Tuesday, 18 January 2011

the pigeon and the pontack

There is one bottle in this house which I have been keeping tightly sealed...

Pontack was the first thing I made from the River Cottage Handbook No.2: Preserves by Pam Corbin. I'd never tasted or even heard of it before but the concoction of elderberries, mace, allspice, cloves, shallots, ginger and vinegar appealed to me. I picked my berries long-ago in Perthshire in September 2009. I do recall the berries took an age to fork-off the stems and I bust a gut rubbing the soused berries through a sieve for every last drop of precious liquor which made only two bottles instead of four. But it was worth it to see the intensely purple liquor even if I'd have to hold off for a 'proper' tasting as Pam says "according to tradition" the sauce is best matured for seven years. Well I am a patient gal but I only managed 16 months. The sauce is ideal with game so when I spied a special offer on Wood Pigeon, I saw that the Pontack's time had come. 

I'd never cooked such little birdies before but even the raw meat smelt wonderfully rich and sweet (which is not something I could say often). I went a little free-style on my cooking technique, something I've been getting braver about of late, and popped a slice of orange, a wee spring of rosemary and a few squashed juniper berries inside each bird with a sprinkle of pepper and salt. Then I slathered them in butter (there was very little fat on these guys but I soon corrected that) and popped them, breast side down, in a baking dish and in the oven, turning half way through. 

We had them with roasted roots: parsnip, carrot, and beetroot rolled in oil, seasoned and drizzled with honey (for the parsnips) and rosemary (on the rest). The roots were given a head start on the birds which I kept basting regularly but did over-do as there wasn't much tenderley-pink about them in the end. But boy-oh-boy did they not taste lip-smackingly good: sweet, rich and very livery. When it came to picking the bones, let's just say I had to be left to it (after being compared Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox). The Pontack made a delicious debut, it had definitely deepened in flavour since bottling but still had a fair kick to it. Hopefully, given time it shall mellow and I can work on my table-manners.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

three good kings (and a little princess)

We had a lovely trip to Glasgow last week to see our dear friends for a long-postponed Christmasy get together. It turned out that we were visiting on Three Kings Day (which Le Petit Pot was getting very excited about here), another tradition I may adopt to make Nöel last a little longer and give me even longer to finish-off my handmade gifts...!

I picked up this super-smart Mini Pen Tote by Cuppa Tea & Cake at The Spider and The Fly and thought it just right for a budding artist to carry her work to-and-fro. It was a perfect fit for this sketchbook which I monogrammed with cut-out fabric and a prit-stick (which worked but really, I need to get some Copydex for these Blue Petery situations). The paper inside is thick brown kraft which I thought might y'know, be a slightly differnet 'ground' for working on with wax crayons, y'huh?!

I've been intending to make these Simple Bibs from Bend the Rules Sewing for many a month now but eventually got round to whipping them up in my typically last-minute stylee. I didn't get off to a great start by not reading the instructions before cutting (tsk!) and generally forgetting that the whole mission of Amy Karol's brilliant book is to make your sewing life easier not more difficult. If you don't know the book, it's full of brilliant tips and cunning methods to save yourself time and effort. Oh, how I need her advice. Hence, even the not-so-eagle-eyed may spot the last-minute emergency welding job required after I mistakenly thought I could hammer popper studs in place and cook porridge at the same time. Still, I think it got the 9 month olds drool of approval!

To carry our Three Kings gifts I made these Kingly carriers which de-stashed (some of) my brown paper bag collection and made use of the Xmas cracker hats which were still hiding under our cushions and down the back of the setee. Course I asked the resident artist for a little help to decorate each bag which she did a superb job on. (Bear in mind the bags were full at the time) She asked me to draw some of the features on her Mummy's bag. I wonder if her additional details in black marker pen are a suggestion of eyeliner?

Stacey's gift was a replacement for the first shower cap I ever made which unfortunately was fire damaged last year. That's some of the fabric I took back from the famous Tomato in Nippori Fabric Town (the link takes you to Asking for Troubles in-depth write-up). I have a few more of these to whip up for the shop as soon as I get some more elastic. (I buy that fresh - don't harvest it from my knicker drawer or anything horrible!)

Course we received some loverly gifts in return but I'll be saving those for another posting. Now where's my lady hammer...

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Hapi.i.ii.e New Year!

Last year I resolved to make pastry, try my hand at bread and learn to knit properly. Let's just say I didn't. This year I've ditched resolutions in preference for 'intentions'...

Partly because my last-minute Hogmanay shopping found the pastry shelf all puffed-out and as I recall, the last and only time I bought shortcrust, I may as well have blind-baked the cardboard box; my neglected resolution looked destined to become a reality at some point before dinner-time next year.

Later that night, having explained my predicament to my fellow revellers, I left the party with a copy of The Cordon Bleu Cookery Book in my arm and the hope that plain flour, cold hands and enlightenment may greet me with the new dawn. 

And as the sun set on 1.1.11, I have to admit to being more than a little puffed-up with the result (despite the possible pastry shrinkage and an ill fitting pie dish, as featured) for there was nothing too shabby about my rough puff. S'long Just-Rol...

Turkey and bacon pi.i.ii.e

leftover cooked turkey, enough for two but roughly 200g
70g bacon lardons
fennel, approx. half a small bulb
125g mushrooms
2 rounded tbsp plain flour
4 or 5 ladels of turkey stock (a Kallo chicken cube’ll do)
a teaspoon of rosemary needles, chopped
a small bunch of parsley, chopped
1 tbsp mushroom ketchup (a tasty option)

Fry the bacon, fennel and mushrooms in a little butter until bacon has lightly coloured and vegetables are softened.

Add the flour to pan with a little stock (if necessary) and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring all the time. Add the rosemary and cooked turkey to the pan, heat for a minute more before adding the rest of the stock. Bring to a simmer and leave to bubble for ten minutes. Add the parsley, season with salt, pepper and mushroom ketchup and pour into a pie dish.

Ideally the pie filling should be level the rim of your pie dish, but if it is pilled slightly higher, then all the better. If your dish is a little too small, use a pie funnel or an upturned egg cup to prevent your pastry from collapsing in the middle.

Dampen the rim of the pie dish with a little water and lay on strips of pastry, pressing the joins together. Dab a little water on the pastry rim and lay on the pastry lid. Fork the edges to seal, cut a hole to allow steam to escape and brush with milk before baking.

Place in a hot oven (200˚C) for 30 minutes.

and for the crowning glory... [with interjections from moi]

Rough Puff Pastry (I)

½ lb plain flour
6oz butter
about ¼ pint ice-cold water to mix

Sift the flour with a pinch of salt into a mixing bowl. Cut the butter into even-sized pieces about the size of walnuts and drop into the flour; mix quickly with the water and turn onto a lightly floured board. [I used a knife for the mixing] *Roll to an oblong, fold in three, and give a half-turn to bring the open edges in front of you.* Repeat from * to * twice to give the pastry three turns in all. [this bit was such fun, I lost count] Chill for 10 minutes and give an extra roll and fold if it looks all streaky [it didn't but I did], then use as required.

The Cordon Bleu Cookery Book by Rosemary Hume and Muriel Downes, Book Club Associates, London, 1975.