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

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ooh La La

Well way back in the mists of time (June 14th - can you remember that far back?) I asked you a very important question. "What", quoth I, "what, I say, is this?"

Well, I'll tell you, if ya really wanna know.

The above dish is none other than Crêpes Suzette. Yes, we've all heard of it, but how many of us have actually had it? Very few, I'll wager.

So what does Crêpes Suzette actually consist of, apart from crêpes, that is? And who is Suzette?

Crêpes Suzette  is a French dessert consisting of a crêpe with beurre Suzette, a sauce of caramelized sugar and butter, tangerine or orange juice, zest, and Grand Marnier or orange Curaçao liqueur on top, served flambé (i.e. on fire!)

The most common way to make Crêpe Suzette is to pour liqueur (usually Grand Marnier) over a freshly cooked crêpe with sugar and light it. This will make the alcohol in the liqueur evaporate, resulting in a fairly thick, caramelised sauce. In a restaurant, a Crêpe Suzette is often prepared in a chafing dish in full view of the guests.

As to the name, there are two conflicting stories. One story is told by Henri Charpentier in his autobiography. A pretty far-fetched tale of an accident that occurred while he was serving pancakes to the Prince of Wales (future Edward VII) in 1895 in Paris. According to Charpentier, the cordials caught fire and he was worried that the resulting mixture had ruined the pancakes, yet when he tasted it,  "...it was, I thought, the most delicious medley of sweet flavors I had ever tasted. I still think so. That accident of the flame was precisely what was needed to bring all those various instruments into one harmony of taste..." However, he was fourteen at the time, and so it was pretty unlikely that he was serving a royal instead of the Head waiter.

The other story comes from Larousse's Gastronomique and sounds a bit more likely.

It states that Crêpes Suzette was named in honour of French actress Suzanne Reichenberg (1853–1924), who worked professionally under the name Suzette. In 1897, Suzette appeared in the Comédie Française in the role of a maid, during which she served crêpes on stage. Monsieur Joseph, owner of Restaurant Marivaux, provided the crêpes . He decided to flambé the thin pancakes to attract the audience's attention and keep the food warm for the actors consuming them. M. Joseph was subsequently director of the Paillard Restaurant in Paris and was later with the Savoy Hotel in London.

So, a recipe, you say? Why the heck not.


For the crepes

100 g plain flour, sifted
2 eggs
200 ml milk
1 orange, grated zest only
50 g caster sugar

For the syrup

75 g caster sugar
50 g unsalted butter
150 ml orange juice
1 lemon, juice only
splashes Grand Marnier
icing sugar, for dusting


1. For the crepes: whisk together all ingredients then use a hand blender to blend to a smooth batter.

2. Pour a dollop of the batter mix into a hot pan and swirl it around the pan so it spreads out to the edges. Cook for about 1 minute or until the base of the pancake is golden.

3. Carefully flip the pancake and brown the other side, then slide onto a plate. Repeat with the remaining batter. Keep the pancakes warm by stacking on a plate and covering with kitchen paper.

4. For the syrup: wipe clean the frying pan and set over a high heat. Add the caster sugar and as it starts to caramelise add the butter and stir well. Pour in the orange juice and bring up to the boil. The mixture will turn syrupy.

5. Skim the top, then add the lemon juice. Cook over a high heat to reduce the syrup a little, than add a generous splash of Grand Marnier.

6. Add one pancake at a time to the pan, dipping them on both sides into the syrup, then folding in half. Remove the pancake and fold in half again on a plate. Repeat with the remaining pancakes. Line them up in a flameproof dish.

7. Add a generous splash of Grand Marnier to the pan, and tip into the gas flame to ignite (or carefully light with a match if you have an electric cooker). Pour the flaming Cointreau over the pancakes and dust with icing sugar.

OK, so what's the new food?

Name This Food!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Brighton Rocks!

Laura and I recently went down to Brighton, Why is this, you may ask? Because Laura's favourite musician, Ryan Adams, was playing an acoustic set down at the Brighton Dome. She got tickets. A couple of years back he was scheduled to play the Dome, and she had tickets then too, but Ryan, silly bugger, went and fell off stage the night before and broke his wrist and so the show was cancelled. So she had been looking forward to seeing this show for A WHILE.

We got the train from Appledore to Brighton and on the way, the excitement was starting to show somewhat.

Yippee! We were finally on our way to see Ryan Adams, and, barring any unforeseen circumstances, we would see him later that night.

When we got to Brighton, our first priority was getting checked in to our hotel. That way we could drop off our overnight bag and go scope out some shops and food etc.

We got checked in to our room, and we were hungry by that point. It was mid-afternoon and walking down towards the hotel we'd walked past an interesting place on North Street called Foodilic, which looked fabulous and smelled good too. The place is an all-you-can-eat joint where the food is interestingly tiered in the front window so that all can see, and the smells  that waft out the front door are enticing, to say the least. So we decided to head back there once we were checked in.

So, so glad we did.

As you can see Foodilic's food is not only affordable at £6.45 to stuff yourself silly, but the colours, smells and textures on offer were simply amazing...

I was blown away by the sheer deliciousness of it all, not to mention the cool-looking tiered dishes.

Without a doubt, my two favourite dishes were the pesto-flavoured pinto beans with red onion, above bottom left, and the sweet potato, butternut squash and caramelized onion in the second pic, top left. I could have eaten that sweet potato dish till the cows came home, I'm not kiddin' ya. Let me tell you something, I lived for ten long arduous years in the South, where sweet pertaters are a BIG DEAL, and I never once felt inclined to eat them there as they tend to smother them in either heaps of butter and brown sugar OR f***in marshmallows (toasted), neither of which are what you might call a "taste sensation". More like like hot vegetable candy goop. But these sweet potatoes were literally to die for.

I also liked the tabbouleh-ish salad I had heaped on my plate, apparently entitled Parsley Salad with Cracked Wheat and Olive Oil.

I would say there was a lot of Mediterranean/Eastern European influences in the food. I could find nothing there I did not like, and there were plenty of amazing choices.

In addition to all that, they also do amazing-looking desserts...

However, I stuffed myself to the gills, and so I have yet to sample them, but that tiramisu calls my name. Next time I go to Brighton...

I also snapped a quick pic of this banner near the hotel. Another date to put in the calendar.

Oh, and the Ryan Adams show? Pretty darn good.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Bit Of Turkish

Turkish delight

 (also known as lokum) is a family of confections based on a gel of starch and sugar. Premium varieties consist largely of chopped dates, pistachios and hazelnuts or walnuts bound by the gel; the cheapest are mostly gel, generally flavored with rosewater, mastic, or lemon. The confection is often packaged and eaten in small cubes dusted with icing sugar, copra, or powdered cream of Tartar, to prevent clinging.These would be the ones we are used to seeing in the stores. Other common types include such flavors as cinnamon and mint. In the production process, soapwort may be used as an emulsifying additive. Recently a French Market in the town had a stall selling some of the more exotic flavours.

It's been around since the 15th century, originating in the Ottoman Empire. Originally, honey and molasses were its sweeteners, and water and flour were the binding agents.
It was introduced to the West in the 19th century. An unknown Briton reputedly became very fond of the delicacy during his travels to Istanbul, and purchased cases of it, to be shipped back to Britain under the name Turkish delight. It became a major delicacy in Britain and throughout Continental Europe. Nowadays a British Christmas is not complete without at least one box of the delicious sweet cubes.

It was Iris yet again who triumphed... clearly her culinary knowledge is quite excellent. Well done Iris!

So... what's the new food?

Name This Food!

Friday, June 10, 2011

This Week's Eats

So it's been a few days since I last posted, and in that time a few things have occurred. Let me start with earlier in the week when I managed to harvest some produce from my garden! Yes!

Some early spuds, some rocket and a couple of radishes. OK, I know it's not much, but it's a start.
So I decided to make a salad, and have the potatoes with it. As chance would have it both Laura and I had purchased some lovely tomatoes the other day at the Taste The Best Of... event at Biddenden Vineyards, so I used some of them too.

I hard-boiled some eggs and threw together some salad...

Topped with a drizzle of olive oil, some cracked black pepper, and some chopped lemon balm and applemint fresh from the garden.

Yesterday we went to The William Caxton pub in Tenterden for a spot of lunch. Great decision, as it turns out. The new landlord Debbie seems to have really done a great job on the place. It was closed for a long time last year after the previous tenants moved out and there were rumours flying about what would become of the place. It's had its troubles over the years, but now seems destined for success if the food is any indication.

This is Laura's burger. That's it, sitting under that pile of massive onion rings and next to the mountain of enormous hand-cut (and very delicious) fries. It looks small comparatively speaking, but it was enormous too.
Sis had the All-Day Brunch, which again comes with mountainous fries and thick glorious wedges of toast.
I had the Roast Med Veg sandwich which comes open faced on two ciabatta, with a nice bowl of wild mixed greens...
...with which I had a bowl of cheesy fries. Mm mm mm.
All in all, I'd say a fabulous place to eat. I shall be back...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Quite A Mouthful

Today was a day I had been waiting for a whole year. Last year I was unable to attend "Taste The Best Of Produced In Kent" which is a real mouthful to try to say. I wrote about last year's event though - my Mum and Sis kindly picked up some samples of crisps and meringues for me to try, and try them I did (http://foodofjeff.blogspot.com/2010/06/produced-in-kent.html). This year, however, unencumbered with work as I find myself to be, I was able to attend this fine event, held at Biddenden Vineyard, in, um, Biddenden. The first great thing about it is that it is a free event, just turn up and explore. The second is that it is held in aid of the Kent Air Ambulance service, which I think we can all agree is a fine and worthy cause.  And so it was that Laura, Sis and I toddled on down to the vineyard on this rainy Sunday afternoon. What? You think a little precipitation is gonna put us off? Not on your life.

Dull, grey, overcast, whatever you want to call it... the vineyards still look gorgeous.
According to its website blurb, Produced In Kent  is 'a membership organisation dedicated to promoting local food, drink, products and services in Kent'. Once a year they gather some of the finest producers of said services and comestibles at the above mentioned venue and believe me, if you like your grub as much as I do, it's worth attending.

So we trooped into the area where all the stands and booths were and I immediately smelled the amazing aroma of fresh coffee, provided by Luigi Bean.

Here is a van where the back doors open to reveal a full sized espresso machine, fridges and such. All the full works of a proper coffee operation squeezed into a four-wheeled vehicle. Excellent stuff. Sadly the guy running it was not Luigi. His name was Sean, but he tells us his son is named Louis, and his nickname happens to be Luigi. This was the inspiration for Luigi Bean. The coffee was great. Thanks, Sean. However, go to the website and you will read a different story...

We continued on

and met a chap we have been running into rather frequently of late.

This is Neil from The Globe & Rainbow pub in Kilndown, which is near Cranbrook. He and his distinctive blond-and-red-tinted hair are now familiar to us since we first bumped into him at Tunbridge Wells' Farmers' Market last week (can't believe how time flies!). We then met him on Bank Holiday Monday at Finchcocks in Goudhurst. Today this busy man was here cooking up a storm and selling his amazing sauces and marinades as well as some beautiful flatbreads which are as long as your arm. We bought one with a nice red onion, tomato and cheese topping, which he had to cut into four to even get into a bag, for a paltry £3.50 which was a steal! We keep telling ourselves we need to make a point of going to The Globe & Rainbow soon, as the menu (on the website) looks insanely good!

We then encountered Kentish Mayde, who make all manner of pies and pastries.

I had my eye on some delicious-looking tarts...

but eventually plumped for an Apple and Blackberry, and a small Spicy Butterbean Pie which I have yet to try but sounds amazing.

Next were two ladies I'd met a few times before at Sissinghurst Castle Farmers' Market. They actually supplied the restaurant there with their jams and chutneys, but they also do some amazing mustards. The name of the company is Sugar & Spice and I could have quite happily stood there sampling for an hour or two...

They don't have a website yet but if you want to catch them in action just go to Sissinghurst, Penshurst, Egerton and Cranbrook Farmers' Markets, or call them on 01622 880653.

Next up was Angelcakes, which is a lady named Andrea, who does some fab cupcakes and decorated cakes...

Find her website at www.angelcakeskent.co.uk
Next was a lady I had encountered before at last year's Wealden Times Midsummer Festival. She does some amazing Indian and Asian dishes at various events around the county, supplies farm shops and delis, caters garden and dinner parties, holds cookery classes, and manages to find time to deliver her food free within the Faversham area. Her name is Corinne and her website is at Corinnescreativekitchen.co.uk. Corinne won the Taste Of Kent Awards 2010 for Best Kent Artisan Food Producer of the Year. I purchased a couple of her Bombay Potato Cakes and a Veggie Samosa to nibble on and boy were they good! Nice intense spice without burning your taste buds off. Very, very good.

Next we went into the Barn, which we were glad of, as the rain seemed to have intensified.

I found my Sis and Laura at the Kentish Cobnuts stand, talking to a nice man named Alexander Hunt. At Potash Farm in St. Mary's Platt near Sevenoaks Mr. Hunt has been busy building up Potash Farm to its former nutty glory and his website, www.kentishcobnuts.com, sells a ton of the wonderful cobnuts in their green, golden and de-husked states, as well as a lot of other wonderful nut based products. I sampled the fabulous cobnut oil and some terrific marmalade which contained cobnuts and whisky...

The next place we stopped was Alchemy Confectionery who have a wondrous range of fabulous and unusual chocolates...

Pea and mint with chocolate, I hear you cry? Indeed. The pea & mint combo has long been a tried and tested favourite, but the sweetness of the pea and the aromatic mint make really good bedfellows with a bit of choccy too. Oh my, they are exquisite.

Cobnuts show up once again. This is fantastic, by the way...
We then moved on to Cheesemakers of Canterbury and sampled some amazing and delightful handmade cheeses.

"Gruff", as in Billy Goats Gruff... geddit? Nice cheese.

I'm always up for anything with chillies in it. 

Then we passed by the Goupie stall. We love Goupie, but we purchased a bunch of it last week at Finchcocks, so we had no need of any. Love it all the same though!

The girls moved on while I lingered a minute or two, gabbing with the nice gentleman from the Nelson Brewery which is situated at the Historic Chatham Dockyard. Nelsons brew such fine ales as Spinnaker, Pieces of Eight and the wonderfully named Powder Monkey!

Mmm... beer...
Next was another local company I had seen last year at the Wealden Times Midsummer Fest, Olives R Good 4 U.

At the top left are the Moroccan Dry Olives which have to be tasted to be believed.

They've recently started making their own tapenade which is great stuff.

No website apparently, but you can contact them at olivesrgood4u@aol.com, or call Steve on 0843 2895587.

The good folks at Rentacherrytree.co.uk also produce their own very tasty Kentish Cherry Brandy...wow!

That's right, you can rent a cherry tree and get all the fruit off it when it's ready. Good deal.

There was a stand selling some lovely Venison eats...

however, being a vegetarian, I declined. Even though it smelled amazing.

Next was a gentleman selling some delicious fudge...

I have just finished the bag of Rum & Raisin... too, too good.

Last people I stopped by were the folks selling some honey products.

They were from Beult House Bees, and I had to buy a jar of their Stem Ginger in Honey. Bee-autiful.

I also ran into my friend Nicci Gurr from Home Gurr'own and purchased a couple of delicious Mushroom Scotch Eggs from her. To die for, Nicci - another winner!

We came, we saw, we ate and drank, and we went home well satisfied with our haul of goodies. Not only that but the Kent Air Ambulance benefited too, despite the rain.

Kooshti Sante!


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