Tuesday, 14 December 2010

When to Stuff a Bird

Well its approaching Christmas now and most of us will be eating a bird of some kind or another, the question I'm asked most often is; do I stuff my bird and if so with what?

Excuse me a moment whilst I go and quieten my closest friends! "Keep quiet you lot! I'm trying to be serious here for my food blog followers".

Sorry about that! Right where was I? Oh yes, the answer to the question is; you should always stuff your bird if cooking it whole as this will aid in keeping the breast meat moist.

If you cook a whole bird with its cavity empty, then the heat will circulate in the chamber and it will rise and dry out the breast meat.

You can if you so wish just place some vegetables inside the cavity, vegetables with moisture are best like potatoes, carrots, leeks, onion or better still citrus fruits like lemons. These will not only help keep the breast meat moist but they will offer aromatics to the flavour of your meat.

Don't forget to remove the wishbone before stuffing your bird from both ends, I use an oyster shucker to do this as it avoids any cuts to your hands.

If using breadcrumb based stuffings, whether homemade or shop bought, then cook them first before placing inside the cavity. The reason for this is simple, an oven roasted bird will cook from the outside inwards and if it has to reach and cook the stuffing aswell then the meat is at risk of drying out. However if the stuffing is already cooked then the bird only needs to be cooked through and the cooked stuffing will look after itself.
For the best results, brine your bird overnight before using as this will enhance the flavours, use 30g of salt to each litre of water used and add any herbs and spices to your liking, avoid using any metallic containers. Make sure you thoroughly dry your bird off before cooking.
Bon Appetite!

Friday, 3 December 2010

Thinking of fish this Christmas?

Are you fed up with turkey for Christmas, if you are, then consider fish and support your local fishmonger or maybe visit your local smokery. I hope the following pictures inspire you to try something different.

Thank's for looking, I'm off to Jacksons now to get myself some salmon, which I'll cure and smoke myself.
Merry Christmas Everyone!

Sunday, 21 November 2010


Think of Herrings or Kippers and few places come to mind, for me the Manx kipper is a forerunner, but that is of no surprise given I spent most of my childhood in Lancashire. The next most famous place for these Silver Darlings as they are known locally is Clovelly in north Devon.
You may of heard of this small pretty village, for it also boasts of being a village with no vehicle access, no holiday homes are allowed only full time residents, the road surface is made up of beach pebbles, donkeys are used to move materials and personal shopping around the village.

Once a year and that happened to be today, the village celebrates the herring by holding a festival, with shanty bands, local producers of great food & drink and much more.

Once you have carfully negotiated the pebble streets, you eventually reach the small harbour along with all the small stallholders and one interesting stallholder was the "Kipperman" complete with his portable smokehouse (Kipper House).

The Kipperman being Mike Smylie. A man who proudly shares information on the history of the herring and the recipes that can be applied using this silver darling.

Here you can see that Mike has his smokehouse full of Bloaters, which are being hot smoked, these being whole herring complete with guts.

Mike is not a resident of Clovelly, for he travels extensively promoting this delicacy, so if you wish to book him for your fish festival then check him out at www.kipperman.co.uk

As you can see for yourself, Mike was having a brisk trade!

Mind you, it would please Mike more if you learnt how to smoke your own fish!

If you do visit Clovelly, then don't forget to checkout the cave behind the waterfall, which incidentally is only yards away from the lifeboat jetty, why? well it is reputed that the Wizard Merlin was born in this cave.

I'll remember this wonderful village each time I make the following;
Kipperman's Kipper Pate
4 Craster kippers (or simila quality)
3oz Butter
Juice of 2 lemons
1 Clove of garlic
Olive oil
Ground pepper
Shot of Metaxa or similar

Rough chop garlic and add to olive oil.
Blend using hand mixer.
Remove flesh from kippers and add to bowl with lemon juice, pepper, butter and Metaxa.
Blend well and chill in fridge before serving on oatcakes.

Friday, 12 November 2010


I promised you several weeks ago, more from Matthew Downing South West Chef of the Year 2010. Well here I will show you how Matthew builds up a dish using Bresaola he wet cured and air-dried himself. Those who are new to this blog, I had the privilige of mentoring Matthew earlier this year through some charcuterie recipes and techniques and whilst visiting him at his work at The Jack in the Green, near Exeter, he demonstrated to me his version of how Bresaola ought to be served.

Here Matthew has hanging some Bresaola which is maturing above some buckets that contain brine with his follow up pieces curing.

You can notice a bought in salami hanging with his meats, the reason for this is that good mould spores will inhibit bad moulds from growing. So to get started, place in your fridge one of your favourite air dried products to give you a healthy start.

Matthew here used the loin of beef for his Bresaola, when ready he thinly slices his meat and arranges on a plate so; he explained by placing clingfilm over the plate until required, the meat will remain pink for longer as air is unable to reach the meat thus not being able to darken the slices from oxidiation. You will notice the beef has a dark rim, where it highlights the red inner meat, this is achieved by using red wine in the brine.

Using pickled fruits and vegetables for a garnish will lift your dish.

Saute some baby spring onions and mushrooms.

Ensure you dry off any excess fats or oils from your mushrooms.

Remove the clingfilm from the plate, brush the Bresaola with truffle oil before dressing your dish with the sauted spring onions, caper berries and a twist of coarse sea salt.

Then add your mushrooms and any decorative flower petals you may have along with a few micro leaves of herbs and finally a quenelle of creme fraiche infused with horseradish and cracked black pepper.

If it looks anything like this dish then people with cameras will appear out of the woodwork, who was this guy?

I can tell you this dish tasted as super as it looks, a nice generous helping too!
Well done Matthew and congratulations on winning your prestigious title.