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.
I just love mushrooms. I’m fascinated by their beauty and miraculous appearance not to mention their deliciousness. Nonetheless my passion for eating them and being haunted, as I am, by their potential to do serious harm, I have never been tempted to forage for them myself.
As autumn draws near, many others are looking forward to the thrill of the mushroom hunt, poking and peering into dark corners and shady recesses using their noses as well as their eyes to forage among the wet underwood in search of ceps, morels, chanterelles, shaggy ink cap (sounds poisonous from its name, but they are not) and common field mushrooms but there is still danger out there as someone recently said “All mushrooms are edible, but some you’ll eat only once”.
The only mushroom I would feel confident plucking from the ground, is the giant puffball. These are huge, white and loosely spherical with no stalk, reminiscent of overgrown marshmallows. Puffballs with their delicate flavour are perfect for soups, as they are easy to blend down nicely. They are a little like the pumpkins of the mushroom world, extremely profligate, with their spores, found in meadows and pastures often near hedges. When I walked my dog at Rushmore I would see them dotted all over the place; however, they were mostly covered in brown blemishes and should be avoided. When I first moved to Ludwell nearly sixteen years ago, my neighbour brought home a giant puffball, giving me a large slice the size of my hand. I cooked it slowly in a frying pan with butter and a little salt and served it on crunchy ciabatta toast. Recalling this delicious meal makes my mouth water and makes me want to get out there and find one of my own.
I have planted two Kentish cob trees in my garden which have been impregnated with truffle spores – summer truffle (Tuber aestivum), I presume, as it is the only truffle that grows in this country. According to the experts you need a trained animal to hunt for the hidden treasure. Fortunately, I know where I have planted mine and so won’t be buying a pig anytime soon. Fresh white truffle which is grown in north-western Italy, and is three times the cost of the more common black truffle from France, has flavour so intense that it is used very sparingly, shaved onto risotto or added to ravioli with cheese in minute amounts. There really is something truly seductive about truffles.
I plan to cultivate my own mushrooms this autumn. I learnt the simple method whilst on a course a few years ago. You need a supply of freshly cut hardwood logs and spore-impregnated dowels which you insert into the logs then leave them in a damp shady area for many months, then you ‘shock’ them by banging them very hard on the ground and, in a couple of weeks, out pop the mushrooms. Sounds straightforward. We will see, I shall be sure to update you via these pages. Happy hunting if you know what you are doing!
Mushroom, Spinach and Goats Cheese Lasagne
Approx. £8.95 when all ingredients bought at Ludwell Stores.
This delicious lasagne will work with almost any mushroom you care to mention. Fresh ceps would be my first choice mixed with field or chestnut mushrooms, but use whatever is around. Dried mushrooms, shiitake for example, may be a little too strong for this dish.
800 ml Béchamel sauce, made with 750 ml milk and 175 ml cream
100 g Parmesan plus a little for sprinkling
½ tsp grated nutmeg
300 g spinach, washed, de-stalked, dunked in boiling water for 1 minute
2 cloves garlic, chopped
250 g goats cheese (mild, creamy) or use Ricotta
150 g shallots – finely diced
75 ml olive oil
500 g mushrooms – sliced
1 tbs fresh tarragon – chopped
Handful parsley – chopped
200 ml crème fraiche
Good glug Marsala or sherry
300 g fresh lasagne or 250 g dried and cooked (don’t use lasagne that claims you don’t need to pre-cook)
Preheat oven to 200°C / Gas mark 6 AGA top oven – middle shelf
1. Having made the béchamel, add the nutmeg, Parmesan and seasoning to taste. Whisk hard until smooth and put aside placing greaseproof paper on the top to avoid a skin forming.
2. Dunk the washed spinach leaves into boiling water for 30 seconds until wilted, refresh with cold water, dry and chop roughly, not too finely.
3. Add the goat’s cheese in lumps or teaspoons to the spinach, keeping it rough and loose, you want the cheese to be identifiable on the plate, so mix gently.
4. To make the mushroom mix, sauté the shallots and garlic in a large pan, using the olive oil. Add the sliced mushrooms and stir to coat the mushrooms in the shallots and oil. Cook for around 10 minutes until the mushroom liquid has evaporated.
5. Add a glug of Marsala or sherry and cook hard until the liquid has been absorbed and breathe in the wonderful sweet aroma. Add the crème fraiche and stir well.
6. Now add the tarragon and parsley together with seasoning to taste (you can afford a good grinding of black pepper here).
7. To put the dish together, begin by spreading a little béchamel on the base of a rectangular dish.
8. Place a sheet of cooked lasagne on the top covering the base of the dish.
9. Spoon a thin layer of the spinach mix on the lasagne and add the mushrooms mix, building up all the components of the dish ending with a layer of béchamel. Sprinkle the top with Parmesan.
10. Cook for 45 minutes until golden. Serve with a crisp green salad.
A truly, truly scrumptious supper dish or for entertaining.
I am sitting in the hairdressers as I write this, hair wrapped in tin foil like an oven ready porcupine. I have been left to 'cook' (ladies you know what I mean), for 35 minutes and have a very good fresh coffee and one of those French caramel lotus biscuits to enjoy. Such luxury and I still have the chair massage to come! It's the day before the 4 Villages Spring Fête and my life has been dominated by fête business. I also have the builders in, so ‘walk the plank’ every day rather than fall into one of their enormous trenches and the dust everywhere inside, is unbelievable. Housework is not on my to-do list. With work too, I feel rightly deserving of this ‘me’ time.
Part of my ‘fête’ duties included completing food safety risk assessments with those serving food at the fête whether as a volunteer or not. Interestingly, the focus is now on allergens as a big (or bigger) risk to public safety than the ‘chance’ of bacteria oozing from your cream cake. I wanted to be sure that we informed consumers of any potential risks, for them to make their own decisions about what they ate. There has been a marked rise in the numbers of young people, especially, who are severely intolerant or allergic to basic ingredients like soya, gluten, eggs, additives etc, not to mention nuts which are in most things nowadays in one form or another. This is serious stuff. Allergens can kill.
When I was in my twenties I spent the whole of one Christmas day morning in Salisbury A&E with a face like a puffer fish including taut water filled balloons for eyelids. I had been given a huge side of smoked salmon by a boyfriend. Unexpectedly (to me) we were not spending Christmas Eve together so this gift was a sort of apology. Well, very down in the dumps, I commiserated on my own by eating most of it in one go, washed down with a few glasses of vino no doubt. Well – the salmon was as cheap and dodgy as the boyfriend. By three in the morning I was unable to open my eyes and my face felt weird. Squinting in the mirror it dawned on me that not only was my Christmas well and truly ‘over’, but so was the relationship. I was on piriton for the rest of Christmas so could not drink, could not go out for fear of frightening the dogs, and there was only left-over psychedelic orange salmon in the fridge to eat. A Christmas never to be repeated. I was unable to eat smoked fish for many years after (for reasons of allergic reaction, not from memories of a broken heart!)
So, please don’t ignore the effect of allergens on some of us more ‘sensitive’ souls, and beware unexpected gifts of hallucinatory inducing coloured food. You’re about to be dumped! aif
Golden Pan-fried Plaice with smashed Baby Broad Beans and Pancetta
Approx. £6.00 when all ingredients bought at Ludwell Stores.
4 whole plaice fillets (Ludwell Stores sells some wonderful fresh fish)
75g polenta (enough for coating the fillets)
2 slices of pancetta or thin streaky bacon (not smoked)
2 tbs oil (olive or rapeseed)
For the smashed bean/pea mix
1 onion and clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 slice of pancetta or streaky bacon, diced
150g baby broad beans, edamame beans or peas, blanched
2 sprigs fresh mint, finely shredded
2 sprigs fresh thyme
150ml light chicken or vegetable stock
150g finely diced potato (1/2 large baking potato sort of size)
2 tbs single cream
To make the smashed bean/pea mix
1. Sauté the onion, garlic and diced pancetta in half the butter until golden.
2. Add the mint, thyme, stock and potato, bringing to the boil and simmer gently.
3. When the potato is almost tender add the blanched beans or peas and simmer for a further five minutes.
4. Remove the sprigs of thyme and put the whole lot in the blender (or a big bowl and smash with the end of a rolling pin) together with the cream. The mix wants to be quite loose (not sloppy) but also to be chunky.
5. Check seasoning at this point, adding salt and black pepper as required.
6. Grill or oven cook the remaining pancetta slices until crispy.
For the plaice
7. Trim and skin the plaice if required.
8. Add seasoning to the polenta and then coat the fillets really well in the dry mix, shaking off the excess.
9. Heat the butter with the oil in a large frying pan until foaming.
10. Fry the fish for about 2–3 minutes on each side, until just cooked through.
11. Reheat the bean mix if needed – it only needs to be warm.
12. Spoon a small mound of the bean mix on to both plates and arrange the plaice fillets and pancetta slice on top. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.
A delicious light lunch or supper with a taste of summer.
A truly, truly scrumptious dish
I should be rambling today up at Rushmore. Striding up and down hill and vale through the driving rain and back to a hot meal at Rushmore Golf Club. It is the first ramble of the year, and despite my New Year’s resolution to get to grips with my waistline, I cried off, being exertion shy and a sensible fine weather rambler only.
I have just looked at the menu from the Rushmore Golf Club restaurant and was pleased to find a wonderfully seasonal menu reflecting the soul of British cooking. Game hot pot, twice cooked belly of pork, brisket of beef with champ potatoes, all served with seasonal vegetables. Hearty meals indeed that could be followed by a choice of puddings including a winter fruit trifle or local Stilton and Cheddar. I’m tempted to throw a bucket of water over my head, splash mud on my legs, pinch my cheeks for a rosy glow and merge unnoticed into the group as they walk exhausted and battered back to the club house to settle down to a well-earned meal. I think I might be rumbled though and be ostracised from the group for ‘bear faced cheating and gluttony’.
What Rushmore illustrates is that you can fill a menu with great choice for all and entertain with the best seasonal, local produce. We are living in a world where the production, marketing and sourcing of food, has gone mad. Eating soft fruit in January for example, with its watery diluted taste, dulls the excitement, the palate but most of all the anticipation of the zingy, glorious freshness of a punnet of sunripened, freshly picked berries from the bush in July. I hope and mostly believe, anyone with a true interest and passion for fresh, best value, tasty food, will shun the jet-lagged beans, blueberries and sweetcorn. Seasonal cooking is not a high-minded duty or a restrictive chore but a liberating pleasure. (I may have to be a little hypocritical when it comes to bananas, however hope you know where I am coming from.) The fact that local, seasonal produce comes without a punitive cost to the environment is a bonus many will appreciate. Had the Donheads suffered like Cumbria in December, I am sure this would have concentrated our minds about what we are doing to our planet by continually demanding year round tasteless exotics amongst other things.
Cooking in harmony with the seasons gives me immeasurable pleasure and satisfaction, especially if it’s local or picked from my own tub, garden or vegetable patch. In this wet miserable weather I like nothing more than those toe warming casseroles and stews, pies and puddings, which is exactly where I am heading this month. I have only cavolo nero (black kale) and Jerusalem artichokes to harvest this month, but both will be delicious with this month’s recipe, a warming soupy stew of beef, oxtail and vegetables for bleak days. In a world where our approach to food often seems a kind of madness, seasonality is pure sanity. So for those with New Year resolutions to turn an ear or thought to quality, seasonality or sustainability, please start by treating your family or friends, or even just yourselves (because you’re worth it) to a hearty locally sourced one pot supper this month. Finger wagging over, as I eye up a Moroccan clementine in the fruit bowl. aif
Shin of beef with oxtail and pasta
Serves 6–8 Approx.
£18 when all ingredients bought in the Donheads.
This will freeze well without the pasta which may be added on reheating or add cooked potatoes as an alternative to pasta.
Ingredients (you can add any root vegetable to this recipe or adapt it for a base for any soupy stew with rabbit, mutton or game).
1kg shin of beef (Buttlings will trim and dice this for you into large pieces)
250g pancetta or bacon pieces – cut into chunky cubes
300g oxtail (it’s the bone marrow you want)
2 onions – peeled and sliced
2 large carrots – peeled and cut in to medium-large sized chunks
3 sticks of celery – sliced
1 litre beef stock (made from a cube is fine – or use canned stock from Ludwell Stores if you don’t have home made)
250g macaroni or soup friendly pasta – orzo would work
Olive oil or dripping
Bay leaves, fresh thyme
If cooking in a slow oven rather than for a long simmer, preheat the oven to 140°C / gas mark 3 (AGA simmering oven).
1. Heat a little olive oil or dripping in a large heavy frying pan
2. Gently fry the pancetta or bacon until lightly browned and the fat runs, then transfer to a large casserole
3. Brown the shin of beef in the residual fat in the same pan in batches, transferring to the casserole as soon as it is slightly coloured
4. Seal the oxtail in the same pan, adding a little more oil if needed and add to the casserole
5. Finally sweat the onions in the same pan without allowing them to colour, transferring to the casserole when soft and translucent
6. Add the carrot chunks, sliced celery, a couple of bay leaves and a sprig of thyme
7. Pour over the beef stock adding a little water if needed – the meat should be covered by a good couple of centimetres
8. Season well although sparingly with salt
9. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered at a very low simmer for 2–3 hours until the meat is completely tender. Alternatively, once brought to a simmer cook in a slow oven, covered.
10. When tender, remove the oxtail and pull the meat from the bone, returning the meat to the casserole, discarding the bone. Stir well.
11. Cook your pasta of choice separately and when almost cooked through drain and add to the casserole just before serving. You don’t want it mushy!
12. Serve in large warmed bowls as a complete meal or add some lightly shredded and blanched kale.
A truly, truly scrumptious hearty winter supper
Thank you very much to Richard and Karen Ecclestone for Truly Scrumptious in the last Digest –- a delicious spicy fish dish – just what we are needing as the nights draw in. Introducing guest contributors Kevin Wood and Gavin Tait of the Donhead Apple Company, we are this month treated to another warming recipe that is truly perfect for autumn.
We have just come back from two weeks’ holiday and I am taken aback by how quickly summer seems to have rolled into autumn. Gone are the long hot days – ok, wet ones in our case – to be replaced with chilly, dewy mornings and dark evenings that are fast creeping in. It is the time of the year when you want to reach for thick woolly jumpers and enjoy home cooked comfort food, snuggled up next to a warming glowing log fire. This month’s recipe is the warming Chicken, Apple & Cider Stew made with the local award winning Donhead craft cider (we have just won our 1st Great Taste Award!).
We have the pleasure in guest writing from our kitchen overlooking the glorious Vale of Wardour with our cider orchard in the foreground. It is amazing how fast the trees have grown since we first planted the orchard on a cold December weekend back in 2011. We planted 500 trees then and now have over 800 trees. We’re forever saying there is no more room for any but it’s amazing how the odd one sneaks in here and there when no one is looking.
We grow six cider apple varieties and one dessert. The varieties were chosen both so that they would pollinate each other (with the help of the new beehive) and so that the blend of bitter sweets and bitter sharps will produce a rounded cider with rich tannins that will soften and mellow during the nine months between pressing and bottling. Varieties such as Kingston Black, Somerset Red Streak, Yarlington Mill and Harry Masters Jersey evoke images of times past when cider was an essential currency in attracting farm labour.
As the trees mature our annual harvest increases and, so far, this year looks like being a vast improvement upon last. Cider apples usually ripen later than dessert apples and it’s not uncommon for harvesting to take place in November. Something about the aspect of the Donhead orchard, however, seems to give us an early harvest so, by the time you read this, picking may have started.
There are plenty of fantastic British dessert apple varieties coming into season too, but most of us would have trouble just naming a few – Braeburn, Bramley, Cox, Discovery and Pink Lady. What about trying a Blenheim Orange, Feltham Beauty, Egremont Russet, Worcester Pearmain or a Laxton’s Superb? We have a Worcester Pearmain in the orchard and it has a sweet to pleasant flavour which if left improves as the apples ripen.
If you are walking along the footpath please stop and say hello. We always love to chat and talk about the apples, the orchard and most importantly the cider! Whether it’s baking a fruity Dorset apple cake, cooking a tangy apple sauce to go with your roast pork on a Sunday or simply enjoying a bottle of award winning Donhead Craft Cider, enjoy autumn, buy apples and remember to buy British.’
Gavin & Kevin www.donheadapple.com
Chicken, Apple & Cider Stew with Buttery Mash
Approx. £9.75 for the stew when all ingredients bought at Ludwell Stores.
For the Chicken, Apple & Cider Stew
3 tbs Plain flour 8 Free range skinless, boneless chicken thighs, halved
4 Free range skinless chicken breasts, halved
2 tbs Olive oil
4 Leeks – sliced into chunks
200g Carrots – sliced into chunks
200g Baby turnips
500ml Chicken stock
750ml Donhead Craft Cider
Bunch Fresh tarragon – chopped
4 English eating apples, peeled, cored and chopped into large chunks
For the Buttery Mash
900g Potatoes (Desiree or King Edward)
50g Unsalted butter
50ml Single cream
Freshly ground salt and cracked black pepper
Make the Chicken, Apple & Cider Stew (Suitable for freezing after step 3)
1. Coat your chicken in flour seasoned with salt and cracked black pepper. Heat 1 tbs of the oil in a large casserole and sear the meat in batches until golden brown (4–5 minutes). I highly recommend following this step as you can easily skip it; this locks in all of those nice chicken flavours which will add to your dish.
2. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon, lower the heat and then add the remaining oil.
3. Add the leeks and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the carrots and turnips. Next add your apples, chicken stock, Donhead cider and freshly chopped tarragon. Bring to the boil, cover, then lower the heat and simmer for 45–50 minutes until the chicken is cooked.
4. When ready to serve add a little extra tarragon and a good grinding of freshly cracked black pepper and a hearty portion of buttery mash. Make the Buttery Mash
5. Use a potato peeler to peel the skins as thinly as possible and then cut the potatoes into even-sized chunks.
6. Put the potato chunks into a large saucepan then pour boiling water over them. Add a pinch of salt, put the lid on and simmer gently until they are absolutely tender (approx. 25 minutes).
7. When cooked, drain the potatoes, and add the butter and single cream. Cover them with a clean tea towel to absorb some of the steam for about 5 minutes. Then, using a potato masher or back of a fork, begin to break them up.
8. As soon as the butter and cream are incorporated, season well with salt and freshly ground cracked black pepper and serve piping hot.
A truly truly, scrumptious stew that makes enough for two batches so that you can make dinner once but enjoy eating it twice!
These musings and recipes are gleaned from The Donhead Digest with the permission of AIF, their author.