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

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Bread Sauce = Heaven

I am a big fat lump of humanity stuffed full of Christmas yummies. I made Christmas lunch today, which consisted of the obligatory turkey, roast potatoes and parsnips, peas, swede, brussels sprouts, carrots, corn, stuffing, gravy, mini sausages wrapped in bacon etc. However I decided I was going to make my favorite turkey accessory - bread sauce. I tweeted and updated my Facebook status accordingly. My buddy Marissa was perplexed as to what this was, and since I am in the mood, and it's a simple recipe, I will provide this recipe forthwith. It's very simple. All you need is:

  • Onions
  • Cloves
  • Milk
  • White bread
I took three medium-smallish onions, cut off the tops and bottoms and peeled them. Then, I take some cloves and stud the onions in a ring around each one, about a third of the way up the side. Sit the studded onions in a saucepan and fill it with milk to about two-thirds of the way up the side of the onions, and then simmer on a low heat until the onions are soft. This is the bit that throws people off now - discard the onions. What you have now is hot milk infused with clove and onion flavour. Take some slices of white bread and remove the crust, then break the slices into little pieces and add to the hot milk. Stir every so often till you get a  sort of thick lumpy custard consistency, then what I did was take a potato masher and mash the mixture a few times to break up any larger bread pieces. Et voila! Bread sauce! The best thing for turkey and taters, believe you me. Try it, you'll wonder how you ate turkey without it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bit(e)s and Pieces

"It's been a long time
I shouldna left you
Without a strong rhyme to step to..."   -- Eric B. & Rakim

Yes, I apologise folks. I really do. I simply have not had that much to write about recently, foodwise. Not that I haven't been eating, mind. Oh, don't fret about that. I've been eating alright. Perhaps a little too much.

That's the trouble with this time of year, isn't it? As soon as the weather turns cold and the clocks change and it starts getting dark around 4 pm, we just want to go home and stay warm and consume mass quantities of comforting noms. And they're not always the healthy kind, are they? Oh no! It's like bring on the sugar and carbs!! load me up!  and before you know it your favourite trousers are, well, a little snug, shall we say.

Anyhoo, I just wanted to write a little bit about some of the new and delish morsels I've recently consumed with so much gusto. First up is a new flavour of yogurt, kindly provided by the yogurt boffins over at Ski Yogurt. It's a limited edition pack containing two flavours - vanilla (which I actually found to be a bit insipid) and Toffee Apple, which kicks butt!!

Very nice balance of the caramel toffee flavour and sweet apple. Delicious. Good one, Ski. Need to work on that Vanilla though.

Next is something I discovered a few weeks ago, in the pub of all places. Brannigan's Crisps are made by KP snacks, which became part of United Biscuits back in '68. United also manufacture McCoy's Crisps, which are ridged, and very nice, as well as usually cheaper than most other brands. But I digress. I like Brannigan's because they are a nice thick cut, and the flavours are fab. The two I've tried so far are...

Lovely Roast Beef and Mustard...

Smoked Ham & Pickle - yum.
However, there is one variety I have not yet tasted and I cannot wait to get my hands on a bag.

Oh my.
It's the little things in life, I know.

Lastly I had this little titbit brought home for me from Waitrose the other day...

Yes, it's a brioche. But when I bit into it, a sweet pocket of raspberry jam was inside, oozing with fruity yumminess. Oh heck yeah. If you're in Waitrose, ya gotta get some of these 'brioches a tête' as they are known. But wait until the end of the day when they start marking stuff down, because Waitrose is great, but expensive.

Kooshti Sante!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sacre Beaujolais

On the 17th of November the 2011 vintage of Beaujolais Nouveau was released. Our local wine shop Liquid Pleasure was lucky enough to procure 20 cases of said beverage and they sold out in a matter of hours. However, this was not before we had purchased one of the few remaining bottles. This is a lovely exuberant red wine, and I think probably the best Nouveau I've tasted, and believe me - I've tasted a few.

Beaujolais Nouveau is made from the Gamay grape. The 2011 vintage, a year characterised by unusual weather leading to relatively early harvests, appears to have provided higher quality wine from fewer grapes. The 2011 Beaujolais Nouveau was harvested early and could mature a bit longer until the traditional third Thursday of November.

A decree in 1951 allowed the sale of wines from the same year. At first the starting date was in December and Beaujolais growers managed to get that pushed back to mid-November.

In the beginning, the new Beaujolais was mainly a festive event in the wine bars of the city of Lyon, just 30 km south of the growing area and still the epicentre of the increasingly global Beaujolais bash with a midnight party that sees 400 litres of the wine being served in just half an hour.

In 1966, the 250 stores of the wine retail chain Nicolas in Paris started a special Beaujolais Nouveau operation and later firms such as Georges Duboeuf took the wine to export markets.

Duboeuf, born in 1933, earned the monickers "King of Beaujolais" and "Pope of Beaujolais" for his efforts in promoting the wine that makes up one third of the production of the Beaujolais area - the rest is sold at a more mature age.

Duboeuf still runs the firm with his son Franck and will be present at a Beaujolais party in the United States, a key market.

In 2010, 35 million bottles of the wine were put on the market. Some 7.5 million were sold in French supermarkets and 15.5 million were exported, the rest went to bars, off-licence stores and restaurants.

The biggest consuming region in France is Paris with 1.3 million bottles.

Japan was the biggest export market with seven million, followed by the United States with 2.4 million and Germany with 1.2 million.

There are many other "new" wines in France or Italy, but the phrase 'Le Beaujolais Nouveau est Arrivé" remains the clarion call in France for the first taste of the vintage year.

Well, all I can say is, it's a damn tasty bottle and you should get yourself some while there's still some to be had. You can get it from Ocado here in the UK for £5.99 a bottle. http://www.ocado.com/webshop/product/show/18516011

In the States, try http://www.winechateau.com/sku1698831_GEORGES-DUBOEUF-BEAUJOLAIS-NOUVEAU-750ML-2011 for $8.89 a bottle.

Kooshti sante!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Rovin' At Rolvenden

Yesterday I went to Rolvenden. My Grandad lives over there and we had cause to go see him. When we got there, he'd already been to the Thursday morning Farmer's Market that takes place in the Village Hall and the church of St Mary the Virgin. I hadn't been to the Farmer's market for a long time so Amy and I slipped up there for a good snoop around for some yummy treats.

The first stall I came across was the wonderful locally produced veg stall which as always was right inside the door of the village hall in the lobby. I didn't procure anything from them but their veggies looked fab, and the size of their parsnips had to be seen to be believed!

As I entered the main part of the hall, the first stall I encountered was the one of Cranbrook Conserves. Not content with displaying their jams and chutneys etc, which were delicious as well as wide-ranging, they also had fresh English apples, locally grown, including my absolute favourite, the Russet. Apple lovers believe that Russets are the best tasting apples. They tend to have a spicy, nutty, pronounced and sweet flavour and a slightly dry texture. A truly amazing eating and cooking apple. Unsurprisingly, they have “russeting” on the skin – patches that are a different colour from the rest of the apple, and that give the apple a sandpapery, leathery texture. The colour of the russeting can be golden brown, burnt umber, silvery or grey.

The lady at the stall was giving out samples of the Russets and so I greedily gobbled them up. I am not ashamed to admit it. This is one of the reasons I like to go to Farmer's Markets - there are always samples to try, and you never know what you might find.
The lady also had freshly picked salad leaves in little plastic bags. I'd had some of those before and they are so much better than ones you find in the shops, and because they're picked locally you can rest easy knowing they haven't had to travel hundreds of miles from where they were grown to get to your dinner table.

The next stall I stopped at was Catherine Jordan Cakes, run by Catherine, an ex pastry chef lecturer, who bakes cakes, scones, biscuits, tarts and pies using seasonal local ingredients. She also makes special cakes to order. What caught my eye was an apple pie. It was a small one, but for an individual pie it was a corker. Here's me about to tuck in...

A pretty decent sized pie, I trust you'll agree.
She has no website as yet, but you can get a hold of her at 07528 458444. Catch her at various farmer's markets including Warehorne, Hythe, Elham and Sandgate.

Moving along past the lady from Appledene Alpacas with her wonderful Alpaca wool products (those socks are amazingly soft!) we happened upon the folks from BubbySue's who, well, do a bit of everything! As well as a fine selection of preserves they had locally made booze including Damson Gin, Damson Brandy, Cherry Brandy, Orange Liqueurs and a liqueur made from bullace, which is a kind of wild plum. They also had a ton of cheeses and meats including a hench pack of bacon for £10 that weighed a staggering 2.268 kilos. That's pretty much 5 pounds of freshly made, unadulterated, unfooled around with bacon for only ten notes. You just can't find deals like that every day, unfortunately being a little brassic I decided maybe next time. They also had homemade sausages and some fantastic looking pancetta and prosciutto.

We stepped over to a bakery stall (can't remember the name now) and bought some lovely bread, then went over to the stall of Daisy and Polly's Apple Juice. They make their juice from their own orchard in Hawkhurst, using Bramley apples for a Dry taste and Golden delicious for a sweeter juice. I tried both and picked the Bramley apple (pun intended) which was lovely and sharp.

We then walked over to the church to see the other stalls and it was a good thing we did. First of all it is quite something to see this 14th Century church (well, the chancel was completed in 1210 but the rest is 14th Century) being used for market stalls, it's unusual but it works.

The stalls in the church included our old friends from Silcocks, as well as the lovely people from VJ Game (contact: Dawn & Vince Elliott, Shaun Hull  01424 883060/01580 200516 / 07788 ) and Farmer Palmer who both do lovely meats. Farmer Palmer had a nice sample of chorizo while VJ were handing out samples of their new Wild Boar Black pudding which was fab.

But as I turned around I met a wondrous sight. Lots of lovely baked goodies including quiches, pies, pasties and sausage rolls...

and some seriously big-ass samples, proper mouthfuls. This was the stall of Frasers from Egerton near Ashford. The lady serving was Jo Morrin and she sold us some of the most humongous sausage rolls ever.

I'm not kidding, these were some big  sausage rolls. Wanna see?

Big as your fist. And tasty too!
Next to Jo was a lady from Woodside Farm in Benenden, selling air-dried lamb. This was kinda like a softer, moister version of jerky but waaay more delicious. It was sold in different sizes from different cuts of meat. I particularly liked the idea of the salad sprinkles - it was like a more sophisticated version of bacon bits.

Last but not least we sampled the wares of The Artisan Chocolate Workshop. Need I say more? Just click the link.

All in all a good morning, with some stellar buys and more to put on our wish list.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Diary Of A Wimpy Kid

Those were the days. Back in the 70s and 80s my sister and I would at times go on little excursions with our Mum, either to Maidstone or Ashford, usually on the bus. Usually these trips involved lots of tromping around shops and were quite tiring. I think these little shopping trips were the genesis of my and Sis's great dislike of shopping in general. However there was always light at the end of the tunnel - there was usually food to be had at some point. In both Ashford and Maidstone there were (and are, still) plenty of eateries, but the one that endures in the memory for me at least is the Wimpy. Nice burgers, breakfasts, chips etc. and a wonderful dessert menu that included such decadent delights as the Banana Boat (a version of the banana split), the Knickerbocker Glory (sadly no longer available) and my favourite, the fiendishly simple, er, sinful Brown Derby, a fresh doughnut topped with Tastee-Freez ice cream and chocolate sauce, and a sprinkle of nuts.
You may now drool.
Well, on Saturday Laura and I went to Maidstone and I was craving Wimpy before we even got off the bus. I knew what I wanted. But let us flash back a little in time...

The Wimpy brand was created in the 1930s. The name was inspired by the character of J. Wellington Wimpy, the perpetually hungry "I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today" character from the Popeye cartoons created by E. C. Segar. Eddie Gold was running 12 restaurants by the early 1950s, when the concept of fast food came to the attention of the directors of J. Lyons and Co. Lyons licensed the brand for use in the United Kingdom and in 1954 the first "Wimpy Bar" Lyons was established at the Lyons Corner House in Coventry Street, London. Originally the bar was a special fast-food section within the more traditional Corner House restaurants, but the success soon led to the establishment of separate Wimpy restaurants serving only hamburger based meals. By 1970 the business had expanded to over a thousand restaurants in 23 countries.

In 1974 McDonalds opened their first UK restaurant, and by the late 70s Wimpy was beginning to feel the pinch. United Biscuits acquired them in 1977, and so began the conversion of some of the 'table service' restaurants to counter service. In 1988 Grand Metropolitan acquired Burger King and Wimpy was acquired the following year. After a couple of management buy-outs, Famous Brands, the owners of the South African franchise, acquired the UK restaurants in 2007 and thus began another re-branding. However, a lot of the old favourites are still there as well as some new classics.

A few weeks back I went to the Wimpy in Tufton Street, Ashford, and it was like being ten years old again.

Ketchup and vinegar on the table at all times!

The Country Breakfast. I must go for that sometime.

A new dessert entitled the Eskimo Waffle. Read the description.

Laura in burger heaven.

My Spicy Bean Burger, which is fab. Wimpy is the only  UK fast food franchise that serves Quorn burgers.
So there we were in Maidstone yesterday, and we entered the Wimpy on Gabriels Hill, and here are the resulting pictures...

Very light and airy, not like some other fast food places we could mention.


One thing I like is that you get to see the food being cooked to order in front of you.

The Wimpy Club - a new twist on an old classic. Burger, cheese, lettuce and relish on the bottom half, bacon and egg on the top half. Mm mm mm.

I also love that 'wheatmeal' bun on the regular burgers. 
So it was that we left Wimpy with a deep sense of satisfaction in knowing that here was still in existence a burger joint in the traditional, non-fast food sense of the word, a place that was around long before Ray Kroc and his clown-burger emporium, a place that still knows how to do justice to a circular slab of minced beef (and their coffee's not too shabby either). We would have stayed for dessert, but we were stuffed to the gills. Maybe next time. Maybe we're just too wimpy.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Kohl's Law

Hey guys, how about I give you the answer to the Name This Food! food?

As you might recall, last time I asked what this was...

And surprisingly, I thought, nobody was able to supply me with the answer, which was

Kohl Rabi!

So naturally I was concerned. Kohl Rabi (or kohlrabi) was one of those veggies in the 70s and 80s on telly that they kept trying to introduce to the British palate in TV cooking shows and programmes like Blue Peter and Magpie, and we all thought it sounded decidedly foreign and weird and it was expensive to buy in the stores and so nobody bought it unless they were a hippie type that knitted their own yogurt and had hessian wallpaper.

So what the heck is it?

Well the name comes from the German Kohl ("cabbage") plus Rübe ~ Rabi (Swiss German variant) ("turnip"), because the swollen stem resembles the latter, hence its Austrian name Kohlrübe. Actually it's nothing to do with turnips, and is a cultivar of the cabbage. And it'll grow almost anywhere.

It was artificially created to look like that. Yes! Kohlrabi has been created by artificial selection for lateral meristem growth (a swollen, nearly spherical shape); its origin in nature is the same as that of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collard greens, and Brussels sprouts: They are all bred from, and are the same species as, the wild cabbage plant (Brassica oleracea).
The taste and texture of kohlrabi are similar to those of a broccoli stem or cabbage heart, but milder and sweeter, with a higher ratio of flesh to skin. The young stem in particular can be as crisp and juicy as an apple, although much less sweet.

Except for the Gigante cultivar, spring-grown kohlrabi much over 5 cm in size tend to be woody, as do full-grown kohlrabi much over perhaps 10 cm in size; the Gigante cultivar can achieve great size while remaining of good eating quality. The plant matures in 55–60 days after sowing. Approximate weight is 150 g and has good standing ability for up to 30 days after maturity. It can be eaten raw as well as cooked, and there are several varieties commonly available, including White Vienna, Purple Vienna, Grand Duke, Gigante (also known as "Superschmelz"), Purple Danube, and White Danube. Coloration of the purple types is superficial: the edible parts are all pale yellow. The leafy greens can also be eaten.

The other reason you guys probably didn't get what it was is because of my choice of picture. By the time Kohlrabi gets to the shops the leafy stems have been removed, leaving it looking like this.

However, when growing on the garden, it looks like this...

This is obviously one of the purple varieties.
So, we need a recipe, don't we?

Try this for a nice bit of comfort food.

Kohl Rabi and Potato Gratin

Serve as a main, with salad and a dollop of tomato chutney or pasta sauce - or as a side to roasted meat. You can use other vegetables as well - like courgettes, mushrooms, beetroot, fennel, or parsnips. 
Serves 4-6

25g butter
3 medium onions (1 minced, 2 chopped)
3 tablespoons plain flour
350ml milk
1/2 teaspoon English mustard
Pinch of ground nutmeg (or to taste)
1 tablespoon oil
1 kohl rabi, peeled and chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
400g potatoes, chopped (peeled or unpeeled)
150g red lentils
2 medium garlic cloves, crushed
420ml water
2 tablespoons fresh or 2 teaspoons dried parsley
100g cheddar or Gruyere cheese, grated
1-2 handfuls wholemeal breadcrumbs
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add 1 minced onion and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until just soft - about 5 minutes. Add the flour and stir to form a paste, for 1 minute. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking or stirring constantly. Add in the mustard, and season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the kohlrabi and 2 chopped onions, and sauté until just soft. Add the carrots, lentils, potatoes, garlic, and water. Bring to the boil, cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 10-15 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Combine with the white sauce and parsley. Season to taste. Transfer the mixture to a large shallow oven dish. Combine the cheese and breadcrumbs, and sprinkle over the top. Bake 45-55 minutes, until the top is golden and the vegetables are soft.

Or how about a nice salad?

Kohlrabi, Apple and Creamy Mustard Salad

Try with slivered almonds or raw sunflower seeds sprinkled on top. Serves 4 as a side dish

60 ml double cream (for whipping)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 heaped teaspoons wholegrain mustard
1/4 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 kohlrabi bulbs, peeled and cut into julienne strips (keep the leaves to use in another recipe!)
1 apple, cored and diced
In a bowl whisk the cream until it holds soft peaks then whisk in the lemon juice, mustard and sugar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the kohlrabi and apple, and serve.

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

Memories Are Made Of... Beer

Tonight I took a trip back in time, all because of a bargain. Earlier today I ventured into the hated halls of Tesco, in order to purchase some household essentials - bread and the like. As is my wont, being as I am a born bargain hunter, I ventured toward the reduced-price section to see if there were any stellar offers I could not live without.

As it happened, there were. Among the few beverages (which usually get reduced because a can is missing from a 4-pack, or similar) was a box of Tesco's own brand of French lager, Bière Spéciale. They usually come 8 to a box and there were only six. No biggie. The reduced price was unbelievable. £1.22. You read that right. One pound and twenty two pee, for six bottles of beer. That, for my American friends, is about $1.90. And this is not weak beer either. It's 4.8% alc/vol. So I purchased said item.

Later, after dinner, I decided a cold beer might be just the ticket. So I cracked one open and drank thereof. Instantly I was transported, back to 1982.

Back in 1982, as I believe I may have mentioned before, I was in a dreadful rock n roll combo known as The Grass. One sunny summer afternoon we were rehearsing our 'set' and the day being terribly warm we hit upon the idea of rehearsing outside. We were at the house of my friend and our lead singer/guitarist Alastair, and in the back garden was a large caravan which was set up permanently as a spare bedroom-type affair. Trouble with rehearsing outside in the searing weather, other than the guitars constantly going out of tune, was that we were in need of liquid refreshment quite a bit of the time. (I promise I'll get to the point soon).

As it happened, there was a large quantity of a lovely French lager called '33' lying about, as someone in Alastair's family had recently been on a day trip to France and procured vast quantities of cheap liquor, which was the thing to do in the 70s and 80s. So we were all standing about and drinking this fine beverage to refresh our parched throats and other parts of our hormone-enraged teenage bodies. Here's some pictorial proof in the shape of our bass player Nigel...

Anyway, back to this evening and the Tesco beer. As I downed this amber liquid the flavour was so reminiscent of '33' that it triggered all these lovely memories of that sunny afternoon, playing shabby rock and roll and annoying the neighbours in between a caravan and an empty swimming pool, guitars sounding like shit and generally having a ball.

So thank you, hated Tesco, for at least doing one thing that I like. And if you happen to shop in Tesco, and you need some good beer, but money's too tight to mention, try Bière Spéciale. It won't break the bank and it might just send you on a trip down memory lane to those heady days of cross-channel ferry trips to the Calais hypermarché.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Seasonal Rant

Apparently even though British supermarket giant Tesco have had their worst sales in 20 years, they still managed to rack up £1.9 billion profit. This is why I hate supermarkets. There is something fundamentally wrong with supermarkets and people's attitudes towards them.

We haven't always been as enamoured with them as we are now, but the supermarket companies created the mentality by providing consumers with the ability to get produce from around the globe, so you could always get asparagus or plums whenever you wanted them. Sounds like a great idea, huh?

"Oh," says Joe Consumer (who, generally speaking, is a bit of a thickie), "that's brilliant, I can get whatever I want whenever I feel like it, just by not going to my local farmer or greengrocer and going to Sainsbury's instead. How convenient!"

That's the key word right there. Convenient. See, human beings are essentially a bunch of lazy bums at heart, and if Joe can avoid all those tricky extra steps to get what he wants, he will. This is why drive-thrus are so popular. Automatic car washes. Microwaves. It's all bullshit.

Because in order for those things to work, the companies behind them have to know they are on to a winner before they even start. Which they do, because they are human too, and as I said, humans are essentially lazy creatures.

But what then happens is that these things become popular - supermarkets, fast food, car washes, microwaves - and the things that were there before them - locally based food producers, mom and pop restaurants, home cooking, washing the car by hand - slowly but surely get eased out and disappear.

There is a commercial on TV here in the UK at the moment, for some supermarket chain or another, I'm not sure which one it is, in which a little girl holds up an apple and asks the kindly supermarket employee, "what's this?" to which the genial man replies, "That's a delicious British Cox's apple!". And we're all supposed to think, "That's great! they have British apples in their store! How wonderful! Save the British apple!" but the harsh reality is they also stock apples that have come from far-flung corners of the world like China and Japan, and they're probably cheaper than the Cox's Orange Pippin, to give it its full monicker.

The trouble with all this convenience is that it has stopped us humans from doing what we used to do which was eating with the seasons. Back in the day people knew that it was impossible to get plums in the depths of winter, and they ate what was locally and seasonally available. Which was good for them, good for the local farmers and gardeners, and nutritionally sound.

What happens to food after it's picked? The quality of the nutrients packed therein slowly begins to degrade. The further an item has come to get to your dinner plate, the less nourishing it will be. Some plants, like broccoli, asparagus and spinach degrade very quickly so the health benefits can almost completely disappear over time.

'Modified atmosphere' packaging, used to help fresh veg travel further, has been shown to degrade the nutrients in salads. Seasonal creatures such as lamb, wild game or some wild fish will have eaten a natural diet and thus be more wholesome.  'Food miles', such as those used in air-freighting out-of-season produce, are a major contributor to carbon dioxide emissions.  Glasshouses and polytunnels heated to provide out-of-season produce also add to global warming.
Lambs that are bred and raised in their natural season do not need the same amount of specialised feed and housing as those bred early for Easter eating.
Salmon aquaculture has contributed to a devastation of the wild, seasonal stocks of salmon and sea trout.
Seasonal food has also been shown to be gastronomically superior.  Produce that is designed to have a long season and withstand packaging and transporting is always inferior, e.g. strawberries and tomatoes.  Most fruit and veg picked and eaten close to the source will taste better: the shorter the season (asparagus, plums, strawberries) the more important this is.  Seasonal creatures such as lamb, wild game or some wild fish will have eaten a natural diet and thus be more tasty.
Eating seasonally means maintaining a sustainable food chain.  You remember the food chain, right? High school Biology? Well...

The supermarket-driven insistence on predictability of supply and 'permanent global summertime' has made Britain's food chain very oil-dependent and has radically reduced our self-sufficiency. Producing and eating seasonally insulates the food chain against fuel shocks and works towards guaranteeing a sustainable food supply.
Producing food seasonally reduces the need for artificial, resource-intensive inputs such as shelter, heating and special feed.

Back in the day, as I said, folks knew what was in season without the need for enormous reference tomes, but the supermarket, and before that The Industrial Revolution, changed all that. We became a mechanized society, things started inexorably to speed up, and we lost touch with nature. So where can one go in this day and age to find out about eating with the seasons?

http://www.eattheseasons.co.uk/ is a good place to start. Don't worry, it has a North American site as well!
There's also the Center for Urban Education about sustainable Agriculture, who have a seasonal chart at http://cuesa.org/page/seasonality-chart-vegetables

Also, I'm not sure that many of you even paid attention, but for at least a year, my Name This Food! section has been based on things that are in season. Just sayin'.

So what do we need to do? Avoid supermarkets wherever possible. Grow your own fruit and veg. Support your local farmers market, your local greengrocer. And ...

Kooshti sante!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Drink Up Thy Zider

Something amazing happened to me the other day. Something you may not think was all that interesting or stunning, but when one discovers an entirely new flavour one is compelled to say that it is somewhat of a revelation. Such was the case on Saturday when I came home to find that Laura (who had been with my sis to the Smallhythe Apple Day) had purchased a present for me in the form of a carton of Blushing Old Wife. This is a cider made in the village of Old Wives Lees near Canterbury, A brilliantly named beverage from an interestingly named village. So what's so great about it? Well, two things.

  1. It's made with raspberries as well as apples. Not just raspberry juice blended with cider (as some products may be) but made with apples and raspberries together.
  2. The resulting cider is then left to mature in oaken barrels which had previously been used at the Bruichladdich whisky distillery on the island of Islay in Bonnie Scotland. 
So what you get is a fruity, sweet, whiskyish tasting cider. And here I must pause to explain another one of those lovely cultural differences for which the Brits and Yanks are so noted.

See, in most parts of the USA, 'cider' is just a synonym for apple juice. So if you are in Oregon, say, and someone offers you some apple cider, it will NOT, repeat NOT get you rat-arsed. It's just juice. Why this is, I cannot say. It is a most perplexing conundrum.

Anyway, back to the cider. The Blushing Old Wife is the fruitier version of (wait for it) Rough Old Wife cider, made at Cork Farm and you can see the website at http://www.rougholdwife.com/. Fantastic stuff and the fact that it comes in a quart milk jug, just right for popping in the door of the fridge, is even more reason to love it.

Friday, September 16, 2011

An (English) Apple A Day

It's OK folks, I am still here. I haven't forgotten you. I haven't been very inspired lately and I've had a lot of stuff to do with my Transition Town Project, so all I can say is a big fat hairy SORRY for leaving you all hanging. So, where were we? Ah, that's right...

This, mes amis,  is...

 the famous Cox's Orange Pippin!

So what is the difference between a Cox's and any other apple? Well, how silly. You might as well ask what's the difference between Tesco Value Bitter and a pint of Boondoggle? Because this is no ordinary apple. 
Cox's Orange Pippin is an apple cultivar first grown in 1825, at Colnbrook in Buckinghamshire, England, by the retired brewer and horticulturist Richard Cox. Though the origin of the cultivar is unknown, the Ribston Pippin seems a likely candidate. The variety was introduced for sale by the 1850s by Mr. Charles Turner, and grown commercially from the 1860s, particularly in the Vale of Evesham in Worcestershire, and later in Kent. A number of crosses and sports from the Cox's have been discovered over subsequent years, and these retain "Cox" in their names, e.g., Crimson Cox, King Cox, Queen Cox.
When shaken, the seeds make a rattling sound as they are only loosely held in the apple flesh, whereas other apples have their seeds contained as part of the apple flesh.
According to the Institute of Food Research, Cox's Orange Pippin accounts for over 50% of the UK acreage of dessert apples.
Cox is highly regarded due to its excellent flavour. The flavour and texture of the variety changes from complex acidic and crunchy in early September to more mellow and softer after storage. However it can be difficult to grow in many environments and tends to be susceptible to diseases such as scab, mildew and canker. As a result, apple breeders have hybridized Cox with other varieties to improve yield without too much loss of flavour.

Two characteristics tend to be apparent in the Pippin to a greater or lesser extent. Firstly the relatively pronounced and complex "aromatic" flavour which elevates it above most other varieties. Secondly, the striking and attractive orange-red colouring.

It is the range and complexity of flavours which makes Cox's Orange Pippin so appealing to enthusiasts of the "English" style of apple. This is a variety for the connoisseur, who can delight in the appreciation of the remarkable range of subtle flavours - pear, melon, freshly-squeezed Florida orange juice, and mango are all evident in a good example.  Almost all other apples taste one-dimensional alongside a good Cox's Orange Pippin.

On the BBC website, Cox's are paired with lobster and veal... http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/rosevealwithlobstera_91248

And despite being almost unwatchably simperingly daft, Sophie Dahl has a cracking crumble recipe. http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/toffeeapplecrumble_93626

So what's the new food?

Name This Food!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


I was thinking the other day, probably out loud, about drinking. Specifically, alcoholic beverages. I was actually thinking about the nature of inebriation and the various stages thereof. I am sure there have been hundreds of things written about this topic before, but I have never read what I am about to say.

There comes a point after a couple of drinks when a person feels a nice buzz. You're still in control, you know what you are doing and what you are talking about but you just feel... nice. However, bitter experience has taught you that this feeling will eventually fade and you'll go back to feeling your normal, humdrum ordinary self. Now, this may be a wonderful feeling to be yourself, sober. But I doubt it. Most of us, I am sure, feel fairly dull and drab most of the time. We do not walk around all day feeling like Mr. Motivator. But I digress.

So, back to what I was saying... we're at this point where we're feeling a bit mellow, and we think how nice this feeling is, but we are all the time aware that we are not going to feel that way for long, so we drink more. This is where the problems start. If only some clever boffin could invent some device that could calculate at what speed we would need to continue drinking in order to maintain the happy feeling we have without getting silly-drunk, he'd be sitting on a goldmine. Because silly-drunk leads to stupid-drunk, slobbering drunk and eventually blind-drunk. And this is not good.

I like a drink as much as the next guy, but I hate feeling like I'm talking too loud and starting to totter. Not that I'm worried about hangovers, mind. I have never had one, I'm happy to say. Had plenty of mornings where I hadn't been drinking the night before and woken up feeling like a sack of sludge tied up with string, with no real reasonable explanation as to why.

So please, if you're out there, unemployed-science-whiz guy, invent an iPhone app that would regulate our drinking in order to maintain our pleasant buzz. I'm sure all the clubbers out there would go for it in a big way.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

It'll Be All White On The Night

This, my friends...

is The Whitecurrant.

Sometimes referred to as the pink or yellow currant, it is a member of the genus Ribes (This is why Ribena is called Ribena). The flowers are a pale yellow-green, maturing into translucent berries with a pink to white hue. White currant berries are a bit smaller and sweeter than red currants. They are sometimes used to make "pink" jams and jellies (a mixture of white and red). The white currant is actually an albino cultivar of the red currant, but is marketed as a different fruit.

So what can one make with whitecurrants? Well, pretty much anything you can make with blackcurrants. I bought some a few weeks ago and made a raspberry and whitecurrant crumble, which didn't even need any extra sugar, the berries are that sweet.

Gordon Ramsay may be a loudmouthed obnoxious arrogant prick to some, but he does know his nosh. Here is a link to a recipe for his Redcurrant, Whitecurrant and Cherry Fool. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/food_and_drink/recipes/article1962827.ece

And here's a recipe for Whitecurrant Wine...

3 lbs whitecurrants 
2¾-3 lbs finely granulated sugar 
7 pts water 
1 tsp yeast nutrient 
1 pkt Burgundy wine yeast 
Put the fruit in primary and crush. Add 1 quart water and crushed Campden tablet and stir. Cover and set aside for 12 hours. Strain pulp through nylon straining bag, squeezing firmly. Suspend a jelly bag over a bowl and pour the strained juice into the bag. Allow this to drip-drain without squeezing. Do not rush. When all juice is through, pour into stainless steel saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer and hold for 5 minutes, removing any scum that rises. Meanwhile, add half the sugar to 1 quart of water and bring to boil while stirring to dissolve. Pour both the sugar-water and boiled juice into clean primary, stir in yeast nutrient, cover, and set aside to cool. Add activated yeast, recover and stir daily for 10 days. Bring another quart of water to boil and stir in remaining sugar until dissolved. Set aside to cool and then add to primary. Cover as before and set aside another 3-4 days. Transfer to secondary, top up with water and fit airlock. Rack, top up and refit airlock every 30 days until wine clears and leaves no further deposits. Stabilize, bulk age 3 months under airlock, and rack into bottles. Age 6 months before tasting. WARNING: Do not boil juice until it has passed through jelly-bag without squeezing or wine will not clear.

Note: Campden tablets = sodium metabisulphite.

And how about some preserves?


4 pounds fresh whitecurrants
1 cup water
7 cups white sugar
4 fluid ounces liquid fruit pectin

Place the currants into a large pot, and crush with a potato masher or berry crusher if you have one. Pour in 1 cup of water, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Strain the fruit through a jelly cloth or cheese cloth, and measure out 5 cups of the juice.
Pour the juice into a large saucepan, and stir in the sugar. Bring to a rapid boil over high heat, and stir in the liquid pectin immediately. Return to a full rolling boil, and allow to boil for 30 seconds.
Remove from heat and skim off foam from the top. Ladle or pour into sterile 1/2 pint jars, filling to within 1/2 inch of the top. Wipe the rims with a clean damp cloth. Cover with new sterile lids and rings. Process covered in a bath of simmering water for 10 minutes. Makes 8 x 1/2 pint jars. Goes great with duck or venison, apparently. 

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

Yes, they are apples, I know. But which variety? (I know my peeps will know this one...)


Readers, I ask you - is there anything better on a hot summer's day than a cool, refreshing beverage? Especially when it is of the alcoholic variety? Further still, when it is served in a pint glass or a 500ml bottle? Debate all you will, but I say that a fine pint of ale or cider goes down a treat any time. Take for example the lovely pint of Larkin's ale you see before you.

Does that not make your mouth water?
Sis and I made a small excursion to Brabourne Lees yesterday to pick up a mower. Long story. But on the way back we decided not to take the route recommended to us by the kind sat-nav lady, but to go off the beaten path somewhat, through the villages of Aldington, Bilsington, Hamstreet and so forth. We made a further detour out to the village of Stone-in-Oxney, where we first tried The Ferry Inn for some noms. On entering the Ferry (a beautiful pub, by the way - no disrespect) we perused the Menu board and promptly changed our minds. The food there may be excellent, it may even be exquisite, but sorry, £9.95 for Ham, Egg and Chips? You're having a gee-raffe. That was the cheapest thing on the menu and it was hidden under Snacks.  £9.95 for a snack-sized portion of Ham, Egg and Chips. You can go whistle, mate.

So we ventured further into Stone and found that The Crown, which had been closed for something like three years, was under new ownership and was open for lunch. So in we went. We were not hopeful, based on what we had seen at The Ferry, but after looking at the menu we were pleasantly surprised. There were Main dishes as low as £5.50. Vegetarian options, too. So we settled in for a nice lunch.

The place has been refurbished, and looks quite posh.

Here's the menu. Not sure what you can make out, but click on the pic to make it larger.

My sis ordered the Cheese & Ham Omelette and chips, which was not the cheapest thing on the menu at £7.45, but was quite substantial, and as a nice touch, the chips came in a paper cone a la  seaside fish'n'chips.

Mine was the £5.50 Stuffed Courgettes, a Middle Eastern dish with rice, tomatoes, broad beans, cumin, onions, garlic, coriander and sweet paprika, served with a decent sized salad.

All in all a good place for lunch, and not too hideously priced. Unlike The Ferry. Sorry, Ferry Inn fans (or owners) if you're reading, but if the average price of an entree on your menu is £13, you aren't gonna get many takers, at least not in this day and age, unless you have managed to find yourself a niche market of local Range-Rover-driving-landed gentry gentleman farmers with more money than sense.

Anyway, back to what I was saying about cooling beverages on a hot summer day. My mother and stepdad came back from their vacation in Somerset a couple days ago and brought me back a prezzie, which was a lovely bottle of cider made by Sheppy's, based in Bradford-on-Tone, about halfway between Taunton and Wellington. This cider was different though - a bottle of cider blended with blackberry juice. I put it in the fridge when I got home and there it stayed until this afternoon when I broke it out and sat with Laura in the back garden in the bright sunshine. Now I'm not normally big on ciders but this one is lovely. And just look at that colour.

I wholeheartedly recommend that you rush out and buy a case or two.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Down Mexico Way


is Pico De Gallo.
What is it?

How very good of you to ask, dear readers.

Pico de Gallo (literally, rooster's beak), also called salsa fresca, is a fresh, uncooked condiment made from chopped tomato, white onion, and chiles (typically jalapeños or serranos). Other ingredients may also be added, such as lime juice and/or apple cider vinegar, fresh cilantro (coriander leaf), cucumber, radish or firm fruit such as mango.
Pico de gallo can be used in much the same way as other Mexican salsas, Kenyan Kachumbari or Indian chutneys, but since it contains less liquid, it can also be used as a main ingredient in dishes such as tacos and fajitas.
In some regions of Mexico, a fruit salad (watermelon, orange, jícama, cucumber and sometimes melon and papaya) tossed in lime juice and hot sauce or chamoy and sprinkled with a salty chili powder is also known as pico de gallo; it is a popular snack and usually sold outside schools, while the tomato-based condiment is better known as salsa picada, which means minced or chopped sauce, salsa bandera or salsa mexicana, because the colors red (tomato), white (onion), and green (chili) are the colors of the Mexican flag.

And let me tell you what - it's awesome! I love it. I just eat it by the spoonful. Never mind about chips or soft tortillas or whatnot. Just a big ol' spoonful is good enough for me. Yeah, that's right - I'm a classy guy.

So you want a recipe so you can make it for yourself? Happy to oblige.

Pico de gallo

2 cups ripe red tomatoes diced (about 4 medium tomatoes)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 small diced onion 
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 jalapenos (stems and seeds removed) diced
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
Salt to taste

1. Mix all the ingredients and let it sit for half an hour or more in the fridge to let the flavours get happy.
2. Serve immediately.
Will last a day in the refrigerator, though it may get extra juicy. You can drain some of the juice if you like.
Makes 2 cups

However, you can use it as an ingredient in some recipes - add a couple of teaspoonsful to burritos when filling them or throw some in tacos. Add it as a topping to a salad. A big spoonful stirred into chilli while cooking can really lift the flavour. Add some to a vegetable or tomato soup for a kick. Get creative. Plop some on to a baked potato. Go nuts.

Anyhoo... what's the new food?

Name This Food!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Crop Swap

At last night's Transition Town Tenterden meeting Lizzie Power, owner of Number 75 restaurant (where the meeting was held) unveiled her new 'Crop Swap' scheme, which we are proud to be helping to launch and publicise. This morning's Kentish Express contained the following article. Please read and enjoy, dear viewer (reader?).

Click to enlarge!


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