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This recipe is mainly targeted at vegans and those unfortunate souls that are lactose intolerant. I should warn you that whilst I do enjoy Chestnut milk it’s lack of animal fat makes it a substitute rather than an equal to milk.
Nut milks are becoming increasingly common with almond milk leading the charge. All of them rely on the same basic method. Blend nuts with water, then sieve through muslin.
Chestnut milk is less creamy than almond milk and but has much more flavor.
Chestnut Brandy Recipe
Roast your chestnuts for 30 minutes in the oven (don’t forget to score little X marks on them) and then peel.
Soak the chestnuts for about 10 hours. This will help prevent the brandy from becoming too cloudy.
Leave submerged in brandy for at least a month. You can add a clove or two and a very small amount of sugar at this stage.
Once it has infused strain off the brandy and bottle. It should be left in the bottle for another month if possible.
Whilst I normally serve it neat and at room temperature it can be warmed up with honey, cinnamon and nutmeg added to for a festive drink that packs a punch.
One of the main reasons for initially building my smoker was to try and attempt unusual dishes that one wouldn’t normally come across.
Hangikjot certainly falls into that category. It’s a traditional Christmas dish in Iceland consisting of a leg of smoked lamb. However somewhat unusually this dish is historically smoked using dried sheep shit. Whilst it would be fair to say that this somewhat sordid method did excite me, I attempted it with a great deal of apprehension.
I’ve posted the recipe below but to be brutally honest I think there are probably better things you can smoke. The taste was far from unpleasant; I just feel that your cooking time would be better invested in a different dish.
How to make Hangikjot
Ask your butcher to tunnel bone a half leg of lamb.
Soak the leg overnight in a standard brine solution (salt, sugar, nitrates)
Once drained leave the lamb in the fridge a day or two to let it form a pellicle.
Smoke for about 48 hours. I used a mixture of alder and dried, broken up sheep shit. Wood would suffice though!
Leave in the fridge for at least four days to let the smoke flavor mature and permeate the meat.
Poach for between 30 to 60 minutes depending on size. Slice and serve pink.
Traditionally served with canned peas, plain boiled potatoes and béchamel sauce. It can also be served cold on bread.
Like most chestnut related products chestnut flour costs a fortune. Fortunately it can be made at home pretty cheaply. Unfortunately peeling the little blighters can be an intensely traumatic experience. You have been warned.
Chestnut flour lacks the gluten found in regular flour. Whilst this does mean that it can eaten by people who cannot eat wheat; it also means that on its own you are never going to be able to produce those stretchy doughs that you need to make pasta and bread. If you want to bake with it; replace 20% of your normal flour with Chestnut flour.
You can also use it to thicken sauces and make macaroons. When using in sauces make a small amount on the side to make sure the chestnut flavour doesn’t clash.
How to make Chestnut Flour
Score the chestnuts and roast at 180 for around 30 minutes
Peel chestnuts and chop roughly
Return to the oven on a very low heat to dry them out for a few hours.
Blend in a food processor
Using a fine sieve sift out the chestnut lumps from the flour.
The English have historically been pretty rubbish about eating seaweed but this trend has started to reverse in recent years with the introduction of Asian influences over the last few decades (although that stuff at the local takeaway is actually cabbage and it doesn’t count).
The Welsh and Irish however have had a long and rich relationship with the stuff. Whilst the Irish haven’t a huge affinity for any one particular species the Welsh are infamous for their fondness for Laverbread.
Many people on the wrong side of the Severn Bridge turn their noses up at Laver without even trying the stuff. I wonder what they would say if I told them that Japan has 250 square miles devoted to growing the stuff. In Japan the industry is worth over a billion dollars. What we call Laver in this county the Japanese call Nori and use it to wrap all their sushi. It’s exactly the same species and it grows all over the UK and can be foraged easily for free.
If you live near the coast I really recommend you give seaweed a chance. There are 630 species of seaweed in the UK. None of which are poisonous, although I can’t vouch how tasty they all are! The ones to look out for are Dulse, Gutweed, Kelp, Laver, Sea Lettuce and Carragheen (can be used as a vegan setting agent).
Once made this can be stored in the freezer to be used as and when necessary.
Chop your Laver as fine as possible, a sharp knife really helps with this.
Once you have diced it as fine as possible cook in a saucepan on a low heat with a tiny splash of olive oil to stop it from burning.
Keep doing this for about 20 minutes to help remove some of the water. Let it cool and then mix it into some room temperature butter and roll into a log using cling film or baking paper.
Slice off discs and add to steaks/chops. It adds an amazing seaside flavour to anything it touches. Think of it as instant Surf ‘n’ Turf.
A great way of using up a glut raspberries and an interesting recipe which can surprise people. You can substitute in blackberries in this recipe or you can go down the traditional route and use lemon, rosewater, pistachio or mint.
Most of the recipes that you come across all use gelatine. Whilst I am not averse to using gelatine in other dishes you end up with a product that is technically jelly rather than Turkish delight and you exclude all the vegetarians.
I know it takes a bit longer but I really recommend using cornflour rather than gelatine.
Raspberry Turkish Delight
- 1 kg sugar
- 1 litre water
- 180g cornstarch
- 1 tsp cream of tartar
- 100g of sieved raspberries
Heat the sugar and 200ml of water in a saucepan and heat to make a sugar syrup. Continue heating till you reach 240C.
Make a roux with the remaining water, cornstarch and cream of tartar.
Once all lumps have been removed and it’s been heated for a few minutes slowly whisk in the sugar syrup.
Keep stirring the mix on a low heat for around an hour. Once the mixture is sticky and the colour of honey take it off the heat and leave it for ten minutes.
Stir in the sieved raspberries and pour into a greased baking tin until its an inch thick and leave to cool.
Once set cube and coat in a mixture of icing sugar and corn flour.
Often unfairly labelled a ‘retro classic’ by foodie twats, this dish will stand up on its own as a dinner party starter or just hide it in the fridge for an indulgent snack.
I’ve tried making this dish many different ways and I can hand on heart say that ever variation has always impressed me.
As far I am concerned the most important thing is to avoid using a blender. Not only are the bastards an absolute nightmare to wash up but remove any texture whatsoever. A fork is a much better and more accurate way of achieving the desired consistency.
Unlike liver pates you don’t have to add a layer of clarified butter to stop it from reacting with the air. I still choose add one anyway as I feel breaking the seal adds a sense of adventure.
Smoked Mackerel Pate recipe
- Four smoked mackerel fillets (don’t forget to remove the skin)
- 2 tablespoons of Creme Fraiche
- 2 tablespoons of cream cheese
- 1 teaspoon of horseradish
- Generous squeeze of lemon juice
- Sprinkle of cayenne pepper to serve
- Optional: add a dash of Dijon mustard or melted butter to the mix
Mash all the ingredients together with a fork. Half the fun of making this is constantly trying the mix and adjusting how much of each ingredient you add. Once finished spoon into ramekins and leave in the fridge to firm up. Serve with hot toast.
Home smoked mackerel takes no time at all, tastes amazing and can be done without any shop bought equipment.
If you need any tips on how to make a hot smoker please read this article first: http://www.wellhungfood.com/smoking/make-hot-smoker
The first thing to understand is what is known as a pellicle. Before you smoke meat/fish it is imperative that you salt it properly first. This draws out some of the moisture and changes the outside of the flesh. Once the salt has been removed and the meat/fish has had a chance to dry you will notice that it has a slightly tough skin on the outside. This is called the pellicle. The pellicle acts as a protective layer that keeps moisture locked in but also lets in all the smoke flavour.
Once you have filleted your Mackerel you will need to salt them. This should only take about 30 minutes or so. You can choose to do this in brine or as a dry cure.
If you choose to dry cure the fish you will need to cover the fish in 90% rock salt and 10% sugar.
If you choose to wet cure (brine) follow the same instructions for the dry cure but add a pint of water for every 60 grams of cure mix.
After 30 minutes of salting you will need to wash the salt off. Now dry off each of the fillets and return to the fridge for an hour or so. Ideally you would wait long than this (I leave my salmon 24 hours for the pellicle to form) but mackerel doesn’t enjoy sitting around and is always best as fresh as possible.
When you are ready fire up the smoker and add the fish. It should take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes. Just keep checking it. Once its cooked through its ready to eat!
Building a hot smoker is much easier than making a cold smoker. In fact I would hazard a guess that you probably have all the equipment sitting at home right now.
There are many different ways to hot smoke but today I’m just going to focus on two very basic set ups.
Container on a hob method
For this all you need is some sort of metal container, a trivet/grill and some wood chips/saw dust.
First you will need to find your smoking box. Bread bins and biscuit tins are both used quite regularly but in a push a casserole dish would do the job. Just remember that container will have to stand up to direct heat, so no shoeboxes please.
Put a layer of saw dust at the bottom of your vessel and suspend your trivet or grill a few inches above the wood. Place the box on top of a heat source, make sure that you have a few holes at the top of your container (or just leave the lid a little askew) so that some of the smoke can escape. Once everyhthing is up to temperature and you have a decent amount smoke you can place your meat/fish on the rack and put the lid back on.
I recommend doing this outside wherever possible, not even the most rugged of extractor fans should be able to cope with the torrent of smoke that you should be creating.
If you already have a BBQ this is a pretty easy option, all you need to do is light a small fire and once it’s settled down sweep it into the corner away from the area you intend your food to smoke. Add a few handfuls of damp wood chips, add the food to the side away from the fire, close the lid and away you go. This can also be done on a gas BBQ if it has a lid and allows you to turn on the heat on one side only.
What wood to use?
Now that I’ve told you about the set ups all you need to do know is choose what you want to smoke and then match it to a wood. Generally stick to hardwoods, you can use softwoods but if you do I recommend mixing in a quantity of a neutral hardwood to make it burn cleaner. The smoke flavour profiles work for both hot and cold smoking.
Oak: One of the most common woods used for smoking in the UK and for good reason. Oak works well with fish, meat and even garlic. You can pretty much guaranty that Oak will get on with pretty much any flavour.
Hickory: Not one of my favourites. Its a very American flavour and has quite a unique flavour profile. It works with Pork and occasionally Beef but not much else, great if you are trying to make American bacon or ribs. Can benefit from a sweeter cure than normal.
Beech: Mild flavour that works well with both fish and meats. Often used as a neutral wood to help burn and dilute some of the stronger tasting woods.
Apple: Strong taste, much like the rest of the fruit woods. Can work well with cheese.
Alder: Apparently works well with Salmon, I smoked almonds with it once and I really liked how subtle the smoke was.
Oak Whisky Barrel: Made from old oak whisky barrels this stuff packs quite a punch. Works amazingly when cold smoking Scottish salmon.
Birch: Works well with fish, popular in Iceland and other northern european countries.