Monthly Archives: November 2008

The Good Food Show Haul

Yesterday, with some foodie friends, we headed to Birmingham for the annual Good Food Show. A good time was had by all, though I did get fed up being barged by those trolleys everyone seemed to be pulling around with them. We tasted some very good…and very bad stuff.

Snowdonia Cheese Company – Their cheese are always a fond favourite in our house, especially Black Bomber. We ended up buying: Green Thunder – Mature Cheddar with garlic & garden herbs in a green wax, Red Devil – Red Leicester with chillies & crushed pepper in a red wax Pickle Power – Mature Cheddar with chunks of pickled onion in a purple wax.

Ritter sport – These are another dirty secret of mine. I fondly remember them from when I lived in Germany and go slightly mad when I see them for sale. Yesterday they were selling mixed boxes of their mini bars and they all contained my favourite flavours so I HAD to buy them!

Tea House Emporium This stall was easy to miss, but I’m glad I found it. Their Kalahari tea was beautiful and refreshing and this is the first place I’ve found tea flowers for sale. Since seeing them online I’ve been intrigued by them. They look so pretty and delicate. I may be in the Bath area around New Year and will have to pop in.

Fox’s Spices – They had a big stall with a gigantic selection of spices. I picked up some garam masala, kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, powdered coconut cream and some pickling spices. They don’t seem to have a website, but when I do find it I’ll link it here.

White’s Toasted oats – I love my cereal. I’m the kind of person who eats a bowl of cereal when they can’t decide what to eat or can’t be bothered cooking, however I am getting a bit bored of my morning porridge and welcomed a change. I had a bowl of the mixed berries cereal this morning and it was a perfect breakfast.

Pinks meat – Sausage stalls seemed to be in the majority at the show but what made this stall stand out was the lovely staff, yummy sausages. We tasted and bought from Pork & Indian pepper sausages and had them for tea last night with a huge mound of mash…yum, yum, yum!

Belvoir Fruit Farms – Last year I tried some of their Spiced Winter Berries cordial but stupidly never bought any. This year I made sure I did. It’s made with elderberry, orange and blackberry juices mixed along with nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves; a fantastic non-alcoholic alternative to mulled wine. This afternoon we went for a brisk walk and a flask of this hot cordial was perfect for warming the cockles.

Focus on Food campaign – On my hunt for companies/resources to help us become a Healthy School I found out about the Focus on Food campaign. In interested in the cooking bus they do and hope to bring it to school.

Rocket Gardens – An amazing company with an innovative idea. I’m hoping to use some of the schools gardening club money to buy a School Spring Garden. I’m also loving their Dig for Their Future campaign.

Wishlist & Twitter

I’ve decided to get with the times and join Twitter. I’m still working out how to use it and haven’t a clue how to search for people who are not in my email contact list. If you are on there let me know! You can follow my twitter down on the left.

Crazy Magpie fan cookbook – Perfect for messy cooks like me as it is wipeable. There is also some other lovely stuff on this website, I especially love the wrapping paper.

Made in England rolling pin – Designed by Kathleen Hills. As soon as I saw this I knew I had to have it. I’m now waiting patiently in the hope that Santa may bring it for me. Never before would I have imagined I would want a designer rolling pin.

Hug Salt & Pepper Shaker – in reality I don’t need another salt & pepper shaker in the kitchen, but these are so cute.

Knitted cake decorations – I adore these and just wish I could knit. Although I’m creative and can take up almost anything arty, I can’t for the life of me knit. Just imagine a Christmas tree covered in cakes…heaven!

Ribbon Sweets – I was originally entranced by these beautiful ribbon creations back in the summer when I saw them at Chatsworth House. They are designed by Candace Kling and they take me back to my A’level art days when I spent quite a bit of time experimenting with textiles and textures. It makes me wish I could have a room with a huge table, tonnes of storage allowing me to dedicate time to art again.

The Old Oak’s Last Dream – OK not food related, but still stunningly beautiful. Again also on my Christmas list. In reality I would love all of the illustrations and they would adorn the walls of my dream kitchen.

Blue Ballet Squash Honey Drizzle Cake

The weather people love to get us (well me)excited about the prospect of heavy snow. So this morning woke up excited like a child at Christmas only to pull back the curtains and find the most pathetic sprinkling of snow, which soon disappeared after a heavy downpour.

Today is Stir-up-Sunday, the last Sunday before Advent and when you traditionally make the Christmas Pudding. Due to a busy diary I made my Christmas pudding a couple of weeks ago, but still wanted to do some Christmas baking this weekend. For the last couple of years I’ve been making suet-free mincemeat and this year wasn’t going to be any different. I often alter the recipe each year depending as to what I have in. This year I used Green Goblin cider and Pussers Rum. The smell while it was bubbling away on the stove was heaven. I’ve made a promise to myself that I’m going to do Christmas baking throughout December and I’ve found a recipe for chocolate stollen which is next on my list. Watch this space.

This year I have well documented the plight of the Blue Ballet Squashes in the garden. A few weeks ago one was roasted for roast dinner and the second has been patiently waiting on the kitchen worktop for us to do something with it. After making the beetroot brownies a couple of weeks ago a fellow blogger pointed me in the direction of another Hugh F-W cake recipe that had appeared in the Guardian and contained butternut squash. I decided that if they cake would work with Butternut, it would work with Blue Ballet squash. Now I used to be a passionate hater of vegetables in cakes, but Hugh is slowly turning me around to them.

After grating 1kg of apples for the mincemeat the last thing I wanted to do was grate some squash. Plus a “squash + sharp knife = ouch” incident from a couple of years ago permanently scared on my thumb, I’m a bit fearful of this humble vegetable. This is when the trusty food processor comes into play and rather than grated squash I used finely diced squash. It produced a very thick cake mix and I was a bit apprehensive that I wouldn’t work, but it produced a perfect, beautifully moist cake where the flavours had all combined and the squash had melted into the cake. Absolutely delicious. It would also work well with a orange cream cheese frosting but Hubby has begged me to leave it as it is.

It’s a bit of a mouthful when it comes to the name of a cake, but hey ho!

Blue Ballet Squash Honey Drizzle Cake
makes 1 2lb loaf

180g self-raising flour
90g light soft brown sugar
90g golden caster sugar
pinch of mixed spice
pinch of grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
zest and juice of 1 orange
180g butter, melted
2 eggs
300g squash, peeled, deseeded and grated/finely diced
75g walnuts, chopped
50g sultanas
1 tbsp lemon juice
5 tbsp honey

1) Preheat oven to 180oc. Mix together all dry ingredients and orange zest. Then beat in butter and eggs until you have a smooth batter. Gently fold in squash, walnuts and sultanas. Pour into a lined 2lb loaf tin and bake for 50-55 min until skewer comes out clean.

2) About 5 min before cake is ready in a small pan heat honey, lemon juice and orange juice, simmer until it has thickened. When cake is ready take it out of the oven, skewer a few holes in the top of the cake and pour drizzle mix over. Allow to cool in the tin (due to the moisture content of the cake it takes a great deal longer than you expect to cool).

Beef & Butterbean Stew in a Bread Bowl

It seems to be taking me ages to write this post, things are all over the place at the moment. My friend has given birth to twin girls, work has been mad and I’ve got a stinking cold, which in turn kills my appetite. I have however made Hubby’s year by getting him a ticket to meet Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and take part in the Pig in a Day course held at River Cottage HQ. This is preparation for the half a pig my smallholding friend is giving us after Christmas. Hubby, bless him, is so excited!

The inspiration for this dish came from the Dough cookbook Hubby had borrowed off a friend and thought a stew from this months Fresh magazine would be perfect in them. I admit I’m not a huge fan of stews as I find them boring, but this one was different. I made a double batch of the stew so we also had some the next day. The stew tasted even better the day after as the flavours had matured. I never thought I would say this but I would have this stew again.

The bread bowls worked better than expected, however next time I would grease the bowl better or use greaseproof paper to stop the bread sticking. It’s been nearly 2 months now since I’ve been making all of our bread at home and I never thought there would be such a significant difference when I came to taste mass produced bread again. At the weekend we were away and I had some supermarket french baguette, it tasted so sweet and a fluffy nothingness compared to the bread I make at home. My homemade bread is far more filling and tastier!

Bread Bowls
Makes 2 bowls
Adapted from Dough: Simple Contemporary Bread

250g strong bread flour
10g polenta
1 tsp dried yeast
pinch of sugar
1 tsp salt
25g olive oil
320g warm water

1) Activate the yeast in warm water and sugar. Leave for 15 min to froth. Stir the olive oil into the yeasty mix.

2) Mix together flour, polenta and salt then gradually add the yeasty water to make a dough. Kneed for 10 min by hand or 2 min by mixer. Allow to rise for 30 minutes.

3) Lightly oil the outside of 2 ovenproof bowls. Divide dough in half and roll into balls. Roll out each piece of dough into a circle 3-5mm thick. Shape ontop on the upturned bowls and press down to rid of air bubbles. Rest for 10 min.

4) Bake bowls at 200oc for 20-25 min until the bread bowls are golden. Allow to cool for a few minutes before carefully removing the bread from the bowls

Beef & Butterbean Stew
Serves 4
Adapted from Fresh Magazine

2 tbsp olive oil
750g stewing steak
1 onion, finely sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp hot smoked paprika
125ml red wine
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tin of butter beans
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
salt & pepper

1) In a deep casserole dish brown the stewing steak in the oil. Remove from the pan, set aside and fry onions and peppers in pan until softened.

2) Add the rest of the rest of the ingredients (apart from parsley & butterbeans) and simmer on a low heat for 3 – 3.5 hours, until beef begins to fall apart.

3) Stir in butterbeans and parsley then simmer for a further 5 minutes.

The Beginners Guide to Country Bumpkin Life

Living in the country always brings its challenges. Last night as we were settling in for the night, Hubby went out front to put the rubbish out only to be confronted with a river where our drive usually is. The rain had been heavy, but we didn’t think there had been enough for the pond at the top of the hill to burst. Thankfully the floodwaters have subsided and hopefully our cottage is safe.

Cue mild panic, knocking on neighbors doors and remaining thankful that we were too lazy to put the sandbags away from the front door after they were delivered a month back. We’ve lived our little country cottage life for 3.5 years now and it has taught me many things.

1. Wellies – essential for country living, even better if they come in a funky pattern. I do wear my wellies quite a lot and last night amongst the sandbags and floodwater they decided to leak leaving me with a very soggy right foot. I now have my eye on some equally funky coloured Hunter wellies.

2. Candles – come to our house and you’ll find them everywhere along with random placed boxes of matches. Power cuts are a regular occurrence, though thankfully not as bad as they used to be. During lengthy power cuts it has been known for all of us to huddle around nextdoor’s gas BBQ making cups of tea. Who said the British resilience and love of tea was dead?

3. Mice/voles/rats – I have to admit I’ll never get used to little furry friends coming to visit. Thankfully Hubby isn’t bothered about them at all Although they may be cute tiny field mice looking for somewhere dry and warm I still don’t like them. I’m sitting here on the sofa freezing cold waiting for hubby to return from work as I’m too scared to get near the fire just in case Bob the mouse (our most recent furry friend who jumped out from behind to coal bucket) makes a reappearance.

We have humane traps and release our furry friends at a place called Percy’s Corner, named after the first furry friend we caught. Percy had quite refined tastes only liking to snack on pistachio & Brazil nuts plus…our sofa. More recently the mice have been under the sink. These however have less refined tastes and like to eat candles and washing powder. They are probably having a little rave under the sink high on various domestic products. Forget cocaine, get yourself to Chez Derbyshire and get high on Persil.

4. 2 wet jackets – If I was a hardcore country bumpkin I would have a Barbour jacket, but I’m yet to reach that status so make do with a Craghopper and Berghaus jacket. My old Craghopper is used for the coal bunker/ firk-out-the-drains-to-stop-the-house-flooding type of jobs. And the Berghaus? for everything else.

5. A dog or 2 – Now to be a true country bumpkin you should own a dog, but considering I have a mild phobia of dogs (plus as much as I love walking I couldn’t be doing with walking them everyday), we make do with next doors door who keep us both entertained. One thinks he is human and the other eats anything and everything.

7. Lighting a fire – I’m becoming quite a pro at lighting a fire, okay not to the extent of a Ray Mears stylee rubbing two sticks together job, but Hubby is often impressed with the fires I make…as long as Bob the mouse hasn’t popped in to say hello. I have discovered that babybel wax (my foodie shame) make great firelighters.

9. Fleecy blankets & hot water bottles – for the time when Bob makes a reappearance and your too scared to go near the coal bucket or when you can’t be bothered going outside to fill the coal bucket and make a fire.

A Brilliant Brew

Hubby’s family originally come from the home of brewing in the Midlands (incidentally also the home of the evil that is Marmite) and naturally his family know a good ale when they taste one. One of the first pubs Hubby’s family introduced me to is also the best brewery in Burton – The Burton Bridge Brewery. Situated near one of the bridges over the River Trent, the pub tied to it has a great cosy atmosphere and a traditional skittle alley upstairs (popular in Hubby’s family for parties). On our wedding day we had kegs of Burton Porter it went down incredibly well and in most of our wedding photographs you can spot a glass of it somewhere!

A recent discovery for us, on the beer front, is the various beers available from Samuel Smith Brewery based in Tadcaster, Yorkshire. The only stockists I know of in Derbyshire are Chatsworth Farm Shop and Sound Bites, a great organic, ethical shop in Derby. As I was in Derby on Saturday I decided to pay Sound Bites a visit to stock up on their beers. In the summer I tried their Raspberry beer and this time went for the cherry beer, strawberry beer and Best Ale. Trust me, I would have bought a lot more if I didn’t have to carry them back up Babington Lane to the car.

I was first drawn to these beers by the labels, quite different from other bottle labels (yes I’m the type of person who chooses a book depending on how pretty the cover is). I’m yet to try the strawberry beer, but the cherry one was gorgeous. Almost like alcoholic cherry aid. I didn’t realise until last night how strong it was; coming in at 5% alcoholic volume. I’m looking forward to the next time I’m in Derby so I can stock up.

Gearing up for Christmas

I can’t believe we’re only just into November and I’m beginning to seriously think about Christmas. I blame the food mags as they are full of Christmas recipes. The morning started out on a trip to the Westfield Derby. I admit I’m sucker for cookshops and the new Lakeland has opened there so before you knew it I was in there, some how I managed to leave without buying anything. However I can see myself back there before the end of the year.

The Food Hall in the centre has an interesting mix of food outlets. Last time I was there I ate at Pieminister and wasn’t particularly impressed so this time decided to try somewhere different. Hana Puri caught my eye, specialising in south-Asian cuisine with the food being cooked fresh on a charcoal grill. I had a a chicken tikka wrap (not feeling adventurous!) that was delicious with the perfect amount of chicken, salad, raita and chilli sauce. Their curries also looked delicious and I will certainly be returning. Just a shame most people were queuing at the KFC a few doors down and missing out on this great food.

Next I was off to Chantry for their Christmas Open Day to quaff mulled wine, taste some great Bitter Sweet chocolates and order the Christmas turkey for my parents and a few other festive treats. I had a time scale to keep as I was also planning on making our Christmas pudding and HAD to be home by 3pm if I wanted to get to bed at some decent hour. I was cutting it fine especially when I realised we had run out of string and had to make a mad dash to the only shop around, a garden centre, to pick up twine. It was that or I would have had to use a shoe lace.

Traditionally I make the Christmas pudding on Stir-up Sunday but socially we are booking up fast and this weekend was really the last weekend I knew I would certainly have a 6 hour slot to steam the Christmas pudding. Plus everyone knows a great Christmas pudding is a pudding that has been matured for a while in a great deal of alcohol.

Last year I made a Guinness Christmas Pudding and as it went down so well I thought why mess with something that is so good and made the same for this year, learning from the mistakes I made last year. This time I made it in the right size bowl, though this did mean I had to make a slight adaptation to the saucepan to get it to steam properly. I did think of putting a silver coin in the middle, but as the pudding is probably going to be microwaved when reheated on Christmas Day I didn’t think this would be such a good idea!

It smelt so good as it steamed and turned a delicious dark brown. It’s now all wrapped up ready for Christmas Day. I just hope it tastes as good as last years pudding.

Leading the school food revoloution

I had all these grand ideas for blog posts over the last week, but nothing went to plan. First the bonfire toffee turned out to be nothing like what I know bonfire toffee to be and I think I managed to make the stickiest toffee known to man. I think I’ll be sticking to my tried & tested cinder toffee.

Then last night I made mini chocolate sponges with Mars bar sauce (thanks to the tonne of mini Mars bars we had after no trick or treaters appeared)but although they tasted good they looked ugly. I really need to master taking good pics in our kitchen at night time. These sponges were to accompany a cracking roast beef dinner I had made. While shopping I picked up some Tracklements Strong Horseradish sauce. I noticed it had been awarded a Great Taste Award this year. My goodness is it strong, but goes perfect with beef. Just use it sparingly!

The poor garden has been looking a bit sorry for itself. The frosts here have started and the garden now gets minimal sun. We’ve been waiting and waiting for the Blue Ballet squashes to ripen but due to the lack of sun this wasn’t happening and decided to cut them from the vine before the frost killed the two of them. Once cutting one open it was a gorgeous yellowy orange inside. The first squash was roasted to go with last nights roast dinner. I’m not a huge fan of squashes as I find them too sweet, but this squash was lovely with an interesting texture not too dissimilar from sweet potato. This however could be because they were not fully ripened. We’re planning on replanting the seeds from this years haul next year and my workmate (a good-lifer extraordinaire) has assured me that squash seeds roasted with a bit of chilli and salt are fantastic and are almost as good as pork scratchings.

On a more positive note I’ve discovered a great foodie magazine. I was getting bored with the usual lot of food mags out there at the moment. One particular magazine, of which I won’t mention, a few months about was quite an ethical food magazine supporting Hugh and his Chicken Out campaign, then last month were advocating 2 for £5 chickens. The new magazine is Fresh Magazine. After just buying just one issue I’ve decided to subscribe.

The most exciting news for me is that I’ve been asked to help lead a healthy food programme in school. Usually the role is given to staff on the Senior Management Team, but due to the size of our school I’ve been asked to take on the role. I’m going to be involved, amongst other things, finding out why school dinner uptake is only 50%, what parents & kids would like to see on the menus, promoting healthy eating throughout the whole school, introducing more cooking/healthy eating into the curriculum. It’s going to be a challenge as healthy eating can be a bit of a contentious issue with both parents and staff, but if my input can make the school a healthier and happier place I’m prepared to put everything into it. I have various jobs to do first, like audits, before I implement anything but if there is anyone out there who can help me or know of companies/organisations/websites who can help with healthy food education please email me on julesatdit AT googlemail DOT com

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