Who doesn't salivate at the idea of a good Sunday Roast, a festive one or a Roast just for the sake of it. First lets just say that roasting is one of the most ancient cooking methods. There was and still has a sense of luxury about it. One can only imagine an entire hog, a mutton, large chicken roasting and turning (spit roasting) in a large oven like fire place with multiple servants turning the meat regurlaly and basting it from the Medieval time onwards. Or just to get closer to the truth just take a trip to visit the large kitchen of Hampton Court Palace to get a feel of the grander of it all that it was to be fed at the court of Henry VIII.
Lemon, Thyme and Garlic Roast Chicken.
Since the 1860's Roasting gradually did hit the masses with the propagation of the oven. The Sunday Roast became soon a tradition within the Western world and elsewhere. A Roast gives a feel of occasion. If we can imagine a hardworking proud father of a family bringing a large piece of meat to his wife to feed his children, without falling into Charles Dickens, and seeing the glimmer of joy in Tiny Tim's eyes seeing a big fat Turkey at the centre of the dinning table... I don't know what I can do to explain the beauty of a Roast.
It is convivial sharing of food mainly. There is time, the patience and pinning for the main meal to arrive involve. There is the anxiety that it has to be good to impress. Then there is the what to do about the timing and the impressing. Who created the expression 'With all the trimmings' I wonder?
Let's tackle the large pieces of Meat and the smaller ones. Of course depending on the size, the timing is different and I am afraid to say and admit that everything is even more complicated when we involve the parametre of temperature within the equation.
To render the matter of the Meat in more simpler terms, one of my favourite term is the three T's Test, Taste and Trial. First I will say a stupidity which is correct: You can not treat a Beef like a Pork or a Lamb like a Chicken. So you have to test everything and witness what is working best for each. This is Testing time.
Beef of Ribs Roast.
Then there is the Taste time. It goes around the questions, how do I want my Beef? Slightly pink in the center and certainly not crucified and dry. How do I want my Pork? With a crackling to die for. How do I want my Chicken? With a gorgeous honey looking skin and still moist in the inside. How do I want my lamb? Certainly not dry but with gorgeous oozing juice and fat...
In this house Roast Beef is treated as a Treat. We only have it on occasion. Ribs of Beef is our traditional festive season Meat of choice. A good Brisket for a birthday works like a deal to make us happy. Of course it goes with all the trimmings... Yorkshire Puddings being one of them.
Beef Brisket to Roast.
Roast Pork is mainly one of our favourites. The shoulder or a nice joint is very common on our Sundays. My partner and I have a little on going competition about Crackling and I am afraid I won that war. I tend to make the best Crackling so I am often called then 'Darling' what temperature do I need for this and for how long? How many techniques we tried about our Crackling war is actually quite funny. But I must mention that leftover of Pork can be extremelly useful. Sliced in a sandwish for the following day, Stripped and Stir Fried for another meal, or even added diced to a Chinese or Korean Noodles Broth for a filling late supper, spiced or not.
Roasted Pork Shoulder.
As for Poultry, and there I include, Chicken, Duck, Goose, Turckey, Quails, Poussins, and Partridges, of course the timing and the temperature are crucial and entirely different for all of them. I am only going to quote that roasted Chicken is regurlaly showing up on the table. But I will confess that Lemon and Thyme Roasted Chicken is one of my favourites and often being on the Sunday table. However Poultry and Game Birds are on the red carpet in this home.
Roasted Partridges, Artichokes, Potatoes and Lemons.
Then there is Lamb, I will not speak about it because it makes me think of my dead Father. His Roasted Shoulder of Lamb were out of this world. Now I do legs of Lamb myself in a classical way with Rosemary and Garlic and sometimes Anchovies.
Roasted Lamb Shoulder.
The Beauty of roasting Meat is that it releases a juice from the Meat which can trickle down on the roasting tray or the dish below it: Bags of flavours to do a delicious gravy which will accompany the final dish to great effect. I can 't say how many times in my life I witnessed the battle for the Gravy Boat and the pointing finger claiming: 'She took it all!', and obviousely sometimes the need to appease the war of the Gravy by making some more on the dot so the pouting lips unfold back into a smile.
Personally I love rich and luxurious, glossy gravies with a velvety thickness which whisper without a word I will coat your throat with warmth. Without being pompous my favourite gravy is an Onion one with a little Cider within it. Of course it will have fresh large sliced onions, the best Cider and TLC up until it is served with a Roast shoulder of Pork, or the Roast Belly of one.
Second best has to be a Port or Red wine Gravy to go with Beef or Lamb. It is a delight especially if it has a good consistancy: The velvet blanket in the mouth.
The Gravy Boat.
Passing from Meat to swimming in the sea of Fish, a Roasted Fish can capture the hearts and the palate to reach the palace of your belly. If you follow the waves, Sea Bass is a perfect fish to roast whole. Trout and Salmon swimming up the stream also. A Snapper can also snap the show. Now not everyone can face an entire Fish. It is all about the head, all about the head... There is a trick, which is to use the head of the Fish to make a Fish Gravy. The gills in my point of view should be removed as well. An entire Roasted Fish is a glorious view, but delt with finery, it is a dish to remember.
Roasted Miso Cod.
You can't serve a King of the Ocean with only a cloak of scales. You have to dress it. Think of Julius Ceasar making its last stand, so you have to score his skin to let it roast or rest properly. Then you have to make it worth all the while. Stuffing the Fish with lots of goodness enhance it before the altar where it will be enjoyed and eaten. Simple flavours are the best, Lemon slices inside the belly of the sea beast, sliver of sliced Garlic, chopped herbs like Parsley or Chervil, Dill, Cracked black Pepper and Sea Salt. Sea weed for a little Fa La La La note from the mermaids... to make you dream of a sea wave or a sea shore surfing the scale of a beautifully roasted fish.
Then you can get to the treasure trove of the Roasted Veg. I can not tell you enough what a pleasure they are in a centre of a plate or on its side. My Favourites are endless. Provencal roasted Tomatoes has to be in the top three. If I have to do a top three. Because I simply can't.
Roasted Tomatoes with Seasoning.
Stuffed Roasted tomatoes are also on the top of my list. It reminds me of my childhood. I will only mention there the Madeleine of Proust. My Mum's name is Madeleine.
Roasted Stuffed Tomatoes.
You can also impart Flavours into a Soup by roasting its Vegetables prior to do one. To keep with the Tomato Theme, Roasted Tomato and Pepper Soup. Roast the Tomatoes, Peppers and Shallots before making the Soup which will end up deeper in taste for it.
Upside down on a baking trays this time around to release their juices for a good Roastes Tomato Soup.
Roasted stuffed Peppers, Roasted Aubergine, Marrow, Courgettes or the all Tutti Quanti as a lovely side to a dish. Pick your choice, I will say mainly upon the weather. Spring, courgettes call for it.
Summer, Roasted Peppers and Aubergines are treats to be on your plate.
Roasted Stuffed Aubergines.
Autaumn, Marrow, Pumpkin, Butternut Squash.
Winter, Roast a good old Cauliflower or all the Brussels Sprouts with Chesnuts and Lardons.
There is a Roast for all season and all taste. If you can't find it, you have to make it happen, RIP old Grand Ma's saying.
Roast Beef ready for the finishing touches.
About Roasting Vegetables
It is all about Roasting Meat.
It is all about Roasting Fish.
Dare I say that one of the first things I did learn to cook was a Fried Egg. My ones are always sunny side up. I also like them a little crispy around the edges to know that the white has been rendered properly. But the Eggs still need to have that exquisite runny yellow yolk at the centre to run free upon the plate. It is a little magical moment of bliss: A little like singing along to the song "My favourite things" from the Sound of Music Film with Julie Andrews.
The Breakfast Fry Up with fried Bread, Bacon and Eggs. It is simple yet fulfilling. It is the fuel to start the day or at least one's day. An Egg takes roughly four to five minutes to fry depending on its size, sometimes more, sometimes less.
There is one thing I will confess, which is, to like a Fried Egg with rough edges. When they are done within a ring or device so they do look neat, I think it kills the charm of the good old Egg coming from a proper Farm, from a Farm where the Chicken are roaming outdoors. My Grand Parents (RIP) lived most of their lives in Bourg en Bresse and there in the Bresse area of France the Chicken graze the grass, the green green grass, and you can taste the difference with the Chicken from a battery Chicken and from a Farm Egg from a battery Egg.
A Poulet de Bresse, de Bourg en Bresse, happy roaming in a field of clovers.
There are a variety of Eggs to be pan fried but being rather conventional I tend to stay in the realm of Chicken Eggs. However I venture very often in the kingdom of the rich Duck Egg with that bountiful dark yellow Yolk. If I do poach a Duck Egg more than I do fry it, I am still doing it often for the ratio between the white and the yolk. There is less white in a Duck Egg. The star there is truly and simply the luscious Yolk. A Duck Egg is full of proteins and different vitamins which is a plus.
Duck Eggs are of course larger than Hen's Eggs.
If Duck Eggs may be harder to get because they are not the normal standard Egg, they are still worth the while to have and eat. The Fried Duck Egg add a touch of luxury upon an Easter Breakfast of Grilled Asparagus, and Shaved Truffles. Garnish with a little Chives, Black Pepper and Sea Salt as a finish then now we are talking simply of very simple lush Brunch.
Pan Fried Duck Egg upon Chips served with a good dollop of Lemon Mayonnaise, seasonned and garnished with chopped Parsley. This is a satisfying simple Lunch.
However I tried my hand to cook Quail Eggs as well. Sometimes it was successful and sometimes it was not. Is it that they are too small for my clumsy fingers...? Or is it that the matter of time is seriously reduced when cooking them? Hence you do need to keep an eye upon the clock and upon the Egg. This is a balancing act which one might crack: May it be the Quail Egg or you with a smile upon your face? But Fried Quail Eggs are quaint and definitely suitable to create Canapés and Appetizers.
Home Made Crostinis with Fried Quail Eggs topped with red Herrring Roe. It is simple and a rustic Canapé to be enjoyed.
They are plenty of ways to taste Fried Quail Eggs. I would say they are dainty but nice; that it is a taste the difference matter. Fried Quail Eggs can make a Bruschetta sing a little bit more for a nice Brunch or even Starter for Dinner time. With very little imagination, you can cover your Olive Oil oven toasted slice of Bread (Sourdough, Ciabatta or Baguette), with a Cream Cheese which is seasoned with added Ingredients of your choice (Chilli Flakes or a little pinch of Cayenne Pepper or a little Chive, or a little Dill, or a little shredded Basil, or a little chopped and roasted Garlic). On top of the whisked Cream Cheese, you can build a layer with a cured or smoked Ham (Prosciutto, Serrano, Parma Ham...even Bacon rashers). But you can also use Fish freshly cooked, smoked or cured. Then add your fried Quail Egg on top. This is an all so simple treat.
Mini Pesto Pizza with mini Mozzarella Balls, Cherry Tomatoes, Basil and Fried Quail Eggs. It can make a nice Starter to an Italian theme Dinner.
Now there is something with most of Eggs you can do to fry them: It is the Scotch Egg. The recipe dates from a long time ago the 1800 plus so has evolved to be ever so different. The principle of it reside, in covering an Egg with Minced Meat then to bread the result in order to Fry it. Initially it was called the scortch Egg because it was fried but enclosed. However it became the Scotch Egg in the end. The history says that it was because Scotland was a big producer of Eggs.
Scotch Eggs can be very dry but to have a runny yolk centre is part of the pleasure with them.
They can make a good Brunch or Lunch. Scotch Eggs are not as per say fanciful however you have a room to play there in term of cookery. Which Egg you are going to use? A Hen Egg, a large Duck Egg or a small Quail Egg...?
Quail Scotch Eggs Salad. You can do it with Lambs Lettuce or Pea Shoots. Serve it with or without Pancetta or Lardons. Decorate the plate with edible Flowers like Viola. A simple French dressing can accompany everything even some chopped woodland Mushrooms to give the feel of Autumn to the plate.
Then with which minced Meat you are going to wrap your Egg? A spiced Mince most certainly, it could be Sausage Meat, Lamb Mince, Beef Mince, Turkey Mince but it can also be from a Fish as well like a Smoked Salmon or Trout.
Salmon Mousse Scotch Quail Eggs served with pickled Radishes, Lamb Lettuce and Tartare Sauce.
It can be with Black Pudding, or the stuffing for Haggis... There you have the tools to make your Scotch Egg special. Seasoning the Breadcrumbs also does play a part in the entire making of a Scotch Egg. The result of your combinations usually makes a satisfying Lunch or Starter.
Black Pudding Scotch Eggs on a bed of peppery Rocket Salad dressed with a grain Mustard Vinaigrette: A Lunch that is packing a punch on a plate.
Speaking of Eggs there is of course the Eggy Bread. It is also called French Toast, French Fried Bread, Pain Perdu, Gypsy Bread. The concept comes from an old tradition to not loose Bread at any cost. Even if the Bread becomes old and stale, you can revive it with a source of life which is the Egg and another Ingredient which nurtures life which is Milk. Hence the Eggy Bread was born. Then it can become a Dish in itself or a base for either Savoury Dishes or Sweet Ones.
Eggy Bread Toasts. The principle relies on mixing Eggs and Milk together in order to revive the Bread. Soaking the Bread, usually overnight (in the old days) then Frying it made it all better.
You can turn the Eggy Bread savoury for a full Brunch experience, like with a Croque Monsieur with Ham and Cheese or a Croque Madame with the addition of the Fried Egg. The Croque Monsieur is in effect a Sandwich but a Fried one. It is a bang bang two slices of fried Bread, enclosing a decent slice of Ham and a Cheese with quality of the like of Gruyére or Emmental or Comté Cheese. A Mustard Sauce is usually applied to perk up everything. It could be Dijon Mustard whisked up with a little Mayo. But the result is licking fingers delish... The history of the Croque Monsieur dates from the 1800's.
The Croque Monsieur in all its glorious lushness. Before becoming a Bistro or Gastro Pub Treat, it was seen, regarded as a Gentleman's Club Treat.
From the Croque Monsieur to the Croque Madame there are only a few differences. The main one is the addition of the fried Egg on the Croque Madame. The Egg is meant to represent a Lady's wide brimmed hat. Another difference is that the Sauce Béchamel which can be used for the Croque Monsieur can be élévated to the Sauce Mornay for the Croque Madame. The little stamp is the inclusion of Cheese within the Sauce. The Sauce was créated by Philippe de Mornay who also créated the Sauce Béchamel back in the 1500's.
Croque Madame. Croque in French means to actually bite into something that has a crunch: Hence Fried Eggy Bread with a difference.
Then you do have the Croque Mademoiselle: it is an evolution or a variation as per say of the original Croque Monsieur juste like the Croque Madame is a variation as well. This time the main difference is the inclusion of Vegetables within the 'Croque'. It can be totally vegetarian or a bit of a mix. It could be made with the essential Eggy Bread slices but also with sandwiched in between Asparagus, Parma Ham and Parmesan. It could be made with fried Courgettes, melted Mozzarella, Oregano and Espelette Chilli. It is up to the inspiration of the moment. The Croque Mademoiselle is a volatile fried Sandwich. To be blunt it is up to anyone's interpretation apart that it does need to contain a green Veg: Cucumber, Zucchini, Asparagus... For it is the Veg option out of all the Croques.
Croque Mademoiselle with layers of fried Aubergines, Courgettes, roasted Red Sweet Bell Pepped, Cottage Cheese served with a fried Egg on top just like a Croque Madame. It had a Med Feel to it.
French Toast are not all savoury for some are sweet as well. Different combinations are there to be appreciated. A favourite one is served with fresh Berries: Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries... but also with a Jam or Preserve or Compote which could be made with Blackberries, Blackcurrants, Blueberries and the Eggy Bread will be accompanied with Custard. It is a yummy number.
Eggy Bread with Berries. It can be a small tea time treat but it is still special. Another version is made with dried Apricot and fresh ones, (It could be done with Nectarines and Peaches too). The addition of Apricot Jam traditionally done with Almond kernels renders everything lush. Toasted Almonds can add to the decoration in that case.
Similarly Bruschetta is a toasted slice of Bread usually it will be made with Pain de Campagne, Sourdough Bread, Ciabatta or Baguette as a base. The slice will be rubed with Garlic but also dipped in Olive Oil. Then it can be fried within a frying Pan or grilled. The toppings of the Bruschetta are up to you. The traditional ones are with chopped Tomatoes. But additional Ingredients can be added like Basil and, or Organo for Herbs, Capers and, or Olives for a little saltiness, even Anchovies could be considered. Chopped Preseved Lemon could be considered as well. Another combination is the chopped Tomatoes, chopped roasted Sweet Bell Peppers, crispy Shallots with the addition of Mozzarella Pearls or even a little slice or cubed Goat Cheese.
Tomato and Sweet Red Bell Pepper Bruschetta with Basil and a little grated Parmesan. It can be a simple Brunch, an Appetizer or a Starter/Entrée. The addition of Kalamata Olives, or Olives stuffed with Anchovies can bring this Bruschetta to another level.
Concerning Dough you do have plenty which we do Fry which are sweet. During my childhood one of my favourites treats were the Croustillons. They came by 6, the dozen or 24. It was just little balls of Dough fried then sugared. They were ever so nice. We could have them and share between us three kids only on the Thursday and Saturday at the Market in Cherbourg. I can tell you that we were looking out for that Van and the Croustillons. They are from Northern Europe especially the coastal areas, from Holland, Belgium and France.
Croustillons are like mini Donuts.
Then there is of course the Doughnut also spelled Donut. It feels like Homer Simpson dreaming of Donuts. I must confess to be partial to Sugared Ring Doughnuts. Although I am not a sweet tooth Fried Dough does it for me. For Tyn he loves his Jam Doughnuts. The matter of fact is that Doughnuts are versatile as per say as you can top them up the way you want to but also fill them up the way you like.
Sugared Ring Doughnuts. One Treat I can't escape from.
In France, a similar Fried Dough is called Beignet. They come in different shapes filled up or not. A Popular one is the Apple Beignet: Le Beignet aux Pommes. My Mum used to do them usually on the Saturday afternoon. It was a treat especially since Oil was expensive, it was important to do the most of it. Hence Fritters (Beignets) were the way to go. Beignets (Fritters) are dipped in French culture and the Italian one but also in the USA, from Louisiana (which was colonised by the French back in the days). It goes with the flow.
The fillings for Beignets or Fritters are rather varied. Apple is a very popular one coming from areas in France who produces a lot of Apples like Normandy. Pineapple Fritters have their origins from Asian countries like Indonesia (Indochina). French colonists can be blamed for it as well. Then in the Créole Cuisine there are the Banana or, and Plantain Beignets/Fritters.