2013

New Year's Eve is one of the first casualties of parenthood. I am pretty sure that I was asleep on the sofa in front of Jools Holland by 11pm last year. My own sofa. Nobody wants to babysit, nobody wants to imagine a way home across town at whatever-o-clock when the cabs are scarce and pricey . From about October I start to have little fantasies about countryside new years eves, snug and up to our eyeballs in wine and food with friends whilst the squids snooze upstairs. It's not quite raving but it's as close as I can hope for. WELL...The most magical invitation sailed our way this year - welcoming 2013 in Cornwall, staying with my awesome schoolfriend and king of comedy Felix in the most beautiful giant house with views of the sea. By the second day Pablo was trying to haggle for extra nights:
"How many more sleeps can we stay?"
"Three more."
"How about Five?"
He was in heaven with daily walks to see fairy toadstools and hunt out crabs, spot pirate ships on the horizon, play pinball, swim or watch Avengers on the giant television screen with our adoring fellow guests, who doted on him and fed him Haribo endlessly. What a treat.  

New Year's Eve we did feasted on chilli and Katie D's perfect pavlova with cherries, plus my first ever (and definitely delicious) chocolate mousse. Pablo (aka Spiderman) was allowed up late to wander down to the local pub to see the pirate fancy dress competition and midnight fireworks. New Years day was pancakes, leftover puddings, swimming and a Dark Knight marathon. Nothing could be finer. 

thanks oh thanks oh thanks

Yes, I'm English and live in London... but I'm also in love with food, and I grew up in the States. Therefore I love Thanksgiving! It is a big, wonderful excuse to gather together with friends, force yourself to feel grateful for things, and eat stuff that is not at all savoury enough to be served as a main course.  My brother Xander or I often host a big get together, but this year I was asked to do a Thanksgiving pop up at the local pub by friends who run the E17 Pop Up Project. Kind of scary but a chance to learn some new cooking skills and get a bit of catering experience. I roped Xander in to help, and his wife Zara for decorating back-up, and we set about prepping Thanksgiving for FORTY TWO!

Thanks-Pop-Up-2012.jpg

I have never been particularly keen on cooking turkey. They are MASSIVE! They take up entire ovens and never seem to cook properly and often end up dry and are regularly a huge disappointment. I had to find a way not to disappoint my 42 paying customers, though, and after extensive turkey research I found the most amazing recipe. I will never cook turkey another way again. It came out absolutely perfect, moist and scrumptious - and I don't even like turkey, as a general rule. Just in time for Christmas I've copied it out below. Seriously it's nuts how good - and easy - this is...

Malt-Beer-Brined Turkey with Malt Glaze

original recipe from bonappetit.com

Glaze
160ml barley malt syrup (can substitute black treacle or molasses)
60ml malt vinegar
6 fresh sage sprigs
4 fresh thyme sprigs
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tbsp unsalted butter

Brine
4.5 litres water
400g coarse sea salt
3 x 340ml bottles/cans of stout 
1.5 cups barley malt syrup (can substitute black treacle or molasses)
thyme

This recipe will give you enough for a 14-16lb turkey/8-10 servings. Multiplying it for more was simple. Also we prepared two giant turkey crowns, not a whole turkey, but I can't see it making much difference.

Brining the turkey helps to infuse juiciness - there is a full on technical explanation of the whys here - and is crucial to the success of this recipe. I am never not brining a turkey again! You need to  brine the turkey for about 16-18 hours so start the day before. Pour the water into a non-reactive pot. Add the salt and stir to dissolve, then add the beer and malt syrup. The original recipe calls for you to then place two oven bags (one inside the other) into a large bowl, rinse the turkey inside and out, place in the bags (in the bowl) breast side down and pour in the brine. We had so much turkey I just brined it in one immense pot. Either way, chill the turkey in the brine for the aforementioned 16-18 hours. I chucked in some thyme sprigs for kicks, as I rather over-bought it. After brining dry the turkey and, if possible, return to the fridge to further air dry for an hour or so. 

Brining the night away

Brining the night away

You can make the glaze in advance too. Bring the malt syrup, vinegar, herbs and pepper to boil in a small saucepan. Stir occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer until the glaze coats the back of a spoon (5ish minutes). Mix in the butter. 

Cook your turkey at 170C for 20 mins/454g plus 20 additional mins. Add a couple of cups of water to the pan and keep topping it up if it dries out. For gravy purposes it is a good idea to add some celery, onion and garlic to roast with the turkey, but actually I didn't get round to it and the gravy was awesome regardless. Leave the turkey to cook for a couple of hours before opening the oven and brushing with the glaze. After that continue to brush with glaze every 20 mins until cooked. Remove the bird an hour before serving (ideally) and cover with foil to rest the meat. For gravy I poured the sauces from the roasting tin into a jug, separated the fat and returned it to the tin on the hob, added a handful of flour and made a roux, then slowly added the reserved juices plus about a bottle of red wine. it was DELICIOUS and took about five minutes... 

A big shout out to Smitten Kitchen whose faultless recipes I relied upon for sweet potato biscuits (which were un-be-lievable), the best homemade pumpkin pie I've ever tasted, and the best excuse to finally attempt homemade marshmallows - s'more pie. IT WAS EPIC. And it turns out marshmallows are not that difficult to make! An extra shout out to my brother, who lugged big tins of pumpkin and bottles of corn syrup over from a trip to New York so we could be as sickly sweet as we could. 

Now I never want to see another orange food again. Until next November, maybe...

sunday sunday

Growing up (in the US), buttermilk pancakes for breakfast was a weekend ritual. With obscene amounts of bacon and buckets of filter coffee and probably a few stray teenagers crashed out from the night before. Brunch was a once in a while mega-feast, usually at a restaurant with whole cake bars and omelet chefs and buffets of tiny bagels, sausages, immense waffles and rainbows of melon. These days Pablo demands pancakes or waffles at least once a week, but having people over for brunch is a bit more exciting. Brunch is perfect because it gives you an excuse to eat two meals-worth in one, and to basically get a bit merry at breakfast-ish-time (bucks fizz! bloody marys! yay!). It's also not too much of an undertaking to whip up brunch for friends, and when you're up with the cubs from something painful like 6:30am it's nice to have people over for a meal around midday and then have the last couple of hours before bedtime free for a family movie, rather than spending all morning and early afternoon cooking and then sitting around in the dark eating a roast exhausted... 

Kristyn, James and very pregnant Laura came round and we feasted on papaya, mango and blueberries, stacks of waffles with cream and syrup and some pretty impressive Eggs Benedict with home made hollandaise (thanks, Kristyn!). Then Indiana helpfully had a mega nap so we could weep with laughter playing Cards Against Humanity and slurping grapefruit juice mimosas...

Indy mostly continued her standing up all over the place

Indy mostly continued her standing up all over the place

After a 4pm dusky stroll in the park, everyone headed home and we curled up for Pablo's first taste of Home Alone. I nearly cried watching him laugh so hard.

sunday sunday

Transient

We have made a vague family decision to try and have a *proper* lunch or brunch together every Sunday over the autumn and winter, and even though it was technically still September it was dreary enough outside to kick things off. Lovely Jo, a friend for three whole decades as both our dads were journos based in Brussels together back in the VERY early 80s, came over to see us (especially Pablo, who has a bit of a crush on her) which was a great excuse for feasting. Konch made Jamie Oliver's pot roast pork with fennel, our first goose-fat parsnips of the season, buttered leeks and peas, and some little roasted salad potatoes. I decided to attempt Mary Berry's Queen of Puddings - have been lusting after it since the Great British Bake Off technical challenge a couple of weeks ago. My jam may have been a tiny bit runny but otherwise it was impressive and easy and a lovely hot winter pud. We ate it ALL, and the super super sweetness was a hit with Pablo until he decided he needed to take his top off to show Jo his muscles, then promptly dropped a spoon full of hot-ish custard onto his tummy. Whoops.  After pudding it was compulsory to spend the rest of the day sipping wine and soaking up the dregs of fennel sauce with fat slices of ciabatta, grabbing little kips and watching cartoons.