Sat, Aug 8 2009
Well, if you look up beef fingers on google, your search will reveal some magnificent recipes for a fish finger style thing made with beef. All American of course! The beef fingers I am talking about are a cut of beef that I bought from a lovely butcher near my Dads in Cornwall in a shopping centre called Kingsley Village. They are dead cheap and I have never seen them anywhere else. Basically, what they are, are the ends of the rib bone. So they are a bit like a pork spare rib but with plenty of delicious beef attached. The meat from Kingsley is of excellent quality. The fat was a lovely marzipan colour and the meat was beautifully marbled.
So we fired up the barbecue this evening for the first time in weeks and I decided to give the little door bell ringers ( fingers ) a go. And for £1.50 for 2 big pieces, they proved to be a real bargain. The meat was flavourful, as rib always is, and there was so much on there we did not need the meatballs and sausages that found their way onto the grill.
So, the next time you are in a butcher, ask them if they can oblige you with some beef fingers. Forgotten cuts are certainly topical at the moment, but these little fellows certainly need a fifteen minutes of fame too.
Get yourself to Wagamamas!
Wed, Aug 5 2009
I have had a fantastic two days with some really great children. Not children that lead a balanced life with all they need, but children who come from uncertain backgrounds, are disadvantaged or have a lifestyle far removed from most.
Our aim was to get them to see past junk food and try some different ingredients and to eat healthily and mindfully. It was so interesting to see their reactions and responses, even to ingredients that are relatively every day. What motivates my typing frenzy this time around is that we were lucky enough to go on a trip to my most favourite eatery, Wagamamas. Pan asian food with fresh, savoury flavours. Ten oclock in the morning seemed a little early to be tasting pickled ginger, but most really got stuck in. The children were able to taste ingredients, watch the fresh juices being made and concost their own and measure out a noodle dish to then eat later on. They all left with a goody bag with a Wagamamas pencil box and post it notes in. But not only that, they left having done something they may not think of doing or have the resourse to do. The staff - as always - were professional and friendly. It was a brilliant experience.
The food produced is so healthy, but somehow so satisfying. I took my Dad to eat there with his wife and my husband and Harley. We had a terrific supper and for pudding I had to have a starter as the flavours of the chilli squid were almost too much to bear! Get down there if you can.
Recreating it is not easy, but for something simple and delicious, dissolve a sachet of miso soup in about 400ml water. Heat then add a selection of vegetables in bitesize pieces along with a handful of rice noodles. Simmer until just tender, then squeeze in the juice of a lime. serve in a deep bowl with some griddled chicken and lots of fresh coriander.
wet wet wet
Mon, Jul 27 2009
I have had probably the wettest week of my life! Every single item of my clothing was covered in mud. Thank goodness I took my wellies. I have been working at Tatton flower show for a week with my usual - and most favourite - employer. And it hs rained...........alot! Sadly, we were staying in the most rubbish of hotels which kept the most atrocious house keeping I have come across. The food was pretty terrible too. One of those places trying to be outstanding, with the chef trying with his presentation but falling fowl with any form of flavour.
The flower show now has me hooked on plants. I have never seen so many beautiful flowers. And the children who passed through our stand appreciated them too. But the rain most certainly dampened the spirits. Anyway, I have got home, armed with a load of plants for my 12 foot square garden, ready to do a bit of landscaping!
we love food
Sun, Jun 7 2009
This morning was sadly our last in sunny Cornwall. But to top our visit off we had to indulge in some smoked streaky bacon, free range eggs, cold white toast and some Yeo Valley butter. The taste of this butter is quite exceptional. Quite the best. Harley just was in raptures eating this little lot as you can see.
I do like the whole branding around Yeo Valley. Their milk is creamy and tasty, the butter tastes like no other and their yoghurt is silky and smooth. Organic produts don't come easily in our house at the moment, being pushed by the wayside with our economic climate. But butter and milk are the two things I will never compromise. If you buy Waitrose blue organic milk is is not homogenised. You will find a layer of cream at the top of your pint! This will surely evoke memories of times past and I know many who love this treat. No birds and foil lids involved any more though!
But I feel quite strongly about the fact that people worry about the fat content in blue top milk. Frankly, it is less than 4% fat and semi is just less than 2%. But unless you drink copious amounts how can this be bad for you? Sadly I am dairy intollerant and one thing I miss - but do have to indulge in sometimes - is some crunchy cereal with ice cold milk. But we all differ and it is astonishing how our taste buds become accustomed to change so swiflty. so everything in moderation is a good adage!
Sat, Jun 6 2009
A few days away for me, means spending some wizard time with my son, eating great food, oh and I must not forget my husband. I get to actually see him!
Cornwall is the part of our luscious country that I love the most. My Pa lives down here and we frequent his house as many times a year as we can. Its a totally tiny house but who cares when the sea gulls are screeching and the waves are crashing. This week has proved to be perfect. My dad is not around so we are able to spread out amongst the two bedrooms -Harley normally has to have his bottom half on a futon underneath our bed as the bedroom is so small! - and get around the dining room table with ease. 4 nights is not really long enough but to be here is heaven. We planned to go to a fantastic bar on the beach in Porthtowen near Hayle/ St Agnes blue-bar
and on the morning of the said day, John awoke with a migraine. Completely unprepared for this event , I zoomed off to St Austell - or St Awful as it was know as when I lived here! - with Harley in tow to get some form of cure. We ended up in our favourite shop, Planet Lifestyle, a surf clothes shop and the only saving grace of this dated town. Pain killers by the wayside we left with beads and flipflops for Harley and an ace shirt for the invalid. But worst of all the plans of eating in Blue were forgotten.
Well fortunately upon return, John was partially better and the tablets made our trip viable.
So the beach was fantastic, calm green sea, the sand was too hot to walk on and our lunch was beautiful. What a refreshing chance that Harley could have a mezze with vine leaves, hummous and couscous salad. I have local moules marinieres a la creme, thatchers cider and a green salad and john, a spicy bean burger. Quite delicious looking out to sea. Harley and myself then had a game of pool. Ever taught a 6 year old to do that???!! It was very exciting until I potted the black at the last moment! Well, how do you top all of that?
eating with children
Thu, May 7 2009
I had a great week last week. And whilst I was away from my beautiful family, my work was rewarding, invigorating and at times emotional.
I have been privileged to work with a major supermarket for the last 6 years and last week went away with them to a school and taught about 500 children about healthy eating and how to cook. I wrote 12 recipes using seasonal vegetables for use at these unique events, so we had rhubarb and spring onions coming out of our ears! Some children are brilliantly aware of what food is all about. Some have no idea which is sad. But I really think that this is down to parental guidance, input and education. I saw a child at a wedding last week who had sausages and mash on his plate. His dad was guiding him towards the ketchup. Perhaps he thought this would count as one of his 5 a day! Well, it was blatantly obvious where the child had learnt this behaviour and his eating habits from as his dad had the same on his plate. It is going to be a hard job to get a lot of our children on the healthy eating route as they have already seen behaviour at home and think this is the way to go. That is how children learn. From the adults around them. And then the parents wonder why their kids have no energy, are white and ill looking.
A lot of children actually do like to try new things so why not introduce something you thin k your children will not like to your supper table. Share it, talk about it and taste it - together. Food is to be debated, respected and enjoyed. Do exactly that!
vegetables of the season
Wed, Apr 22 2009
Well, that really is a bit shoddy. Nearly two months since I wrote anything. Life has been rushing me by and contrary to the worries I had in January that I was not going to have any work, it seems to be finding me well enough. Most exciting is that I have been working on a children's campaign with a major supermarket and have written 12 recipe cards to use on mobile cooking unit. It stretched the imagination somewhat, but once the ideas were born the recipes came easily.
This time of the year is so bountiful. I love the spring for all of the produce available. As a cook, variety and choice is exciting, frankly, but we have all become so conditioned to think we can get anything at any time it makes you feel great when you can utilise the gifts of the season. And some of the places you can find this can be surprising too. Early season English asparagus in a German supermarket along with beautiful purple sprouting broccoli. You cant beat those steamed- and coated with Yeo valley butter - and served with some fish baked with a few new potatoes and finished with a little bechamel sauce and some parsley from the garden. Did you know that if your parsley thrives in your garden it is the lady of the house who wears the trousers. Email me if that is true!
So I would like to think that seasonal is important to some, but how can you not be tempted when you visit a beautiful vegetable and fruit stall. But even if we all try that must count for something? Well what could be more seasonal than a steaming mug of Green and Blacks hot chocolate. It is after all the right season to be drinking it!
Wed, Mar 11 2009
Today was an experience and a half! Having worked for myself in food for 25 years, near enough, a conference on healthy school meals was really interesting. I happened on it by chance, at the last minute, so I took the opportunity to go. The venue was one not to be missed. Sheepdrove farm, Lambourn is the most extraordinary of venues. Owned by the Kindersleys - of Dorling Kindersley fame- Sheepdrove is a working farm and eco conference centre. The building is beautifully executed with features such as toilet cubicles made from toothpaste tubes and pens made from recycled car parts.
The subject matter is an enormous one but mainly focusing on weight and healthy eating. A subject close to my heart but a subject that I feel is not quite as clear cut as is made out. Children, especially, grow at different rates and grow out of puppy fat. Some children may be very tall for their age and have a large frame, some petite. Children are all weighed in Reception and Year 6 but often find this an embarrassing thing to do. They should not be made to feel conscious of weight at 4/5 years old. It can not be good for later life and I have met many heads of schools that do not agree with this obligatory chore.
Enough of my rant, we ate seasonal, local food, prepared with care. Most of it grown or reared on the farm, I tucked into a spicy daal and my luncheon companion had a pork crumble with roasted vegetables and mash. The view was wizard, across the ridgeway, dotted with sheep. A delicious carrot cake to finish and then off for some speed dating. Sorry did I say dating, I meant networking! Anyway, in my case, it was off to make lemon and berry cheesecake with year 2 at Eastrop Infants. Infinitely better!
You can make it by crushing 12-14 biscuits, like digestives or an oaty sort of thing- aldi does a fantastic one called Oaties- Add 2 heaped tsps good cocoa and 60g melted butter. Combine and turn onto a dish. Press down well. Mix together a tub of cream cheese- again try aldi for that, its only 59p a tub- 4tbsp greek yoghurt, 3 tbsp icing sugar and the juice of a lemon. Pour onto the base and top with some frozen fruits of the forest, or if it is summer time some seasonal berries. The lemon juice will set the cheese after about half an hour. It should make enough for at least 4 people! Yum!
Sun, Feb 1 2009
Our weekend has been full of lovely experience. My son invited 2 of his friends - they are all 6 - and we took the pictures off of the wall and projected Star Wars Clone Wars onto it. We shut the curtains and made them popcorn. They thought it was the best. Much more exciting than the pictures and you don't feel quite as irate when they all announce 1/2 way through they want to play upstairs and not watch the film! I acquired a popcorn maker that goes into the microwave. No oil involved and really easy. So I made copious amounts of popcorn, then in a pan, melted about 200g butter, 150g sugar and 2 big spoons of golden syrup. Melt that thoroughly until the sugar is dissolved, then bubble for 5-8 minutes until thick and golden. Pour over the popcorn, stir really thoroughly then spread on a baking sheet to cool. Break into pieces and get munching! The boys certainly did, with all of them feeling a bit sick after having eaten so much. Tom stayed the night with Harley which is a first for all of us. In fact 6 is quite a young age to have a sleepover but it was great.
This morning was spent in the rugby pitch with Harley. He is joining the team but had to pick the coldest day to stand on the touchline watching. We rushed home and had big bowls of steaming vegetable soup. Mmmmmmm..............!! My husband went on a shoot with a local farmer last week to take photographs of the hunt and promptly came home armed with a pheasant. It hung for a few days and today, we decided, was the day to deal with him -the pheasant, not my husband. In fact my husband was the one who said he would do the deed but it transpired that his delicate photographer hands got the best of him and he ducked out!
He did eventually do a bit of plucking which is a lovely job! The cats liked it too. So I simply chopped an onion, cut 3 carrots lengthways, 3 sticks celery into 3inch pieces and put those into a casserole. Along with this I added the liver, some chopped smoked bacon and then introduced the pheasant. I poured onto him about 200ml of noilly prat and about 100ml of water. A good knob of butter some seasoning and a few bay leaves finish off the flavours, then into the oven for 2 hours. Half way through cooking, turn the pheasant over so the breast is facing downwards. This will keep the breast moist. Remove the pheasant and leave to rest, then reduce the juices down by half. Serve with lots of creamy mash and some spring greens.
I was lucky to get that pheasant as the game season is now over. I shall wait with baited breath until the season begins again in the autumn.
And if you feel that you dont like game, a pheasant that has not been hung for days has flesh the colour of turkey and a flavour of guinea fowl, say. Not the unpleasant high flavour I have grown up with thats for sure. Try it next season, you may be pheasantly surprised.
as easy as pie!
Wed, Jan 28 2009
What i really object to is going somewhere for a casual meal and it ending up to be the most fussy affair.
I went somewhere recently looking forward to an easy lunch and ended up with a 4 course meal. It does not aid relaxation!
So, we had a visitor last night and i made a simple pie. A minced beef and onion filling and, infact, some ready made shortcrust pastry. To make it a little out of the pordinary, i just cut out letters and put all of our names on the pie. Harley just loved it and thought it was wizard. It had a wow factor, with a tiny cost and simplicity too. Unless a formal dinner party is on the menu, keep things minimal and simple. If you are entertaining, trying something different can be worrying and stressful -infact that applies to formal entertaining too - so stick to what you know. And it does not have to be a restaurant dish. The art of simple cooking should be revived, excluding chilli and olive oil! Revert to what you ate with your granny! It nay be revolutionary.