Sunday, 22 April 2012

Closed until further notice

Since I've run out of motivation and steam, at least for the moment, I've decided to close Freestyle Cookery.

I'll let all the old posts and comments stay up and if I get my mojo back I might continue where I left off.

In the meantime I just want to say a big thank you to all readers and fellow bloggers who made this little adventure so much fun.

As always, freestyle things to your hearts content.

// Mike

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Recipe - Lemon Chicken with Roasted Tomatoes and Potatoes

Straight off I have to admit that I'm not entirely happy with this photo, I don't feel that it does the dish full justice. My only explanation, not a proper excuse, is that there was a guest around for dinner so I couldn't faff around as much with the camera as I'd normally do, I didn't want to look too much of a twunt for once. Having said all that, I guess it is better than no picture at all.

This is a fairly straight forward dish which have a very nice and fresh flavour from the lemon. It is quite bit removed from the Lemon Chicken you'd expect from a Chinese restaurant, the sauce is nowhere near as thick as that.

This time I choose to serve it with new potatoes and cherry tomatoes, which I roasted at the same time in the oven. If you don't fancy that you could always serve it with rice or potato mash for example.

Fairly simple dish, so I'll lead straight into the recipe now...

Ingredients (serves 4)
4 chicken breasts, cut into 3 - 4 pieces each
80 ml flour
60 ml vegetable oil
4 tbsp butter, divided into two  lots
4 cloves of garlic, either finely diced or pressed
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp caster sugar
125 ml white wine
Juice from two lemons, about 60 ml
375 ml chicken stock
1 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped

Put the flour into a bowl and season well, stir to mix. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour and shake to get rid of excess flour.

Heat the oil on a medium heat and fry the chicken pieces in batches for about 3 minutes per side, or until nicely browned. Remove chicken from frying pan and put on a plate.

Once all chicken pieces have been cooked, lower the heat and stir in 2 tbsp of the butter. Once this have melted add in the garlic and fry it whilst stirring for 30 seconds to a minute. Now stir in the sugar and oregano fry whilst still stirring for a similar amount of time.

Add the wine and lemon juice, increase the heat and let it simmer for 3 - 4 minutes, stir in the stock and simmer for another 3 - 5 minutes.

Lower the heat a bit and stir in the remaining butter as well as the chicken pieces. Stir well and let this cook for another 3 - 5 minutes or until the chicken pieces are fully cooked through.

Season to taste and stir in the parsley.

Serve with the accompaniments of your choice.


Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Recipe - Sous Vide cooked Pork Tenderloin with Mrs H.S. Ball's Creamy Sauce

Some of you that follow me on Twitter have probably already cottoned on to the fact that the newest weapon in my arsenal is a Sous Vide machine. For those of you that don't know what that is, have a look here.

I'm fully aware that this is not the most common piece of kit, yet, but I will still be posting some recipes for it every now and then. I believe that there's always a bit of inspiration to be gained from a recipe, even if you don't have the specialist kit associated with it. For example, this recipe can very easily be adapted to oven roast the tenderloin instead of cooking it sous vide.

The tenderloin came out beautifully, but the real star in this recipe is the chutney sauce. It is to this recipe what Slash's guitar was to Axl's voice. Them two together made it rock, hard. This sauce is probably going to be one of the best studio guitarists in my toolbox. It is very simple to make but it adds quite a lot to a dish. I can't wait to try it on some BBQ'd food as well.

To finish off before I head over to the recipe I just want to say that this Sous Vide machine is probably the most exciting piece of kit I've had to play with in a long time. It has really forced me to think in new ways about how to cook, and sauce, my food. I'm really looking forward to playing with it as time progresses. Hopefully you won't become too tired of my recipes for it. If you do - please post a comment, send me an email or Tweet me and I'll try and adjust what I post. Deal?

Oh, and if you wonder what Mrs H.S. Ball's Chutney is, it is a South African chutney that I personally think tastes ace. If you can't find it - replace with mango chutney instead.

Enough chatting, time to look at the recipe.

Ingredients (serves 4)
1 Pork tenderloin, about 600g
2 sage leafs
2 tbsp butter
Rapeseed oil

Mrs H.S. Ball's Creamy Sauce
100 ml  Mrs H.S. Ball's Chutney
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
100 ml olive oil
50 ml cream
1/2 red onion , finely diced
100 ml flat leaf parsley, chopped

Pre-heat the Sous Vide to 60c/140F.

Cut the tenderloin in two, make a pocket in each and put a sage leaf into the pocket. Season the tenderloins. Pop each tenderloin together with a tablespoon of butter into their own vacuum bag and seal. Cook the tenderloins in the Sous Vide for 2 hours.

To make the sauce mix the chutney with the white wine vinegar in a bowl. Slowly pour in the olive oil as you are whisking (KitchenAid or electric whisk is a bonus here). As you are doing this the mixture should thicken up. Add the cream, parsley and onion. Season to taste.

When the tenderloin has finished cooking remove it from the sous vide and cut open the vacuum pouches. Wipe dry with kitchen towel and remove the sage leafs. Heat the rapeseed oil in a frying pan on a very high heat until the oil starts smoking. Quickly fry the tenderloins on all sides (beware splatter) until nicely browned, but not for too long so they start drying out.

Remove from the pan, slice into the thickness you want. Serve with the sauce and rice, potato wedges or whatever takes your fancy.


Friday, 24 February 2012

Recipe - French Onion Soup

French onion soup is such classic dish for me. I'm not sure how many times I've eaten it, be it a poor version or a very nice rendition from a decent restaurant.

Shockingly enough this is the first time I've ever tried making it myself. I took my normal approach and had a look both in my library of cookbooks and online. What I learned from this is that there's as many ways of making French onion soup as there are people cooking it. I also got some great tips and advice from people like kingpieb on Twitter.

In the end I took bits and pieces from various sources and freestyled it to something I thought would work. Luckily it did. The key to a good result is most likely to let it take its time. Don't stress the onions, just let them cook together in their own time.

It's a simple recipe, that gives a very rewarding result for fairly little work, so I'll stop jabbering now and let you have a look at how I made this.

Ingredients (makes about 4 big portions)
Olive oil
About 1 kg onions, peeled and thinly sliced
About 2 tbsp of Brandy (optional)
500 ml wine
A couple of sprigs of thyme
1l beef stock
Sherry Vinegar (optional)

Baguette, cut into slices
Gruyere cheese, grated

Heat a large (I used a stock pot) pot on a medium heat. Add enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the ppt. Once the olive oil is warm, chuck in the onions and season well.

Let the onions slowly sweat whilst stirring fairly regularly. You want them to go all gooey and sticky without taking too much colour. Be prepared that they'll release more than a fair amount of liquid as you go ahead.

Once they are getting to that nice and gooey stage you can pour in some Brandy if you feel like it. If not, don't. If you did feel like it, let the brandy cook off whilst you keep stirring the onions.

At this stage, pour in the wine and raise the temperature under the pot. Let the wine boil away almost completely as you keep stirring the onions.

Once the wine have more or less evaporated add in the stock and the thyme. Lower the heat and let this slowly simmer for 50 minutes or so.

While it simmers, taste it and adjust the seasoning if needed. If you feel like it and you think the soup needs it, add a splash or two of Sherry Vinegar.

Ladle the soup into bowls, top with a slice of bread and a good helping of grated gruyere. Pop the soup bowls under a pre-heated grill and let the cheese melt and turn a nice brown colour.


Monday, 20 February 2012

Review - Cold Smoking Course

Another weekend, another course. Recently I've spent quite a lot of time at various cookery courses, well spent time in my view. There's even some more courses lined up for later in the year.

This weekend it was time for the Food Smoking Course arranged by Turan of fame, a course I was given as a Christmas present.

The course was held in Stoke Hammond so me and my friend Howie set of in the morning to make it up there in time. During the journey we could tell that we most likely were in for a cold and wet day. We've both had worse days than that so that didn't really bother us.

Well there we were more than a bit early so we spent some time walking around Stoke Hammond waiting for the course to start. What we gathered from that walk is that they don't like the the planned wind turbines, there's really not that much to Stoke Hammond and the local neighbourhood watch is slow to react to dodgy looking strangers loitering around the village.

After our refreshing, read fricking cold, walk it was time for the course to start. As we entered the nursery that was hosting the event we were greeted by Turan and his lovely wife.

There was a bit of a wait for everyone to turn up so in the meantime our preferred choice for lunch (a choice of two different soups) was taken and we were sorted with some coffee.

Turan demonstrating the smoker unit, with the cardboard smoker next to him.
Once everyone was there we were given a brief talk about the layout of the day and roughly what we were going to be smoking and learning.

I will not give everything away, there's got to be some surprises and secrets for this course, but we did get to smoke and taste quite a lot of different foods. Look at the photos and you should probably be able to deduct most of what me smoked anyways.

Turan talked us through some of the theory behind both cold and hot smoking as well as highlighting potential health risks associated with the different stages of the smoking process.

The cardboard smoker loaded with some food to smoke.
For the cold smoking we used a smoker made from Turan's own plans as well as the surprise of the day - a cardboard box. I was pleasantly surprised by how well you could smoke food in a cardboard box. It did however take a beating from the rain, but nothing that some time drying out and some gaffa tape probably can't sort out.

Due to the weather we did the hot smoking indoors, using a stove top hot smoker. Among other things Turan showed us how you can get a very good result in just 15 minutes with one of those and some good quality trout.

Sometimes it looks like the line between cremation and cold smoking is very thin.
To sum it up we had a very enjoyable day, even taking the weather into account, and I am fairly sure that most, if not all, left with some good new knowledge as well as some extra tips and tricks. I would recommend this course to anyone who is interested in smoking and want to get a good taster of what's involved and how you can get started.

A presentation platter of some of the food we smoked.

I would like to extend a big thank you to Turans lovely wife who not only served us some excellent soup for lunch, she also made more cups of coffee and tea than any human being should ever be asked to during a day. By doing this she kept everyone's mood up in a very good way.

Finally, I'd just want to leave you with the following little bit. It shows what you can hear when you get quite a ragtag collection of people together for a course like this. My favourite quote of the day, from another delegate and totally unrelated to smoking, was the following one: "We had more chickens shagged to death by our turkey than what we lost to the foxes". This quote really have nothing to do with the review either but I just loved it so much that I thought I'd make it live for ever here on t'Interweb... ;)

[Disclaimer: To book this course was my suggestion, and full price was paid for it.]

I'm sorry about the quality of the photos but I didn't bring a proper camera, just my phone

Friday, 17 February 2012

Recipe - Red Wine Braised Ox Cheeks

Food magazines and cookery shows have been hailing the cheaper and more forgotten cuts of meat for some time now. It's not like the cuts have not been available, they have just been more likely to be ground down as part of some kind of processed offering.

Even with the quite frequent mentioning of these cuts they can be a bit hard to chase down if you have to rely on the 'bag openers' in what the supermarkets call their butcher/meat sections.

What you need is a good local butcher, which these days can be very hard to find. I'm lucky in the fact that since I moved I got Ray, who runs R G Park Butchers, as my local butcher.

I've been wanting to try and cook ox cheeks for quite some time so the other Saturday I nipped around the corner to see what was on offer in the butchery. I was quite pleased to be able to pick up two ox cheeks for Sunday dinner, it's nice when a plan comes together.

I had read up a bit on them and had come to realise that they have quite tough membranes, silverskins, that needs to be trimmed in order to avoid chewiness and other nasty issues. The ones on sale had not been tidied up yet but when Ray asked if I wanted to do that myself I could not really admit that I didn't have a real clue how to. ;)

Never mind, I thought I'd give it a go when I got home. This is when I realised that my course with Nathan really had paid off. It might not have been butcher quality, but the effort I put in was hundred times better than what I could have done before this course.

If you're not close enough to London, or maybe not even living in England, for it to be feasible to attend one of Nathan's courses, do try and find one locally. Getting better knife skills and understanding for butchery is really worth it if you are serious about your cooking.

I realise that I've been waffling on for a bit here so I better wrap it up. I just want to leave you with the recommendation to try your hand at slow cooking ox cheeks, the reward is immense for the small amount of work you have to put in for this. Not to mention that they are so cheap compared to many other cuts of meat. If you're worried about getting rid of the membranes, let your butcher do it. They're good at stuff like that... ;)

Ingredients (served 2, just adjust a bit if you cook for more)
2 ox cheeks, trimmed of fat and membranes (silverskin)

100g - 200g Pancetta (I used my homemade ones from here)

1 bottle of red wine
A couple of sprigs of fresh thyme
Some peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 onion coarsley chopped
1 carrot coarsley chopped
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 red chili, sliced

olive oil
1 - 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 - 3 turnips, peeled and cut into wedges
1l beef stock, approximately
Freshly ground pepper
Brandy (optional)

To serve
Creamy mash
Chopped curly parsley

Place the ox cheeks and pancetta in a big bowl and add in all the other ingredients for the marinade. Cover the bowl and let it sit in your fridge over night.

The next day, remove the cheeks and pancetta from the marinade. Sieve out the vegetables and herbs, making sure to keep the wine.

Pre-heat the oven to 140c.

Pour the wine into a pan and start reducing it. Remove it from the heat when it has reduced by half to two thirds.

Dry off the ox cheeks and pancetta with some kitchen towel. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan and seal the ox cheeks on both sides, making sure to get them well and nicely browned. Pop them into a oven safe casserole dish. Now fry the pancetta, optionally adding some brandy, until they catch some colour as well. Pour this into the casserole dish as well.

Pour the reduced wine into the casserole dish, add in the vegetables, ground pepper and then enough stock to barely cover. Cover all of this with a double folded piece of parchment paper and put the lid on the casserole dish.

Put the dish into the oven and cook for 2 1/2 - 3 hours. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool down. Remove the fat that rises to the top.

If sauce is too thin for your liking, carefully remove the meat and veg from the casserole heat on the hob to reduce down the sauce. (Optionally use the normal trick with some flour mixed into water to thicken it a bit further.)

Return the meat and veg to the casserole and heat through gently before serving.

Serve with mash and chopped parsley.


Monday, 13 February 2012

Recipe - Merguez Sausages with Couscous

As readers of this blog might remember, I recently made a batch of home made sausages for the first time. If you haven't read this post, or need a refresher, have a look here.

Having sausages on their own is one thing but cooking them and having them a suitable accompaniment is a completely different thing.

Since Merguez sausages are of a North African origin, with strong links to the Middle East, I quite quickly thought of couscous as a suitable partner for these sausages.

I'm a big fan of couscous but even I can find it a bit boring with it on its own, without any extra flavour additions. So, cutting a long story short - this is how I cooked and prepared this meal. This is as always just an recommendation. Take this recipe and make it your own after your own taste and what you have at home.

Ingredients (makes enough for 2 - 4 depending on appetite)
Merguez Sausages, fried
250ml couscous
375ml chicken stock
1 red pepper, diced
1 courgette, diced
Olive oil

Heat some oil in a pan on a medium heat. Stir in some turmeric and let this sizzle away whilst stirring now and then to avoid burning.

Add the pepper and courgette and keep stirring until softened.

Pour in the stock. Stir in the couscous and raisins. Remove from the heat and cover it. Let this sit until all the liquid have been absorbed. Fluff with a fork.

Serve the couscous topped with the sausages.


Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Recipe - Swedish Apple Cake / Recept - Svensk √Ąppelkaka

Another trip down memory lane...

There's been quite a few recipes recently where I've revisited old flavour memories (if there's such a term) from my childhood and years in Sweden. They've all been savoury recipes so far, this will be my first sweet recipe from Sweden.

This is a very traditional style Swedish apple cake that is quite a way removed from the apple pies that is more traditional here in the UK. It is more along the line of a pound cake.

It would be quite normal to serve it with either custard (hot or cold) or plain vanilla ice cream. I'm far too ascetic for such frivolities so I eat it plain. ;)

The recipe gives you quite a lot of apple cake so some of it was brought in to work for my colleagues to try. Based on the feedback I was given, and the fact that no one died or took seriously ill, I'd say that this cake was quite the success.

I know that here in the UK there's quite a following for the Danish TV series The Killing and Borgen. If you watch some reruns of those, why not try a slice of cake from a proper Nordic country as you watch it? ;)

Enough winding up of what Sir David Attenborough referred to as 'the lesser Swedes'* in one of his TV series. Let's look at the recipe now.

Ingredients (makes quite a lot)
4 eggs
500 ml sugar
200 gr butter, melted and allowed to cool down
200 ml milk
600 ml plain flour
4 tsp baking powder
4 - 5 apples (I used Granny Smiths) - peeled, cored and cut into wedges
4 tbsp sugar
4 tsp cinnamon

Pre-heat the oven to 200c.

Whisk the eggs and sugar until nice and airy. Mix in the flour and baking powder. Add the milk and butter.

Pour the batter into a deep baking tray ( 38 x 28 z 6 is the size of the one I used) that you have lined with parchment paper.

Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Turn the apple wedges in the sugar and cinnamon mixture and then put them into the batter in a nice and orderly fashion. Pour any remaining sugar/cinnamon mix over the batter and apples.

Put the baking tray into the oven and bake for 25 - 35 minutes or until a knife you insert into the batter comes out dry.

Remove the baking tray from the oven, let it cool down a little bit and cut the cake into squares, rectangles or other shapes of your liking.


*this may or may not be true and totally made up by me right now.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Recipe - Hunters Pie

The normal flow when I cook something that ends up on the blog is that I cook it, take photos of it and not until then is it time to eat it. As you can see, that flow was somewhat different this time. The smell that this dish spread in the kitchen just made it impossible to stop and take pictures before eating.

This dish all started with some Venison mince that I bought at the Farmers Market in Didcot one Saturday. Toying with ideas in my head I realised that I might give it a go in the smoker whilst cold smoking some cheese. Said and done, I gave it an hour in the smoker with some hickory smoke.

The original idea was to make burgers out of the mince but the urge for some comforting mash came over me and it got changed into Hunters Pie. I was given the name for it when asking on Twitter. Shepherds Pie is made with lamb, Cottage Pie with beef and Hunters Pie with venison mince. Makes sense when you think about it.

Next time I might actually give the mince two hours of cold smoke to infuse it even more. This time it had a nice, quite light, smoky flavour and for some reason I think it had taken away some of the game flavour from the meat.

After one of my colleagues followed my example and cold smoked some beef mince for a chili we have had some discussions here at work as to if this could be dangerous for you. I took those questions with me to the Curing and Smoking course I recently attended at the School of Artisan Food. According to both tutors there, both very experienced tutors, this should not post any health risk as long as you cook it well afterwards. After learning that I'm sure  there will be more smoked mince recipes in the future of this blog.

If you don't have access to a smoker or can't get hold of any smoked venison - just make this with normal venison mince. It is a very nice dish and the game flavour of the venison is well worth a test. As always, freestyle it to your hearts content.

After those words of wisdom, let's have a look at how to cook it.

Ingredients (serves 4)
900g potatoes, cut into chunks
2 egg yokes

Olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and cut into half moons
2 celery sticks, finely sliced
1 red pepper, finely sliced
500g cold smoked venison mince
A good plash or two of Worcestershire sauce
500 ml beef stock
A good splash or two of red wine
2 - 3 tbsp Dijon Mustard


To make the mash, boil the potatoes until tender. Drain and mash, adding butter, cream and seasoning to your taste. Stir in the two egg yokes.

Pre-heat the oven to 180c.

Heat a frying pan on a medium heat. Add in the oil and the vegetables. Let the vegetables sweat in the pan until they start to soften a little bit. The next step is to put the mince into the pan. Let this fry until the mince is nicely browned.

Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, beef stock, red wine and mustard. Season to taste. Bring the mixture to a simmer and let it reduce until you have a fairly firm consistency in the pan.

Put the mince mixture into an ovenproof dish. Top with the mash and make some purdy patterns on the top of the mash with a fork.

Pop it into the oven and cook for 20 - 25 minutes or until the mash starts looking nicely brown. You'll probably see some mince bubbling up at this stage.

Remove from the oven and let it settle for 5 minutes or so.


Sunday, 5 February 2012

Recipe - Cheatscake

The title of this post is a bit of a play on words, nothing worse than that. ;)

Recently I was asked if I was interested to head up to London to take part in a product launch that Philadelphia was arranging. Sadly, as quite often is the case, the event was during daytime and due to work commitments I was not able to attend.

This time though I was asked if I would be interested in getting a sample on the same day as the launch, something that I was more than happy to receive.

I had absolutely no idea what kind of product it was going to be. I had thoughts of things like Philadelphia already spread on some kind of healthy bread/crackers and so on.

I can quite safely say that Philadelphia mixed with Cadbury was not on the list of things I expected. Once the parcel had arrived and I had opened it I showed it to some people at work. Their reactions were mixed, to say the least. It ranged from awesome to what the hell is that.

It seems to me that Philadelphia have created one of those products that really splits peoples opinions. You either love it or hate it seems to be the verdict.

To be honest, I've never been the biggest chocolate fan in the world so this is probably not really aimed at me.

I was thinking of things to do with it and was thinking along the lines of using it as a spread and so on when Solo came up with the idea of the cheatscake. The easiest way in the world to make a cheesecake. Said and done, we gave it a go and here's the recipe. As you'll notice this is just one of my 'guideline' recipes where you can freestyle it to suit yourself.

Before I head over to the recipe - I'm told by reliable sources that this will be out in good shops here in England (UK?) now in February if you want to try it for yourself.

Ginger Nut Biscuits
Butter, Melted
Philadelphia with Cadbury

Crush the Ginger Nut Biscuits. You can either do it in a food processor or just pop them into a plastic bag and bash them with a rolling pin.

Mix the crushed Ginger Nut Biscuits with the melted butter until well mixed. Line the bottom of ramekins with this mixture, pressing down well.

Spoon over Philadelphia with Cadbury and smooth out the surface to make it look pretty.

Top with some fresh raspberries.