Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mushroom Caviar

So J makes this amazing mushroom caviar. It's her mother's recipe, I think, like many good recipes are, and it comes out every Thanksgiving, placed strategically around her flat with pita chips to dip in. One year Andy's mum was at J's Thanksgiving and asked for the recipe - ever since I have had a copy of it. Now it's coming to Christmas in Suffolk with me as a lovely snack. Ignore how unappetizing the picture is - it really makes up for that with loads of rich mushroom-y flavor.

Mushroom Caviar
Adapted from the Great J


500g fresh mushrooms
1 medium (1/2 c.) onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
2 eggs, hard-cooked
2 Tbl parsley, minced (original calls for 1 Tbl)
2 Tbl butter
1 tsp thyme leaves (original calls for 1/8 tsp)
1 Tbl brandy (optional)
2 Tbl mayonnaise (optional)

Rinse, pat dry and finely knife-chop mushrooms or coarsely grate in food processor. (I put all the mushrooms and the onion in my mini food processor to save on chopping time). In large skillet melt butter. Add mushrooms, onion, salt, thyme and pepper. Cook over moderate heat, stirring often, until all liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. (I find this takes longer than 10 minutes - I did a double batch today which definitely took about 40 minutes). Add brandy. Stir constantly until brandy evaporates, about 1 minute. (I omitted the brandy step). Cool. Reserve 1 egg yolk. Finely chop remaining one whole egg and one egg white; add to mushroom mixture with mayonnaise (which I also omitted) and parsley; mix well. Turn into 1 1/4 cup container; cover and chill. At serving time, pack into small serving bowl or unmold onto lettuce or serving plate. Using a small fine-mesh sieve held directly over serving bowl, press reserved egg yolk over top.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Apple Butter

A generous bag of apples from our neighbors resulted in some impromptu apple butter today. It took ages but resulted in a sticky, spicy, appley spread - one jar is going back to said neighbors, and the rest is for us.

Apple Butter Recipe
Adapted from Simply Recipes


4 lbs of good cooking apples
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups water
Sugar (about 2 cups, see cooking instructions)
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon allspice
Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon


Cut the apples into quarters, without peeling or coring them (much of the pectin is in the cores and flavor in the peels), cut out damaged parts.

Put them into large pot, add the vinegar and water, cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cook until apples are soft, about 40 minutes. Remove from heat.

Ladle apple mixture into a chinois sieve (or foodmill) and using a pestle force pulp from the chinois into a large bowl below. Measure resulting puree (I got about 4 cups). Add 1/2 cup of sugar for each cup of apple pulp. Stir to dissolve sugar. Add a dash of salt, and the cinnamon, allspice, lemon rind and juice. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Cook uncovered in a large, wide, thick-bottomed pot on medium low heat, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Scrape the bottom of the pot while you stir to make sure a crust is not forming at the bottom. Cook until thick and smooth (about 1 to 2 hours). A small bit spooned onto a chilled (in the freezer) plate will be thick, not runny. You can also cook the purée on low heat, stirring only occasionally, but this will take much longer as stirring encourages evaporation. (Note the wider the pan the better, as there is more surface for evaporation.)

There are several ways to sterilize your jars for canning. You can run them through a short cycle on your dishwasher. You can place them in a large pot (12 quart) of water on top of a steaming rack (so they don't touch the bottom of the pan), and bring the water to a boil for 10 minutes. Or you can rinse out the jars, dry them, and place them, without lids, in a 200°F oven for 10 minutes.

Pour into hot, sterilized jars and seal. If you plan to store the apple butter un-refrigerated, make sure to follow proper canning procedures. Before applying the lids, sterilize the lids by placing them in a bowl and pouring boiling water over them. Wipe the rims of the jars clean before applying the lids. I use a hot water bath for 10 minutes to ensure a good seal.

Makes a little more than 3 pint jars.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Jack's Birthday Cake

A was participating in his office bake off competition. Being a boozehound, he wanted to make this Jack Daniels cake. It is disastrously sweet and a bit dry, making it no surprise that it placed last. My suggestion is that if you're looking for a Jack Daniels cake, look elsewhere.

Jack's Birthday Cake
Adapted from Jack Daniels Food


2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
4 eggs
½ cup Jack Daniel's® Tennessee Whiskey
1 cup chopped hazelnuts (original recipe calls for walnuts)
1 package (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
Hot Buttered Whiskey Glaze (recipe follows)


Heat oven to 325°F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Set aside. Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat. Stir in the brown sugar, eggs, flour mixture, and Jack Daniel's®, stirring well after each addition. Pour batter into the greased pan. Sprinkle evenly with hazlenuts and chocolate chips. Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until center of the cake is firm and edges begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cool on a wire rack and drizzle with glaze. Makes 16 servings.

Note: Cake may be baked in a greased 10-inch tube pan. Increase the baking time to 1 hour. Cool in the pan 10 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. Drizzle with the glaze.

Hot Buttered Whiskey Glaze

1/8 cup melted butter
1 cups powdered sugar
1.5 tablespoons Jack Daniel's® Tennessee Whiskey
1/6 cup Jack Daniel’s® Tennessee Whiskey 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Blend well with a wooden spoon. Drizzle over the cake. (The original recipe made twice as much but it was way too much for the cake.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Islington Barn


133B Upper Street
N1 1QP

Delightfully, one of my favorite food providers,
Farm Direct, have created a pop up on Upper Street called The Islington Barn. It's full of hay bales and checkered tablecloths, and you can buy fantastic farm produce from the shop or sit down and have a hearty meal made from those same farm ingredients. When J and I went, the special dish of the day was beef stew. The bowl above was massive - generous chunks of beef with potatoes and carrots and fresh parsley. The beef fell apart with the mere prod of a spoon and the bread soaked up the rich gravy well. There were other things on the menu, including cakes, but sadly we were so full after the stew that we couldn't fit in anything else. I'm hoping to pop in again before they have to close up.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Crane & Tortoise

39 - 41 Gray's Inn Road

P heard of this place and knew I would always be up for visiting a Japanese pub, so off we went to give it a try. P was pleased to see Asahi on draft - cold beer goes wonderfully with Japanese home cooking. I started with octopus (a mistake - it was rubbery and tasted of very little) but chose better for my main - the deep fried pork cutlet curry. The pork was crisp and juicy and the curry sauce was heartwarming, with lovely chunks of potato and carrot throughout. P got some gyoza and then went with this dish: rice fried with chicken and onions wrapped in an egg omelette, flavoured with tomato ketchup. What appeared was the thing that looks like a burrito above. It was weirdly sweet (maybe the ketchup?) but essentially was some fried rice with a very thin egg wrapping it all into a neat bundle. I'd go back and probably skip the burrito thing next time - stick with the katsu curry!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Bruno's French Bakes

The Masterchef Live /Wine Show festival is something P, A and I all look forward to now. This year, we came armed with bags to carry our purchases, plenty of cash, and empty stomachs. Above, that glorious array of salted butter caramel and dark chocolate tarts was one of my favorite tastes of the day. Upon further investigation, I have learned that Bruno's French Bakes operates stalls at various markets and also sells that heavenly filling as a spread. I almost bought a jar but feared for my own health as it is likely I would have eaten the entire thing, hoarding it from others. I'm not usually that into sweets but this stuff is like crack.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Jack's Firehouse

2130 Fairmount Ave
Philadelphia PA, 19130


Jack's Firehouse was definitely our best food find in Philadelphia. We were in the area since we did an excellent tour of Eastern State Penitentiary (good idea A!) I had clam chowder which was almost over-the-top in creamy clammy flavor, and a side of scrapple which is a specialty in Pennsylvania. I'll let you click on the link if you want to know exactly what it consists of. A got a massive BBQ plate that was demolished, and K's pancakes were also a treat. There's a great cocktail list to go along with the food - no complaints from any of us as we had our last meal of the weekend together.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Rotten Ralph's

201 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Hmm. What to say about this, except that since we were in Philadelphia, K, A and I all thought we should have Philly cheesesteaks. The place I'd heard about had lines down the block and WE DO NOT WAIT FOR FOOD. So we came here, where there were no lines, but as a result served up rather dry cheesesteaks. Won't be back, but it did fuel us for a 2 hour walk to Best Buy, so we still win.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Kelliann's Bar and Grill

1549 Spring Garden Street
Philadelphia, PA 19130

My first post of 2012 is devoted to buffalo wings! Ah how I've missed them - the crispness of fried chicken wings, paired with the genius that is Frank's Red Hot mixed with butter. PLEASE can someone in London start doing them well? Anyway, A&K, being the good friends that they are, agreed to find me some buffalo wings in Philadelphia. This led us to the website The Best Wings in Philly, which then led us to Kelliann's. After a rather harrowing walk through some dark industrial streets, A managed to get us there and we gratefully settled at a table and proceeded to order a plate of 25 chicken wings (I think we went with mild? Though I thought they were really spicy, perhaps because I have been away too long), along with some fries. It wasn't a particularly atmospheric place, but as I have come to realise, the company is way more important than the atmosphere, which meant I had an amazing time. Oh yeah, and the wings are pretty damn good.