Archives for category: Recipes

 

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A few years ago when I was still in my old M&S job, we were contemplating the January marketing campaign and as ever I had a major disagreement with the Marketing Director. I had presented healthy eating, which was always peaking at this time of year. Great new soups, fruit salad, probiotic yogurts (they were new then, honest) soy glazed salmon etc. were tasted with him. Said Director literally threw them back at me saying that he ate pies & stews in January so that’s what we would be promoting. I never did have the guts to point out that he hardly represented our target customer and thanked my rounders teacher for making me a good catcher…as well as the yogurt manufacturer for his sturdy pots.

Six months later, the January TV campaign featured the fastest line that we ever did put on telly…. prepared fruit salad with fresh pomegranate seeds. It beat any erupting chocolate pudding or slices of roast chicken hands down. I tell you this not to be smug, but to emphasise that January is always a month when we do nod to health and that’s just the way it is.

But what exactly is healthy? Rosemary Conley’s low fat diet of the 80’s was usurped by the high protein Atkins approach in the 90’s. These days the 5:2 diet fights for top spot with the Paleo way of eating and now we all understand so much better that refined sugars are actually the devil and good natural fat helps with your body’s absorption of various vitamins. January is a time when every media outlet is promoting some opinion on what we should consume and frankly it is all a bit confusing.

Another old boss of mine, Jody Scheckter at Laverstoke Park Farm, kept it simple. No processed foods. And honestly I think he is onto something. His organic, biodynamic food comes from a great farm that starts with the soil and its nutrients before it progresses through the field or animal to our tables. He really walks the walk and seeing that every day for a year opened my eyes to the benefits.

These days I try to do as he says and January seems to be a great month to make even more of an effort to be good. I generally keep it natural, cook from scratch and keep the red meat to a minimum. In fact, I tend to eat veggie quite a lot of the time but want to find alternatives to my old stalwart: veggie stir fry.

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Cauliflower steak

 

So imagine my surprise to find that the answer to this dilemma lies in the humble cauliflower. This unassuming vegetable has quite the following across the globe. From the USA to South Africa, I am reading about how it provides a great base to create clever vegetarian meals, disguised as your favourite indulgence. The lovely Campari and Sofa team shared this article showing how to make cauliflower ‘bagels’ amongst other things and it seems that cauliflower steaks are the way to take your ‘meat’ input these days. In fact if you haven’t tried ricing cauliflower and disguising it into some other meatfest dish then you really haven’t lived!!

My caulipizza

My caulipizza

The other week I came home and tried it all out for myself with a caulipizza recipe that I had saved from Crush online and it really did work. The lovely Nick at work told me about Anna Jones’ recipe in her great veggie book: A Modern Way to Eat. We are all hooked on that book at the mo and her addition of oats and ground almonds to the base mix apparently make all the difference so I will be going back to try that one soon. In the meantime, I would like to doff my cap to the humble brassica that is cauliflower and suggest you embrace it too. Cauli cheese anyone?

Cauliflower-1

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This week’s sourdough by my own fair hands

There’s something very humbling about baking a loaf of bread out of 3 ingredients: good flour, water and salt.

Ever since I went on the Bread Ahead course, I have stopped buying bread and have been making my own.  My sourdough starter seems to be working and attempts at both rye and standard sourdough bread have both been successful. It may take up to 3 days, but only a short bit of weighing and mixing over each of those days and there you have it. Three ingredients, three days to prepare and your very own baked loaf. Amazing.

My loaves last me a good couple of weeks. It was recommended you wrap in parchment and keep in a sealed box which is absolutely what I do to great effect. I cut as I go and as the bread changes, opt for toasting.

It’s an easy way to transport breakfast to work with two slices embracing whatever I add… and also I am really enjoying the 100% rye simply with Hummus for lunch. This weekend I had the joy of that first crust, cut when the loaf is still warm to unveil the bubbly doughy inside.

Toast toppings are one of the most versatile ways to create an easy meal. My Mum loves her sardines and Dad loves scrambled egg on top of his toast (I am an on the side person for this). I love recreating the Skagen we had in Stockholm with small prawns, mayo, creme fraiche, dill and a touch of lemon. But perhaps the most interesting of our family secrets for toast and the one I will share with you today goes to a pimped up tuna melt that we discovered through an old US friend. They may sound like a weird combo of ingredients, but trust me. The water chestnuts add crunch, the curry powder warmth and whilst it may be frowned upon to combine cheese with fish, the resultant texture and flavour is yummy. Serve on bruschetta for a pre dinner snack, as a hearty lunch on toast or on jacket potatoes for dinner.

Scottie’s Crab Toasties

225g white crabmeat

4 spring onions

1/4 tsp curry powder

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup hard cheese

140g water chestnuts

1. Chop the onions and water chestnuts into small slices and pieces

2. Grate the cheese

3. Take a handful of the cheese and keep back. Mix all the remaining ingredients together to form a spreadable paste

4. Spread on top of toasted bread or bruschetta and sprinkle with that handful of cheese

5. Grill until bubbling, brown and delicious. Serve!

 

I have been busy recipe testing.

slice of nut loaf

The team I work with at Melrose and Morgan are publishing their first book in October which is the most wonderful compendium of food. Good Food For Your Table is a guide to food, written in an easy colloquial readable style, designed with quirky snippets and fun facts, plus some simple suggestions for piecing together a dish and a handful of recipes as well. All in all, it is going to be the most fab Christmas pressie when it comes out so you all know what you are getting this year!

But for now, we are busy ensuring that the recipes translate from a professional kitchen and chef’s knowledge to the layman, hence my involvement.

When you read a recipe, you really don’t get just what has gone into writing it. Every gram is critical. Every comma. Every description. If you say cut lengthways will you cut it right? do we understand a finger of lemon peel? how to bring together a loaf of bread dough? how much is in a pinch? I could go on.

So under the watchful eye of Mr Melrose, I worked my way through the recipes, checking, perfecting, weighing and tasting my way through a small proportion of the repertoire. It is just one step in a long commitment to creating their book and putting themselves out there to be reviewed. I guess the well known chefs have a team of stylists, writers, home economists and so on to support with the process but for us, it is a matter of getting stuck in and working pretty damn hard.

My kitchen gets a good work out....

My kitchen gets a good work out….

One of the many lovely things about this process is sharing the experience with like minded food fanatics like me. Last week I cooked one evening with my nephew Asher and this week I spent quality time with Mr M. It was also a great excuse to give my relatively new kitchen a run for its money. And it stood up well. When you design a kitchen it is difficult to imagine whether or not it will facilitate an easy way of using it and I am pleased to report that most of my decisions were right. The best bit, given the heatwave we are currently experiencing, was having the bifold windows fully open bringing the kitchen into the garden to benefit from the small breezes from outside.

One of many ingredients boxes to be loaded into the car

One of many ingredients boxes to be loaded into the car

Our recipe test journey started in the professional kitchen weighing and measuring out the many varied ingredients that we needed. It’s quite a job in its own right but great when you have the quality of ingredients that these guys use on a day to day basis. We butchered the most wonderful Sutton Hoo chickens, benefitted from the best pastry the kitchen makes, a full and varied seeds & spice rack plus beautiful produce. It’s no wonder the Melrose and Morgan shop has a loyal following. Then we loaded up the boot, added in the cameras, computers, books etc. and drove back to me.

Spiced butters - I am convinced they are the way forward...

Spiced butters – I am convinced they are the way forward…

Tuesday morning we had a slice of my freshly baked rye loaf (yes – the Bread Ahead starter is doing a fab job at helping me create superb bread) with some of that Tayberry jam we made the other week and we were ready. Mr M was sous chef to me for the days which I took full advantage of. He weighed, chopped, zested and prepped so all I had to do was combine and cook. You have to wait for the book to see the recipes, but what I will say is that I am absolutely sure that they are going to double my usual repertoire, if not triple. It is so lovely to find recipes that work and result in tasty yummy food.

Over the days we were cooking, I encouraged friends to pop in and try. Everyone was suitably impressed taking home pots and tubs, foil wrapped gifts and jars of our creations. Some are still sitting in my fridge this weekend for me to enjoy and other random bits of chicken, stock etc. are in my freezer.

So thank you Mr and Mr M for trusting me with your recipes. I had so much fun and look forward to loads more if at all possible. The only downside was all the washing up – next time we need a potwash in the team!

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photo 2 I went on a bread making course this week. It is always difficult with courses to know which one to choose. Some years ago I tried to get to Richard Bertinet but the truth is that whilst he is such a well known baker, he is also incredibly expensive. Instead I got a voucher to do the course at Paul which was more demonstration than course and focused on French bakery.

Trays of Justin's famous doughnuts waiting to go out to their stall

Trays of Justin’s famous doughnuts waiting to go out to their stall

I was compelled to try again this time because of all the recent press about smiley baker Justin Gellatly and his relatively new business. Created just under a year ago, Bread Ahead is a collaboration between Justin, who was previously head baker at St John bakery, and Matt Jones, who set up Flour Power and is a great baker in his own right. I’m not sure what the right term is to describe two bakers at the top of their game pairing up but certainly the outcome is something special. They are taking over the restaurant and market scenes with their breads and have become part of the London food culture with their doughnuts which are out of this world. I’m sure if we Brits were more American in our attitude then these would receive the same notoriety as the cronut. But that’s just not our style.

An enthusiastic Aiden starts out with the inspiration board on the wall behind him

An enthusiastic Aiden starts out with the inspiration board on the wall behind him

Having completed the course I can now say that it was a really great choice and delivered just what I wanted. I attended the Introduction to Sourdough course in their bakery school and it really did make a grand introduction. The course was taken by the lovely Aiden Chapman who had just the right passion and knowledge balance. There was much talk of bread and the current issues with gluten that seem to have become trendy these days. Aiden’s view reflected mine believing that a lot of this is not genuine gluten allergy rather a fashion to find a flat stomach. In reality, we have been making bread since prehistoric times and when replicating those methods there is a lot of good to be taken from it. Using stoneground flour and a wild yeast starter, Aiden argues that this bread actually enhances the bodies ability to digest rather than the opposite. In fact he told us that there are studies going on in the USA which show coeliacs are able to eat bread made this way without any issues. It’s really only in the last 50 odd years since the Chorleywood method was developed to industrialise production that things went horribly wrong. Nowadays the majority of people think of that as bread but it is a woeful comparison to the real thing.

The birth of Harry

The birth of Harry

We started our course creating our own wild yeast starter which we were encouraged to name, as apparently that helps you look after it more. The Bread Ahead starter that Justin created was blessed by the Canon of Southwark Cathedral and certainly makes an impressive loaf, with or without spiritual help. Harry, as I named mine, is still going strong as I follow my instructions to feed him over 5 days for the ideal base. Given that it takes so long, we were able to cheat and have the hallowed one for our course purposes.

Our rye breads proving quietly

Our rye breads proving quietly…

...and the miraculous outcome

…and the miraculous outcome

We went on to learn about 3 different breads: rye bread, levain, and the no knead method. The process is such a wonderful nod to the artisan craft and yet it was very simple. None of that over the top hurling and kneading thing going on, just a respectful mix of the classic ingredients: great flour, cold water (always cold), the starter and salt. Simples. There were easy tips on how to bake at just the right temperature and how to replicate the professional steam that is created in the industrial ovens. All very practical.

Two hand formed doughs just before being slashed and baked

Two hand formed doughs just before being slashed and baked

The result was amazing. Mr Jones and I both turned out two yummy loaves that outshone the effort that we had to put in and have been a superb addition to the weekend catering. Harry is well on his way too, so next weekend, it will be a chance to try again and see if what we learnt can be replicated at home. Let’s see.

Ta da!

Ta da!