Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Have you seen the wind out there?

It's going mad today, all grey and cold and wet.

But these might brighten things up a bit!

And I think it would have a hard time blowing these little beauties over!

I made a couple this year, one for Charlie and Ben and one to keep all the front of house staff happy, up at East Lodge this Christmas.

Personally I think they are my best attempt yet, and I'm already thinking of ways to improve them, just in case we are challenged to any competitions this year!

The thing is with gingerbread houses is making sure the bread itself stays flat when you cook it.

And because its made with warm dough, resting, as you normally would, is impossible.

Because if you tried to rest it, it would crack and break up as you rolled it out.

So, the way to do it is, roll it out between two sheets of baking parchment. Incidentally I would always use this method to roll out any pastry, as you use less flour, and you can move the paper around, so its less likely to break the pastry.

Also, you need to roll out the pastry thinly, because if its too thick, it will be too heavy to stick together.

So, when the pastry is rolled out and cut to the desired shape, place another flat baking sheet on top, then bake.

Halfway through baking it, take it out of the oven, and working quickly, cut it again to its original shape, as it will have spread out slightly.

Pop it back in the oven for a few minutes, and then leave to dry out.

So, there you go, you will have perfectly flat gingerbread walls and a roof to build your house with.

All you need to now is go and buy loads of sweets, eat about half of them, and use the rest to decorate your little gingerbread house!

And to think that I am absolutely hopeless at DIY!

Not too sure about these little East Lodge igloos holding up too long though!

We were baking some celeriac as part of our tasting menu on New Year's Eve, and Tom and I made a salt crust.

It's a great way of cooking food as it keeps the flavor locked in, and quite dramatic too!

Made by mixing salt, some flour and egg whites to form a damp dough, all you need to do is pack it around your chosen food, roast it in a hot oven and there you are, easy really!

We cooked the celeriac for one hour, and left them to rest. They would stay warm in their little salt houses for a good couple of hours, and come service time, we just cracked them open, and scooped out the flesh.

And it was superb, served with some steamed Jerusalem artichokes, rolled in onion ash, dry cured bacon, that had been brushed with maple syrup, wood sorrel and a caramelised chicken reduction, it was my favorite dish of the night.

Simple, earthy and warming.

And, it might even be healthy for you as well!

So, after all these years 2012 might be the one where salt is now considered good for you!

Bloody well hope so!

Right, that's it.

Inspired by my very own ramblings, I'm going to make a soothing Shottle soup.

I went over to Ashbourne yesterday, as I wanted to get some pearled spelt, but Waitrose only had spelt flour, so I got a nice plump chicken instead.

I used half last night in a warming Moroccan broth, made with shopkeepers delight, preserved lemons and harissa.

So, left with half a chicken, I intend to made a chowder style soup, with diced potatoes and celeriac, chestnut mushrooms, onions and garlic, and finished with some cream, the only bright bursts of color will come from some blanched sprouts that I picked up this afternoon.

And I need all this food as the next one's going to be massive.

The tasting menu, at last!

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