Silly Season Is Here
No.10 has given the 'go ahead' for work Christmas parties this year (but a cheeky "snog under the mistletoe" should be avoided). Thanks for clarifying, Boris.
But what makes a good Christmas party? Good food? Unlimited booze? Or is it just any chance to let your hair down and have a D&M with Karen in the toilets?
Your Questions Answered: To Brine or not to Brine?!
"Is the whole brining malarkey worth it for Turkey??" From Matt, London
Answered by Sally Abe, Banquist's version of Mrs Claus
Firstly, it's important to understand why we brine a meat. The short answer: it adds flavour and keeps the meat tender and juicy.
There are 3 main types of brine:
Wet Brine: a solution of salt, sugar, water (with the addition of herbs, spices and aromatics e.g. onion and garlic). Simply bring the brine to a boil and allow the ingredients to mix completely and the sugar to dissolve. Then you MUST allow the mix to cool completely before adding the meat. Lukewarm liquid + poultry = not a match made in heaven. So leave to cool and then submerge your bird and leave for at least 12 hours out of the fridge. Remove from the brine, pat dry and roast.
Effort rating = 8/10
Dry Brine: essentially salt, sugar and seasoning applied directly to the poultry's skin. Where a wet brine needs at least 12 hours, this gets going instantly and only needs a few hours to work it's magic. Keep your brined meat in the fridge for the first part, then remove to come to room temp 30 minutes before cooking. Rinse off the brine and then pat dry before roasting for super crispy skin!
Effort rating = 6/10
Buttermilk brine: salt, pepper + buttermilk is all you need. The acidity of the buttermilk will help tenderise the meat and also add flavour, so no need to remove before cooking. This is definitely your go-to for anything southern fried.
Effort rating = 5/10
To summarise, a brine is definitely going to improve the flavour and moistness of the meat. However, quality of the bird is still, in my opinion the most important factor. So choose your meat well first and then if you have time, you can think about brining.
This Week's Recommendation: BEANS TO BRAG ABOUT
Picture this, Amelia a foreign languages student studying in Spain. She's hungover, hungry, broke and a little lazy.
Next thing you know, she's eating creamy Spanish heirloom butter beans straight out of a jar. Amelia remembers closing her eyes to properly immerse herself in that moment, it was the taste of natural, creamy sumptuousness. It was the taste of a BOLDLY BRILLIANT BEAN.
Her legume love turned into a full blown obsession and she created The Bold Bean Co.
These beans really are something to rave about. I would highly recommend their Queen Chickpeas, that are incredible in any veggie curry, spicy stew, or hummus.
I don't quite know the science behind it, but I'm pretty sure it's something to do with them being in a jar that makes them just so much better than their tinned alter-ego's.
This week's recipe: Margherita Pizza Beans
Recipe by Ali Slagle, contributor and recipe creator at Bon Appetit
This recipe has that jammy, brick-red sauce with a marinara pizza vibe and I'm ALL FOR IT.
Switching a cooked-down sauce for fresh toms cooked just enough to bring out their delicious flavour.
I personally love using slightly smaller, cherry tomatoes in this recipe and blistering them slightly to make them perfectly sweet.
Good quality mozzarella here is key and is worth investing it. This really is simple ingredients, done well.
450g Large ripe tomatoes
1 Jar White Beans (Queen B's or Organic White Beans), lightly rinsed
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
500g cherry or cherry plum tomatoes
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 bunch of torn basil leaves, stems reserved, plus more for serving
1 ball of fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. grated Parm, plus more for serving
2 slices of very good sourdough
- Heat your grill up. Halve the large tomatoes crosswise (through the middle). Then, starting with cut sides, grate the toms on the large holes of your grater into a medium bowl; get rid of the skins! Add your bold beans + season generously with salt and pepper.
- Heat 3 tbsp. oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high. Add your cherry tomatoes; cook, shaking pan occasionally, until browned in spots, about 3 mins. Add garlic; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 mins.
- Stir in grated tomato mixture and reserved basil stems. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thickened and flavorful, 10–15 mins. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
- Remove basil stems from pan; stir in ¼ cup basil leaves. Shake skillet to evenly distribute beans. Top with mozzarella and 2 Tbsp. Parmesan. Put them under the grill until cheese is melted and browned in spots, about 3 mins.
- Spoon tomato beans over your toast. Top with more basil leaves and Parmesan and drizzle with oil. Season generously with more pepper.