Saturday, 31 May 2008

Elderflower Season

How funny is this? Our electric hob (yuk!) caught fire not too long ago, and as we only rent this place we decided to make do with a gas camping stove until we buy our own place. It looked hilarious weighed down underneath my ginormous jam pan.

Looking forward to a fresh supply of elderflower cordial - I can easily drink a bottle a week, which can work out to be pretty expensive for something that grows like a weed!

Friday, 30 May 2008

More on school dinners

It's a while since Jamie Oliver bought the current state of school dinners to our attention - and at the time got a very good response (at least from the parents). Alarmingly, this article today highlights how ministers are now going back on their pledge of a minimum spend of 50p for every school meal in the face of our current soaring food prices.

In addition, I have been visiting a relative who's spent time in hospital this year and have to say the situation there is equally as grim. It makes me wonder how on earth anyone is ever supposed to get better eating the food provided? Perhaps odder though is watching someone who's been very sick have very specific advice from a dietitian, only to be ignored by the kitchen, meaning that said patient can't eat anything. The mind boggles.

Still, trying to stay positive the School Food Trust still remains, as set up by the government back when they made their pledge of 50p in 2005, with new standards to be implemented in schools from September onwards. In addition to this the Food for Life Partnership is committed to joining up schools and communities across the country in an effort to ensure good school meals and home cooked dinners. And I suppose I will finally be able to put my money where my mouth is once I'm a qualified teacher...

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Vicky's bread

Sorry... in relating my culinary adventures of the weekend I missed out one very important discovery. Being as obsessed with bread as I am I decided to buy a loaf from the health food shop in Falmouth yesterday, and stumbled upon Vicky's Bread.

I'll just say this; if you are in the area you should seek this out, it's absolutely delicious. Available in quite a few places - get some whilst you can!

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

A fine time had by all

I've just got back from a long weekend in Falmouth, and boy oh boy do they make some stinky cheese down there! Hailing from Penryn (or 'ryn to locals) Menallack Farm make some particularly fine cheese, as sampled by me from David's plate (sorry David), at Ratho.

I really like eating at Ratho as they always seem to go that little bit further than others. For example, in offering fine cheese made about 5 miles outside of Falmouth, served with handmade biscuits made on the premises - superb!

Sadly Menallack Farm do not seem to have a website, however they do offer a mail order service boasting a wopping 36 Cornish cheeses, 16 of which are made at the farm, in addition to another 5 from outside the county such as good ol' Montgomery's Cheddar.

No piccie, but I hope you'll forgive me... I seem to have been quite slack on the photo front recently, but promise to make it up to you.

On another note, dates for this year's Oyster Festival (again, in Falmouth) are 16-19 October. I should be teaching by then (all being well) so I do hope that falls in the half term!

Friday, 16 May 2008

Birthday goodness

Two books The River Cottage Fish Book and Ottolenghi: The Cookbook. Both look absolutely awesome and I can tell will get a lot of use. I have found my River Cottage Meat Book indispensable over the past year, and with eight weeks off this summer am looking forward to catching as much with my fishing rod as possible!

Also, last night we went out to have dinner at Ottolenghi in Islington with my Dad and Aunty Stella - it was so good, I highly recommend it. The food was delicious, (washed down with a particularly fine Sancerre I might add) and I also loved the fact that the atmosphere was relaxed: it made for a very lovely meal had by all. I did actually take my camera, but like all good meals when it came down to taking pics I thought "Sod that, I'm eating!"

There you go, one very good reason why I am no good at restaurant reviews: too gushy by far. And so, looking forward to the continuation of birthday goodness this evening amongst friends at the Royal Oak. Hurrah.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

the first mackerel of the summer

Went fishing again this weekend in Weymouth, and David and I managed to catch a couple of dozen mackerel between us - surprising for this time of year, but I'm certainly not complaining!

Friday, 9 May 2008

A note on my Mother

She's alive and well... I hope to bake my first loaf tomorrow (today = Friday) - cannot help but rub my hands in glee. I've been lifting the tea towel off the top for hourly checks on her progress! Looking good mah man - looking gooooood!

BBQ Good-ness

Our first BBQ of the season - and bloody brilliant it was too if you don't mind me saying so: black bream, haloumi, red pepper, courgettes and salad (all veggies via Growing Communities) all washed down with a bottle of rosé. Lovely job.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

On having expensive taste...

David has commented on numerous occasions over the past year or so that we are, in fact, food snobs. I have always re-buffed such claims, suggesting instead that there is nothing wrong with wanting good, honest food. The majority of the time this means I end up undertaking a degree of culinary experimentation, however it also means that from time to time I spend ridiculous amounts of money of things I do not yet have the means to make (such as cheese and wine).

The upshot of this is that the problem with expensive taste is the amount of money you end up spending, particularly when you like drinking half-decent French red wine. So... having just had a little snoop around the St. John site I was overjoyed to discover that not only do they have two fine restaurants - they also have an online wine shop. It looks all too tempting, and better yet, affordable!

Dear readers, I shall investigate very soon!

[the pic used above of course, comes courtesy of their site]

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Pleased to eat you

I have a great food swap going on at the moment. A friend of mine loves fishing, and goes regularly to the reservoirs by Walthamstow Marshes. He catches more trout than he knows what to do with.... but luckily also has a penchant for croissants with jam (can you see where this is leading?) Anyway, we've got a trout for jam deal - suits me just fine! This is the second of the season - yum :)

Monday, 5 May 2008

Small problemo...

In announcing my boycott following a recent price hike on sourdough bread I was perhaps a little hasty... have just looked at what's required to make one loaf of bread, and it sounds like it needs an awful lot of babysitting and attention. Fine in the school holidays, but perhaps not too practical for your morning toast... darn it. Still, it has also been pointed out that there is a potential gap in the market for some healthy competition ;)

Still, day 2 of the Mother and all appears to be ok - it looks suitably disgusting and I'm guessing by the bubbles that fermentation has begun!

On another homemade enterprise note - elderflower season starts soon - better order some citric acid.

Meet my mother

Due to another recent price hike on my local loaf of sourdough bread, I've been prompted to make my own. The exciting thing about this is that rather than using conventional yeast you need to use a 'mother' instead. I suppose it's fair to say that you wouldn't normally associate the word exciting with bread making... but then this is almost more of a home science experiment than anything else (somewhat like my doomed attempts to make ginger beer...)

So, taken from Beyond Nose to Tail by the chaps of St John, here is the recipe I have plumped for. Posting of sourdough recipe shall depend upon my success with the Mother. Wish me luck.

1 stick of rhubarb
210ml water
2 tbsp live yoghurt
50g rye flour
50g wholemeal flour
100g strong white flour

Day 1
Chop the rhubarb into slices 5mm thick and mix with the water and yoghurt. Add the flour and stir until you have a wet, lumpy mixture. Place in a clean container, dust with white flour and leave somewhere warm (around 26-28 C)

Day 2
Just give the mixture a stir and dust with white flour again.

Day 3
Stir it again; you should see signs of fermentation taking place. Add 4 tablespoons of white flour and 4 tablespoons of water, mix well and dust with white flour.

Day 4-5
On Day 4, discard about a third of the Mother and replace with a fresh quantity of all the ingredients except the rhubarb. Repeat on Day 5.

Day 6
The Mother should now be ready to use in your bread making - it should be bubbly and smell strong and sour.

After making a loaf, you will need to replenish the Mother with half and half flour and water, in equal quantities to the amount you took out - so if you make a White Loaf for example, using 100g of Mother, you would have to replace it with 50g flour and 50 ml water. The type of flour you use for replenishment depends on which loaf you plan to make next: for a white loaf use strong white flour; for brown, use 25g strong white flour and 25g wholemeal flour.

After replenishing, leave the Mother to ferment for a day before use. You can leave it in the fridge without feeding for months but it will take a few days to restart it by feeding it - again, discard about a third and feed it equal parts flour and water. Repeat this until there are signs of fermentation.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Hotel Ammos

I forgot to mention where we went on holiday - Hotel Ammos - it was absolutely lovely and perfect for two such worn out people as David and I were when we arrived. The staff went beyond what would normally constitute good service, accommodation was comfortable and luxurious, and of course the restaurant did not disappoint. Highlights included Spinach Pies (pictured above), Zucchini Balls, Fennel Pie and the best Greek sweets I've ever eaten.

I felt so inspired upon return that I instantly ordered this book from Amazon.

Friday, 2 May 2008

hurrah for the internet

My first order of booze from St John (or HG Wines) has arrived!