Wednesday, 29 May 2013

May Outline article: The Shooter's Sandwich

As a child, I was a fussy little shit. The list of things I would eat could fit on the back of a teabag, and mainly involved cheese, e numbers and an occasional slice of cucumber.  These days I’ll hoof any old thing into my gob (keep it clean, guys) but back in the day it was a battle of wills to get anything past my gnashers. This meant that school dinners were an absolute no go. There was zero chance of me eating mashed potato served in scoops, or that lumpy yellow custard, which everyone suspected to be closely linked to the class’ flatulence levels the proceeding afternoon.
Resultantly, I was a firm fan of the packed lunch. Sandwich, crisps, fruit, cereal bar. Sometimes my Mum might mix things up with a packet of raisins or a Petits Filous.  It was glorious.  And all held together in a Thundercats lunchbox, and a garish Disney flask which always, always leaked all over your P.E. kit. Good times.
As adults we get a bum deal when it comes to packed lunches. There are no sparkly containers or yoghurts with feet (do they still make Munch Bunch?). It generally comes down to whatever you can find in the fridge which doesn’t smell of egg and can feasibly be packed into a Tupperware.
So, how do we liven it up for the over 11s? Well, I’m pretty sure the answer doesn’t lie with Pret-a-fucking-Manger and a haphazard sprinkling of rocket. Instead, I think it comes down to the construction of the humble sandwich. We need to get more creative with our loaves; simply laying one slice of Mighty White on top of another just doesn’t cut the mustard for excitement levels during the daily grind. 
Some friends and I came across the recipe for this ‘Shooter’s Sandwich’ in a Sunday supplement a couple of years ago, and immediately organised an ill-advised March picnic to mark its consumption.  Whilst we all subsequently agreed, with chattering teeth, that the picnic was a terrible idea, the sandwich was a resounding success.  I assume it is named thus as it used to be consumed by hungry hunters, off in pursuit of a stag or something. Either that or its contents were traditionally the result of the shoot – but I’m not sure anybody in their right mind would hunt a cow...
It might seem like an overtly carnivorous option, but fear not, dear veggies, as this method can work with all sorts: a bit of halloumi and roast peppers; some goat’s cheese and caramelised onion. Or you could use fake meat stuff if you’re that way inclined. Basically you can bung all sorts in here.
Shooter’s Sandwich
N.B. The proportions of this recipe all depend on your loaf, so the larger that is, the more of everything else you’ll need.
Small round loaf, with a firm crust
2 medium sized steaks (I used rump)
Knob of butter
3 medium sized banana shallots, finely sliced
250g mushrooms, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Handful of chopped parsley
Shot of brandy
1-2tbps Dijon mustard or horseradish sauce
Slice off the very top of your loaf to form your ‘lid’ and spread it with the horseradish/mustard.  Hollow out the inside of the loaf and put to one side.
Cook your steaks to your preferred method and level of doneness. You can either keep the steaks whole, or slice. Use one steak to line the bottom of your hollowed out loaf – you don’t need to leave it to rest as the juices will all soak in. 
Fry your mushrooms and shallots in the butter, until softened. Add the garlic and fry for another minute, then the brandy, allowing the alcohol to burn of for a minute or two.  Lastly stir in the parsley, season, and transfer to the middle of your loaf.
Top with the second steak and replace the loaf lid.  Wrap the whole thing in greaseproof paper, sandwich between two chopping boards, and weigh down with something heavy, so all of the juices soak into the bread.  Leave for a good few hours, preferably overnight, then slice, as you would a meaty cake. Serve with some sort of vegetable, to make you feel slightly more virtuous.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Birthday cake trifle

Technology is well and truly conspiring against me at the moment. Nothing in my life works properly. We've bought a newfangled tablet thing, which doesn't seem to do anything useful. My macbook is so old that it's about to claim its bus pass, my phone hasn't been updated for so long that it's simply refusing to do anything, and the DVD player has now decided it doesn't like DVDs. And nothing rivals Ben's laptop, which has half a screen and no keyboard. Everything media based seems to involve connecting one crappy piece of hardware to another, to share around the elements of it which aren't crappy.

The tip of the iceberg is that the oven seems to have gone on the blink. Now I'm not entirely sure if this is just my paranoia, it's not clapped out completely or anything, but something has definitely changed since we moved house. Things only seem to cook if they're on the top shelf, and then they cook a little too much. If you put anything on the bottom shelf then you might as well just stand there and breath heavily on it for two hours

*Insert something about bad workman, blame and tools*

All this resulted in me well and truly shitting-up Ben's birthday cake a few weeks ago. A simple victoria sponge and I couldn't get it right. It overflowed like some sort of eggy magma, covering the entire bottom of the oven. And I've only just plucked up the enthusiasm to clean it, because oven cleaning just isn't something I think anyone should ever have to do ever.

I couldn't face trying to make it look presentable as a cake, but nor could I bear to throw it in the bin. If I were clever I would have marketed it to the crowd as 'Deconstructed Birthday Cake', but really it's a fucking trifle. And it doesn't really warrant a blog post, as the recipe is just throwing a bunch of stuff together, but it's a handy thing to have in your head, should you similarly shit-up a cake...

Birthday cake trifle

One layer of sponge cake (2 eggs, 4oz stork, 4oz caster sugar, 4oz self-raising flour, 1tsp vanilla extract - all mixed together and cooked in a greased tin for about 30 mins, gas mark 3)
1 bag of frozen fruit, defrosted - mine was optimistically labelled 'summer fruits'
2 shots of creme de cassis (optional)
300ml double cream
2tbsp icing sugar
1 pot of fancy shop bought custard
Handful of toasted almonds

Now, my trifle doesn't have jelly in, because jelly is rank, but you can add some in if you're a bit twisted.

Line the bottom of a deep bowl with the sponge cake. Mix the fruit with the creme de cassis and then spoon over the sponge.  Next the custard.  Whip the double cream with the icing sugar, and use to top. Scatter over the chopped almonds and chill for a couple of hours.