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.

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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!

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 🙂

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

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!