Passion for food!
Sat, May 8 2010
I had a great day of work on Wednesday. I was booked for a day of food styling near Bicester, Oxon, in a unit in the middle of no-where for someone who had a business - called Passion for Food - creating beautiful food for weddings, events and parties. I went with trepidation as he was to cook the food and I was on hand to help out with the styling for the shots. The cooking, as a rule, is an integral part of the day and I did not want to tread on anyones toes.
When I arrived, I immediately saw 3 people. And as I drew closer I knew one of them. Completely by chance, I was going to be working with Phil Baker with whom I had worked many moons previously.
In my mid twenties, I owned a shop. This shop was way before it's time and a bit misunderstood. Hence I had no customers and to sustain any sort of life I had 2 part time jobs as well. One was in a pub in an outlying village from Oxford. I used to commis with Phil as the head chef. It was a good time and even though I dreaded having to prep for hundreds of people the atmosphere was always good. I feel sorry, now, for our fellow workers last Wednesday. How interminably boring is it hearing people reminisce, but it was great for us!
I saw some great food being produced that day. Tried some delicious things and had a smashing time with some good people. One of my most favourite new age foods are pea tops. Instead of being in a bag sprayed with all sorts of chemicals, a case arrived of them in a format much like cress. they were intense and sweet. The ingredient that stood out for me was the most fabulous venison. Really well cooked with a venison sausage and a tiny venison suet pudding. Yum!
Phil has got some great shots for his new website. The picture, above, made myself and Chris - from Voyage
the design company - really smile as in fact, it is just a few left overs that I had transferred onto the one plate. When we looked, it seemed pretty enough for a photo. But this is often my sentiment on food styling. The food should be natural. Place the food on the plate.Plant bomb and leave as they say. A possible tweek but not much else will give you a beautiful, natural picture.
We dragged up a few great memories too that day. Good luck Phil. Your food tastes great.
Sun, Mar 28 2010
My husband works some of the time at a local activity farm, Roves farm. I cheer Harley on at rugby on a Sunday and venture over to the farm for us to have lunch with John and for Harley to have a play. Cool bag in hand, I just pack up the contents of our fridge which is quick, easy and much more exciting than a sarnie. They have large picnic tables and I always take a cloth and make the table look nice. I believe people think because it is a packed lunch it doesn't matter. A bit of clingfilm and a soggy sandwich will do. Today we had a selection of cheeses, pate, salad, french bread, chutney, parma ham and some good butter. A couple of plastic plates, knives and forks and you are away. Lots of comments were there for the taking as people pass by. But it does not take any invention or imagination just a little thought away from the ordinary. But even if it is a piece of good cheddar and some crackers and chutney or a pasta salad, going for a packed lunch or picnic does not have to be boring.
Cheesecake played a role in our picnic today. Really simple and in fact, Harley loves making it.
Crush 6 or 7 biscuits, like hobnobs or digestives then mix with 3 tsp cocoa powder and 35-40 g melted butter. Press into a plastic tub - or bowl if you are having it at home. Mix together a 200g tub cream cheese, 250g plain yoghurt, 2tbsp icing sugar and the juice and zest of half a lemon. If the mix is a little runny, never fear as the chemical reaction with the acid of the lemon and the cream cheese will thicken it nicely. Spread over the top of the biscuit base then top with some fruit like satsuma, plum or berries - frozen or fresh! If you feel like going astray, crumble a flake over the top. Take some spoons and devour straight from the tub!
Thu, Mar 18 2010
Birmingham is somewhere I have never ventured, sadly. I am a bit of a bumpkin when it comes to the big city - I quite like the country air!
Last week I worked at the NEC which is huge in itself! It splits itself into little sections with a different show going on in each. But the complex is phenomenal. And the hotel we stayed in was just ginormous. It took at least 5 minutes to get to your room. Phew!
A colleague had planned a couple of places to eat and if I am totally honest, this really made me not want to go. But I am ever so glad I did.
The first evening we ended up in a vegetarian Indian restaurant called Jyoti
It was kind of like a deli with a few tables seating about 25 people in the back. Brightly lit, it really stood out in the parade of shops near to the centre of Birmingham.
We chose a set menu at the princely sum of £12 per head. Unlicenced meant we could also take in our own wine so all in all this meant we had a fantastically cheap meal.
I don't think I can begin to remember what everything was, but my favourite were these interesting little dooberries that we had to start. Rather like a poppadum texture, it was a little outer casing with a hole in the top, filled with odds and ends like onion and little gram flour strands, you put a couple of spoons of the sauce inside and popped it straight into your mouth hole. Wowsers!! Other starters were the obligatory samosa which were exceedingly tasty and some bhajee of sorts which were jolly hot for my english rose temperament. 6 chef's curries for mains with rice and then a choice of a little sweetmeat. Absolutely brilliant.
It's not often a bargain presents itself, and Jyoti most certainly is the sale of the century.
to chop or not to chop? that is the question.
Wed, Mar 17 2010
Time is most certainly moving on fast. I cannot believe it to be mid March already. It becomes a bit of a boring subject, doesn't it, as so many of us bring it up in conversation. But it is most definitely a fact of our ever evolving world.
Much like the subject of a piece on the BBC website today, food is an ever evolving commodity. I was really excited to be called today by the BBC -I think down to some consulting I did for them on a new show airing soon - and was interviewed for an article on lazy food. Cut up bits of carrot or onion, fruits or frozen roast potatoes, our society is geared up for convenience, convenience and more convenience.
Laziness is a reality in many walks of life and none more so than food. Not only can we buy ready meals by the dozen or ready chopped vegetables, but we have so much choice that we have no seasonal instinct and don't have to think that we may not be able to get an ingredient. This thinking surely creates an ease about what to cook because everything is available all the time and ease often breeds laziness. Adults attitude to food and fast food, say, is being passed on to the children and children learn by example. So many of our young people have no respect for food and have never made anything in their own kitchen.
It is going to be a tough job to re-educate our society that food is something to be mindful about. It has to be planned, grown, transported, packaged and stacked. It does not just appear on the shop shelf like something out of Harry Potter.
So if you know someone who buys these devils of the food world, buy them a descent sharp knife and get chopping!!
Thu, Feb 11 2010
I think it is lovely to have recipes handed down to you by a granny or mum. And I always look enviously on a friend who has a recipe book that was his mums with all of her recipes and tips hand written in her swirly writing. So I need to make sure I do something like that for Harley as he is a very natural cook and enjoys it too! I have never had any written recipes handed down except for a christmas pudding from my Nan. I now have the job of cooking them for the family each year from a scrap of paper in her hand, ticked off where she has made it herself. But this recipe is one my French grandmother used to make and I loved beyond compare as a little girl. I have tried to recreate it and I think this is it. I know it looks quite long but it is not so bad and well worth it. picture of it back in my gallery!
1 large chicken – about 2kg
1 large onion
2 leeks cut into 4
3 large carrots cut into 1/4s
6-8 sticks of celery cut into 4
2 cloves of garlic peeled and crushed
1 turnip – about 300g cut into large cubes
3 bay leaves
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
200g long grain rice
50g plain flour
2 egg yolks
Place the chicken into a large saucepan with enough room for the vegetables. Chop the onion into a quarters. Stick with the cloves and add to the pan along with the leek, carrot, celery, garlic and turnip. Cut one of the lemons in half and place in amongst the vegetables with the bay. Season well and cover with cold water. Cover, bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 11/2 hours.
Ten minutes before the end of the chickens cooking time gently soften the onion in a little goose fat or olive oil. Add the rice and coat in the fat in the pan. Ladle on enough stock from the chicken pan to cover the rice and simmer until the rice is tender.
Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour to make a roux. Cook for a minute or so until bubbling and then add 600ml of the hot chicken stock. Bring back to the boil – whisking all the time – and cook for 5 minutes. Season really well. Remove from the heat and add the juice of the remaining lemon and the 2 yolks.
Joint the chicken and place it on a large charger with the vegetables. Serve with the rice and lemon sauce and a glass of fruity cider.
Fri, Feb 5 2010
When I think of Easter, a Sinmel cake comes to mind but never into reality! Marzipan, fruits and the very traditions of it are what give me the desire to bake it, then many factors contribute to me never making it at all. As Easter is early next month, I thought I would get you ready in advance!
This delicious cake is thought to have originated in the medieval times and has also had ties with Mothering Sunday. Young girls in service took the cake home for their mothers on their day off. You can’t imagine this now can you? There are no girls in service and there are not many who can cook either. But these days a Simnel cake has all the symbolism of Easter. Laden with marzipan and fruits - like a Christmas cake - it then has 11 balls of marzipan on the top representing the 11 true disciples. Sometimes a ball in the middle will be representative of Christ.
Last year, in desperation, I decided to devise a recipe with all of the elements of the original, but a little less time consuming. I am not a lover of a twist on a classic so we perhaps can dub this a Highworth Easter Cake?
Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Beat together 150g soft butter and 175g grated marzipan. then add 2 large eggs, beat well then stir through 150g self raising flour, a teaspoon of mixed spice and a teaspoon of baking powder. Next mix in 100g dried berries like cranberries and cherries. Pour the batter into a 2lb loaf tin and scatter over the surface another 175g marzipan, but cubed this time. Bake for just over an hour until the cake is springy to the touch and coming away a little from the sides of the tin. Remember to infuse a touch of Easter spirit whilst mixing or double up on the mix and give some of your spirit away to your friends.
blast from the past!
Wed, Jan 13 2010
Today I cooked more of those beef fingers I wrote about a few months ago. I get them from a lovely butcher in a food hall in Cornwall. Tucked away just next to a Macdonalds and a petrol station is a great place called Kingsley village. Not only do they have a terrific food hall but they sell local pottery, art and surfing clothes. Upon leaving Dads house, we stop for petrol and a peruse! For our journey home a roast pork and stuffing baguette is in order! In return for £2.95 you will hold in your hand the most delicious sandwich. And so reasonable in this day and age. A 10-12 inch baguette stuffed with local roast pork and the most amazing crackling. Also on the menu is salt beef or homemade sausages. Seriously, if you are on the A30 in Cornwall, come off at Fraddon in the St Austell area, for a really brilliant experience.
Anyway the point of me putting pen to paper was to talk about these beef fingers. I actually
made something I have always wanted to today and that is scotch broth.
Cook the beef fingers for about 2 hours with some vegetables in water to make a flavourful stock. Chop an onion, 2 carrots and 2 sticks of celery. Soften in a large pan then add about 2 litres of the beef stock along with the bones and meat. Introduce 150g pearl barley, 3 bay leaves and some sprigs of thyme. Season really well then cook for 1.5 hours until the barley is soft. Serve with some chunks of crusty bread and some Mull of Kintyre cheddar. Wowsers!
Tue, Dec 15 2009
christmas is a time when oranges seem to come into their own. foods flavoured with oranges. oranges made into decorations and beautiful clementines still with fragrant leaves attached which look so festive! I love this recipe. in fact, my dad had it in a lovely village restaurant in deepest france and we both have made our own version. so, a lovely seasonal treat the product of chinese whispers. perhaps, if christmas pud is not a favourite, try this to bring your lunch to an end with a bit of a twist!
Divine orange tart
For the pastry
175g plain flour
100g butter, cubed
1 tbsp icing sugar
3 tbsp cold water
For the filling
75g dark fairtrade chocolate
1 large orange about 150g
1 freerange egg
75g golden granulated sugar
100g melted butter
50g chocolate, dark and white is nice
You will need an 11 x 35cm loose bottomed flan tin
Preheat the oven to 180˚c/gas mark 4.
Place the flour in a large bowl and rub in the butter. Add the icing sugar and stir through. Pour in the water and with a round bladed knife stir thoroughly until the mixture comes together into a dough. Finally bring together with your hand then leave in a covered bowl to rest for 30 minutes.
Roll out the pastry and use to line the tin. Prick the base and fill with greaseproof paper and baking beans, then bake blind for 15minutes. Remove the paper then place back in the oven for a further five minutes.
Carefully melt the chocolate in a bain marie or a microwave and spread evenly over the pastry base. Cool until set.
Cut a generous 2cm slice from each end of the orange, discard and cut the oranges into 6. Place in a food processor and whiz until pureed. Add the rest of the ingredients and process again until you have a fairly smooth mix. Pour over the chocolate and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until the filling is set.
Melt the rest of the chocolate and drizzle generously over the top of the tart.
Serve at room temperature with a dollop of crème fraiche.
Fri, Dec 4 2009
Sausages are an integral part to our eating habits here in Eastrop. I know that healthy eating is important, but we love them! And if you plump for good quality sausages, the fat content is not so huge. With our inclement weather, we need something to cheer us up and food does this brilliantly. The onset of autumn and winter means our meals tend to become more hearty, more robust, and sausages fit the bill well. Our butchers do excellent ones. The thin plain sausages are a familiar sight in our fridge, along with Highworth banger and Bloody lovely. Any of these do a great job skinned then broken up in a tomato sauce stirred through some spaghetti. Or how about keeping them succulently whole, roasting them, then serve with a stew of sweetcorn, butter beans, onions and cream.
Hearty December nights start like this.. take a pound of sausages, skin them and put in a large bowl. Add a good bunch of chopped chives and a sprig of sage -leaves only- chopped finely. Next, 100g good strong grated cheddar, and a grated apple. Squodge it all together with your hand and season with some black pepper. Cut a block of puff pastry into half and roll both pieces out to the thickness of a pound coin. Brush the edges of one piece with milk or egg and evenly lay on the sausage mix. Fold the second piece of pastry in half and make cuts across the crease, 1cm apart and not all the way to the edge. Lay over the sausage and unfold. Press the edges well down to stick, brush with milk to bring up the shine. Bake for 40 minutes. Green vegetables and some onion gravy will suit this tip top fashion!
…Jack frost nipping at your toes.
Mon, Nov 30 2009
Maybe I am wishful thinking but it is the time of the year when we should be wrapping up in bobble hats and scarves. Highworth bonfire night was an event not to be missed at the beginning of this month but i was not wearing anything too woolly! and I have been able to light my log fire! With both of these come smells and tastes evoking some far distant memory, none more so that the smell of chestnuts. Are there vendors anymore selling roast chestnuts, huddling over the brazier, nurturing their little shiny brown nuggets? Maybe in the heart of fashionable Covent garden or some such, but I cant imagine for a moment in Swindon. Many of us have lost the ability to appreciate simple pleasures. Everyone strives for more and more and many taste buds have been sadly converted to junk food. But the act of roasting some chestnuts over your autumnal fire is satisfying and – quite frankly – delicious. All you need do is forage for a few, prick their little jackets with a fork and throw into the smouldering embers. Leave one untouched and when that explodes you will find the others are cooked to perfection. But if the task of peeling them leaves you daunted, plump for the canned or frozen ones and enjoy the autumn evenings with a terrifically easy pudding.
Crush 18 digestive biscuits. Mix with 100g melted butter and set aside. Place half a can of chestnut puree in a bowl and soften with a spoon. Add a 200g pack of cream cheese, 6 tbsp natural yoghurt and 3-4 tbsp icing sugar. Whisk everything together really well. Layer the ingredients in four individual glasses and finish off with a drizzle of melted 70 percent chocolate. Bliss.