Monday, March 22, 2010

Bubble and Squeak

Most Brits are familiar with this breakfast dish, it's basically the use of leftovers from a roast dinner, traditionally cabbage and potatoes, shallow-fried in butter to create a pattie-pancake form, eaten with bacon, sausages and fried eggs, but it's also good with cold ham and pickles, especially piccalilli which this Essex girl is particularly fond of!

It's a dish that was born out of rationing and the Brits were very good at making meals stretch during those lean times, my mother tells of eating bread and dripping, dripping is the fat from the roasted meat. As a result of rationing, a thrifty attitude towards cooking has always been a part of the british culture, I would hear this phrase a lot at meal times 'waste not want not' food was never thrown away if one could make something of it the next day. I am glad I grew up in a time and place where meals were cooked at home and people sat around the table to eat.....with a knife and fork. Of course by the time I went off to college there were a smattering of Wimpy Burger Bars and Pizzalands, which were mildly appealing, but they were lightweight fast food joints and not a major presence on 'Main Street'. Today? well that's another big fat story.

As I mentioned in the previous post I made bubble and squeak to go with roasted cod, (thankfully we have friends here in Montauk eager to get up at the crack of dawn and go March). The last time I made B+S was probably during my bedsit days in London, and believe me there was no fresh cod sitting atop! HP sauce more likely, served with some beans of the 57 variety, cooked on a stove operated on a meter which would always run out of money when the beans were still can-cold......we ate a lot of beans back then. Then there was the landlady with the liberally applied magenta lipstick, peering through a crack in the door.......spooky, but it was all good character building stuff - bedsit land on the Finchley road in the 80's!

Now the thrifty dishes from my homeland have been showing up in New York City with the arrival of the gastropub. The bubble and squeak served with cod idea came from a restaurant in the West Village - Highlands - a charming, cosy restaurant with a Scottish flavor, I am a huge Scotophile and I loved everything on the menu especially the pound of cockles served in a delicious broth. They serve beer in old pint glasses, which had me and my mancunian mate taking a hike down memory lane. 

Bubble and Squeak
More than just a breakfast dish, it's great with fish or ham, we had sunday supper with leftovers from the leftovers and chicken sausages, a green salad and grainy mustard, good simple fare. Any leftover vegetables can be used in this dish, but I think the brussel sprouts are a must.

1 large onion peeled and finely chopped 
leftover cold cabbage 
leftover cold potatoes
leftover cold brussel sprouts 
butter and olive oil 
salt and pepper.
Heat oil and butter in a frying pan, add chopped onion and cook gently for 3-4 minutes until softened. Mix in the cabbage, potatoes and brussel sprouts and stir over a high heat, make a thick pancake form, mashing the vegetables together and heat through, scraping up any crispy bits from the bottom of the pan.

My mother was a young girl living in Norwich during the Second World War, I asked her what dishes/food she remembered eating during rationing and what she missed the most, this was her response - Well now, rabbit ....pies..stewed..roast. We kept rabbits, that was the norm. Steamed meat suet puddings, beef if it was available (suet you could get from butcher in a lump, not shredded like today) Bread and dripping. A winter dish was boiled onions in white sauce (something I still do occasionally) Fish and chips once a week. All vegetables from the garden...veg soup, bubble and squeak. 

I missed cakes the most and bread and butter pudding. Butter, sugar cheese and dried fruit were almost non existent. Tea time consisted of sandwiches, jam when it was available, toast and paste. Sunday tea we would have bread and shrimps. Ice cream was a once a year treat. We were lucky to have fresh peaches. Poppy grew a peach tree which kept us supplied, apart from that, fruit was rare unless you were lucky to have apple trees and we didn't. 

I suppose the one thing I remember well, was making our own cheese and butter. The cream taken off the milk and put in kilner jar till about 3/4 full, then shaken for days to make butter, sour milk was put in muslin to hang until it was consistent enough for cheese. So at the end of the day, as I said earlier cakes I missed most. Sweets, well....... what were they!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Wild Deer - Cooked Slowly

Vegetarian and vegan no further! I was given some wild deer the other day, enough to make a stew for six, and two pies. It was given to me by a friend who has a hunter husband, the deer came from upstate New York, which is funny because we have plenty of deer right here in Montauk, I often think about how we could feed some folks in the hamlet, through the winter, on local venison sausages, burgers, and pies. If you have the permits you can go-a-hunting, but during hunting season it seems as though most of the hunters are from out of town, and they often do not behave so well in our woods. The NZ'er has fantasized about buying a bow and arrow, but for now he just grumbles about the deer and mutters on about installing electric fences and cattle stops.

A word about friends sharing food; last week a friend gave us littlenecks and steamers, he has the best in town, my secret's all about the hanging, and another friend had a very successful day cod fishing, so we had roasted cod on a bed of bubble and squeak for dinner. Come summer there will be the swapping of mesclun, tomatoes, celeriac, and herbs, and more sharing of fish and shellfish, I love this town! More about bubble and squeak later.

The reason we are not so fond of the deer is because they eat everything in the garden, they eat holly leaves for goodness sake, and their favorite snack of all time is Yew.....mine are protected and very tall, ha, ha! they are a huge nuisance on the roads too, especially at dusk. I don't mean to imply that because they eat my garden I want to eat them! in fact I had never cooked venison and only eaten it once, and I was a little squeamish about it, maybe it's because I see so much of bambi, but the hunter husband made it easy for me, giving me prime cuts, all beautifully trimmed. The meat is very dark, but this is a good thing, due to the high iron content, and according to my mate Stephanie Alexander wild venison benefits from an overnight bathe in a wine marinade and also slow cooking. I used some of our 2008 Stonecrop Pinot for the marinade, seemed a bit decadent, and maybe not the red to use for this purpose, but there was an absence of red wine in the house, just good old Stonecrop........ #2!  Ok, time to move on.

The meat was so tender, really tender, with a wonderful flavor of juniper berries, the orange peel tasted so good too, next time I will put a few more strips in the stew, it tasted more like an exotic fruit rather than orange zest. I used the leftovers of the stew to make two pies, one for us and one for the little boy who lives down the road (not so little, big, strapping, athletic Australian, he needs his iron).

Daube Of Venison
Stephanie Alexander The Cook's Companion
Serves 6

2 1/2 lb boned venison  
3 tablespoons plain flour
2 rashers smoked streaky bacon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion diced
2 carrots diced
4 garlic cloves peeled
3 cups veal stock
1 bouquet garni
3 juniper berries
2 tablespoons port, muscat or tokay
1 strip of orange zest
1 tablespoon of treacle (I didn't have treacle so I used golden syrup)
1 onion, chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bouquet garni
3 juniper berries
10 black peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups red wine

To make the marinade combine all ingredients in a large glass or ceramic dish large enough to take the marinade and the venison. Cut venison into 1 1/2 inch cubes and turn in marinade. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Next day preheat oven to 300f. Remove venison from marinade and dry with kitchen paper, roll in seasoned flour. Strain marinade and reserve. Cut bacon into thin strips and heat oil in a large enamelled cast-iron casserole, saute bacon until it starts to crisp. Add onion, carrot and garlic and saute, stirring until onion has softened. Tip in venison and stir. Pour in strained marinade and enough stock to just cover meat. Add bouquet garni, juniper berries, port, orange zest and treacle. Grind on pepper, then cover tightly with foil, or if you have a lid, even better. Put into oven and cook for 4 hours.

Remove casserole from oven and check - the meat should be very tender and the juices should have a sauce-like consistency. If juices are too thin, remove meat and vegetables to a warm baking dish with a slotted spoon, then boil juices on stove top to reduce. Taste for seasoning. Return meat and vegetables to casserole.

Take the casserole straight to the table and serve with mashed potatoes.