Short English Biscuits

Short English Biscuits

This is a recipe passed to me years ago by my 93 year old mother-in-law. She used to knock up these biscuits for my boys when they came home from school, or make a batch to go with fruit and ice-cream for our Sunday dessert.

I made them today to accompany strawberries and whipped cream. I know it’s only April and the temperature outside makes it feel more like March, but the strawberries in Waitrose looked so beautifully red and plump, I couldn’t resist buying them. They did not disappoint.

These biscuits are buttery, short and light and couldn’t be easier to make.

Ingredients

For about 16 biscuits

  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 175g butter, softened

Method

  • Place all the ingredients in a food processor or mixer and mix until combined in a soft dough
  • Turn out onto a floured surface and roll out to a thickness of approx 5mm
  • Cut out into rounds, using a 7cm cutter
  • Slide a metal spatula or a large palette knife under each (rather delicate) round and place on the full size Aga baking tray lined with Bake-O-Glide. You will need to do bake these in two batches
  • Place the tray on the third rung from the top of the baking oven for about 10 minutes until the biscuits are golden brown
  • Leave them on the tray for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack

Navarin of Lamb

Navarin of Lamb

The Country Wives were kind enough to publish this recipe on their website recently.

When cooler temperatures and rain put paid to our barbecue plans on Sunday, I decided to make Navarin of Lamb, a delicious braise which uses a variety of spring vegetables. I didn’t have in my kitchen any of the baby turnips or carrots which are traditional but knew I could make the dish with what I did have, and the recipe below is the result. Use any good veg you can find, with this recipe as a guide.

Navarin of Lamb

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 600g lamb neck fillet cut into large dice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil and a knob of butter
  • 1 small onion, peeled and sliced
  • 1 celery stick
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • I clove garlic, bruised
  • Sprig or two of thyme
  • Sprig of rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 100ml white wine
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • 225g baby new potatoes
  • 100g carrots (baby carrots left whole or “old” carrots peeled and cut into thick batons)
  • 150g frozen baby broad beans
  • 150g frozen petits pois

Method

  • Heat the oil and butter in a shallow, heavy-bottomed casserole on the boiling plate and add the onions, celery and pieces of lamb
  • Stir for a few minutes to brown the lamb before moving the casserole to the simmering plate and adding some seasoning, the tomato purée and white wine. Let this bubble for a couple of minutes and then add the garlic, bay leaf, herbs and stock
  • Bring to the boil on the boiling plate, cover and place in the simmering oven for 1½ hours but longer would be fine: in an Aga nothing dries out
  • About half an hour before you want to eat, place the potatoes and carrots in a saucepan with a little salt, a teaspoon of caster sugar, a knob of butter and 100ml of water. Bring to the boil on the boiling plate, cover and transfer to the simmering oven
  • Cook the peas, drain and rinse in cold water so they retain their colour
  • Cook the broad beans, drain and rinse in cold water and slip off the skins
  • Remove the lamb from the casserole to a plate, discard the garlic, herbs and bay leaf and bring the broth to the boil on the simmering plate to reduce it a little
  • Return the lamb to the casserole and, having checked they’re tender, add the potatoes and carrots and finally the peas and broad beans
  • Taste for seasoning, sprinkle with some chopped parsley and serve

 

Coq au Vin

Coq au Vin

Following on from my boeuf bourgignon post, here’s another classic recipe. Coq au Vin is in fact just boeuf bourgignon but with chicken. Discuss. Seriously, sometimes I wonder why we keep looking for new ideas when the classic, tried and tested recipes are so good; I mean, there’s a reason they’ve been around for so long. It has not escaped my notice, by the way, that the two I mention here are French.

If you Google “Coq au Vin” you will find many different ways of making it but the ingredients don’t vary much. I based mine on Delia’s recipe. Good old Delia: she provides clear instructions and retains all the essential elements without sacrificing flavour. And because we are Aga cooks, we can be relaxed about the cooking time and leave our dish bubbling gently in the simmering oven for longer than the 40 minutes – 1 hour most recipes recommend. Chatting about this in my “I love my Aga” Facebook group, there was discussion about how to thicken the sauce. You could dust the chicken pieces with flour first, but I rather like the method I give here which is to whisk in a butter and flour paste at the end.

I don’t know if anyone uses the cock bird to make this dish anymore. In fact, I don’t know if it would be possible to get hold of one. A chicken, jointed into 8 pieces has become traditional here and I confess that when I made this recently, I just used good quality chicken thighs I bought from Waitrose.

Coq au Vin

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • A 2kg chicken jointed into 8 pieces or 8 good quality, large chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
  • Salt and pepper
  • Butter and olive oil
  • 225g unsmoked streaky bacon, chopped
  • Button onions or shallots, 2-3 per person, peeled and left whole
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • A couple of sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Approx. 500ml red wine
  • 225g mushrooms, sliced thickly
  • A butter and flour paste (beurre manié) made by mashing 1tbsp soft butter with 1tbsp plain flour
  • A handful of chopped, fresh parsley

Method

  • Season the chicken pieces
  • Melt the butter with the oil in a frying pan on the simmering plate and add the chicken pieces, skin side down. Transfer to the floor of the roasting oven for 5-10 minutes to brown
  • Take it out, turn the chicken pieces over and return to the roasting oven floor for a further 5 minutes or so
  • Remove the chicken and put it in a casserole that has a lid
  • Add the onions and bacon to the frying pan making sure they’re coated in the fat and fry until coloured (on the roasting oven floor again)
  • Tip the onions and bacon into the casserole and add the garlic, thyme, bay and red wine, which should not cover the chicken completely
  • Bring this to simmering point on the boiling plate and then put the lid on the casserole and place it in the simmering oven for two to three hours, turning the chicken pieces over halfway through. If you want it to cook more quickly, I reckon you could put it in the baking oven or maybe even the roasting oven, but I did not try this so I can’t vouch for it
  • About 30 minutes before you want to eat, add the mushrooms
  • Remove the chicken, bacon, onions and mushrooms and keep them warm
  • Place the casserole on the simmering plate and when the wine is bubbling, whisk in the beurre manié and let it simmer until the sauce is thick and glossy. Taste for seasoning
  • Return everything to the sauce, sprinkle over the parsley and serve

 

 

 

 

Apple Cobbler with Cinnamon and Sultanas

Apple Cobbler with Cinnamon and Sultanas

My husband, a lover of all apple-related desserts, says this is his new favourite Sunday lunch pudding. New to us, he means, because fruit cobblers have been around for years. For some reason they did not feature in my repertoire. Until now. I’ve made a couple of cobblers in recent weeks and my husband’s at the “I could eat this every week” stage. He’s even sent a photo to our youngest, who’s returning home from university for the Easter holidays soon, telling him what a treat he has in store. Who would not want to cook for someone so enthusiastic and complimentary?

When researching cobblers I started off with Delia, then found a Mary Berry example and a couple of other online recipes, and came up with this. I plan to vary it according to available ingredients; apple and blackberry would definitely work, as would rhubarb and ginger.

Ingredients

  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 50g cold butter, cubed
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • 3 or 4 large Bramley apples
  • A handful or two of sultanas
  • 1 heaped tsp ground cinnamon (to get a strong and fresh cinnamon flavour we buy cinnamon sticks from Cinnamon Hill and grate them as and when required)
  • 75g demerara sugar

Method

  • Make the cobbler first by placing the flour and butter in a large mixing bowl and rubbing the butter in until it resembles breadcrumbs. You can of course do this in a food processor, but it’s very quick by hand
  • Stir in the caster sugar
  • Add the egg and milk and combine until it’s like wet scone mixture
  • Peel and slice the apples and place in a dish. You can grease it if you like but I don’t and it’s been fine
  • Stir in the cinnamon, sultanas and Demerara sugar
  • Place dollops of the cobbler mixture on top of the apples; there will be gaps
  • Bake in the baking oven for 30 minutes or so until the top is golden brown and the apples are soft
  • Serve warm with cream

 

 

Boeuf Bourguignon

Boeuf Bourguignon

Inspired by the success of the lamb ragù in my last post, I decided to try out the “not browning the meat” method once again and made an old favourite: boeuf bourguignon. It was a success, so I thought I’d give you the recipe I used for this classic dish. I adapted it from Delia’s in her Complete Cookery Course. It’s also available online here. I’m probably breaking the rules here but if you don’t have any Burgundy, it would not be a disaster if you use whatever red wine you do happen to have in your kitchen.

Serves 6 generously

Ingredients

  • 1kg braising steak (I used chuck), cubed
  • Olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 heaped tbsp plain flour
  • 400ml approx red Burgundy
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme, or ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Approx 12 small onions or shallots, peeled and left whole
  • 225g streaky bacon, smoked or green, ideally bought in a piece and then cubed but don’t worry if you only have rashers: just chop them up
  • 120g mushrooms, sliced, or small button ones left whole

Method

  • Spread the beef out on a large baking sheet which fits on the Aga runners and drizzle with olive oil
  • Place the tray on the top runner of the roasting oven for 10-15 minutes to brown the beef
  • Meanwhile in a large casserole, sweat the onion in a tablespoon or two of olive oil in the simmering oven until soft and translucent
  • Place the casserole on the simmering plate and add the beef to it. Stir in flour to soak up the juices, then gradually pour in the wine until it barely covers the beef, stirring all the time. Don’t use all the wine if you don’t have to; remember that you tend to need less liquid when cooking in an Aga
  • Add the crushed garlic, thyme and bay leaf and season with salt and pepper
  • Put the lid on and place in the simmering oven for 3 hours or more
  • In a frying pan on the simmering plate fry the onions and bacon in a little olive oil until coloured
  • Add them to the casserole together with the mushrooms
  • Put the lid back on and return to the simmering oven for at least an hour, but longer would not do any harm at all
  • Sprinkle with some chopped fresh parsley to serve

Boulangère or dauphinoise potatoes go well with this and so does rice. A green salad and/or green beans are also good accompaniments. As with most casseroles, this one is better on the second day so it’s worth making the day before you want to eat it. I’d maybe not add the mushrooms until reheating it on the second day

 

 

 

Gigot Boulangère

Gigot Boulangère

I made a few mince pies this week. They’re now in the freezer but I might get them out this weekend as my youngest son is returning home from university and I think he’ll appreciate them. Apart from that and the Christmas cake, I haven’t done a huge amount of Christmas preparation but now that it’s December I will be getting my act together. I have had to postpone my plan to write up some of my Christmas recipes because I don’t have any decent photos to accompany them. I will aim to take lots of photos during this Christmas period so that I can write up the recipes in good time for Christmas 2018.

fullsizeoutput_2bacMeanwhile the Sunday roast continues to happen in our house and last Sunday it was gigot boulangère. If ever there was a dish that lends itself perfectly to Aga cooking, this is the one. If you love lamb and love boulangère potatoes, then this is one for you. On Sunday morning, after a cup of tea in bed with the papers on my iPad, I got up at 8 to prepare this dish. My neighbours may have caught a glimpse of me fetching some rosemary and nearly catching my death in my garden in my dressing gown.  In less than an hour though lunch was in the oven, to be more or less ignored until we were ready to eat it at 2pm.

Recipe

Serves 6

  • 1 leg of lamb weighing about 2.4kg
  • 1.8kg potatoes
  • 2 onions, peeled and sliced
  • Rosemary
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 100ml white wine

Method

  • Pound the peeled garlic with 1 tsp salt flakes (I use Maldon sea salt) in a pestle and mortar until you have a rough paste
  • Add 1 tbsp olive oil and about 1 tbsp chopped rosemary to this
  • Give it a stir and season
  • Set aside
  • Drizzle some olive oil into the bottom of your large Aga roasting tin, which you have lined with bake-o-glide
  • Peel and thinly slice the potatoes. At this point many cooks would tell you to use a mandolin, but I don’t possess one so I use a nice sharp knife
  • Cover the base of the tin with a layer of potatoes followed by the onion slices, chopped rosemary and some seasoning and then the remaining potato slices
  • Pour over the white wine
  • Stab the leg of lamb all over with the point of a sharp knife and then rub in the garlic and rosemary paste you made at the start, massaging it into the slits you’ve made
  • Lay the lamb on top of the potatoes and hang the roasting tin on the third set of runners in the roasting oven and cook for 45 minutes
  • Transfer to the simmering oven for at least 4 hours but, as always, longer is fine, if not better
  • To serve, place the lamb on a large dish or board for carving, and the potatoes in a dish with all the juices. I put a bowl of redcurrant jelly on the table. Some mint sauce would have been nice too

Notes:

  • Conventional cooking: pre-heat the oven to 200ºC and cook the potatoes for about an hour before placing the lamb on top and roasting it for about 15 minutes per 500g depending on how you like it done.
  • There were only three of us for lunch on Sunday so I asked my butcher, Ruby and White, to give me just half a leg of lamb, as you will see in the above photos. I halved the quantities of the other ingredients and used the small Aga roasting tin.

 

 

 

Tarte Tatin

Tarte Tatin

At last I’ve found a successful recipe for tarte tatin. For some reason until last weekend my attempts at this dessert were disappointing: either they collapsed on being turned out or the sugar didn’t dissolve to make a sufficiently yummy caramel syrup. The recipe which worked for me on Sunday is by Raymond Blanc and is surprisingly easy and straightforward, which is a joy because I find recipes by great chefs are often, well, chef-y, involving lots of complicated steps and therefore not for a simple home cook like me. How could I resist a recipe allowing me to use bought pastry (the trick of freezing the rolled out disc was a revelation) and to keep the peel on the apples?

There is more than one story about how this upside down apple tart recipe came about. The one I choose to believe tells how Stéphanie Tatin (who, with her sister, ran the Hotel Tatin in Lamotte-Beuvron in France) was making an apple pie one busy day and left the apples and sugar for too long until there was a smell of burning. She tried to rescue the pudding by putting the pastry on top of the apples and placing the whole pan in the oven to finish off. She turned out the tart and served it to her guests who, to her surprise, loved it!

Tarte Tatin

Pre-heat conventional oven to 180ºC

You will need an 8″ tarte tatin tin like this:

Ingredients

  • 8-12 dessert apples (I used Braeburn)
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 60g cold, unsalted butter, diced
  • 30g unsalted butter, melted (by placing it in a small bowl towards the back of the Aga)
  • 250g-300g all butter puff pastry (shop-bought!) rolled to about 3mm thick and cut into a disc slightly larger than the diameter of the base of the tin, pricked with a fork and frozen

Method

  • Place the water in the tin and sprinkle over the sugar; leave for 2 minutes to allow the water to absorb the sugar
  • On a medium heat/the Aga simmering plate cook the syrup until it’s a pale golden caramel. The heat of the simmering plate might be a bit fierce and you don’t want the caramel to get too dark so you could slow this stage down by placing the tin in the simmering oven while you prepare the apples
  • Cut the apples in half horizontally and core them. Slice off the rounded tops and bottoms so that the apples can sit flat in the tin
  • Stir the diced butter into the caramel syrup until it’s melted
  • Sit the apples, with the middles uppermost, in the tin in a single layer, packing them in as tightly as possible. Press them down with your hands as you go
  • Brush the apples with the melted butter and place the tin on a baking tray and in the baking oven for 30 minutes
  • Remove the tin and place the disc of pastry on top. Tuck the sides in if you can and prick a few holes in it with a sharp knife to allow the steam to escape. Return to the oven for about 40 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden brown
  • Leave in the tin for about an hour to cool (although I can confirm 15 minutes is enough: I was short of time) before turning it out and serving warm with cream or ice cream. Monsieur Blanc says it can also be made the day before, refrigerated and then reheated.