It’s National Brownie Day today so I made a little film about how to make salted caramel triple chocolate fudge brownies for Metro.
For the film and full recipe and instructions you can check out the Metro posting here: Salted caramel brownies.
It’s National Brownie Day today so I made a little film about how to make salted caramel triple chocolate fudge brownies for Metro.
For the film and full recipe and instructions you can check out the Metro posting here: Salted caramel brownies.
DORITOS SCOTCH EGGS! Yes they really are as good as they sound too!
Well it was April since I last posted anything as it’s been a rollercoaster of highs and lows here at the cottage. I had a nasty head injury and struggled to work so any recipe development went on paid work for Metro, (see my stuff here) BUT, I’m back again, revamping the site and hoping to put more time and effort now I’m pretty much back to a half functioning adult 🙂
So to kick things off here is a little recipe I did for National Sausage Week the other week, it involves crunchy cheese Doritos, sweet chilli sausage meat and a perfectly runny golden yolk, what’s not to love?
The recipe for these beauties are in this handy little film I made…
Another of the recipes from my wild food in the kitchen talk at Old Dalby WI, this is a really simple quiche that you can chuck all your green bounty into.
Now once I’d admitted that I hadn’t made the pastry for this myself I thought I would have been politely escorted from the village hall by the WI ladies but they very generously did not revoke my speaker’s pass and allowed me to continue!
The amount of pastry from one block of Jus-Rol shortcrust pastry makes enough for one large quiche and 3 mini ones, just saying 🙂
Wild greens quiche:
1: Wash your greens and blanch in boiling water for a couple of minutes, drain, squeeze out any excess liquid and roughly chop.
2: Roll out your pastry and put into a tart tin with removable bottom, use a bit of pastry to push the sides and base down. Cover with some baking parchment and fill with baking beans and bake in an oven heated to 180C for about 15 minutes.
3: Remove the parchment and beans, gently prick the base with a fork and return to the oven for about 7-10 minutes.
4: Fry the onion in the butter occur a low heat until soft but not coloured, allow to cool.
5: Mix the flour together with one egg and a little of the milk to form a paste, add the remaining eggs, cream and milk and mix really well.
6:Add the cooled onions and butter and season generously, add nutmeg if using.
7: Arrange the greens over the tart base and then pour over the mixture,
8: Reduce the oven temperature to 170C and bake the tart for around 35-40 minutes.
9: Once the tart is baked, trim off the pastry edges to tidy it up ( I haven’t yet done this in the pic above) and serve either warm straight away of allow to cool.
Last night I was in Old Dalby giving a talk and cookery demo to the lovely ladies of their WI about incorporating wild food into the kitchen. Regular readers of this blog and those who follow my Twitter account will know I am a huge fan of raiding the wild larder for my recipes so it was wonderful to see so many people in the village hall who were keen to know more about it.
I brought along plenty of things to try and will be popping the recipes up on here over with the tag “Old Dalby WI” if anyone wants to find them all.
First up are these little wild garlic pesto ciabatta rolls. I always make a HUGE batch of wild garlic pesto when the season hits, I put plenty into jars and store in the fridge and the rest I portion off into ziplock bags and freeze flat allowing me to break some off throughout the year and stir into pasta, make more bread, serve with lamb, make hummus, basically I use it in most things!
Wild garlic pesto:
Wild garlic pesto ciabatta bread rolls: (makes 12)
1: Put your flour and salt into a mixer, give it a stir and make a well in the centre.
2: Add the honey to the warm water and stir to dissolve, add the yeast and stir then the oil. Pour into the flour.
3: Have the bread hook attached to your mixer, start the machine on slow speed then increase to medium high, mix for a good 10-15 minutes or until the dough has formed a soft, smooth ball (my mixer is a bit rubbish so it took a while but just keep an eye on it).
4: Put the dough in an oiled bowl (the mixer bowl is fine) and cover, allow to rise until doubled in size.
5: Roll and stretch the dough into as close to a rectangle as possible then cover with a layer of pesto.
6: Roll lengthways from bottom to top, stretching as you go to make a swiss roll kinda thing then slice into rounds and place these into an oiled muffin tin.
7: Cover and allow to rise for an hour or so in a warm place.
8: Sprinkle with some blue poppy seeds and bake in an oven heated to 180C for around 25-30 minutes, during the last 5 minutes brush the tops with more olive oil. The rolls are ready when you tap on the base of one and it sounds hollow.
The humble leek is so often overlooked as a star in its own right. Google “leek recipes” on an image search and you’re met with recipe after recipe of pies and tarts and soups but to simply roast it really allows this wonderful allium to shine.
I always grow leeks in my tiny garden but once they are all devoured I turn to my wonderful growers Bridget and Maureen over the border in Lincolnshire. I buy pretty much all my veg from these fab ladies every Sunday at my local car boot sale as they can’t be beaten on quality, freshness and price.
What better to accompany these Lincolnshire leeks than some finely grated smoked Lincolnshire Poacher cheese, an easy match made in flavour heaven and the easiest of starters or side dishes to make.
The charred outer skins take on a wonderful flavour and texture whilst inside the leek is soft and sweet. A goat’s cheese or Wensleydale would also work beautifully with this dish simply crumbled over before serving.
Roast leeks with smoked Lincolnshire Poacher cheese:
Roast in a very hot oven (I use my max setting of 225C) for about 10 minutes or until they look like the above picture.
Use a microplane to finely grate over your cheese, sprinkle with the Greek basil and serve immediately.
It’s taken me a long time to try Peters Yard crispbreads but when a free box arrived in my goats cheese delivery from Brockhall Farm (best goats cheese EVER) just before Christmas I had a nibble and was immediately hooked. Those wafer thin biscuits are SO good with cheese and a dollop of chutney but MY GOD they cost a bloody FORTUNE to buy.
The only logical option was to make my own and by my second attempt I had perfected the art of getting wafer thin crisp breads that have the perfect snap to them and are boosted by a selection of my favourite toppings.
So the crisp breads are perfect and what about the topping? Well the fab folks at The Wasabi Company sent me some of their fresh wasabi rhizome that they grow down in Dorset, along with a plant for me to plant and grow myself (whoop!). I used to use lots of fresh wasabi when I lived in Japan, we would grind some on a piece of shark skin at my friend’s sake bar in Kyoto and sip sake in between doses of wasabi or miso paste.
The tubes of “wasabi paste” that you buy over here are made up mostly of regular horseradish and only a tiny percentage of actual wasabi so finding out that it’s grown right here in the UK was a revelation, thanks Pam Lloyd and Polly Akielan!
Wasabi cream cheese and smoked salmon topping:
This bit couldn’t be easier, simply grate your fresh wasabi and stir into cream cheese, yep that’s it. Spread your cream cheese on the crispbread, top with smoked salmon, a squeeze of lemon, some freshly ground black pepper, sea salt flakes, chopped fresh dill and cress. So easy and so addictive.
For the last 2 weeks I’ve been living on juices of fresh vegetables and fruits. Yep, three times a day I fire up my juicer and that’s my day’s food sorted. Yes this sounds pretty weird but a few weeks ago I was feeling so poorly with a bug that was going around that I started to think a great deal about the body’s ability to heal itself.
I figured that my body wants to heal itself, indeed it does heal itself constantly throughout the day and in order to do this it needs me to give it the right nutrients. I decided to try eliminating any bad nutrients (ALL the funs stuff) and JUST give it the good stuff to see how that affected it, if at all.
It was pretty tough to start as I also write for Metro and am commissioned to create a recipe to accompany each episode of The Great British Bake Off so I’ve been baking a HUGE amount of delicious food that I wasn’t able to eat (OK so I HAD to try a bit).
The hardest may have been Pie Week as I made about 20 pork pies and they were all kinds of awesome including this gorgeous monster pork and piccalilli pie with homemade piccalilli…
BUT I persevered and I feel SO much better for it. Every now and then I cheat and make something to eat, always raw and packed full of nutrients though and this courgette hummus has become quite a regular fixture on my “cheat” menu. I got the idea from a brilliant book called Eat Yourself Beautiful by Lee Holmes which I was sent earlier this year, it’s an absolutely brilliant book and I highly recommend it. In the book Lee uses blanched almonds as the base with the courgette but I prefer the Omega mix and played around with the recipe until I found something that worked for me.
Raw courgette hummus
Simply put everything into a food processor and blitz until smooth, sprinkle with some more Omega seed mix.
I’m not going to waste any superlatives describing this cake, it rocks in all the best ways, end off.
Limoncello lemon drizzle cake
For the cake: (makes 2 loaf tins)
For the drizzle:
For the icing:
I’m currently in the hills of Andalucia in Southern Spain. I’ve been here for 9 days so far looking after my friend’s villa and animals whilst she is over in the UK. I’m in food Heaven. The abundance of incredible ingredients that grow all around the villa is inspiring, this is a country where you drive over oranges, lemons and olives as you go about your business and the local supermarket has a seafood counter with more shellfish and fish than you could shake a filleting knife at, 5 different types of shrimp alone has me jumping with excitement.
Whilst at the supermarket the other day I picked up a bottle of Spanish gin for just €6, worth a try I figured. Well it’s really rather wonderful, heavy with aromatics of angelica and coriander and surprisingly smooth for such a price I took it back to the villa. Here at Sheila’s gorgeous home she has both rose and hibiscus plants growing so naturally I thought these would make a wonderful addition to the newly acquired gin.
If you’ve never made your own gin before you’ll be surprised how easy it is! Last year I wrote a super easy guide for fMetro on how to make your own gin (do give it a read).
Hibiscus and Rose Gin <
1 bottle gin
1 tablespoon juniper berries
8 green cardamom pods lightly squashed
2 handfuls dried rose petals
10 hibiscus flowers
1 teaspoon pink peppercorns
Simply drink some gin to make space in the bottle then add the aromatics and put in a dark place to preserve the colour ( it will go bright pink). Leave for a week then strain off the aromatics and pop in the freezer.
*Wordpress on IPad and iPhone is a bloody nightmare so apologies for poor layout and grammar but it won’t let me correct anything grrrr*
Like its spelling, everyone has their own way of making humous, I like mine without loads of oil but rammed full of added spices so I can tuck in to mountains of it guilt free. This is a really simple recipe, I vary it slightly depending on what fresh spices I’ve acquired and if guests are about I usually add more olive oil and less water (it’s the chef in me I just can’t help it).
Humous with zataar and sumac
Usually if anyone mentions the word “Quinoa” I’m immediately turned off a dish, it’s often made so badly that it resembles a soggy mush of squirly disappointment but if cooked well and combined with some peaky flavours it’s actually rather nutty and lovely and this salad proves just that.
Superfood salad with cocoa nibs
I had a meeting in Leicester on Wednesday so took the opportunity to head to Radio Leicester and catch up with the wonderful Ben Jackson with whom I do the Food Friday cooking items. Ben had just been at the Chelsea Flower Show the previous day and was telling me about an amazing Lebanese meal he went for in Knightsbridge at a restaurant called Randa, he raved about a parsley dish that I knew I needed to go and experiment with.
I’ve been sprinkling this on everything: BBQ’d fish and meat, flat breads smothered in humous and my personal favourite is to dive into it using a piece of crispy smoked bacon as a spoon, yeah, all the ace.
Parsley and fennel salad
Just combine everything in a bowl, stir well and leave for at least 2 hours if you can at room temperature before serving then keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.
So yesterday was my first day back doing BBC Radio Leicester’s Food Friday show with Ben Jackson since my knee operation last month. I’m still wobbly and having to use a crutch or two but by far the most agonising thing has been not being able to stand up to cook. It still hurts but my body feels completely out of kilter and my mind suffers if I can’t spend at least a small amount of time each day creating stuff in my kitchen.
One of the positives of being on crutches is that I’ve had to get a cleaner to come and help me around the house, she’s all kinds of ace and as it turns out an awesome cake maker who was telling me about a Black Forest cheesecake she made recently, a lightbulb flashed on in my mind and these rather kickass fudgy brownies were created.
You can hear me making this, it’s only 11 minutes long, by clicking on this link where you will also find the recipe. We always have a blast in my kitchen and yesterday was no different, although he did edit out my “only special people get to drink out of Lady Diana’s cup” line….
What I also forgot about was the “surprise” that I mentioned in the clip, this is simply to swap the cherries for Cadburys mini eggs, perfect for Easter 🙂
Black Forest Chocolate Brownies (makes 12)
For the glaze: (optional not essential)
For the topping:
Well it’s been quite some time since my last post as I had to take some time out, I’ve had knee surgery and since coming out of hospital 14 days ago I’ve been so foggy with painkillers and pain that the thought of writing a post was as daunting as writing a novel. I’m still laid up in bed wearing a knee brace but on Sunday my friend Andy came round, so excited was I to see someone who didn’t work for the NHS that I created this beauty of a cocktail to celebrate.
This gem of a tipple will kick the ass of your hangover out the back door and pep you up a treat, where the traditional Breakfast Martini uses marmalade and gin I’m using a whisky marmalade and vanilla vodka, basically because I’m stuck indoors and can’t get out to buy anything but it turns out it’s WAY nicer to boot.
Ultimate Hazy Breakfast Martini (serves 2)
So last night I tweeted this pic of my dinner, a scampi sandwich with homemade tartare sauce and then was flooded with responses on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Some shocked that I would put scampi in a sandwich, which seems odd as they are perfectly happy with a fish finger sandwich, most now with hardcore cravings for scampi or fish finger sandwiches, but also many wanting to know how I do my tartare sauce, well I cheat.
If you want to make your own mayonnaise from scratch for this then Nigel Slater has a good recipe but if I’m having a scampi sandwich for tea it means I’m tired and time short and need some quick comfort food and not to be faffing about making my own mayo, which to be fair I never bother with anyway at the best of times.
Well it’s been ages since I’ve had time to post anything, I’ve been off gallivanting down in the South West rather a lot and dashing about working on lots of little projects. Christmas was a time of hedonistic indulgence, I’m still in Christmas mode to be honest, my tree is still up which means by Festive Rules it’s still fine to just eat cheese for breakfast.
I’m always finding chicory in the Reduced Section at the shops, people seem to be a bit nervous about using this bitter leaf, this works in my favour as it means they are always in cheap supply.
I like to use a crumbly cheese, creamy with a bit of tang, a good Wensleydale works really well, don’t go for the cheap stuff though as they have very little flavour. Feta works well as does a fresh ewe’s curd.
I’ve been all over the country recently, I was at the BBC Good Food Show at the NEC in Birmingham last Wednesday then straight off to Cornwall to The Scarlet Hotel and Spa and the beautiful Tregothnan Tea Estate, posts about all of that coming soon but it has meant I’ve been snowed under catching up with work since I returned.
Yesterday I found myself sat at my computer at 4pm, freezing cold as I’d not lit the fires, in the dark as I’d been concentrating so much I hadn’t realised the night had arrived and most importantly, ravenously hungry as I’d still not had breakfast. This called for something quick, comforting and nutritious.
This dish is wonderfully comforting, the deep, sweet muttony flavour from the mutchetta coats every grain of orzo and the greens are delicately steamed to retain all their flavour, colour and texture. It’s a bit of a joy this dish and I’ll be making it over and over again.
Orzo with muttchetta, cavelo nero and sprout tops:
If you follow me on Twitter you will have seen me getting all excited about a new bit of kit that has arrived in my kitchen courtesy of Sous Vide Tools. Now if you know me in real life you will also know that it’s pretty much the only gadget apart from an electric whisk that’s now in my old cottage.
The chairman of the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association had a dodgy meat experience in Bangkok 15 years ago which was enough to turn him vegetarian, similarly 5 years ago I had a dodgy sous vide experience at a swanky hotel in Belfast that saw me declare sous vide as the death of cooking and never looked back.
So when I was asked if I fancied trialling some sous vide kit I knew they had quite a battle on their hands to change my mind. That hotel kitchen had ruined a perfectly good, carefully sourced bit of beef and turned it to textureless mush five years ago and it had put me right off. Sous vide was the Devil, right?
Well, it turns out that it’s pretty damn hard to screw up a steak using sous vide, you really have to go out of your way to do it to the point that I now believe it was some kind of deliberate, calculated meat hating vegan that prepared that steak. What that chef had done to that poor bit of cow I don’t know but I hope to their god he or she isn’t still doing it.
So last Saturday I headed off to Cambridge to meet up with Alex from Sous Vide Tools at the Steamer Trading Cookshop where he was running demos of the Thermo Circulator that I was going to be receiving. I told Alex about my “Steak from Hell” experience and he perked up: “Wait until you try this bit of bavette that’s been cooking for 29 hours” he said. Oh god, I thought, here we go again. Then, I tasted it. Oh, actually that’s beautifully tender with great texture and still pink, not tasteless mush AT ALL, and bavette, also known as flank steak is a really tough cut. Hmmm OK hit me with your next bit of wizardry Alex.
Next up was a chicken breast, perfectly moist and intensely chicken-y and cooked in under 1 hour. So not everything takes DAYS? Ok, so it looked like everything I thought I knew about sous vide was actually totally and utterly wrong.
I was then off to eat lunch at Alimentum which holds 1 Michelin star under the care of Chef Patron Mark Poynton. What happened next was by far the most incredible dining experience I’d had since Comerc24 in Barcelona five years ago. His food made total sense, it was exciting, surprising and perfect in every way possible. One week later and I still think about a dish of pork, langoustine and caviar at least three times a day.
I had arrived in Cambridge highly dubious about sous vide cooking and what benefit it could have for me in my own kitchen, I left in complete awe of Mark’s cooking and excitedly impatient for my kit to arrive on Monday.
Monday arrived as did the kit, a Thermo Circulator, vac pac machine, bags and a big plastic container. You don’t actually need the container, you can attach the Thermo Circulator to a big stock pot or even a bucket. I unpacked everything and got straight to work, I filled it with warm water and got rid of my temperamental toaster to make room for it on the counter. But what to cook first? Something simple I figured, I had some bargain no frills Tesco carrots in the fridge, perfect. I peeled them, vac packed them and whacked them in at 85C for 30 minutes.
I took the carrots out and popped them in the fridge for later. Reduced the sous vide temp down to 64C and decided to try my own chicken breast experiment:
Sherry and porcini chicken breast:
Vac packed and in the sous vide at 64C for 60 minutes. During the last 20 minutes I returned the vac packed bag of carrots to warm up then just put everything into a bowl. Easy, ace, nutritious, packed full of flavour and boozy, whats not to love? I’d really like this on a bed of noodles or rice if I fancy a bit more carbs.
Some more recipes from those few days…
48 hour beef ribs in quince gravy:
Put everything except the quince jam into a bag and vac pac. Sous vide at 64C (so I could also cook chicken at same time) for 48 hours. Open bag, remove ribs from liquid, pan fry in very hot pan to sear then remove and set aside under foil. Pour liquid from bag into pan, add quince jam, stir and and reduce until thick and sticky (about 5 minutes). Strain liquid over the ribs.
Whipped bone marrow butter with smoked salt:
This is something I’m REALLY proud of. It’s pretty awesome even if I do say so myself and I’m having it on everything, it’s magic butter, everything tastes better when smothered in it.
Put the bone pieces into a bag and vacuum seal. Sous vide at 64C for about 2 hours. Pour into a bowl and chill in fridge to set. Meanwhile whip the butter until smooth and light. Remove any stringy bits from the marrow, break up with a fork and whisk into the whipped butter until thoroughly combined and fluffy, season with some smoked Halen Môn salt.
If you want to keep some and freeze some then portion off and roll into cylinders using cling film. Chill in fridge to set. Sous Vide Tools also sent me a smoking gun to play with, IT’S AWESOME, so I unwrapped a couple of the set butter cylinders and placed them in a big bowl along with some whisky (yeah smoked whisky rocks), covered with cling and smoked with some apple wood chips before re-clinging and returning to the fridge.
That bone marrow pasta dish is such a thing of wonder that I’m going to do a separate recipe post for it, it’s a heavenly, silky, meaty, carby delight.
So theres a few recipes from the last few days, I have a pork belly that was brined for 12 hours and bathed for 36 that is currently being pressed in the fridge and 6 hefty ox cheeks currently languishing at 60C for 48 hours ready for my birthday dinner party tomorrow. Oh and yeah there is also some gin being infused with apple and cardamom floating about in there. It’s brilliant. I love it.
Sous Vide Tools are offering a really incredible deal for readers of this blog, I NEVER do things like this but I’ve been so impressed with the kit that I am really happy to do this offer. Basically they are very generously knocking a whopping £100 off their usual price of £449.99 (incl VAT)for their Polyscience Creative Promotion. This is a saving of £100 on the normal package price and a saving of £121.77 on the items if bought individually so a brilliant deal! I’m totally thrilled about this! All you need to do is either call Sous Vide Tools on 0800 678 5001or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org and quote the name “HAZEL” for your discount. This offer ends December 31st 2013 so it’s the perfect Christmas present to yourself or someone you really like!
I’ll keep posting my sous vide recipes that I’m working on, I’m still to do fish and desserts yet.They do wonderful things to eggs just look at this duck egg…
So it’s Halloween this week so what better excuse to make some frightfully potent cocktails? This is what I made the gin jelly worms for the other day, because you can never haver too much gin in a martini.
I am not a fan of vodka, I find it boring, give me a gin martini any day. I’ve also only gone and written a piece about how to make your own gin for Metro. DO IT, it’s SO easy and in just 3 days you will have the most deliciously aromatic gin you could imagine!
I use frozen blackberries as they help keep the martini chilled. You can put the blackberries in the lychees in advance then freeze them so they keep your drink super chilled without watering it down.
The other day I saw a picture posted of some jelly woks made using some straws. Hmmm I thought, what’s better than jelly worms? Jelly worms made of gin obviously.
These are really easy to make so long as you buy quite big straws, unlike my tiny thin ones, an evening trying to blow gin jelly out of a tiny straw made me very nearly pass out. Luckily this made me discover that you can actually just squeeze the worms out.
I opted for multi colour ones with some edible glitter in, just because I fancied something a bit jazzy as they were going to be going into a cocktail.
I love bacon, when dry cured and smoked by someone that cares it can be classed as medicinal. Many a hangover has been soothed and staunch vegetarian has been broken by some well loved bacon. I also love mutton, that deep extra “lambiness” of an animal that has spent a good couple of years gently grazing on good British grass can’t be beaten. Great mutton needs to be hung for a good three weeks though in my opinion so that it becomes tender, then you can cook it pink as you would lamb or hogget.
The highlight of my day was discovering how kickass the cured mutton breast was. Deep, intense mutton flavour with a sweet saltiness and full of the aromas, just wonderful and completely addictive.
I’ve recently returned from spending time at the amazing new countryside skills and cookery school that is Vale House Kitchen near Bath. I really can’t recommend this place enough, they teach everything from fly fishing and how to prepare, cook and smoke your catch to game shooting and its cookery, foraging, bread making, the works. I wrote about them for Metro and I fell in love with it so much (do give it a read and you’ll see why I love them so!) I’m heading back soon to learn how to shoot, yep me with a gun, bring it on!
Anyway, whilst at Vale House I spent some time with their head tutor Tim Maddams who you will probably know from the River Cottage programmes. After our day spent trout fishing and smoking he then prepped a loin of pork to be turned into bacon and IT WAS SO EASY. I’ve been asking my lovely butchers at Derek Jones in Melton for a while now about getting in another mutton so I can make some mutton bacon, they wait until enough people ask then get one in and divide it up between anyone that has bagsied a bit. I popped in the other day to say “Hi” as I’d been away for weeks only to be told that they had 2 mutton breasts set aside for me for my mutton bacon experiment. Ace, it was serendipity and I was off!
Two breasts of mutton, deboned came to around £4 as it’s just £1.50/kg, another reason why this is bloody brilliant. For the cure I opted for roughly equal sugar to salt, I went with a mix of dark brown and light brown sugar as that’s what I had on the shelves. Herbs and spices wise I had left the fennel in the garden to go to seed and that needed cutting back so that mixed with various bits and pieces from the pantry was all I needed.
The highlight of my day has been discovering how kickass the cured mutton breast was. Deep, intense mutton flavour with a sweet saltiness and full of the aromats, just wonderful and completely addictive. I’m hooked now, well and truly, I wouldn’t be surprised if over the coming weeks I attempt to cure EVERYTHING I can find. Watch this space.
My cottage is old, with thick walls and high ceilings, in the summer its wonderfully cool to the extent that during this August’s heatwave I found myself leaving the cottage dressed for a crisp spring day and would have to instantly turn on my heels once hit with the wall of baking heat and remove a few layers before attempting to start the day again. Where this is glorious during the longer days of the year it’s also pretty damn Baltic come the winter.
I have an open fire in the living room and a wood burner in the dining room, on cold days like today when I’m working from home I’ll get the fire lit as soon as I’m up and about and work from my laptop next to the hearth. Today was one of those days and not one to waste a “day fire” I decided to bake some bread and use the heat to help the dough rise.
I’ve never made a spelt loaf before but had a bag of flour kicking about in the pantry. I had to pop to Tescos to pick up cat food so went and spoke nicely to the bakers who kindly gave me a big block of fresh yeast “we only measure by handfuls, one or two?”.
I’m now a convert to spelt, the loaf is rich and nutty which works so well with the sweet aromatic honey plus, its almost got the texture of soda bread which I adore. Yep from now on this is the loaf for me. It’s not a sandwich loaf though this one, it’s definitely one for spreading with butter and jam or marmite with a nice cup of tea, preferably whilst still warm from the oven.
Spelt loaf recipe:
I scoffed about half the loaf instantly with salted butter and some homemade quince and vanilla jam. Laziest loaf ever.
I’m on a bit of a veg kick at the moment, when I’ve got loads of work on I tend to cut out meat, pasta and potatoes as I find it gives me much more energy and focus. Every Sunday, if I’m home, I head to my local car boot sale to buy the week’s veg from Maureen and Bridget. I’ve spoken of these two wonderful ladies quite often on here, they live just over the border in Lincolnshire and Bridget grows the most impressive veg and Maureen is the queen of pies, fruit vinegars and lemon curd.
The weather is dreary and wet today which leaves me craving comfort food. Off I went as usual in the driving rain to get my veg and came back with a mountain for less than £10: purple cauliflower, romanesco cauliflower, cavelo nero, green and purple kale, red cabbage, purple sprouting broccoli, bunched carrots and tops (the tops make excellent pesto), green tomatoes and a net containing about 12 onions. You can also buy 15kg bags of local spuds for £3, these are vegetables of the highest quality picked just the day before and at a fraction of the cost from any supermarket/greengrocer/market trader.
My wonderful friend Ben Jackson told me about skirlie early this year when he was round recording Food Friday one morning. His grandmother would make it when roasting a chicken. It took me ages to track down the pinhead oatmeal, I finally stumbled across it in the butchers in Sturminster Newton in Dorset, huzzah! Never one not to make up my own recipe I turned it into a kind of rich oatmeal risotto using chicken fat and stock from the previous day’s roast chicken and instantly fell in love.
Skirlie purists look away now as this is my version and it’s the ultimate comfort food.
For the skirlie:
8 large savoy cabbage leaves
For the béchamel: (approx measures)
I’m pretty addicted to making cauli dukkah poppers at the moment, but quite often I’ve taken the outer cauliflower leaves off and either given them to the chickens or chucked them in the compost, never again.
Today I kept the leaves and added them to the spice mix and then removed them part way through roasting, they were amazing. The stalk softens, the leaves caramelise and the spices are warming and salty, they lasted all of about 5 seconds, just long enough to snap a quick pic on my phone and they were gone. From now on I’ll be choosing my cauliflowers based on those with the most leaves but if you have a market near you, you will find that most of the veg traders will have a box full of the cauliflower leaves that they have trimmed off and they give them away for free for people’s chickens, free food, aces.
It’s my favourite time of the year, mushrooms, fruits and berries are plentiful around our countryside and for the happy forager it’s most definitely a bountiful harvest this year.
When it comes to mushroom foraging you really do need to know what you are doing as it can be a dangerous game of fungi roulette if you don’t. This is why I really love the ink cap mushroom as it’s so distinct in its appearance. The only thing you need to be careful with when eating ink caps is not to consume alcohol with them as sometimes they can have quite an extreme and vomity effect. I’ve gotten away with adding sherry to mine on a few occasions but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it just to be on the safe side.
I’ve also got hugely into roasting kale recently and sprinkling it with homemade dukkah and basically just munching away on it or its also really kickass when combined with green tomatoes and a duck egg.
I’ve been away for a few days working on some pieces for Metro down in Cornwall and Somerset so didn’t have much in the cupboards upon my return. I found some ink caps growing near my sister’s house so picked them before heading home and this is the resulting dish:
Ink cap rigatoni with pesto and kale and pistachio pangrattato
For the pesto:
For the pasta:
For the Pangrattato
Chocolate orange brioche has been my baking Everest. A few weeks ago I was asked to make a selection of pastries for Lord Hall, the Director General of the BBC, err.. hell yeah I’m going to do that! But what on earth was I going to make him?
I was working away for the week running up to the big day and only returned two days before it was all happening and I STILL wasn’t sure what I was going to make him. Then it all just popped into my head on the drive back to my cottage, he was going to be presented with Chocolate Chip Pecan Cinnamon Swirls (kickass), Banana and Bacon Mini Muffins (AWESOME) and…mini Chocolate Orange Brioche: basically food clouds of total JOY.
My lovely friend Amanda very kindly lent me her Kitchen Aid and I found a plain brioche recipe and away I went. I’m not used to using a food mixer, I always create my recipes using sight, taste and touch and a mixer removes the touch element of the dough so I put blind faith in the recipe I’d found. It didn’t work. I tried another recipe, that didn’t work either so I decided to go back to instinct and just make up my own quantities and hey presto, perfect brioche! I then tried my version a second time so I could write down quantities and made the loaf at the top of this post, perfect result so I feel I can now happily pass on my recipe. This is a fast brioche recipe, only let it prove for a maximum of 2 hours each time but it does mean you can have lovely brioche is super quick time.
Chocolate orange mini brioche (makes 24 muffin sized brioche)
If you want to make a large to make one batch of mini muffins and one large loaf then once you have divided the mixture into half lightly knock back the remaining half on a floured surface, sprinkle with extra flour to make it easier to work with then place into a lightly oiled loaf tin. Allow to rise covered in cling then bake at 200C for 10 minutes then 180C for about 45 minutes, if the top starts to brown too much simply cover with tin foil. If after 45 mins you remove it from the oven, let it sit for a few minutes for it to come away from the sides and gently lift the loaf out to check the base, if it needs more time simply pop it back in for a bit longer.
Well its’ been quite some time since I last posted anything, I’ve been really busy with my photography and doing bits with Radio Leicester (click to hear most recent recipe of chorizo sausage rolls and green tomato ketchup) and writing for Metro and then I acquired a stalker so this blog kind of took a back seat for a couple of months. But I’m back, and its Autumn so I’ve been busy foraging the hedgerows to make amazing blackberry and vanilla vodka and now this blackberry and hare pie.
We are very lucky here in Melton Mowbray to have a proper Farmer’s market, you can buy anything from a herd of sheep, a prize winning bull, a few ferrets, some shot game, foraged mushrooms, homemade butter and antiques and collectables. Its all there every Tuesday morning and costs very little indeed, except the prize winning bull that is.
I headed over on Tuesday morning with the intention of seeing what the game auction was like that day, its very hit and miss depending on what’s in season and what the weather was like for the shoots over the weekend. You can normally expect to see a couple of deer, plenty of pigeons, pheasants, partridge, rabbits, hares and wild boar plus mallards, geese, woodcocks and squirrels. This week though it was very quite, there were a lot of pigeon but they weren’t in top condition so I left those (they went at 20p/brace) and hung about for the mallard and hares. I was bidding against an old boy for the mallard but had set my max at £3.50/brace and it went on his bid at that so I came home with a couple of beautiful hares at just £5.
Skinning hares is very easy, if you fancy watching a brilliant video clip then I totally fell in love with this guy being all masterful with an axe in the woods:
You just need to be really careful whilst gutting them not to pierce anything as the smell is really pretty nasty. Go for hares with head shots so your meat is nice and clean and none of the internals have been punctured.
Two large hares left me with a great deal of meat that I butchered into legs and fillets and froze most of. I instantly fried off a bit of fillet nice and pink for a bit of a cook’s perk then got to work on this simple pie for tea.
Wild hare and blackberry mini pie (makes 2 mini pies that each serve one person)
Well my posts have been pretty much non-existent as I’ve been away travelling around the UK doing lots of photo shoots recently but I’m back at Wyldelight Cottage and back in my lovely tiny kitchen. Anyone who follows me on Twitter or Instagram (hazelpatersonphoto) will be familiar with my cats, Boris and Poppy Bumface. Poppy Bumface is a very strange little creature, mostly antisocial and with a voice like a drunken docker she’s more Oscar the Grouch than lovable kitty. She’s also never been allowed out of the cottage, up until last Monday that is.
The hot weather has meant that the cottage windows have been open and the ever resourceful PBF had managed to climb up and out of the living room window to the wilds of Melton Mowbray. For a couple of days she came back obediently when called, checking in every 20 minutes or so to make sure the cottage hadn’t upped and left it’s little spot tucked away in the town, all was good. Then on Thursday lunchtime she didn’t come back when I called her. I called and called but no little bell could be heard, no squawking meow. I went round the front of the cottage and could hear her crying. It took me a while to figure out where it was coming from but there she was, up in the big lime tree that grows in the park next to my cottage, she was about 17ft up and she was stuck.
I called, I rustled her biscuits, I put tuna at the bottom of the tree and she just wouldn’t budge, she just cried. Now PBF is afraid of being alone, she cries if someone leaves the cottage to pop to the shop and she doesn’t like loud noises. I kept popping out to call her and see if she had moved but nothing. I rang the RSPCA and was told she needed to be up there for at least 24 hours before they will investigate. It was getting dark, the wind was picking up, the tree began to rustle loudly and sway and Poppy Bumface went from crying to howling with fear, it really was awful. I went round to the park (at this point I’m now in my Pyjamas), I’m rattling her biscuits and talking to a tree, it wasn’t my most attractive moment, tears welling up in my eyes and obviously having just split up with my boyfriend that was the exact moment he called: “sorry I can’t talk now I’m being a crazy cat woman in the park” is basically how the conversation went…
I didn’t sleep, her terrified howls carried straight through my bedroom window, in the morning I went out to see her. She’d now moved higher up onto a branch, not just any branch though Poppy had found a nice comfy nest to bed down in and there was a rather angry wood pigeon that wanted it back. There really was no chance of her coming down of her own accord, she just kept going higher and higher.
I rang the RSPCA again, she’s only a kitten and hadn’t had any food or water for 24 hrs now and her little voice had gotten so quiet. I was told to carry on waiting. I decided to bake some cakes for whomever managed to rescue her.
Lychee, Almond and Rose cakes (makes 10)
Lychee Rose Buttercream: (really approximate quantities as I just kept tinkering unit it was right)
To decorate: edible glitter, gold shimmer spray, edible flowers.
So the cakes were made and Poppy was still up in the tree, except now she was so high I could no longer see her, I could tell she had climbed higher than the cottage roof as her cry was no so quiet. The old lager boys in the park came over to investigate clutching their cans of super strength beer, they wanted to climb up to get her, oh dear this was all going to end quite badly. I stood with them for about 20 minutes saying it was going to be way too dangerous, they were pretty adamant though. They all know mybothr cat Boris as he goes over and hangs out with them on their bench, Boris knows everyone, he has a better social life than I do.
Now at about 23 hours and after another call to the RSPCA Inspector Keith Ellis arrived, I could have hugged him, the CAVALRY! We stood in the garden and tried to spot her, after about 10 minutes she appeared, she was SO HIGH up now, perhaps 40 – 50ft, well above the height of my chimney on the roof, she was now out on a branch. Inspector Ellis called the duty fire chief from Melton Mowbray fire and rescue to come and have a look.
The chief arrives, he can hear her but not see her, he calls the truck to come to the park and the boys get out. They can hear her but she is so high up they can’t see her, they go and get the thermal imaging camera…
Then, they spot her. The chief thinks she is too high up to reach but they get the ladder anyway.
It’s pretty rare they do this kind of thing so they were saying that its actually a really good training exercise for them, this made me feel much better.
As thunder started to rumble a fireman named Dex suits up into a climbing harness and the rescue mission is underway. One of the guys (bottom left picture) mentions to me that when they are called out to talk down someone sat on the edge of a roof they send a fireman that smokes up, apparently most jumpers are smokers and the act of sharing a cigarette bonds the pair together which helps talk them down. He jokes that they should adopt a cat that climbs up and talks down other cats from trees, a smoking cat preferably. Boris volunteers himself by heading over to their equipment and watching on…
Dex comes down the ladder for the grabber then heads back up feeling pretty confident he can get her. It was actually incredibly sweet as I could hear him meowing at Poppy Bumface 🙂 Then I heard her bell and then very slowly Dex started to climb all the way back down clutching a very frightened kitten to his chest, I very nearly burst into tears.
And then after 24 hours stuck up a tree, little Poppy Bumface is down!
Hurray for Dex! Hurray for Keith, hurray for all the guys from Melton day shift Fire and Rescue, total stars!
So Poppy Bumface was rescued and the wonderful day shift from Melton Mowbray Fire and Rescue went off heroically with a tin full of the lychee rose cakes covered in edible glitter and flowers (and with 25% off a photo shoot if they wanted one for them and their families, although I’m totally up for taking pictures of semi naked firemen *if* thats what they really want!). Poor Inspector Ellis missed out on a cake though so I owe him one, everyone really was wonderful and yes Poppy Bumface is well and truly grounded for the foreseeable future….
The perfect antidote to Sunday’s Melton’s Cheese fair at the cattle market was the very first Graze The Vale food festival that took place on the Bank Holiday Monday on the Belvoir (pronounced beaver *chortle*) Castle estate. Glorious sunshine and the beautiful location of Vale House were home to artisan producers of cakes, pies, chocolate, teas, organically reared meat and other culinary delights.
I took Glen along to help put up the Great Food Magazine gazebo as Matt the editor was away sunning himself on holiday, even Glen had a brilliant day out which is no mean feat for a sun shy grumpy old man 😉
I was over the moon to see Ian and Nic from Heartland Pies which meant breakfast pies were in order. Heartland Pies are the only Melton Mowbray pork pie maker to use outdoor bred pork, their farmer is just up the road who rears all their pigs then Ian butchers them himself and then joined by wife Nic and sons Luke and Adam they turn them into wonderful pies. You’d be surprised how rare this is when it comes to Melton Mowbray pork pies who tend to use intensive farming systems for their pork, I long for a free range Melton Mowbray pork pie to come onto the market. Glen, who doesn’t even like sausage rolls, will happily snaffle up a couple of Heartland jumbo rolls which meant it was a porky breakfast for both of us. WIN.
Next to Heartland Pies was the Bluebird Tea Company who I rather fell in love with. They hand blend black, green, fruit, herbal and flower teas in all manner of incarnations. I bought their caffeine free rhubarb and custard and that was it for me, hooked. They are a young couple who are passionate about flavour and quality and even run a tea tasting club where you can get different teas posted out to you every month.
The wonderfully exuberant Silvio was there with his Italian hog roast, Roast Events, this my friends was also really rather bloody brilliant, he marinaded the pig in herbs including fennel, garlic and onion and gently slow roasted it overnight, the stuffing was cooked in the perfumed rendered roasting juices and the crackling was crisp and addictive, yep, more aceness, more piggy delights.
Not content with pies, teas and Italian hog roast I headed over to see Jerome who along with his wife run With Chocolate just up the road in Eaton. They source, temper, blend, design, package and produce the most heavenly chocolate, their banoffee truffle bar is a thing of absolute bloody beauty.
Picks Organic were there selling gorgeous meat reared on their farm or for something from a bit further afield there was kangaroo, elk and crocodile from their neighbour to get stuck into. Thaymar ice creams were also there with their cute little van as were Sophie’s Flower Company and The Waltham Deli selling Hambleton Bakery pecan buns (AMAZING) and other hardcore indulgent delights.
It was a really chilled out, friendly festival, accompanied by great music (Edith Piaf and other sunshine happy music tinkled away in the background) and ace visitors and stall holders, the only thing missing was a beer tent but Lara is on the case for next year. Once the day was over and just us stall holders remained packing things away, Lara told us the news that not only had Silvio put a couple of legs of lamb in the hog roaster for everyone but she also broke out the ice cold beer and champagne from her own fridge, I bloody love this woman! As we all drank ice cold beer in the hot sun and chatted about what a fab day it had been I realised that it had been something really quite special, bring on next year 🙂
Last weekend saw the return of the Melton Mowbray Cheese Fair (I’d link to the website but it still only has a list of last year’s exhibitors), it’s actually billed as the “artisan” cheese fair but many of the exhibitors could hardly be called artisan, Long Clawson for example makes over 6,700 tonnes of cheese a year and I’ve worked in one of the other cheese factories that were there and they are about as far from “artisan” as you can get.
Artisan: (from the Oxford English Dictionary)
There were much fewer cheese exhibitors this year, many of the artisan producers that were there last year were absent this time round bar a handful, but with the term “artisan” being used so loosely to include huge cheese manufacturers I don’t really blame them for wanting to distance themselves from something that devalues the true meaning of the word so carelessly.
I went along on the Sunday and was pretty shocked, not by the lack of small producers which I’d kinda expected but by the sheer rudeness of so many of the show’s visitors. It seemed entirely appropriate that it was held in a cattle market as people paid their £1 entrance fee many pushed and shoved and grabbed greedily at samples before just walking off. Everyone I spoke to in the days following the event said the same thing: “we saw people literally grabbing the knives off the tables and hacking lumps of cheese off from the producer’s tables and then just walking away.” It was depressing. Full credit to the traders though who I think must have all taken some super smiley pills because they were all incredible gracious and friendly in the face of such rudeness. I would have had people leaving my stall with toothpicks protruding from their eyes and hands after several hours of this so huge respect to all of them.
I gave up on moving around the stalls after my desire to whip out a cattle prod grew too intense and opted for a pint of Natterjack cider to calm me down, then an ale and watched the Melton Ukelele Orchestra who were absolutely ace, they played Paint it Black by The Rolling Stones and it totally made my day.
Things had quietened down a bit by then (perhaps the morris dancing had something to do with it) so I headed round the stalls to talk cheese. It was great to see David from Sparkenhoe there again (middle left on the picture above), THIS my friends is what Red Leicester is meant to taste like, its nutty, creamy, unpasturised and made on their farm using their own herd. Unsurprisingly the hands down flavour winners of the day were the unpasturised (raw milk) cheeses, of which I bought about 8 different ones (Keens cheddar, Chorlton smoked and unsmoked Cheshire, Laverstock buffalo mozzarella, Teifi’s Celtic promise, and 2 from the same producer whom I can’t remember the name of) which were all wonderful but my favourite of the day was Kent’s Winterdale Shaw which is Britain’s first carbon neutral cheese. Next time I’m down in Kent I’m going to head over to see them, they are a lovely family making great cheese using their own cows, just the kind of people and cheese that make this country’s food heritage something to be proud of.
There aren’t many photos to accompany this post as I pretty much just wanted to get out of there. It’s a real shame as it has the potential to be a good food fair, just drop the word Artisan or ONLY have true artisan products, get out of the cattle market and into a field with some marquees, have lots of other micro breweries, cider makers, artisan bakers, pie makers and celebrate food that is made with love and care and not forgetting MUCH more of the ukelele orchestra 🙂