New Year’s Eve and the death of Pavlova

We welcomed 2017 in my favourite place – A Welsh Mama’s  Kitchen with five of my favourite people. You know that group of friends who have been there through ups and downs; you can’t hide anything from them and they would be as much fun with a cup of tea and beans on toast as they would with a four course meal and plenty of fizz.   Well that’s the group we saw The New Year in with and the latter was enjoyed (although I am partial to beans on toast and a glass of red) what an epic start to the year it was.

The evening kicked off with a glass or two of Kir Royal then onto an Amuse Bouche of  ginger and sumac infused butternut squash soup; smoked salmon with celeriac remoulade and rocket; chicken cacciatore served with cannellini beans and vegetables; rounded off with panettone bread and butter pudding ( it was supposed to be a pavlova but I failed miserably at that!).  Plenty more alcohol; the kids chocolates (don’t tell them) a hilarious couple of rounds of charades; music; conversation and Jooles Holland Hootenanny.  A wonderful night and a fun-filled introduction to 2017.

I just wanted to run through a couple of the dishes for you to try.

 

BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP

A medium / large butternut squash

olive oil

3 sticks of celery

2 to 3 leeks

salt & pepper

1 to 2 teaspoons of sumac

2 cloves of garlic

Small piece of ginger

Vegetable stock

Pre-heat your oven to 180c Chop up a butternut squash into chunks (you can leave the skin on).  Spread it in a single layer on a baking tray, sprinkle over some olive oil, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and a good sprinkle of sumac.  Roast until the squash softens and starts to tinge a little on the edges.  In the meantime warm another glug of olive oil in a saucepan, chop two to three leeks and add them to the pan with a couple of celery sticks, two garlic cloves (chopped or crushed) and a piece of freshly grated ginger (about half a thumb size).  Mix together and sauté until the vegetables glisten and take on the flavours.  Tumble in the wonderful golden butternut squash, stir and cover with vegetable stock.  Bring to a boil then take off the heat and blend.  Check for seasoning add more water or stock to reach the desired consistency.

Serve as I did as a poncey amuse bouche in cups and saucers with an artistic swirl of sour creme and a mini cheese straw.  Or alternatively as I would for the rest of the year in a bowl / mug with a hunk of toast or in one of those funny plastic clip type mugs you can take to work and nuke in the microwave.

We are lucky enough to get a weekly veg box from the fantastic Guy Watson and Team at Riverford Organic Farm Devon.  Yes they deliver to Swansea!  So all our Christmas veg; meat and dairy was delivered to us and it was all incredible quality and the taste is sensational.  We have been having fruit and veg delivered from these guys for the past few years and I can honestly say I have never once been disappointed.  We haven’t used their meat before but for Christmas we had a fore rib of beef from them for Christmas day.  I can’t tell you how good it was.  Anyway Riverford have produced a few cookbooks and there is always a recipe card within the box each week.  Also if you ‘Google’ Riverford you can have access to many wonderful recipes – its well worth it.  So the next recipe is from the Riverford team and I want to pass it on as it was scrummy.

CELERIAC REMOULADE

A medium celeriac

Juice of a lemon

3 tbsp Dijon mustard

150 ml mayonnaise

1 tbsp double cream

1 tbsp chopped parsley

salt and pepper

Peel the celeriac and chop into match sticks (or run through a mandolin).  Tumble the matchsticks into a pot of boiling water and cook for 1 minute.  Drain well and leave to cool.  When cool add all the other ingredients to the celeriac and mix well.  Taste for the right amount of seasoning and balance of flavours that appeal to you.  Job done.   I served this as part of a starter with smoked salmon and rocket.  It was amazing – it also lasted for two days, I presume it may last longer but it had all been eaten by then!  I couldn’t go in the fridge without a forkful.

Do try this – it really is good.  Riverford are delivering Bergamot Lemons at the moment – the amount of juice in them is incredible and the smell will transport you from your kitchen to somewhere warm for a few seconds – always a winner!

I enjoy making bread and am fairly ok at it but as for baking I am never going to win the Great British Bake Off.  Now I have two small people in my life I feel the need to bake something more than Welsh Cakes; Banana Bread and Lemon Drizzle Cake; which are the only sweet things that I can make with confidence knowing that they always turn out.  I think it is because these are the only cakes I like and I am inspired by greed only!  For Christmas I was over the moon to receive a Kitchen Aid (no not a helper but a food mixer).  So for New Years Eve I decided to make Nigella’s Prodigious Pavlova.  I really concentrated and measured everything (That is quite a feat for me I’m a bit of a chuck it in and taste kinda girl).  Anyway needless to say it was a complete disaster!  I have now read so much about meringues and pavlova I could write a thesis.  So who knows why it was a disaster? Were the eggs too fresh? Did I over whip the whites? Did I add the sugar before  the eggs had whipped enough? Was the caster sugar not warm enough? Was it humidity? Is the oven on the blink? Surely it could not be down to me?  Anyway it went in the dustbin – yes it wasn’t even salvageable to serve to the kids as Eton Mess.  So bread and butter pudding it was.  I always buy a Panettone at Christmas to make this.  I swear to you this easy and fail safe – if I can do it anyone can and people are always impressed.

 

PANETTONE BREAD AND BUTTER PUDDING

Serves four but easy to adjust measurements just bake for a little longer.

Butter

250g panettone

2 eggs

142 ml double cream

225ml milk

1tsp vanilla extract

2tbsp caster sugar

Optional – a handful of dried cranberries and or raisins popped into a pan with a glass of marsala or sherry – warmed and left to cool.

Preheat the oven to 180c grease a shallow baking dish with some butter.  Slice the panettone and add a layer to the bottom of the dish, melt some butter and brush over the layer of panettone. Sprinkle the alcohol soaked dried fruit if using.  Add another layer of panettone and brush with meted butter. Keep on going with the layers until you run out of panettone.

Mix together the eggs, cream, milk, sugar and vanilla extract and pour over the panettone. Grate some nutmeg over the top if you wish.

Pop the dish into a bigger roasting tin and pour an inch of hot water around it. Bake for around 35 minutes until the pudding is just set.

Serve with cream.

It sits around and keeps warm if you leave it in the bain-marie and will also be ok for any left overs to have a blast in the microwave so its worth making double or treble quantities.

 

For the chicken cacciatore recipe I loosely followed the Jamie Oliver recipe from Jamie’s Italian (also available online); I tweaked it a bit by using leeks and mushrooms.  It is really easy and again can be cooked in advance or will sit around and behave itself until you are ready to serve. I will share what I did but do have a look at Jamie’s if you don’t feel the need to tweak!  I served this with curly kale; sprouts; chantenay carrots and cannellini beans.  For the beans, warm one or two garlic cloves left whole in a salute or frying pan with a sprig of rosemary.  Add the beans (pre-cooked or tinned) warm through whilst stirring so they become slightly creamy.  Season and you are sorted. These can be rewarmed very quickly when you are ready to serve – remove the garlic and rosemary before serving.

CHICKEN CACCIATORE

Six Organic Free Range chicken leg portions (with the thigh) skin on and bone in.

8 bay leaves

A few sprigs of thyme

7 cloves of garlic sliced

A bottle of chianti

Flour for dusting

8 to 10 anchovy fillets

A large handful of olives (black or green)

A large handful of chestnut mushrooms

Two leeks

Three tins of chopped tomatoes

 

Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add to a big bowl with the herbs; 5 garlic cloves; and all but a glass of Chianti cover with clingfilm and pop in the fridge.  Leave to marinade for a few hours but better still overnight.  Drink the remaining glass of Chianti – this is a reminder to only cook with wine that is drinkable!  When you are ready – preheat the oven to 180c.  In a large casserole that can go from direct heat to oven – warm a good glug of olive oil over a high heat.  Remove the chicken portions and pat dry; dust lightly with flour and fry two at a time until they are browned, remove when complete.  Lower the heat and salute the leek, garlic and mushrooms and anchovies in the same pan.  When the leeks have softened and the anchovies have melted, pour in the leftover marinade and the tomatoes. Return the chicken to the pan and submerge into its tomato and wine bath, bring to the boil.  Then cover the pan with a double piece of foil and the casserole lid to create a seal and pop it in the oven for 1.5 hours.  Either pop the casserole on the table for everyone to help themselves or serve a chicken portion on each plate with some of the now reduced sauce and pour any remaining sauce into a jug for your guests to help themselves.

I can’t tell you how easy and wonderfully tasty this dish is.  Its well worth a go.

 

So a fab night was had by all which has to be a good omen for the rest of the year.

BLWYDDYN NEWYDD DDA!