BBC Radio Leicester Food Friday team BBQ

Jo, myself, Ben, Penny and Holly

If you drop by this blog every now and again then you may know that I’m one of Ben Jackson’s Food Friday Team who cook on the radio every Friday afternoon at about 4:40pm on BBC Radio Leicester. Ben comes to our homes and we cook up something fabulous and easy for people to give a go themselves.

Yesterday we all met up at Ben’s beautiful home for a BBQ and all brought lovely homemade treats to eat. We had an absolute blast too…

The most AMAZING ribs ever

Ben had been slowly cooking his St Louis style ribs (when the sternum, cartilage and rib tips have been removed) marinated in Big Bob’s dry rub for 5 hours in his BBQ, oh my days they were absolute ribs of joy! He buys them from a chap down the road who breeds different pigs for different cuts. These ribs were just pure meat wrapped around juicy bone, hardly any fat and to die for.

rotisserie chicken on the BBQ

2 lovely free range chooks cooked on a rotisserie over the hot coals, just oozing flavour.

How many cooks does it take to carve a chicken? Well Ben and the 3 of us drooling it seems

Penny made some beautiful fougasse and I brought along one of my pig head and edible flower terrines. I’d found an old 15th Century recipe for a strange meat dish that says if you use brawn then you should add saffron so I added some for this one, hence the beautiful golden colour and it worked brilliantly.

Penny and her pizza, Ben’s fabulous Greek salad and the gorgeous Jo

Holly brought along a pea and halloumi salad, Penny made a jelly baby shaped jelly for the kids (which somehow collapsed and actually looked like a fabulous pair of jelly boobies) and Ben’s grandmother made the most beautifully light meringues.

Ben and BBC Radio Leicester gardening guru Ady Dayman have been busy building and tending the Grow Your Own Garden for a feature that ben does with his show that encourages people to give it a go.

Oh ribs I love you

Edible flowers featured heavily in the pretty menu.

Jo made a beautiful chocolate and beetroot roulade that was just wonderful (I must get that recipe!). I brought along one of my Melton Mess (which as you can see has collapsed a bit!) and a big jar of homemade vanilla sea salted caramel sauce that was literally just being guzzled straight from the jar!

Meat Feast

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Mindblowing Marshmallows

Get in my face

Marshmallows have always been something thats only exciting for me if they are shoved onto the end of stick and cremated over a fire, preferably somewhere on a lovely beach (this hardly ever happens) or in someone’s back garden after an afternoon of drinking around their BBQ (much more likely to happen).

So when I was at The Melton Country Fair the other week and found the Sugar and Twine stall complete with (now empty) plates of homemade marshmallows I was really intrigued, and pretty gutted that all the marshmallows had been snaffled.

As it happens though, thanks to the wonderful world of Twitter, just a few days later a truly marvellous thing happened. There on my kitchen worktop were two bags of marshmallows: an elderflower and vanilla one and a lemonade one, happy days!

I love it when a new food experience knocks me for six. I really couldn’t get over their incredible fluffy melt in the mouth texture, truly a million miles away from the bags you get in the supermarket. I kept looking at this little fluffy square in my fingers as I realised that basically everything I previously thought about marshmallows was wrong. Marshmallows, proper ones like Sugar and Twine’s, are out of this world good! I’m definitely going to have a go at making them myself but in the meant time thank god Sugar and Twine are not only local but that I can buy online too!

Fragrant Roast Pork with Herb Couscous, Rose Infused Sheep’s Curd and Rhubarb and Apple Sauce

I was all set for a roast pork dinner: the oven was pre heating, the pork shoulder joint was coming to room temperature, the wine was open and The West Wing was playing on my laptop in the kitchen. Yes I was all ready to get cracking except for one small thing – I’d forgotten to buy potatoes from Bridget at this morning’s car boot, bugger. Be they mashed or roasted, the humble spud is an integral part of our Sunday Roast.

Veg wise I had just 1 carrot, some celery tops with leaves and a couple of onions, I also had a packet of couscous in the larder, that’s a good start I figured and after a bit of garden foraging this dish was born. This method of roasting pork ensures really crispy crackling and meat that oozes juice and is so tender it can be cut with a spoon, well except for the crackling which is perfectly crispy.

Ingredients:

For the pork:

  • pork shoulder joint
  • Halen Môn spiced salt
  • fennel seeds
  • sumac
  • cumin seeds
  • 1 packet Spicentice Moroccan Lamb Tagine mix (found at back of cupboard, went out of date 3 months ago!)
  • 1 large white onion finely sliced
  • 3 handfuls chopped rhubarb from the garden
  • 1 apple
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 600ml cloudy apple juice
  • 5 apricots (once dried but have been steeping in brandy in my cupboard for 8 months or so)
  • 1 tablespoon wildflower honey

For the couscous:

  • 1 packet couscous
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 red onion finely chopped
  • 4 spring onions, chopped
  • tops and leaves of one head celery
  • chopped garden herbs: lots of various mints, fennel, parsley, chives (plus a few flowers from everything to garnish)
  • skin from 1 preserved lemon, washed and finely chopped
  • 2 tsp Essential Cuisine chicken stock powder
  • 2 tsp poppy seeds
  • handful dried sliced garlic

For the rose infused sheep’s curd:

Just before it goes in the oven, after 30 minutes and after the full 90 minutes

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to hottest setting. Make sure pork is at room temp, rub the spiced salt and fennel seeds into the scored and scorched skin then sprinkle with sumac.
  2. Put your sliced onion, rhubarb, apple, cumin seeds, tagine mix and cinnamon into a roasting tray, pour over the apple juice, mix then put your pork on top. Roast at the highest setting until the crackling is lovely and crispy then cover with foil and cook for about an hour or until the centre of the pork is cooked. Remove meat and leave it to rest covered in foil.
  3. Finely chop all your couscous ingredients. Put your stock powder, dried garlic slivers and couscous in a big bowl, stir then add boiling water (as much as the packet says – I usually aim for the water to be 1 inch higher than the couscous). Stir, cover with foil and leave to sit for 10 minutes. Then remove foil, fluff with fork then stir in all the remaining veg and herbs.
  4. Mix your rose water into the sheeps curd.
  5. That’s it really, to assemble just put your herb couscous on a plate, place a slice of juicy pork on top, a bit of crackling, a couple of spoonfuls of the wonderful gravy, dot with the rose infused sheep’s curd and scatter a few of your herb flowers over.

Lamb Sweetbreads with Smoked Butter Samphire and Elderflower Gooseberries

This morning I looked out of the window and the pouring rain and screwed my face up, I had to go out in that. I had to go to the Farmer’s Market and pick up some rainbow chard for the veg patch, arse. I headed out in the rain only to return 10 minutes later, not with any rainbow chard seedlings (Ash wasn’t able to make the market today) but with a punnet of plump gooseberries and a bag of bright green samphire, aces. Despite having loads of writing work I needed to get done these purchases were screaming to be turned into something wonderful.  I’ve mentioned before about my synesthesia, I tasted the sharp gooseberry followed by a bit of the salty samphire, the shapes could work together with a bit of help. I could feel the shape that the dish needed to be and so I turned to my larder to set about finding the components to make that form happen. I should add that Glen was really skeptical about my decision to marry samphire and gooseberry before he tasted this dish, and was eyeing up the tin of beaked beans in the cupboard for lunch, but he went on to eat  3 bowls of it, yeah it rocked.

The only flower that is purely for decoration is the violet on the top of the dish. Parsley, chive and onion flowers are incredibly concentrated and without these the dish will suffer. The 2 tarragon leaves add a lovely burst of aniseed to the dish and in just the right amount. I don’t think you should put stuff on a plate that doesn’t contribute to the dish, the violet is there because it looks pretty and is edible, it’s value is sensory, and a dish should make you happy in a holistic fashion (my god that sounds really wanky but its absolutely true in this instance!).


Ingredients:

 For the sweetbreads:

  • lamb sweetbreads
  • cornmeal
  • type 00  flour
  • Spiced salt (Halen Môn)
  • beaten egg
  • oil for frying

Elderflower gooseberries:

  • 1 punnet gooseberries
  • 2 tablespoons homemade elderflower syrup (otherwise use Belvoir cordial)
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 sprig rosemary

Samphire

  • 1 bag samphire (washed)
  • 1 knob smoked butter (mine is from Derimon Smokery on Anglesey who sell online)
  • freshly ground pepper

To serve:

  •  Parsley flower heads
  •  chive flowers
  •  onion flowers
  •  tarragon leaves
  •  violet
  •  marigold flower
  •  homemade Harvest Ketchup.

The homemade Harvest Ketchup recipe you will have to wait for until the harvest issue of Great Food Magazine is out because it is one of my “Recipes from Wyldelight Kitchen”. An alternative would be a really good sweet brown sauce like Tiptree (or your own obviously!). Method:

  1. Simply dust your prepared lamb sweetbreads in the flour seasoned with the spiced salt, then into the beaten egg then roll in the cornflour before deep frying for a minute or so depending on how big they are.
  2. Put your gooseberries in a saucepan with the syrup, rosemary and water and cook really gently for a few minutes until soft but still holding their shape.
  3. Blanch the samphire in boiling water for about a minute (I like mine to still “pop” when I bite into it. Drain then add your smoked butter and plenty of freshly ground pepper.
  4. To assemble simply put some of your smoked butter samphire on a dish, top with sweetbreads, surround with your elderflower poached gooseberries (and a bit of syrup), dot splurges of your sweet ketchup and scatter your herbs and flowers evenly about the plate. Dead easy, really tasty.

The Olympic flame was in Melton Mowbray today, now what?

This isn’t my normal kind of blog post, there is no food involved, no photos.

If you have ever clicked on the “About” section of this blog then you will know that I had an accident just over 2 years ago on May 21st 2010 that radically changed my life. In the blink of an eye I went from being happy, healthy and earning just under 40k a year to being trapped on a sofa bed, barely able to move without excruciating pain and having an income of £99 a week to live on. This somehow would also have to pay the mortgage on my first home that I had just bought 5 months previously and all the other credit/loans/outgoings you tend to acquire when you are used to earning 40k a year and assume you will always have that coming in.

The last 2 and a half years have been really difficult but I’ve got through it but it’s been tough. Actually it’s been really fucking tough, it’s been crawl up in a ball and cry your eyes out  because I can’t see a way out/can’t pay the mortgage this month/have to sit in the dark because we can’t afford to put money on the meter/can’t afford a pint of milk/stamp tough, yeah you get the idea.

And yes I’ve been low, low to the point that feeling that way feels “normal” and it’s only when you go to see a doctor about something mundane, like a really swollen throat, and they ask you how you are feeling, and you tell them and they get “that look”. That look that says, “this isn’t normal” and then they question you further for their Suicide Risk checklist and you wonder why they are being so concerned about your answers because you feel this every day, this is normal for you right now. Yeah I’ve been there, I’ve been there many times since I was 12 years old and I’m now 34.

We are losing people in our town who feel desperate, alone and estranged. There are things we can do to help as individuals like looking out for one another but there is so much more that we can do as a community.

Melton Mowbray lost many people over the last 14 months, several of them young, who felt alone and unable to cope with their situations. In the kitchen today I worked with a young man doing work experience who told me that his age group are in desperate need. We lost another young member of our community this weekend. Members of our town really are in desperate need, not just our youth, many of us are in need, but it’s predominantly our children, our teenagers and our young adults that are bearing the brunt of our disappearing shops, jobs, leisure facilities and community.

After the torch had passed through the town today and I had closed up the cafe, I walked through the town square where there was still the Torch Roadshow truck playing music. Teenagers were dancing, laughing, shouting and having a whale of a time but the metal barriers were being gathered, the stalls dissembled and the music turned off. Where do they go now?  Lack of staffing has seen our youth clubs closed, the council has shut the leisure centre for the summer to refurbish and because there are no jobs in the town the teenagers have no money.

People talk about our “disaffected youth”- disaffected: adjective alienatedresentfuldiscontentedhostileestranged, dissatisfiedrebelliousantagonisticdisloyalseditious,mutinous, uncompliant, unsubmissive.   The irony is that our young people seem to be the most affected by what is going on around them and their voices are being lost.

I work with a Melton Mowbray charity called Lost For Words that was set up earlier this year when members of the community came together in the wake of losing several young people, to try and give emotional support to everyone who needs it though our free website resource database. 

A person, just holding a piece of metal with a tiny flame, passed that tiny little flame to another person, holding just another piece of metal today in our town centre, and managed to bring our community together for a couple of hours in the rain.  Just think what we could do if we put our minds to it. Our shops are closing and our town centre is dying, lets make sure that we do everything we can to try and save our community and try and prevent another flame from being extinguished.

The Olympic flame passed through Melton Mowbray today and brought a community briefly together, what can we now do to bring it back?

Melton Mowbray Country Fair 2012

Vincent Talleu who has possibly the BEST bakers tattoo ever on the Real Bread stand

Each year Melton Mowbray opens up the parks in the town centre to the Country Fair. Last year Glen and I went along and got rather sunburnt (and rather drunk on Farmer Fear’s cider) whilst watching the duck herding (yep that’s right, duck herding).

This year was slightly different. Glen was unable to come along, there was no duck herding, yes thats right, NO duck herding (I’m still upset by this) and there was definitely no sunburn. There was however good old Farmer Fear with his cracking cider, pitched once again next to the Great Food Magazine stand and the food tent – perfect!

Farmer Fear cider and the Great Food Magazine stand, the gathering points of the food lovers at the Country Fair!

It was a real food lover’s meet up at the Great Food Magazine stand, it’s been ages since I had a good catch up with Matt, the editor and his wife Philippa and it wasn’t long until I bumped into the wonderful Ben Jackson from BBC Radio Leicester who’s Food Friday cooking feature I do and BBC Radio Leicester’s fab gardener and all round ace guy Ady Dayman. Well now if that wasn’t reason enough to drink more cider then my fellow Food Friday cook Penny appeared! Penny had entered the Big Bake competition which finds the best loaf/cake/speciality breads in the area, and you know what? She only went and won it!

Penny’s winning loaf and the woman herself!

The Real Bread campaign stand is always an absolute cracker. Lots of wonderful heritage wheat breads, free pizza making, wood fired oven, lots of kid’s bread classes and Vincent Talleu with quite possible the coolest baker’s tattoo ever.

Local baker Paul from Melton bakery Paul’s Soyfoods was there not only with his breads but with his homemade fermented goodies too. There was sauerkraut, japanese umeboshi plums, miso, kimchee to name but a few and they were all incredible.

Sourdough loaves, miso, kimchee and umeboshi plums ALL locally made!

Then there were Tom’s Fudge boys, who all happened to be rather good looking and had the strange affect of turning myself and Philippa into a couple of pervy old women whilst still finding the name “Tom’s Fudge” childishly hilarious.

Tom’s Fudge *snicker*

So no duck herding, what did we have in it’s place? Well bearing in mind that the Country Fair has 3 main themes: food, gardening and animals it was somewhat missplanned to then have a cannon ball and gun performance where the deafening explosions scared all the animals (everyone brought their own dogs along to the dog show) and made all the children cry. This had to be cut short as wails of children, terrified howls of dogs and whining horses could be heard over the bangs. Like Tom’s Fudge this shouldn’t have been funny but it really was.

There was only one other real low point to the afternoon and that came in the form of some god awful shite traditional dance routine which on reflection is kinda what I love about things like the Country Fair.

High points: Penny’s bread, this awesome dog and my lovely friend Lesley who was dressed as a fairy

High points of the day included Farmer Fear’s cider, meeting up with awesome food loving friends and fit boys. Low points: bursts of torrential rain and the god awful shite traditional dancing

Low points: Rain and shit dancing

So that was it for another year. I bloody love the Melton Country Fair but lets hope that next year they bring back the duck herding.