Spring celebratory salad! Beetroot, pistachio, orange flower and yoghurt salad

beetroot, orange blossom, pistachio, greek yoghurt salad

Apologies for the crappy photos today but you get the general idea ūüôā

Yes I know there are blustery snow flurries outside but my tiny veg and herb garden is creaking back to life and this morning was gloriously sunny so I threw together a little celebratory salad using the tender young leaves and flowers that have appeared.

What resulted is the most heavenly floral salad of colour, scent and flavour that is sure to pull the tastebuds into their Spring wardrobe and look to the longer days with great anticipation of what the garden is to bring throughout the year.

Ingredients:

  • handful of watercress
  • 2 cooked beetroot in vinegar (just the stuff from the supermarket that comes in a pack in the fridge) quartered
  • 1 tablespoon red onion, very finely chopped
  • greek yoghurt
  • young leaves and petals from the garden (carrot tops, fennel fronds, lemon balm, mint, dandelion, sorrel, chard, chives, celery, beetroot, pansy, primrose)
  • whole shelled pistachios
  • 1 capful orange blossom water
  • drizzle agave syrup

Method:

Pile the watercress, beetroot, leaves and onion on a plate. Dollop over some greek yoghurt, sprinkle over the orange flower water, drizzle the agave then scatter pistachios and petals over the top.

beetroot, orange blossom, pistachio, greek yoghurt salad-2

Psychedelic Meat Treat – Ham Hock, Beetroot and Horseradish Terrine

Ham hock beetroot and horseradish terrine

I love making terrines, you can take a few really cheap ingredients and turn them into something pretty impressive looking that tastes ace and feeds loads of people with very little effort.

Normally I make a pig head terrine with edible flowers¬†one but I fancied something a bit different so picked up a lovely gammon hock from my butchers, Derek Jones (Just ¬£1.38), and a few trotters and I was good to go. Unlike most people’s versions I always like to include quite a bit of the jelly in the terrine as it’s packed full of flavour and when spread over hot toast it makes the perfect butter substitute as it instantly melts into loveliness in a way that butter just can’t live up to.

Ingredients:

  • 2 x gammon hocks
  • few sticks celery
  • 1 red onion, halved
  • ¬†few carrots
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • bouquet garni (few bits from the garden: bay, thyme, sage etc)
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • few peppercorns
  • 3 pigs trotters
  • 200g cornichons, chopped
  • 1/2 beetroot, peeled and V-sliced into matchsticks
  • 2 tablespoon grated horseradish (I used a Polish horseradish and chilli mix that has no cream)
  • handful chopped parsley

ham hock beetroot horseradish terrine

Method:

  1. Put your hocks, trotter, carrots, celery, onions, garlic and herbs (except parsley) into a big pot. Cover with cold water, add the fennel and peppercorns and bring to s simmer, and cook very gently for about 2 1/2 hours or until the meat is falling away from the bones when gently pulled.
  2. Remove the meat and reduce the stock by about half and strain.
  3. Pick the meat from the hocks and trotters and allow to cool.
  4. Ina big bowl combine the meat, chopped cornichons, parsley, horseradish, beetroot and plenty of pepper, taste and see if it needs a bit more horseradish.
  5. Put the mix in your moulds, I used a big silicon loaf tin and silicon cupcake tray.
  6. Pour over the reduced stock and chill in the fridge overnight.

*Any excess stock you can just pop in a jar and keep in the fridge, spread it on toast, add it to risottos, soups, stews,gravies, whatever takes your fancy. It’s packed full of flavour and is just absolute kitchen gold.

ham hock beetroot and horseradish terrine

Slice and look how pretty it is

mini ham hock beetroot horseradish terrines

Kiss My Arse – A dish for Valentine’s Day

Ox tongue and pope's eye steak

Ox tongue and bum are a romantic winner

I’ve never given a crap about Valentine’s Day, it’s bullshit. ¬†Feel free to buy me flowers, chocolates and champagne dinners ANY other day of the year except the one that the greeting card industry insists upon. In fact please do buy me all of the above because I normally buy my own and it would make a nice change (and I’d much rather cheese than chocolate).

This dish seems somewhat appropriate for this week’s day of nervous love interests, hopeful singletons, gleeful florists, stressed chefs and poor old FOH managers. ¬†A few days ago I visited Weald Smokery¬†and picked up some of their new thinly sliced smoked ox tongue. I love ox tongue, I’ve never had it smoked though and normally I have it in big thick slices and plenty of green sauce. I love the smokiness of a steak cooked on a BBQ so decided to use the smoke of the tongue to pair with a steak, but which one?

The pope’s eye steak is a little hidden gem of a cut most often chucked into the trim bin for mince. It sits right inside the aitch bone of the beast and in layman’s terms is the sphincter or arse muscle. It’s rippled with white lines that also gives it’s other name of the spider steak because it looks a bit like a cobweb in its marbling.

Normally when you see marbling in a steak you think, “hmmm, lots of flavour but going to need careful cooking” but not with the pope’s eye. This steak has plenty of wonderful flavour and is so delicately tender I can eat cooked black (crusted exterior) and blue (centre) which in my book is really the ONLY way I like to eat beef. This tenderness however will greatly depend on how the animal was hung and butchered as it can dry out if the beast has been split and the muscle exposed to air.

Popping into my local butcher’s, Derek¬†Jones, on a Tuesday morning (their second busiest of the week) and asking for cow’s arse was bound to draw a few raised eyebrows but they know me very well in there. ¬†In fact Ben, one of the butchers, greeted me with “yeah we’ve got some cat feet in especially for you” when he saw me (no they don’t really have cat feet before I get messages of complaint!). The steak cost just ¬£1.40 which is a total bargain for a cut with the texture of fillet but with plenty of good flavour.

I just cooked everything really simply and served with a little leftover porcini and basil crepe tower, some peppery winter leaves and carrot tops from the garden and homemade porcini butter.

Ingredients:

  • pope’s eye steak
  • drizzle rapeseed oil
  • sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
  • smoked ox tongue, thinly sliced

Method:

  1. Get your pan nice and hot and rub your steak with a bit of oil and season. Pop your steak in the pan, it should spit and sizzle and turn only once. I like my steaks blue so it’s just cooked for a minute then left to rest for 4 minutes on a warm plate under some foil.
  2. While its resting just use the residual heat in the pan to heat through the tongue slices (no heat under the pan) as they will cook in a few seconds.

And that’s it, a few more salt flakes and grinds of black pepper and you steak is done. The ¬†porcini butter will ooze across it and bring out it’s umami and the fresh peppery salad will balance the richness. Perfect.

 

Pot Roasted Lamb with Braised Shallots

lamb and leek flower sauce

 

It’s absolutely freezing right now, the snow is falling and it’s time to raid the freezer for something that will gently braise away filling the cottage with warm hunger pang inducing scents. At the back of the freezer, much to my surprise I found a big hunk of lamb leg that I must have bought a good 6 months ago and completely forgotten about it hidden away behind the frozen elderflower syrups. I marinated it in a warming blend of garlic, rosemary and thyme whilst it defrosted then simply popped it in a big roasting pot with some peeled pickling onions, lamb stock and sherry. In Summer I tend to serve lamb with fresh mint sauce but colder days mean sturdier stuff so I opt for leek flower sauce which is an incredibly potent blend of leek flowers, salt and seasoning and packs a real flavour punch.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cloves garlic, few sprigs rosemary, small bunch thyme, olive oil
  • lamb leg joint
  • 6 pickling onions, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons Essential Cuisine lamb stock powder
  • 300ml amontillado sherry
  • 3 bay leaves
  • freshly ground black pepper and Halen M√īn salt

To serve:

Roasted veg, steamed savoy cabbage and leek flower sauce.

Method:

  1. Blitz the first four ingredients to make your marinade then rub it all over your lamb and leave for 24 hours.
  2. Put everything in a pot, cover then roast in the oven at 180C for about 1 1/2 hours then remove meat to rest covered with tin foil and tea towels whilst you reduce the liquid by about half to make the gravy.

Pine Needle Duck Egg and Bacon Sandwich

pine needle duck egg sandwich

The best start to your day

There is no better start to your day than a bloody good bacon and egg sandwich and today I can happily declare I have made the best one I’ve ever tasted. ¬†Each year I insist on getting the biggest Christmas tree that will fit into my living room, they’re always locally grown, cost just ¬£20 (for an 8ft tree) and hold their needles really well despite being attacked by cats/me after a few too many sherries.

Once I’ve finally accepted that the Xmas decs need to come down (usually around February) the tree normally moves from my cottage into the chicken pen for the girls to explore. This year however it’s been bloody freezing so I’ve been snapping bits off to throw on the fire. This has made the house smell amazing and whilst tucking into breakfast one morning the flavours and smells all came together and the idea for this was born.

In the past I’ve infused eggs with the flavour of truffles simply by popping the eggs in a sealed Kilner jar with a few bits of truffle (Mr Truffle sells bits of truffle as well as whole ones which are perfect for this). Before the branches are burnt the pine needles are shaken into a big tupperware box.¬†Due to the selectively permeable shell of the egg it absorbs the surrounding aromas (hence why you should never keep eggs in the fridge) so I decided to pop a few duck eggs into a container with some pine needles and leave for a few days.

The gentle pine flavour in the rich duck yolk just rocks my world. If left infusing for too long the pine would be overpowering so just around 3 days has been perfect . ¬†I’m leaving some more eggs in for an extra day to make a pine duck egg ravioli next, if it’s anything as good as this sandwich then I’m in for a real treat.

pine needle sandwich

 

Ingredients:

  • pine needles
  • duck egg
  • your favourite bacon
  • your favourite ketchup
  • mayo
  • rocket leaves
  • white bread

Method:

  1. Pop your duck egg into a tupperware box that contains a handful of pine needles, seal and leave for a few days.
  2. Fry your bacon in a pan until crispy, move to the side then fry your duck egg in the rendered fat.
  3. Mayo and ketchup your bread, add a layer of fresh rocket leaves then add the crispy bacon and top with your duck egg, season then pop your bread lid on and tuck in.

Christmas Ham Salad (for when it’s all become too much)

christmas ham salad

Happy Christmas! Full yet? Boxing Day is probably my favourite food day of the year – no pressure, no rules, no timescale (and in my cottage you will now have been wearing pyjamas for about 36 hours), just grazing and making magic happen with leftovers.

This year we’re on quite a frugal budget so we opted for a big smoked gammon on the bone for Christmas dinner, it cost just ¬£10 and will feed us for well over a week. I simmered it in cola and pickling spices for a couple of hours yesterday before glazing it with rose hip jam and a mix of fiery English and sweet wholegrain mustards before blasting it in the oven for 20 minutes to caramelise.

What with the rich indulgence of yesterday still heavy in my stomach I fancied something altogether lighter with at least some sort of nod to freshness and health. I threw together this salad that not only used up some of the ham but also commandeered some of the leftover mustard and dill sauce from our homemade gravadlax to make the perfect dressing.

The sweet and salty smokiness of the ham, the sour cranberries, fiery rocket leaves, earthy crunch of toasted almonds and the drizzle of dill dressing ticks all the right boxes for me with this salad. Pile it high on a platter and let everyone dive in.

Ingredients:

  • rocket leaves
  • cucumber, thinly sliced
  • leftover smoked ham
  • pumpkin seeds
  • dried cranberries
  • orange zest
  • toasted almonds
  • dill and mustard dressing

I used Azelias Dill Sauce recipe as inspiration for my sauce and cobbled one together using what I had to hand:

  • 1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard
  • 1 tablespoon English mustard
  • 1 tablespoon runny honey
  • 2 tablespoons dried dill
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch Halen M√īn smoked sea salt flakes
  • roughly 200ml Cotswold Gold rapeseed oil (it’s wonderfully nutty)

Just put the first 6 sauce ingredients into a blender or processor with the sauce attachment fitted and blitz then drizzle in your oil in a slow stream, taste and adjust seasoning and add more fiery English mustard if it needs it.

For the salad:

Just throw everything together and drizzle with the dressing then sit back and drink a nice glass of wine and put your feet up.

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 gl√∂gg 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 gl√∂gg spices that he’s had in the cupboard “for about 4 years”. The Gl√∂gg 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 Gl√∂gg 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 РRadio 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 p√Ęte.

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.

 

Bonfire Daiquiris!

Smoky boozy goodness

I love Bonfire Night. When I lived in High Wycombe a group of us used to put on a fire show for thousands of people in Beaconsfield before the huge firework display kicked off. There would be about 20 of us with fire poi, chains, staffs, balls, fire breathing, oh it was ace fun! Last weekend though I spent it in the kitchens, I could hear the thumping boom of the fireworks over the roar of the industrial grill fan and smell the bonfires in the air but I missed the display. Tonight however, I will be making up for all that by making this ace cocktail, standing in my tiny garden and writing my name in the air excitedly with a sparkler – see who needs big firework displays when you can do that instead ehy ūüôā

Bonfire Daiquiri

  • 35ml smoked tea rum
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
  • juice of half a lime
  • cloudy apple juice

 To make the smoked tea rum:

  • 250ml golden rum
  • 12 strands good quality Lapsang Souchong tea (St Martin‚Äôs Coffee in Leicester sell a wonderful one)

Simply pop the strands into the rum and leave to infuse for a minimum of 2 days. The smokiness will become more intense over time and the rum will become darker.

 Now to make the cocktail:

Just put everything in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice (or clean jam jar with lid), shake and strain into an ice filled tumbler. I’m calling tonight…Bonfire Of The Daiquiris! Ta-daaa! BOOM ūüôā

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 ūüôā

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!

East Midlands Food and Drink Festival in Melton Mowbray

This weekend the annual food and drink festival took place at the cattle market in Melton Mowbray. Normally I head over on the Sunday and spend the day drinking wine, cider and beer with my favourite producers, but alas I had to work this weekend so was able to get over for a couple of hours on Saturday to catch up with people and take a few shots.

Booze o’clock

Natterjack cider is usually my first point of call at any Melton food event and this year was no different, although I opted for one of his wonderful apple juices instead of the hard stuff. Booze was everywhere to tempt me and the lovely chaps from CAMRA were making my abstinence all the more difficult with their beer tasting sessions.

Beer tasting, one of my favourite pastimes

Mark from Gourmet Spice was there, he’s ace. I always love seeing him at events and checking out all his new spice rubs, oils and vinegars. His Togarishi spice blend is awesome, the best I’ve found in the UK, blows your head off mind! His new Mango and Green Apple balsamic vinegar is an absolute cracker too. I ended up leaving with a bag full of his new goodies!

The lovely Mark from Gourmet Spice

There was cheese a plenty which always makes me happy. You should definitely seek out Sparkenhoe vintage Red Leicester, it’s made with love and care by the fabulous and local LeicestershireHandmade Cheese Company, it’s the perfect example of an artisan cheese, just heavenly. I sampled their new blue cheese Battlefield Blue, yeah that’s a cheese I could quite happily bathe in…

Handmade Cheese Co new cheese, it’s absolutely wonderful

Good cheese = a very happy Hazel

Plenty of game for sale

I was taking a shot of hanging cured meat when I bumped into the lovely Rachel who organised Melton Pie Fest, yes I’m taking photos of meat because I LOVE cured meat and look how beautiful it is…

Cured meat, come to me baby!

No one went hungry…

The lovely fellas from Pomegranate were cooking and selling an array of Iranian culinary delights

Fluffy cloud meringues, toasties and Chinese food all did well

Fear not, it didn’t take me long to find the macarons…

Pretty macarons, I had a pistachio and a lemon one, breakfast macarons are the way forward

My absolute favourite stand is always the GB Italia stand. Not only are their Sicilian wines, liquors and limoncello divine but Rosemarie is the most awesome lady ever. I only get to see her once a year but I made sure I stocked up on some Limoncello to get me through until my homemade one is ready. Even if you are not interested in food and drink your ticket cost is worth it just to hang out with Rosemarie and her total enthusiasm for life and Sicilian wine will cheer even the grumpiest of souls.

From Limoncello to purple cauliflowers, all my kinda food and booze

It took me ages to find the Great Food Magazine stand manned by editor Matt Wright. I kept asking friends who I bumped into and they all replied with: “he’s somewhere over there apparently, haven’t found him yet”. Well after quite some searching I did eventually find him behind a wicker basket stand (yeah I’m not entirely sure what that was doing there) and he broke my booze abstention instantly by his determined persistence: Matt: “Time for a beer?” Me: “Hell yeah”. I really do have no willpower, actually thats a lie I just got a half from the `Belvoir Brewery stand (located by the Great Food stand, coincidence? I think not) just ordering a half took serious willpower. This was rewarded however by the abundance of free badges on the Belvoir bar that simple said “I Love Beaver”, obviously I picked us up a couple.

Matt was behind the basket stand everyone

I also bumped into Tim Burke who writes all the news for Great Food mag. “Have you seen today’s Leicester Mercury?” He asked, errr no. “We’re in it!” He exclaimed. So thrilled to be featured in their new Food Special as one of Leicestershire’s Food Heroes for this blog!

“News, views and recipes from the Great Food magazine writer, who also contributes to the website Domestic Sluttery. Her own ¬†blog demands a visit, if only for the hugely entertaining About Me section.” Awesome.

Really thrilled to be included, also there was Tim for his blog and Matt for the fab Great Food magazine, celebratory beers were called for.

Also there was the wonderful Just Soaps Of The Earth with her stunning handmade soaps, creams, balms and all manner of treats to make you look and smell better. I couldn’t resist her Kitchen Soap and Patchouli shower gel so I currently smell like my 15 year old self, in a good way, not in a stinky teenager cider and fags way, hmmm actually I probably smell exactly like my 15 year old self.

One is edible, one will make you smell amazing

Ace to see so many lovely friends there with so many new brilliant products, were you there? Did you find something awesome?

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 ūüôā 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.

 

Rutland Food Festival

It was an early start for all the traders this morning on the windy shore of Rutland Water. We arrived bright and early to set up the Great Food Magazine stand, battled the wind and managed, thanks to Matt the editor’s diagram, to eventually erect a giant sail¬†put up the gazebo and stake it down. I also managed to break my dress and have my boobs constantly fall out as I wrestled with the gusting winds that were intent on carrying the stand away (I think this combined with the bracing wind actually did the trick of perking waking me up).

                               The stand is up and there is a happy Glen

We battled with the wind but finally we had a stand, much to the relief of Glen who was still struggling to come to terms with having to get up at 7am on a Saturday morning (I had been up since 6am so my sympathy wasn’t forthcoming).

     The view from the Great Food Mag stand before the event opened, not too shabby ehy?

We had the most incredible view across the beautiful Rutland reservoir and before the show opened I managed to get around some of the other stands and catch up with a few of my favourite local producers. First stop was to see the wonderful Nicola aka Little Cakes, my absolute favourite cake maker, you should check out the photo shoot I did with her and her stunning wedding cakes.

There was the truly wonderful Hambleton Bakery who’s bread I adore and made sure I bought a loaf of their sourdough before the gates opened and they sold out (which they did after just a few hours).

                          Their brownies were just divine, if you see them BUY THEM

                               Their muffins and mini brioche made me food swoon

Also there was the brilliant Grainstore Brewery who make Rutland Bitter. ¬†Like Melton Mowbray pork Pies and Stilton cheese Rutland Bitter actually has protected geographical status, it is only allowed to be brewed by one brewery and this HAS to be the largest one in the county. It’s only one of 3 beers in the entire country to have PDO status and a mighty lovely brew it is too!

Everyone got into the swing of things with the sun shining, the beer flowing and the bands playing. The wind had dropped to a gentle breeze and everyone kicked back and soaked up the good times.

                                     Everybody needs a bosom/dog for a pillow

There was lots of great meat to be had too, we were pitched next to Picks Organic Meats who make the most wonderful burgers that are packed full of deep beefy flavours.  I visit them quite often when they have their stall at Melton Market on Saturdays and have their own meat on sale plus wood pigeon, squirrel and more recent they also have fresh fish.

We had a lovely day catching up with fellow food lovers and discovered a cracking new band called By The Rivers who are based in Leicester, if you like your reggae and ska then you should definitely check them out. They’re a group of young lads with huge amounts of talent and have already supported The Specials. Yeah we had an ace day, even Glen who hates early mornings/daylight enjoyed himself which is basically the highest of accolades.

Smoked Rum and Ginger Cheesecake for the Domestic Sluttery Pudding Club

This month’s Domestic Sluttery Pudding Club is all about cheesecake (last month was chocolate and I made Sex Pots), my favourite pudding of all! This cheesecake takes a bit of prep in as much as you will need to get things infusing for few days before you make them but that takes pretty much zero effort and once done you can knock this together in minutes, PLUS you get the most incredible smoked rum to use in cocktails ūüôā

This recipe uses a fresh unpasturised sheep‚Äôs curd made by Homewood Cheese, it’s wonderfully fresh and creamy and therefore perfect for this recipe.¬† If you can‚Äôt get hold of ewe‚Äôs curd however you could use ricotta instead.

 To make the smoked tea rum: (5 days before dessert required)

  • 250ml golden rum
  • 12 strands good quality Lapsang Souchong tea

Simply pop the strands into the rum and leave to infuse for a minimum of 2 days. I‚Äôve said use 250ml rum as it keeps forever and just gets better with time so it’s there for the next time, it’s also amazing in cocktails!

Ingredients:

  • ¬†100ml Smoked Tea Rum
  • 50g sultanas (go for the jumbo ones)
  • 100g stem ginger biscuits
  • 30g unsalted butter (melted)
  • 150ml whipping cream
  • 150g fresh sheep‚Äôs curd
  • 1 jar stem ginger in syrup
  • 1 big sprig fresh rosemary

Crystallised rosemary (optional)

  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 egg white
  • fine white caster sugar

 3 days before you need you dessert:

  1.  Place your sultanas in a cup and pour over the smoked tea rum making sure all the sultanas are covered.  Cover the cup with cling film and leave to infuse for 3 days.  This may seem a long time but after 3 days the sultanas will be so plump that they pop when you bite into them releasing a burst of flavour.
  2. Take a clean sprig of rosemary and push it into the centre of your jar of stem ginger and syrup in order to infuse.

The day before:

  1. Dip the remaining sprigs of rosemary into the egg white, then using a small sieve (a tea strainer is perfect) gently dust the rosemary with the caster sugar, coating evenly but lightly. Lay the sprigs gently on a baking sheet and leave overnight in an airing cupboard in order for it to crystallise.

On the day:

  1.  Crush the stem ginger biscuits and add the melted butter.  Stir to combine then divide the mixture between 4 glasses and push down gently to even off using the back of a spoon. Pop into the fridge to set whilst you make the next layer.
  2. Whip your cream until it will happily stay stuck to a spoon when held upside down. Stir in in the sheep’s curd and make sure it is evenly mixed then stir in the sultanas and rum. Take your glasses out of the fridge and divide the mixture between them carefully pushing the cream down onto the biscuit base to avoid air gaps and leaving room at the top for a layer of rosemary ginger syrup.
  3. Pour over the syrup then top each dessert with a small sprig of rosemary.  The beauty of making these in glasses is that as your spoon travels through the layers you pick up all the flavours, and its a lot less faff than using dessert rings!

Cobnut, Pistachio and Mung Bean “Pesto”

Mung bean pesto, are you mad? Well, perhaps a bit but this makes sense. This morning I took a lovely joint of Welsh salt marsh lamb out of the freezer for dinner later then headed to my cupboard. I’ve been cultivating a few jars of sprouting mung beans for about 4 days now, and as I was giving them all a bit of a drink this morning I had a nibble. As I munched away I looked at my joint of lamb and a thought occurred to me: the mung beans tasted very similar to the fresh cobnuts that I’ve neen nibbling on for the last week. I’d basically nibbled away pretty much the whole lot that was destined for a lovely pesto to go with the lamb.

Along with a distinct nuttiness, mung beans have a grassiness to them that would really bring out the flavour of the meat. That was it, the food processor was out and the tasting began. Bits of this and bits of that were grabbed from the garden and what resulted was an incredible green sauce that not only made my Welsh lamb sing like C√īr-y-Traeth but will be making tomorrow’s pasta dish swoon.

Ingredients:

  • 4 handfuls sprouting mung beans
  • 1 handful rocket leaves
  • 2 handfuls parsley
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 red and 1 green chilli and seeds
  • 1 handful fresh cobnuts
  • 3 tablespoons ground almonds
  • 1 handful pistachio nuts
  • lots of freshly ground black pepper
  • Halen M√īn smoked salt flakes
  • zest of 1 lime
  • juice of half a lime
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Just throw everything into a food processor and blitz, loosen with the olive oil until you get a consistency you are happy with. Serve spooned over lamb or stir into pasta with a raw fresh egg yolk and top with grated Grana Padano cheese.

Wild Wood Pigeon, a Lemon Verbena Surprise and Glen gets naked…

Thursday morning and I’m in a bit of a flutter. I’m recording a baking session with Ben Jackson for BBC Radio Leicester in an hour, I’ve been frantically cleaning and mopping the kitchen and I’ve just discovered that Poppy Bumface (our kitten) is locked in the cottage next door and I can hear her crying through the wall. I’ve no idea what time my neighbour is coming home (or how she got in there for that matter) and I haven’t managed to prep any ingredients

Whilst I’m peering through the neighbour’s letterbox at a crying Poppy Bumface, (probably making her much more distressed) unbeknownst to me Boris Cat has brought a present into the kitchen. I return to find a flurry of grey and white feathers, a smug looking Boris Cat and a decapitated, still warm, plump wood pigeon on my freshly mopped floor. Feathers are stuck to the still wet floor, cupboards, fridge door and there is a little trail of blood leading to the back door. Brilliant.

Boris Cat, hunter extraordinaire

As bad as his timing was,two things are very impressive about this, 1: Boris wears not one but TWO bells on his collar and therefore sounds like a herd of reindeer as he moves (and looks like a feline Mr T. ¬† 2: The body of the wood pigeon was completely untouched, it was a clean kill, just the head removed which I don’t eat and the body presented to be by the oven. Couldn’t help but be massively impressed by this.

The back door was wide open and there on the doorstep stood my 2 chickens looking rather shaken at the murder they had clearly just witnessed! The last thing I wanted was for Ben to arrive into this scene of blood, feathers and traumatised chickens so I very quickly plucked the pigeon, removed the breasts, heart and lungs, popped them in the fridge and cleared the kitchen (and fed the chickens some hemp seeds and grapes to try and reassure them that all was well!).

Despite my somewhat flustered state the recording went well and if you want to listen click here. I am 1hr 41mins into the broadcast.

So I had 2 wonderfully plump wood pigeon breasts, a heart and liver, what to make? I just kept it really simple and pan fried it with butter, seasoning and sherry. A forage about in my garden delivered lots of edible leaves and flowers. By picking lots of different leaves and flowers I was able to try different combinations. It was absolutely beautiful. The big surprises were how incredible the combination of lemon verbena and pigeon was. The sharp herbal lemon twist just balanced the earthy pigeon and sweet sherry. The lovage leaves were another surprise combination that I’m going to be exploring. In fact everything was just delicious. ¬†The liver was like the most delicate mousse, far superior to any chicken liver, more like foie gras. I’m guessing it’s down to the wood pigeons gorging themselves on the chicken corn and mash that I put out every day.

“Give me back my wood pigeon, I caught it, it’s MINE!”

Ingredients:

  • 2 plump wood pigeon breasts
  • 1 pigeon heart
  • 1 liver
  • big knob of butter
  • salt and pepper
  • sweet sherry (big splosh)

Salad leaves:

  • chard
  • wood sorrel
  • lovage
  • beetroot
  • lemon verbena
  • tarragon
  • fennel fronds
  • chives
  • nasturtium
  • celery
  • pea
  • lollo rosso
  • frisee
  • rocket

Flowers:

  • chives
  • fennel
  • viola
  • runner bean
  • rocket
  • borage
  • french bean
  • nasturtium

Method:

Melt the butter, season the breasts and fry for a couple of minutes each side. The outside was nice and caramelised but the inside still pink. Towards the end of cooking add the heart and liver, cook for a minute then add the sherry, flame and spoon the juices over the meat. Add chopped chives, transfer to a plate and rest for a couple of minutes. Arrange leaves and flowers on a plate, slice the breasts in half and place on the leaves along with the heart and liver and spoon over the juices from the pan.

It was such a beautiful afternoon in the garden, eating free food and drinking red wine. I even gave myself a whole hour off from working just to enjoy the garden with Glen…

Wood sorrel, my giant sunflower, courgette flower and my aces trainers ūüôā

I don’t think Boris was ready for Glen doing some naked sunbathing though…

Boris can’t believe it when Glen starts stripping, no idea what he’s laughing at

Smoked Mackerel Sourdough with Fried Green Tomatoes and Green Tomato & Grape Ketchup

This weekend is perfect for making my Green Tomato and Grape Ketchup. It’s so versatile, use it as you would your regular ketchup (excellent in a bacon sandwich) and perfect with smoked mackerel. Give this really quick and simple dish a go for a healthy lunch or quick supper.

Ingredients:

  • 1 green tomato
  • coarse polenta for dusting
  • salt and pepper
  • glug of oil
  • slice of sourdough bread
  • butter
  • rocket
  • smoked peppered mackerel fillet
  • green tomato and grape ketchup

Method:

  1. Slice the tomato, dust the slices in seasoned polenta and fry gently until soft and starting to brown, drain on kitchen paper.
  2. Toast the sourdough, slather in butter, top with rocket leaves then your fried tomato. Break your fillet into pieces and place on top of the rocket then drizzle with the ketchup.

Green Tomato and Grape Ketchup

I get really excited at this time of year because it’s when I get to make my ketchups for the coming months. You can get red tomatoes all year round but for me its their younger, tarter selves that I crave.

This ketchup is so easy to make. I was given a big bag of seedless grapes so decided to throw them in too and it turned out to be a brilliant addition. I stuck to green fruit and veg for this one in order to get a nice green ketchup.

Ingredients: (I made about 3L)

  • big glug of olive oil
  • 7 white onions
  • 2 kg green tomatoes
  • 100g fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 6 spring onions
  • 1.5 kg green seedless grapes
  • 4 green chillies
  • big bunch parsley and stalks
  • 1 handful coriander seeds
  • 2 handfuls fennel seeds
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 7 crushed green cardamon inner pods
  • 2 big pinches salt
  • 400ml vinegar ( a mix of cider & white wine)
  • 400g¬†sugar
  • ground pepper

Method:

  1. Put your oil, chopped veg and spices in a giant heavy based pot and cook until softened.
  2. Blitz using a stick blender or food processor then sieve twice to get it all lovely and smooth.
  3. Add your vinegar and sugar to the sieved ketchup and return to the heat, reduce until you reach a nice thick consistency( do remember though it will get even thicker as it cools), adjust seasoning then decant into sterilised bottles.

Jasmine Braised Chinese Beef Ribs

Bank holiday Monday morning and I found myself rummaging through the freezer for some meat to cook. It’s always at this point that I get annoyed with myself for hardly ever writing on the brown paper packages at least some form of hint as to their contents. There’s mostly guess work involved trying to figure out if that roundish looking parcel is ox liver or cheek just by feeling the frozen bumps and texture through the paper. I really should use up some more of that beef tallow that I’ve got stored in there as it’s just annoying the hell out of me now, new rule: nothing goes in the freezer that I can’t eat or drink.

Anyway, I pulled out a bag of beef ribs that I had actually remembered to write on with a Sharpie. I have no potatoes or pasta in the house today so rice was going to be my carbs, therefore a Chinese inspired dish for this grey, windy holiday was in order.

If I took all the jars out of my fridge at the moment there would just be milk and a bit of Grana Padano cheese left staring back at me. Many of these jars are Chinese preserved and fermented vegetables that can turn what looks like a few sad vegetables lying in the salad drawer into a quick and tasty dinner in under 15 minutes.

I defrosted the ribs and set about making my marinade for them. I would need a bit of braising sauce for their long cook in the oven and as I had no sherry I decided to use jasmine tea as a base. It turned out that it really worked well with the dense beef, it was subtle but you could definitely tell it was there (although I did sex it up with a bit of lapsang souchong for a touch of smokiness).

                  Defrosting, marinading and after 4 1/2 hrs slow braise under foil

Ingredients:

  • Beef ribs
  • lime (to serve)
  • rice

For the marinade:

  • 1 heaped teaspoon Chinese 5 Spice
  • 3 balls preserved stem ginger, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dried garlic slivers
  • 1 teaspoon dried ginger
  • 1 heaped teaspoon hot fermented black bean paste
  • 1 heaped teaspoon Hong You Dou Ban (hot broadbean paste)
  • 3 tablespoons syrupy blackberry vinegar

For the braising liquid:

  • 3 Jasmine teabags
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon good lapsang souchong tea strands
  • 1 teaspoon Essential Cuisine powdered beef stock

Method:

Combine the marinade ingredients then cover the ribs and leave for about an hour. Put a bit of oil in a roasting pan and heat it on the hob, add your ribs and turn every now and again until all the sides are caramelised then add your braising liquid, cover tightly with foil and put in an oven preheated to 170C. Cook for about 4 hours, basting every now and again. Serve with steamed rice and spoon over the incredible pan juices. A squeeze of lime over the top will cut through the richness perfectly (unless you have calamansi then use that).

 

 

 

Marmite Lamb, Blackberry Beetroot, Lamb and Mint Yorkies and Green sauce

Sundays round my cottage mean one thing: a blissful afternoon in the kitchen – the red wine is open and The West Wing is playing on my laptop. Today was no exception and somewhat more excitingly I had a hunk of salt marsh lamb.

As I was getting a quick olive oil and rosemary marinade together for the lamb, it suddenly occured to me that Marmite would actually be a wonderful addition too, it’s salty umami flavour bringing out the meaty sweetness of the lamb, so in that went too. I can happily report that it was indeed a total triumph and will forever more be included.

I also had a few beetroot to roast too, and as I was washing the dark purple earthy little things, I glanced at my big bottle Bridget’s blackberry vinegar, and just like the marmite, it just made total sense to add bung that in too.

Now when it comes to yorkshire puddings I never just make plain ones, why miss an opportunity to add more flavour? I am a massive fan of Essential Cuisine‘s powdered stocks. Their flavour just can’t be beaten when it comes to bought stock (okay, they are actually better than my homemade ones too, sshhh) and because they are in powdered form they are absolutely brilliant for adding to sauces, batters and just sprinkling over meat and roast potatoes. ¬†When I roast a chicken I use their chicken stock and some chopped sage to boost my yorkies to super sexiness, roast beef gets the veal stock and horseradish sauce treatment and today’s lamb was graced with lamb stock, mint and rosemary.

And what sauce for my meal? Well a quick forage around the herb garden produced a beautiful, vibrant kickass green sauce that made everything just that little bit more awesome, just as a good sauce should.

For the Marmite Lamb:

  • hunk of lamb (mine was a bit of shoulder and it was achingly tender)
  • drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  • few grinds of black pepper
  • 1 heaped teaspoon marmite.
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped dried rosemary

Mix the marinade ingredients and cover the lamb, leave for at least an hour then roast in the top of the oven on its highest setting until the fat crisps and browns then move to the shelf below. Roast until the centre of the lamb reaches about 60C then take it out and rest for 15 minutes under foil that’s covered by a tea towel.

For the Blackberry Beetroot:

  • Small beetroot, washed but not peeled
  • big glug of Bridget’s thick blackberry vinegar (if you don’t have a thick syrupy vinegar then use your thin blackberry vinegar plus a big drizzle of balsamic glaze)
  • black pepper
  • sea salt flakes

Put your beetroot in a pot and pour over your vinegar then add your salt and pepper and mix well, leave to marinate for an hour then put them in a roasting tin, cover with foil and put in the top of your oven at its highest setting for an hour. Check them, if they are soft then remove the foil, give them a bit of a mix then roast uncovered to caramelise slightly.

For the Lamb Yorkies: (makes about 16, you can never have too many yorkies)

  • 300ml eggs
  • 300ml milk
  • 300ml flour
  • 1 tablespoon Essential Cuisine lamb stock powder
  • chopped fresh mint
  • chopped dried rosemary
  • few grinds black pepper

Just whisk it all together in a big bowl, leave for 30 minutes then whisk again, leave then whisk (thats just how I do it, works for me every time, electric or rotary whisks are perfect). Put a bit of dripping or oil in the bottom of your muffin tin hollows, heat in the oven (at highest setting still) until smoking then quickly pour your mixture in so that it about half fills each muffin hollow then put in the oven until well risen (about 20 minutes).

For the Green Sauce:

  • couple handfuls mixed fresh herbs (fennel fronds, chives, parsley, tarragon, mint)
  • dried chilli flakes (depending on how hot you like it, I like a big pinch)
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • big glug extra virgin olive oil
  • zest of one lemon
  • Filipino spiced vinegar (distilled white vinegar that has garlic and chillies steeped in it)
  • few grinds black pepper

Just bash it all together using a mortar and pestle and leave to infuse for about an hour.

Oh there was also peas involved but you know what peas look like ūüôā

Borage flowers at Sysonby Knoll

The borage field

I found myself on the other side of town at the Sysonby Knoll Hotel recently. I’ve been meaning to go for a while but it was a tweet from them that mentioned a borage field next to the hotel that clinched it. I’m a huge fan of edible flowers so the thought of a whole field was too much to resist, so off I went.

I could hear the borage field before I saw it, the gentle hum of thousands and thousands of honey bees drinking nectar guided me past 2 wooden hives¬†to the most beautiful sight…

As I wandered through the humming field of blue and purple flowers I passed another of my favourite edible wild plants. For as long as I can remember we used to pull the stems of what we called Applesaps and suck the sour appley juice from the stems like straws. They taste just like wood sorrel and I’ve only just found out that their proper name is Himalayan Balsam and its thought of as a highly invasive weed! Their beautiful pink flowers are just stunning and look like orchids but more excitingly their pods explode when you touch them releasing their seeds! There was plenty of Meadowsweet growing along the riverbank too not to mention all the apple trees, sloes and a huge fig tree with a few plump figs hiding amongst the foliage.

I drifted around the beautiful grounds for about an hour and picked a few borage flowers to crystallise later.

Crystallising the borage flowers

The flowers are now carefully stored away for a rainy day that needs brightening up. It really was a lovely way to spend an hour, and when I look at my own precious solitary borage plant in my herb garden, it always reminds me of that sunny afternoon in the blue humming field of bees.

Rose and Meadowsweet Syrup

I always feel quite sad at the end of the Elderflower season as for several weeks my kitchen is filled with their heady scent as they are steeped, dried, fried and crystallised. The beauty of seasons though is that as one ends another is just getting underway and just as the last Elderflowers disappear from our hedgerows the creamy sprays of Meadowsweet appear and last all the way through to September.

As the name suggests it’s flavour is naturally sweet, it has hints of vanilla and almond about it and makes the most beautiful syrup. The addition of rose makes for a warming exotic tasting drink when combined with soda water, and a wonderful cocktail addition.

The creamy flowers of Meadowsweet

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag meadowsweet flowers, stalks removed (about 800g)
  • 3 kg sugar
  • 2L water
  • rosewater (to taste, I added about 150ml)

Method:

  1. Combine your sugar and water in a big pot and heat until all the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Add your meadowsweet flowers, stir then leave to steep for 2-3 days.
  3. Line a colander with muslin then strain your syrup.
  4. Taste the syrup, you can reduce it over a gentle heat to concentrate the flavour if you like otherwise if you are happy then add your rosewater bit by bit until you are happy with the flavour then decant into sterilised bottles. I buy cheap 500ml water bottles and fill them 3/4 full before putting them in the freezer, that way my syrup lasts all through the year until the next season comes around.

** From Wikipedia:¬†About one in five people with asthma has¬†Samter’s triad,[3]¬†in which aspirin induces asthma symptoms. Therefore, asthmatics should be aware of the possibility that meadowsweet, with its similar biochemistry, will also induce symptoms of asthma.

French Bean and Yellow Courgette Salad

Finally my courgettes and french beans are ready to be picked! This quick salad really shows them off in all their glory. The lovely Bridget has just made a fresh batch of her incredible raspberry vinegar and it is absolutely perfect in for this dish. If you don’t have a lovely Bridget who makes awesome raspberry vinegar then you should definitely try Womersley’s Raspberry Vinegar which you can buy online.

Ingredients:

  • French beans topped and tailed
  • yellow courgettes thinly sliced to the same shape and size as the beans
  • mint leaves
  • fennel fronds
  • white poppy seeds
  • onion flowers

For the dressing:

  • Halen M√īn salt flakes
  • heaped tablespoon English mustard
  • 2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
  • glug of extra virgin olive oil
  • few grinds black pepper

Method:

Pop your french beans into a pan of boiling salted water for just 4 minutes then blanch in cold water and dry. Combine with your courgettes, herbs and poppy seeds. Put all your dressing ingredients into a jam jar and shake to mix then pour over your veg and mix well, sprinkle your onion flowers over the top.

Cream Tea at Stapleford Park

I can’t believe its taken me nearly 3 years to finally get round to visiting¬†Stapleford Park! It’s only about a five minute drive away from my cottage and since we visited on Tuesday I’ve been kicking myself for not going sooner.

My sister and her two children came to stay with me for a couple of days and asked what there was to do around Melton Mowbray. Aha! My sister loves big country houses so we piled into my car and headed out into the beautiful Leicestershire countryside in search of a cream tea.

On arrival we instantly knew it was somewhere really rather special. Beautiful landscaped gardens lead up to the most stunning hotel which just screams indulgence and pampering. My favourite room was the taxidermy room though, I’m a huge fan of dead animals hanging off walls!

The heady scent of lavender and freshly cut grass instantly had us ready to sit down, relax and soak up our surroundings (there are loads of really rather handsome chaps about  which was also rather nice!).

My niece Nyla took an instant shine to the giant chess set and was happily amused in her own little world whilst we got on with checking out the menu, confident that she will one day become a chess master as a result. Sarah and I both opted for the cream tea whilst my nephew Daniel opted for the rare roast beef sandwich which must have been good as it disappeared too quickly for me to try a taste!

The scones were lighter than light, the homemade strawberry compote was heavenly and the Cornish clotted cream was absolutely heavenly although I was a little disappointed to find it wasn’t local cream, Lubcloud dairy make the most wonderful thick cream that would have been just perfect. I could have also done with an extra scone too, 2 of those little beauties just wasn’t enough to scoop up all that lovely compote and cream! I went for a pot of lapsang souchong tea which was served in a beautiful heavy silver plated pot and the friendly (and immaculately dressed) staff happily provided lots of milk for my niece. At ¬£9.50 per person the cream tea is not cheap but everything was beautifully made, the setting was perfect and to be able to wander the stunning grounds in the sunshine made it absolutely worth it.

We had the most wonderful afternoon at Stapleford Park, in fact once we got back to my cottage we vowed that next time we will stay the night (despite me only living 5 minutes away!) and take advantage of their amazing spa and swimming pool. I’m definitely bringing my Dad for a round of golf on their course next time he visits me, mostly because I want to drive around in their golf buggies but it’s been ages since I played golf and what a place to get back into the swing of things (sorry!).

So if you find yourself in the Melton Mowbray area and want to treat yourself then definitely get yourself over to Stapleford Park, in fact just treat yourself and stay there wherever you may be and take me with you!

My beautiful family:

Lets look at that divine cream tea again….

Pudding Club and Chocolate Sex Pots

Booze, caramel, cream, chocolate, yeah it doesn’t get much better than that

Have you heard about Pudding Club yet? You haven’t? Well then where the hell have you been? Pudding Club ROCKS. Pudding Club was created by the awesome Domestic Sluts because quite frankly, there is a big pudding club shaped hole in our lives that needed to be filled (with mountains of pudding obviously). Can you tell I’m feeling the love for pudding right now?

You look like you need more pudding in your life too so I highly advise you get involved. Its dead simple too! Here are their guidelines for Pudding Club: (from DomesticSluttery.com)

  • Each month, we’ll announce a different pudding theme and we’ll share an awesome pudding recipe with you.
  • If you want to get involved, you make your pudding and blog the recipe and photos, linking back to us ¬†and mentioning the pudding club.
  • You can either¬†email us¬†to tell us about your recipe, leave us a link in the comments on this post or use the Twitter hashtag #SlutteryPuddingClub so we can find it (we may miss them on Facebook). We’ll try any retweet any mentions throughout the month so people can see what you’re up to.
  • On the first Monday of every month, we’ll do a round up of all of your amazing recipes and link to them all so readers and other pudding club members can try them out for themselves

See it’s dead easy!

Now when it comes to dessert I can’t be arsed faffing about, I want something that can be thrown together in under 10 minutes that looks and tastes amazing and basically makes me want to bathe in it. I’ve gone one further here and made one that not only ticks all those boxes but you can carry around in your handbag too for all those pesky pudding emergencies, or just throw a few in your bag and take them round your mate’s house for a Pudding Party (I need more of those in my life).

This little dessert kicks serious ass, it’s really indulgent and contains all my favourite things. I’ve used Amaretto in this one ¬†and Golden Syrup sponge but I often make it with golden rum and ginger sponge which is divine.

Get in my face

Ingredients: (makes about 6 generous servings)

  • Lyle’s Golden syrup cake
  • Amaretto
  • 100g dark chocolate (plus a little but extra to grate for garnish)
  • 500g pot fresh custard, must be nice and cold.
  • 1 x 397g tin Carnation Caramel (or Dulche du Leche)
  • 300ml whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon stem ginger syrup (optional)
  • cherries to garnish

Method:

  1. Slice some of your cake and put it in the bottom of your clean jam jar then pour over your Amaretto (about 25ml for each jar is about right but add more if you want it more boozy)
  2. Break your chocolate into pieces and put it into a glass bowl set above a saucepan of simmering water. Make sure the water doesn’t touch the glass bowl. When fully melted remove from the heat and whisk in half of your cold custard.
  3. Spoon a layer of caramel over your booze soaked sponge then top that with a layer of plain custard. Follow this with a layer of your chocolate custard.
  4. Whip your cream. If adding the stem ginger syrup or some more booze then do this before you start whipping. You want it to be quite firmly whipped. Spoon it over the chocolate custard.
  5. Top with a cherry and some more grated chocolate. It can be eaten straight away or pop a lid on it and it will keep happily in your fridge for another day, although I recommend taking them round to your favourite friend’s house and having a Pudding Club party and basically totally making their day.

So thats my chocolate Pudding Club recipe, whats yours?

Fragrant Rose & Spiced Apricots with Sheep’s Curd & Pomegranate Molasses

Pretty and dead easy to make

I headed over to the Farmer’s Market this morning to check out the new arts and crafts section and picked up 6 plump, ripe apricots for ¬£1. I’m much more of a savoury kinda gal and will always choose cheese over pudding so I put together this savoury apricot concoction. It’s beautiful in its simplicity and combines sweet roasted apricots with floral rose, warming spices, creamy sheep’s curd and fresh zingy herbs. I’d run out of my Super Dukkah so cobbled together a new blend from whatever I had in the pantry, and you know what, its bloody good too! The Meadowsweet pollen is currently drying in my kitchen, I had a few bunches leftover from making my Rose and Meadowsweet syrup last week and the pollen is absolutely wonderful sprinkled over soft cheese so figured it would make a welcome addition.

fresh, sliced and doused in rose water then part way through roasting

For my Cobbled Dukkah:

  • coriander seeds
  • cumin seeds
  • cardamon seeds
  • almonds
  • sunflower seeds
  • sesame seeds
  • poppy seeds (blue and white)
  • Halen M√īn spiced salt
  • chili flakes
  • sumac

I just ground everything together and just kept adding ingredients until I was happy with the taste then popped them in a jar.

For the rest:

  • 6 ripe apricots
  • few tablespoons rose water
  • saffron
  • wild flower honey
  • pomegranate molasses
  • dill fronds (vital)
  • baby salad leaves from the garden: sorrel, rocket, beetroot, chard
  • mint leaves (I used ginger mint)
  • violas
  • meadowsweet pollen (picked from a field and dried in the kitchen)

Ready to roast

Just slice the apricots in half, remove stone and lay in a roasting tin. Sprinkle over your rosewater, dukkah, a few saffron strands and a drizzle of honey then cover with tin foil and roast in a hot oven for about 25 minutes or until they are lovely and soft. Once soft and lovely remove the foil and roast for another 10 minutes to caramelise the top and reduce the syrup in the tray.

To serve just drizzle pomegranate molasses (it’s lovely and sour) on a plate, crumble over some soft creamy sheep’s curd, sit your sweet roasted apricots on top, drizzle with the syrup from the roasting tray, sprinkle with more dukkah and the meadowsweet pollen then just scatter your mint and herbs over the top. The dill is amazing and you really do need it. I would have really liked some flatbreads with this but alas I was feeling far too lazy to make any. After I took the photo I sprinkled some coconut powder over the entire dish, this totally rocked.

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

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!