Sunday, 23 June 2013


I'm sure everybody knows by now that something called a cronut has taken New York by storm. A deep-fried croissant-doughnut hybrid, which people start queuing up for at 5am, before the bakery sells out of them within 15 minutes. One unstable individual apparently cried when she arrived that little bit too late to buy one. Other people travel hundreds of miles, or even pay $100 for someone else to wait in line and buy one for them. I'm sure they're good... in fact, they look amazing... but even if I lived in NY, getting up at 5am or paying some chancer $100 just doesn't make any sense to me.

As you can imagine, the cronut hasn't reach South London yet - but where there's a will, there's a way. Croissant dough is notoriously technical and time consuming to make, but something caught my eye in the supermarket freezer cabinet the other day... ready-to-bake croissants!

The first step in transforming these into cronuts is obviously to defrost them, and then squidge them all together and roll them out. In an effort to attain vaguely even flaky layers, I rolled out the dough, folded it, and repeated a few times. Finally it was time to cut out the doughnut shapes. I only managed to get three out of it... and there wasn't much dough wasted.

I'm sure if you're doing this properly you should heat the oil to a specific temperature, but I never bother with any of that stuff. It's best just to test the temperature with a little left-over dough... I reckon you want it so the 'nuts bubble gently as soon as they hit the oil, without sizzling too violently. At this sort of temperature, they should cook through without burning, or absorbing too much oil and therefore becoming greasy (heaven forbid). They should take around 2 minutes to cook.

Thankfully they puffed up very well, and the outside was nice and crisp. I fancied a maple glaze on my cronuts, so I mixed some icing sugar with maple syrup and a little water. I dunked them into the icing so they were half covered, then left them to set for a few minutes.

I stopped short of awarding them the full 11/11 out of respect for the definitive version, but while these might not be as good (or as light) as the real deal, they were pretty bloody good. In fact, I polished off all three in no time at all. I didn't have to go to all the way to NY, and I didn't have to get up in the middle of the night or pay the price of a prime steak dinner.


Thursday, 20 June 2013

DIY Smoking - Pulled Pork

Each year, along with the first glimpse of spring sunshine, comes the great British barbecue. I will always have a soft spot for cheap burgers and sausages, drunkenly cremated for ten minutes over red hot coals, before being stuffed into a bread roll with ketchup and cheese slices.

But there's another - altogether more serious - side to barbecue. Slow cooking, tender meat, smoke, and lots of flavour. And arguably the classic American barbecue food is pulled pork. It's become a popular dish of late, but unfortunately that means that there are a lot of bad versions out there doing the rounds. It's not hard to do it properly, it just takes a bit of time and patience.

I started off by making a dry rub mix - brown sugar, paprika, cayenne pepper, cumin, chilli powder, salt and pepper. I rubbed it into a pork shoulder joint, and left in the fridge for a few hours.

Barbecuing is not an easy thing for me to do, as I don't have a garden (I always feel a pang of jealousy when I sniff the air and realise that the neighbours are having yet another barbecue). Even a disposable foil barbecue is beyond my reach - let alone a full sized drum smoker. But luckily, it is possible to smoke food indoors... so it was time to prepare the Jerry Fishbiscuits (tm) custom smoker.

I took some hickory chips, and soaked them in Southern Comfort and a little water. I put the chips in the bottom of a foil tray, put the meat over them on the wire rack, and wrapped the whole thing tightly in foil, creating a sort of parcel.

I'll tell you what NOT to do next... don't put foil directly over a naked flame, no matter how gentle, because it will burn right through it. You need a proper metal roasting tin between the stove and your foil parcel. It might sound obvious to you - but it wasn't obvious to me.

This thing takes a long time to cook... I left mine for a couple of hours, before replacing the smoking chips, and then smoking again for another two hours. I'd say that four hours is the bare minimum duration, but the meat was pretty tender by then, and disintegrated quite easily.

I doused the meat in a delicious mixture of barbecue sauce and smoked chilli paste, and ate it in a giant bread roll with lots of coleslaw.

This sandwich is, quite possibly, as good as it gets. So the next time I see my neighbours chucking sausages onto the barbecue, I'll remind myself that perhaps it is them who should be jealous of me...




Friday, 14 June 2013

Black Pudding Swiss Roll

Like many great chefs, I seek to explore the relationship between the senses. I find that presenting the eyes with one thing and the taste buds with another creates a fascinating incongruity - and if executed skilfully, an unforgettable dining experience. I take great satisfaction not only from creating something wonderful and unique, but also from the joy and delight on the faces of those who I am lucky enough to share the experience with.
Jerry Fishbiscuits, 2013.

So that's why I made a swiss roll with black pudding in it.

I found a basic recipe for savoury swiss roll online (which was essentially just self raising flour with whisked eggs) and added some bacon - cooked to a crisp and finely chopped - to the mixture. The thin layer of sponge only took ten minutes or so to cook.

I made the filling from a few slices of cooked black pudding mixed with a little bit of thickened beef stock, and briefly whizzed it up in the blender. The plan was to spread the black pudding "puree" over the sponge and neatly roll it up... but it didn't quite go according to plan. The sponge was tough and rubbery, bordering on inedible, and it actually split when I tried to roll it. My heart sank, as I realised that my latest creation was headed for a complete disaster.

However, my wife happens to be an expert swiss roll maker. And despite firmly believing that my black pudding swiss roll sounded completely disgusting, she saved the day by whipping up another batch of sponge batter in record time. Ten minutes later, it came out of the oven... light, soft, and delicious. What a woman!

Is the world ready yet for the black pudding swiss roll? Well, where better to try it out than the "Band Of Bakers" summer picnic. It was initially met with a few looks of disbelief, but I think it went down pretty well in the end - and I must admit that it was a pretty good match for a nice cold beer.



Monday, 10 June 2013

Retro Biscuit Ice Cream #2 - Jamboree (Jam Mallow)

This post started life as Jammy Dodger ice cream, but while vanilla ice cream with bits of biscuit and jam sounded OK in theory, in practise it just wasn't all that interesting. But luckily the project then morphed into something altogether more exciting and tasty.

I'm hoping most of you will recognise this:
I know them is Jamborees. Others may know them as Jam Mallows. And apparently in Ireland they are called Mikado (for some inexplicable reason). But the concept is the same - rectangular biscuits, covered in raspberry jam, pink marshmallow, and coconut.

While all the cool kids at school were sneaking off for a cigarette at lunch time, I have fond memories of popping down to the local shop to buy a packet of Jamborees, and promptly scoffing the whole lot. It's a mystery how I wasn't the fattest kid in school. But I digress... it's another classic biscuit that I haven't seen in years, so a perfect candidate for a retro biscuit ice cream.

For the previous entry in the series, I used Angel Delight ice cream mix as the base - and although I considered it a resounding success, this time I wanted proper ice cream... the dense, heavy, creamy stuff. But I'm not the sort of person to do things the hard way, so instead of making a custard base from scratch, I used a mixture of ready-made custard and double cream. It was then time to hijack my wife's favourite kitchen gadget - the ice cream attachment for the mixer.

She really hates it when I use her stuff, and she generally stands over me to make sure that I use it correctly, wash it thoroughly (and at the correct temperature), and then carefully dry it and put it away in the correct place. But it was worth the hassle, because the ice cream came out really well... rich, thick, and just generally the way ice cream should be. In fact, if you have an ice cream maker, I thoroughly recommend the shop-bought custard method.

To make the pink marshmallow, I stirred a few drops of red food colouring into half a jar of marshmallow fluff. I then spooned out a few blobs of the stuff, and coated with coconut. Marshmallow fluff is one of the stickiest substances known to man, and it seems to get everywhere, but eventually I had ten or so nice lumps of coconut coated pink goo.

I took some bog standard shortcake biscuits, broke them into small pieces, and stirred them into the ice cream along with the marshmallow. Finally, I made a raspberry "sauce" from a handful of raspberries and some jam, stirred it into the ice cream, and put the whole lot in the freezer.

The result was another delicious biscuity success. And it tasted even better with some extra raspberry sauce and coconut sprinkled on top.



Friday, 7 June 2013

Chili Verde Enchiladas

Making dinner is often a fine balancing act, between the kind of thing I like to eat (greasy, fatty, spicy, messy) and something other people might consider to be actual food. So when I offered to cook the other night, my wife's repsonse was a cautious "OK, as long as it won't end up on your ridiculous blog". The poor woman was probably expecting something unspeakably disgusting, fashioned from frozen burgers and curry sauce.

But I guess I had the last laugh, because we happily ate every last mouthful, and here it is on my blog... chili verde enchiladas.

What's that, I hear you say? Vegetabes? Fresh herbs? Well yes, but bear with me.

Chili verde is a Mexican pork stew, in a spicy green sauce. Not so common here, but you see it all over the place in the US. My version isn't really authentic... the proper version contains tomatillos, but I don't think you can get them here, so I improvised a little. I started making the sauce by frying onions with assorted chillies, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper.

Once the onions were browned, I added some smoked chilli paste, chicken stock, chopped green pepper, coriander, dried oregano, and lime juice (in lieu of the missing sourness from the tomatillos). After everything had softened and cooked down a bit, I blended the sauce until it was nice and smooth.

I then browned some pork shoulder, added it to the sauce (including lots of fatty bits), and put the whole lot in the oven for a couple of hours - until the pork was falling apart.

Now, doesn't that look great? Greasy and meaty, with a fiery heat, and it doesn't taste all all "vegetabley". It's great on it's own or with some rice, but it's even better as an enchilada filling - rolled between tortillas, topped with extra sauce and grated cheese, and cooked in the oven for a few minutes.



Monday, 3 June 2013

Retro Biscuit Ice Cream #1 - "Wagon Wheel"

Welcome to the first post of my "Retro Biscuit Ice Cream" series, in which I plan to make ice cream based on various biscuity snacks of yesteryear. That may sound like the worst idea you've ever heard, and you may have a valid point - only time will tell.

Anyway, I thought I'd start with one of my absolute favourite childhood treats, the Wagon Wheel. According to Wikipedia they are still available, but I haven't personally seen one for at least 15 years, and they're very much something I associate with a bygone era (i.e. my youth). And speaking of food blasts-from-the-past, I had a special trick up my sleeve for making the ice cream. Remember Angel Delight? Well, I present to you... Angel Delight ice cream mix!

Yes that's right, a sachet of ice cream mix brought to you by those crazy cats at Angel Delight HQ. You just whisk it up with 150ml of milk until it dramatically increases in volume, and put it in the freezer. That's it. No ice cream maker, no removing from the freezer to stir every 15 minutes, none of that malarkey. It sounded too good to be true.

Now for the wagon wheel inspired additions. I needed biscuit, marshmallow, and chocolate. I decided to use digestives (probably my favourite out of all the "bog-standard" biscuits), so I broke up a whole load of them and stirred them into the mixture, along with a few lumps of milk chocolate for good measure. For the marshmallow, several big lumps of my old friend, Marshmallow Fluff - half a jar's worth, in total.

Using the remainder of the finest quality chocolate, I made a chocolate sauce by microwaving it with a little bit of milk. I froze the ice cream for half an hour, and then stirred in the chocolate sauce before returning it to the freezer.

The ice cream is pretty light - as you'd expect from a tub of ice cream that was made from only 150ml (i.e a small glass) of milk. The texture is more reminiscent of a cheap old-school "soft scoop" ice cream, than a nice thick home-made one. But it does taste like ice cream, and is far from unpleasant... and the combination of biscuit pieces, marshmallow, and chocolate worked really well. In fact, I really think that someone should manufacture Wagon Wheel ice cream - they'd definitely have a loyal customer in the shape of Jerry Fishbiscuits.

If you have a favourite retro biscuit you'd like to see turned into an ice cream, leave a comment! (note, crap suggestions like rich tea or custard cream will not be tolerated).