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

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Problem With Brownbread

In Tenterden every Friday there is a market, with stalls lining one side of the street from Oxfam to Woolpack, and stalls behind the Olde Cellars (now Savannah) in the new "Market Square" area. Among these is a large stall selling baked goods, which are uniformly excellent. Really nice artisan breads, cakes, sausage rolls, cheese straws, pies, focaccias, etc. Cannot fault them on their variety and their quality. I just want to make that very clear from the get-go. Love their stuff. But...

I have some issues with this company, who go by the name of "Brownbread".

The first is that as I am an eco-friendly sort of chap (see my blog about Transition Town Tenterden) I am very into the idea that we should strengthen our local economy by supporting locally owned businesses, thereby keeping the money we spend on goods within the local area and not to some supermarket fatcat's offshore bank account, etc. The more you patronise your locally owned bakeries and your farm shops and purchase items that were made, sourced, and/or grown locally, the better a position you are going to be in when the shit finally hits the fan and the oil becomes cost-prohibitive to even bother drilling out of the ground and the petrol pumps dry up and suddenly we can't buy pineapples or coffee anymore because nobody can transport it. If your local farmer/butcher/baker stays in business then at least you'll be able to buy food when Tesco can no longer supply you with Fuji apples.

So when I learn that Brownbread is based in Chelmsford, Essex which is in fact between 55 and 60 miles away, depending on your route, on the other side of the Thames Estuary, and takes an average hour and a half to drive, I am frankly gobsmacked, particularly when I know that there are other very fine bakers in the local area who have stalls at other local Farmer's Markets.

So let's get this straight. I talked to the people at Brownbread and they are hitting the road at something like 5 am to get down to Tenterden in time to unpack their gear and set it all up by 8am. And since it's all fresh it means they've probably been up all night baking the stuff. Which is crazy.

The other issue I have is their van. Oh, I'm sure it's an excellent van for their purposes. But when I see it I just want to whip out my red pen. Yes, that's right, it has something written on it which makes my inner pedant want to jump out and correct glaring errors all over the place.

What does it say on the side of the van? Well, I'm glad you asked.

More specifically, here's the bit I am referring to.


Firstly... we need an apostrophe. Lots of people make the mistake of putting an apostrophe where it is not needed. These people go the opposite way and omit one where it is essential.

They then put a full stop after the word IT and then add an exclamation mark. As if there was a tiny pause before the exclamation. Which doesn't work. Of course it should read THAT'S IT!

There is a lesson here. Obviously this is a professionally-made van signwriting job, done with the proper equipment. But not proofread, at least not by anyone with any idea of the English Language.

Or was it? Perhaps the signwriter was so convinced of his accuracy he did not feel the need to have it checked, and by the time it was noticed it was too late to change it.

I'm sorry to be so picky, folks at Brownbread. I love your bread and all, but seriously? These things just jump out at me and it's like a moth to a flame. And I noticed it months ago, but have held my tongue till now. I am so glad to have finally gotten what may seem like something small and inconsequential off my chest. But holding these things in just bottles up the stress, which is unhealthy.

If you are a business and want to be taken seriously, at least proofread your ads.

All right, I've had my say. Ta-ta till next time.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sorrel-y You Can't Be Serious

Yes, folks, I am serious. Sorrel was the answer to the last Name This Food! question, and now of course the question remains - what exactly is sorrel and what can you do with it?

Common sorrel or garden sorrel (Rumex acetosa), often simply called sorrel, is a perennial herb.

Other names for sorrel include spinach dock and narrow-leaved dock.

Common sorrel has been cultivated for centuries. The leaves may be puréed in soups and sauces or added to salads; they have a flavour that is similar to kiwifruit or sour wild strawberries. The plant's sharp taste is due to oxalic acid.

Some uses around the world...

In northern Nigeria, sorrel is known as yakuwa or sure (pronounced suuray) in Hausa or karassu in Kanuri. It is also used in stews usually in addition to spinach. In some Hausa communities, it is steamed and made into salad using kuli-kuli (traditional roasted peanut cakes with oil extracted), salt, pepper, onion and tomatoes. The recipe varies according to different levels of household income. A drink called solo is made from a decoction of the plant calyx.

In Romania, wild or garden sorrel, known as măcriş or ştevie, is used to make sour soups, stewed with spinach, added fresh to lettuce and spinach in salads or over open sandwiches.

In Russia and Ukraine it is called shchavel' (щавель) and is used to make soup called green borscht. It is used as a soup ingredient in other countries, too (e.g., Lithuania, where it is known as rūgštynė).

In Hungary the plant and its leaves are known as sóska (/ʃoːʃkɔ/ or "SHO-sh-kaw"). It is called kuzukulağı ('lamb's ear') in Turkish. In Polish it is called szczaw (pronounced /ʂʈʂaf/).

In Croatia and Bulgaria is used for soups or with mashed potatoes, or as part of a traditional dish containing eel and other green herbs.

In rural Greece it is used with spinach, leeks, and chard in spanakopita.

In the Flemish speaking part of Belgium it is called "zurkel" and canned pureed sorrel is mixed with mashed potatoes and eaten with sausages, meatballs or fried bacon, as a traditional winter dish.

In Vietnam it is called Rau Chua and is used to added fresh to lettuce and in salads for Bánh Xēo.

In Portugal, it's called "azeda" (sour), and is usually chewed raw.

In India, the leaves are called chukkakura in Telugu and are used in making delicious recipes. Chukkakura pappu soup made with yellow lentils which is also called toor dal in India.

In Albania it is called lëpjeta, the leaves are simmered and served cold marinated in olive oil, it is used in soups, and even as an ingredient for filling byrek pies ( byrek me lakra ).

How about a recipe, Jeff? Don't leave us hanging...

*sigh* Okay....

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Sweet sorrel tart

This delicious pud does require a hefty bunch of sorrel, but the results are delicious: sorrel's lemony tang delicately cuts the sweet, soft-set custard. Serves eight to 10.

About 300g sorrel
Knob of butter, about 15g
2 large eggs, plus 2 egg yolks
200ml double cream
200ml whole milk
75g icing sugar
50g raisins

For the sweet shortcrust pastry
200g plain flour
35g icing sugar
Pinch of salt
125g cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 large egg yolk
About 75ml cold milk (or water)

Make the pastry first. Put the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and blitz briefly to combine (or sieve into a bowl). Add the butter and blitz (or rub in with your fingertips) until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk, and enough milk or water to bring it together into large clumps. Tip out on to a lightly floured surface and knead gently into a ball. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5 and put a baking sheet inside. Roll out the pastry to fit a 24cm tart tin. Line the tin with the pastry, leaving the excess hanging over the edge. Prick all over with a fork and chill for 10 minutes more.

Line the pastry with greaseproof paper or foil, making sure the edges are covered, fill with baking beans or uncooked lentils or rice, and bake blind for 15 minutes. Remove the beans and paper, and cook for another five minutes, or until the pastry looks cooked but not browned. Leave to cool, then trim off the rough edges. Reduce the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.

Remove any tough stalks from the sorrel. Wash the leaves, dry thoroughly and shred finely.

Heat half the butter in a large frying pan over a medium-low heat. Add half the sorrel and cook for a few minutes, stirring often, until collapsed and drastically reduced in volume. Transfer to a colander to cool. Repeat with the remaining sorrel. When cool, squeeze out the excess moisture with your hands.

In a wide bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, cream and milk. Sift in the icing sugar, whisk to dissolve, then stir in the raisins and wilted sorrel. Pour carefully into the prepared pastry case, using a fork to distribute the sorrel and raisins evenly. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until set and just golden. Leave to cool, and serve warm or at room temperature.

OK, what's the next food?

Name This Food!


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