Saturday, 31 December 2016

Festive Ramen

by: Mr Robot
Christmas in a bowl
Most years we have a goose around Christmas - generally on one of the subsidiary days when we have friends over, because a whole goose for two would just be ridiculously extravagant. This year, however, we decided to go all out and keep Goosey to ourselves, not least because I had this follow-up dish in mind.

I don't know about you, but get l sick of quick & simple easy-peasy ideas for using up leftovers, usually around late October. But don't worry - this isn't one of those. Ramen isn't quick and, if not necessarily difficult, you should be careful. Or at least, full of care.

The first and hardest part for this is, don't eat all the goose. Obvious but trust me it's easier said than done. With incredible willpower we also managed to reserve a couple of pigs in blankets. I know. After depriving Mrs Robot so dreadfully, I really had to make this work.

Goose Broth
The well-scavenged carcass goes in a massive pot with some stock veg, along with a tub of homemade chicken stock and a guinea-fowl carcass I happened to have kicking around. You may consider those optional.

A small handful of peppercorns, a bayleaf and the half-orange I'd shoved up Goosey for roasting also went in, along with about 6-8 pints of water, and it all boiled hard for around 6 hours, scum-skimmed occasionally. Then it was strained and left to cool overnight.

Normally you'd never remove fat from a ramen broth but goose fat is so very oleaginous I didn't want to risk the final broth being overly greasy. So I removed about half the fat and kept it back in case I needed to restore some later. As it turned out I didn't, so that's gone in the fridge for future roasties.

From there I reduced it to about 3 pints in volume, which was the point it hit the richness and intensity I was looking for. I've learned to beware over-reducing so it's always a matter of tasting and judgment now, rather than target volume.

Once reduced I seasoned with a sachet of dashi powder, about 1/2 teaspoon of white pepper, a good couple of teaspoons of salt and, because it felt it needed something, a splash of mirin. I considered a dollop of miso too but in the end opted against - I know I have a tendency to overdo it, so held back. But it was a close thing.

Goose & Pigs
The reserved breast meat and pigs in blankets were sliced about 5mm thick. Half went into the broth for 10 minutes before serving to warm through, the other half fried in a little goose fat. I did that in the hopes of textural interest but frankly we couldn't tell the difference, so that's just washing up for nothing. Some spare goose skin crisped up in the pan and sprinkled on at the end worked a treat though.

Red cabbage
Because a ramen needs some cabbage and Christmas demands it be red. I'd considered pickling but then had a better idea (see below) so simply shredded and braised it gently.

Pickled Sprouts
Oh yeah. Sprouts separated into individual leaves which then sat in a mix of rice wine vinegar, mirin and salt for about 30 minutes brought a very welcome freshness and acidity to what is, after all, an absurdly rich bowl. Honestly I was surprised how well these worked.

Sprout Genius

The Egg
Now, we had a bit of an argument about the egg. My idea, nay my vision, was to take festivity to a new level with a Mulled Egg - steeped in red wine vinegar, cinnamon, cloves etc overnight - but Mrs Robot put her foot down like a steam hammer.

In the end we went with salted duck egg which was great but not, you know, my vision.

So that was all assembled over noodles and scattered with a few sesame seeds.

Things I thought of adding but didn't
I'd have loved to incorporate spuds but really couldn't think how to make it work so in the end had to leave them out. Parsnips, on the other hand, could make a great garnish as tiny crispy shavings.

Cranberry seemed an obvious candidate for garnish but Mrs R gets cross about it. I briefly considered a dollop of apple sauce too but since we hadn't had it with the Xmas dinner it didn't feel right.

I wish I'd done more sprouts because they were delicious and they went all too quickly. But if you've never tried it, separating sprout leaves is what's officially known as A Right Pain In The Arse. It could've done with more acidity though, so some fresh apple matchsticks might have made a nice alternative, or possibly a shaving of orange zest at the last minute. To be really swank, a few chunks of blowtorched orange segments would be cool.

My guide in all things ramen is Tim Anderson's Nanban and I thought long and hard about adapting his spicy miso butter to a spicy miso goose fat but ultimately felt I was already skirting the Fatty Event Horizon and as it turned out, I think that was the right choice.

The end result was everything I'd hoped: a lovely bowl of ramen feels perfect for those chilly, grey in-between days. It's deep and intense, but gentle and comforting. Bringing the Christmas flavours in felt very satisfying and, of course, was kind of fun. In fact I'm already plotting next year's Baked Ham Ramen.

Merry Christmas peoples

 All images (c) PP Gettins

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

'tis the season to be soppy

My happy place
by: Mr Robot

I think it's fair to say 2016 has been a bit of a stinker in many ways, so as I'm sat here reflecting and, to be entirely honest, have had a few, I thought it worthwhile remembering and thanking those who've improved and enriched my life over the last 12 months or so.

First off Tim Hayward, who I only really came across through the BBC's Kitchen Cabinet but have come to worship almost as a god. He has a manner that appeals to me on a very deep level, a casually authoritative voice imbued with kindness and decency - almost the definition of avuncular. I often think he's the culinary answer to Kurt Vonnegut.

Early in the year I tackled the week-long project that was his cassoulet from The DIY Cook. Sadly it didn't turn out to be photogenic enough for a post but was as delightful in the making as in the eating.

Hayward's Knife book was one of the highlights of my year, and may well have triggered a new and vastly expensive hobby. I read it in one enchanted sitting and it has a permanent, if disturbing, home beside the bed.

Always take a Knife to bed

Mr Hayward, I salute you.

Which brings us nicely to Sr Morales of Toledo who produces wonderful knives and was kind enough to sell me an absolutely beautiful Damascus steel blade at a price I'd never even considered paying, but don't regret a Eurocent of. This knife makes me happy to a ridiculous degree. When I can't be arsed to cook, picking up that knife enthuses me. When I'm feeling keen it's like having a superpower.

My lovely lovely Toledo blade

I've used it pretty much every day for six months and it still gives me a thrill.

Señor, gracias.

Sticking with the Spanish theme, our trip around Spain with our god-daughter (aka adoptive juniorbot) was more wonderful than we could have hoped. We've loved Spain for such a long time, and always wanted to share that experience with others. The opportunity to show it to her took us right back to that joy of discovery - and the real joy was that she loved it too. We created a tapas monster and are very proud.

Yes those are minihamburguesitas and they are free tapas. Thank you Granada

So thanks to Lillian for taking the (probably quite scary) plunge, and to all those amazing chefs in Segovia, Toledo, Seville and Granada who gave us such happy memories.

At the risk of becoming tiresomely stalkerish, I must always give thanks to MiMi Aye and Uyen Luu who remain our Asian mentors and, certainly in the summer months, are probably responsible for around 30% of everything we eat. This year they were joined by Ping Coombes whose Malaysia book is already shamefully bespattered from enthusiastic usage.

Goes some way to explaining, if not excusing, the waistline

If you're anything like us, there are many cookbooks you like to look at, or the idea of. There are lots that you use occasionally. And there's a precious few that you wonder how you ever managed without. These ladies went instantly and permanently into that latter group. On Mrs Robot's behalf I should add Meera Sodha to the list, and closer to home Tom Kerridge's Proper Pub Food remains essential - as does Katie Stewart who basically taught us to cook in the first place.

It's no exaggeration to say that just about every day, no matter how crappy, ends with happiness for us, and that's mainly down to these folks. That's pretty amazing when you think about it, especially with enough beer.

Of course you can't cook anything without stuff to cook. Walter Rose is our local butcher and gives us such brilliant meat week in, week out. We revel in being the folks they can sell anything to (always up for something exciting) and in exchange they only ever sell us amazing things. Walter Rose won the national best butcher award this year, and it came as no surprise at all. Louie, Ed, Cameron - cheers guys.

Best butcher in the land. Officially

Our veg come mostly from Riverford who likewise bring us outstanding food every week of the year. We're not obsessively green or organic or anything like that, but we very much buy into to the philosophy of growing with care, and for flavour. The first Riverford carrots we ever had were just so damned . . . carroty. Had you forgotten potatoes have a flavour? We had.

Best ever soup recipe: First, kill your Riverford tomatoes....
In fact it's probably Riverford's fault my veg cookery remains so unsophisticated - there's really no need to muck it about. Roasting some tomatoes before souping is about as jazzy as we get. When's the last time you cooed over a boiled vegetable? For us it's less than a week ago, and we're endlessly grateful.

Nearly finally, since they're in large part responsible for all this, I offer up thanks to Bacchus and all His Mates for Palmers Brewery who have made me so very very happy, and sad, and excessively affectionate, and wobbly, and filthily hungover so many times. I love you guys. No seriously, I do. 'ma best mate. y'fugger. ahahahahahaha...

And least last of all, of course my thanks to Mrs Robot for putting up with the failures, the mess, the swearing, the every-pan-in-the-housery and subsequent lack of washing up. For sharing the delicious things we have, and for being the person I gladly go to such lengths for (a WEEK making cassoulet, FFS) because she deserves nothing but nice.

Oh go on then - the 7-day cassoulet. Not pretty but OMFG

So, who's brought you joy this year?

All images (c) PP Gettins