Lunch at Osteria Waggon and Horses, Milton

Osteria Waggon & Horses in Milton has been on my list for a while since various friends gave rave reviews but despite being deceptively close to where I live it’s just a little far to walk and there is no bus back from Milton after dinner would be finished so the only time I can get there and back easily is Saturday lunchtime when I’m usually out shopping or do other things. I finally managed to get the timing right and visited last Saturday and really regretted not having done this earlier.
The former pub was stripped down to a very simple and clean style with well spaced tables in the dining area and a small bar area. The menu consists of a blackboard of aperitivi, small plates of meat, fish, veg, salad, charcuterie and everything else they can think of on the day, a bit like Spanish tapas. I think there were at least 10 different ones on the board when I was there. Two make about a starter portion. The printed menu has starters, pasta, mains and desserts, all rather more varied than what you usually find at Italian places. There is also a set lunch option on weekdays and a “Taste” menu on weekends.

Aperitivi and bread selection
Squid ink bread

I chose two aperitivi, ox tongue with salsa verde on the left and salted sardines on the right, with their bread selection. The bread was warm and delicious (the black blob was made with squid ink, the standout one was the foccaccia), the ox tongue tender and rich nicely complemented by the fresh salsa verde. The salted sardines were small, more like anchovies, the tapenade was not too strong in olive flavour (proper olives, too, not those dyed ones you often get) and the lemon jelly cut through the richness.

Jerusalem artichoke risotto

My main was a superb vegetarian risotto with jerusalem artichokes, pesto, beetroot and parmesan crisps. Perfect consistency, rice al dente (which might not be to everyone’s taste) and a great balance of flavours and textures. This was a joy to eat, easily among the best risotti I’ve had anywhere.

By this time I was quite full already but I couldn’t pass on dessert:

Gianduja semifreddo, black sesame ice cream

This seemed to be the lightest option (with the exception of the gelato selection), a gianduja semifreddo (the chocolate glazed log), black sesame ice cream, truffles and chocolate soil. The gianduja was rich but not too sweet, helped by the dark chocolate glaze. The ice cream was rather remarkable, too, first time I had one based on black sesame. The truffles were excellent, too.

The experience was rounded up by friendly and helpful service. Osteria might be a little more expensive than other neighbourhood Italians but the extra cost is entirely justified by the quality of the offerings and I can only recommend it.
Next time I want to go with a few friends and go through the whole aperitivi menu.

[Cooking] Duckmas

It was my first Christmas not only in Cambridge (I usually visit my parents in Germany) but also in my new flat which has a proper kitchen. So I decided to treat three of my friends to a hearty lunch. I ordered a duck from Radmore Farm who have a small but fine shop in Chesterton Road and instead of roasting it (I don’t trust my oven which is overheating and inconsistent) I jointed it. Out of the legs and the meaty parts of the wings I made confit (using leftover salmon cure with added garlic, crushed peppercorns and thyme), the breasts I pan-fried and finished in the oven and out of the carcass, wing tips and giblets I made stock.
I had two bags of giblets so I made a little snack of flash-fried hearts.

Duck hearts

From the various trimmings and bits of meat scraped off the carcass I made a burger:

Duck burger

The livers I turned into parfait (half a shallot, one glove of garlic finely chopped, sweated off in clarified butter, added the livers until cooked dark pink, then pulsed with salt, pepper and a glug of cream in the food processor). Served on crispbread, this was the starter at Boxing Day, together with the cured salmon:

Nibbles: whisky cured salmon and duck liver parfait

I clarified the stock, kept one half for cooking the lentils and the other half I reduced down with some red wine to make a sauce. The final dish consisted of picked leg and wing meat, sliced breast, lentils and broccoli:

Duck: pan roasted breast, confit leg, lentils broccoli

[Cooking] Whisky cured salmon.

My latest fishbox included a beautiful fillet of salmon which I decided to cure.
Rub the fillet with whisky (something peaty and smoky is ideal, I used Jura).
Make a mix of equal quantities of salt and light brown sugar (enough to generously coat both sides of the fillet) and add some lightly crushed dried rosemary.
On a large piece of aluminium foil in two layers, spread a layer of the cure, set the fillet on top, skin side down, then spread the rest of the mix over the top and dribble some more whisky over the top.
Wrap the fillet tightly in the foil and leave in the fridge at least over night, longer if the fillet is really thick. The one I had was just about 1cm so over night was plenty.
To serve, wash the cure off the fillet and pat dry, then slice finely at a very flat angle. A fish knife with a flexible blade is ideal for this. You can wrap the salmon in clingfilm and it’ll keep for a few days in the fridge.
Serve on melba toast, crackers or crispbread. Add a little light horseradish or mustard cream if you fancy it but with mine, that wasn’t necessary.
Sliced, mine looked like this;

Whisky cured salmon

[Cooking] Sunday lunch: pheasant with cauliflower puree and mushroom sauce

I walked past Mill Road Butchers on Friday and decided to pop in to see what they had. The pheasants looked good so I picked up one for the Sunday.
As pheasant is notoriously dry I decided to cook it in parts. On Saturday I took off the legs and put them in brine (Water, salt, thyme, rosemary, smashed garlic. black peppercorns and allspice berries) to sit in the fridge over night. I also took off the breasts and chopped the carcass into chunks. The breasts went back into the fridge, the carcass with some chunks of onion and root veg into a hot oven until nicely browned, deglazed the roasting dish with a generous glug of port, filled up with water and let boil for a while to get all the bits off the bottom, then transferred the lot plus a good handful of dried mushrooms into a saucepan and simmered for a couple of hours, then passed the stock through a fine sieve, retaining the mushrooms and let it cool before moving it to the fridge.

On Sunday morning I patted the brined legs dry with kitchen paper, added them and the aromatics from the brine to a saucepan with barely simmering duck fat, waited until it was back to a simmer and then transferred the pan, covered in foil, to a low oven (just under 100 degrees on my dial, I checked every now and then that it stayed at a simmer). After about two hours they were done, nice and soft to the touch. I took them out and fried them skin side down in a hot pan until crispy (a few minutes). Then removed them and kept them warm while frying the breasts in lots of butter on a medium heat until nice and pink in the middle.

Then I checked the seasoning and served the lot, for I am greedy and was on my own, with crushed potatoes, steamed curly kale, cauliflower puree (see below) and a sauce made by reducing the stock with the mushrooms.

The cauliflower puree I started the day before by chopping the head into chunks, tossing them with olive oil, smoked paprika, cinnamon, sumac, salt and pepper and roasting them in a medium hot oven until soft and caramelised. On the Sunday, I reheated the chunks, added some stock and pureed them in the food processor, adding a little bit of whole milk for consistency. This was the element that brought everything together and I only made it because I had a cauliflower I needed to use up. I originally wanted to make soup but then had the idea to make a puree. The spicing worked really well.

Cooking with a fishbox from Coast and Glen

A while ago Tim Hayward (food writer and owner of Fitzbillies in Cambridge) tweeted about the fishbox from Coast and Glen. I had a look at the website and decided I would try it at some point as with exception of the van on Chesterton Road on Wednesday mornings, there is no decent fishmonger in Cambridge (I found the quality of the market stall to be variable). Last Friday that time had come. I had ordered the smallest box and had previously given my preferences on the website (you can exclude things altogether and prioritise others). The styrofoam box contained four fresh whole langoustines, four shelled scallops, and a filleted portion each of megrim, salmon, blue ling and tusk. The salmon and tusk went straight into the freezer, the langoustines I cooked according to the included instructions and took out the tail meat. I fried the scallops in a mix of rapeseed oil and butter until crispy, took them off the heat and added the lango tails to warm through. Simply served on dressed leaves, this was my starter. The quality of the seafood was superb, both the scallops and langos really sweet and flavourful. They hardly needed seasoning.

Fresh langoustines, ready to be cooked
Fresh langoustines, ready to be cooked
Pan fried scallops and lango tails, dressed leaves
Scallops and langoustine tails on dressed leaves

As main, i gently fried the megrim in the same pan, served lightly seasoned with more dressed leaves and a hunk of fresh sourdough bread. it was just as delightful as the langoustines and scallops and could hardly have been fresher.

[Cooking] Braised lamb neck, sweet potato mash, curly kale

I love cheaper cuts that need a bit of love and attention so when the Art of Meat had lamb neck, I picked up a few chunks.
I dusted them with seasoned flour (salt, pepper, smoked paprika), seared them in rapeseed oil in a hot casserole until brown all over, took them out and in the same pan fried chunks of onion, leek, carrot and garlic until softened slightly, put the meat back in, about half a litre of red wine and chicken stock each to just cover,added a sprig each of rosemary and thyme, put a lid on, let it come to a simmer and transferred to a 100 degree oven for about 3 hours. I took out the meat to rest, strained the liquid, took half of it and reduced it until it was thickened a bit and shiny. Adjusted the seasoning with salt, pepper, smoked paprika, ras el hanout and sumac. Meanwhile, in the rest of the stock, I cooked the sweet potatoes until tender and mashed them with milk, butter and seasoning.
Finally, I picked the meat off the bones, removing excess fat and gristle, warmed it through in the sauce and served on top of the sweet potato mash and some steamed and buttered kale.
Plated it looked like this

Braised lamb neck, sweet potato mash, curly kale
This also freezes well and is even better the second time round, like many stews and braises

[Cooking] Twice cooked pork belly, apple & rhubarb sauce, asparagus, Jersey Royals

With a rolled pork belly taking up space in my fridge and no freezer, I had to deal with it rather quickly so on Friday evening, I rubbed with a mix of salt, black pepper and hot smoked paprika, set it in a roasting tin with a generoius amount of cider in the bottom, covered it in foil and slow roasted it (about half an hour on high to get it up to temperature, then two hours at around 180 and another two hours at low), checking every hour or so that it didn’t run dry. I let it cool, transferred the liquid into a mug, wrapped the meat in foil and stored both in the fridge overnight.
The next day, I took off the skin, flattened it out and put it in the oven at its lowest setting to dry out, turning up the heat to maximum about half an hour for dinner to let it crisp up.
About an hour before serving, I cut two generous slices off the roll and let them come to room temperature. I took off the fat that had settled on top of the mug with the roasting juices, and fried the slices in that fat over medium heat until nicely brown on both sides.
During the afternoon I had made an apple and rhubarb sauce (inspired by the one that was served with the ears at Pig Shop) by stewing apple and rhubarb chunks in cider and then blitzing.
I served the meat wtih the sauce, a glug of the reheated roasting juices, Jersey Royals and asparagus fried in the meat pan (yes, I know no shame) with two slivers of crackling on top. The meat was very tender, the crackling crunchy and everything else worked very well together, too. I was very happy with it all, especially as I went simply by instinct with no recipe.

Twice cooked pork belly, apple & rhubarb sauce

I had another two meals from it and had thinly sliced leftovers in a bun for lunch today.