Wednesday, 12 December 2007

It's grim in school

I ate the worst meal of my life today: Christmas school dinner. I couldn't identify the meat (although frankly it'd be lucky if it even had a Bernard Matthews label on it), which can't be good.

What can I say? I did it for the kids. One thing though - if this is the shit they're shovelling down their throats no wonder they can't concentrate.

Jamie Oliver - your work here is not yet done.

Saturday, 8 December 2007


Holy shit this cheese tastes good!

A new cheese made to an old recipe (from the 13th century no less) by the chaps from Neals Yard. It's very similar to Stilton but is not allowed be named as such due to the fact that it's made from unpasteurised milk. According to Country Life it is set to become the new king of the cheeseboard - I'll drink to that.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

24th Pig's Ear

I missed this little treat last year for some reason, so looking forward to this one.

Friday, 23 November 2007

My idea of heaven

This is pretty much my idea of heaven (at least for this evening anyway). Friday night it may be, but I haven't had a proper Cornish Cream Tea in months, so was very pleased to discover the other day that Remy had got some Rodda's Clotted Cream in stock at L'Epicerie.

I'd never made scones before, but managed to pick up a cheap copy of Leith's Baking Bible at a book sale recently, and it certainly didn't let me down. Recipe is below, and these were of course accompanied with the aforementioned clotted cream and home-made strawberry jam. Enjoy :)

Makes 6
225g self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
55g butter
30g caster sugar (optional)
115g raisins (optional)
150ml milk
1 egg, beaten

Heat the oven to 220 C/ 425 F/ gas mark 7. Flour a baking sheet.

Sift the flour with the salt into a large bowl. Rub the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar, if using (and also raisins if making fruit scones).

Make a deep well in the flour, pour in the milk and mix to a soft, spongy dough with a knife.

On a floured surface, knead the dough very lightly until it is just smooth. Roll or press out to about 2.5 cm thick and stamp into rounds with a small pastry cutter. Gather the scraps together and cut into more scones.

Brush the scones with beaten egg for a glossy crust, sprinkle with flour for a soft one or brush with milk for a lightly gloss and soft crust.

Bake the scones at the top of the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until well risen and brown. Leave to cool on a wire rack, or serve hot from the oven (obviously, we opted for the latter of the two!)

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Bad blogger, naughty blogger

I'm sorry, I haven't forgotten about you, and I certainly haven't stopped eating. But I have been consumed with planning literacy sessions and getting up at obscene hours in the morning. My first two weeks on teaching practice now safely tucked behind me, I promise I will blog again properly this week... for sure. I've got some pear chutney to make ;)

Sunday, 28 October 2007

L'Epicerie @ 56

Living the student life is all well and good, but in your late 20's the last thing you want to face is a diet of beans on toast, so, I have got a job. And not just any old job - no siree Bob! Around the time that I'd started to psyche myself up to facing the local pub I noticed a shop being done up just around the corner from where I live. As if by chance it has been transformed into a delicious French Deli, where you will find none other than myself behind the counter (weekends only of course).

Run by a chap called Remy it stocks a good selection of cheeses, charcuterie, fresh bread, croissants and all manner of delectable goodness. Come check us out!

ps - they stock good wine and cider too ;)

L'Epicerie @ 56
56 Chatsworth Road

(pictures to follow shortly)

Monday, 22 October 2007

Falmouth Oyster Festival

I headed back to Falmouth this weekend as it was the Falmouth Oyster Festival. David and I stumbled upon this last year, and it was such good fun we decided it was definitely worth going again. It worked out particularly well as the Beer Festival was on at the same time.

I've been aware of the Oyster festival for years, but for some reason never managed to make it along until last year. It's absolutely top - lots of funny bands, cooking demonstrations, LOTS of drinking and of course Falmouth oysters and seafood. My particular favourite entertainment-wise was the Old Glory Creole jazz Band with Lee Adewole: a bunch of old slightly Grandad-type looking chaps in white shirts, black trousers and skippers hats, well worth checking out if you ever should happen upon them.

Food-wise we an excellent mature cheddar from Worthy Farm (based out towards St Just), the best Scotch Egg I have ever eaten from The Primrose Herd, smoked crevettes from The Cornish Smokehouse, and of course more seafood than I could possibly mention here.

The beer festival was also excellent, held up at Princess Pavilions away from town itself, there were over 150 real ales for tasting, along with a Perry and Cider bar. Believe it or not, not a drop of cider passed my lips, as I'd already been on the Knocker since lunchtime, and was worried about peaking before the rugby game. Still, Helford River from Lizard Ales was particularly fine.

All in all it was a mighty fine weekend. I feel so proud to see Cornwall embracing good, local, fresh food in a way that seems only available to the few that can afford it elsewhere. Perhaps it's due to the distance it is from everywhere else, or the climate - people just seem to be so willing to give it a go, and be proud to produce something themselves.

Incidentally, picture-wise I realise there isn't an oyster in sight, but what can I say - I was happier eating them than taking pictures!

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Ginger Beer - WARNING!

I woke up this morning incredibly fuzzy headed following what turned out to be an all day cider-rugby extravaganza with some friends (two of which were Australian, not that I'd rub it in of course). So, I'm not sure if other people experience this as well, but I always seem to go through an initial enthusiastic hyperactive patch when I wake with a hangover (although some may put this down to still feeling pissed). This morning I thought it would be a great idea to open the first bottle of ginger beer (note, there is no picture of the occasion here). What better way to kick off the day than by enjoying some freshly brewed ginger beer in bed with David? What better way indeed. It seems that my well-capped bottles had developed quite some gaseous build-up, as we soon discovered.

Once released, the ginger beer exploded beyond belief, apparently also enjoying some kind of Sunday morning enthusiasm - which pretty much covered the entire bedroom, and made it smell of yeast, or even 'puke' as David put it. By the time David had wrestled the stopper back on there was only about a quarter of the beer left.

So dear readers, a word of warning: do not attempt to open any home-brewed ginger beer without being a) fully clad in the sturdiest of wet weather gear, and b) make sure you are in a well sealed, waterproof room.

Still, on a more positive note we are now fully immersed in Winter food mode, and what better meal than the good ol' roast dinner? We plumped for a forerib of a beef in the end; a beast of a meal for two people but I just cannot see the sense in doing things by halves. Truth be told we scoffed as much as we possibly could, which was A LOT, and have enough left over for a good roast beef sandwich or two, cottage pie and of course, I get to make some stock ;)

Hats off to David for a top quality roast - I contributed some fresh creamed horseradish and what I can easily say were the best Yorkshire Puddings of my entire career as an enthusiastic roaster. All in all though the roast was his, and I have to say it has set a high precedent for the months ahead.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

More cheese please!

I couldn't resist. I was very pleased today to see some good British cheese coverage in The Independent, via their coverage of the Great British Cheese Awards, held in Oxfordshire over the weekend. I had actually pleaded with David that we make the trip up there, but sadly the car; it's caput (as my mother would say).

They've lovingly attributed this with a full double page spread, and even the 'Ten Best British Cheeses' on the last page of Extra - but more on that in a second.

One particular treat, which I feel compelled to share with you here, was a description of the yard stick by which to measure things. "In the West Country we talk about a five-mile cheddar. You can eat a piece of cheese at lunchtime, go for a five-mile walk and still taste it. That is the sort of thing you are looking for." Brilliant!

Anyway, back to the Ten Best British Cheeses, I'm very pleased to see that the Cornish Blue made it in there at number 8. I'm already hoping that someone out there might take the hint and buy me some in this little blue pot for Christmas ;)

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

'tis the season... to eat pie

For someone who enjoys cooking, and lives in hope that England does have the odd dish or two we should remain proud of, it is with some embarrassment that I admit to you that before today I had never cooked a Shepherd's Pie. It's not that I've not wanted to, I've just never found the right recipe, had enough time or ingredients. I could offer more excuses but you get the point - it's just not happened. Anyway, so to cut a long story short, today I finally did - and it was so worth it!

I feel slightly self-conscious that a lot of my recipes seem to endorse the River Cottage - it's not intentional, however it did seem to make sense that the recipe came from The River Cottage Meat Book. I have to say I was very pleased, and felt the need to share - so here you go. As I may have mentioned before with other recipes, the quality of ingredients will obviously affect the final result, and for me the addition of homemade lamb stock in place of water was an absolute winner.


500g leftover roast lamb (I used fresh mince here, which was fine)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 onions, chopped
1-2 carrots, finely diced
1 garlic clove, chopped
Any juices or gravy saved from the joint, and/or concentrated lamb stock, made from the bone
1/2 glass red wine
1 tablespoon tomato ketchup
1-2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Up to 1kg creamy mashed potato (enough to cover your dish)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Roughly chop the meat into pea-sized pieces. Use a food processor if you like but be careful to stop whizzing before you turn it into paté. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan or wide saucepan that will accommodate everything. Sweat the onions, carrots and garlic in the oil until the carrots have softened slightly. You can let the onions brown just a little.

Add the meat and fry gently until nicely browned. Add the gravy or stock, plus the wine, kethup and Worcestershire sauce, then season with salt and pepper. Simmer gently for a few minutes, add a little water if the mixture looks dry. Taste for seasoning and add a little more ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, salt or pepper, as you see fit. Simmer gently for another 20-30 minutes, until the meat is tender and the flavours well blended. Do a final taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary. Again, add a little more water, or wine (or, as I did, stock) to loosen the mixture if you think it needs it. Whilst you want your pie to be juicy, clearly too runny is not good.

Put the meat in a pie dish and pile the mash on top (it's worth noting here that I made my mash quite dry, using just butter, and no milk or cream. The result was a brilliant crispy topping which I can heartily recommend.) Cover the meat completely and rough up with a fork (you can chill or freeze the pie at this point, for reheating later). Bake in a fairly hot oven (200 degrees C/Gas Mark 6) for 25-45 minutes - depending on whether the pie is warm or chilled when it goes in - until the mash is nicely browned on top and the sauce is bubbling up around the edges. Serve at once, ideally with minted peas.

** Warning, although this is supposed to feed 4-6 people (plus I did actually use slightly less ingredients) it didn't go quite that far. In fact, David and I pretty much almost polished this off in one sitting, but I will definitely be making it again, very soon.

Friday, 21 September 2007

Bottling up

The bottles arrived today, and not a day too soon if you ask me. They're rather lovely too, perhaps a little expensive, but at least they can be re-used. Above is a picture of the straining of the ginger beer plant. I'm still not allowed to sampled the goods for another two weeks, but I'm sure it will be worth it. My only concern is that the ginger won't be 'hot' enough like the Luscombe's Ginger Beer. Does anyone have any ideas on how to get around this?

Monday, 17 September 2007

Ginger Beer cont...

Well, I'm pretty sure that my ginger beer plant is now ready for me to finish off and bottle up. Which is precisely the problem - I have no suitable bottles! They are ordered, so it's just a case of convincing the plant to hang on in there until they arrive. I've ordered some like this from Lakeland. It's worth getting some with stoppers on, as I've heard it's pretty ferocious. This has even been confirmed by my Grandma, who was more than happy to recount the tale of the day the ginger beer exploded in their living room!

Anyhow, this is the recipe I have been following, if anyone fancies a go?

In case you are wondering what is in the bottle next the ginger beer plant, this is some chutney vinegar, which I have stewing for the next month or so. I've heard that the best results for a spiced vinegar come from leaving the spices to seep for a month or two, rather than boiling all up on the day. We shall see, although not for a little while. If you want to do this add your spices to a bottle with either white wine or cider vinegar, and then leave alone, giving it a shake once in a while.

I also made some more blackcurrant jam this weekend. I love the sharper jams such as raspberry and blackcurrant, and luckily I now have more than enough to see me well into the next decade!

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Jam for sale

Yes, shameless self promotion, but I have jam for sale on etsy here. These are only temporary labels - I'll be using Cookie's as soon as I have 'em ready.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Libyan soup with Couscous

My blog has suffered of late, and it is almost bedtime (how things have changed since returning to college) but I wanted first to say that if anything I've been cooking more (lunch options are not promising round the back of the Elephant and Castle at the best of times). Anyway, if I'm posting less it's because I'm settling into the über organisational ways that will be required this year. There is definitely still a place for rub a dub dub though... it might just take a while to find it.

Anyway, I thought I'd share one of my favourite things with you quickly, since I cooked it for supper this evening. Another recipe from Delia (have I mentioned it already?), Libyan soup with Couscous. I think the absolute secret between this being an alright soup and a sublime one is to make your own lamb stock beforehand. I save up all bones, trimmings and leftovers in the freezer just for this very dish. Honestly, it's that good! To top it off I served it with slices of seeded wholemeal bread, fresh out of the oven.

ps (apologies Delia, I was too consumed with the thought of eating it, that I didn't take the time to photograph it lovingly, as I would normally. This picture here has indeed been lifted from your site.)

Bad Ginger Beer Brewer

I have a confession to make - I went away for the weekend, and left the ginger beer plant at home to fend for itself. My recipe (and I am a stickler for following such instructions) says that the plant needs to be 'fed' each day for the next 10. Woops!

Still, on the positive side it doesn't appear to have suffered this neglect, and it's only been set back a couple of days. Now I just need to get my hand on some well-stoppered bottles to put it in over the weekend. I've heard it can be as exciteable as a bottle of champagne. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Back to the chutney

That's right, back less than one week and I've already made another batch of chutney (well, the last lot has almost gone already). This time the recipe hails from Hugh F-W (and therefore under the guidance of Mrs Parret I presume), irresistible to me, the main ingredient is courgettes - bliss!

And then today, this little beauty (along with some brothers and sisters) arrived in our veg bag today. Bearing the proud sticker 'Grown in Hackney by Growing Communities on land in conversion to organic' it is apparently a Purple Calabash. Tasty little fella - I would heartily recommend it to any budding horticulturalist seeking to grow more unusual fare.

And to those requesting the ginger beer recipe, I do promise it is coming, I just want to wait the 10 days to see if the plant (and therefore the beer) is a dud, or one to recommend.

Monday, 3 September 2007

Dark 'n' Stormies here I come!

Today I set up my first ginger beer plant; it might look gross, but I'm so excited!

Saturday, 1 September 2007

A sailor's return

I can get away with this title (just), because I have actually been sailing twice in the last two weeks. Who cares if I don't know the difference between a tack and a jibe?

Anyway, sadly no piccies of food, as I didn't quite manage to coordinate camera with grub, but A LOT of good local food made it's way to my belly (along with a considerable amount of pints of ale). It's fairly safe to say my belly has grown to pasty proportions!

Highlights included a daily pint of Cornish Knocker from the Chainlocker, right on the water's edge. It's one of the nicest places to have a pint in Falmouth - a proper old Cornish pub, selling lots of good local ales from the likes of Skinners and Sharp's Breweries, Weston's Cider and all the right seaside trimmings (framed knot pictures, a ship's anchor outside, that kind of thing). At around 5pm you can sit outside on the benches and watch seals follow the fishing boats in for any leftovers.

Roskilly's ice cream; I've said it before and I'll say it again, the best ice cream I've ever eaten. Top flavours are Hokey Pokey and Blackcurrant Yoghurt.

Pasties from The Natural Store on High Street in Falmouth. Ok, they're organic and from a health food shop, so maybe not the most traditional, but still the pastry isn't over-cooked, there's a good meat/veg ratio, no deviation from the recipe with fancy veg and for £2.50 what more could you ask for?

The farmer's market; just about 4 stalls every Tuesday morning on The Moor in Falmouth. All very local farmers and producers - the antithesis of the London Farmer's Market I guess. Lots of good cheese such as Cornish Blue and Tresco; a softly smoked hard goat's cheese, local veggies and meat, Honey from the Lizard, and finally bread, flour and pasties from The Cornish Mill and Bakehouse. This one was a real winner for me as I've recently been reading bits from Elizabeth David's English Bread and Yeast Cookery (well worth the read if you're into bread like I am) and so was pleased to see that not only do they grow and mill their own wheat (stoneground not roller) they then use it to produce a loaf called 'Homegrown'. It's delicious, quite different from the usual fare, as more flavoursome, and slightly cakier due to the lack of Canadian 'Hard' wheat found in all commercial English bread. Definitely worth seeking out if you're in the area though - it makes the most fantastic toast.

Sadly, due to my lack of a) a driving license and b) a car my edible odyssey was confined to the area of Falmouth. I am planning to remedy this, so there'll be further explorations to come!

Sunday, 19 August 2007

In search of a pasty

Ladies and Gents... I'm taking a short break from the adventures of the city. Expect me to return in just over one week with tales of Cornish Yarg and pints of Knocker

A pie fit for a king

There are a certain few foods that gleam like the light at the end of a bad hangover: a good pork pie is one of them. Sadly, it is also one that is now usually comprised of the worst ingredients. If I tell you that I left Poke this week, and therefore suffered extraordinarily bad hangovers (one of which was yesterday), then I’m sure you’ll understand the excitement I felt when David returned from Broadway Market bearing this little fella.

Sadly the only picture I can offer is that of the label; we scoffed it down that greedily! Still, it prompted me to begin to wonder about making one of my own, and would you know it – I have a recipe for just such a thing in my copy of ‘The River Cottage Meat Book’ by Mr Hugh F-W. It looks like a pie fit for kings, but also like quite a project, so I shall have to come back to this one when I get back from Cornwall.

In the meantime, if you fancy getting one of your own, you may order them here. Apparently a good pork pie will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks!

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Hidden little morsels

Maybe it's just me and the sheltered life I led growing up in Norf London - but I never knew that there was another little layer, tucked inside the stone of a plum. I made another trip to Parkside Farm for some more fruit-jammy-goodness last weekend, and one of the things picked was a bag of Victoria Plums.

Following a recipe from the 'Good Housekeeping Guide to Jam' I noticed that alongside the usual fruit and sugar, you can also crack open some of the plum stones, to reveal the kernel, which are added to the jam whilst cooking. These look like teeny tiny almonds, so I ate one. If you're a fan of marzipan, they are absolutely delicious, as the closest thing to it really - much more so than untreated almonds. Although extremely labour intensive, I'd be interested to see how marzipan made from plum kernels would taste - quite an absurd thought really (although not as absurd as David's desire to make Trout Cheek Pate!) Where was I? Oh yes... Anyway, they add to the flavour apparently, and are also the main source of pectin in a plum, so important if you want your jam to set.

I can highly recommend it too.... it turned out almost apricot-like, although I imagine this depends on which type of plums you go for.

Plum Jam
Makes about 5 lb

3 lb Plums (stoned before weighing)
3 lb Golden Granulated Sugar
A few kernels from the stones
1 pint of water

* I did add a small squeeze of lemon juice too, as I suffer from paranoia that my jam won't set, this also can bring out the flavour of fruit, but may not be needed.

Wash, stone and halve the plums and put in a large saucepan or maslin pan. Cover with the water and simmer gently for about half an hour (take care to simmer gently and stir frequently, or the plums will stick to the bottom of the pan and burn). Once this has reduced down to a good mix take the pan off the heat and stir in the sugar until all has dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for about 5 minutes. Test for a set, and once ready fish out the kernels before potting and labeling in the usual way.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

The state of our food

A fine example of all that is wrong with the way that our food is produced; both in the actual food that ends up on our plates, and the way in which it arrives there, courtesy of the BBC news site.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Luscombe's Hot Ginger Beer

I tried Luscombe's Organic Hot Ginger Beer this lunch time - if you've not had it before it's delicious! Intrigued, I decided to look them up on the Internet. This, on their 'ethos' page made me laugh

'LUSCOMBE drinks are made with purely the finest quality fresh ingredients, without... big, harsh, rasping bubbles the size of toads` eyes.'

Big rasping bubbles the size of toads eyes? I'd love to have been there when that bit of copy was approved! Anyway, expect adventures in ginger beer to appear here very soon, I've tracked down a recipe already.

*apologies for rubbish pic, had to use my phone

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Feeling the effects of foot and mouth

I'm really saddened by this latest outbreak of foot and mouth - last time this happened I was living in Cornwall and the effects were really felt, even though Cornwall escaped relatively unscathed. Public footpaths closed, there was a definite army presence, and the drive between the West Country and London would fill the car with fumes from the pyres - all visible as you drove up the M5.

I've been wondering this week how I would notice the effects this time. Ok, I'm now in London, but by making a conscious decision to buy my meat from a mobile butcher at Broadway Market, as opposed to the supermarket, I've been wondering how long they will be able to visit the market, and whether or not their farm has an abattoir on site. Evidently from this announcement in this week's veg bag, the effects are already being felt at the organic farmers market in Stoke Newington:

"our new meat producers at the market, Nigel and Amanda, couldn't take their pig to the abattoir this week...losing a large part of their weekly income. If you go to any supermarket this week and look at the meat section - it's unlikely that you will even notice the difference. In this situation supermarkets just up the amount of meat they import from outside the UK. Meanwhile, local, small, sustainable meat producers who only have one or two animals killed at a time, and whose animals live in good conditions (with plenty of space and fresh air) will be in serious trouble if the foot and mouth crisis continues."

It's hard to say whether or not I'm pleased this evening that the ban on animal movement is to be relaxed - obviously this means producers working on a small scale can try to resume business - but I do sincerely hope that this means the government aren't going to bungle their way through this problem as they did last time.

I guess (and dare I say this?) the thing that I'm most saddened by is that half of the problem diseases like this are such an issue is precisely because of the way that supermarkets exercise pressure on our farmers and producers, and consequently corners are cut. Ok, not in this instance, but by working on a smaller, more sustainable and manageable scale we can hopefully work towards avoiding these problems in the future.

Monday, 6 August 2007

Granny Beddard's

What with all this jam activity lately an interest has been expressed towards buying my wares (which I must admit is extremely flattering). Although I start college in just over one month (and therefore am not really in any position to start up a business) I have been dabbling with the idea of selling my jams and things.

Although far from being a Granny (there is the technical issue that I have not even had children of my own yet, least of all lived to see them have offspring themselves) I decided that a suitable name for one such venture would be Granny Beddard's Preserves. There is some reasoning behind this, as Grandma has been a nickname of mine in the past, plus it sums up pretty much what you think of when thinking of homemade jam. In the end it was a toss-up between that and 'Good Jam', which frankly just sounded a little too smug. So, Granny Beddard's Preserves it is.

My good friend Cookie has been helping me out with this by designing a label for me (pictured above). All feedback very welcome, but hopefully it shouldn't be too long before I can get this underway.

And, many thanks to Mr Simon Ridgwell from POKE - my first customer!

Jam hot!

Sorry - had to get it in somewhere. Anyway, where were we? Oh yes, more in the adventures of jam-land: I went blackberry picking on Hackney Marshes this weekend. Really I couldn't have hoped for better weather - especially as fruit is apparently all the better for being picked on a hot summer's day (as opposed to the many soggy ones we've enjoyed lately!) I have to say, I still find it absolutely astounding that supermarkets manage to charge as much as they do for blackberries when they're as plentiful as they are in our country, but there you go.

So, of course the natural thing was to turn it into jam! In the end I plumped for blackberry and apple, as I've heard that the centres of blackberries can go quite hard when cooked, so best to mix it with another fruit (although I didn't personally find this to be the case). This recipe comes courtesy of 'Good Housekeeping: Jams & Preserves'. Ordinarily I would steer well clear of anything with such a domesticated title, however in this case it had been recommended by a very good source as the one book to rely on!

Blackberry and apple jam
(makes about 10lb)

4 lb blackberries
1 lb 8 oz sour/cooking apples, prepared weight
1/2 pint water
6 lb sugar (I used Billington's golden granulated)

Pick over and wash the blackberries. Place in a pan with 1/4 pint of the water and simmer slowly until soft. Place the apples, peeled, cored and sliced into another pan with the remaining 1/4 pint of water and simmer slowly until soft; pulp with a spoon or potato masher.

Combine the apples and blackberries; add the sugar, stirring until dissolved over a low heat. Bring up to the boil and boil rapidly until setting point is reached, stirring frequently. Pot and cover in the usual way.

And so - onto the conclusion kids - how to approach this without sounding like a jam judge at the local fete? The jam was a great colour (woah, steady on there Betty) and smelled absolutely amazing! It tastes good, but... I guess ultimately I like my fruits a little sharper (raspberry, blackcurrant). Still definitely worthwhile, and it sets easier too as apples are high in pectin, so not a bad one for beginners to tackle.

Friday, 3 August 2007

more on ice cream - in a roundabout way

I haven't really posted anything in a week, and am feeling suitably guilty. That's not to say that I haven't thought about food, cooked food, or even eaten food; more that I keep finding myself in the position whereby I'm doing something which would be perfect for this, and I've forgotten my camera (as was the case when I visited Parkside Farm last week).

I will be better - I have a lot of projects on the boil at the moment, so more to follow shortly!

In the meantime, more on the subject of ice cream - my second favourite, also hailing from Cornwall, Helsett Farm. Available in the Food Hall on Old Street - their blackcurrant smoothie is also mighty fine!

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Quanitity vs quality

There's a really good post today on the Observer's food blog commenting on Tesco's latest ad campaign. It's so good to see that there are people out there questioning the sacrifice of the quality of our food in favour of the having the lowest prices.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Spiced Plum Chutney

What to do with Alex Light's plums? First off I made some Spiced Plum Chutney last night, which disappointingly only gave me three jars. Still, a little pokey for now - you're to leave this for 4-6 weeks in a cool, dark cupboard before opening. And apparently it's very good with mackerel!

Recipe: Best-kept Secrets of the Women's Institute: Jams, Pickles & Chutneys by Midge Thomas

675g (1 1/2 lb) plums, stoned and quartered
450g (1 lb) onions, chopped
225g (8 oz) cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped
300ml (1/2 pint) pickling vinegar
115g (4 oz) sultanas
175g (6 oz) soft brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick

1. Place all ingredients in a large preserving pan. Bring to the boil and simmer, uncovered, for about 45 minutes, or until the chutney is thick and pulpy.

2. Spoon into cooled, sterilised jars and seal with a vinegar-proof cover (see pages 16 and 22). Label and store for at least 4-6 weeks before use.

* I actually swapped this and made up a basic spiced vinegar instead of using pickling vinegar here, recipe below (courtesy of the chaps at River Cottage):

2 pints cider vinegar
2 inch cinnamon stick
1 tbsp cloves
1 tbsp mace blades
1 tbsp allspice berries
1 tbsp peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp brown sugar

Method 1: Put all flavourings in a bottle and pour in the vinegar. Seal and leave for 1-2 months, shaking the bottle occasionally. This gives the finest results.

Method 2: To spice the vinegar quickly, place the vinegar and spices in a saucepan, cover and bring up to the boiling point. Remove from the heat and leave the steep for 2 to 3 hours, then strain.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Victoria Plum

Following all recent jam activity I've had a very generous donation from Mr Alex Light consisting of one bag of plums, grown in his back garden, down in the darkest depths of Tooting. At the moment I'm torn between the Plum and Mulled Wine Jam and the Spiced Plum Chutney, both from the book 'Best kept secrets of the Women's Institute: Jams, Pickles & Chutneys'.

I must admit that the one recipe which most intrigues me from this book is the Geranium Plum Jam, however despite being cited twice as existing on p42 in the index, I've yet to find this curious recipe anywhere on the page. If anyone has the same book and knows where it is hiding I would be so grateful if you could give some direction!

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Hugh's Raspberry Fridge Jam

Even more on the subject of jam... I thought it would be good to include this recipe of Hugh's Raspberry Fridge Jam as I've tasted it and it's absolutely delicious. My only excuse for not following this recipe when I made mine was that my local supermarket doesn't stock Preserving Sugar, which has added pectin meaning you can get away with less sugar. It's worth it if you can get it, as you get a real taste of the fruit - it's very fresh and tangy. It's also worth noting that this jam will be loser than a normal one, and not be as set.

Makes about 2kg (around 5-6 jars)

1.5kg fresh raspberries
750g preserving sugar with added pectin

Pick over the raspberries carefully, discarding any leaves and stalks. Put half the fruit in a large bowl and roughly crush the berries, then transfer them to a preserving pan or large, heavy stainless steel pan. Add the remaining fruit and the sugar.

Stir the mixture over a low heat to dissolve the sugar, then bring up to the boil and boil hard for exactly five minutes. Remove from heat, leave to cool a little (this stops the pips rushing to the top of the jar when poured) and pot and seal immediately.

If you want a firmer, more traditional set, boil the jam for 7 minutes and the test for setting point.

Because this jam contains a relatively low proportion of sugar, it will not keep as long as a traditional jam. Once opened refrigerate and use within a few days.

Saturday, 14 July 2007

The mackerel massacre

I've been down in Dorset for the past week, staying with David's family. On Wednesday night we had the most beautiful evening and so made the most of it by heading out in their boat for a fishing trip in Weymouth Bay. As eager as I am fishing has never been one of my strong points, and so when John handed me the rod that evening I expected it to follow the normal routine (ie. me going home in a sulk whilst others landed fish a plenty!)

My line hadn't been in the water for more than a minute when I had a definite 'I've got one!' moment. I reeled it in and was very happy to see I had not one but three mackerel on my line. The pressure of my first fish now dealt with things quickly progressed to silly season as I couldn't even get my line down to the bottom before feeling another bite or four.

About an hour and two full buckets of fish later we decided to call it a day. I could feel bad about this, as the boat really did look like a massacre had taken place - however I knew full well that not one fish would be wasted, as this has now stocked up their freezer and will see them through the winter (not that it's any great hardship, but it's nice to have your own caught fish rather than the supermarket's).

I returned to harbour like a happy, proud hunter (or is that fisherwoman) and was even allowed to steer the boat in to harbour. Tomorrow I'll be making the most satisfying fishcakes I'll probably ever make in my life - I am definitely looking forward to my next trip out!

The raspberry jam factory

As previously mentioned I visited The River Cottage recently for the full WI experience (that's Women's Institute). Following that I literally had a jam-making dream for at least 5 nights after - so decided to make some of my very own Raspberry Jam!

To make jam you need to first slowly melt the sugar, being careful not to burn it (as no liquid is added to the fruit and sugar), then quickly get a 'rolling boil' for about 5 minutes (this may vary, depending on what you are actually making). Generally I'm quite pleased with the result, although next time I think would be more careful to get a set with a lower sugar content, as it's a tad on the sweet side. Still all in all, I'd say I felt pretty pleased with myself when I'd finished!

Here's the recipe I used:

Traditional Raspberry Jam
Makes about 2.2kg (5 lb)

1.3kg (3lb) raspberries, washed and drained (it's really important that the fruit is dry!)
1.3kg (3lb) granulated sugar (again, I'd use less next time, and go for Golden Granulated, caster us too fine and is more prone to burning)

Cover the raspberries with sugar and leave over night in a Jam pan (Maslin pan) overnight if possible. This seems to really draw out the juices of the fruit, and is preferable to chucking all in right before putting on the stove.

Put a saucer or two in the freezer - these will be needed later on to test the set.

Cook over a gentle heat for about 10 minutes, taking care not to burn the sugar, but making sure that all is dissolved. No liquid needs to be added, it should just be fruit juice. A tip worth baring in mind here is that it's recommended you try to stir in the same direction, to try and reduce the amount of scum you get.

Once all sugar is dissolved, turn the heat up, stirring all the while to bring the jam up to a full rolling boil. A really big pan is needed, at least twice the size of your volume of ingredients, to ensure that you can get a full rolling boil without worrying about it boiling over. Boil rapidly for 5 minutes and test for a set. This can either be done by placing a teaspoon on one of the saucers from the freezer. Put in the fridge for five minutes. Once it's cooled the surface of the jam should wrinkle when touched, if this is the case it has reached setting point. Another way is to use a thermometer - once the jam has reached 105 degrees C it has generally reached setting point.

Allow the jam to cool for a minute or so - this will prevent the seeds from rising to the top of the jar as it cools down. Pour into sterilised jars and then seal immediately.

For a cheaper version of this you could try substituting half the raspberries with rhubarb or peaches.

Saturday, 7 July 2007

Pick your own

Since my trip to the River Cottage last week I have honestly dreamt about making jam every single night, so was pleased to see this little tip in today's Weekend magazine from The Guardian.

Pick Your Own lists out all pick your own farms across the UK, giving you a run down of what each one grows, where you can find them and even recommends what's in season.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Eat local

Just read a really good article on the Observer Food Monthly's blog, from the director of the Soil Association, Patrick Holden, encouraging people to re-think their food and eat locally sourced produce.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

River Cottage - continued

As mentioned earlier, I spent Monday at River Cottage HQ. Now in it's third incarnation, River Cottage resides at Park Farm, which can be found in the Axe Valley in Devon (and very beautiful it is too). Although no one lives there at the moment they are renovating the farmhouse, where the livestock chap will live, and are perhaps looking to build an annex ready for people to stay on for holidays.

It's hard to pick from the selection, but inspired by my Elderflower Cordial earlier in the year I decided to go with the 'Preserved' class and learn about the dark arts of jam and chutney. Hugh wasn't actually there, but so much the better, as I found myself in the more-than-capable hands of Pam Corbin and Liz Neville. Pam Corbin is co-founder of 'Thursday Cottage', now owned by Tiptree, whilst Liz Neville is exactly the kind of West Country woman you'd expect to meet at a farmer's market.

Unfortunately we didn't actually get much in the way of hands-on experience, but no matter, as the day was absolutely packed full of demonstrations, recipes, tips and hilarious banter. My cupboards can expect to soon be home to:

- Strawberry and Rhubarb Jam
- Gooseberry Cheese
- Berrybena (A summer berry cordial)
- Bramley Apple Curd (absolutely delicious!)
- Gooseberry and Mint Jelly
- Hugh's Raspberry Fridge Jam (again, delicious)
- Beetroot Chutney
- Salted Lemons (great for Moroccan cooking)

It really was a top, top day - so many thanks to the lovely Pokers! I'm hoping to bring in something for you to sample soon.

The River Cottage

Last year from Christmas I received from Poke the most fantastic pressie of a day out at The River Cottage on one of their courses - which I did on Monday. More to follow on this later, but wanted to post a pic first.

* apologies for the picture quality, I left my camera at home, so had to make do with my phone!

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

When the Cheddar gets too much

I was down in Dorset over the weekend, and managed to get in a pint of Cheddar at The Boot in Weymouth. I have to say, it's my favourite pub there and ticks every box that a proper English pub should - although was disappointed to discover that the Cheddar was too pokey for me on this occasion. I hope it was just the end of the barrel, but have heard from the old landlady that it's capable of stripping varnish off the tables when left overnight!

Still, for my next pint I substituted it for one of Boondoggle, from The Ringwood Brewery, which was mighty fine!

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream

In lieu of anything better to say, and in the spirit of summer I thought I would share my favourite ice cream producer with you, just in case you happen to find yourself in Cornwall this summer. Without a doubt ice cream of superlative quality - they are now starting to sell 'abroad' too which is nice!

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Best of British

It has been commented recently that this blog is too serious... still, I thought this post on the Observer Food Monthly's blog about the state of the British diet really good - albeit a bit controversial.

Promise to write something much more light-hearted very soon.

The Rosé's alright

On Friday I somehow (thank you Asi) found myself one of the lucky guinea pigs requested to try out Shoreditch House's new restaurant and kitchen. It's a little different up there to how I'd imagine - the restaurant is laid out as a canteen, with a large farmhouse style French dresser running down the entire length of one wall. All in all though I'd say it was really good.

The food was excellent - I had Beef Carpaccio in Venetian sauce, followed by Roast Suckling Pig. In true student-style, not content with this for my lunch I managed to get a whole other course in my belly, and finished off with the Italian Cheese Board! Some habits die hard.

Personally, I still cannot justify the cost of joining or the enormous annual fee, but I'm sure this place will have no end of fans when it opens later this week.

PS - The rosé was rather alright too!

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

On a scale of 1 - 10

I have come to realise this evening, that I could rate my favourite recipes by how quick I am to taste (read: shovel into my mouth), and therefore, how burnt my tongue will be by the time the dish is ready. Butternut Squash and Sage Risotto is certainly up there, along with Delia's Spinach and Ricotta Lasagne. Is this just me, or do I really have the patience of a small child on Christmas Day?

** Incidentally, when I last cooked Delia's lasagne I swapped the Gorgonzola for... Rocquefort! And the Ricotta I swapped for Mascarpone - don't ask me how but it worked!

Monday, 11 June 2007

What the world eats

Photo essay on 'What the World Eats', courtesy of Time Magazine - this is the UK's representation.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

I am a cider drinker

I am a very big fan of the cider. Oh yes, much research has been done in that department. Sadly though the East End of London isn't quite the best situation for such a taste, so it's nice to see the Guardian cite an online shop dedicated to the love and purchase of good apples.

I was even more pleased to see that they've been visiting the UK Cider Wiki - which I myself have rummaged around in recently. I have (vague) plans to try my hand at cider-making this summer or next; either way, Rose Grant's contribution on Cider By Rosie is entertaining.

ps - my personal fave is 'Rattler', produced by Skinners of Truro and The Cornish Cyder Farm (the latter owning the strapline 'Legless but smiling')

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Borough vs Broadway

I went to Borough Market on Saturday. In terms of London markets it's not my first choice. It's a shame - there's no denying the fact that food-wise you won't really see such a good (if somewhat over-priced) selection anywhere else in London. But It does fill me with the feeling that I've been tricked into going to the Madame Tussauds of the food world...

On the other side of the coin I have happily been going to Broadway Market in Hackney for the past couple of years or so. It certainly does have it's fair share of yummy mummy regulars, but this little market has helped me give up supermarkets without costing a penny more, or sacrificing the food I eat. In fact, if anything I would say it costs less. As a shopper you're not sucked into buying all the extras that seduce you as you wander around the traditional supermarket. Not only that but I can buy fresh local organic meat, good cheeses and lots of other things too. In fact one of the highlights is that it is the only place I have found in London selling raw whole milk (which incidentally, has had no dodgy side-affects whatsoever, and is absolutely delicious!)

ps - not proud of my link there to an article by the Daily Mail, but sadly it was the only relevant one I could find!

pps - photo credit to Mr Royston Beddard

Monday, 4 June 2007

Not on the label...

I am currently reading Not On The Label: What really goes into the food on your plate by Felicity Lawrence. Ok, I can see how to some this may not be the most exciting, but it is really good and well worth the read just for the enlightening stuff on supermarkets (see, told you it wasn't classed as 'exciting').

However, this made this bit of news on the BBC's site even more alarming on Friday. Despite the short-term 'savings' in animal feed for farmers I cannot quite get my head around this has ever seemed to be the logical option.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Is there such a thing as a 'Best Ready Meal'?

I am a really big fan of Leon. The food is really fresh and healthy, absolutely delicious, and reasonably priced too. Perfect. So, I was really shocked to see one of it's founders, Allegra McEvedy, reviewing the 'Best Ready Meals' in Sunday's Observer Food Monthly. It just goes against everything that (I think) Leon stands for.

Was very relieved - and amused - then to see this entry from her on The Guardian's new food blog.

Monday, 28 May 2007

Yummy Vietnamese

I ate out at Namo on Saturday night. It's the best Vietnamese I have ever had, although admittedly I have only ever eaten at three restaurants. The other two were both on Kingsland Road and not a patch on Namo. If you aren't near to Victoria Park they also have a restaurant in Dalston, called Huong-Viet. If it's anything like this I'd say well worth checking out.

Check out Time Out's review

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Soil Association plans to cut down food miles

An interesting article on the BBC's site today about plans from the Soil Association to cut back on food imported by air freight. One option they are set to propose could even strip food of it's organic status if flown into the country.

Click here to read more

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

My life as a photographer - 2

Success! My first published photograph, in last week's issue of Time Out.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Supermarkets shape up

Good news! Both Asda and M&S have announced that they are to phase out food additives by the end of the year. I came across this in The Independent last week. Click here for the full article.

Saturday, 19 May 2007

The Elderflower harvest

'Now is the month of Maying...' aaaand making Elderflower Cordial. I've never made this before, but living in close proximity to a large, free supply I've been looking forward to this one. The recipe comes from a great book The new English kitchen, changing the way you shop, cook and eat by Rose Prince. A great writer, with many a savvy thought on how to improve your eating, avoiding the big four supermarkets - I would recommend it to anyone who likes to know a little more about where their food comes from and what goes in it. Anyway, here's the recipe:

Citric or tartaric acid is necessary to stop mould growing in this cordial. Buy it from Asian shops, if possible; it is very expensive bought from the chemist. (I actually bought mine here)

Makes about 4 litres / 7 pints

5 lemons, halved
5 oranges, halved
1.9kg / 4lb golden granulated sugar
4 litres / 7 pints water
25 very large elderflower heads
60g / 2oz citric acid

Put the fruit and sugar in a large pan and cover with the water. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar, then add the elderflower heads. Turn off the heat and leave to cool completely. Add the citric acid, strain through a cloth into very clean bottles and cork. Drink diluted with water.

Following on from this, David and I decided it would be put to rather good use in a cocktail - so we invented the Elderflower Easy. I like it - I hope you will too!

1 measure vodka
1 measure elderflower cordial
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
top up with soda water

Serve over ice.

Please note
, since writing this I have made another batch, not half so 'elderflower-y' as the first. The conclusion is that to get them earlier on in the season (let's face it, my harvest from yesterday was a little past it) for best results. In addition to this I have had a tip from Miss Katie Theakston, that flowers are best picked earlier on in the morning, when at their most fragrant!

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Back to basics

Not really about food (that to follow), but I have just come back from holiday and really wanted to recommend this place. If you're looking for a basic, chilled, eco place to holiday look no further. Aspros Potamos is just 1km from the coast in South-Eastern Crete, tucked away in the hills. Staying in renovated Olive Farmers' cottages the place has no electricity, with a large solar panel system to provide lighting in the bathrooms and hot water for the shower. Walls are thick enough keeping you cool in the summer, and there are log fires to warm you through the winter - using paraffin lamps and candles for lighting.

This place is absolutely top (if you don't mind roughing it a bit). My only reservation is that in all the good you do staying without electricity you do (kind of) need a car to get around, as it's quite remote.

Monday, 7 May 2007

The elusive Bridfish Smokery

I feel resigned to the fact that every attempt to find this place, open, is doomed. The latest was yesterday, whereby we ended up driving up and down the same road in Bridport, for a good 15-20 minutes! Still, I did manage to catch them at the farmer's market in Weymouth last year, and mighty fine they were too. Particularly the smoked prawns!

For those feeling a little luckier, you can find them here:

Bridfish Smokery
Unit 1 Old Laundry Trading Estate
Sea Rd North

Tel: 01308 456306
Fax: 01308 456367

* Following on from this I can confirm that I have finally managed to visit this place during opening hours. Again, the smoked prawns were delicious, but also the smoked goat's cheese - which believe it or not was polished off in about an hour by just three of us!

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Emma v The Aubergine

I have never been a fan of the aubergine. One of my parents' favourite vegetables; this would be served up at least once a week throughout my childhood. To me they have the texture and appearance of giant slugs. It's just not pleasant. So... last week when one large (and I must admit, fine) specimen turned up in my veg bag I decided it was time to move on.

I made this Middle Eastern dip - Babaghanou - which actually turned out to be quite good. You can make it using Tahini, but I found that this swamped it, so recommend making it without.

Note: I have seen a couple of reviews of this which aren't too peachy elsewhere on the internet, but I crushed the cumin seeds up fresh, which I think makes all the difference!

In Egypt, aubergines were roasted over hot coals until the skin was charred. At home, I char the aubergine directly over the gas flame, turning frequently with tongs until the juices begin to ooze out. It can also be baked in a 220°C oven for 30 minutes.

2 large aubergines
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

Char aubergines over gas flames until soft, then allow to cool. Peel the eggplants and let them drain in a sieve. Peel the aubergines and let them drain in a sieve. Purée the aubergines in a food processor with the lemon juice, ground cumin, garlic clove, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer to a bowl and stir in chopped parsley. Add tehina if you like.

Makes: 2 cups without tehina, 3 cups with 1 cup tehina, if desired

Source: 'Memories of a Lost Egypt: Reminiscences and Recipes' , Colette Rossant

Monday, 30 April 2007

Best steak in town

Mmmm... my weekend got off to a good start on Friday evening with a 10oz Fillet steak at Buen Ayre on Broadway Market. If you live anywhere nearby I would definitely recommend heading there.

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Bernard Matthews shocker

Is it just me, or is there something really wrong about this? I can't quite work out why on earth Bernard Matthews are being compensated for the bird flu outbreak in their factory...

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Spring - the return of the potato cake!

Spring has definitely sprung ladies and gentlemen, oh yes siree Bob! Obvious to many, I know, but I am very pleased to say our veg bag has turned a corner. This was the first week we DID NOT have Purple Sprouting Broccoli (not that I have anything against it), or some long-lost relative to the Cabbage. No no, gone are the bags of kale, endless spring cabbages and the like, and instead we have salad bags, grown locally in Hackney, packed full of herbs and tasty hints at summertime and late bbqs. Bags of chard (some of which I am about to eat) and, joy oh joy; the first corgettes!

So this evening, to celebrate, I have made my first Corgette and Potato Cakes of the season. Brilliant with mayonaise, near sublime with lamb, the recipe comes courtesy of HRH of cooking herself: Delia Smith.

Delia, I salute you!

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Number One Pig

For those of you with aspirations of raising your own livestock but scared of the paperwork, you can now have someone else do it for you.

At Number One Pig you get to choose from a rare breed (native to England) where it will be looked after as though one of their own. When the time is right they will kill and butcher it for you, delivering an affordable alternative to the selection in your supermarket.

Now the only question remaining... do I go for a lamb or a pig?