Hogswatch

A selection from the Hogswatch buffet, including pheasant pie, pork pie, home made scotch eggs, and the Tower of Art made out of Spam in the background.

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Ultra Spiced Christmas Bread

Oops. I misread teaspoons and tablespoons again, this might be a bit much. Then again, it might not, so I thought I'd better write it down. From the bread machine recipe book, with extras:

Basic White, Bake Raisin, Extra Large, 4 hours

  • 1.25 tsps yeast
  • 1 lb 5 oz strong white flour
  • 1.5  tbsps sugar
  • 1 oz butter
  • 2 tbsps milk powder
  • 1.5 tsps salt
  • 400 ml water
  • In the raisin dispenser – 5 oz mixed dried fruit – today we have cranberries, blueberries, and cherries – and 3 tbsps (should be 3 tsps cinnamon) mixed spice – 1 tbsp ground cardamom, 1.5 tbsps speculaas spice, 0.5 tbsps cinnamon.

It's in the machine now, we'll see what happens …

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Speculaas Spiced Nuts

Building on the Wasabi Cashew recipe we've tried before, I've gone with a Christmas version.

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg white
  • 3 teaspoons Speculaas spice (Dutch Christmas mixed spice)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • and mixed nuts, pecans, walnut pieces, and cashews – about 400 grams

Coated, baked at Gas Mark 6 for 7 minutes, turn, and 8 more minutes. Smells gorgeous. Increased the sugar from the original, less salt.

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Maple Bacon Toffee Apple Cheesecake

This is a work in progress … I found recipes for a savoury stilton and bacon cheesecake, and also for something like an upside-down cake with toffee apples in the base, cheesecake on top, then up-end it to serve, no biscuit or cake base. I'm doing a mix and match with a cheesecake recipe I know works, and we'll see what happens.

What I'm doing is:

  • 4 rashers Waitrose maple cured bacon
  • 3 tart apples, Granny Smiths, peeled and cored
  • 2 oz butter
  • 2 tblsps brown sugar
  • 2 tblsps maple syrup
  • 250 gms digestives
  • 4 oz butter, melted
  • 12 oz cream cheese – the real stuff if you can get it, otherwise use Philly
  • 6 oz caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tblsp calvados

Finely snip the bacon and dry fry the bits until really really crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and leave to cool.

In a big heavy pan, chop the apples in about half inch cubes and cook in the butter, sugar and syrup until dark golden and slightly soft, and the sauce has pretty much evaporated. Cool a bit, but not too long, I suspect it would set solid.

Preheat oven to Gas Mark 4.

Make a digestive biscuit base for a 9 – 10" springform pan, by crushing the digestive biscuits and mixing with the melted butter. Press firmly into the pan.

Top with the toffee apple mixture, and sprinkle on the bacon.

Process the cream cheese, add caster sugar, eggs, and calvados and process till smooth. It's very wet.

Pour over the apples, and bake for about half an hour until set and not wobbling too much in the middle. It'll set more as it cools.

Out of the oven and looking good. I'm still debating a topping …

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Chestnut Stuffing

What with have a goose rather than a turkey, I somehow managed to avoid having anything with chestnuts in it for Christmas dinner. So this afternoon I'm baking a tray of my favourite chestnut stuffing, to have cold at Hogswatch. I've made this regularly for about 30 years now, it's a recipe by Josceline Dimbleby from the first ever Sainsbury's cookbook, her Cooking for Christmas.

  • 4 oz smoked streaky bacon, in small cubes
  • 2 oz butter
  • 1 onion chopped finely
  • turkey heart and liver, chopped finely (if you've got giblets, otherwise don't bother)
  • 6 oz chopped mushrooms
  • 10 oz tin chestnut puree (unsweetened)
  • 1 small tube smooth liver pate
  • 3 large cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 oz fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 whisked egg
  • salt and pepper

Fry the bacon, onion, and giblets in the butter for about 5 minutes. Scrape it all into a bowl, making sure you get all the fat, and mix in everything else. Put in a baking dish, baste with turkey juices if you're roasting a bird at the same time, and cook with the bird for the last 45 minutes.

I have taken over the years to adding a pack of ready-peeled chestnuts, crumbled, sprinkling it with sherry and chicken stock if no turkey juices are to hand, and find that 45 minutes in a square baking tray at Gas Mark 3 works fine. You can make it into balls if you're that way inclined. It sounds odd, especially that quantity of oregano, but it's very tasty and seriously moreish.

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Hogswatch Pork Pie

I wanted a giant pork pie for Hogswatch, and I've amalgamated ideas from various different recipes. The main starting point for the mixture was Glynn Christian's Basic Pork Pie from Pies, Pates and Terrines from Sainsbury's, plus some additions from the Artery-Hardening Hogswatch Pie in the Nanny Ogg Cookbook. And what felt good at the time.

I mixed:

  • 1.5 kg pork mince
  • 1 Bramley apple, peel on, coarsely grated
  • 1 onion, finely chopped, about 6 oz weight
  • 3 capfuls brandy
  • 0.25 pint white wine
  • 2 fl oz manzanilla
  • 1 tsp each dried sage, allspice, nutmeg, and black pepper
  • 2 tsps salt
  • 2 heaped dessertspoons wholegrain mustard

I made a hot water pastry crust with 24 oz flour, 2 tsps salt, 250 gms lard, and a quarter pint water. I took 400 gms fancy chipolatas, with honey and rosemary, and twisted them in half – cocktail sausages.

In a 9" springform cake tin, I put three-quarters of the pastry, then half the main mix, then a layer of sausages, then the rest of the mix, and put the rest of the crust on top, leaving a central hole for breathing and addiing jelly later.

It's currently in a Gas Mark 6 oven for half an hour. Looking at the weight of meat, I think after that it'll get 2.5 hours at Gas Mark 3-4. After an hour at the lower temperature, it'll get glazed with an egg-wash.

I haven't decided on the jelly, but I think a mixture of white wine and Calvados for the liquid. It was a very wet mix, it'll probably shrink quite a bit, so I'll make well over a pint of jelly. The 12 oz I made for the game pie the other week wasn't nearly enough.

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Christmas Game Pie

I often make a big raised pie for Christmas, usually following a Glynn Christian recipe. He did two Sainsbury's books, Pies, Pates and Terrines is one, and there's a Christmas one as well. There's a very good recipe for Pheasant and Caramelised Chestnut Pie in the Christmas one, but this year I started out with the Pheasant, Port and Walnut one from the PPT book. Now there were some problems with this, number one was that this pie will last through until Hogswatch and we've got a non-nut person coming. Number two was that when I went to get the main ingredients, there was no pheasant to be had, not even for ready money. I bought two wood pigeons instead, but before I got around to making the pie, I found a pack of pheasant thigh fillets and a pack of game casserole meat (all birds, no venison), and I used that instead. So, this is what I actually did, as opposed to what the recipe said.

 

Cut a pack of pheasant meat (thighs in this case, but breast would be good) into smallish strips and marinate in a good sprinkling of port for about half an hour. Preheat oven to Gas Mark 6.

Mince a pack of game bird meat with about 4 oz of streaky bacon, half a bunch of lemon thyme leaves, a teaspoon of dried thyme and a goodly amount of fresh ground allspice.

Mix with 1 lb minced pork and 1 lb minced veal, some more port to dampen it, and probably some salt.

Make a hot water pastry by boiling half a pint of water with half a pound of lard and a bit of salt. Pour into a well in 24 oz sifted plain flour. Mix with a knife until it comes together and is just cool enough to handle, knead it quickly. Take three-quarters of it, leave the rest in the bowl and cover it to keep it warm.

Use the big lump of pastry to line a 9" deep cake tin with a removable bottom. You don't need to roll it out, treat it like PlayDoh. Just work fast so it doesn't seize up, and make sure to get your knuckles well into the bottom around the sides so you don't get a huge wodge of pastry. And no holes! Get it as far up the sides as you can, with a little overhang if poss.

Put half the minced meat mix in the pastry case. Top with a couple of handfuls of dried blueberries, layer in the pheasant meat chunks and dribble the port on top. Cover with the rest of the mince.

Take the smaller lump of pastry and pat it about in your hands into a rough circle (like the pizza guys do). Lay it on top of the pie and push it around until you have a sealed lid. Crimp it well with the overhang from the pastry lining, to make sure you don't get cracks. Mark a cross with a sharp knife in the middle of the top, and fold the pastry corners back in little triangles, to expose the centre of the pie in about a 2" circle. Put the tin on a baking tray.

Bake at Gas Mark 6 for half an hour, then Gas Mark 3 for 2 and a half hours. After an hour at the lower temperature, brush the top with beaten egg to glaze it.

The next day when it is cool, run a sharp knife gently just under the pastry around the central hole, to loosen any stuck bits and make a clear entrance to the pie.

Soak 4 leaves of gelatine in a few spoonsful of cold water. When it is soft, put into a measuring jug and add about 4 fl oz boiling water, and some chicken stock concentrate. Stir well to dissolve, and make up to 12 fl oz in total with a mixture of port and boiling water, depending on how much port you have. I used mostly port …

Pour the jelly slowly but surely into the pie through the hole at the top. This pie sucked in all of it instantly, I've had ones in the past that needed to settle a bit between pourings.

So I might plump up some dried blueberries in port, and fill the hole at the top with them tossed in some thicker jelly, when it finally comes to serve it.

Wrap the whole thing up in foil and put in the fridge for up to a week to mature before taking out of the tin and slicing. (If you need the tin for something else in the meantime, you can take it out of the tin once the jelly is well set, and wrap it up again.)

I've got a nasty feeling this one is going to be quite dry, with not enough fat in the meat and the amount of jelly it took (sign of shrinkage, maybe?). We shall see …

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