8 and a Bit ways to Cope with an "Unwanted" Bottle of Port

Yesterday was lovely weather.  No, honestly, it was. 

My darling and I made our annual pilgrimage to the Allen Valley to wander among the bluebells and be amazed.

woodland full of bluebells in Cornwall

He then went for a long and manly cycle ride and I went to my friend's house for a delicious lunch and a girly chat.  As we were leaving she gave us a bottle of Port because she said neither she nor he husband drink it.  What a shame, how sad, yippee!

We do drink it but I feel this is an ideal opportunity to write about other uses for "unwanted" port. Before I come up with all sorts of creative ideas, however, if you haven't already I urge you try port with blue cheese, it's an excellent combination.

The grapes in this picture have been sautéed - see here for more info. 

8 and bit other uses for Port ...

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1.   Blue cheese pâté 

This is a good way to use leftover blue cheese and cheese scraps in general; if the cheese is soft mash it with a spoonful of port, if firm grate first and then mash it together with a spoonful of port!  A little or a lot of freshly ground pepper is good in this.

2.   Add a splash of port to pan sauce after cooking duck or pigeon or even lamb. Here's how to quickly and easily make a delicious pan sauce.

3.   Stir into Cranberry Sauce.

4.   Add to caramelised red onions or whole glazed onions for the final few minutes of cooking. 

5.   Make a marinade for Lamb or Game - equal parts of red wine, port and olive oil flavoured as you will with garlic, black pepper and fresh herbs.

6.   Strawberries are happy with a spoonful of port stirred in (plus maybe a sprinkling of black pepper!)

7.   Add port syrup to poaching fruit - pears, figs and dried prunes spring to mind.

8.   Port Syrup

port syrup running down chopping board
~   Put equal quantities of port and sugar into a small deep pan and stir over medium low heat till the sugar has dissolved.  "They do say" to brush any sugar grains from the  sides of the pan with damp brush but I never bother.  
~   When the liquid is clear turn up the heat till it boils and then turn it down again and simmer till thick which takes about 5 minutes.  During this stage of the proceedings, don’t stir it but do pay attention.  
~   The syrup is ready when it forms a thread if you drip a little off the spoon.  If you have a sugar thermometer you are aiming for 223˚- 235˚F which is 106˚ - 112˚ C.  I usually stop cooking at the lower temperature so that the syrup is still a bit runny when chilled.

This is great on strawberries, brushed over fruit tarts to glaze, drizzled over blue cheese or, even better, drizzled over my Blue Cheese Ice Cream 
Add a little to appropriate sorbet recipes such as strawberry, blackberry and cranberry or make ...

9.   Port & Chocolate Sorbet!

Stir together 2 parts room temperature port syrup and 1 part room temperature melted dark chocolate.  Churn in an ice cream machine or freeze in a shallow container, mashing from time to time for a smooth finish (if you fail in this department call it Port and Chocolate Granita).

For more sorbet recipes see my ebooklet which is appropriately named "Sorbets & Granitas".

Speaking of both Leftovers and Books - my book on leftovers, originally called The Leftovers Handbook is now its 2nd edition and called Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers.  It contains many ideas for leftover wines, fortified wines, spirits, beers and cider plus literally 100s of other leftovers!

leftovers cookbook with ideas for 450 leftovers

A Bit of Summer in the Fridge

On Wednesday 1st May (you probably remember it; this year's summer) I picked some wild garlic and when I got it home washed it and puréed the leaves in my mini food processor together with some soft salted butter. See here for lots of delicious flavoured butter ideas.

bowl of wild garlic butter

I often find that the best way to clean out the food processor is to firstly wipe it out with something edible before washing it.  So having a couple of small crusts (a bit of ciabatta and a tiny crust of multigrain) I made some croutons - tear up bread, wipe out processor with it, spread on baking tray and, next time oven is on, bake till crisp and golden - good with soups, salads or as a nibble. More information on making croutons here.
I put the Wild Garlic Butter in the fridge and waited for inspiration.  So far this is what I have used it for ...

Spicy Noodles with Salmon and Wild Garlic

I had a bit of salmon skeleton in the freezer.  You might think this is odd but we bought about half a salmon from which I cut some meal sized pieces and froze the remains for later use.  I just poached the skeleton for a few minutes and then carefully removed all the flesh from the bones - more than enough for me, in fact I finished it on toast the next day!  Economical or what!

getting every scrap of fish off a salmon skeleton

I also had a few cooked noodles in the fridge so made myself a lovely sudden lunch. 
I just melted some wild garlic butter and tossed in the noodles and salmon till hot, added a squeeze of lemon and finished with an extra knob of garlic butter to keep my cholesterol up!
wild garlic noodles with leftover salmon

A Wild Garlic Hasselback Potato

I think I cooked hasselback potatoes about 30 years ago but if I did the details escape me.  A friend jogged my memory by putting a picture of one on FB so I thought I'd have a go and I have to come clean and say ... it was not quite as nice as a jacket potato, in my opinion.  This is not to say that it was at all unpleasant, mind you.

~   Preheat oven to 400ºF/200ºC/180C fan/gas 6 
~   Wash a handsome baking potato and cut into thin slices BUT NOT ALL THE WAY THROUGH.  Leave them attached by about 10mm at the bottom.
~   Rub with olive oil, season and bake for about 30 minutes. 
~   Brush with Wild Garlic Butter and continue to cook till tender and crisp which could take up to another 30 minutes depending on the size of the potato.

I ate mine with salad, more wild garlic butter and a little freshly shredded Parmesan.

hasselback potato

Crevettes in Lemon Ramsons Butter

We bought some reduced cooked crevettes yesterday and I have just eaten them warmed through in said butter together with a squeeze of lemon.  Yummy over rice.

Orson Welles was Right!

“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.” 
Orson Welles

~  Menu  ~

Crunchy Asparagus and Wild Garlic Omelette
Coffee Ice Cream
Too much chocky sauce
Cake croutons

Having a few leftover asparagus stalks (no tips) in the fridge together with a bowl of Wild Garlic Butter (you may remember my picking the garlic on May Day) I decided to make an omelette and also to try an idea that was in the back of my mind, very similar indeed to my Toast on Eggs I wrote about ages ago.   

~  I thinly sliced the asparagus stalks and cooked them for a minute or two in a dollop of wild garlic butter. 

~  Once tender I set them aside and sprinkled a handful of panko crumbs over the butter in the pan before adding two beaten eggs (seasoned of course).

~  I made the omelette as usual, returning the asparagus just before folding and all was well.

Here is a close-up so that I hope you can see the crunchy bits.

wild garlic omelette with asparagus

Lunch Pudding

Looking through the freezer to see if there was anything for lunch pudding I found a slice of frozen cake and a modicum of homemade coffee ice cream and so lunch pudding was born. 

I also had some Dark Chocolate Caramel Sauce in the fridge which needed warming up to get it out of the jar.  I diced the cake and sautéed it in a little butter till golden then arranged everything tastefully in a bowl ...

coffee ice cream caramalised chocolate sauce, cake croutons

Not bad for a sudden dessert! The reason there is too much sauce is because it was not worth keeping the last little bit. Honest!

ultimate homemade ice cream recipe book

The recipes for the ice cream and sauce are in my book which, with the sun out at last (well it was yesterday!) I thought I'd tell you a bit more about it.

~  or much time effort or having to mash the stuff as it freezes  ~

In this  book I give, I promise you, a quick, way to make truly rich, creamy, luxurious dairy ice cream with no ice cream maker, no churning, no eggs (which was just incidental - I wasn't trying to be healthy) and absolutely no hard work such as stirring!  

The book contains over 100 ice cream recipes plus many more for sauces, syrups, inclusions, accompaniments and serving suggestions such as this maple syrup ice cream (so easy!!) with bacon brittle.

homemade maple syrup ice cream with bacon brittle

How to love a duck!

As you may remember a couple of weeks ago my darling brought home a duck for my sole delectation and as a result I wrote a post on what to do with duck skin and fat which can be so much yummier than one would expect!

This post concerns what I did with the whole duck and that reminds me of a joke my dear departed Daddy used to say ...

Q.   "What's the difference between a fetish and a perversion?"
A.   "A fetish uses a feather, a perversion the whole chicken."

Sorry, a bit off topic there.  So, what did I do with my whole duck?

Firstly I removed all excess fat and then I cut off his (or her) legs and breasts and this is what I did with all the bits and pieces.

Duck Liver Paté and a Cook's Treat

I made myself a cook's treat for lunch.  When cooking professionally I used to store all the duck livers I accumulated in the freezer till I had enough to make Duck Liver Pâté, just like the Chicken Liver Pâté recipe here.  As I didn't expect to be starting a collection, however, I made myself a little something.


~   Trim duck livers by removing anything you wouldn't fancy eating i.e. stringy and/or greenish bits.
~   Sauté the good bits in a little butter and when turning brown but still a bit squidgy add a spoonful of brandy, a good grind of black pepper and a little salt.
~   Serve on a sippet of toast.

Good additions if you have them are balsamic glaze (as shown), black garlic, red onion marmalade or other sweet condiment.


Render the Fat

Chop it up and heat gently in a small pan till all the fat that can melt has melted. Save this fat for confitting the duck legs.

Roast Duck Carcass

I roasted the carcass whilst the oven was on doing something else and then added all the fat it produced to that rendered above.

Duck Stock

Cover the roasted carcass with cold water, bring it to the boil together with some veggie detritus; a bit of onion and carrot, and some black peppercorns, cover and simmer for about an hour. I think a roasted carcass gives a deeper flavour than raw. Turn off the heat, remove  the carcass and set aside till cool enough to handle, but not cold, then strip it of every bit of edible meat; this is much easier done whilst still warm.  Return the meat scraps to the stock  and when cool store in the fridge till needed.  (If any fat sets on the top add it to your collection.) I'm afraid I then threw the bones away.

Prepare Duck Legs for Confitting

Wash and dry your duck's legs,  rub generously with coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and put them in an airtight plastic container in the fridge for 24 hours.  You can add herbs (thyme is good) and garlic. 

Confit of Duck

Confit the prepared legs thus ...

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~   Brush off all the salt, pepper and other seasoning (see above).
~   Wash as thoroughly as heck under cold running water and then soak in cold water for 10 minutes, changing two or three times because you really don't want this to end up too salty.
~   Whilst soaking the legs bring all your reserved duck fat to a simmer in an ovenproof pan.  If you haven't enough add some goose fat which can be bought at the supermarket. You need enough to cover the legs (ignore my photos!).
~   Preheat the oven to 275°F/140ºC/120ºC fan/gas 1.
~   Shake the legs dry and add to the simmering fat.  I also added some coarsely chopped black garlic and more black pepper.
~   Cover the pan with a lid or foil and cook for about 2½ hours till utterly tender.
~   Cool to room temperature and then transfer to a clean, dry plastic container and pour over the fat and juices to cover completely.  Chill till needed.

To serve heat a heavy based frying pan, lift your legs, so to speak, out of the fat and put skin side down into the hot pan to sear.  Transfer skin side up to an ovenproof dish and finish warming through in a medium hot oven - about 400ºF/200ºC/180C fan/gas 6, the skin should be crisp.  Have ready some cooked potatoes, toss them in the residual duck fat in the frying pan and roast alongside the duck.  Any unused duck should be kept completely covered by the fat till you need it.  Once you have used all the duck reserve the fat that is left over for next time you do some confitting - or roast potatoes in it.
Happily the duck juices and flavourings form a delicious goo under the fat as the confit cools in the fridge so use a spoonful or two of this to make a sauce for the duck. It can be quite salty (depending on your rinsing prowess) so use abstemiously, tasting as you go. I added a little duck stock (see above) and port to the sauce.

Rumour has it that Confit of Duck will keep for ages; well it doesn't in my house!  Too yummy by far being savoury, tender and unctuous.

Spicy Duck and Cashew Noodle Stir Fry

For this I cheated a bit which, if you are familiar with Sudden Lunch you will know is not typical of me.  I bought some ready cooked Chilli & Coriander Noodles yesterday from M & S.  having procured said noodles I assembled the rest of the stir fry ingredients ...


Then, as you probably can imagine I ...

~   Stir fried the onion, ginger, garlic and carrot till taking colour and softening.
~   Added the green veggies till bright and lovely.
~   Stirred in the duck meat and noodles and tossed all together till hot.
~   I added the cashew nuts and a little fresh coriander.
~   Tasted the concoction and added a little Sweet Chilli Sauce and a dash or two of soy sauce.


This was very delicious!  I didn't use all of the noodles so was able to make ...

Duck Noodle Soup

~   Remove any fat on the surface of the duck stock.  Separate the duck meat from the stock keeping both.
~   Put the stock into a small pan together with some seasonings of your choice, I add a little finely grated ginger and bring to a simmer.
~   Add finely sliced fresh green veg - I used 2 mange tout, a broccoli floret and half an asparagus spear.
~   Simmer all together till tender.
~   Taste and season - a dollop of Sweet Chilli Sauce is good here (speaking of no cheating!).
~   Add a handful of cooked noodles, the duck meat you have set aside and some chopped fresh coriander.
~   Bung it in a bowl.

I went a bit fusion because I do like some crunch with my food - I shredded and crisply fried half a poppadom.

So there you have it; how to have your wicked way with a duck!  I still have one leg and one breast to eat so that will make umm ... 7 meals for lucky me. Yippee!

Incidentally I still didn't use all of the noodles but it's OK, I have plans!

'Oss 'Oss Wee 'Oss

Yesterday I was lucky enough to go to 'Obby 'Oss in Padstow and it was utterly perfect weather (which was a surprise).

'Obby 'Oss is a strange and ancient pagan festival peculiar to Padstow celebrating May Day. My friend Carol lives in Padstow and we walked down through the woods into the town.

Padstow Cornwall

Even from there we could hear the traditional May Day Song which starts ...

Unite and unite and let us all unite,
For summer is acome unto day,
And whither we are going we will all unite,
In the merry morning of May. 
Arise up Mr. ..... I know you well afine, 
For summer is acome unto day, 
You have a shilling in your purse and I wish it were in mine, 
In the merry morning of May

... and is sung round the town to get everyone (who isn't already up - exciting times) awake and celebrating. This day is HUGE in Padstow and whilst the streets are packed it is amazingly uncommercial - just a wonderful celebration of summer.

This music is played continuously throughout the day and there is much spontaneous dancing in the streets.

red 'oss dancing in Padstow streets

This is the red 'oss ('obby 'oss, of course, means hobby horse but as you can see there is no resemblance) which is the traditional old 'oss, there is also a blue peace 'oss who came into being after the First World War.

Anyhoo they dance to the rhythmic music around the steep streets and harbour of lovely old Padstow being constantly teased by a dancing "teaser".

'oss teaser

Beware of getting too close to the 'oss because if he catches you under his skirts you will be pregnant within the year (I am not sure in these days of equality and PC if this also applies to boys) - fair enough this is a fertility rite!

'Obby 'Oss day in Padstow

That's enough about 'obby 'osses.

Carol and I followed the red 'oss for a while, sometimes it must get tired because occasionally the singers change pace, sing a slow song and the 'oss slumps into a little sleep on the ground for a few minutes - roused by a hearty shout. 

 We then retired to Carol's daughter Wendy's lovely little Bed and Breakfast in the heart of the town, Cyntwell

Cyntwell B & B, Padstow, Cornwall

Here we sat out in the sun eating crab sarnies, gorgeous homemade chocky cake and drinking some refreshing bevvies.

gorgeous chunk of chocolate cake

On the way back through the woods I picked wild garlic and it is my intention this year to make Wild Garlic Butter which I shall then use in a variety of ways.

freshly picked wild garlic leaves and flowers

In other news ...

~ I have a red nose.
~ They must love a party in Padstow, I see that it was a year ago today that I saw my first Christmas advert.