Goose egg & toasty soldiers

Peculiar eggs have been quite the thing this Easter, with Clarence Court touting everything from the mighty ostrich to the wee bantam and everything in between.

Imagine my delight when I spotted a couple of goose eggs in my local Waitrose, reduced from £6.99 each to a piffling 49p.

A goose egg is about three times the size of a hen’s egg, so it’s perfect for an omelette or scrambled egg portion for one. It also has a great big yolk, and makes a nice fried egg (although it takes a while to cook so you need to go easy on the heat).

My preferred egg-cooking method though is the good old boiled egg with toasty soldiers.

Sadly, I didn’t have a goose egg sized egg cup.

I brought some water to the boil, added my egg and boiled it for 10 minutes, for a soft yolk and perfectly set white.

It was slightly stronger in flavour than a hen’s egg, with a creamier yolk. And much easier to get my soldiers in.

If you fancy trying peculiar eggs for yourself, why not check out Food Urchin’s fab Scotch ostrich egg or this pheasant egg salad in the New York Times.

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The True Cost of Modernist Cuisine

I received my long-awaited copy of Modernist Cuisine a couple of weeks ago. It’s not a cheap book by any stretch – on Amazon it’s currently £375 (and it’s not even in stock). But it does have six volumes, and from what I’ve read so far, it’s a must for science or food geeks.

The big problem for me is, now that I’ve shelled out 300 quid on the books, I’m left with a huge wishlist of equipment in order to make all the recipes.

The first thing I’ll be getting is a pressure cooker. It’ll be great for making delicious stock quickly, and there are plenty of other uses in MC, from pressure-cooked carnitas to a very clever and cheaty way to pre-cook risotto. My eye is on the Kuhn Rikon from Lakeland. £91.99

A sous vide water bath and vacuum sealer will also come in handy for most of the recipes. Luckily there are a few ways of cheating your way to a water bath – Mat Follas of the Wild Garlic has made his own and Fork in the Road’s Lauren Shockey has an almost free method learned at WD-50. £0-720 for the water bath and £79.95 for the vacuum sealer.

I’m going to have to find another way of separating liquids as a centrifuge will set me back over £5000. A rotary evaporator could also get pricey, so I might try making my own for $100.

I may be tempted by a soda siphon though – making my own ginger cola is just too enticing, and at £29.95, it’s one of the cheapest pieces of equipment I’ll need. Similarly, a dehydrator could be pretty useful for preserving food, so I’ll either be buying one for £49.95 or getting a copy of this book (£6.95) to help me make my own solar-powered version.

A pacojet is simply not going to happen as it’s over £2000. Instead I’ll be improvising with my food processor, blender and cheap-as-chips ice cream maker. Ditto the £700 Thermomix. I’ll be stirring furiously by hand over the hob instead (although it will take me 4 hours to make Heston Blumenthal’s blood pudding custard, so maybe I’d better get to the gym).

I may splash out on a smoke gun, although that’s fairly low on my list and is a pricey £55.99. I suspect I’ll end up with some woodchips in an old biscuit tin instead.

And the ultrasonic bath, rotary vacuum distiller, freeze dryer and autoclave may have to wait a very long time!

Peculiar Veg: Crimson Asparagus

I do love asparagus. I know it makes your wee smell funny, but it is delicious.

It also has a very short season, so needs to be snapped up quickly.

I spotted this beautiful crimson asparagus in my local Waitrose, of all places.

Pretty isn’t it?

It’s purpley on the outside, green on the inside. And it’s so sweet and tender it can be eaten raw.

It seemed a shame to cook it, so I dressed it simply in lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, and added it to a salad of rocket, spinach and co-ordinating radicchio.

It’s got a very light, sweet, fresh flavour. Like asparagusy peas. And yes, it still makes your wee smell. But you can’t have everything.

If you can’t find any crimson asparagus locally, you could always grow some. When I finally move into my new house, I’ll be planting asparagus. It’s a perennial, which is great for lazy people like me as you plant it once and then reap the rewards every year.

Peculiar Books: Modernist Cuisine

It’s here folks!

And it was so heavy I couldn’t lift it.

For those of you who’ve been living in a cave, Modernist Cuisine is a 2438 page, 6 volume foodie geekfest that took thirty years to write. Hydrocolloids, centrifuges, water baths, they’re all here.

It might take me a while to read all this. I’ll keep you posted.

Peculiar Places: The Deptford Project

I am one of those people who is terrified about complaining in restaurants.

I’m shy.

I just can’t help it.

I know it’s not my fault. That something is wrong. But yet, I will avoid having to do anything about it at all costs. Is it because I’m British? Or is it just me?

Today, I spent a beautiful afternoon sunning myself on the terrace of the lovely Deptford Project, a quirky little cafe in a disused railway carriage (yep that’s right, a railway carriage) on Deptford Highstreet.

Sunning myself and waiting.

And waiting.

And waiting.

For my apple & cinnamon cake to arrive.

Checking up on its whereabouts filled me with fear.  But, of course, when I went to check I hadn’t been forgotten (I had) the waitress couldn’t be more lovely and apologetic.

What had I been worried about?

The cake was worth waiting for, moist with apples and lightly spiced with cinnamon, it had a crumbly sugared topping that gave a nice contrasting crunch. Rik and I pretty much inhaled it.

The sandwiches were pretty good too. I had a doorstep of a bruschetta – a creamy slab of brie, sweet roast peppers and layers of ham on warm crunchy bread.

There were also some tempting looking quiches, salads and fairtrade coffee. And I can definitely see myself staving off a hangover over a full English breakfast here in the near future.

That’s as long as the lurid pink flamingos don’t give me a headache.

The Deptford Project is relaxed, quirky and serves up generous servings of mouthwatering homely fare. Plus it’s pretty cheap – our hefty wedge of cake set us back £2.25.

Nothing to be scared of at all.

The Deptford Project, 121-124 Deptford High Street, London SE8 4NS

Open Mon-Sat 9-5.30pm and Sun 10-4.30pm

Peculiar Booze: Chocolate Beer Braised Mutton

Meantime Brewery is close to my heart. It’s based in the lovely Greenwich, where I live. But more importantly it makes interesting beers.

And when I say interesting, what I really mean is chocolatey.

Of course it doesn’t just make chocolate beer, but that’s my particular favourite and it seemed like just the thing to braise a lovely piece of mutton in.

First I made a trivet of celery and red onions to rest the meat on, with a cheeky couple of star anise to boost the umami flavours.

Mutton can be tough, so I decided to cook it low and slow. Braising it for 6 hours was no good for me, so I went the whole hog and teased my mutton to perfection over 12 hours.

This meant I could quickly prep it after breakfast, bung it in the oven and come home from work to a delicious dinner. The meat was perfectly tender and falling off the bone. Genius!

Chocolate Beer Braised Mutton (serves 4)

Ingredients

  • 1kg mutton shoulder, on the bone
  • 3 sticks of celery, roughly chopped
  • 2 red onions, roughly sliced
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 bottles of Meantime Chocolate beer

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 110c / Lowest gas setting
  • Arrange the celery and onions in an oven proof dish.
  • Season the mutton all over and place on top of the vegetables.
  • Pour in the beer so it comes halfway up the mutton. Add the star anise and bay leaf to the beer.
  • Cover with foil and braise for 12 hours.
  • Serve with a big splodge of buttery mash and green beans. The cooking liquor makes a nice sauce if you remove the star anise, strain off the fat and blend in the vegetables.

Peculiar Veg: Sorrel Sauce

Of course, sorrel isn’t really that peculiar. But it is unusual. I picked up a bunch at my local farmers’ market this weekend and wanted to make the most of its mouth-puckering sourness.

Sorrel is eaten a lot in France and Italy, but is relatively uncommon in England. The name means “sour”, and sour it is due to the oxalic acid it contains. This makes it fab with fish, although the young leaves can make a sexy addition to salad.

Another very clever thing about sorrel is that it wilts down very quickly, a bit like spinach, and makes a silky sauce with the need for a blender.

Just shred. And saute. Bob’s your uncle.

As most of my kitchen equipment is currently in storage, this was a winner with me.

After my recent disastrous attempts at vegan marshmallows and dishwasher salmon, I decided to play it safe and use a recipe by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

I’d like you to meet sorrel’s best friend.

Yep, it’s mackerel. Mackerel with gooseberry sauce is a bit of a classic, and as sorrel shares the gooseberry’s sharp, sour character, HFW cleverly paired the two.

It may not be pretty, but it’s quick and tasty. And peculiar (almost).

Sorrel Sauce for Mackerel (serves 2)

Adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Ingredients

  • 200g sorrel, shredded
  • 50g + 25g  unsalted butter
  • 25g plain flour
  • 1tbsp cream (optional)

Method

  • First make some beurre manie by kneading together 25g of butter with the flour.
  • Put the remaining 50g of butter in a pan and heat until it foams.
  • Add the shredded sorrel. It will wilt and turn sludgy brown fairly quickly.
  • Stir through the beurre manie to thicken the sauce.
  • Season with plenty of salt and pepper. Stir in the cream if you’re using it.