Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Random Recipe - Meat Cooking for the Faint Hearted #5 - Roasted Leg of Rabbit with Bacon and a Mustard Sauce Gravy

This month's Random Recipe challenge as set by Dom over at Belleau Kitchen was to use our birth date number to count books from one end of your cook book shelf to pick a book, then to pick a recipe at random from said book.  My birthday is on the 22nd so we were going to end up midways into the shelf somewhere.  Apparently it didn't matter which end you counted from; as Dom had gone right to left I did the same and ended up with.... Oh - one of only 2 books (at the time, he's had a birthday since) on the shelf that belong to the Chap not me.  Huh - oh well.  An extra layer of randomness.  (Out of interest at this point we both counted from the other end too and we ended up with the second of his 2 books.  Huh again.)  Anyway the book was (drum roll please) - Simon Hopkinson's 'Roast Chicken and Other Stories'.  This was in fact a gift to him from my big sis last chrimble and I'm not sure we've made anything from it yet.  It proudly boasts  it's 'the most useful cookbook of all time' as voted by 'Waitrose Food Illustrated' on the front cover.  Reeeeaaaalllly.....
So - I gave the Chap the task of opening it at random to find me a recipe.  Then I could blame him of course.  Not stupid me.  ;-)  The page is... ah - small hiccup.  It's the page describing (wittering on about) garlic.  No recipe here on either side.  Try again good chap, try again, we cry.  As the pages stop fluttering past I get a little jump of excitement - it says crab - one of my favourite things!!  Woop!!  Oh - it's just another 2 pages wittering with no recipes.  Huh.  So- third time lucky and.... well, presumably you've read the title and that is indeed what he managed to pick for me the swine.  Page 174 gives you 'Roasted leg of Rabbit with Bacon and a Mustard Sauce'.  Hmmm.  Now I know I've eaten rabbit at some point as a nipper but I sure as hell have never ever cooked it myself.  Oh well - that's why we trust the recipe right - they'll lead us gently by the hand right?
First things first.  Reading the recipe immediately apprises you of Mr Hopkinson's somewhat didactic style.  You should use French Farmed rabbit he decries.  "A wild rabbit will not do" he sweepingly states.  Well tough boyo cos that's what I can get I'm afraid.  This book was first published back in 1994 so perhaps you could nip into your 'enterprising' butchers (his phrase) back then and buy a) just legs and b) specify that they are not only French but farmed none the less.  I'm not entirely convinced you could unless it was just at the 'enterprising' (read 'hideously brow-beaten') butcher that had the misfortune to ply his wares nearest Hopkinson's casă but no matter - I'm getting my rabbit - legs plus rest of body attached - from a local butchers here in Exeter.  They do rabbits at £2.99 each or 2 for £5.  For some reason I bought 2 - I can't help it when it's better value.  All those HFW programmes telling me it's a great frugal meat with the best free range existence (true for my wild examples) were obviously shouting strong in my subconcious when I was discharging my rabbit purchasing duties.  Not sure it was a good idea but hey ho.  Anyway - I digress.
So - having failed entirely to buy just legs I now needed to detach the desired appendages before I could start on the damn recipe itself.  (Are you picking up that this experience was no picnic??)  Google to the rescue - gave me this page from the Guardian.  Looking at the picture it appears I'll learn how to detach the wings from my skinned little bunny angel.  I would point out the pic is 'upside down' (to our head uppermost conventions of thinking) in that those 'wings' are in fact the back legs - the bits I wanted.  I also however needed to do most of the rest of the instructions so the rest of flopsy could be put to good use feeding Chap and, worst come to the worst, Zeke.  So, not just meat cooking for the faint hearted but a crash course in bunny butchery.  Thanks Chap, your veggie/pescatarian girlfriend thanks you.  No really...
At this point I will let you know that's there're bunny butchery pics coming up.  If you, dear reader, eat meat and flinch at confronting these I shall be most disappointed.  That was me hacking bits off it so if I can manage that....  [High horse gives up and throws Ruth off in disgust.  'Don't woo the readers by lecturing them' he neighs.  Maybe.  Or maybe I just need more sleep.  Whatever.]  And yes - I will get to the recipe at some point.  Honest.
DSCN7590 Lay bunny out.  Flopsy has innards still intact.  Blimmin brilliant.  Extract innards.  Marvel at the ickle kidneys.  Be secretly disappointed when Chap refuses your kind offer of devilled ickly bunny kidneys and insists on 'gifting' them to Zeke instead.  Huh.
Remove legs as per Guardian instructions.  (The rib cage bit was a nightmare but I'll spare you.) 
DSCN7598 We can now finally join the recipe I'm supposed to be cooking and writing up.  Longwinded - moi??! 
You can find the recipe online here, albeit in an americanised version.  I'm reluctant to copy the entire thing out as it's not mine to do so with, so I'll give you the edited highlights.
Preheat oven to 220c / gas 7. 
Mr Hopkinson's next instruction is to remove the thigh bone from the leg and is, I guess, calculated to reassure; stating as he does "This is only slightly tricky." 
Totally correct. 
DSCN7603 What he omits to mention is the essential and much more fiendishly awkward next step of detaching said thigh bone from the lower leg bone in order to remove it from the thigh totally. 
The joint is very tight and I eventually had to stick the point of my knife in the very small centre section and force the joint apart at the same time as getting through the tendons.  This Flopsy has spent his life jumping and racing around outside therefore the tendons joining indiviual rear legs bones together are strong.  However, perserverence gets us there albeit with a renewed and lower opinion of Mr Hopkinson.
At this point I will fess up to having 'adapted' (messed up on) some of the ingredients for this dish.  The recipe calls for fresh tarragon which I hadn't got so I had already resigned myself to using dried. 
DSCN7608 I was however smugly secure that we had a whacking great bunch of fresh thyme available to use; the other fresh herb the recipe calls for.  Err - where was that then?  Says Parsley here?  Got any of that have you?  At 5pm on a Sunday?  We'll use the dried Parsley as well then yes?  Oops.
After which the fact that I had back bacon instead of streaky seemed a minor point.  I know the purpose of the streaky is to ensure the naturally very lean meat of the rabbit stays moist by utilising the pork fat but the Chap hates fat on meat and trims it off back bacon so would not touch anything wrapped in streaky.  He was the one eating it after all so I let him have that one.
DSCN7612 Mix butter, garlic, [dried] parsley and tarragon and the zest of a lemon (or half - I halved the entire recipe) together with S+P and stuff the leg cavities with it.
Grease a baking tray.
Wrap the legs with bacon ensuring the rasher ends are on the underside, thus keeping them secure in the cooking process.
DSCN7614 Roast for 10 minutes then remove and rest for another 10.
At this point myself and the recipe parted ways; with I the adventurer in the uncharted random waters of attempting to make a mustard sauce intended to be composed from cream and Dijon out of; erm, no cream (gone off after defrosting - see last post) and (I'm ashamed to admit this so will do so in a small voice in the hope that you won't notice it flashing past and won't therefore laugh too uproariously at me) a single sachet of Heinz French mustard.  Oops doesn't really cover that one eh?* 
DSCN7619 I tried using a little spoon of yogurt and a dash of milk instead of cream but after tasting it both the Chap and I unanimously voted it 'minging' and it was ditched.  Given the Chap's fat phobia he wasn't too happy about the idea of the cream sauce anyway so I made him a nice gravy by boiling flopsy's rib cage with a bay leaf, garlic, onion, carrot trimmings, etc instead; added some veggie granules and  mashed a couple of roasted garlic cloves in.  Job done.  I served it vaguely à la Hopkinson; cutting the prescribed 3 slices from the bulbous end of the leg and standing the bony end next to it but really went for the massive fail by not serving it with the 'suggested' (an unaccustomed laxing of the preceding levels of didactic pedantry) dish of plain boiled potatoes and green salad but instead providing Chap with a full on roast.  Which isn't in this photo as that would just be far too messy and detract from my fantastic (sarcasm) presentation; natch.
So - a random recipe that had me hands deep in dead bunny, attempting butchery for the first time ever and (sorry Waitrose Food Illustrated) starting to really not rate Mr Hopkinson's usefulness at all.  It was - an experience.  However - Chap did declare the legs delicious to eat so I guess the recipe's not all bad.  Though if he thinks I'm making it again in a hurry he can damn well find me one of these 'enterprising' butchers I've heard so much about that'll sell me just the legs of flopsy...
*In my defence I would like to point out that we usually have Dijon, Whole Grain and English mustard in but I have a Chap that will happily slather half a jar of mustard on his beef joint before roasting it then eat it with the other half of the jar.  Means we sometimes unexpectedly run out of mustard mmkay?

Baking for Insomniacs - Jam buns

Buns, with jam in.  Jam wrapped with bun.  That's kinda it.  I was going to make my mooted 'Devonshire Dodgers' on Sunday evening but the cream I had planned on using turned out not to like being frozen (I'm so sure people are always saying you can freeze cream) plus by the time I had finished the epic making of this months random recipe that same evening (that'll be the next post) I couldn't have been bothered even if I had got cream that wasn't redefining 'lurking' as a verb for a dairy product to utilise when bored and hanging out at the bottom of it's pot.
However, today* I had an early awakening (Chap is dying of man flu / cold remember - with that condition goes certain attendant night-time snorty/snoring-but-with-added-volume noises.  Sigh.) so by 6am I gave it up as a bad job and decided to whack a quick bunch of buns together for the office peeps.  I used this recipe that dates to 1923; being a sucker for an old family version of anything, just adapting it in line with the sugar I had and using the Strawberry jam work had gifted me to use up as opposed to the Raspberry in the original recipe.  I also measured the milk, being physically pained by recipes that say 'a little' of something or any other such massively imprecise measurement.  As a novice at baking these sorts of things really do not help me at all.
* It was in fact yesterday - Monday. T'internet went down when I was trying to load this post last night though thankfully Blogger had saved it! I couldn't post it though. I'm blaming the weather.

So - simple, easy and pretty quick to knock up and needing only 15-20 mins baking these are an ideal time-frugal tea-time (or early morning!) bake for when you need buns in a hurry:
(and lets face it languorous buns are an entirely different kettle of fish, non??!) hur hur hur...

8oz SR flour
1 tsp (and a scant 1 more as mine was out of date) baking powder
3oz butter
1oz soft light brown sugar*
2oz caster sugar*
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1fl oz milk
6-12 tsp Jam from one of the 2 unopened jars work purchased for cream teas for the students in the summer then never used.  Tsk!   Or your own choice of jam of course!  In preference I would go for a higher fruit content one and not strawberry in any way shape or form but that's just me...
A little extra milk
A little extra sugar
*The original recipe says to use all caster.  I only had a couple of oz of it.  That in itself is surprising for me as I tend to be more of the school of thought that says - 'use damn granulated - what's the big difference huh?' when a recipe demands caster sugar.  And yes - I know it's bigger granules.  (And yes - I also know full well you should never start a sentence with 'and' but it's my blog and...oh - I'm sure we had this discussion before...)  So - on to the baking bit:

Preheat oven to 180 - I used 170-175 ish as we have a fan oven.  Anyone with a diff temp scale go to the link on the right side bar for a well handy temp conversion chart.  I'm good to you aren't I?
Sift flour and BP into a bowl. 
If your butter is not soft (for example when you decide to start baking at dawn o'clock rather than planning for it therefore your butter has come straight from the fridge) chop into smaller bits and pop in the microwave for 10-20 secs to soften.  Then rub it into the flour until it looks like fine breadcrumbs.
DSCN7631 Stir in the sugar.
Make a well in the centre and add the egg and milk.  Use a wooden spoon and draw the dry goods into the centre gradually incorporating all of it to make a soft dough.  If it's too dry you can add a little more milk - a tiny drizzle at the time.  If it's too wet then you should use a smaller egg.  Or you could add a little more flour of course....  (he he he he...)
Grease a couple of baking sheets in preparation.  Flour a board and your hands. 
Form the dough into a sausage and cut in half, then half again (4 bits now else you've gone terribly wrong already and should probably at this juncture just go back to bed).  Each of these pieces should be then cut into 3 giving 12 in total. 
In turn, roll each into a ball and flatten slightly.  Add jam to the centre.  A whole teaspoonful is nicer but harder to wrap the dough round.  You'll get a feel for it.
DSCN7632  Flatten the edges a little more then brush a small amount of milk on - just enough to help the edges stick to each other securing the jam inside, too much and it'll be too soggy to maintain it's jam resistant integrity.
Place the buns join side down on the baking trays, they spread a little but I forgot to take a pic at this juncture so can't show you exactly how much by.  (Oops me.)  Not double in size like some similar recipes I saw said they would though!
Brush with a little milk and sprinkle with a little sugar - I used the light brown here.  Large granule stuff (like the 'coffee sugar' you get in paper sachets - whatever the heck the official name for that is) would be nice here I think, for a little contrasting texture.
Bake for 15-20 mins.  Mine had the full 20 and I felt would have benefited from a couple of minutes less.  I thought they were very very slightly on the dry side but opinions were divided at work with people not noticing or actively liking that aspect so - it's up to you / the vagaries of your particular oven I guess.  "Until golden brown" is; I guess, a term we are all happily familiar with whilst being every bit as uselessly subjective in actuality.
Cool on a wire rack.  They have jam in - don't eat them hot and if you're dense enough to try to don't come a-suing me after.  Just enjoy them like a well adjusted fully rounded individual would ok.  Or fall upon them with cries of bun, BUNS, my preciousssss....  Whatever floats your boat.  Just wait until they've cooled to do so.  Nom!

Sunday, 25 November 2012

& the storms continue unabated...

Ok, ok, that isn't technically correct as we did have a day off (mostly) from the rain on Friday.  The river fell so you could nigh on see the paths, if not actually pass along them without dipping your toes in but yesterday was a return to form with heavy rains battering us along with some high winds and up went the water again.  Here's a daytime shot from about the same viewpoint as the night shot in the last post. 

The water's actually slightly higher this time. 

Anyone for a nice relaxing bike ride on a Sunday?  No??!  (Look at the size of that log!  If only we had a wood burner.  I'd be out after every flood scavenging the river banks for free fuel.)
DSCN7564DSCN7568 'Welcome to soggy Exeter' that should perhaps read. 
I think this little chap is wondering where his home's gone.  Along with a lot of unfortunate people in these floods.  Sadly a woman also lost her life locally when a tree fell which in turn took a wall down on top of where she was living in a tent.  Another example that if we as a society could take better care of all members rather than worrying about sh-t like what we'll be sitting on come crapmas day we'd perhaps all be a little bit richer human beings.  (What is it with this pressure of supposedly needing a new sofa for chrimble?  Will my old one spontaneously give up the ghost in shame at it's non-newness?  I somehow doubt it - it's managed to tough it out each year so far.  Piss off ad-men.)
I didn't intend this to be a ranty post so excuse the slight tangent; though I am asking no excuses at all for the content.
Anyway - a whistle round blog-land this morning has appraised me of 2 things.  Firstly, in a slightly suspicious coincidental way Blogger has apparently told several of the blogs I perused that they've run out of space and would they like to pay for the privilege of uploading photos?  It just gave me this message too.  Now, I know that the finite space they give you will fill up but the fact that they've all gone at the same time makes me think it's a ploy.  Plus someone had put a comment somewhere saying it's Blogger wanting to shift us all to another provider or something.  :-(  Anyway, no, I do not want to pay, especially to an online company that can't tell I'm in the UK and would therefore use a corresponding unit of currency so I am using Flickr instead from now on and uploading from there.  Or at least I am if there are images in this post.  If it's a bit lacking on the image front then I evidently failed to get it to work!  Hmm - you seem to have to add it as html code otherwise if you use the 'share' to blogger option it makes it a new post.  Slightly more longwinded but I'll cope with it.
The second fact I quickly caught on to is that it's 'stir-up Sunday' - traditionally the day when chrimble puddings are made.  (Having just skim read the wiki article I've linked there it actually appears to be a religous thing that has become associated and overtaken by the pudding thing.  Shows how much of a heathen I am that I had no idea of that I guess!)  Now, being somewhat lackadaisical in some areas I have yet to make our chrimble cake (having been inspired to by both Being Penny Wise and Frugal Living UK's frugal based versions) so I figured that with a month to go perhaps I'd better worry about that first.  Although when I think about it I probably prefer a very small pud rather than cake.  Never made pud though and it strikes me as something one ought to have at least a little forward planning for so it shall have to wait for next year, or the year after, or...you get the picture.  I'm slightly alarmed by the reminder that both those blog authors soaked their fruit for a week - mine shall have overnight and be grateful for it I think. 
Given that I'm stealing some of the dying-from-man-flu (that I gave him) Chap's medicinal brandy to soak the fruit in, along with a mix of some in which he steeped spiced baked apple, a freebie single malt whisky and possibly some of this chrimble mead (though I'm not sure that at 13% it's up to the job.  Anyone?) I don't think I can really nick enough off him to last a full week! 
Anyway, in keeping with their Frugal theme but with a slightly different bent I decided to make my cake only utilising what is in the cupboards already.  IE no new purchases.  Hence the theft of the Chap's brandy and slightly idiosyncratic line up of ingredients / booze that will be utilised.  That's another post though - right now I really must get the fruit and brandy in the bowl before he finishes drinking it all.  If that comes to pass I'll have to sacrifice some of the sloe gin instead.....  Noooooooo.........  :-D

Thursday, 22 November 2012

'Tis a little damp here in the south...

The torrential rain of the last 2 or 3 days has caused flooding and seemingly, travel chaos all over the region.  You'd think (and this from a nation of perennial weather moaners) we'd never had to deal with a bit of wet before!  Due to my interminable saga of leg related tedious monotony I am still catching the train for the short hop to and from the shuttle bus for my work.  When I got to the station on my way home last night mine was one of a whole 2 trains on the board that was actually running.  I was glad of that!  Felt for the poor souls in the 100+ strong queue across the front of the station waiting for a replacement bus though.  I think that's why it's like a ghost town here in work today.  Seems like everyone has stayed home and battened down the hatches.  Wish I could have!  The wind is howling and the rain is due to hammer it down some more.  No doubt the river will continue rising - this is it last night at about 6.30pm. 
There should be steps and paths down in that lot somewhere!  The water was absolutely heaving past, you really would not want to fall in when it's shifting like that.  It's always slightly sinister when it's so far from its normal self, I think.  Seems like a much more malevolent force than usual.
There's the odd ray of sunshine and patch of blue sky; or there was this morning anyway.  Autumn continues apace whether we like it or not.
It's 2 months today since I injured my leg and sad to say it seems to be infected again.  I'm back on antibiotics - of 2 kinds this time.  I shall get the results of a test tomorrow to determine which actual pathogen we are dealing with then perhaps I will be given something targeted and we can finally get rid of this thing once and for all!!  I hope so; thoroughly fed up with it now as is everyone around me I'm sure.  The Chap has been brilliant, doing all the cooking, washing up etc.  I'm itching to get back in the kitchen now after so long a forced abstinence but the Chap has dictated that I am not allowed at the moment.  I want to get my Random Recipe for this month done before the cut off date, I want to cook an idea I've been toying with in my head of  'Devon Dodgers' - I'm thinking a cross between these Devon flats I made before and a jammy dodger, primarily because there's 2 full jars of waitrose jam sat at work needing to be used up that I have permission to make something nice from.  I want to feel like I'm doing something for him for a change rather than the other way round too!  I want the house to smell of good things and be able to think 'I did that'.  I think it's the hibernation vibe kicking in; it's dark now in the morning when I get up and in the evening when I leave work, plus it's cold, wet and windy and the mournful wind makes it sound even worse.  And now I am truly wittering away.  I hope you are warm and dry wherever you may be, and that I get to do some cosy baking soon.  :-)

Monday, 12 November 2012

Shitey day, pretty sky

This is a pretty sky.  A pretty sky to try and ameliorate the effects of a less than pretty day.  There's been a witch hunt atmosphere at work today and thoroughly unpleasant it's been too.  I've felt on edge and frankly; close to tears, for much of the day.  A couple of us feel we can't trust anyone other than each other and the office has been much subdued and quiet.  It isn't nice.  However, I realise that it has re-affirmed my belief in the need to get myself a different job and given me the impetus I needed to get looking again after recovering from my leg accident.  That is what I will choose to see as the silver lining here.  Onward and upward, as my mother would say!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Alt route work

I'm missing my usual walk along the river on my way to work of a morning.  It's different every day and the way I go I can lift my gaze just a little and see green fields and trees climbing a hill to the skyline.  It's lovely and also somewhat calming before plunging into the office for another day.
Due to the injury to my leg which is still healing, I am currently walking a much shorter distance in a different direction to take a 2 minute train journey so I can then hop onto the Uni's free mini bus shuttle service.  So I am missing my riverside jaunt and the lovely scenes it brings.  Although from the dinky station I use you can see over many of the houses and shops.  This is a church just up the road built from the classic red Devon stone. 
Sorry it's not the best shot - the conditions this morning weren't great and it's at the limit of the zoom on my small digi camera plus I then, rather ill-advisedly, cropped it but you get the idea.  I'll try and get something better another time.  It's not quite the same as my previous views though, is it?


Monday, 5 November 2012

Return to work

Well it's half way through my first day at work in 6 weeks and I have cleared all the paperwork from my desk - most of that has gone into the shredder bin!  I've managed to get my unread emails down from a frankly staggering 1207 this morning to a mere 861 so far.  My leg is protesting for sure - roll on 5.30pm!!