Homemade Strawberry Jam

If you’ve ever visited the tea room, you might be aware that we do group tours of the Abbey and church. Normally we organise these for WIs or historic groups, but occasionally we just do a drop in. Well, after one tour we had a few strawberries left over………

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So what do you do if you have 3.5lbs of fruit left over and a tea room. The obvious answer is to make jam. Now, I make chilli jam all the time but shy away from fruit generally. It’s relatively difficult to make because it requires an accurate ratio of fruit to sugar and pectin to set. This is in addition to boiling to a specific temperature. However, as a pretty girl once told me, you’re a surgeon that flies drones, builds model aeroplanes and helps run a tea room, you can do everything……….

So, to rise to that challenge –

Homemade Strawberry Jam

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Ingredients

  • 3.5lbs Strawberries
  • 3.5lbs Jam sugar
  • 2 Lemons (juice)

You ideally also need a jam pan, jam jars, sugar thermometer and a funnel

Start by getting all the ingredients and equipment and taking a pretty photo. Really don’t know what I’ll do if I have to move to the city – farmhouse kitchens are nicer.

Once the photos have been taken, remove the stalk and tops off all the strawberry’s. You can cut into half’s or quarters at this point as well to help them cook faster.

Place the fruit into the jam pan and put on a low heat- the simmering hob of an AGA works fantastic. Simmer the fruit down till it has formed a pulp. At this point I wondered if the pulp cooled, served over ice with gin would be an option- but that’s another day’s experimenting.

To the pulp add the sugar and lemon juice. Return to the Aga but on the boiling hob this time.

Start to increase the temperature to the jam mark on your thermometer. That’s about 104C

While the jam cooks, heat the jars up in the bottom Aga till they are too hot to touch – this sterilises them and helps the jam last.

When the jam is boiling and a spoonful placed onto a cold saucer forms a skin it is time to bottle up. Using a sterile funnel and spoon transfer the jam into jam jars. I decided to go for 4 large jars and a dozen minis. It should last for a couple of months.

 

Let’s eat

Ok, so what do you do with that much Jam.

Well, so many options – eat it on scones, use it to make a cheesecake, fill a Victoria Sponge

Either way, what it gets used for will be available to buy at the tea room tomorrow (22/7). Enjoy………

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Mediterranean Chicken Kebabs with homemade pitta

‘I’ve never seen him this angry……. Well you say you hated beer, what did you expect’

Sometimes it’s good to act out. This happened whilst I was out having a drink with a surgical SHO  and his girlfriend. She was stunningly pretty, but nothing can excuse that comment – I just had to leave.

In true Cox fashion I jumped into my Alfa, put the hood down and ignored the texts and calls asking if I was returning. I was not!! About 30mins later I found myself in a country village; it was cold, dark and I was hungry. To my good luck the village had a wonderful little Mediterranean bar, so I got a kebab and a beer and ate them on the boot of the alfa – it’s like a table anyway.

Why a kebab – well the girl was a personal trainer – so that, plus beer seemed like a moral win. Of course, I suspect that she might approve mildly. This is no normal Kebab; made with fresh ingredients, homemade pitta, chicken thighs and of course cooked on a rotisserie which helps remove fat (ish)…………

Chicken Shish

This is nothing like the 3am kebabs we remember from Uni, less greasy and a lot more tasty

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Ingredients

  • 8 Chicken thighs
  •  Olive oil
  • 2 lemons – Zest and juice
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp dried coriander
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • Honey

Start the day before you intend to make the kebabs, it allows the meat to marinade overnight.

Start by prepping the chicken thighs. You can either use breast or filleted thighs if you don’t fancy removing the bone yourself. Otherwise, use a pair of scissors, a knife and your fingers to remove the bone.

Cut the chicken into chunks and add to a large bowl. Then marinade, combining the spices, garlic, oil, lemon and honey. Use your hands to get the chicken fully covered.

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Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to infuse overnight.Whilst this happens phone a few people about buying a LHD MGTF and parts to convert it to an RHD………..

Right, it’s time to make a BBQ, everything’s better cooked over the coals after all.

Cooking the kebab couldn’t be easier. Just put on the BBQ when the fire’s ready (BBQ rules apply) and start cooking. It should take around 20mins. The alternative is to cook  in the oven at 200C for around 15-20mins on an oiled baking sheet.

Once the chickens cooked, take off the heat and carve into strips. All you need to do is have something to eat them in.

Pitta Bread

I’ve been making Pitta bread for years, it goes so well with Hummus. In fact I might well blog that later for you all – I stole the hummus recipe of TS during one long night.

 

 

 

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Ingredients

  • 9oz white bread flour
  • Fresh yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 160ml water
  • 2 tsp olive oil

(olives to nibble on)

Start by mixing the flour, salt and yeast in your mixer. Add  1.5tsp of oil, I’m using a garlic infused oil for extra taste..

Bring the dough together and then add the remaining oil and water a little at a time till the dough is soft and smooth. Then knead for around 10mins.

You should end up with a pliable soft dough, which needs to proof for an hour or doubled in size.

Once doubled, knock back the dough and divide into 6 equal balls. Roll out into an oval approx 4mm in thickness.

Bake on a pre-heated tray in the top of the Aga or an oven at 250C for 10mins or golden brown.

Lets Eat

All that remains is to take some of the succulent chicken and stuff the pittas with lettuce, peppers, onion and homemade chilli sauce.

To finish the picture, all you need is a beer, some chips and the boot of the Alfa to eat it off.

Salted Caramel Macaroons

Not only are Macaroons the basis of most Bake Off showstoppers, they are a fantastic way to bond with people. In fact if I can’t have a meaningful conversation with someone over a coffee and a macaroon, I rarely keep in touch.

Believe it or not, I’m very fussy with food. I would say till the age of 18 I had a phobia of Fruit and Veg. It’s one of the reasons I got into baking, to allow me to explore foods on my own terms. A problem arises when I go to dinner parties though. As I don’t eat the food, I get lots of concerned looks, but usually the macaroons come out and the tension dies down.

One such occasion happened a few months ago. I was at a consultants house discussing research when his cousin Jenna noticed I wasn’t eating. After the meal instead of asking if I was ok, she simply placed an espresso and a macaroon next to me. What followed I can’t fully recall, some conversation about paradox of medicine and science fiction perhaps. All I recall was the macaroon, salted caramel with a hint of chocolate for dressing.

Here is my version of that macaroon – To my knowledge Dr Coleman bought them so I can’t steal his recipe for a direct comparison.

Macaroons

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Ingredients

  • 7oz Icing sugar
  • 4oz ground almonds
  • 3 egg separated – Whites (with no yolk)
  • 2oz Caster Sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Start by taking a pretty picture of the ingredients (including the caramel ingredients) with a set of vintage scales. These were my Grans – except they’ve been repainted.

Now, combine the icing sugar and ground almonds in a bowl and mix well. Then sieve to remove any large bits of almonds, these will cause the tops of the finished macaroons to split.

In a spotless, dry bowl add the egg whites with a pinch of salt. Whisk on high-speed, as if making meringues. When they have reached firm peaks (tested by holding over your head), add the caster sugar a spoon at a time.

Fold in the almond/sugar mix to the egg whites using a large metal spoon till completely incorporated. The end result will be a light but glossy mixture which runs slowly off the spoon.

Transfer to a piping bag with approx 1cm opening and pipe the size of macaroons you want to make onto baking paper. I always thing about the size of an old penny is correct.

The next bit is important, leave them for between 15mins to 1hr to form a crust. When the outside is firm, not sticky/tacky/soft, transfer to a preheated oven at 170C and bake for 10mins.

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Remove from the oven when the tops are crisp and the bottoms dry. Leave to cool completely on the baking tray.

 

Salted Caramel Buttercream

Ingredients

  • 2oz Butter
  • 2oz  Sugar
  • 100ml Double cream
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 pinch of sea salt
  • 2oz unsalted Butter
  • 4oz Icing sugar

After weighing all the ingredients, start by heating the sugar and water till it has reduced down to produce a thick syrup with a light brown colour. Don’t stir during this period, it will act as a point of crystallisation and mean you have to start again.

Once the syrup is ready, add in the butter and cream. This bit is the part you don’t want to be stood with your face over the pan…….. it causes a lot of steam.

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After this, it’s simply a case of cooking the caramel down until a temperature of 118C is reached. At this point, it’s ready; you can add in the salt now or even a kick of vanilla, lavender or just leave it deliciously plain. Obviously I’ve added a bit of French sea salt…

Cream the unsalted butter together with the icing sugar till no lumps remain. Then add a healthy spoon of the salted caramel and a dash of double cream.

Right, all that remains is to combine 2 shells of the macaroons with a generous helping of the caramel buttercream and put the coffee on. Whilst it brews, pipe a few decorative lines of chocolate onto the top shell.

Let’s eat

So there you have it, delicious salted caramel Macaroons. Crunchy on the outside with a chewy core, the sweet filling partly offset by the bitter edge of the sea salt.

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All you need now is someone to share them with – a friendly actress usually helps.

Sloe Gin and Honey Roasted Ham

It’s nearly Christmas and that means that a very large amount of food is currently resting in my fridge…….. Beef, Turkey, a small chicken, but the one I’m most excited about is the “Gammon Joint”. Not because I like Gammon, but because it’s the makings of my Boxing Day Ham.

It’s a tradition to have jacket potatoes on Boxing day with the left overs, and the Cox household is no exception. Along with the cold turkey, we always have a homemade ham. I perfected the recipe a few years ago and it’s a festive mix of sloes, honey and clovers.

Boxing Day Ham

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Ingredients

  • 3Kg Unsmoked Gammon Joint
  • Apple Juice
  • Cloves and Sloes
  • Thyme, Coriander, Sage
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Carrots, Celery and Onion
  • Brown Sugar
  • Honey
  • Sloe Gin

It’s best to make the Ham a couple of days before Christmas, then it can rest in the fridge and carved when needed.

Start by roughly chopping the celery, onions and carrots. They add flavour to the boiling stock and also stop the meat sticking to the pan. Add to the pan and then place the Gammon joint on top.

To the pan add the herbs and spices. The Sloes are ones I have left over from a recently finished batch of sloe gin. It’s kind of like recycling, same excuse I use when drinking the gin……..

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All that remains is to add enough apple juice to cover the meat. If you have any cider lying around add that to the pot as well.

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Simmer on the slow hob of the Aga (mid heat on an electric/gas) for an hour per pound. During the 3 hours you might need to skim the top of the pan or add a bit more water to keep the Ham covered.

After the Ham has boiled, take out of the cooking liquor and transfer to a roasting pan. Then channel your inner engineer and use a handful of bamboo skewers to support the Ham standing vertically.

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Using a sharp knife, strip the skin off the meat leaving the fat below. Cut this into diamonds and then stud with cloves.

Mix the 2 heaped tablespoons of the sugar, a shot of sloe gin and a good squeeze of he honey in a mug and warm till melted together. I find leaving it on the top of the age for 5 mins works, but a minute in the microwave would work just as well. Paint the glaze onto the ham, concentrating on the top.

Cook in the oven for 45mins at 180C or the middle of the Aga. Remember to keep a close eye on it though, the sugar can burn if it gets too hot.

Let’s Eat

Once cooked, allow the ham to cool before transferring onto a board. All that remains is get a sharp knife and carve a few slices – as thick as you like them. If you can’t wait for Boxing day; french bread, pickle and a few silver skins make a good accompaniment.

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Otherwise a simple Ham and mustard on white would be perfect in my eyes.

A night at Searcys- Harissa mayo, chips and champagne

I like to think our tea room is a bit unique. Although it’s only open two days a week, the food doesn’t get rolled over. If it doesn’t sell, it gets eaten by us or given to the wildlife (foxy and badger do well). Now some argue this isn’t good for the accounts, but it’s better for the costumers and gives me loads of stuff to use for blogs. This week we had about 4 jackets left over on Sunday, so I decided to make some wedges.  The only tricky bit was what to have with them.

Well, I’m a bit of a superstitious person. If I’m test flying I give the ground team my mobile and if I’m in London I always have champagne and chips with spicy mayo at Searcys at St Pancras Station. This started when I took and passed my first surgical exam!! With results of the second exam out and a pass achieved, I thought I might give making the spicy mayo a go. It’s flavoured with harissa and amazing with chips and a glass of Verve.

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Harissa mayo

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Ingredients

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 125ml olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon White wine vinegar
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 teaspoon each of caraway, cumin and coriander seeds
  • 2 teaspoons chilli flakes
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic
  • Jacket potatoes – for the wedges

 

Start by checking you have all the ingredients ready and also a friend on hand to help. Luckily dad’s around.

Start by separating the egg, you only need the yolk so you can either throw away the white or use it in something else. Transfer this to a bowl and gently whisk to break up.  Now the fun begins, add the oil a drop at a time and whisk till fully mixed.

 

Mayo at this point will split if you add the oil too fast and it doesn’t get incorporated. You can save it by adding another egg yolk if it does split.

Continue adding the oil a drop at a time (hence the need for dad) until the mix starts to thicken up. Then add the vinegar – it helps to stabilise the mayo.

 

Now, using your assistant again add the remaining oil in a continuous slow stream whilst frantically whisking. What results is homemade mayo – you can add some mustard, salt and pepper to make lively normal mayo or……..add harissa paste to make something special.

 

Harissa is sort of like a spicy North African ketchup alternative. It’s made by combining Caraway, Cumin and coriander seeds and gently toasting in a dry pan for a couple of minutes. These are then added to the chilli and ground up in a pestle and mortar.

 

Then add the finely chopped garlic and grind again in the trusty pestle and mortar. You can add a bit of oil to form a paste at the end.

 

All that remains is to combine the mayo with the Harissa paste and fold together.

 

Let’s eat

Make a few wedges with the left over jacket potatoes by chopping into 8 and cooking on the Aga in a bit of oil. Season with some salt and pepper.

 

Serve the wedges with a little ramekin of the mayo, a few olives and some perfectly chilled champagne (Jennie gets Verve, Alice-Moet, Holly edged towards Rothschild but when it’s just me – Pommery)

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Dr Cox @ The Supper Club – Chicken Flowerpot Pie

To date I’ve held 4 Supper clubs – After the first 2 I had a waiting list approx. 4x longer than the number of spaces available. So, let’s see how fast this one sells out……….

Do you recall the 4th July post when I made Pretzels to celebrate the beer renowned Jazz musician/brewer Greg Maskalic made? Well, on 18th Nov we will be teaming up, Greg on Piano and myself on the AGA. The menu will be delicious food, cooked well and you can even bring your own alcohol. What’s not to love?

Menu

Nibbles to start

Homemade Chicken Pie

Pulled Pork Topped Burger with Rosemary chips

Vegetarian Chill with a homemade cornbread

A selection of Deserts

Coffee with Homemade Chocolates

Over the next few weeks I’ll put up a couple of the recipes. But for now here’s Homemade chicken pie – cooked in a flowerpot obviously.

 

Chicken Flowerpot Pie

 

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Ingredients

  • 1 medium chicken
  • 2 onions
  • Carrots
  • Peas
  • Good quality chicken stock
  • 8oz Plain Floour
  • 4oz Butter – plus a little more for the chicken
  • Olive oil
  • Sage, Thyme, salt and pepper.

Start by preparing the chicken. Start by rubbing in a couple of teaspoons of olive oil. Then top with butter and the herbs and rub into the skin.

Chicken has a lovely taste on its own if cooked well, so theere’s no need to drown the flavours.  Roast in an over at around 170 till the leg can be pulled off cleanly.

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This normally takes around 1hr 20mins – but obviously this will vary with size. Once it’s cooked, let the bird rest and then strip off the meat.IMG_0673

With the meat ready it’s time to get on with the rest of the filling. Finely chop an onion and soften on a medium heat. Whilst this softens, peel and chop a couple of carrots and cut into small cubes – boil for 10 mins till soft.

To the softened onions, add the torn chicken and the chicken stock. You can also add a dash of wine at this point as well.  Reduce the stock down in the pan till a lovely rich filling has been created.

Ok, confession time. The pies should have carrots and peas in them, and will for the supper club, but I’m not a fan of Veg. They taste better with them in though………….

 

Pastry Cases

Whilst the chicken cooks, multitask and make the pastry. It’s just a basic shortcrust. Start by weighing out the butter and plain flour with a pinch of salt.

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Add these to the mixer and rub in the butter – Of course you can do this by hand but it takes a lot longer. Use a couple of tablespoons of cold water to bring the pastry together.

Wrap the pastry in cling film and leave to chill in the fridge for an hour – it needs the time to rest, otherwise it’s just rubbery and tough.

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Roll out the pastry on a well floured board – ideally you should only roll away from yourself, rotating the pastry each time – but in reality everyone does it differently. You are aiming for about a £1 coin thickness

Then line the well greased flowerpots with the pastry, trim around the top and leave to rest again for another hour. The resting stops the pastry shrinking back in the oven.

Once rested, fill with baking beans and cook in the AGA (approx 180) for 10mins before removing the beans and giving the pastry another 5mins to crisp up – No soggy bottoms here…………….

 

Pie Time

Right, on the home straight now.

Fill the pastry cases with the pie filling, roll out a lid and use a little egg wash to attach to the case. Then with a fork, gently crimp around the top of the pie. Make a small hole to allow the steam to escape. Glaze the top of the pie with egg wash and bake for 30mins at around 180C, until golden.

Serve with some rosemary chips and minty mushy peas. The wine and flowers of optional.

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So there we have it. The first teaser of Supper Club. If you fancy coming for the food or more likely the wonderful Jazz music, pop in.

 

Infinity Project 861: Time to make beer

In the depths of winter I sat in the snug, the heavy smell of paraffin mixed with that of pie and Bass. We sat opposite a hero, talking about what we had just flown, the roar of 27L of British thunder still buzzing in our ears

My friends have accused me of being old fashioned throughout the years, however I just insist that some things can’t be improved upon. There is a pub which exemplifies this point. Located deep in Lincolnshire approx. 5miles from a ‘disused’ airfield, it was once the haunt of brave young men who fought to keep us free. A few miles have been added to the clocks of these old boys, but the pub remains the same. Lit only by oil lamps, pies kept warm in an oil fired cabinet and no lager to be seen on the taps, it became a favourite of the MMDS during my final years at school and beyond. Its mystery, unlike so much else, never faded………………..

During one of those hazy evenings, after adding a few more hours to my log book, I sat with my two closest friends, Ginger (sadly no longer with us) and Morley, and said no matter what happened we must not let these echoes of the past slip away. Afterall

“Memory is the storeroom of the mind. A dusty attic of experience filled with knowledge; sometimes useless; sometimes priceless.But once in a while we must cast aside the shades, and with our dustily relics try to recapture the past. For in there lies reason for the present and hope for the future”

Let’s face it, most men have wanted to brew their own beer. A few will have tried with homebrew kits and got varying results. So, in memory of Ginger I thought it was finally time I gave brewing a go and keep the memory of those MMDS trips alive.

Here is to hope for the future: Oil Lamps, homemade pies and beer………..

Micro Brewery

There is one undisputed king of beers, Bass! It is a very drinkable, lightly hopped English pale ale and in reality should only be drunk in half so you can keep going back for more. It’s also got the worlds first trademark, a red triangle which I learnt on a trip to the Bass museum a few weeks ago.

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Wandering around the museum, beer in hand, I stumbled upon an elderly gentleman lurking around what appeared to be bunch of barrels and a trough. Trying to work out what it was I finally asked him, he explained it was part of the BurtonUnion system once used to brew beer. These turned out to be needlessly complicated and most were scrapped in the 50s, but as the elderly gentleman told me, beer tastes better brewed in them (I know the science but don’t ask)………….

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One thing the MMDS members realised is don’t get me drunk and let me loose near something mechanical, I can revise engineer it in minutes. So, I did!!!! And thus with the use of meccano, tubing, an old ban Marie and a couple of 5L mini kegs, a Miniature Burton Union was made as well as a mash tun and sparging equipment…………..

Homemade Bass

Beer is made using malt, hops, water and yeast. It’s then left to ferment and after about 2 weeks you transfer into casks to condition for another 2 weeks. You can buy good malt extracts but I wanted to keep mine as close to the original as possible so I am using malt. The yeast is one I managed to propagate from a pint of Bass from my local as well to make it even more authentic.

Ingredience

  •  4oz Crystal malt
  • 3lb Pale malt
  • Water
  • Yeast
  • 7oz Brewers sugar
  • 0.4oz + 0.16oz + 0.1oz Goulding hops
  • 0.8oz Fugggles hops
  • Irish moss
  • Fining

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Start by allowing the malt to mash in approx 7L of water. This should be kept at a steady 66c and the malt being agitated from time to time to allow full exposure to the water. This can be done by sealing the malt in a cloth bag and steeping it like a giant tea bag. Or if you have a lot of spare meccano you can build a system to suspend the malt in to baskets which then pump the water constantly over it. This needs to continue for 1.5hrs to allow full extraction.

After 1.5hrs have passed (and you’ve repaired the pump a few times), you need to drain the liquid into a pan of boiler for the next step. But you haven’t finished with the malt just yet. This is still covered in lots of natural sugar which are removed in a process called sparging. Basically you pass warm water over the malt and collect this for boiling. I again used the recycling system to spare the grain. You need approx 3L in total.

You should have now collected approx 10L of liquid which is known as wort. This contains the sugars which will be converted into alcohol by the yeast. This needs to be flavoured and the bitterness added by hops. This occurs in 2 steps. Firstly the Fuggles hops and the first batch of Golding hops are added  and the wort boiled for 1.5hr along with the Irish moss. The helps keep the beer clear.

 

Then, just at the end more flavouring aromatic  Golding hops are added and the liquid allowed to steep for 10-15mins.

The wort now needs to be cooled rapidly to stop the high temperature degrading the delicate flavour of the hops. This can be done by passing the wort through a length of tubing submersed in a sink of ice cold water. The aim is to reduce it down to 20-25, so it can take a few passes. Sugar can then be added to reach a target specific cavity of 1.045.

 

Once cooled, the yeast can be added and then the mixture transferred to the Union.
The idea of a Burton Union is that as the yeast ferments it produces gas, alcohol, but also a foam on the top. This is forced up the copper swan pipe and into a trough at the top. This trough collects yeast and fermenting beer which is then returned to the Union Barrells. This not only allows you to not waste beer (a sin) but also allows the yeast strains to be uniform throughout all the barrels.

Now it’s just a case of waiting.

After 2 weeks the Unions will slow down their production and the Specific gravity will have fallen to around 1.020. Now you have technically got beer but it’s very young and needs to be conditioned. More barrels to the rescue. Transfer the beer via siphon to the aging casks avoiding transferring all the sediment which will have collected at the base. To the beer, add a priming liquid of water and sugar and more Golding hops (I had some spare pellet type so used them-not a great fan). Also you can add the finings at this point to aid in clearing.

Again wait- 2 weeks till you can drink.

So after 2 weeks,the beer is ready for tapping. Ideally you should keep in a cool room or cupboard and leave a day for it to settle if you move it. Remove the cap and plug the hole with a breathable material, like soft wood. Recap if you finish drinking but not done finishing the barrel.

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The big question is what to drink it with………. Memories oh dearest memories – Steak and Ale pie I think 😉