I enjoyed listening to an interview recently with a mobile librarian in the Black Country, who drives her converted transit van around the country roads, housing estates and visiting care homes. We might have imagined the walls of the van stacked high with dusty books, however this mobile library had a children’s snug area, audio books and kindles for customers to borrow, computers and DVDs too. This amazing lady also talked about the surprising demand for cookery books, the best sellers (Mary Berry being top of the request list) along with old favourites, like the illustrated All Colour Cook Books, that I for sure cut my culinary teeth on.
Many of us enjoy those hard-backed cookery books reliant on brilliant photography and creative writing that we can ponder and salivate over on a rainy afternoon, yet would never even dream of actually following the recipe or finding the ingredients. These wonderful books compete against the numerous websites, magazines, tweets and blogs to get our attention for a new food fad or, heaven forbid, yet another diet. Food writers have found new ways of reaching us. The food blogger in particular has become an incredible resource for us food lovers, and for those passionate about origins of ingredients and long lost recipes. Many bloggers write with colour and enquiry, as if they want to dissect a dish, the people who prepared it and the history of why. We don’t ‘know’ these bloggers, but they introduce us to their life’s highs and lows and what food or drink soothes or excites. The photography too is inspiring, yet they are mostly just ‘snaps’ of the moment. Thankfully there isn’t much negativity in the world of food blogging although a single blog can crush a young business with its withering criticism, but for those that are following their passion it is mostly a joyous exploration. My favourite is ‘Eat Like a Girl’ – a London food blogger, voted one of Britain’s top 500 most influential people. I follow Ottolenghi’s tweets, of course, as he posts amazing photos from his test kitchen, travels and has interesting foodie ideas. I don’t write a blog but I do tweet occasionally, and I am one of those despicable people who whips out my camera to photograph my food before devouring it, if it is exceptionally beautiful, tempting or downright ridiculous.
Phil James from Ludwell Stores may be pleased about this deplorable habit, as he has turned ‘Truly Scrumptious’ into a blog style section on the new Ludwell Stores website www.ludwellstores.co.uk. Most back issues of ‘Truly’ are there, going back to the very first column in December 2009 (Venison ragout with chestnuts, port and orange). When you get past the wonderful ingredients and introductions to Ludwell Stores suppliers, you will find the jottings and recipes of issues past. Phil is keen to add inspiring photographs to enliven the words and recipes. Please send in your photos of successful, or otherwise, ‘Truly’ dishes. Just imagine, those mobile library customers in the Black Country can also access these recipes – ‘Truly’ has gone global! Thank you Phil. aif
Beef and Green Pepper Goulash
£14.80 when all ingredients purchased in the Donheads.
According to the numerous writings about this classic dish, it’s the onions that make it so authentic. Traditional Hungarian goulash is more of a soup, whilst other versions are a wet stew – this recipe is the latter, a meal in one with lots of sweet onion, that dissolve in to the sauce. You can use sausages, pork, chicken or vegetables if you don’t want beef – it will still be a goulash.
4 tbsp rapeseed or other plain oil
1.25 kg onions, sliced very thinly
2 cloves of garlic, grated or finely chopped
1.5 kg shin of beef or stewing steak cut into medium size pieces
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp paprika (sweet – not smoked)
1½ tbsp hot paprika (optional/reduced quantities depending on taste)
1 tsp caraway seeds crushed in a pestle and mortar
1 tbsp brown sugar
4 tsp cider vinegar
1 large green pepper, sliced into fingers or chunks
Seasoning – black pepper and salt
Chopped flat leaf parsley and sour cream for serving
To make the Goulash
1. Fry (in a very large pan) the sliced onions in the oil, stirring continuously, until soft and just starting to colour. This will take some time as the onions caramelise slowly.
2. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two, then add the tomato. puree, paprika, crushed caraway seeds, sugar and generous seasoning
3. Add the vinegar and 1 litre of water, bring to the boil, then add the beef and stir well.
4. Turn down to a gentle simmer for 2½ hours partly covered, whilst checking and stirring frequently.
5. Check the meat for tenderness after 2 hours and add the green pepper, adding additional water if required, until the meat is just perfect.
6. Remove the meat from the pan and reduce liquid with peppers until thickened and peppers soft but not disintegrating.
7. Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley, a dollop of sour cream and chunks of warm crusty bread – Ludwell Stores part baked sourdough or rye bread are perfect.
A truly, truly scrumptious all in one, comforting winter meal.
These musings and recipes are gleaned from The Donhead Digest with the permission of AIF, their author.