Last night I had the pleasure of hosting a Burns’ Supper for a couple of friends. It was a very last-minute affair, and was never intended as a faithful rendition of the rituals associated with celebrating the bard. More an excuse to get together with some mates and enjoy some good malts with a side order of offal and tubers… Read more
I am almost comically stereotypically Irish in my love of potatoes. I always keep a bag of spuds in the house and few things tickle me more than having a new potato recipe to try. Unsurprisingly one of my favourite cook books is The Humble Spud and I intend to eat my way through every recipe possible in it.
While thinking about the Christmas dinner, my eye was drawn to the page with Roast Potatoes with Sesame Seeds, more commonly known to particularly to Americans as Hasselback Potatoes. These are basically a potato prepared for roasting as normal, but cut 3/4 of the way through with a knife to resemble a tuberous stegosaurus before being roasted in the oven as normal.
These ornate little spuds require no par-boiling or even peeling, shaking, coating with flour or semolina or any other trick of the trade to crisp them right up. They fan out gently in the high heat of an oven to create a gorgeously golden, extra crispy roastie thanks to the increased surface area due to the extra splits in the spud. They take no longer to prepare than the average potato for roasting, and if you place your potato in a spoon to cut it, you will stop yourself slicing right through it.
I have prepared these twice in advance of the Christmas dinner. First time round I placed them in a plastic bag and shaken in oil and seasoning, then placed in a roasting tray of hot oil and cooked for about 40 minutes in a 220 C oven, they crisp up beautifully even without tthe magic addition of goose fat. Second time, I just wanted to double check they hadn’t been a crispy figment of my imagination… and I was not disappointed in any way!
I made these a focal point of the Christmas meal, using my mum’s plentiful stash of goose fat to make these even crispier and melt in the mouth. I didn’t add the sesame seeds suggested in the recipe to add some extra crunch as I forgot on the day. I certainly be experimenting with topping these with parmesan or garlic or chili throughout the year. Any other suggestions would be gratefully received!
It’s game season. Living in the countryside is giving me access to loads of rather exotic or decadent-sounding fowl and beasts at reasonable prices, and whereas I’d have once thought this was the preserve of the landed gentry and those with a penchant for head-to-toe tweed, I’m becoming a convert to wild, natural meats. It’s often surprisingly good value, very seasonal, normally local, and a lot of it’s new to me.
So when I was in the market doing my weekly shop I espied hare on the butcher’s blackboard I decided I needed to take home a new furry friend for the pot. My interest had been piqued by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s weighty ‘River Cottage Meat book‘ which I got for Christmas, so I’d been reading about hare and it was fresh in my mind. This was a big beast… 8 quid for a 5lb (2kg) animal and I got the butcher to take off the legs and cut the saddle into four roughly equal pieces.
I don’t think I’ve ever had hare before (possibly in a pie, but don’t quote me on that). However I’ve cooked rabbit enough to have some kind of reference, and have found that as it’s so lean it needs to be cooked with respect and lots of moisture. My oven’s been playing up for a while, so I elected to use the slow cooker to make a slow, unctuous game-y casserole.
Oh missus, what a chopper…
Mister North and Miss South enjoy the deliciously delicate delights of smoked eel fillet, provided by the marvellous Port of Lancaster Smokehouse in Glasson Dock.
I first tried this in Rotterdam a few years ago, after a recommendation from a local friend, who urged me to taste a morsel of lightly smoked eel. I’d had eel by then, but was overwhelmed by the experience of such a wonderfully firm flesh, infused with a delicate smokey flavour. As a result I was, if you pardon the pun, hooked.