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!