Friday, 23 December 2011

Syrup for Fizz

I've been very ready and prepared this Christmas. Gifts, get-togethers, decorations, tunes, I even sent out cards (first time since leaving school, which was, ahem, some years ago). But despite all my festive planning smugness, there was one thing I'd forgotten. Lucky I had my lovely friend Holly to remind me of its existence: Syrup for Fizz. 

You'll recognise Holly (blogger aka Recipes From a Normal Mum) from this years BBC2 show, The Great British Bake Off. She got to the competition final and was an all round superstar - her gingerbread house was a particular thing of envy. 

Since finishing the Bake Off Holly's been getting involved with several exciting projects, one of which is presenting a show this week on BBC Radio Leicester. And earlier this week she asked if I'd like to come on the show to share a special Christmas recipe of mine. If you fancy a listen to my five minutes on air just click here:

I made this recipe for the first time a couple of years ago, ahead of a house party held by Holly and her husband, Stu, and I wanted to create a festive drink that was chilled. Don't get me wrong, I love gluvine, vin chaud and mulled wine, but I also do like a glass of fizz (or two...) and I wanted to combine the feeling of Christmas with the chilled bubbles I adore.

The syrups flavours are wonderfully festive in their combination; cranberries, ground ginger, cloves, star anise, cinnamon, sugar and black peppercorns, for me they epitomise the flavours of Christmas and really do enhance affordable fizz. I like to use the syrup in Cava and Prosecco, Champagne of course works beautifully too, but it somehow seems wrong to adulterate those expensive, fizzy bubbles with this delicious, shiny pink syrup.  

For one jar of syrup:
300g fresh cranberries
350g golden caster sugar
1 fat vanilla pod
3 heaped tablespoons ground ginger
10 cloves
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
7 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
1l water

- Place all the ingredients into a pan and bring to the boil when covered, once boiling reduce to a medium heat so the pan is simmering and remove the lid, cook down for between 45 minutes and an hour
- When the mixture has reached a runny honey like thickness remove it from the heat, pass through a sieve and leave to cool
- Once cold decant into a jar for storage
- For use, place a teaspoon of the mix into the base of a Champagne flute or saucer, then top with fizz and glug. The syrup collects a little at the bottom of the glass so you may want to swizzle it a little to get the flavours running through it 

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Star anise rosé veal stuffed baby squid in romesco sauce

It may not be very festive, but this little dish brought a welcome dash of Spanish sun to a dark wintery lunchtime. I ate this and imagined being in San Sebastian's pintxos filled old town, or Barcelona scoffing them along side little tumblers of red wine, rather than chilly Didsbury still wearing my pyjamas (big night last night). 

The squid are poached gently in the volcanic coloured romanesco sauce until they're tender and soft, the star anise scented veal warm, fragrant and hearty. And as well as tasting great, they look good on the plate - I'd happily dish this delicious and different dish up at a dinner party as a starter. 

Romanesco is a rich sauce that's easy to make - using smoked paprika, roasted peppers, hazlenuts, red wine vinegar and bread. The texture is thick and there's a slightly sweet taste to it on account of the peppers and nuts, but the vinegar and paprika cut through it giving it balance. If you get bored of making a regular tomato sauce for pasta or fish then give this a crack - it'd be fab run through spaghetti or over salmon before baking. 

Now, I'm not going to lie to you, this dish is a little tricky to make and you will need a food processor to do it. It's not that it's complex, just a little fiddly. Firstly, try and get baby squid that are all cleaned and ready for you, if you end up with squid like mine you'll need to spend some time cleaning them, and then the filling of the them is tricky - use a piping bag if you can, otherwise use the end of a teaspoon. 

For two:
The squid and their stuffing - 
10 baby squid tubes - completely cleaned and rinsed
300g rosé veal mince, mine is from Heaves Farm Veal. They deliver the veal to your door, but if you want to make it before you have chance to buy any, pork or a pork and beef mix would work very well
200mls pasatta
4 star anise
200mls white wine
One red onion, finely diced
One clove of garlic, finely diced
Sea salt and black pepper
Unsalted butter and olive oil for frying
Cocktail sticks
The romanesco sauce - 
1 slice stale bread (crustless) blitzed into breadcrumbs
2 red peppers, diced roughly
100mls olive oil 
50g hazelnuts
Half a teaspoon smoked paprika
One clove of garlic 
Six medium tomatoes
One teaspoon red wine vinegar 
Sea salt and black pepper 

- Preheat your oven to 200 degrees, lightly oil the red peppers and roast for 30 minutes until they've softened a little
- Whilst they're cooking, gently sauté the onion on a medium heat until translucent, add the garlic at the end and when you can smell the aroma come out of the pan, add the veal. Brown the veal on all sides before adding a generous scrunch of salt and pepper, the wine, pasatta and star anise. Stir and cover, cook on a low to medium heat for 30 minutes.
- Once ready, discard the star anise then remove the mix from the pan and blitz in a food processor briefly to make the mix a little finer, if you don't do this you'll find getting the mince inside the squid is near impossible. Set aside to cool
- Place all the sauce ingredients into the food processor and blitz continuously until smooth and thick, transfer to a pan with a lid
- Now for the stuffing of the squid, carefully either spoon the veal mix into the pockets or pop it all into a piping bag and fill them that way - much quicker. Ensure you squeeze the mix right down to the end of the squid so you fill them up so they're nice and plump - then using a sewing action, secure them closed with a cocktail stick
- Once you've done them all they'll be likely to have bits of the mix all over them, give them a rinse so they're clean, then place them into the sauce and put the lid on. Turn the sauce onto a low heat and cook them for 20 minutes - you must cook them very very gently as otherwise they'll burst. Turn them over a few times during cooking to make sure they're evenly cooked through
- Serve with a glug of your favourite extra virgin olive oil and remember sunny days in Spain