As you all know I'm a really big fan of Piper's Farm, so much so that I have entrusted my entire Christmas Feast to them this year. I know! That takes a lot of faith . . . but I have a lot of faith in Piper's Farm. I've never had a dud from them yet!
As you may recall they recently sent me a lovely assortment of things to test from their Christmas Range, including a delicious Haunch of Venison and their tasty Goose Breast. I also reviewed their ready meal Daube of Beef. So delicious.
In the past few days I've been able to cook and taste three more of their ready meal range, a very delicious enterprise indeed!
First up Pork with Orange & Juniper
We both really enjoyed this. Rolled Shoulder of Pork, seared and then casseroled in a delicious sauce using warmed Brandy, milk, lemon juice & our their homemade Chicken stock. It's finished with fresh bay leaves, crushed juniper berries and slices and segments of fresh oranges. The pork was fork tender and the sauce rich and beautifully flavoured. We both gave it 9 out of 10 and would be very comfortable serving it to a guest.
Next was their Coq au Vin.
I am no stranger to Coq au Vin. This was a dish I prepared regularly when I worked as a personal Chef down South. It was a dinner party favourite. How would this ready meal compare to what I used to make . . .
Tender pieces of chicken . . . legs and thighs . . . simmered in chicken stock (again their own) until fork tender . . . with the addition of smoky bacon lardons (their own bacon), sweet shallots, scrummy mushrooms and a deliciously rich sauce of reduced red wine, homemade chicken stock, jus, bay leaves & rosemary. This was hand's down my favourite. We loved this. I would absolutely buy this and serve it to a guest. I give this a whopping 10 out of 10! Great praise indeed coming from someone who knows great Coq au Vin when I taste it.
Finally we tested the Chicken Cacciatore.
Once again chicken drumsticks and bonless thighs, browned in butter and simmered until fork tender in chicken stock (their own). Next a delicious sauce which is made by sauteeing onions & garlic in a little butter until soft, before adding white wine, mushrooms, chopped tomatoes, more homemade chicken stock & sugar. We both enjoyed, although I have to say I was not really fond of the chicken skin in this, so that was discarded. The sauce however was rich and wonderfully flavoured. I could have eaten the sauce alone on buttered pasta and been very, very happy!
We gave this a 7 out of 10, but only because of the skin on the chicken, in every other way it was perfect.
All of these dishes were very easy to reheat. Packed in single portion sizes and vacumn sealed, you simply pop however many portions you are wanting to heat into a pot of water which is at a rolling simmer, then heat at a gentle simmer for 20 minutes. The hardest part is cutting the bags open when you are ready to serve, but with a good pair of tongs and some fine kitchen shears we were "in-like-Flyn!"
Another thing we like about Piper's Farm is their provenance and rearing of all their own meats and poultry in the most natural of ways to their use of pure and natural ingredients without preservatives, enhancers, or artificial flavours. These meals are frozen within minutes of their preparation and delivered quickly to your door so that you can pop them into your own freezer and then reheat to your own requirements. They are as fresh as if you had made them yourself. And I can vouch for the delivery service. It's excellent. Everything comes in quality packaging and then packed again in ice packs, shredded papers etc. so that everything arrives still frozen and intact. Very impressive indeed. Pipers Farm . . . meat the natural way. Check them out. You won't be sorry you did. Thanks Piper's Farm for all this lovely tastiness!!
And now on to my Vegetarian Options for your Christmas Feast. Which I agree, seems a little strange where I've just been talking about beautiful meat, but there ya go! I've never been boring or predictable!
First up we have a delicious Nut Roast, which is easy and comes with a scrummy Cranberry Sauce!
*Mixed Nut Roast with Cranberry Sauce*
It's worth buying fresh nuts for the vegetarian festive treat!
For the cranberry sauce:
175g fresh cranberries (6 ounces)
100g of caster sugar (1/2 cup)
300ml of red wine (1 1/4 cups)
1 cinnamon stick
For the roast:
2 TBS butter, plus extra for greasing
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
50g of pine nuts, toasted (1 3/4 ounce)
75g of hazelnuts, toasted (2 3/4 ounce)
50g of walnuts, ground (1 3/4 ounce)
50g cashew nuts, ground (1 3/4 ounce)
100g of fresh whole wheat bread crumbs (3 1/2 ounces)
1 large free range egg, beaten
2 TBS chopped fresh thyme
250ml of vegetable stock (8 fluid ounces)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
fresh thyme springs to garnish
Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.
Butter a loaf tin and line it with greaseproof paper. Melt the remaining butter in a saucepan over medium head. Add the garlic and onion and cook, stirring for about 5 minutes, until softened but not browned. Remove from the heat. Grind the pinenuts and hazelnuts. Stir all of the nuts into the saucepan and add the breadcrumbs, egg, thyme and stock. Season to taste with salt and pepper and mix all together well.
Spoon the mixture into the buttered loaf tin, smoothing over the top. Cook in the preheated oven for 30 minutes until cooked through and golden brown. The loaf is cooked when a skewer inserted in the centrre comes out clean.
Halfway through the cooking time make the cranberry sauce. Put all the ingredients into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes.
To serve, remove the sauce from the heat, discarding the cinnamon stick. Remove the nut roast from the oven and turn out onto a warmed serving dish. Garnish with thyme sprigs. Cut into slices to serve along with the sauce.
How about some scrummy crisp Mushroom Filo Parcels? Delicious with a crisp filo pastry and a lovely Madeira and Creme Fraich Sauce.
*Wild Mushroom Filo Parcels*
Tasty little vegetarian pies filled with mushrooms and rice and served with a delicious creamy sauce.
30g dried porcini mushrooms (1 ounce)
70g butter (2 1/2 ounces a generous 1/4 cup)
1 shallot, peeled and minced
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
100g chestnut mushrooms, sliced (3 1/2 ounces)
100g white cap mushrooms, sliced (3 1/2 ounces)
200g of wile mushrooms, roughly chopped (about 1/2 pound)
150g basamati rice, cooked and cooled (5 1/2 ounces)
2 TBS dry sherry
1 TBS of soy sauce
1 TBS chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
18 sheets of filo pastry, thawed if frozen
vegetable oil for brushing
350ml of creme fraiche (1 1/2 cups)
50ml of Madeira (1/4 cup)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Put the dried mushrooms into a heatproof bowl and just cover with some boiling water. Leave to soak for 30 minutes.
Melt half the butter in a large skillet over low heat. Add the shallot and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 8 minutes until they are softened without colouring. Add all the fresh mushrooms and cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6. Drain the dried mushrooms, reserving the soaking liquid. Roughly chop and add to the frying pan along with the rice, sherry, soysauce and parsley. Season well with salt and pepper and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated.
Melt the remaining butter in a small saucepan. lay 1 sheet of the filo pastry on a work surface and brush with melted butter. Put another sheet on top and brush with more butter. Top with third sheet.. Spoon 1/6 of the mushroom mixture into the centre and then fold in the edges to form a parcel, using a little more of the butter to help the edges to stick together. Repeat to make six parcels.
Place the parcels onto a lightly oiled baking sheet and brush with the remaining butter. Bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.
While they are baking make a sauce by heating the reserved soaking liquid in a saucepan. Whisk in the creme fraiche and Madeira. Stir over low heat until heated through. Season to taste with some salt and pepper.
Serve the parcels on heated plates with a portion of sauce spooned over top.
Finally a delicious Vegetarian Crumble of Mushrooms and Cheese with a nutty crumble topping!
*Taleggio, Tarragon and Mushroom Crumble*
Serves 6 to 9
A delicious Vegetarian Crumble to please all the veggies in your home!
For the Crumble Topping:
280g fresh breadcrumbs (3 1/4 cups) use a sturdy bread such as a hearty
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
180g of unsalted butter, melted (2/3 cup)
50g freshly grated Parmesan Cheese (1/2 cup)
50g flaked almonds (1/2 cup)
For the filling:
12g of unsalted butter (1/2 cup)
4 banana shallots, peeled and finely chopped
700g field mushrooms, trimmed and quartered (1 3/4 pound)
2 TBS finely chopped tarragon
6 TBS creme fraiche
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
200g taleggio cheese, rind removed (7 ounces)
First make the crumble topping. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6.
Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the shallots and cook over medium heat for two minutes, just until softened, without browning. Stir in the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes longer, just until the mushrooms are slightly wilted. Remove from the heat and stir in the tarragon and creme fraiche. Season to taste with some salt and pepper. Spread the mushroom mixture in a single layer in two 1 litre (4 cup) casserole dishes. Dot small pieces of the tal;eggio cheese over top. Sprinkle the crumble topping evenly over both casseroles.
Bake for 20 minutes until the topping is crisp and golden brown and the casseroles are heated through.
Next up . . . Tasty Side Dishes guaranteed to make every taste bud tingle with anticipation! (Sounds good eh?) Stay tuned!
Over at The Cottage today, a delicious Lemon Meringue Cake!