“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” ― Julia Child

Saturday, July 31, 2010


Of course, the answer was Bramley apples.

So why Bramleys?

Bramleys are the perfect cooking apple because of their low sugar to acid ratio compared with other apples. This allows its outstanding tangy flavour to be retained after cooking. Once heated, the texture of the Bramley is light and moist due to its higher water content. It is these unique properties that make the Bramley so beloved of professional chefs and home cooks alike.

You can make a ton of delicious desserts with the Bramley. Here's an easy one:

Apple and Cheese Pie

A deep-dish pie filled with delicious apples and cheese. Can be served as a dessert or makes a super tea time treat.
Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes


12oz/350g shortcrust pastry (see instructions below)
2lb / 900g Bramley apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
½ tsp ground cinnamon
3oz / 75g sultanas
5 tbsp maple syrup
5oz / 150g cheese (a nice sharp Cheddar would be perfect), crumbled
1 medium egg, beaten


Preheat the oven to 400F/200C/Gas mark 6.
Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and use to line a deep 8in/20cm pie dish or loose bottomed fluted flan case. Prick the bottom and chill whilst preparing the filling. Reserve pastry trimmings for the top of the pie.

Place the apples, cinnamon, sultanas and maple syrup in a pan. Cover and cook over a gentle heat until apples just begin to soften. Remove from the heat and fold in the crumbled cheese.
Spoon into pastry lined dish. Re-roll the pastry trimmings and cut into strips about 1/2 inch/1cm thick. Use these to form a lattice pattern on top of the pie and brush with beaten egg to glaze.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until pastry is golden and crisp.

Okay.... what's the next food?
Name This Food!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Stargazy Pie

Yes, stargazy pie.

Stargazy pie is a Cornish dish made of baked pilchards, covered with a pastry crust. The pilchards are arranged with their tails toward the centre of the pie and their heads poking up through the crust around the edge, so that they appear to be gazing skyward.  Along with the fish, a typical stargazy pie would contain hard-boiled eggs, bacon, onion and mustard. Many recipe variations around these ingredients exist, some which include boiled potatoes and white wine. All recipes for the stargazy pie are topped with a shortcrust pastry lid, through which the fish heads and even tails protrude.
The dish originates from the village of Mousehole in Cornwall, and is traditionally eaten during the holiday of Tom Bawcock's Eve.

Hold up, wait a minute! Tom Bawcock's Eve? Pilchards? What?

Okay, I thought it might be a little confusing to those non-Brits among you. Pilchards? What are those?

Pilchards is another word for sardines, and the two seem to be interchangeable.They are several types of small, oily fish related to herrings, family Clupeidae. Sardines were named after the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, where they once lived in abundance.

Tom Bawcock's Eve is a festival held on the 23rd of December in Mousehole, Cornwall, UK. The festival is held in celebration and memorial of the efforts of Mousehole resident Tom Bawcock to lift a famine from the village. There are several theories to the origins of this festival, the first recorded description was made by Robert Morton Nance in 1927 in the magazine "Old Cornwall". Nance described the festival as it existed at the turn of the 20th century. Within this work Nance also speculated that the name Bawcock was derived from Beau Coc (French) - , he believed the cock was a herald of new light in Pagan times and the origins of the festival were pre-Christian. The most likely derivation of the name 'Bawcock' is from Middle English use (influenced from French) where a Bawcock is a nickname for a fine or worthy fellow. (An example of this use can be found in Twelfth Night Act 3 Scene 4 "Why, how now, my bawcock!") As the name Tom was often used as a generic description for any man it is likely that Tom Bawcock was a symbolic name for 'any fine fellow' who risked his life in pursuit of fishing. Midwinter celebrations were also common in one of Cornwall's other principal traditional occupations mining. Picrous Day and Chewidden Thursday seem to have similar origins to Tom Bawcock's Eve.

There is an ongoing folk music tradition associated with Tom Bawcock's Eve. Below is one version of Tom Bawcock's Song. The words were written by Robert Morton Nance in 1927, to a local traditional tune called the 'Wedding march'. It is believe that Nance first observed the festivities at the turn of the 20th century.

"Merry place you may believe, tiz Mouzel 'pon Tom Bawcock's eve.
To be there then who wouldn't wesh, to sup o' sibm soorts o' fish.
When morgy brath had cleared the path, Comed lances for a fry,
And then us had a bit o' scad an' Starry-gazie pie.
As aich we'd clunk, E's health we drunk, in bumpers bremmen high,
And when up caame Tom Bawcock's name, We'd prais'd 'un to the sky."

Here's a recipe. It's worth a try - go on, give it a go!

Stargazy Pie

serves 6


shortcrust pastry made with 285g plain flour
8 pilchards, sardines or small herrings
salt, pepper
1 large chopped onion
approx. 3 tbsps chopped parsley
3 hard-boiled eggs
3 rashers streaky bacon
beaten egg to glaze


Roll out the pastry for double-crust plate pie. Cover the plate, brush the rim with water and roll out another piece for the lid. Keep it aside. Preheat the oven to gas 6, 200C (400F) . Clean and bone the fish, leaving their heads in place. Season inside and stuff with finely chopped onion and parsley. Fold back into shape. Lay the fish on the pastry like the spokes of a wheel with their heads on the rim so that they can gaze upwards. Fill the gaps in between with chopped bacon and hard-boiled eggs. Put the pastry lid in place, pressing down between the fish heads so that it meets the pastry of the lower rim, making a wavy effect. Brush with beaten egg. Bake for 30 minutes, though if the fish are on the large side give them 15 minutes more at the reduced heat of gas 4, 180C (350F). Serve hot.

Okay, so what's next on Name This Food!?

Yes, I know they're apples. But what kind of apples?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Well, What Did We Eat Today?

I'm so glad you asked.

This morning I went for a troll round the shops with Sis, who had a few errands to run. She's organising a school reunion and we went around various places trying to get people to put up flyers. First place we stopped was the local neighbourhood store, where I bought two Drifter bars.
We put those in a safe place for later.
After going to various places we realised it was almost 12:00, so we went out to our old favourite, Planter's restaurant inside Tenterden Garden Centre. I indulged in the cold pork, applesauce and bubble & squeak special, while Sis had the Ham Ploughman's. I drank a peppermint tea while she had a Diet Coke.

Afterwards we headed up to Gibbet Oak Farm Shop and had a wander around in there, and nibbled a few samples. Their freshly picked black cherries were amazing. Sis bought some. She also purchased four lovely fruit scones.

There is a lot of debate about the proper pronunciation of the word 'scone'. Is it scone rhyming with gone or scone rhyming with phone? Well, I think the answer lies in this joke:
Q: What's the fastest cake in the world?
A: 'Scone!

See? Only works one way.
Later, at home, we had a mid-afternoon snack, consisting of our Drifter bars, a scone each, and some chilled Dandelion & Burdock.
Dande-hoo and Bur-what? you cry.

Dandelion and burdock is a traditional British soft drink, drunk in the British Isles since about 1265. Traditionally it is made from fermented dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) and burdock (Arctium lappa) roots, and is naturally fizzy.
There have been a small number of stories concerning its origin, most now widely considered to be apocryphal. One notable example has it that St. Thomas Aquinas, after praying for inspiration for a full night, walked from his place of prayer straight into the countryside and, "trusting in God to provide", concocted the drink from the first plants he encountered. It was this drink that aided his concentration when seeking to formulate his theological arguments that ultimately culminated in the Summa Theologica.
Dandelion and burdock shares a historical origin with a number of drinks originally made from lightly fermented root extracts, such as root beer and sarsaparilla. They were included for a supposed health benefit. The dominant flavour in these other drinks is usually sassafras or wintergreen, both now derived artificially rather than from the plant itself, in part because during the 1960s safrole, the major component of the volatile oil of sassafras, was found to be carcinogenic. All of these drinks, while tasting similar, do have their own distinct flavour. Dandelion and burdock is most similar in flavour to sarsaparilla. The drink has recently seen an increase in popularity after previously poor sales.
A dandelion and burdock drink is likely to contain several ingredients common to similar drinks including carbonated water, sugar (provided by high-fructose corn syrup in America), manloid colourings, possibly phosphoric acid, citric acid and Dandelion and Burdock extract natural flavouring.
The "dandelion and burdock" drink for sale in many retail outlets rarely contains either plant. The retail drink is often carbonated, containing artificial sweeteners and flavourings. However, the one we had was a Fentiman's, and theirs is naturally made from a traditional recipe. Here, from their website, is a list of the ingredients in the Dandelion and Burdock.

Pear Juice concentrate
Glucose Syrup
Dandelion & Burdock flavour
Dandelion Strong Infusion
Burdock Strong Infusion
Aniseed Flavour

You really get the aniseed in the aftertaste. Sis said 'ooh, there's a hint of liquorice in this'. It's lovely, a true taste of childhood. I remember in Bowketts, the bakery where my Grandma used to work, they sold this drink alongside the Cresta and Vimto.

Ah, memories.

Runner Beans It Is

Yep, runner beans.

It's so weird - in the USA you cannot get runner beans for love nor money. At least, not the ones we Brits are used to. In the Southern United States they had what were known as 'white half-runners' which were a bit similar, but the Scarlet Runner - (Phaseolus coccineus, Fabaceae) -  is sold as ornamental seeds in the Colonies. We Brits know though - runners are the business. Delicious when sliced and lightly boiled in salted water and served with a Sunday roast. Mm mm mm.

Anyway.... what's the new food?

Name this Food!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Excellent Work, My Friends

Yay! Some people do pay attention. Two peeps (one was my sister, the other was simply listed 'anonymous') got the Name This Food! food answer correct. In record time, I might add. The answer was
Now, I know what you Yanks are all saying. "Flapjacks? I thought flapjacks were those round things that come in a stack on a plate, covered with syrup and butter.... made from batter, cooked on a griddle?" No, sillies. Those are pancakes. The reason some of you misguided Colonials call them flapjacks is beyond me. It's not the International House Of Flapjacks, is it? IHOF doesn't make any sense. Okay, okay, I can hear the whining and complaining.... I give. I guess the word flapjack has meant a flat tart or pancake since Medieval times. It is really only in the 20th Century that the term began to be used to denote what we see above.

So what are flapjacks, apart from delicious?

Well, a flapjack is a sweet tray-baked oat bar made from rolled oats, butter, brown sugar and golden syrup. This dish is found in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and is also found in Australasia, but known as a 'muesli bar'. In other countries including Canada, the United States, and South Africa, flapjack refers to a form of pancake, although flapjacks do exist as 'Hudson Bay Bars'. It is cooked in an oven tin and cut into rectangles, made from rolled oats, fat (typically butter), brown sugar and usually Golden syrup or honey (but the Golden Syrup takes some beating). As well as being baked at home, they are widely available in shops, ready-packaged, often with extra ingredients such as chocolate, dried fruit, nuts, yoghurt and toffee pieces or coatings, either as individual servings or full unsliced trayfuls. Because of the high levels of fat and calories in traditional recipes, some 'diet' versions are available with lower fat and calorie content.

They are dead easy to make. Here's a recipe:


150g butter, plus extra for greasing
50g golden caster sugar
4 tbsp golden syrup
275g rolled oats


1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan170°C/gas 5. Grease and line a shallow 20cm-square tin with baking paper.
2. Put the butter, sugar and syrup into a small pan over a low heat and stir until the butter has melted. Stir in the oats. Press the mixture into the tin and bake for 20 minutes, or until just golden at the edges.
3. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes. Cut into bars in the tin. Cool completely before turning out and cutting again with a sharp knife.

Give it a go! You will not be sorry...
Oh, and if you don't know across the pond what Golden Syrup is.... it looks like this...
and I'm pretty sure there are plenty of online suppliers of British Foods, if you cannot find it at your local high-end or specialist grocer. It's a bit like treacle, but better.

So... what's the next Name This Food! food?

Name it!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Nobody Got It

Either you are all lazy and are content to let me do all the legwork for this blog, quietly resting on your behonkuses (behonkii?) and watching the world go by with nary a care in the world, thinking to yourselves, "I'll read it, but I refuse to participate", or you really just don't know what this was:

Well, you sillies, it was a hot dog. And not just any hot dog, lemme tell ya.
There is in Ashford, Kent, in the High Street, just outside the Mickey D's, a hot dog stand that sells these beauties at a knockout price. The one above has:

  • Cheese
  • Onions
  • A bloody big frankfurter
  • A huge slice o'bacon
  • Mustard
  • Bick's spicy picante sauce, and
  • Ketchup
enveloped in a soft wedge of delicious French bread, for the small sum of £1.80. That's about $2.74 for my US pals. And while that seems a lot for a dog (and admittedly it would be a lot for an ordinary dog), this dog filled me to the gills and lasted me from late morning till dinnertime. That's all I needed. Whew. What a meaty roll o' perfection. And right under Ronald McDonald's nose. Heh.

Anyway.... what's next on Name this Food!? Try this....
Name This Food!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Top Tips For Restaurant Patrons, Part 2

I have been working at Sissinghurst now for about 4 months and during that time i have encountered all manner of customers. We get a lot of tourists as it is a National Trust place, mainly from theContinent and The Americas, and also a fair amount from Australia. It's also a place that is set up in a kind of cafeteria style, where you grab yourself a tray, go along the line, select a drink, maybe a salad item, or soup, a hot main dish, perhaps, then a coffee or tea, then you come to cakes and desserts, and finally arrive at the till with your tray, whereupon the till operator (who, by the way, is not a thickie who just started working there this morning) will ring up your purchases. In this unique environment one encounters behaviour that one would not necessarily find in every restaurant, and so I feel it is in order that I should provide a list of do's and don'ts to our clientèle, so that when they arrive at Sissinghurst, they will be prepared for the experience.

  • To all visitors from Europe: Familiarize yourself with a few basic phrases in the English language before stepping out your front door. This will stand you in good stead when asking for such basics as the location of the toilet, the sugar, the milk, or what have you. I for one am sick of telling people where these things are. (Trouble is, because it's National Trust, they will not place huge signs pointing out their locations because it would not be in keeping with the general tweedy English atmos).
  • To all visitors, even the English ones: Familiarize yourself with English money before you board that coach or get into that motorhome. This will save time and aggravation at the till.
  • No, we do not accept the bloody Euro.
  • Sugar is on the tables.
  • The sign saying CAUTION - Hot Surface is there for a damn good reason. The people who serve your hot lunches to you behind that sign do not want you to burn your fingers and sue us for negligence, which is why when you try to help yourself to the bloody vegetables, they get a little arsey.
  • Lunch is served between 12pm and 2:30pm. Y'know... lunch time. Coming in at nearly 3pm and expecting lunch is a bit ridiculous, folks.
  • The cooler that displays the salads can only hold so many, so if there aren't enough salads for your liking, be patient. The person you see frantically making salads behind there is going as fast as they can.
  • Sugar is on the damn tables. OK?
  • An Americano, by its very nature, is black. Do not offend my sensibilities by asking for a white Americano. That's just a watered-down latte - why drink it?
  • The milk is on the counter next to where you get the blasted coffee. 
  • Please learn to distinguish between the phrases 'Lavatories' and 'Fire Exit'.
  • Please forgive us English people for thinking that anyone who wants to drink a beer at breakfast time is a little odd. I know we sell it, but it's still weird.
  • No, we don't have any bloody ashtrays.
  • Quit moving the tables around.
  • There are four choices when it comes to what to do with your tray: Put it on one of the three clearing trolleys, located outside, under the stairs, and in the corner of the dining room, or leave the damn thing on the table and we will get it. Do not wander aimlessly into the dining room and hand it to the person on the till. Do not put it on the shelf inside the door marked 'Clean Trays Only'. Do not move it to an adjacent table, either.
  • We close at 5:30. Wandering in at 5:27 and expecting a full-on English cream tea blowout and to sit there for an hour is just plain rude.
So there we are. I hope that clears up a few issues. I expect I'll think of more, so look out for another instalment. Thank you for your cooperation.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Clam Chowdah

A new visitor to my digital home correctly guessed the Name This Food! food. Her name is Ally, she's from Sacramento, California ( don'tcha wish they all could be California girls?) and she writes an impressive food blog entitled A Girl And Her Fork.

The correct answer, of course, was
  Clam Chowder.

New England Clam Chowder to be precise. As opposed to Manhattan Clam Chowder. Both great soups in their own right. But markedly different.

So what's the difference, I hear you cry?
Well, Manhattan Clam Chowder has a tomato base...

Like so.
New England clam chowder is a milk- or cream-based chowder, traditionally made with potatoes, onion, bacon or salt pork, flour, and clams. Adding tomatoes to clam chowder was shunned, to the point that a 1939 bill making tomatoes in clam chowder illegal was introduced in the Maine legislature. It is occasionally referred to as Boston Clam Chowder in the Midwest. 
Manhattan clam chowder has clear broth, plus tomato for red color and flavor. In the 1890s, this chowder was called "New York clam chowder" and "Fulton Fish Market clam chowder." Clam chowder, in its cream-based New England version, has been around since the mid-18th century, and no mention of any Manhattan chowder has been found that predates the 1930s. Many restaurants in northern Rhode Island sell both red and white chowders, while the southern coast favors clear and white chowders. Often they are served alongside clam cakes.
According to Good Eats, the addition of tomatoes in place of milk was initially the work of Portuguese immigrants in Rhode Island, as tomato-based stews were already a traditional part of Portuguese cuisine. Scornful New Englanders called this modified version "Manhattan-style" clam chowder because, in their view, calling someone a New Yorker was an insult.

My favourite is definitely the New England Clam Chowder, and there is no finer place to get it in my opinion than (whispered in reverential hushed tones) Ivar's.

Some of that wonderful chowder.

Ivar's is a Northwest institution, started by Ivar Haglund in Seattle in 1938, as an eaterie next to the newly built Seattle Aquarium, located at what is now Pier 54. The fish bar was short-lived, however. On July 22, 1946, Haglund opened a new restaurant, Ivar's Acres of Clams, at the same location. The aquarium closed ten years later, but the restaurant remains. And that chowder is awesome.

Anyhoo, what's the new Name This Food! food?

Yes, my thumb really does look like that.
Name it!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I Am A Camera

I just recently availed myself of a new phone. It is lovely and inexpensive, a mere £20, yet it has a camera and MP3 player on it. So in addition to creating ringtones for it, I have been taking some pix. Today I made some lovely brownies, and a shepherd's pie that looked so good I took a picture of them before they were tucked into.
First, the brownies.

These are brownies made from an Alton Brown recipe. Yes, he of the Good Eats fame. I adapted it and added some touches of mine own, such as the addition of 2 tablespoons of espresso and both milk and white chocolate chips on top. Lovely, dark, dense and slightly fudgy with an espresso twist.

Now, the shepherd's pie. I suppose it's not really a shepherd's pie, more a cottage pie because it's made with beef, not lamb, but no matter. It looked awesome and tasted great.

I also took a picture of my plate, after polishing it off, alongside my beer (Brahma beer, a Brazilian brew, £2.49 for 4 at Tesco).

This morning I took a pic of my coffee. Why, I don't know, but I'm like a child with this thing. 44 years old and it's the first camera-phone I've ever had. It is too cool.

I also took a pic of the lovely Carol Kirkwood, who was forecasting the weather and looking mighty cute while doing it.

Then later, while in Waitrose, I noticed something I found slightly amusing. And of course, took a picture.

I am armed with a camera, and therefore dangerous, people. You have been warned.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Well Done, Angie

My good blogging pal Angie Bailey won the prize of having her name (and her blog Eclectic Catladyland) mentioned here for correctly identifying the Name This Food! food as
Eggs Benedict!

So what is Eggs Benedict? Simply, an English Muffin, split, toasted lightly, upon which is placed a slice of Canadian Bacon, atop which comes a poached egg, slathered in Hollandaise Sauce. Yummy breakfasty perfection.

But why, Jeff, why is it called Eggs Benedict? From Wikipedia, the fount of all knowledge:

There are differing accounts as to the origin of eggs Benedict. In an interview in the "Talk of the Town" column of The New Yorker in 1942, the year before his death, Lemuel Benedict, a retired Wall Street stock broker, claimed that he had wandered into the Waldorf Hotel in 1894 and, hoping to find a cure for his morning hangover, ordered "buttered toast, poached eggs, crisp bacon and a hooker of hollandaise." Oscar Tschirky, the famed maître d'hôtel, was so impressed with the dish that he put it on the breakfast and luncheon menus but substituted ham and a toasted English muffin for the bacon and toast.
Craig Claiborne, in September 1967, wrote a column in The New York Times Magazine about a letter he had received from Edward P. Montgomery, an American then residing in France. In it, Montgomery related that the dish was created by Commodore E.C. Benedict, a banker and yachtsman, who died in 1920 at the age of 86. Montgomery also included a recipe for eggs Benedict, stating that the recipe had been given to him by his mother, who had received it from her brother, who was a friend of the Commodore.
Mabel C. Butler of Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts in a November 1967 letter printed in The New York Times Magazine responded to Montgomery's claim by correcting that the "true story, well known to the relations of Mrs. Le Grand Benedict", of whom she was one, was:
Mr. and Mrs. Benedict, when they lived in New York around the turn of the century, dined every Saturday at Delmonico's. One day Mrs. Benedict said to the maitre d'hotel, "Haven't you anything new or different to suggest?" On his reply that he would like to hear something from her, she suggested poached eggs on toasted English muffins with a thin slice of ham, hollandaise sauce and a truffle on top.
Another origin of the dish is suggested in Elizabeth David's French Provincial Cooking, where she describes a traditional French dish named œufs bénédictine, consisting of brandade (a puree of refreshed salt cod and potatoes), spread on triangles of fried bread. A poached egg is then set on top and napped with hollandaise. This story would also explain the distinctly French syntax, where the adjective follows, rather than precedes, the noun (although Oysters Rockefeller has the same syntax without needing a Romance-language origin). Still, it is not clear how this dish would have migrated to America, where it became popular. The combination of cod and eggs suggests it was a Lenten or meatless dish, and the use of salt cod suggests it could be as old as the Renaissance, when salt cod became more plentiful.
Mrs. Isabella Beeton's Household Management had recipes in the first edition (1861) for "Dutch sauce, for benedict" (p. 405) and its variant on the following page, "Green sauce, or Hollandaise verte", so it undoubtedly precedes the 20th century claimants above.

So there you have it. What's the new Name This Food! food?

Name it!

Too Easy

Ok, so it was obviously too easy.  I put up a pic of rhubarb crumble

 and it was answered correctly within hours. Let's see now....

Name this food!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Running Late

Ok, folks, I'm a little late with this week's update on the Name This Food! front.I've had a lot going on, what with a recent death in the family and my sister's arm being operated on again, so please forgive my tardiness. Anyway... I asked you folks to name this food...

I am dismayed, nay, horrified to say that out of all of you, only my son Charlie ventured a guess, and he was technically correct, but not quite. He said Tea and Scones, which indeed it is. But all red-blooded Englishmen and women know that tea and scones, when prepared as above with jam and cream (could be freshly whipped or clotted), is known as a Cream Tea.

Anyhoo, no matter. On to the next Name This Food! What, pray tell, is this called?


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