BBC Radio Leicester and Melton Mess

Cooking on the radio you say? Well yes indeed! Last Friday morning I had the pleasure of the wonderful Ben Jackson from BBC Radio Leicester being in my tiny kitchen at Wyldelight Cottage.  I had been practicing the art of not swearing for 2 days and was still a bit nervous until it dawned on me in the middle of the night before that yes, I could practice not swearing, but the art of “not sounding like a total twat when nervous” has always eluded me. I’ve always done it at the most inopportune moments too, normally when in the vicinity of really handsome men (throw a uniform in there and I go from sounding a bit like a twat to talking full blown nonsensical rubbish!

Luckily we had a good half hour before we started recording just catching up and talking food, that ALWAYS relaxes me and puts me at ease. I wanted to keep the recipe really simple and decided to do something in real time so listeners could see just how easy it all was.  I made my Melton Mess with Vanilla Sea Salted Caramel Sauce, it’s outrageously good too and the recipe will feature in this months Great Food Magazine which is out tomorrow. There is lots of cream, custard, strawberries, meringue and yes plenty of salted caramel sauce involved! There weren’t any disasters; I didn’t swear, I did get very excited about what I was making, I probably sounded like a bit of a twat but all in all it went really well and I will have a regular slot each month!

You can click here to listen, I start from 1 hr 41mins in, and you can tell I’m smiling the whole time as you can hear my lisp (lisps are all kinds of sexy you know!).

Melton Mess with salted caramel sauce

Ingredients:

  • About a dozen or more large strawberries
  • 2 tblsp caster sugar
  • 520ml double cream
  • 1 large meringue base or 8 meringue “nests”
  • 250ml good quality vanilla custard
  • salted caramel sauce

Method:

  1. Slice about two thirds of your strawberries and put them in a bowl, sprinkle over the caster sugar, give them a stir and leave to macerate whilst you get on with the rest of the dish. Keep the remaining strawberries to one side for now.
  2. Using an electric mixer whip the cream until it’s firm, be careful though as it’s very easy to over whip double cream and it will start to separate (and you could accidentally end up with butter!).
  3. Crush your meringues into pieces, don’t make them too small, as you want different textures to run through the dessert, then stir them into the cream.
  4. Pour your custard and macerated strawberries and their juice on top of the whipped cream and very gently fold in. You don’t want it to be all mixed in completely, just folded carefully so you have pools of strawberries and custard amongst the cream.
  5. Carefully tip the mixture onto a big serving platter, scatter the strawberries you had set to one side over the top then drizzle liberally with the salted caramel sauce. Have the pot of caramel on the table so people can help themselves to more, I warn you though: this sauce is highly addictive!

Vanilla Salted Caramel Sauce:

  •  120g soft light brown sugar
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 1 tblsp water
  • 260ml double cream
  • 2 tsp Halen Môn Vanilla sea salt flakes

Method:

  1. Put the butter, sugar and water in a saucepan and heat gently until bubbling it’s important that you don’t stir it though just swirl the pan to combine.
  2.  Once it’s all melted, let it bubble away for 3 minutes then whisk in your cream and remove from the heat. Add a teaspoon of salt flakes, taste to see if it needs any more (careful though it will be hot).  It will seem very runny but it thickens as it cools so make several hours before if you want a firmer sauce and pop it in the fridge.

I sent Ben off with a goodie bag of amazing local foods that are really overlooked in Melton.  There is such a big focus on the pork pies and stilton cheese that the other little known producers just get left behind.  This weeks goodie bag is a selection of my favourite things that I buy in Melton and not a pork pie or slice of stilton anywhere!

  • Blackberry vinegar from Bridget at Melton Sunday market
  • Smoked sausages – Grasmere farm (Tuesday market)
  • Smoked wild boar bacon – Paul aka The Roosterman (Melton Market Tues, Fri, Sun)
  • Homemade butter – Maria (Tuesday market)
  • Smoked middle bacon Derek Jones Butchers Melton (the BEST ever!) Plus a slice of their brawn
  • various jams/chilli sauce/chutney from my good self as I was spoiling him!

The next goodie bag will be equally as good and I have no idea what I’m going to cook yet but I’m really excited already!

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Quick Kelp Noodles and Fermented Coconut Nectar

Having lived in both Hong Kong and Japan and spent many months in the Philippines, it surprises me that whilst Chinese and Japanese food is widely eaten in the UK, Filipino food has never really caught on. It’s a shame as Filipino culture really is centred around food and family and if you haven’t tried it then you really are missing out on a feast of culinary delights.

I’m going to write a separate blog post all about Philippine food but for now this is my favourite quick noodle dish that incorporates Chinese, Japanese and Filipino products beautifully and is amazing at using up leftover salad leaves and veg.

My cupboards are full of sauces, condiments and pickles from around the world. This noodle dish uses dried kelp and Japanese noodles called Demae Ramen made by Nissin and they have been my favourite noodles since I was about 10 years old.  We had them for breakfast most days before school in Hong Kong and their chicken noodles remain my favourite breakfast and, when called for, most reliable hangover remedy to date! Spiced fermented coconut water is not for the feint hearted.  The coconut water has been fermented with chillies, garlic, ginger, salt and sweet peppers to produce a potent sweet-spicy vinegar that is completely addictive (well for me anyway).

Just take a handful of dried kelp strands and add them to water that has had the noodle flavour sachet added and cook for a few minutes before adding your noodles.  Chuck in any leftover bits of veg – broccoli, peas, cabbage, whatever is floating in the bottom of your fridge really.  Cook for a minute then tip into a big bowl, cover with leftover salad, pour over your spiced fermented coconut water, some Chinese chillies preserved in oil and some dried garlic slivers and you have an amazing bowl of loveliness.

Coconut Panna Cotta with Ginger and Lemongrass Syrup

This week marked the start of the Thai New Year so the Domestic Sluttery food writers were all asked to make Thai inspired recipes. I made a Thai style Kedgeree for my savoury post (reckon I will always make it this way from now on but with the addition of some Lapsang Souchong too) but I needed to come up with a dessert for Friday’s post.

I’ve never made a panna cotta before, I don’t really do desserts, I much prefer a cheeseboard at the end of the meal. I have had a few wonderful panna cottas in my time though so I knew I needed to achieve that perfect Boob Wobble if it was to be a success.

I’ve had a pack of gelatine leaves in my pantry for a few weeks now, the intention was to make some lovely Elderflower and spring flower jellies as my collection of glass jelly moulds never actually get used.  Coconut panna cotta it is then.  According to the gelatine instructions I just needed 4 leaves for every pint of liquid, simple enough so off I went to buy coconut milk, coconut cream (because I love it) and regular cream (because I wanted it to feel luxurious in the mouth).

I had received some very sad news the day before and thought I was coping really well (cooking is great for grief, eating not so easy) but I found myself crying in Tescos (they’d changed it all around AGAIN) and so did a rubbish job of shopping and returned home with gin, dried porcini mushrooms and chorizo.  I didn’t even realise I’d forgotten to buy any coconut ingredients until I got home and spoke to Glen (who detests coconut so was pretty happy about the shopping fail but obviously a bit worried about the girl crying in the doorway holding a bottle of gin and some chorizo). I had another cry at being rubbish at shopping.  I wasn’t really crying about that at all, I was crying because Nain, my grandmother, had died and I didn’t know what to do.

Another shopping trip later (this one without tears) and I was ready to go.  I love making up recipes but it’s always a bit nerve-racking when doing things like this (science-y).  The coconut mixture I had made was quite thick so would I need more gelatine? Having worked out how much gelatine I would officially need for a Boob Wobble set I threw it all together. It was only when I was putting the unused gelatine leaves back in the packet that I realised 2 must have been stuck together so I’d added a bit more than I should have.  I wasn’t bothered though as it just seemed right.

I don’t have any Dariole moulds so I just poured the mix into whatever I had: a few espresso cups, an old teacup, a couple of jelly moulds and a cocktail glass.

Once set the first cup was turned out and a nervous Boob Wobble test carried out – perfect. Phew, now to taste them.  I poured over my Ginger and Lemongrass syrup that had been infusing away, and tentatively spooned in.  Wow, it was so silky.  Rich in flavour but light in texture it just melted in my mouth. Yeah, I had a little cry, but this time I think I was also crying because something good had happened for the first time in 24 hours of sadness.

The first one turned out onto a plate ready for the Boob Wobble Test

I was so happy I recorded my Boob Wobble, you can see it HERE.

As I mentioned earlier, Glen hates coconut.  He used to love it but his Mum went through a phase of putting desiccated coconut into EVERYTHING when he was little so he just can’t stand it anymore.  I was so pleased with my new creations though that I made him try a bit.  He loved it! He ate 2 of them straight away.  

So if you want to give my recipe a go, and you really should because it’s really easy and tastes like it wasn’t, then you can see my recipe HEREIt really is stupidly easy to make and as always  you should check out all the other brilliant stuff on Domestic Sluttery!

Sweet and Smoky Ribs (but without a BBQ)

For me the whole charm of ribs is the sheer filthiness of them.  Sticky, sweet, meaty morsels conveniently wrapped around a flavour packed bone to gnaw away at.  All hopes of daintiness and decorum are thrown out of the window, pretty eating this ain’t  – ribs are dirty and I love them.

But lets not stop there, ribs are cheap too, these 2 sets cost just £3 from my local Farmers Market.  Yep ribs are cheap and dirty food my friends which is all kinds of right in my book.

The intention had been to BBQ these bad boys, but once confronted with the BBQ still full of rainwater and coals leftover from 2011 this quickly became an indoor operation.  I still wanted a smokiness though so decided to throw some Lapsang Souchong tea leaves into the coffee grinder for a few seconds to blitz them up (big strands of tea aren’t necessarily nice on a rib).  I had some homemade tomato sauce leftover from making the whey pizzas to use as a base so in the smoky tea powder went.

Now for the Southern spices.  I’ve blogged about Laissez Chef before and if you haven’t sought him and his amazing New Orleans Spice Blend out yet then fear not, you can still do it now and buy through his website.  It tastes like nothing else you will find around on the market and is so good you can literally just dip your finger into the beautifully presented box of spices and eat it! For added sweetness and stickiness out came the treacle, oh how I love treacle!

Normally I would just marinade the raw ribs for a couple of hours then put them in a roasting tin, cover with tin foil and slow roast but I found that I had rather inconveniently ran out of tin foil (I will never learn) so used this method instead.

Ingredients:

  • Pork ribs
  • Poaching liquor (same as the fried chicken wings)
  • homemade tomato pizza sauce (you could use ketchup jazzed up with some tomato puree, garlic and onion powders and celery salt though for a shortcut)
  • 2 tsp blitzed Lapsang Souchong (must be a good quality really smoky one)
  • 1 tblsp Laissez Chef spice blend
  • 1 big heaped tblsp treacle

Throw your ribs into a pot of simmering liquor until just cooked through then remove, pat dry then coat in your marinade and leave for a couple of hours (you could cook them straight away but its nicer if they have had time to soak up all the lovely marinade).

Ribs marinading away

When you are ready just put them in a roasting tin, pour over any excess marinade and roast on high for about 20 minutes or until they are nice and caramelised on the outside.

sweet, smoky pork ribs

They turned out to be my favourite homemade ribs to date. They kicked serious meat filth ass and they will be without a doubt making many more appearances over the summer, and if I get my ass into gear and clean out the BBQ then I reckon they will be even better!

All kinds of filthy goodness

Spicy fried chicken wings

I had intended to make this recipe with chicken feet, I used to love them when I lived in Hong Kong but have never tried them over here.  I asked Paul, my Meat Man if he could save me the feet from his lovely free range roosters when he killed on Wednesday.  Turns out though that free range chicken feet are far too mucky to use really, he said they were just way too nasty as his birds, despite having all that lovely space to run around in always choose to go and play in the muck heap. “Unfortunately you need feet from chickens kept inside all the time” he said, not my thing ( and my 3 ex-battery farm chickens would guilt me out too much) so he gave me a few kilos of chicken wings instead.

Now the humble wing happens to be my favourite bit of the chicken.  Glen always gets a very good deal when I roast the Sunday Rooster – I get the wings and a thigh and he gets the leg and breast. So many butchers just throw the wings in the bin, madness. When I worked at the butchery I saw so many beautiful plump free range wings being chucked in the bin before I could get to them, and they were beautiful Fosse Meadows chickens too, not cheap by any means!

Anyway I now had several kilos of wings for the freezer so I decided to experiment a bit.  I like my wings really crispy, almost burnt really, so decided to try deep frying them.  I played around with trying different coatings of egg, cornmeal and flours but the best way was just plain. This way the sweet flavours of the crispy skin were allowed to shine so I settled on poaching then frying and covering in a spicy sauce. It seems like a lot of work for fried chicken but I wanted to use the same method as I would have for the feet.

Ingredients:

  • chicken wings (I like to joint mine)

Poaching liquor

  • big pot water
  • salt (depending on how much water you use, but I used about 3tsp)
  • sugar (about 1 tablespoon)
  • a few star anise
  • a couple of bay leaves
  • a few peppercorns
  • fresh ginger (sliced)

Spicy Sauce

  • 2 heaped tablespoons Chinese chilli, ginger and garlic sauce (hot)
  • 2 tablespoons sweet thai chilli sauce
  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar
  • 1tablespoon Oyster sauce (Lee Kum Kee is my favourite)
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese preserved black beans (squashed with a fork)
  • 100ml stock (I used jellied ham hock stock that I had leftover in the fridge but chicken would be perfect too)

Oil for frying.

Method:

  1. My wings were frozen. Put all you poaching ingredients in a big pot, add your wings and slowly bring to a simmer until just cooked through. Reserve a bit of the liquor for later. Drain the wings and plunge into a bowl of iced water.  The skin will start to separate from the meat and bubble up.  Drain, pat dry then arrange in a single layer on a tray and put in the fridge for an hour to dry out.
  2. Put all your sauce ingredients into a pan and heat gently, taste and add more heat or sweetness depending on what you fancy, if it seems too thick you can add some poaching liquor.
  3. Fry the wings in hot oil until crispy then drain on kitchen towel, put on your serving platter and drizzle with the sauce.

They were all kinds of wonderful and best served with cold beer and plenty of kitchen towel!

Raw Milk – homemade mozzarella, ricotta and lots of other things!

People are divided over raw milk but I am a big fan and I am lucky enough to live near to Lubcloud Organic Dairy who not only sell raw milk but also have chosesn not to homogenise any of their products.  When I was little I had to be quick in the mornings getting to the milk bottles on the doorstep. The birds were wise to the sight of Malcolm, our milkman back on Anglesey, and would peck through the foil lids to get to the cream that had risen to the top of the bottle.  I always used to sneakily pour a glass of that amazing creamy milk before putting it back in the fridge as a reward for being good and bringing the bottles in!

These days milk is homogenised as standard, so the fat is evenly distributed and not only don’t you get that wonderful creamy layer at the top of your pint but you also don’t get those glorious little dots of fat on the inside of your glass.  Personally I think that the taste really suffers as a result of both pasteurisation and homogenisation so it’s no contest for me when it comes to flavour.

tiny dots of loveliness around the inside of the glass

Raw milk from an organic herd really can’t be beaten for flavour so I decided to see how many things I could make from 2 litres of the stuff.  I started with mozzarella…

A quick look around the internet and I found Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s recipe for mozzarella and set to work.

The curds and whey quickly separated once the citric acid and rennet were added and the curds removed and left to drain. I should point out that this really does make your house smell like baby sick and it left me feeling quite dubious that something nice could be made from something that smelt so awful.  Nevertheless the curds were removed with a slotted spoon and left to drain for a bit in a sieve.

I wanted smallish balls of cheese, so the mozzarella curd was thickly sliced, put back into the hot whey then stretched and folded back on itself a few times before being rolled into balls and plunged into ice water.

Mozzarella on whey bread

still can't believe I made mozzarella so easily!

A quick shout out on Twitter for suggestions for the leftover whey brought a resounding call for ricotta.  Another quick look online for a really simple method resulted in me finding this method which seemed by far the easiest.

The remaining whey was strained through a coffee filter and left to drip in the fridge before being turned out onto a board.

I really couldn’t wait to try the ricotta, I wasn’t disappointed. I guess I’m used to bland, mass produced stuff because the flavour really took me by surprise – there was so much of it!  I was now really excited about my bumbling foray into the world of home cheese making.

So now I had my beautiful cheeses I needed some pizza dough to showcase them on.  I made a batch of plain and polenta flour dough using 650ml of the leftover whey.  I hadn’t intended to use polenta flour but I hardly had any other flour so substituted it in and from now on I will always do this as it was amazing!  It was about 1/3 polenta and made for a beautiful golden dough with great texture.  Fingers were crossed whilst the pizzas cooked that the mozzarella behaved as it should…

It worked perfectly! The mozzarella melted and oozed and developed a lovely brown crust and most importantly it tasted wonderful, I was so happy!

I then made a polenta and bread flour whey loaf…

This loaf was eaten almost immediately topped with salsa verde from The Good Fork’s deli box and was seriously good!

So what to do with the rest of the whey? I still had about 2 pints of it left.  Another shout out on Twitter went out.  I was told by @pukkapaki that whey is wonderful for the skin and hair so I made a homemade face pack and added a ladle of whey.

Whey facepack/cleanser or as Glen calls it "that hippy shit in a bowl"

Soothing/moisturising facepack:

  •  porridge oats
  • 1 chamomile tea bag
  • 1 Detox tea bag (milk thistle, dandelion & green tea – tastes like crap but great in a facepack)
  • 2 tablespoons almond oil
  • 1 tablespoon rose water
  • 1 ladle whey

Just mix them all and add more oats until you get a consistency you like then apply to a clean face and leave on for 10 – 15 minutes then remove with a warm cloth.  I’ve been so impressed with the effect that its had on my skin that I’m also using this as a cleanser morning and night as the porridge oats gently exfoliate the skin.  All of these wonderful beauty tips fall on deaf ears for my fella though who just calls it “that hippy shit in a bowl”.

*Update: from this morning (3 days later)

Glen: I wish you’d stop washing your face with porridge the bits get everywhere.

Me: It’s not porridge its a homemade face pack and cleanser dear.

Glen: It’s porridge with tea bags in it, you are essentially washing your face with breakfast.

Well he does have a point there but my skin is so soft and my rosacea is clearing up so breakfast face-washing will continue!*

I still had some more whey left so I decided to try Carl Legge’s suggestion of using it to lacto ferment vegetables and I gave Kimchee making a go.  It’s still fermenting away though so I’ll do a separate post on this when it’s ready.  The final bit of whey has gone to my chickens as a bit of a treat as it helps keep their eggshells hard and is a good all round tonic for poultry.

So from 2 litres of raw milk (which cost £2.40 delivered to my door) I made the most meltingly wonderful mozzarella, the best ricotta I’ve ever tasted, 2 wonderful pizzas, a loaf of delicious bread, lots of face pack/skin cleanser, Kimchee and a special dinner for the chickens, not bad going really.

*Thanks for all the lovely messages on Twitter/Facebook/here about raw milk, I am updating this post with a list of dairies (cow,sheep,goat) that offer raw milk, if you know any please let me know so I can add them*

Raw Milk Dairies:

East Midlands

Lubcloud Orgainic Dairy (cow) www.lubclouddairy.co.uk

The South East

Ellie’s Dairy (goat) www.elliesdairy.blogspot.co.uk

Hot Cross Baked Cheesecake

I have totally got my baking mojo on at the moment!  In addition to my being a writer and recipe creator for Great Food Magazine I’m also a food writer for Domestic Sluttery, and so when we were asked to get our thinking caps on for Easter recipes (that weren’t hot cross buns) this is what I came up with.

I normally only make cheesecakes that you just leave to set in the fridge but my baking confidence has really been boosted recently thanks to a series of awesome successes that I’ve made from my Bread Revolution baking book.  Now I know you’re not meant to mess around experimenting with baking as it’s more of a science and you really should follow a tried and tested recipe but I can’t help myself.  I wanted a cheesecake that despite being made from really rich ingredients actually felt silky, light and fluffy in the mouth but still had,well, a bit of balls behind it if you know what I mean?  I had a look online for recipes but nothing really lit my fire so I threw caution to the wind, bought a selection of creams and soft cheeses and made it up as I went, bit of a risk as I only had enough ingredients to do it once but no guts no glory right?

It was a really anxious wait as the cake needed to cool for a couple of hours before releasing it from its tin.  I could only do this once after all, and if it collapsed I would have cried, and Glen would have found me sobbing over a collapsed cake and would have said something along the lines of “it’s only a cake”, and I would have thrown the floppy cake of sadness at him.  Luckily he actually found me crying tears of joy as I stood in the kitchen, holding the freshly released cake tin aloft and pointing proudly at my masterpiece, “it’s only a cake” he said, harumph.  “But its not only a cake its a Hot Cross Baked Bloody Cheesecake!” I shouted triumphantly still waving my empty cake tin as if it were an Oscar, nothing was going to piss on my cake bonfire.  Then I realised something…

I had lost the natural light and so the cake needed to go back in the fridge overnight so I could photograph it first thing in the morning.  This meant that I didn’t yet know what the inside was like, it could be an awful scrambled eggy mess for all I knew.  I had a large rum to steady my nerves that night before bed.

First thing the next morning I headed to the fridge, took out my cake and carefully sliced a triangle out.  Looked good so far, but how did it taste? AWESOME! Tears of joy! I quickly took a couple of shots of the inside of the cheesecake then celebrated with a very triumphant Hot Cross Baked Bloody Cheesecake Breakfast!

EAT ME!

So if you fancy trying something a bit different this Easter then my recipe is here.  Have a look around the site though there are loads of kickass recipes there and lovely things to fill your home with too!

Preserved Lemon Pickle

One thing I have learnt is that when you have a glut of something, be that money, veg, meat or whatever, always plan for when it’s not going to be around.  I’m pretty good at doing that with everything except money!  Quite often on the market you will see big bowls of fruit or veg for £1.  It’s reduced because it needs to be eaten quickly so I buy them and preserve them for another day.

This really quick pickle uses a few of the jars stored away in the pantry and is amazing with curry (I quite often have it just simply stirred through cooked rice).

Ingredients:

  • 1 large preserved lemon (flesh removed & discarded and skin rinsed thoroughly then chopped)
  • pickled red cabbage
  • pickled cornichons
  • bunch of mint
  • finely chopped red onion
  • teaspoon black onion seeds
  • good pinch black pepper