Schwarzwälder Schinken and Shopping at Lidl

The discount supermarket chains Lidl and Aldi are attracting increasing amounts of media attention and more importantly a rapidly growing share of the weekly food shop here in the UK. Fuelled by the recession we have all had to become increasingly “canny” shoppers, often sacrificing decades of brand loyalty for new and different sounding makes, only to discover that they taste surprisingly similar and all that has really changed is the price. That said I am probably far from typical in the way that I shop, not only do I do a weekly shop but there are daily forays and in extreme case several each day, to all of the surrounding supermarkets as I go in search of that vital something for the latest recipe and / or photo shoot. Apart from offering very competitive prices for a whole variety of things both Aldi and Lidl stock a small number of special and quite exotic items. Many of these special products appear around Christmas while others are available throughout the year and are simply very hard if not impossible to find anywhere else; for example which other British supermarket sells a whole Serrano ham; Lidl does (Jamon Serrano Reserva, 6.5-7.5 kg) and for only £39.99, mind you without some serious help you might be eating ham sandwiches every day for the next 2 to 3 months!. Apart from that the only problem with some of these promotions is that the stock can be quite limited and once it has gone there is no more to replace it until the next promotion. However, on a less grand scale Lidl routinely stock packs of sliced Black Forest Smoked ham (Schwarzwälder Schinken – protected geographical indication, sold in 200g packs (approximately 18 slices) costing £1.99). The ham can be eaten as is or it can be used in a variety of different recipes and it makes a wonderful and versatile addition to a large number of different dishes including the one described below.

KG140323025bWeb1

White Asparagus, Schwarzwälder Schinken and Boiled Potatoes with a Hollandaise and Chive Sauce

I have long considered white asparagus inferior to green asparagus with its vivid green colour and distinctively tangy taste. However, while I think that the green stuff has it by a short head I have become a convert to white asparagus and can only assume that my previous dislike of the vegetable was the result of too many business trips to Germany where every spring the restaurants would proudly serve white asparagus which had been boiled and then boiled some more and as a result had lost much of its taste and texture. White asparagus of course owes its colour or rather lack of it from being grown in the dark, as you drive through the asparagus growing regions you will see rows of earthed up asparagus beds the sides and tops of which are kept smooth with a plaster’s float trowel and as soon as an asparagus spear breaks through the walls of the bed the stem is harvested using a long screwdriver like tool – to get a better idea as to how asparagus is grown see the following link. Served together with black forest smoked ham, boiled potatoes and hollandaise sauce you have a simple but tasty dish with a variety of different flavours and textures which can be prepared in under 30 minutes.

White asparagus

This dish scarcely merits a recipe it is so simple all the more so because I use ready-made Hollandaise Sauce ( the one sold by Maille is my favourite and once open it keeps in the fridge for up to 6 weeks which, if you are cooking just for one or two people, is a great convenience and saving.

KG140325070aWeb1

1. Peel 2 or 3 medium-sized potatoes per person, cut in half if necessary, place in a pan of boiling water, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

2. Using a “Y” handled vegetable scraper peel the spears so as to remove their rather tough and bitter outer layer. The individual spears tend to vary al lot in diameter depending upon the age of the plant that they came from but you are  likely to need around 6 to 8  spears per person. Once peeled cut-off the lower 2 cms  and discard. If the spears are dirty briefly rinse and then place in a saucepan of lightly salted boiling water and leave to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes (you can even get a special asparagus saucepan for the purpose but I find a regular pan quite good enough and my kitchen is already crowded enough!)

3. Carefully warm the Hollandaise sauce in a bowl on top of a saucepan of simmering water, be careful not to let the sauce get too hot or it will split.

4. Wash some freshly cut chives and “slice into small rounds, set the table, pour the drinks and the dish should be ready to plate up: potatoes, then asparagus, sauce and a sprinkling of chives, followed by 3 or 4 slices of ham, finally season with some freshly ground black pepper (the ham is quite salty so your doctor at least would advise no further seasoning with salt!).

Enjoy!

KG140325074a1Web1

 

Advertisements

Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict is an all time breakfast classic packed full of flavours, contrasting textures and colours. The ingredients are very simple: toasted Ciabatta, Iberica ham (though German Smoked Ham (as shown above) or Bacon work well and are significantly less expensive) topped with poached eggs and Hollandaise sauce served with slow roasted tomatoes, basil and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Waitrose Paleta Iberica de Bellota 65g £4.99 (£7.68 per 100g) transforms Eggs Benedict into a real luxury dish with its melt in the mouth texture and rich flavours, in addition it has the great advantage of not requiring cooking!However some cooking is required and for a very long time poached eggs were my nemesis, I tried everything: swirling the water as I added the eggs, buying the freshest possible eggs, adding white wine vinegar to the water, using metal and silicone poachers and yet none of these either singularly or in combination guaranteed “the perfect poached egg”. Then one day I caught a programme by Heston Blumenthal where he revealed the secret – break the egg into a cup and then carefully tip the egg onto a skimmer as shown below, leave the egg on the spoon for a few seconds before carefully tipping the egg back into the cup. By doing this the wateriest part of the egg white is removed and when the cup is carefully immersed into a large pan of water taken off the heat containing a tablespoon of white wine vinegar and the egg tipped into the water the egg will remain as a tight white ball (well usually – sometimes despite everything things still goes wrong and the pan is filled with frothing white streamers of egg white!)

EGGS BENEDICT

Total time 20 minutes, serves 2.

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs (use the freshest eggs possible, Clarence Court Burford Browns with their rich yellow yolks are my favourites)
  • 2 or 4 slices of Ciabatta depending on the size of the loaf and appetites! (Both Sainsburys and Waitrose sell wonderful Ciabatta loaves)
  • Iberica ham, enough to cover the slices of bread (Waitrose – see picture below)
  • Hollandaise sauce (Maille have a great ready-made sauce and any remaining sauce can be kept for up to 4 weeks in the fridge after opening)
  • Cherry tomatoes or a small tomatoes such a Perino (Tesco) are ideal.
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Salt (Maldon)
  • Freshly ground pepper (try grinding some pepper corns in a pestle and mortar for a real pungent blast of pepper. Don’t over grind or you will end up with dust and a totally different taste experience!)

Method

I have not given any timings for the steps below as they naturally flow one to another.

  1. Switch on the oven and turn it up to 190 degrees Centigrade.
  2. Without waiting for the oven to warm up place the tomatoes in an oven proof dish and drizzle lightly with olive oil before placing in the oven and leaving to roast. (If you are using bacon instead of ham place four rashers in a lightly oiled baking tray and put into the oven to cook at the same time as the tomatoes).
  3. Meanwhile fill a large sauce pan two-thirds full with water and add a tablespoon full of white wine vinegar, cover and bring to the boil.
  4. While waiting for the water in the large saucepan to boil gather all the remaining ingredients, cut the Ciabatta, crack each egg into a cup before gently pouring the egg onto a skimmer spoon as shown below. The egg should only be left on the spoon for a few seconds to allow the watery part of the egg white to drain away before the egg is carefully tipped back in to its cup.
  5. Put a second smaller saucepan about one-quarter full of water on to the stove over a low heat (too high a heat and the sauce will split) and place a small bowl containing  6 to 8 teaspoons full of hollandaise on top of the saucepan and stir occasionally as the sauce heats through.
  6. Once the water in the large pan is boiling turn off the heat, remove the lid and carefully tip the eggs out of their cups into the near boiling water. Rather than simply tipping the eggs in from on high slowly submerge each cup in turn so the water floods into the cup and over the egg and then tip the egg out into the water.
  7. Put the Ciabatta onto toast and at the same time place two plates in the oven to warm through.
  8. Make some coffee!
  9. As soon as the toast is ready remove the plates from the oven and start to build the dish in the following order: toast, ham, eggs, hollandaise sauce, with a side dish of roast tomatoes (don’t forget them its all too easy!)  and a sprig of basil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

The only difficult step is in getting the poached eggs out of the pan.  Use a skimmer spoon to slowly lift one egg at a time from the pan, tipping the edge of the spoon against the walls of the saucepan in order to drain off any water trapped on the surface of the egg and then remove any final traces of water by dabbing the underside of the spoon with a wad of paper towel before placing the egg on top of the ham and toast.

Share and enjoy!

Copyright: All photographs and text in the blog “Brunch at Goodies” are subject to copyright. © Keith Gooderham 2011-2012. All rights reserved. Do NOT copy material without requesting permission to do so. If you would like permission simply contact me.

Asparagus two ways

We have all become used to having fruit and vegetables available all the year round but I think that there is still a great appeal to buying them when they are in season. The British asparagus season is now in full swing and the shops are piled high with bundles of plump ripe spears which can’t be beaten either for taste or price. After a number of false starts due to the vagaries of the British climate it looks as if it is going to be a bumper crop this year although the season may be shorter than usual so don’t delay; get your asparagus now and start cooking! In Britain green asparagus is by far the most widely available form and white asparagus is relatively rare, not that I mind, I always find that the white asparagus lacks the bite both literally in terms of texture as well as taste of the green form.

Asparagus is a versatile vegetable it can be boiled, grilled, roasted, steamed or fried and it goes so well with so many dishes hot or cold; served hot with hollandaise sauce, boiled new potatoes with a mint and butter dressing and grilled salmon fillet it makes a classic early summer main course. However, in this article I will focus on two simple dishes which make a perfect brunch: Asparagus Spears Wrapped In Smoked German Ham and Poached Eggs With Asparagus or, if you are especially hungry, you can combine the two dishes for a total extravagant mixture of flavours!

Asparagus wrapped in smoked German ham

This simple dish is quick and easy to prepare and is just bursting with flavours and contrasting textures. The smoky saltiness of the ham is the perfect partner for the asparagus (as an aside: for all that I love the taste of asparagus I find it impossible to describe, it is so utterly different to anything else I can think of! Even Google failed to offer any assistance!  Can you find the words to describe the taste of asparagus? If so, be sure to let me know!

Preparation 5 minutes; Cooking time 10 minutes. Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 10 large asparagus spears
  • 6 slices of smoked German ham (Morrisons Smoked, German, Black Forest Ham. 15 slices for £2.59)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • bread for toasting (Ciabatta works well)
  • butter
  • sea salt (Maldon)
  • black pepper (freshly ground in a pestle and mortar – try it; it is so much more pungent this way!)

Method

  1. Preparing the spears is simplicity itself; using both hands hold each spear between your thumbs and forefingers and snap off the lower part of the spear and discard. Rinse the spears under the cold tap, shake and leave to dry on some paper towel (You will often see chefs in TV cookery programmes peeling the stems of asparagus but I don’t see the point providing that the asparagus is young, tender and freshly picked).
  2. Add a glug of olive oil to a large frying pan and using a paper towel wipe the oil over the inside of the pan to create a uniform thin-film.
  3. Place the pan on the stove over a medium-high heat and once it is hot add the asparagus, shuggle the pan every so often in order to ensure that the spears are uniformly browned but take care not to let them burn.
  4. After 5 minutes tip the spears out on to a chopping board, set 4 spears aside and wrap each of the remaining spears in a slice of ham, taking care not to cover the tip of the spear, before returning all of the spears to the pan to cook for a further 3 to 5 minutes again shuggling the pan at regular intervals in order to ensure that the ham is browned on all sides.
  5. While finishing off the asparagus cut 4 slices of Ciabatta and toast and at the same time put two serving plates in the microwave to warm (2 minutes at full power will be ample).
  6. Once the plates have warmed and the toast is done the ham wrapped asparagus spears will be ready to serve
  7. Butter the toasted Ciabatta and place two slices on to each plate and top with the asparagus, 3 wrapped in ham and two plain.
  8. Season with salt and pepper to taste

Serve and enjoy!

Asparagus and poached eggs on toast

Another simple brunch time dish staring asparagus is to serve the freshly cooked spears with poached eggs, or as previously noted above, for a really indulgent brunch the poached eggs can be served with the Asparagus and Smoked German Ham dish described above.

Cooking the perfect poached egg was something that had long eluded me and it was not for want of trying! I always ensured that I had the freshest eggs possible and I bought and tested a variety of poachers as well as trying the whirlpool method but none of them consistently produced the perfect poached egg and then I heard how Heston Blumenthal does it! And no, it doesn’t involve liquid nitrogen!

Preparation 10 minutes; Cooking time 6 minutes. Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 10 large asparagus spears
  • 4 eggs (the fresher the better as the egg white becomes increasingly watery over time and the egg become useless for poaching)
  • White wine vinegar (this helps coagulate the egg white and while not used in Heston’s method I like the flavour it gives to the eggs as well as being an example of my belt and braces approach to cooking – well sometimes at least!).
  • bread for toasting (Ciabatta works well)
  • butter
  • sea salt (Maldon)
  • black pepper (freshly ground in a pestle and mortar – try it; it is so much more pungent this way!)

Method

  1. Fill a large sauce pan with water to a depth of 12 to 15 cm and place on the stove to boil. Keep the lid on the saucepan at this stage, it will boil much more quickly.
  2. At the same time take a second sauce pan and fill it to a depth of 3 or so cms and place the lower half of a double bamboo steamer and its lid in the pan and bring to the boil. (If your steamers are too large for your saucepans use a wok and fill it with water to a depth which just begins to flood into the bottom of the steamer. These steamers really keep the heat as well as providing a moist environment so when serving asparagus as an accompaniment to a main meal the steamer can be placed on the dining table so that people can help themselves).
  3. Meanwhile prepare the asparagus. Using both hands hold each spear between your thumbs and forefingers and snap off the lower part of the spear and discard. Rinse the spears under the cold tap, shake dry and place in the top section of the bamboo steamer (You will often see chefs in TV cookery programmes peeling the stems of asparagus but I don’t see the point providing that the asparagus is young, tender and freshly picked).
  4. While waiting for the water to boil cut the bread for the toast and crack each egg into a cup. Taking each cup in turn carefully pour the egg onto a large skimmer spoon, the sort with round holes rather than slots, and let the wateriest part of the egg white drain through the spoon for a few seconds before gently tipping the egg back into the cup.
  5. Once the water in both pans is boiling place the top half of the steamer containing the asparagus on top of the lower steamer and cover with the lid of the steamer.
  6. Turn the heat off the pan which is to be used for poaching the eggs and add a desert spoonful of white wine vinegar to the water and carefully tip the eggs into the pan by slowly immersing each cup in turn into the water and letting the water flood over and around the egg before finally tipping the egg out into the pan. On an electric cooker there will be enough residual heat in the hob to keep the water temperature just below boiling, with a gas stove the hob should be left on at its      lowest setting.
  7. While the eggs and asparagus are cooking toast the bread and warm the plates for 2 minutes in a microwave at full power.
  8. By the time the toast is done the asparagus and poached eggs will be ready and you can start to plate up. Butter the toast and place a couple of slices of toast on each plate, top with 5 spears of asparagus before topping off with the poached eggs by taking the eggs from the pan one at a time using a skimmer and ensuring that any traces water are removed by dabbing the bottom of the spoon with some paper towel as well as tipping the edge of the spoon against the towel in order to remove any last traces of water before placing them on the asparagus.
  9. Season with salt and pepper to taste

Serve and enjoy!