Mirepoix

Mirepoix, a trio of aromatic vegetables, became popular in 19thcentury French cooking and is named, in the fashion of so many French culinary terms, after a Duke who was a regarded as a pretty incompetent Field Marshall and Ambassador, and who owed much to Louis XV affections towards his wife. Mirepoix is a small, fine dice normally of onions, carrots, and celery roughly in the proportions 2:1:1. It is the base flavour of many classic sauces and stocks and slow-cooked casseroles and stews. Mirepoix can vary from recipe to recipe and region to region and include garlic, leeks, mushroom stalks and tomatoes.

Mirepoix

Mirepoix au gras has the addition of finely diced ham or streaky bacon. Similar base vegetable mixes are to be found in German cooking called suppengrün or soup greens. There is also the holy trinity of Creole cooking; onions, green bell peppers and celery and soffritto an Italian soup and sauce base of vegetables, garlic and parsley stewed in olive oil.

Matignon is traditionally a finer dice of aromatic vegetables including onions, carrots, celery, leeks and garlic which is sautéed in butter and flavoured with a pinch of thyme and perhaps some crushed garlic. It is usually finished with salt, sugar if required and a splash of Madeira wine. The result can be used as a stuffing or a base to present poultry and meat on.

Advertisements

Vanilla Sugar

Vanilla sugar.JPGWhen you are cooking with real vanilla pods using the seeds to flavour whipped cream or crème Anglais reserve the empty pods. If they have been used to infuse their flavour into milk, remove them and pat dry. The reserved pods can be placed in a plastic container or jar filled with caster sugar. Any remaining essential oils will infuse the caster sugar with a delicious vanilla flavour which can then be used in cakes or as a topping for freshly baked biscuits.

Feuilleté Pastry Tarts

Puff pastry can be used to make many different savoury hors d’oeuvre or bite sized appetisers. The most famous of these being little-stuffed Vol-au-vent cases topped with a little lid or delicate Crolines, small lattice topped parcels. My recipe today is how to make the third, great little tartlet case that can also be made slightly larger and used as a savoury starter, light lunch or filled with whipped cream and fruit as a simple, elegant dessert.

Seafood Tart

Feuilleté Pastry Tarts

Why not try your finished Feuillettes filled with roasted Provençal vegetables topped with whipped Goat’s cheese and a little rocket dressed with sea salt and Balsamic, creamy garlic mushrooms with brandy, thyme and nutmeg or a fabulous seafood medley as well as fruit purées and Confectioner’s custard or glazed poached peach halves and raspberries if you have a sweeter palate.

Puff pastry ( ready made or homemade )
Egg wash

Preheat your oven to 400F / 200C / Gas Mark 6. Roll out your pastry on a lightly floured work surface.

Puff Pastry 2

Cut into squares 4 by 4 inches for a large case 1 1/2 inch squared for smaller bite-size tarts.

Puff Pastry 3

Carefully cut two L – shaped into the pastry like the picture above. Make sure to you leave to small pieces of uncut pastry to hold the edges together.

Puff Pastry 4

Egg wash the pastry square the fold over the cut pastry strips.

Puff Pastry 5

Egg wash the tart case again including the sides of the pastry. Dock or prick the center of the case with the tines of a fork, this will prevent the center rising. Transfer to a non -stick baking sheet and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes to relax the pastry. This will help prevent the pastry from shrinking.

Puff Pastry 6

Place in your heated oven and bake for between 10 to 20 minutes depending on the size of your feuilette, until crisp and golden brown. Remove to a wire rack and cool. You can make your cases ahead of you needing them and store in an airtight container.

Chinese Five Spice

Chinese Five Spice is a staple in Chinese kitchens although not used in every recipe, an even blend of the following aromatics; pungent star anise, cloves, and cinnamon, fiery Sichuan pepper, and fennel seeds. However, like many recipes, it is not definite and other ingredients may be added or substituted such as ginger, nutmeg, turmeric and in south China orange peel. It is often used in ‘ Red ’ cooking or Chinese slow cooking,  where meat is braised for many hours in heavily flavoured stocks or sauces

Chinese 5 Spice.jpeg

The sweet, tangy taste of Chinese Five Spice is excellent with fatty meats such as roast pork, duck or goose staples of classic Cantonese cuisine. An extremely versatile flavoured salt can be easily made by dry-roasting table salt with five-spice powder on a low heat in a wok until the spice and salt are well mixed. It makes an excellent spice rub for chicken, duck, pork, ribs and seafood.

Chinese Five Spice Recipe

For best results blend the following whole spices in a spice grinder and store in an air-tight container in a cool, dark cupboard.

10 Star Anise pods

1 heaped tablespoon Fennel Seeds

3 cm piece of Cinnamon Stick

6 Cloves

½ teaspoon Sichuan Peppercorns

Optional Ingredients

½ teaspoon of White Peppercorns

½ teaspoon ground Ginger

Chillies

Many Tex-Mex, Cajun and Asian recipes contain chillies in some proportions to add from just a little kick to a beer swilling, throat ripping heat. Chillies are one of the earliest cultivated crops and come from the south west of the Americas. Christopher Columbus called the chillies ‘ peppers ‘ after the taste similar to the black and white peppercorns already used in Europe. Travellers were often in search of new sources of spices due to their immense rarity and value. The chilli spread through many of the Spanish and Portuguese colonies to particularly to Mexico, Goa, parts of China and Indonesia.

ChilliesChillies are all part of the nightshade family of plants some common variations are the red and green Bell peppers ( green are simply unripe bell peppers ), Cayenne, Jalapeño*, Anaheim, Serrano and Poblano peppers ( which when dried are the Ancho pepper ) these collectively are Capsicum annuum peppers. Capsicum frutescens are the family of hotter chillies including the Piri piri, Tabasco and African Birdseye chillies. The hottest chillies are the Habanero, Scotch bonnet and Naga chillies from the Capsicum chinense chilli family. Chillies are high in Vitamin C, Potassium, Magnesium and Iron but do not add greatly to the overall nutritional content of a meal because of the relatively small amounts in a dish.

* The Chipotal pepper is a variety of smoked then dried jalapeño


Chillies come in many varieties here are just a few examples;

Sweet and Fresh – have distinct vegetal aromas reminiscent of freshly cut red bell peppers and fresh home grown tomatoes, Costeño, dried Anaheim, California or Colorado and Choricero peppers.

The Hot Ones – Can be like Cascabels with some complexity and depth of flavour or others like the Pequin or Arbol,which are all about heat.

Dried / Smoky – Some chile peppers, like Chipotles are dried and smoked Some are naturally just dried like Ñora or Guajillo used to make a mild salsa for tamales.

Rich and Fruity – Have distinct aromas of sun-dried tomatoes, raisins, chocolate, and coffee. These include some of the best-known Mexican chiles, like Ancho, Mulato, and Pasilla.

Using Chillies

When preparing, try to handle cut and chopped chillies as little as possible. Many chefs wear disposable latex gloves. Wash and clean any equipment that comes in contact with the peppers thoroughly. The main active constituent in the chilli is the naturally occurring chemical Capsaicin. ( It is now the main ingredient in pepper spray and some animal deterrents ). The majority of the Capsaicin is found in the seeds and pith, if your not a fan of chilli heat remove these before preparing your chillies.

Chilli ‘ heat ‘ is measured in Scoville Heat Units, I’ve listed a few varieties of chilli pepper and their SHU to give you an idea of the scale and the relative strength of commercial available peppers. Interestingly some of the the hottest chillies in the world have recently been grown not in Mexico or Asia but in Grantham and Poole in the UK.

Bell Peppers 0 units

New Mexico Green Chillies 1500 + units

Jalapenos 2500 + units

Birds Eye Chillies 50,000 + units

Scotch Bonnets 100,000 + units

Habaneros 300,000 + units

Nag Viper chillies 1,300,000 units

for comparison Tabasco sauce is around 2000 units


A brilliant site for chilli lovers

Ginger

Ginger is a flowering plant of which the large underground stems or rhizomes are used grated or once dried, ground as a powder in numerous style of cooking and cuisines. Ginger is part of the same family as turmeric, cardamom, and galangal. Ginger is believed to have first grown in India, certainly, by the first century AD it was part of the spice trade to Europe and was a staple of Roman cooking.

GingerPowdered ginger is used extensively in baking in gingerbread and parkin, ginger snap biscuits and fruit cakes and as the principle flavour in ginger beer and ginger ale. Candied ginger, or crystallized ginger, is the root cooked in sugar until soft and is a type of confectionery.

In Indian cuisine, ginger is one of the main spices used for making lentil based curries and vegetable dishes. Fresh, as well as dried, ginger is used to spice tea and coffee. In Japan, ginger is pickled to make Beni shōga, 紅生姜 the pink-hued accompaniment to many rice dishes. In fiery Kimchi, the fermented Korean cabbage dish ginger juice or minced ginger is added to the ingredients of the spicy paste just before the fermenting process. Chinese cooks slice ginger onto steamed fish alongside sesame oil and spring onions and chopped ginger is added with garlic to stir fry dishes. Ginger is also used in a number of Burmese, Thai, Indonesian, Malaysian and Vietnamese dishes.

Ginger is used in traditional Indian medicine and some small studies have found that it can be effective as a treatment for seasickness and morning sickness when taken as a tea or infusion.