Blackberry and sloe gin posset with rosemary shortbread

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It’s a dark, damp, wintery Sunday here at the cottage. The fire is lit, the cats are all snoozing contently and I’m feeling the need for something zingy, boozy and comforting to brighten the day, step up the winter posset.

Possets are ridiculously easy to create – back when I was a chef I always used to put lemon posset on the dessert menu, it’s delicious, very cheap to make and ready in no time at all which is an all round win for the kitchen.

I love, love LOVE sloe gin. It’s a hip flask staple on a winter walk through frosty fields and so easy to throw together in the last days of autumn. I have bottles of sloe gin in my cupboard dating back to 2010, they have outlasted several relationships and I ration them out as if they were made using the tears of unicorns. I anticipate feeling a great aching loss when the last of the 2010 batch is gone. If you are lucky enough to try some one day then know that you are indeed very special to me! If you don’t have any homemade to hand then you can easily buy a bottle, Sipsmith do a good one.

Now I love shortbread, according to my boyfriend I don’t make enough of it. He’s not a fan of adding any flavours to it mind, he’s a shortbread purist you see – plain, straight down the line, no fucking about shortbread or not at all. I, on there other hand, love lemon shortbread, vanilla shortbread and this wonderfully aromatic rosemary shortbread which goes so well with the rich posset.

If you fancy listening to me make this then click here (you will need iPlayer access as it’s on the BBC).

I’m using blackberries foraged last year that have been in the freezer, but there are plenty to be found on supermarket shelves even at this time of year.

Blackberry and sloe gin posset with rosemary shortbread

Ingredients:

For the posset:

  • 600ml double cream
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 150g blackberries
  • Pinch freshly ground pepper
  • Sloe gin (for quantity see recipe instructions)

Method:

  1.  Heat the cream and sugar together over a medium heat, stir frequently.
  2.  Bash the berries to release the juice then strain into a measuring jug, get all the juice out of the berries.
  3. Measure the juice and add enough sloe gin to bring the liquid up to 250ml.
  4. Once the cream mix is just simmering, remove from heat and stir in the blackberry mix.
  5. Pour into dessert glasses, leave to cool for 20mins then refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  6.  To serve, simply dust with icing sugar and garnish with a few blackberries.

Rosemary shortbread:

  • 225g butter
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 225g plain flour
  • 110g cornflour
  • 1 tsp fresh finely chopped rosemary

Method:

  1.  Heat oven to 160C.
  2. Cream together butter and sugar.
  3. Sift in flours and add rosemary.
  4. Stir, then use hands to bring it together to resemble crumble mixture.
  5. Turn onto baking parchment. Knead a few times to form rough dough. Cover with another sheet of parchment and use a rolling pin to roll out a slab around 15mm thick.
  6. Cut into rounds with a cutter or whatever shape you prefer then refrigerate for 30mins.
  7. Bake for around 12-15 minutes. Keep a close eye on them as you don’t want them to burn.
  8. Remove from oven, sprinkle with caster sugar. Leave for 2 mins then transfer to a cooling rack.
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Lemon drizzle gin cakes

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Excuse my appalling icing attempts in this post, I’ve always been utterly shit at icing, one day I’ll actually learn how to do it but until then you’ll just have to try look beyond the disastrous attempts at prettying cakes and bear with me

Gin and lemon, two happy bedfellows that sing about sunnier times and come as welcome relief in these cold winter days. These cakes are light and fluffy yet boozy and indulgent, what’s not to love?

You can hear me making these cakes by clicking here (you’ll need Iplayer as it’s a BBC clip). There’s no bad language so it’s perfectly safe to listen to in the kitchen whilst whipping up a batch of these tasty treats with the kids around.

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Lemon drizzle gin cakes:

Ingredients:

For the cake mixture:

  • 200g Stork
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 200g self raising flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • zest of 3 lemons
  • 90ml Sipsmith Lemon Drizzle Gin (or you could use a citrusy gin)

For the drizzle:

For the icing:

  • 1 x 500g tub ready made lemon frosting (yeah I totally cheated and got one from Morrisons)
  • Edible decorations such as fondant flowers and white chocolate stars.

Method:

  1. Heat oven to 170C (fan). Place 12 cupcake cases into a muffin tray
  2. Use an electric whisk to cream together the Stork and the sugar until it’s light and fluffy.
  3. Add flour, eggs and zest and beat together.
  4. Gradually beat in the gin.
  5. Fill the cases around two thirds full, use all the mixture
  6. Bake for 12 minutes or until the cakes pass the skewer test.
  7. Make the drizzle by combining the ingredients in a pan, heat over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved, bring to the boil and boil for 30 seconds them carefully remove the juniper berries.
  8. Prick the cakes all over the top with a pointed chopstick or skewer then carefully pour all of the syrup over them, leave to cool completely.
  9. Put the frosting in a piping bag, pipe all over the tops of the cakes (try and do a much better job that I did!) then decorate as you please.

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Black Forest chocolate brownies

Gooey, fudgy awesome.

Gooey, fudgy, awesome.

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)

  • 300g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 250g dark chocolate broken into small pieces
  • 1 handful dried cherries
  • 2 handfuls walnut pieces
  • 1 capful vanilla extract
  • Pinch sea salt flakes
  • 80g plain flour
  • 360g caster sugar
  • 80g cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 x 400g can dark cherries in syrup, drained

For the glaze: (optional not essential)

  • 2 heaped spoonfuls morello cherry jam
  • 50ml kirsch or other alcohol such as dark rum

For the topping:

  • 300ml whipping cream
  • 3 heaped tablespoons mascarpone
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa
Method:

  1. Heat oven to 180C. Put the butter and chocolate in a bowl set over simmering water and melt until silky and thoroughly combined then add the dried cherries and nuts.
  2. Combine the flour, cocoa, sugar and baking powder in a separate bowl and stir to mix.
  3.  Add the flour mx to the melted chocolate and gently stir to combine then add the eggs and continue to mix gently with a spatula until it is all thoroughly combined.
  4.  Line a 25cm x 25cm baking tray with greased baking paper that overhangs by a few cm to make it easy to remove the brownie later, and pour in the brownie mix, scatter over half of the cherries and push them into the mix.
  5. Bake for 25-30 minutes (it will be quite wobbly, it will harden on cooling) then remove from oven and leave to cool completely in the baking tray.
  6. Put the glaze ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over a medium heat for 4 minutes. Brush over the cold brownie.
  7. Remove the brownie from the tin.
  8. Beat the whipping cream until firm then ad the mascarpone and mix well, put it in a piping bag and pipe over the top of the brownie to cover. Decorate with the remaining cherries and a dusting of coca.

 

Quince and Vanilla Mulled Wine (the BEST I’ve ever tasted)

quince mulled wine

I’m currently sipping on what is without a doubt the best mulled wine I’ve ever tasted. On Friday night after the Radio Leicester Christmas Food phone-in (you should definitely listen to this on Christmas morning, it’s 2 hours of food chat and festive songs – YES!) we headed back to presenter Ben Jackson’s house for food and drinks. As soon as we arrived he said “right who’s for mulled wine?” ME ME ME!

This was no ordinary British mulled wine though, Ben presented us with a warm glass of Swedish glögg which he had poured over sultanas and whole almonds. I was blown away. It was straight from a bottle bought over from Sweden and it kicked any of our British mulled wines’ asses on flavour without batting a Swedish eyelid.

Ben very kindly gave me a packet of glögg spices that he’s had in the cupboard “for about 4 years”. The Glögg packet contains lots of whole green cardamom pods, loads of cinnamon bark, whole cloves and dried bits of citrus peel. The cardamom is key, lots of it but kept whole in their green pods.

Feeling the need for festive cheer I had a scout for some ingredients in my cupboards to throw in too. Normally I add orange but I didn’t have any, what I did have lots of however was plenty of quinces and lots of vanilla pods. The resulting boozy concoction has blown me away and even Glen, who hates all wine, really likes it (the highest praise indeed). Forget putting sliced oranges in mulled wine, if you can get your hands on the heady scented quince then throw it in there and never look back!

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 1 large quince, thickly sliced
  • 25g Glögg spices (whole green cardamom, cloves, cinnamon bark)
  • 2 vanilla pods, sliced lengthways
  • 1/2 a mug of soft brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sultanas
  • 2 whole pieces of preserved stem ginger
  • Whole blanched almonds and a few more sultanas to serve.

Simply gently warm everything together on the lowest heat (with a lid on) so everything has time to infuse. Ladle through a tea strainer into glasses that have a few sultanas and whole blanched almonds in the bottom.

Winter Veg and Seed Salad

 

Brighten up your Winter

Brighten up your Winter

Winter and salads shouldn’t be such ace buddies but they get along like a warm cosy house on fire. The fresh winter veg is crisp and refreshing with a nice winter earthiness that is kicked up a notch with bright citrus flavours from jewel-like ruby pomegranate seeds and a squeeze of clementine.

Yesterday morning was spent at a very cold and wet Melton Mowbray cattle market with the very lovely Rupal Rajani from BBC Radio Leicester. Rupal is vegetarian so was obviously delighted (not delighted one little bit – sorry Rupal) when I took her around the game auction. As we walked into the Fur & Feather shed we spotted a man with a huge fluffy grey rabbit sat on a bag of feed. The rabbit was beyond adorable, we both fell in love with it. Just as Rupal was getting her phone out to take a quick pic the man grabbed it, flipped it upside down by the neck, stuffed it in his coat and disappeared out into the rain. As we moved further into the shed people were busy stuffing shot birds from the game auction into carrier bags and holdalls, yeah this wasn’t the nicest place for a vegetarian (again…sorry Rupal).

I’m hoping I made up for all of this by making her a lovely winter salad, just to show that I can cook without the addition of dead animals really.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 red cabbage, shredded (I use a speed peeler for this)
  • 1/2 red onion, very finely sliced
  • 1 large jerusalem artichoke, pared into wafer thin strips using a speed peeler or box grater if you don’t have one.
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1 clementine
  • 1 apple finely sliced into matchsticks
  • 1 pear finely sliced into matchsticks
  • handful pumpkin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon blue poppy seeds
  • chopped fresh parsley ( or mint/coriander/fennel fronds)
  • seeds from 1 pomegranate
  • drizzle of raspberry vinegar
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method:

Just combine everything in a big bowl and leave for a minimum of 30 minutes (I leave mine overnight).

 

Melton Mowbray Farmer’s Market Game Auction

Game, foraged mushrooms, veg, just a few of the things you can bid on at the auction

Tuesday mornings are my favourite because I head across the road to Melton Farmer’s Market, eat a bacon sandwich and head into the auction sheds to see what treats are on offer. One of the many things I love about this bustling weekly market is that you never know what you are going to find.

A couple of months ago I nominated Melton Farmer’s Market for the Best Food Market category in the BBC Food and Farming Awards. A couple of weeks ago I was stood in the kitchens prepping Sunday lunch and listening to BBC Radio 4’s Food Programme on the little radio, as I always do, when I heard Valentine Warner read out my nomination. I really like Valentine’s approach to food and cooking, in fact the only cookbook I have in the work kitchen is his “What to Eat Now – Autumn/Winter” book, which sits next to the radio. I recognised my words instantly, Melton Farmer’s market had made it to the final three from hundreds of nominations, I was ecstatic! I’m still ecstatic about it, Melton Farmer’s market is the heart and soul of countryside living and it really deserves to be celebrated.

Earlier in the year I took Radio Leicester’s Ben Jackson to the market. Ben is passionate about the county and it’s wonderful food and we had a blast, as we always do when we hang out together, and I promised that once game season kicks off we would do it again. Well game season is in full swing and yesterday morning off we went to see what was on offer in the Fur and Feather shed.

Melton Farmer’s market never disappoints, you can listen to me and Ben and find out just how easy it is to bid at the game auction by clicking on this link:

Melton Mowbray Game Auction – Radio Leicester (audio)

There were pheasants, partridges, pigeons, rabbits, hares, ducks, venison and grouse hanging on the racks and on the tables were boxes of huge turgid savoy cabbages, bags of onions, plenty of massive squashes, a giant pumpkin and lots of boxes of foraged mushrooms, marvellous!

What I love about the auction is that the people around you love to talk about the food that’s being sold. Recipe tips are exchanged and foraging spots shared. Unlike pretty much everyone else that attends the auction I’m not a huge fan of the blewitt mushrooms which are called Blue Legs here. I prefer the meaty parasol mushrooms and am always the solitary bidder (likewise when I buy squirrels!) so people are always happy to tell me where they’ve seen lots growing.

Whilst there on Tuesday morning we chatted to the bidders around us, swapping hanging and cooking techniques, discussing how the price for the venison was high this week and the price of live chickens so low (just £1 for 4 birds) and that you could pick up two big plump live turkeys for just £30 today. I wish I had more outdoor space I really do, I think my chickens would object to sharing their coop with a huge turkey or two.

Lots of people outside of such a community seem to view game as being something for the upper classes, for the toffs to shoot and eat, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Game is cheap, healthy and plentiful. Game isn’t a “food trend” on people’s plates round here, it’s a seasonal feast that’s looked forward to each year and welcomed back into our kitchens with gleefully hungry, open arms.

Pheasants were going for £1.50/brace, Grouse went for a whopping £13 this week as there was just the one brace and the mallards just £1.50. That huge pumpkin was sold to me for a mere £1!

The veg is always top quality and we walked away with the most perfect savoy cabbages and a whopping pumpkin that weighted in at 7.4kg for just £1. So far that pumpkin has been turned into a huge pumpkin and porcini lasagne, 50 yes FIFTY rich and fudgy pumpkin, walnut and chocolate brownies and I STILL have 1/4 of it left to use up.

It’s not just the auctions that draw me to the market every week but in the food shed you will find the wonderful Maria and her homemade delights. Maria’s homemade butter is just incredible and this week her husband Tony, who makes wonderful chilli sauces and wooden chopping boards, had been out shooting and whipped up lots of venison pâte.

In the 3 years that I’ve been living in Melton Mowbray, and using the cattle market twice a week, it has become my main source of food and enjoyment in this town. It never fails to enrich my cupboards, larder and dining table and will hopefully continue to do so for many  years. If you ever get a chance to come over to Melton on a Tuesday morning then make sure you have a wander around all the different sheds; you’ll find antiques, collectables, firewood, building wood, clothes, kitchenalia, not to mention all the ferrets, pigs, sheep, cows, canaries, geese, well the list goes on and on. Come over, come early (auctions kick off about 9:30am), grab yourself a wild boar bacon sandwich from Paul (aka The Roosterman) and take it all in, you won’t be disappointed.

 

Beetroot, Chocolate and Cardamom Brownies

squidgy, fudgy brownies that count towards your 5 a day…

Oh brownies how I love you and your squidgy, gooey wonderment. Yesterday I headed into the BBC Radio Leicester studio to see presenter Ben Jackson with whom I do the Food friday radio cooking sessions with and gardening guru, chilli head and all round ace guy Ady Dayman. I decided to bake them something using goodies from my tiny garden and despite managing to set fire to the baking parchment TWICE during cooking the brownies turned out pretty damn awesome.

Ben and Ady enjoying the brownies during the phone in…

I managed to get to the studio whilst they were still warm and joined Ben and Ady for the Gardening phone-in, you can listen to us giving seasonal gardening and food tips by clicking here. It was a fab afternoon and the brownies went down a storm, even with Ben’s producer Nam who is somewhat vegetable averse! That’s the secret to people who don’t like vegetables, cover them in CHOCOLATE 🙂

They are really easy to make too:

Ingredients:

I use a mug to measure everything out in, my mug holds 350ml water.

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 mug caster sugar
  • 1 heaped teaspoon cardamom powder (or 8 crushed cardamom seed pods)
  • 1/2 mug  good rapeseed oil (or olive oil would be nice also)
  • 1 capful good vanilla extract
  • 2 beetroot (about tennis ball size)
  • 1 mug plain flour
  • 3/4 mug cocoa powder
  • pinch salt
Method:
  1. Preheat your oven to 180C. Put some gloves on or you will get very purple hands from handling the beetroot. Peel the raw beetroot, chop roughly and put into a food processor until chopped finely. If you don’t have a processor just grate the beetroot.
  2.  In a large bowl whisk the eggs, sugar and cardamom powder until quite creamy (I use an electric whisk but a hand whisk will be fine) then whilst still whisking pour in your oil in a steady stream.
  3.  Tip in your beetroot and stir in until fully mixed together.
  4. Sift in your flour, salt and cocoa and fold into the mixture completely.
  5.  Line and grease a 20cmX30cm tin, pour in your brownie mix and bake for about 25-35 minutes or until you can insert a skewer into the centre and just a few crumbs are stuck to it.  Leave to cool for at least 10 minutes before eating if you can manage to resist, sprinkle with a dusting of icing sugar and serve warm with some good vanilla ice cream.
If you find that your brownies are still too squidgy for you just pop them back in the oven for a little bit longer.

Cider and Cheese Fondue for BBC Radio Leicester’s Food friday

mmm melty cheesy boozy goodness…

So last Friday was my turn to do BBC Radio Leicester’s Food Friday piece with the fabulous Ben Jackson and what better way to kickstart my morning than cider and cheese. I was a *touch* hungover after an unexpected but very much welcome few glasses of wine the night before and as it turns out, cider cheese fondue is in fact a seriously good hangover cure!

I always have a blast when Ben comes to visit, he is so passionate about food, cooking and particularly local food that we spend most of our time swapping food news, stories, new food finds/cookbooks we’ve found and basically just immersing ourselves in a month’s worth of goings on. Then I cook, we laugh, I usually add lots of booze to something and we eat, good times.

Here we are making cider and cheese fondue (1hr40mins into the show) where I actually use the phrase: “Hey it’s Winter, lets get our booze on”, yeah thats me with a hangover, yeah I have no shame.

Good local cider and ace cheese are the solid foundations to a heavenly gooey dish, fancy giving it a go? Here’s how (you could even cook along to us making it by clicking on the blue link above, totally interactive, so techno hip):

Cheese and Cider Fondue:

Ingredients:

  • 500g grated cheese (I used 100g Emmental, 200g Sparkenhoe Red Leicester, 200g Smoked Lincolnshire Poacher)
  •  1 tablespoon corn flour
  • 450ml cider (I used local Scrambler sparkling cider)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • pinch dried thyme
  • few slivers garlic, fresh or dried
  • 1 teaspoon dried onion granules
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Calvados
  • 1 heaped teaspoon porcini powder
  • pinch dried chilli flakes
Method:
  1. Grate your cheese into a bowl, add the corn flour and mix well.
  2. Combine cider, thyme, garlic and lemon juice in a saucepan and bring to boil. When boiling reduce heat and add a handful of cheese. Stir in until its melted.
  3.  Keep adding cheese one handful at a time, stirring constantly until all the cheese is used.
  4.  Add your onion granules, nutmeg, black pepper, porcini mushroom powder and chilli flakes then stir in your calvados.
  5. Serve hot with chunks of crusty bread, boiled new potatoes, crisps, chunks of ham, chips, whatever takes your fancy!

Pie Fest in Melton Mowbray

                                                                  Pie me!

Last Wednesday morning BBC Radio Leicester’s Ben Jackson and my fellow Radio Leicester Food Friday cook Penny, met at my cottage to prepare ourselves for a morning of pie eating. We had the enviable job of judging Best Pie in the first Melton Mowbray pie competition open to all the local pubs, cafes and restaurants. You can hear us eating and judging some of the pies on Ben’s show (about 1hr 41mins in).

Don’t we all looks so glamorous in our official pie eating garments?

It took over an hour to work our way through the pies that had made it onto the judging table and guided by Stephen Hallam, Melton Mowbray pie maker extraordinaire, we carefully analysed each pie on a number of strict criteria such as pastry thickness, texture of filling, amount of filling, quality of bake and of course flavour. Some pies that scored highly on one scored low on others and before the figures were added up for each one we really had no idea which one was going to win.

                                             Stephen Hallam and a couple of the pies

                                                        Penny and the winning pie

The winner turned out to be Miss B’s Tearooms Hedgerow pie that had a viennese pastry top and filled with blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and elderflower. It was a cracking little pie and served with a big dollop of clotted cream it was quite frankly bloody lovely!

The pie competition was the warm up for the weekend’s Pie Fest which took over the town’s market place. I headed there on Saturday for a couple of hours in the sunshine to talk and eat pie…

Ian from Hartland Pies with his kickass Melton Mowbray pork pie topped with his very own chilli jam

Luckily I arrived just as the festival opened and headed to Hartland Pies for some breakfast. Their pork and black pudding pie was the perfect solution to my breakfast yearnings but I was totally blown away by his chilli jam topped Melton Mowbray. His pastry is just out of this world, he did tell me the secret but if I told you I would obviously have to kill you so you will just have to buy one and try and work it out yourself 🙂 They had sold out of pies just 2 hours later!

 

                         The lovely Louise from Miss B’s Tearoom with her trophy

Food historian Matthew O’Callaghan gave talks about the history of the pie

Stephen Hallam gave Melton Mowbray pie making demos outside his shop all weekend

                                                       How to hand raise a pie

                                                          Jazz and pies…nice

Gorgeous freehand sewing machine tea cosies made by Createry Studio

                             Hey ladies, how YOU doin’? Mark works his magic

It was an ace way to spend a couple of hours and I’m gutted I had to dash off as I really quite fancied an afternoon sat in the sunshine eating pies, drinking ale and listening to jazz, but then again there is always next year and after the success of this year I reckon it’s going to be bigger and better again.

 

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

BBC Radio Leicester: I take Ben Jackson to Melton Farmer’s Market

A few of the things you will find at the market during the course of the year

There is SO much more to Melton Mowbray than pork pies and stilton cheese, not that you  ever hear about all the other wonderful producers around here.  The town’s PR people concentrate so heavily on these 2 products and just seem to ignore the rest, and for me it’s “the rest” that actually makes Melton so special. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good pork pie (preferably with lots of trotter jelly, a good crust and plenty of black pepper) but you only hear about one shop that sells them in a town where actually, each different butchers sells a different pie.  My Butchers (Derek Jones) sell Baileys pies who were featured in Jamie Oliver’s Channel 4 show Great Britiain which highlighted Britain’s best producers. Another butcher sells Walkers pies who actually won the best Melton Mowbray Pork Pie category at the 2012 British Pie Awards (also held in Melton Mowbray).

I took Ben Jackson from BBC Radio Leicester along to the farmer’s market near my cottage to show him how fantastic not only the food scene in Melton is but also how vibrant and wonderful our Tuesday market is. Its’s a real farmer’s market where you can buy a herd of cattle, a flock of sheep, some wild boar and pheasants along side your bread, home-made butter, veg plants for the garden, home cured bacon and antique furniture!

Maria’s butter and boxes of local mushrooms and game birds

You can hear our trip around the market here, it is 1 hr 39mins in from the start of the programme *WARNING: a courgette plant was harmed in the recording of this broadcast*

Bidding at the game auction and my partridges and pheasants from earlier in the year

I then took him down through the town market to the Fish Man who travels from the Grimsby fish market every Tuesday morning and has the freshest, most beautiful array of fish and shell fish. He had some wonderful wild sea trout from Scotland and plenty of bright green salty samphire which just had to be bought!

I then took Ben to Coco Cakes to meet “the Cake Lady” (also known as Jane) who makes the best chocolate fudge you will EVER taste, sadly she didn’t have any ready though as she had literally just popped it in the fridge to set – sad times.  Luckily her shop is about 20 seconds from the end of my lane though so fudge crisis averted.

A trip to my favourite butchers Derek Jones for some of their incredible home cured and smoked bacon and a few slices of their own haslet and it was time for me to head to work for a day in the kitchen, and Ben to head back to BBC Radio Leicester fully laden with wonderful food goodies, and not a pork pie or piece of stilton in sight.

Radio Leicester food friday: ginger and caramel trifle

The lovely Ben Jackson from BBC Leicester in my kitchen

So every month the wonderful Ben Jackson heads out to my cottage in Melton Mowbray to record a cooking session.  Last time we made my divine Melton Mess which went down a storm with the radio team and listeners so this time I made another really simple dessert, in real time, for people to make this weekend:  I made a rum, ginger, chocolate trifle….yum!

What happens each time is that Ben arrives, we spend about an hour and a half catching up, geeking out about food and inevitably about knives! I was at the BBC Good Food Show on Wednesday and saw the gorgeous Natalie from I.O.Shen knives and came home with the most beautiful new Sahm Khom knife. Now Ben loves a good knife just as much as I do so when he felt it slice through a potato using just it’s own weight it really was love at first slice!

This link will take you to the recording, I am 1hr:42 into the show .Now I’ve just listened to it again as lots of people have sent me messages saying how rude it sounds! Yes, I *may* have sniggered at the name “Willy” but it would seem the whole 10 mins is all a bit naughty…something to do with the sounds of the cream and custard being whipped and our noises….

The mini version with oozy caramel filling

Ingredients:
  • 1 x Jamaican Ginger Cake
  • 35-100ml Golden or dark rum (depending on how boozy you like it, obviously I used 100ml!) or for non  alcoholic version use stem ginger syrup.
  • 100g milk/dark chocolate
  • 1 x 500g pot fresh custard
  • 1 x capful vanilla extract
  • 300ml pot whipping cream
  • 1 x 400g tin dulche du leche/tinned caramel (or make your own from a tin of  sweetened evaporated milk)
  • buttons/grated chocolate to garnish
Method:
Slice your ginger cake and lay it on the bottom of your trifle dish and pour over your rum and spoon over a layer of dulce du leche. Melt the chocolate, add your vanilla extract then whisk in your pot of custard.  Allow the custard to cool then layer it over the caramel. Whip your cream, spoon it over the chocolate custard and garnish with your grated chocolate/chocolate buttons. See, dead easy!

I always open my cupboards and introduce him to fab food products that I come across and send him home with a bit of a goody bag! We spent a long time talking BBQs, Ben has just acquired his first Weber and so I introduced him to the wonderful Laissez Chef new Orleans spice blend, yep he fell in love with that too! Her is now also a new convert to Essential Cuisine powdered stocks having tried their powdered veal and Little Doone Ginger Balsamic which I discovered at the show which also blew me away.

So I will be cooking again in 4 weeks time with Ben but in a couple of weeks I am taking him around my local Farmer’s Market so he can meet my favourite producers. Ahhh we can geek out about food all morning!

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!