Though we cook everything from scratch we never measure anything,which clearly is a fundamental problem when you're writing a recipe..Listing the ingredients was straightforward,but breaking this all down into an coherent written instruction with exact measurements, isn't as simple as it sounds.Not wishing to embarrass myself by providing the readers with a mouthwateringly tasty recipe which in practice didn't actually work(my pet hate), I spent bloody ages perfecting the recipes we eventually contributed(thankfully only three).Hence I have major respect for those recipe testers who do get it right.
Though we have a vast collection of cookery books which we dip into daily,making any savoury dish will rarely involve following the precise recipe but using simply as a reference for the ingredients.Most dishes are cooked and tasted with seasoning/ingredients adjusted as we think necessary.
Obviously baking (being a science) of course is the exception. Whereas cooking is an art......
Of the sleb chefs, in my experience a significant proportion of their cake/pudding recipes
(NB One of the exceptions is Gary Rhodes,I know he may be a tad annoying to watch on telly, but his pudding/cake recipes ALWAYS WORK)
If we're looking for a traditional pudding recipe we tend to look to the older books.If you're using one of these, its best to follow the imperial measurements as the conversion to metric can sometimes alter the finished result.
This is one of my favourites,I found it a few years ago in a second hand book store.
Its a signed first edition copy by Maura Laverty who was an Irish author and playwright.
This is the old gal herself in a 1960 news cutting folded carefully into the cover of the book.
As a preface to each chapter there's an amusing little anecdote of old Ireland, from which I have gleaned almost as much pleasure as trying out the recipes:
'The Foley's were married nearly a year before Sheila discovered that a wife's first duty to her husband is to cook him the kind of meals he likes,and that no marriage can really be happy unless a man is happy with his table treatment..'
table treatment????,the mind boggles....in triplicate....
He finished his pint.'Aye Indeed' he said 'A woman wont ever be happy till you let her see who's boss.'
Ahem...Cough....I think we'll just draw a veil over that..
I came across this recipe for Brawn in her book. My Grandma was partial to a bit of pigs cheek and used to make this when we were very young, we would never tire of the sight of the pigs ears sticking out of the stock pot which always solicited prolonged sniggering.
Pigs Ears are one of those things that are just inherently very funny.A while back Chef had the bright idea that he would include crispy pigs ears on our bar snacks menu.I stumbled unexpectedly upon a surreal but very serious conversation he was having with the butcher on the lines of; 'Well..how many ears can you keep me in per week??'
Butcher 'well I can do you at least 60 pairs a week..'
I wondered WTF was going on..
Next day the sample ears duly arrived,each pair intriguingly connected by a thin strip of skin much like a pair of ear muffs.As soon as I clapped eyes on them I commented that there was no doubt in my mind that Chef would be wearing a pair before the morning was out.
He didn't let me down...
The ingredients in this recipe are few,lots of versions include carrots,celery, parsley and the like, I've made many different versions and have found this one to be actually very effective made in this way.Authentic,simple and true to its roots.
Its really the old version of ham hock terrine isn't it?
Maura Laverty's Brawn
1 Pigs Head
1/2 oz salt
1 wine glass cider
2 bay leaves
1/2 oz peppercorns
6 whole cloves
(That's cloves..talking of making a recipe idiot proof,a friend of mine once spotted this ingredient in a recipe and added 6 whole heads of garlic to the dish..)
Prepare the head by cutting off the cheeks and ears.Put all ingredients in a heavy saucepan and add sufficient cold water to barely cover.Simmer for 2 hours or until the flesh falls away from the bones.Strain off the liqour into another saucepan and boil rapidly until it is reduced to 1 pint.Pick the meat from the bones,discarding any fat and gristle.Pack the meat into a bowl and pour over the reduced liquor.Leave to set.When cold and firm,scrape off any fat which may have settled and turn out.
*We line a terrine with cling film and wrap the brawn up,its easier to turn out and you can place a weight on top to compact,which also makes it easier to slice into portions.
P.S. This week I'm pleased to report the addition of a new word to my vocabulary.The word 'nu'(pronounced 'noo') is a teenage colloquialism usually employed as a greeting and can be paired with the word 'son' to form the greeting 'nu son'.
Definition: 'hi how are you/hows it going'.
I've witnessed three of my teenagers demonstrating this particular linguistic nuance when answering the telephone over the past week.I wonder if its exclusive to the Northern dialect..Have you heard of it???