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 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!
The last days of 2014 brought rock hard ground, an iced up pond, and beautiful hoar frosts to my grasses and hydrangea heads, but most importantly, sweetness to my prize winter crop – Jerusalem artichokes. They, as with celeriac, kale and Brussels sprouts, to mention a few, embrace a hard frost to enhance their sweetness and texture.
I grow these little knobbly gems in large tubs / plastic dustbins, as they grow rampantly in open ground. Probably the easiest and least needy of any vegetable to grow, Jerusalem artichokes are neither from Jerusalem nor an artichoke, but rather part of the sunflower family, as their luscious growth shooting skyward by mid summer, evidences. If after reading this you wish to grow ‘a few’, I urge you to try. The Jerusalem artichokes you can buy for eating are perfect for burying in the ground. They vary in colour from white to gold to purply red. Keep them contained and you will have a crop for decades as long as you leave a few in the container each year and top up with compost after harvesting.
The taste of these gnarled winter treats is sweet and nutty. They are sophisticated in texture and taste and they can be transformed into swanky salads (yes, they can be eaten raw – try grated with a little carrot, beetroot, blue cheese and a lemony dressing made with a good nut oil). Or try sweet sticky fries, roasted, mashed, sliced to mix into a dauphinoise, gratin or blitz into a velvety soup. Really, what is there not to like about these beauties, other than skinning them maybe? Peeling a witch’s nose may be easier than peeling these, although the modern varieties are less gnarled. The skin is not offensive if you can’t be bothered to peel them; however, one trick is to parboil them before slipping off the skins with your fingers.
Now, Truly Scrumptious followers will remember that last edition I used poultry pickings, or poached chicken if you were being posh, and I am using chicken here again – (apologies veggies) but this is a good healthy recipe this month – a fresh unusual taste using these humble ingredients with large quantities of tarragon and lemon – fresh and truly flavoursome. If you don’t eat meat, then make a classy soup or sauté in butter with sage leaves and a squeeze of lemon and serve with a poached organic egg.
Jerusalem artichokes with chicken, saffron and lemon
Approx. £9.50 when all ingredients bought at Buttlings and Ludwell Stores.
Saffron, lemon and chicken – always a great combination – written with a big nod to my favourite chef of the moment, Yotam Ottolenghi. Follow Ottolenghi on twitter@ottolenghi for inspiring writing and photos from this phenomenal, original chef.
Top tip – Plan ahead to leave it to marinate as long as you dare
500g Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and cut into thick wedges
3 tbs fresh lemon juice
8 large chicken thighs, on the bone with the skin on
12 banana shallots peeled and halved lengthways
12 large garlic cloves, sliced
1 lemon, cut in half lengthways then into very thin slices
2 tsp saffron threads
50 ml olive oil
150 ml cold water
1½ tbs pink peppercorns, slightly crushed (optional – in brine – not the dried ones)
10g fresh thyme leaves
40g tarragon leaves, roughly chopped
2 tsp salt and ½ tsp black pepper
Preheat the oven to 240°C / gas mark 9 (AGA roasting oven, middle shelf)
1. Cover the prepared Jerusalem artichokes with cold water, add half the lemon juice, and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes or until tender but not soft. Drain and leave to cool in a large bowl.
2. Add all the remaining ingredients excluding the remaining lemon juice and half the tarragon and mix well with your hands, rubbing the marinade into the chicken well.
3. Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours.
4. Place the chicken, skin-side up, in a roasting tin and spread the vegetables and marinade around the chicken.
5. Roast for 30minutes, then cover with foil and cook for a further 15 minutes, by which time the chicken should be cooked through.
6. Remove from the oven and add the reserved tarragon and lemon juice. Mix well, taste and add more salt if needed.
7. Serve at once with kale, steamed and then tossed lightly in butter, sprinkled with toasted almonds.
8. I’m not even going to lower myself to mention the notorious, guaranteed after effects of these little treasures. Serve them to children and you will have them sniggering all night. I suggest the rest of the family sleep alone!
A truly, truly scrumptious earthy yet flavoursome mid-week winter supper
It is a dark and cold day and raining hard as I prepare to write my muse for this month. The kitchen is warmed by the Aga, so most of the time I don’t notice the chill in the air. Such days lead me down an unstoppable slide towards comforting winter cooking and, as such, I hear the slow bubbling of a rich chicken stock on the stove, which is filling the room with a warm, comforting aroma. Lighting the wood burner now would transport me to a winter haven.
I casseroled a chicken yesterday evening and it cooled on the doorstep overnight carefully sealed to stop it being plundered by local scavengers. It’s the stock I’m really interested in rather than the chicken on this occasion, although I shall use both to make this month’s Truly Scrumptious recipes. My stock should be rich and thick, having added some roasted squash, a few soft tomatoes, carrots, tarragon and some ends of leeks and celery. Yes, most of my fridge’s bottom drawer and some leftovers. I’m also going to use my stock to make a walnut soup for lunch. The recipe from Tamsin Day-Lewis describes the walnut soup (which is only walnuts – freshest you can find, garlic, stock and cream) as robust yet delicate. It’s highly unusual, however, and I am hoping it may be something rather different for Christmas. I can’t think of any reason why it wouldn’t freeze well either, so I thought I would give it a try.
My heart sinks when I see all the festive goods on sale, the advertisements showing tables groaning under the weight of Christmas dinners, frozen cheesecakes and canapés, or obscenely enormous turkeys. It surely isn’t about the volume of your offering, but rather simple quality. Christmas to me is not just one meal but many; a series of mini feasts for people you may not see on the day itself. I feel something mildly festive is called for, that is refreshingly simple and this is what I am planning for my Boxing Day with family and for kitchen suppers with friends. No-one should be found sobbing at the stove any day, and absolutely never at Christmas, but I have no doubt some of us may have done so in the past, possibly through frustration and disappointment at that longawaited masterpiece of culinary expertise that didn’t quite turn out as expected. So, my mantra this year, is keep it fresh and simple. We need a light touch and a sense of fun, tinkering with recipes as we see fit. Be inventive with your leftovers, like the two recipes overleaf, where I suggest using cooked ham and the pickings of your Christmas turkey, chicken, duck or goose.
Buying the right food is not always about spending more. It is more about the quality of your raw materials. The simpler the dish, the more exposed the quality of your ingredients and we are lucky in living where we are as the quality from Buttlings and Ludwell Stores is beyond question.
Here’s to many stress-free and genuinely truly scrumptious celebrations, whether enjoyed on your own or with others.
Roasted Ham, Squash and Marmalade
Approx. £6.50 when all ingredients bought at Buttlings and Ludwell Stores.
A wonderful, if odd mix – the salty ham and bitter marmalade cut through the creamy squash. Serve with winter watercress salad and tiny baked potatoes rolled in sea salt.
200g cooked gammon torn into large chunks – avoid the ham cube look! (If you are cooking your own, use ham hocks)
1.5kg squash – Prince Crown, Sweet Mama, Acorn or Butternut are best
2–3 tbs rapeseed oil or olive oil
6 bay leaves and sprigs of thyme (both optional)
6 tbs orange marmalade (with rind)
1 tbs pink peppercorns (optional but adds a lovely colour and mild crunch)
Preheat the oven to 190°C / gas mark 5 (AGA roasting oven, middle shelf)
1. Cut the squash into wedges, scooping out the seeds. Put squash into a roasting dish (same one you will serve from), season well and trickle with the oil. Roast for 25–30 minutes
2. Remove the squash from the oven and add the ham chunks with the bay and thyme together with the pink peppercorns
3. Mix the marmalade with 3–4 tablespoons of the ham liquor (if you have cooked them yourself) or hot water and spoon over the ham and squash.
4. Return the tray to the oven and cook for a further 20–25 minutes until glazed and bubbling. Serve with watercress salad and baby baked potatoes rolled in sea salt.
Egg Noodles, Poached Chicken and Greens
Approx. £2.50, excluding the left over poultry, when all ingredients bought at Ludwell Stores.
Great for using left over chicken, duck, goose or turkey and when you have a great stock on the go. If you want extra protein or are making a vegetarian version, add a simple egg pancake (2 eggs beaten, cooked in large flat pan, rolled up and cut into slices)
1 small head of spring greens or kale or Savoy cabbage (150g approx)
2 nests of fine egg noodles, crushed lightly
1 garlic clove finely sliced
½ thinly sliced red chilli (optional)
dash soy sauce
1 tsp lime juice (a squeeze worth)
chicken, duck, goose or turkey pickings
750 ml chicken stock
2 eggs, beaten and seasoned (optional)
1. Prepare your greens by roughly shredding and rinsing well
2. Bring your stock to a simmer and add the greens, then the noodles, garlic and chilli
3. Cook for 3–4 minutes or until the noodles are just tender
4. Add the cooked chicken or turkey to warm through
5. Taste and adjust seasoning, add the egg pancake slices if using (see above for method), add a dash of soy sauce and lime juice before serving in warm bowls
A truly, truly scrumptious duo of quick, fresh recipes for any occasion or season!
These musings and recipes are gleaned from The Donhead Digest with the permission of AIF, their author.