Saturday, October 31, 2009

Celebrating Autumn with Pumpkins

Delicious pumpkin with it's festive colour and versitile, economical uses. Guess what, it is good for you too! Low in fat; high in nutrients such as beta-carotene, antioxidants and also high in fiber. The seeds contain amino acids and zinc, in particular and are lovely toasted.

Here we have a meal I made using pumpkin:

Roasted Pheasant with Seasoning (stuffing) with a fig sauce. A brussels sprout salad with hot bacon dressing (like we used to make at Chimney Park.) Finally I made pumpkin three ways for a textural experience. Pumpkin pureed, roasted and breaded fried cubes.

Brussel Sprouts with Warm Bacon Dressing

1 lb brussels sprouts
10 slices smoked lean bacon
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
10 green onions, chopped

Peel the leaves off the brussel sprouts wash, dry and set aside. You can leave the inner portion and make a separate dish with mini sprouts later. yu culd even blanch the mini sprots and have them ready in the frig for your next meal.

In a skillet, sauté bacon until crisp; crumble into pan. Drain, reserving a tablespoon of bacon drippings. Add the sugar,vinegar and green onions and heat through.

Pour over the brussel sprout leaves, toss and serve.

Other ways this seasonal plate is good for a body:

Figs are high in natural and simple sugars, minerals and fibre. They contain good levels of potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and manganese. Dried figs contain an impressive 250mg of calcium per 100g, compared to whole milk with only 118mg.

Brussels Sprouts Nutritionally, they have the same cancer-inhibiting potential as cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli and cauliflower) because they contain the nitrogen compounds called indoles and a significant amount of vitamin C. Brussels sprouts also supply good amounts of folate (folic acid), potassium, vitamin K, and a small amount of beta-carotene.

On another night from the same pumpkin as above, I made a pumpkin curry with roasted pumpkin and boiled potatoes. Some of the left-over pureed pumpkin from the previous night's dish enhanced the sauce. The curry was topped with toasted pumpkin seeds and tiny fried potato cubes.

I also made pumpkin, potato and mushroom samosas and a cooling cucumber salad.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bramleys and Blackberries

Bramley apples are akin to Granny Smith in that they are a popular cooking apple. Here in Britain it is their favourite cooking apple, I would say. They are quite sour to eat raw. An easy thing to do with a cooking apple when they are in season is to make apple butter. Besides a spread for breakfast toast; or on a scone, it can be used in all kinds of wonderful autumn dishes, such as the strudel below. A brief history of Bramley apples, as worded by another website:

"The first Bramley tree grew from pips planted by Mary Ann Brailsford when she was a young girl in her garden in Southwell, Nottinghamshire, UK in 1809. The tree in the garden was later included in the purchase of the cottage by a local butcher, Matthew Bramley in 1846. In 1856, a local nurseryman, Henry Merryweather asked if he could take cuttings from the tree and start to sell the apples. Bramley agreed but insisted that the apples should bear his name. On 31st October 1862 the first recorded sale of a Bramley occured in Messrs. Merryweathers books. He sold "three Bramley apples for 2/- to Mr Geo Cooper of Upton Hall". On 6th December 1876 the Bramley was highly commended at the Royal Horticultural Society's Fruit commitee exhibition. In 1900 the original tree got knocked down during violent storms, however the tree somehow survived and is still bearing fruit 200 years later. It is now the most important cooking apple in England & Wales, with 21.68 km², 95% of total culinary apple orchards in 2007. The Bramley is almost exclusively a British variety; however it is also grown by a few United States farms, and can be found in Canada."

I was sooo inspired by Valentine Warner's segments featured on Saturday Kitchen. His 'What To Eat Now' show and books present the best seasonal food going at the moment in Britain! One of the shows had blackberries and one of the recipes was:

100 ml whipping cream
100 grams blackberries
2 ready-made meringues (YOU can make them ahead)
2 tbsp. cater sugar
blackberry coulis with a few dashes of whiskey

Whip cream with the sugar until slightly firm. Crumble the meringues in to the cream. Quickle fold in blackberries. Layer the cream/berry mixture with coulis. Serve!

Eton Mess is a traditional English dessert, served annually at Eton College's cricket match. Usually this dessert is made with strawberries.

I decided to make a strudel with both of the said fruits. The filling is lemon and honey chevre' and Bramley apple. The strudel is garnished with Blackberries, Blackberry coulis and Lemon honey.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Engage....Make it so....

My sensors were on high alert when I found Greengages at the Ludlow Food Festival last month. I had to boldly go where I hadn't before and try them! They remind me of Captain Jean Luc Picard's words that make things happen, it rhymes with "engage" is why I guess. Word associations aside, "Making it so" entailed buying the greenish fruit at less-than-warp-speed from the market, tasting them and cooking with them. They are related to plums, but have a firmer flesh and clinging pit. I find the plums I have always eaten to be sweeter. Greengages have a more delicate flavour than purplish plums and can't be replicated.

A short history of Greengages starts in British Roman times. The Greengages of that time faded away with the Romans (Bet you thought I was going to say Romulan.) The French developed greenages from a wild Asian plum and they call them Reine Claude. Jean Luc Picard....Er, I mean Sir William Gage imported the fruit in 1724. Where the fruit gets it's name, not because he is an Orion. They found their way to the Americas only to fade away slowly by the 18th century.

Greengages are reportedly great as a baked dessert fruit. Tarts made with them are said to taste of confectionary. This is what I did with them for now:

Asian-Style Greengage Gastrique Over Scallops

1/8 c. sugar with a tsp. of water
3/4 c. rice wine vinegar
6 tbsp. Greengage preserves
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Lrg. piece ginger peeled and grated
1/4 c. chicken stock
Dash of soy sauce
Dash of fish sauce
Small knob of butter

Place the preserves in a saucepan with the sugar and water. On med. heat lightly caramelise the mixture. Add the garlic and ginger, cook out a few minutes. Add the chicken stock, vinegar, fish and soy sauces. Reduce until nappe (coats the back of a spoon.) Mount with butter. Serve as a dip and over the seared scallops. mine is garnished with coriander leaves and spoonfuls of the Greengage preserves.

Here is a picture I owed you from the Chester blog:

Notice dust is spelled duft.

Here is a link to remind you what I am on about:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Whole Wheat Tropical Bread and Butter Pudding

As promised, I will show you what I did with the left-over whole wheat rolls that went with our soup in the previous blog.

This is what I made for the bread pudding lovers in the house, which doesn't include myself. What I had was sort of the same, as I used the basic ingredients without the bread. The bananas and pineapple were kissed with sugar, then glazed in a pan with a bit of butter and placed in a meringue cup.

To make this bread pudding you will need:

1/2 a med. pineapple, cored and cut into cubes.
Several handfuls of toasted coconut
1/2 stick butter
1 handful of sultanas
2 bananas, sliced
3 lrg. day-old whole wheat rolls, cubed
1 can coconut milk
4 eggs
2 handfuls sugar
500 ml milk
lemon zest
dash of orange juice

Make a sort of custard with the coconut milk and 2 of the egg yolks and half the sugar, set aside in a ice bath. Butter a small baking dish. and set the oven to Gas mark 4. Lay out a layer of the cubed rolls. Place a layer of pineapple, banana and sultanas. Repeat until the ingredients are gone and you are left with nice layers. Make a mixture of 2 eggs beaten into the milk, zest and OJ and the other half of the sugar. Pour over the layers in the baking pan. Place in a water bath into the oven for 45 minutes, or until golden on top (the bread pudding not the water bath.)

To serve:

Pool a generous amount of coconut custard on a plate, then place a nice slice of the bread pudding in the centre of it. Sprinkle toasted coconut over the top. Mine is garnished with physalis berries and quenelles of Damson preserves.

I had heard of husk cherries (Physalis heterophylla) before, I tried to grow them once without success. It was while working at The Clive - Bromfield, England (near Ludlow) that I learned they make a lovely garnish. I would even dip the bottoms of the berries in dark chocolate with the husk twisted on top. This way they stood up and could be used as a garnish, or as an item on a petit fours plate with coffee.

Everyone had their own way of saying physalis and I am still not sure of the correct way. Other names this member of the nightshade (in other words related to tomatoes, but closer to tomatillos only sweeter tasting) family goes by:

Cape Gooseberry (not really a gooseberry though)
Husk Cherry
Ground Cherry
Poha Berry

I used the husk cherries in other ways too. Stay tuned for their return to my blog....

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Soup to the Rescue!

It rescued us for a few days anyway. It was cold a fortnight ago when I made these soups....Today, we have record high temperatures. That will teach me to keep up with my blogs<-------She says sheepishly.

The first soup we have is a root vegetable with Stilton soup.

2 lrg. parnips
2 turnips
3 lrg. potatoes

Bouquet Garni:
bay leaf
-wrap them all in a piece of cheesecloth and tie with string.

1 carrot
1 stalk of celery
2 leeks

150 grams crumbled Stilton

500 ml chicken stock

Roughly chop mirepoix ingredients and root vegetables, keeping them separate. Sweat mirepoix in a pan with a small knob of butter. In a pot add the mirepoix and root vegetables and just barely cover them with water. Tie the bouquet garni to the handle of the pot and let the filled cheesecloth float on the water. Boil until the root vegetables are tender. Add the crumbled Stilton and let set to melt for a few minutes. Remove the bouquet garni and use a hand blender to smooth out the ingredients, adding chicken stock to the consistency you require. Reheat to desired temperature. Season with salt and pepper.

Tomorrow, I hope to blog the dessert I made with the left-over whole grain rolls. That will help me to catch-up further on my blogging mission. ;-)

The second soup is Curried and Roasted Butternut Squash, with an easy Garlic/Coriander Flatbread
1 lrg. roasted butternut squash
(Cut in half long ways scoop out seeds and rub with butter, place in a shallow pan and cook in a Gas mark 5 oven for about an hour or until tender)
2 lrg. potatoes boiled until tender
Make a paste of 1 lrg. clove garlic, 2" piece of ginger and 1/2 an onion
1 can coconut milk
2 tbsp. curry powder (mine was toasted cumin, coriander, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, black pepper, cloves and heavy on the cardamom)
chicken stock to thin it out, approx 200 ml
In a pot put in the paste with a small amount of olive oil and lightly heat through. Remove from the heat and add the squash, potatoes and coconut milk. Return to low heat and simmer until heated (don't curdle the coocnut milk), then add the curry spices. Continue to simmer for 10 minutes, then add the chicken stock until desired consistency. Heat for another 5 minutes. Season to taste. Serve garnished with coriander leaves and flatbread on the side.
Preheat oven to Gas mark 5
250 ml warm water
5 g. salt
30 ml EVOO
310 g. AP flour
8 g. sugar
8 g. active dry yeast
handful chopped coriander leaves
2 cloves garlic
1/2 stick of butter melted
Proof the yeast in the water. Add EVOO, sugar, flour and hand mix. Add salt and knead further. Place in a greased bowl to rise for a hour. Punch down and roll into 2 thin sheets onto a 2 9x13 baking pans. Bake for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, add the garlic, crushed into the butter. After the 10 minutes of baking, take the bread out and brush with the garlic butter. Return to the oven and bake for 10 minutes more, or until the garlic is lightly toasted and the bread is golden. Remove from oven and spread coriander leaves onto the bread. Slice into triangles and serve.

Monday, October 26, 2009

That is a Good Question

The prominent cathedral is a grade1 listed building. The history of which states that it was St. Werburgh's abbey church of a Benedictine monastery. The architecture of this building is of importance, as it reflects many historical changes in this city. From a Roman stronghold, to the Saxons keeping out the Danes, to the Norman Conquest and so it keeps going....

The 13th century layout of The Rows had shops at street level These had a long gallery above, reached by steps from the street level. Living quarters are on the gallery level. In the Middle Ages this would have been a hall, open to the roof and heated by a central hearth. The private rooms, or solar, were above the gallery. In the Tudor and Jacobean period the upper floors were built out over the gallery, supported on long poles down to the street level. Shops at ground level used the space between the posts to display their goods to passers-by. The Rows are probably the most photographed feature of this city. They are also a major contributor to the economy here.

Eastgate Clock was erected to celebrate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897. This clock is probably the 2nd most photographed clock in Britain after Big Ben. From here you can see an over-view of all the shoppers at The Rows.

This city is along the River Dee. The river runs 70 miles and rises into Snowdonia and discharges at an estuary near Wirral. It is also a natural border between England and Wales. The Queen's Park Suspension Bridge is the only footpath over this river and adds an interesting feature to the city. There are tourists boats to further explore the river at differing lengths.

This city has a prawd Woman hmmm....Proud Roman heritage. In Roman times this city was called Deva.

From a previous trip the below pictures show some of the wall around the town. This city was strategically important and the walls defended that. The original fort, Deva Victrix was dated AD 79. The walls are the most complete walls remaining in Britain. They form a 2 mile long circuit, only breaking at a car park. Back in the day, I am sure it was more important to keep the Welsh out than to provide a car park, however. The sentiment can still be seen in the rules as quoted from another website:

"A famous archaic by-law of _______ states that any Welshman loitering within the city walls after sunset may be killed by decapitation or shot with a longbow. The law was originally imposed by King Henry V following the Welsh Revolt. This order was never repealed, and still officially stands on the statute to this day, although it no longer provides protection against prosecution for murder."

Here are a few scenes from around the city....of course; food and including, Tudor architecture and also performers at The Rows are all pretty common here.

Ok, this is a good spot to "ruin" the surprise. St. John's Baptist church have ruins to the east on their grounds. This church is found outside the walls and up the bank from the river and very near the discovered Roman amphitheatre. The building is said to be one of the oldest in the city, founded by a Saxon minister in the 7th century. It is likely that some of the stone used to build it was taken from the mentioned amphitheatre. Rebuilt by the Normans, the church went through many abuses during the civil war. It was used as a barracks and gun battery, from here is where Roundhead guns breached the walls! I have to owe you a picture of an interesting coffin from the 15th century that had the words "Dust to Dust" labeled on it (somehow it was overlooked in the downloading of this batch of pictures). It is set high up on the ruin's walls and was set there in 19th century and is thought to come from the Nantwich area. According to another website:

"Local folklore, however, gives it much more colourful origins. One tale is that it is the coffin of a monk who had committed murder. Another is that is it the coffin of someone who wanted to be prepared for the day of judgement and so had asked to be buried standing up – ready for the last trumpet to sound. Yet another is that it is the coffin of a sinner who the Devil placed here to forever look down on the living world as punishment."

Less old part of the church:

Old English form of Latin for castra 'legionary camp.' Chester was a common name for someone to have in the 20th century and was a transfered surname from this city.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"Tis time, I think, by Wenlock town...".

This Heeland Coo isn't a Shropshire Lad and his name isn't A.E Houseman, he hails from Scotland originally. This hasn't stopped him from giving you a big welcome from Much Wenlock.

Originally called Wenlock, meaning "white place," perhaps due to the nearby white limestone escarpment called Wenlock Edge. Much Wenlock is a medieval town built around the AD 680, St.Milburga's Abbey. At the time of St. Milburga, the name of the town was recorded as Winnicas. This abbey was on the site of the still standing ruins of Wenlock Priory.

"Somewhere in the Middle Ages it had fallen asleep," are the words of Mary Webb about her Much Wenlock. Mary Webb 1881-1927 was an author that celebrated her surroundings in Shropshire through writing. She wrote many novels and poetry with a Salopian (Shropshire) theme. One of her novels, Gone to Earth was made into a film and I am currently on the look-out for a copy of either the film, and/or the book. I already have a copy of Precious Bane, written by Mary Webb and some say that it loosely mirrors her personal life. She had Graves disease and suffered from it until her death. In the book, she reflected this in the character of Prue Sarn a disfigured girl who finds it hard to accept the love of a man who can see her true inner beauty.

A.E. Houseman 26 March 1859 – 30 April 1936 authored several poems with a Salopian theme, such as A Shropshire Lad. This collection of poems dealt with the rural life and mortality of young men of the time. Below you will find other poems by A.E. Houseman that help bring the area to life. Some of his poems ironically, were written before he had ever visited the countryside....

There is an easy to moderate 5.5 km (3.5 miles) walk starting around Much Wenlock that was featured in a book called Walks with Writers. This walk ties in ith the settings of the authors I mentioned, A.E. Houseman and Mary Webb. Here is more info:

On Wenlock Edge the wood’s in trouble

On Wenlock Edge the wood’s in trouble;
His forest fleece the Wrekin heaves;
The gale, it plies the saplings double,
And thick on Severn snow the leaves.
’Twould blow like this through holt and hanger
When Uricon the city stood:
’Tis the old wind in the old anger,
But then it threshed another wood.
Then, ’twas before my time, the Roman
At yonder heaving hill would stare:
The blood that warms an English yeoman,
The thoughts that hurt him, they were there.
There, like the wind through woods in riot,
Through him the gale of life blew high;
The tree of man was never quiet:
Then ’twas the Roman, now ’tis I.
The gale, it plies the saplings double,
It blows so hard, ’twill soon be gone:
To-day the Roman and his trouble
Are ashes under Uricon.

"Tis time, I think, by Wenlock town..."

’Tis time, I think, by Wenlock town
The golden broom should blow;
The hawthorn sprinkled up and down
Should charge the land with snow.
Spring will not wait the loiterer’s time
Who keeps so long away;
So others wear the broom and climb
The hedgerows heaped with may.
Oh tarnish late on Wenlock Edge,
Gold that I never see;
Lie long, high snowdrifts in the hedge
That will not shower on me.

-A.E Houseman

Another important person to Much Wenlock is William Penny Brookes (13th August 1809- 11th December 1895. William Penny Brookes was a physician and as such was concerned with fitness. He is credited with starting the modern olympics. The first games were held in 1850 in Much Wenlock. In 1890 the annual games in Much Wenlock were attended by a baron who was so inspired he started the International Olympic Community in 1894. The games in Much Wenlock are still held every year in July. There is a walk that starts with artifacts at the town centre in the museum and goes for 2150 metres (1.3 miles) around to places that were important to Mr. Brookes and the games.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Taking Time Out to Spin a Yarn About Slow Food

Slow Food was started in 1988 in a very supportive Bra, Italy by Carlo Petrini. He was petrified by a McDonald's being opened in Rome. Slow Food aims to spotlight artisan food and protect traditional methods of production. They support the artisans and educate the public, so the lovely flavours and art are not lost forever due to the growing prevelance (...well it has taken over) of fast food all around us.

Here is a small glossary of Slow Food speak:

*Cittaslow- Literally means slow city. A place that embraces the aspects of living slow and is designated by Slow Food.

*Arc of Taste- The aim here is to rediscover, catalog, describe and publicise forgotten flavours.

*Terra Madre- A bi-annual conference held at Torino, Italy dealing with food issues and put on by Slow Food. It is also a group of food communities devoted to producing high quality food in a sustainable way.

*Presidia- These are projects to assist groups of artisan producers that are under threat. The goal here is to safeguard market presence of diverse, traditional food.

*Convivia- The local chapters of Slow Food.

As was mentioned previously, I helped the Ludlow area convivia with their booth in the 2005 Ludlow Food Festival. Here are a few scenes from that time; with the blood pudding, local honey, Cheshire cheeses and perry that I helped promote.

Ludlow, Shropshire, England was the very first Cittaslow town in Britian. Since then others have been added:

*Aylsham, Norfolk, England
*Berwick Upon Tweed, Northumberland, England
*Diss, Norfolk, England
*Mold, Flintshire, Wales
*Perth, Perth and Kinross, Scotland
*Cockermouth, Cumbria, England
*Sturminster Newton, Dorset, England

Arc of Taste products in the UK include:

* Herdwick Mutton

*Colchester native oysters

*unpasteurised Cheshire cheese

*Three Counties Perry ( Ludlow area convivia project)

Presidia in the UK:

*Three Counties Perry

*Artisan Somerset Cheddar

*Old Glouscester Beef

*Single and double Gloucester cheese made from the milk of Old Glocester cattle

*Fal oysters

This year in the store front window contest, as part of the Ludlow Food Festival, this is Slow Food entryI thought it was pretty cute and well done, as it pertains to another food fest event called the sausage trail. Following on this "trail" are some cheeky sausages, I just have to reveal. ;-)

Meet Disco Diva- This cocktail sausage is definately a mouth filler. WARNING:This sausage has a high alcohol content.Here is Couch Potato- This one has a high fat content. Can leave you feeling rather sluggish. Best eaten at home in front of the telly.

Introducing Yoga- A calm and serene sausage with a delicate, pliable taste. This sausage is reportedly good for mind, body and Sole.
May I present Escargot- This is an unusual French tasting sausage. However, a bit of an aquired taste.

Last but not least we have Copy Cat- This well known sausage constantly nicks others flavours from original sausages. Previous festival winner. Leaves a bitter after taste.

Slow food, or fast food? I choose slow food everytime!