Friday, October 30, 2009

DIY Clotted Cream

While not possessing the most appealing of names, clotted cream is an important and revered delicacy, as quintessentially English as Irish stew and Welsh rarebit. Used as an accompaniment for puddings and pies, it is most widely known as being the key component in a traditional cream tea: scones, jam, clotted cream and a pot of tea.

But what actually is it? Made traditionally in the south west of Britain (think Devon and Cornwall), it is a thick, rich yellow-coloured cream, made by subjecting unpasteurised cows milk to heat until the cream rises to the surface, forming a slight golden crust. Once cooled, the clots of cream are then skimmed from the top. Its importance to the UK is such that it enjoys EU-sanctioned protected status, similar to France and its rights to the name of Champagne. Did you know it was one of the last meals served to passengers on Concord's final flight around the world?

I'm quite partial to tea, scones and jam, and I've never come across it here in NZ so it was logical to pursue clotted cream as an experiment. There are a wealth of recipes available to try, but this one was the most straight forward (from an old Aunt Daisy cookbook). Off to the Kai lab!

You will need two parts milk to one part cream; here, I used one litre of full cream milk (whole milk) and a 500ml bottle of cream.

Pour the milk and cream into a bowl or pot and leave overnight in the fridge to allow the cream to rise to the top. The creamy layer that forms will be quite substantial.

Remove the bowl of cream from the fridge and place over a pot of boiling water. Reduce to a simmer.

Over the course of an hour you'll see the surface of the cream start to form a yellow skin; it will also start to form sporadic bubbles (that's bubble, not boil - if it boils, you've got it far too hot).

After an hour, which according to my recipe should be sufficient cooking time, it should look like the photo below - quite a substantial frothy yellow crust. Take it off the pot and place it in the fridge to cool.

Once cool, carefully skim the clotted cream off the surface.

And there you go! Isn't it lovely, all yellow and rich! It tastes as you'd expect cream to taste, with the added sensation of more substance and body, compared to say, whipped cream. Consequently, it's a little richer too...

...and the perfect compliment to scones and jam. Don't use butter - my god, it's rich enough as it is - if you do, the little man who calculates your health insurance premiums will hear your arteries change down a gear to accomodate the load, mark my words. Apparently, I've served this backwards - it's meant to be cream first, then jam - regional bias apparently, although if your scones are still warm from the oven, cream first would result
in it dripping all over the place. Until I get to the UK and spend a warm spring afternoon with a proper cream tea at an English tea room, this will have to do. Time for more tea - pip pip!

Oh, by the way - the leftover milk? Use it to make rice pudding. I won't give you a recipe because you must have one somewhere surely. Failing that, just ask the internet.
Bye bye.

Interesting links:

Simple DIY clotted cream (made with mascarpone) clickety

Wikipedia clickety

Background on Devonshire cream teas clickety

Click on the photo that opens this post - it really does look quite grand!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I sold a photo!

Guess what? A cheque turned up in my mailbox from local book publisher Hachette New Zealand! A while ago, they asked to use one of my photos in a book called "Afghans, Barbecues and Chocolate Fish - The ABC of Kiwi Food". It was one of the shots from the rewena bread series of posts. They were having trouble finding suitable photos for use in the book, found mine quite by chance and asked for copies to peruse and consider. I hadn't heard anything back in several months when, voila! A copy of the book and the accompanying cheque popped up in my mailbox. It's a great read full of information and stories about kiwi food, recipes and cooking personalities. Take a peek - it's available in most book stores. Look at my cheque!

Lovely loot!

By the way, last year, the same photo was used by the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the UN agency, for its International Year of the Potato website. You'll find it on this page (scroll down) which forms part of the collection of recipes from around the world which use the humble spud. Pretty neat, huh?

Backyard Tech: The Kerry 1000 Fish Smoker

Ladies and gentleman, I give you: a fish hot smoker made from an old, unloved oven
! It may not look like much, but read on...

While resembling a decommissioned prop off the set of Doctor Who, it is surprisingly effective in what it does. Kerry wanted a hot smoker that could accommodate a large catch. To achieve this, and to render it safe, all wiring and circuitry were removed, along with its housing; the resulting cavities were sealed with riveted metal sheets. The elements too were taken off, along with its casing.

The warmer drawer serves as the smoking chamber, with the smoke making its way into the body of the oven through a series of holes drilled through its floor.

Being a standard sized oven, it has four shelves and when full, there is plenty of room for the smoke to circulate and work its magic on the fish. The door seal is in surprisingly good condition given the oven's age, and no smoke escaped during operation.

And there you go! A dirt cheap fish smoker, made from something which would probably have ended up as landfill; backyard tech at its simplest.
Go make one!

All this and smokey trouty goodness too - huzzah! A big thank you to Kerry for his time and all round cleverness.