Belated Festive Post #1 – Stollen Wreath & Cola Ham

Get in the hole!

Get in the hole!

It would take a bold man to argue that anyone is feeling Christmassy any more. In the midst of a bleak January riddled with guilty drinking and furtive feasting, there is arguably little for our stomachs to look forward to in this fallow month. So, if you will allow, let me take you back to a time when all was well and full of stodge, binging and general merriment…

‘Big D’ (Dad) rules the roost when it comes to the main event in the Phillips’ household over the holiday period; judge, jury and executioner on the 25th without exception. However, this does allow us minnow Phillips’s to have a pop in the kitchen in the run up and usually afterwards for good measure.

This year I thought I’d chip in with something sweet that would also flex my bread making learnings and the ham (a righteous honour once the sole responsibility of provision by Ronnie ‘The Rocket’ Goldfinch, my grandad).

Unless a dish is reasonably tried and tested in our household, it tends to come under major scrutiny even before the ingredients are bought. Anything involving ‘too much red meat’ normally requires draining negotiation with my mum and anything that is initially dismissed by my dad is a long slog to win back around.

The Cola ham certainly raised a few conservative eyebrows around the family, with I think only my little brother giddy at the prospect of meat boiled in sugary syrup. The stollen wreath less so but only because none of us really knew what it entailed, myself included.

Stollen Wreath

As alluded to above, this is basically a big sweet bread with boozy fruit and a marzipan center running through the middle. Niiiiice. You can find the recipe here.

Rum soaked fruit - always a good shout.

Rum soaked fruit – always a good shout.

Despite coming out looking seriously pimping (if I do say so myself), it was surprisingly straightforward to make. Anyone that’s made a loaf of bread before should be able to tackle this with ease.

The only morsel of advice I would offer is when adding the boozed fruit to the dough, use a slotted spoon or even drain it off beforehand. I had to do some emergency flouring halfway through to patch up some very moist dough. To say Jules (mum) would have been unhappy with the mess would be the understatement of the year. And given that we were nearly at the end of the year at the time, she would have been pretty miffed had she known. And Mum, if you’re reading, now you do.

I ended up going a bit rogue in the absence of a small cake tin for the middle, instead using this rather fetching pot which worked a treat:

Cracking with a bit of Eggnog. More on that to follow.

Cracking with a bit of Eggnog. More on that to follow.

Cranberries, pistachios, marzipan, boozy raisins and generous lashings of icing…proper Crimbo in a mouthful.

Cola Ham with Maple & Mustard Glaze

I won’t linger long on this as I feel like I’ve come rather late to the ‘ham boiled in coke’ party and may be preaching to the choir. If you’re yet to give it a go, I’d heartily recommend following this recipe here. It is face-meltingly good.

After a slight malfunction on my part (I cut the strings off before starting to boil) and a swift fix from Big D (manfully locating some string in the garage and retying the ham), we were off. Having chosen a 4 kg behemoth of a specimen, we could barely fit in the pot as it bubbled away, the stock turning a sticky brown, sweet and meaty aromas perforating the air amidst an offensively loud Strictly Come Dancing semi-final.

Following the boiling, it warranted a quick stint in the oven, being reglazed over and over with the maple and mustard in a gluttonous caress. Beltingly good meat; sweet and salty, melt in mouth and a perfect fatty crust.

The conservative eyebrows were firmly put back in their place. Unfortunately for me, I was still destined to be emasculated at the last moment as Big D stepped into carve the spoils. I don’t think that will ever change.

Maneesh Flat Bread with Baba Ganoush / Chunky Chilli con Carne

Laura (girlfriend and occasional fussy eater) hates minced meat and lamb. Minced lamb, don’t even go there. If I ever suggest eating mince, I get a face that looks like I’ve just asked her to swallow slug pellets. Apparently its the texture.

I, on the other hand, think mince is one of the greatest comfort foods available to mankind. Spag bol, shepherd’s pie, chilli, lasagna, moussaka, meatballs, tacos etc. Needless to say, its a bone of contention and I frequently find myself, like a thief in the night, rustling up a bolognese sauce if she’s ever away for a weekend to get my fix.

As hideous things like Quorn substitute don’t even bear thinking about, I’ve been forced to do some bobbing and weaving to find some of the favourite recipes above, but adapted for mince-racists. We had some marked success with this Cheese and Bacon Lasagne but I’ve been meaning to make the title dish (Chunky Chilli con Carne) ever since I had it at a mate’s house a while back. The key to the dish being its use of chunks of braising steak rather than mince.

I’m aware I haven’t mentioned the bread yet and that this is rather arse about face as its in the photo above. I made these two dishes separately, the bread and dip for a (slightly laborious) Saturday afternoon snack and the chilli for a slow-cooked Sunday dinner, but in retrospect I think they’d partner really well as a starter/main for a shindig.

Browned stewing beef - is there a more promising sight?

Browned stewing beef – is there a more promising sight?

But back to the chilli if I may. I normally find Ramsey’s recipes a little on the arduous side for home cooking as they involve too many ingredients/steps. However, this one was pretty straightforward and bloody delicious.  I’d say its more of a cross between a beef bourguingon and a chilli as it uses half a bottle of wine. Ramsey wants you to use Pinot Noir (flash bastard) but I just dumped in some Gallo left over from having people round the night before (cooking minesweeping = classy).

Coriander creme-fraiche offsets the cayenne pepper like a TOWIE reem

Coriander creme-fraiche offsets the cayenne pepper like a TOWIE reem

I like my spice and this was pretty bang on. If you prefer things a bit milder, I’d put less cayenne in the beef marinade to start with though. Critically, it passed the Laura taste test and I have to say it was much better than a regular CcC, although is more of an effort.

Baba ganoush - the poor man's caviar

Baba ganoush – the poor man’s caviar

Apparently (according to Paul Hollywood) Maneesh bread has been around for thousands of years in the Middle East. I can see why they persevered with it. Its bloody tasty.  Hollywood has put the recipe online here.

Likewise with the Baba ganoush, quick/easy to make and full of flavour.  Just roast some aubergines and mash it up with salt, plenty of garlic, tahini, parsley, lemon and oil. Job done.

I did have a bit of a mare with this though as by the time I actually finished the bread/ganoush I only had time for few mouthfuls before going out for dinner. It was fairly rank reheated the next day. Eat it fresh and don’t store it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to sneak a lamb chop before Laura finishes watching Revenge…

Parma Ham, Mozzarella and Basil Brioche Couronne

The Yeasty Beasty

The Yeasty Beasty

I’m just going to put it out there, this butter enriched Brioche Couronne contains roughly 3,429 calories. That’s around 7 Big Macs. Its for the big dogs…and its totally worth it.

Its another one of Paul Hollywood’s masterpieces but he’s really outdone himself here. Containing a whole block of butter, 3.5 balls of mozzarella, 10 slices of parma ham, a large handful of fresh basil and good sprinkling of Parmesan this is by far and away the most ambitious and delicious bread I have set out to make on my Pollan-esque ongoing quest for the perfect sourdough loaf.

Typically a sweet bread, the Couronne here (literally ‘crown’ in French) has been adapted with oozing cheese to offset the buttery, flaky bread. I have to say I didn’t quite nail the aesthetics (as displayed more elegantly by a fellow blogger here) but the flavours were spectacular.

Because there was so much egg, butter and full-fat milk in the dough from the get-go, it made it very difficult to handle and shape. In fact, Hollywood recommends using a food mixer with a dough-hook attached but, despite my increasingly whimsical and frequent visits to Dentons Catering in Clapham North, I am still to acquire one of these bad boys. So I set about it by hand, gently canoodling the pieces of room temperature unsalted butter into the sticky dough yellow cube by yellow cube.

Then once it was mixed, popped it in for a first proofing into a greased cake tin into the airing cupboard. It emerged doubled in sized (going smoothly so far) and then I dumped it out onto the surface for the serious business of rolling it out and decorating with ham, cheese and basil. A holy enough trinity to transform even the humblest dough.

Pre-proof 1

Pre-proof number 2

This is when it started to go a little pear (or more specifically doughnut) shaped as I tried to elegantly roll, split and then tie the two stuffed dough-sausages into a crown shape. It was supposed to overlap like two pieces of rope but instead I just lost patience and mashed it together. Still, apparently doughnuts are the new cupcakes so I’m bang on trend with this monstrosity.

The couronne/doughnut was left to proof again (as per above pic) and then came out for a quick egg wash and generous coating of Parmesan (as per below pic). Needless to say, I was getting pretty excited at this point. Even timing my walk upstairs to the airing cupboard so I could garner praise from my housemates and visiting brother, feigning nonchalant. “Oh, what this old thing?”

Pre-oven

Pre-oven

Into the oven for 25 mins and the BOOM, the money shots:

Money Shot One: Cheeky Kitchen Wedge

Money Shot One: Cheeky Kitchen Wedge

Money Shot Two: Snack-on-way-to-Wandsworth-Road-Rail

Money Shot Two: Snack-on-way-to-Wandsworth-Road-Rail

I forlornly binned the last mouthful of this fine companion this evening as it was getting a little dry and my waistline was getting a little stretched. Fat-Bastard Special mention should go to my brother though who, on Saturday’s birthday visit, stumbled back to my house at 7 a.m on Sunday morning to demolish over half of the remaining loaf. I make that 3.5 Big Macs. Not bad.

Dulce de Leche Cake with Pumpkin Seed Brittle / Rye and Spelt Loaf

Basking in an amateurish Instagram light on our living room table, here are my first two physical contributions to this blog in all their finery: a razzle-dazzle Dulce de Leche Cake with Pumpkin Seed Brittle and a juxtaposingly sombre Rye and Spelt Loaf. Let’s kick off with latter.

Rye and Spelt Loaf

This was taken from Paul Hollywood’s Bread book. Despite his recent streak of philandering he is still the ultimate yeast machine and, who knows, maybe the marriage had just gone stale (zing). I’d highly recommend this book for anyone who has ever given bread making a try, anyone who has thought about giving it a try or even anyone who has simply lusted after the smell of freshly baked bread. Word of warning: leave your bread makers at home (or rather in the cupboard), this is hand-made only. Bring your A game.

Because its taken from a published recipe book, I won’t post the details here. What I will say though is it uses both Rye and Spelt flour (obviously) but with a side of Strong White flour to help bind and rise. The most interesting aspect though is it employs an old sponging technique that I was unfamiliar with, at least since I used to steal my mates’ baked beans in my student days (zing 2). It essentially involves pre-proofing (without kneading) an amount of dough. Similar to a Sourdough culture I imagine although I am yet to take on this challenge.

I got a bit nervy on this bake. The loaf came out like a brick and only at that stage did I notice I’d forgotten to add olive oil at the start. However, it was seriously tasty and absolutely perfect with crab pate (which I had handily been gifted by a Chilean customer only the week before). Amazing, crunchy crust.

Dulce de Leche Cake with Pumpkin Seed Brittle

This tasty little number (link to the Good Food site recipe above) was born out of a Mexican themed dinner party I went to last Saturday in Peckham. The hosts always put on a spectacular feast (despite being a veggie, my mate Oli cooks a mean bit of Chorizo). I normally just turn up, scoff my face, win at Trivial Pursuit (no biggie) and leave. This time I thought I’d bring something to pay my way. In the end it was this cake plus a fiver. But I did in turn receive a six-pack of the best sausages in London from Peckham’s Flock and Herd Butchers. They’re nestled comfortably in our fridge and I shall be chomping on them this evening along with mash, red onion gravy, broccoli and (of course) lashings of Colemans. Excited.

Back to the cake. I wouldn’t say I’m an expert cake maker by any stretch of the imagination but fortunately a friend of mine is and she was happy to dish out advice. Specifically around the unusually long bake time (1hr 20mins). However, this is it at a very low heat 140 fan assisted plus we figured (rightly or wrongly) that the Greek Yoghurt would retard the baking process. Which it (or something) did.

It was meant to serve 12 but nearly all of it got munched by about half that number in the space of an hour. Result. Plus the brittle looks dead swanky.