A few images from Friday’s trip to the BBC Good Food Show – more to come
I am currently having an all consuming love affair with Lapsang Souchong tea. Lapsang tea is smoked over pinewood fires to give it an incredibly beautiful deep smoky flavour. The quality of tea varies massively and it really is worth spending a few quid on an excellent tea as you use it so sparingly it will last for ages. I can highly recommend St Martins Coffee in Leicester for their great tea, also Dragon Fly do a really beautiful organic tea that is worth the extra couple of quid. I have been experimenting with various smoked tea infusions for about 4 weeks now. One of my favourite quick infusions is to pop a bit of your favourite full bodied red wine into a cup and add a few long strands of tea. Let it infuse for about 30 mins then pour about a tablespoon of the smoky infused wine into a full glass. I like my red wines deep and full and the addition of a touch of smoke is perfect for a night in front of the fire and its also a really nice addition to your bonfire night mulled wine.
Rum and smoked tea work really well together. Just get a bottle of your favourite dark/golden rum and add a few strands to the bottle. I made fantastic Bonfire Night Smokey Spiced Apple Daiquiris a couple of weeks ago – bloody lovely! If you are making a smoked fish kedgeree pop a few strands in the poaching milk, it really does add a new lift to the dish.
I’m currently working on a recipe for a Sheep’s Cheesecake. The sultanas have been swelling in the smoked tea rum for 2 days now and are so plump they pop when you bite them. Should be ready tomorrow to assemble.
16oz each of organic white flour, butter and soft brown sugar and 8 organic free range eggs. Cream butter & sugar, whisk the eggs then add to creamed butter mix gradually. Once all mixed fold in the flour and a couple of pinches of salt.
To this I then add whatever I have in the pantry. Today included handfuls each of chopped prunes, figs, sultanas, walnuts and stem ginger (and a glug of the syrup). A tablespoon of treacle, then the spices: cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg/mace are my favourites at Xmas. Grated zest of an orange and lemon and then a few tablespoons of last years extremely boozy mincemeat. The sugar and booze have preserved it and it is now the most luscious mincemeat ever. Its ridiculously boozy and contains, as far as I can remember, brandy, rum, port, whisky and some more sloe brandy for good measure. The flavours have had a whole year to develop and mellow together and it is going to be in most of my Xmas concoctions this year.
Butter then line the cake tin with parchment, pour in the cake mixture then stick on the bottom shelf of an oven heated to 140C for about 4 1/2 hours or however long it takes until a skewer comes out from the cake clean. Leave to cool in the tin then wrap in parchment then tin foil and transfer to whatever container your going to be keeping it in (I use a big metal biscuit tin) and feed with brandy as often as you like until Xmas, I usually feed it about once or twice a week.
I was born in Bath and whenever I head back to see family the Fine Cheese Company is always one of my favourite haunts to stock up on fantastic cheese. On my last visit I discovered a fresh goats cheese called Figue a la Rose. I fell completely in love with it but it is almost impossible to find elsewhere bar online delivery and at great cost so of course I decided to make my own.
I used a young, soft, organic goats cheese from Tescos for my first time and have stuck with it for 2 reasons: 1 – it comes in its own little plastic pot so it can infuse in the smallest amount of rose water that envelops the mound of cheese so its not made soggy by the infusion and 2 – I haven’t been able to get hold of any Brockhall Farm (the Queen of British Goats Cheese) yet as I haven’t been up that way. Believe me I cannot wait to try this with her artisan goats cheese! The Rose water can be found in pretty much any Asian food store and costs about 99p (it also makes a great toner for your face or addition to a homemade facepack!).
Simply peel back the lid a little way and pour in the rose water. Pop the lid back over and cover with a bit of cling film so that any smells from your fridge don’t get in there too. Put it back in the fridge and let infuse overnight. When you are ready to use it simply tip any excess rose water away and pop it on your cheeseboard. So far this has always been the most popular addition to my cheeseboard! If you like Lavender, try popping a couple of little lavender flowers in with the rose water infusion. Dead easy and so beautiful and delicate in flavour. Drizzle with your favourite honey (I use sweet chestnut honey) and a scatter of pistachio nuts and you are good to go.
All you need is a sterilised jar, unwaxed lemons, rock salt and whatever seasoning you fancy. I used a few bay leaves, peppercorns and a few juniper berries. Just slice the lemons into quarters but don’t cut all the way down to the bottom. Squeeze it open and put some rock salt inside. Pack into the jar squashing as you go and adding your salt and seasonings, as you squash the juice will come out. Once the jar is full top up with extra lemon juice and salt and seal. Leave at room temp and gently agitate for a few days then leave for about 6 weeks. Dead easy. When you come to use them discard everything but the pith and skin which will be lovely and soft, rinse really well then chop and add to your dishes. They are wonderful in taffies and also make a really great instant pickle to accompany your curry.
I make a lot of booze infusions, they are stupidly easy to make but very hard to leave long enough to infuse! I make new stuff each year and see how they develop over time. Some only take a few days, some will mature for a couple of years happily. This beautiful Raspberry Gin is at its best right now as the flavour has remained the same for the last 2 months (I have a teaspoon of each booze each month to see how they are getting on).
Take 1 sterilised Kilner type jar and put as much white sugar in as you fancy or none at all. I didn’t want it to be too sweet so as a general rule I put enough sugar in the bottom of the Kilner so it comes up about 1 1/2 inches from the bottom. Then add as many raspberries as you fancy inside, I half filled my jar but you could fill it up if you fancy. Add a few peelings of orange zest (avoiding the pith) and add to jar. Then all you need to do is fill it up with Gin. For the first week or so gently turn the jar to help the sugar dissolve, once it has you can stop doing this. Make sure you keep the jar in a cool dark place, light will remove the beautiful pink hue in the alcohol and always a good idea to put its Made On date on it so you know how long it takes until its at its best. This recipe works for pretty much whatever you fancy. I have: Blueberry Gin, Summer Fruit Vodka, Pear and Vanilla Vodka, Cherry & Mandarin Gin but to name a few. Have a go, mix & match, play about with whatever fruits/booze you like in whatever quantities you like until you find what works for you. You don’t have to use Kilner style jars, I have old Hendricks Gin bottles, Whisky bottles etc filled with booze concoctions steeping away. If you use bottles though you will have to sacrifice the fruit as once it swells you won’t be able to get it out again.
I am incredibly lucky to live just a few minutes walk away from the truly wonderful Melton Cattle Market which hosts the most fantastic Farmers Market every Tuesday and during Game Season you can take your pick of wild meats as well as all the usual livestock, local veg, homemade cakes, pies, breads, antiques, chicken coops, old bikes, shotguns, Landrovers the list goes on and on! There really is not a lot that you can’t buy at this Farmer’s Market and its one of the reasons I’m always so excited to go.