5 April 2010

Family Easter Dinner

Over the last week, I've been preparing for yesterday's family Easter get-together, mostly with buying and preparing food.

Ever since our Christmas ostrich, we promised to invite the rest of the family to try out this delicacy. I decided to do the same recipe, however being nine people, I decided to treble everything. Thus three ostrich fillet roasts, three times the mushrooms, three times the gravy and three times the potatoes.

Now since I don't have a restaurant kitchen and staff, I decided to do each fillet roast on it's own. So I made three lots of the spice mixture for the dry marinating. All other things I did in one go.

The potatoes were prepared in the evening of the previous day and were kept in my pressure cooker under water. That made them swell sufficiently to prevent me from fitting them all into the baking tray, a feat I did manage to do after I'd sliced them into the Hasselback shape. So there are two tiny tatties in a bowl of water in the fridge waiting to be cooked. I greased them with goose fat, which I had left over from Christmas and had kept in a box in the freezer. I think I should have seasoned the potatoes before baking them, as the were, they tasted a bit too much of just fat. I think it could be to do with the increased water content of preparing them the day before.

Also on the day before, all the spices were ground, the mushrooms and the greens (baby leeks, French beans and purple sprouting broccoli) were washed and dried. One thing I sort of cheated with was to use ground coriander and cardamom instead of grinding them alongside the black pepper and juniper berries. This is not really a problem, but I made a mistake that I've specifically commented on in other blog posts - if grinding spices before use, the flavour is stronger than if using pre-ground spices, thus amounts need to be adjusted. I completely ignored doing that, very consciously and so the balance of the spice mixture was wrong. In addition, I used up all the juniper berries left in the jar, which were perhaps a tad too few. This resulted in the black pepper completely dominating in the end result, most unfortunate, though most of the family seemed OK with the extra heat.

For the mushrooms, I skipped the butter at the end and just heated up the double cream on low and stirred in the mushrooms briefly.

I prepared the first part of the gravy on the day before as well and as it turned out, the jar of cranberry sauce was a lot smaller than I thought and it was also a lot emptier than I thought. In fact it only had enough for one batch of gravy, so I topped up with lingonberry jam, which I happened to have in the fridge and which tasted pretty similarly. The lingonberry jam was definitely in a big jar and it was almost full. Also I cracked open a bottle of sherry vinegar, which I've been dying to try out for ages. It combined very nicely with the Merlot wine and the port. For some reason not everyone had gravy, so we have quite a lot of it left over now. Hopefully it's good for dipping bread in or something. Maybe I can freeze it.

The greens were just steamed. I had intended to sauté them, but there just wasn't enough time for that.

Now out of the nine of us, two are vegetarians, so for them I made a traditional Bulgarian dish - Бюрек от пиперки, which is "byurek" of peppers and here how it is made.

6 sweet bell peppers, preferably as oblong as possible
400 g feta cheese
4 large eggs
6 tbsp grapeseed oil

  1. Roast the peppers as per instructions here. Then peel, remove the handles and seeds carefully so the peppers remain intact and finally rinse thoroughly.

  2. In a bowl, break up 400 g of feta cheese with your fingers, so that it resembles cottage cheese nodules. Then add two of the eggs, season with salt and pepper and coarsely chopped parsley. Be generous with the seasoning, as the peppers themselves won't be seasoned.

  3. Fill each pepper with the mixture and make sure they are flattened a bit.

  4. In a shallow bowl, big enough to fit a pepper, break the two remaining eggs and whisk together lightly. Spread the breadcrumbs on a plate, then heat up the grapeseed oil in a frying pan.

  5. Dip each pepper in the eggs to get it coated on all sides, then roll in the breadcrumbs and fry for 2 - 3 minutes on each side until the coating goes golden brown.

A word on feta cheese. Traditionally feta is stored in brine and that's how you used to buy it in Bulgaria. Then some time before it's needed it can be immersed in water, which draws out a lot of the salt. The amount left depends on now long the feta is soaked, so in extreme cases all the salt will be gone and it'll taste like fromage frais. So for a byurek, a slightly too salty feta is to be preferred. The egg/feta mixture is then to be stuffed into red peppers because their sweetness offsets the feta cheese so very nicely. Unfortunately I've not come across brined feta recently, the packets in the supermarkets are completely salt free. This doesn't really matter, just season the mixture well. I also used low fat feta and had some doubts about that, but it turned out to be very nice indeed and tasted great. It was listed as 11.5%, regular feta is around 25% I believe.

Other types of peppers can be used of course. The ones I used were good for a main course with potatoes and greens, but using small ones, they would make nice finger food at a buffet, hot or cold. The dish is popular in Bulgarian restaurants, though some might be using the Bulgarian hard yellow cheese called кашкавал (kashkaval), which is very similar in flavour to Peccorino Romano or Peccorino Sardo cheeses, though quite fatty and not as hard in texture.

As before, the mushrooms were the first to run out - there were precisely enough for all nine of us and some did make attempts at nicking other people's mushrooms, they were tasty.

No comments: