to achieve a five percent solution, sea water, by comparison, is around 3.5% and to do this we need to add 50g of salt per litre of water. The solution should be salty to the taste but not thick with salt. If you follow this ratio you have an ideal brine for pork and chicken, as you experiment you can find further information on different strengths of brine to use but be careful, too much salt or leaving the meat in the brine for too long will leave you with salty meat.

Dissolve the salt thoroughly in potable freshly boiling hot water and leave to totally cool. For the amount of brine, you will need, consider the size of the container you are going to use and the size of the meat you want to brine. A brine solution should be enough to completely submerge the meat you want to brine. For larger quantities of brine dissolve the salt in a third of the water then when cool add it to the remaining amount of cold water.

You can add a variety of flavors such as herbs and spices, sugars, beers, wines, fruit, and vegetables. Experiment with flavour combinations they are almost infinite. The most basic are sugars, some sweetness tends to offset a saltiness the brine might otherwise impart to the meat and is a popular flavouring, think of Black Forest hams and sticky barbecue ribs. Add approximately 20g per litre of brine to give a sweet base flavour and to encourage browning during cooking. You can use cane sugar, brown sugar, honey, molasses and maple syrup as sweeteners.

Additional flavours should not overpower the meat but add subtle notes to the cooked result. Vegetables such as onions, celery, carrots, and garlic should be chopped to increase the amount of surface area of the vegetables in use in the brine solution. You can replace some of the water with apple juice, cider, orange juice, beer, wine, rice wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and tea. Both pork and chicken are ideal partners with Oriental flavorings such as Mirin or Japanese rice wine and soy sauce, use a little less salt if you substitute a large amount of soy sauce as it is quite a salty condiment. Finally consider ginger, fresh herbs, juniper berries, cloves, cinnamon stick, vanilla bean, mustard seed, coriander seed, star anise, hot pepper flakes or Sichuan peppercorns.

How to Brine

When your prepared brine is cold you can brine your pork or chicken. This needs to be done in an inert glass, stainless steel or plastic container. You can also purchase heavy duty bags specifically for the purpose, including turkey size from American online food equipment suppliers. Make sure the container is thoroughly cleaned with very hot soapy water before use. Fill with your brine solution, immerse your meat and weigh it down with a clean heavy plate to make sure no chicken or pork is exposed to the air and cover the container. Place in the bottom of your refrigerator. Refrigeration is absolutely required during brining. The meat and brine solution must be kept below 40 degrees F. at all times. Warning a container large enough to hold a whole turkey might be too big for your fridge and you may have to ask a friendly butcher to brine it for you.

When it comes to the amount of time you want to brine something it is more important not to brine too long than not long enough. While some cuts of meat can use days in a brine, even a relatively small amount of time can be helpful. The size, cut and grain will also affect the time required for immersion.

  • Pork Chops (1 inch to 1½ inch thick) 12 to 24 hours

  • Whole Pork Loin 2 to 4 days

  • Whole Pork Tenderloin 6 to 12 hours

  • Whole Chicken ( 4 pounds ) 4 to 12 hours

  • Chicken Pieces ( thighs and drumsticks ) 1 to 2 hours

  • Whole Turkey ( 12 pounds ) 1 to 2 days

Cooking the Meat

Remove the chicken or pork from the brine and dispose of the used brine. Rinse twice after removing it from the solution and pat dry on kitchen paper. If you are not ready to cook at the end of the brining time, remove from brine, rinse the meat and refrigerate until ready to use. Do not salt brined meat before cooking. Cook according to your favorite recipe adjusting the cooking time as the meat may cook a little quicker and brown faster if you use a sweetened brine.

Cooked crispy Bacon
Cooked Streak Bacon

Fines herbes

Fines herbes is a mix of parsleychivestarragon, and chervil used to flavour chicken, fish, and egg dishes, in sauces and in herb salads. Perhaps the most famous dish is ‘Omelette aux fines herbes’ a classic of French cuisine. Dishes using Fines herbes should always be cooked quickly as not to spoil the herbs flavour and appearance.

Culinary Herbs
Fresh Herbs

Fines herbes is one of three classic herb blends used in classic French cuisine alongside the more strongly flavoured mix of herbs in ‘Bouquet Garni’ and ‘Herbes de Provence’.

Tarragon

“I believe that if ever I had to practice cannibalism, I might manage if there were enough tarragon around”

James Beard

Gently crushing the leaves of tarragon releases a sweet aroma of liquorice, and anise is the predominant flavour with lemon, basil and a sweet aftertaste. Tarragon is a popular ingredient in French cooking as a key flavour Béarnaise sauce and one of the ingredients of ‘fines herbes’, along with chives, parsley and chervil. Tarragon marries well with fish dishes, chicken and eggs, as well as being perfect with mushrooms and tomatoes. Tarragon can be used both fresh or dried however the flavour and aroma often disappear when dried so it’s better to preserve fresh leaves in oil or vinegar.

Fresh Tarragon
Fresh Tarragon

Tarragon is a perennial herb it grows best in a sunny spot with rich, dry soil. It grows better in colder climates, however, it does need protection from sharp frosts. Tarragon is said to be an appetite stimulant and to assist with stomach upsets, heartburn, insomnia and headaches, the Romans chewed tarragon leaves to ease toothaches.

Crème fraîche

Crème fraîche the French for ‘fresh cream’ is a dairy product, a soured cream containing 10–45% butterfat. It is often served simply with soft Summer berries or poached fruits and added to soups and sauces as an alternative to cream.

Fresh berries and Creme fraiche
Raspberries and Crème fraîche

Crème fraîche is produced by adding a starter culture of bacteria to heavy cream, and allowing it to stand at room temperature until it thickens, this process gives crème fraîche its distinctive flavour. In France the crème fraîche from Normandy is regarded as the best and has its own appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC), which was awarded in 1986.

Granola

Granola is an increasingly popular breakfast cereal made from baked oats with honey and sugar.  Manufactured Granola can be quite expensive and yet very easy to make at home. It is delicious mixed with dried fruits and nuts such as flaked almonds, apricots, raisins and sultanas or eaten with creamy, natural yoghurt, sliced banana and sprinkled with Blueberries.

Homemade Crunchy Granola
Homemade Crunchy Granola

Granola was invented and trademarked in America by a contemporary of John Harvey Kellogg as a baked breakfast cereal at a similar time to muesli, which is also made from oats although neither sweetened or cooked. With the addition of nuts and dried fruits Granola is often marketed as a ‘healthy option’ however it does contain a lot of sugar. Granola or pressed Granola bars ( similar to Flapjack ) are a good source of energy and is often carried by long-distance hikers. Granola can also be used in making and garnishing desserts.

Breakfast Granola
Granola with Yoghurt, Bananas, and Blueberries

Homemade Crunchy Granola

300 gr Rolled Oats

120 gr Honey

60 ml Vegetable Oil

3 tablespoons packed light Brown Sugar

1 teaspoon Natural Vanilla extract

½ teaspoon ground Cinnamon

¼ teaspoon Salt

Extras

100 gr dried fruit; Raisins, Sultanas, small diced dried Apricots, freeze dried Strawberries

50 gr toasted flaked Almond Nuts or flaked Coconut

Heat the oven to 300°F / 150 C / Gas mark 2. Place the oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl and stir to combine and set aside. Place the honey, oil, and vanilla into a jug and mix thoroughly. Pour over the oat mixture and mix until the oats are thoroughly coated. Spread the mixture in a thin, even layer on a rimmed baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Bake for fifteen minutes, then stir, breaking up any large clusters and continue baking until the granola is a very light golden brown, for between five and ten more minutes.

 

Place the baking sheet on a wire rack and cool the granola to room temperature, stirring occasionally. It will harden as it cools. You can add the dried fruit and nuts or seeds to the Granola when it is thoroughly cooled down and toss to combine together. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.