Sunday, 31 May 2009

Easy peasy BBQ baby chicken

Ahhhhhh its barbecue time of year and barbecue kind of weather: smell the grilling food, hear the chink of glasses, the laughter, the fun, the delicate aroma of firelighters, the burnt food, the lobster tinged neighbours. England, the summer.

But it's be a shame not to join in with at least some of this, right? Correct.

Here's the easy chicken (well poussin actually) we did last night:

2 poussin butterflied (dead simple this, lie it breast bone down, hold the parsons nose, cut along either side of the backbone and remove, flip it over, press down firmly on the breast to flatten, et voila. If stuck try YouTube for clips).

Marinade in lemon juice, zest, oil, garlic and rosemary for a couple of hours (use 50:50 juice to oil).

Light barbecue (using your preferred method: paper, firelighters, gas ignition) and wait for coals to be that delightful glowing cooking temperature.

Pop the poussin over the heat and cook for about 30 minutes turning regularly (cook it with skin side up more often than down, this way it cooks the meat from the inside without over cooking/burning the skin).

Meantime heat the remaining marinade in a saucepan and simmer hard to reduce to a nice glossy sauce.

Cut each poussin in half to make 4 portions. Eat with veg and carbs of your choice.

We had homemade sourdough bread to mop up the sauce/juices and broad beans tossed in minty yoghurt.

Yum.


Saturday, 30 May 2009

Anyone for English wine?

This week it’s been English Wine Week, as you might imagine an event set up to encourage greater recognition (and consumption) of the wines produced in old Blighty. Its fair to say that even five years ago most people would have choked on their glass of Sauvignon at the prospect of a wide range of drinkable English wines being available, but even though many still might, they should perhaps think again. There are good English wines on offer in most of the major supermarkets and most self respecting farm shops also carry a few. Vineyard gate sales are also up.

Many of the well-known wines come from Kent (e.g. Chapel Down – who do a rather delightful wine called Bacchus that’s a good contender for swapping with Sauvignon) and Sussex where one of HM The Queen favourites fizzes comes from (Nyetimber, they do lovely stuff) but there’s plenty of options from other counties too. With my #livelocal challenge and the delightful sunny weather in mind I decided to sample something from Essex and happened upon a rosé made from Pinot Noir.

Here its is, its from New Hall vineyard, which is out towards the coast from Chelmsford. To pair with it we decided on a classic choice of lamb cutlets (local of course), simply grilling these and serving with new potatoes and wilted mixed greens. The match worked well and the rosé also stood up to being sipped on its own as an aperitif, its nice and fruity but sufficiently dry to be refreshing without too much acidity. It’s a nice mid but bright rosé colour. I thought it was a great all round wine both good on its own and with the lamb, much better than many rosés which can either be too sweet or too acidic. It’s pretty sensibly priced at about £6.00 a bottle (direct from the vineyard) and, I think, would rank well against a slightly pricier rosé.

If the weather holds like this I’d recommend you get your hands on a case, as I will be, to sip throughout the summer, with or without lamb. Go on discover some English wine for a refreshing change ;)

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Coming together

I love it when things just seem to come together in the right way and its one of the things that I'm starting to love about blogging and tweeting. You swirl around the blogosphere, you play about on Twitter and suddenly a whole bunch of influences collide to make you spot a new dish that resonates for you or triggers fond memories of something you haven't had in simply too long.

And so it was earlier this week that the influences of Browners' National British Sandwich fun, Fran39's watercress post and the #livelocal challenge came together to make me think of a lunch I hadn't had in probably 10 years (yes really)  - chicken and watercress with mayo on really good bread.

So I plotted a treat, my husband is not a fan of watercress he pulls a face at the very word, the ideal opportunity was to have said sandwich on a day when I was working from home. Mmmmm. I made fresh bread rolls yesterday to have with burgers and I'd found some red watercress in the supermarket and at 11am I was roasting 2 chicken legs with a dousing of lemon and olive oil.

At the appointed lunch hour I moseyed to the kitchen, sliced open a couple of rolls, slathered them with my favourite mayo, piled in freshly roast chicken and topped with watercress, squidged on the top.

And tucked in. Heaven in a bun.


Sunday, 24 May 2009

#livelocal: the first four days


Since Wednesday I’ve been trying to live a more local existence on the food front. The challenge I set myself had 4 parts to it and centred on using up things I already had in the store cupboards, buying local produce, thinking about the provenance of what I ate and trying not to nip to the supermarket in the car unnecessarily.

So how have I been getting on?

Well I’ve not even been taking a hard-core approach to this i.e. only eating local produce yet its tougher than I thought. You get set in certain ways and habits food and shopping wise and breaking them takes some effort. I thought I was pretty good in my choices already but I can see that I can be much better. I can also see there are some other issues with only eating local, such as a hugely restricted and potentially dull diet (especially if it was winter) plus how can you unravel the centuries trade around, say, coffee, spices or chocolate (even if you wanted to) without having an enormous impact on global trade and the communities that produce them. The birth of global trade and its imperialistic history may well be something to be apologetic for but equally we can’t just halt it without considering what this would do to those who livelihoods depend on it. We can work for a fairer ways for this trade to operate (and I know many of the initiatives are deemed flawed but they at least acknowledge that things need to change) but I don’t think we can just stop altogether.

I managed to stick to eating from the store cupboard and not going on a supermarket or food only trip in the car. I didn’t manage to only buy things from the area I had defined, partly because the labelling is not always good (it often just says grown in UK, sometimes it does give the region), partly because I had three business meetings where I had very little control over the food or drink on offer and also because I only managed to find two English wines on sale despite this being English wine week! I also learnt I have enough food in the house to survive a siege…..and that making your own bread is good fun and a lot tastier even when it doesn’t go quite right.

So here are the things I had, I’ve noted new purchases in brackets:

Not at all local (can i ever eat them again!):

Mint and other fruit infusions (need to find a UK grown versions or use fresh from garden when possible), avocado, Serrano ham (have tracked down a few UK air dried hams), cheese – Parmesan, various Norwegian cheese. I had one truly local cheese from Suffolk as well; I can probably switch to almost 100% UK cheese going forward but would only have about 5 choices if I stuck strictly local. Cashews (oh but I love cashews there’d not be many nuts on a UK based diet – cobnuts and walnuts mainly), coffee, chocolate (imagine a future with neither chocolate of coffee……..), white tea, tinned tomatoes, spices, dried pasta (I could make my own as often as possible), chick peas, butter (Danish!), black pepper, sugar. Flatbrod, chorizo (I’ve now found a local supplier hurrah), lamb salami, Spanish wine (Rioja), white wine from Chile, cassis (looking for a UK producer), rice – risotto and basmati

Within my local area definition:

Filtered tap water (mind you I don’t know where it comes from do I?), pork meatballs, rapeseed oil, fresh herbs (from the garden), paneer (yes it was made in Leicestershire) – new purchase. Maldon salt, cider (bought), mushrooms (bought), bacon, sausages (bought), mince beef to make burger (bought – this and sausages from a good farm shop I have found). Mayonnaise and ketchup – both locally produced but might not be completely locally grown. Salad leaves (bought), homemade stock, asparagus.

From the UK but not specifically local or not known if local:

Cauliflower, spinach (bought), baby turnips, tomatoes (local ones not yet available these were IOW), yoghurt, flour and yeast to make bread (I know I can find local alternatives for the flour and will be switching). English wine (from Kent), frozen broad beans, Worcestershire sauce.


Not bad but not an outstanding performance – lets see how things go for the next three days. I’m thinking the bigger challenge will be to keep making the right choices after the seven days are up.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

I’ve been adopted!

By Karen, and she’s in Harve, Montana! Go on, go check the map like I had to.

Now lets get a few things straight here I don’t mean I’ve been orphaned all this time and finally found someone to adopt me at the fine old age of, well lets just leave my age out of this shall we….

I mean that as a relative ‘newbie’ to the world of food blogging I’m taking part in Kirsten’s (over at Dine and Dish) Adopt-a-Blogger initiative. I found Kirsten when I first started swirling round the foodie blogosphere and landed at Tinned Tomatoes where I spotted the ‘I’ve adopted’ badge. Now ‘Blogging for Dummies’ tells you to get to know your fellow bloggers and to take part in blogging events and the Adopt-a-Blogger seemed like the ticket. I get to have someone older and wiser (in blogging terms) to call upon for three months with my questions etc, probably get new traffic and the adoptor gets the joy of guiding someone through some of the maze of the blogsphere. Great.

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After Kirsten has matched us all up we get to meet online and start to chat, it’s kind of like a latter day version of pen pals. To take part we’ve promised to introduce each other to our respective worlds and at the end of three months to blog about what we’ve each learned. I’ve already been badgering Karen with lots of questions and tweaking my blog to incorporate some of her tips.

Anyway without further ado here is Karen (of Karen Cooks), as cross examined by me, in her own words:

GSD: Tell me a little bit about yourself, where you live and what you do when not food blogging?

K: I live in the U.S.  I lived in the Southern California and Arizona deserts for 42 years prior to moving to Havre, Montana last summer.  When I'm not food blogging, I'm cooking!  I like to garden and also do mosaics.

GSD: Why did you want to join ‘Adopt-a-blogger’ and what do you think being an adoptor will be like?

K: I thought I might have something to offer a new food blogger... there are so many things to figure out and hints and suggestions that one might not know about.

GSD:  How long have you been food blogging, what made you want to start and do you have any other blogs?

K: I started my food blog in August 2008.  I was reading another food blog and thought "I can do that!"  So, I did!

GSD:  Tell me about the Eagle webcam.

K:  I found the Eagle webcam during my many travels around the internet.  The webcam is in West Virginia and poised on a nest built by Bald Eagles.  Here we can get a glimpse of a three eaglets, now almost 2 months old and their daily routine. It's been fascinating to watch them grow!  I think they are beautiful birds. 

GSD:  How would you describe your style of cooking and who do you normally cook for?

K:  Most of the time I cook just for me and my gardener, aka husband, although I love to cook for company.  I love to read cookbooks for inspiration on making my own dishes.  I guess my style of cooking would be 'see it and make it with changes to suit our tastes'.

GSD: I can see some interesting items on your freezer list in the ‘Roasted Grape Tomato, Spinach and Asiago Pasta’ post, tell me about the regional dishes, specialities of ingredients you enjoy?

K: We are hunters and fishers, so we eat a lot of game.  Cooking wild game at times can be challenging as the meat may tend to be tough.  I'm always on the lookout for different wild game recipes.  

GSD: What are your Top 5 dishes/foods and what, if anything, makes you go ‘urgggh, no thanks’?

K: I'm definitely not a picky eater, but there are a few things that I'll pass on.  One of them is menudo, a Mexican soup-type dish made with tripe and hominy.  I've tried tofu  several different ways, but just don't care for it.  Other than that I guess I'll pretty much eat anything!  LOL

GSD:  Who are your favourite cook book authors/cook books?

K: I really don't have a favorite.  I love to read cookbooks but have stopped buying them.  There are just so many good recipes on the internet.

GSD:  What’s your couldn’t live without kitchen gadget?

K:  This is a hard question.  After thinking about it, I couldn't live without my silicone spatulas.  I use them for everything!  And of course my Kitchen Aid stand mixer!

So please go check out Karen's blog yourself for lots of good stuff including the latest Montana snow (on 13 May!).

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#LiveLocal

Err, hello, um, what’s all this #livelocal thing??? 

I’d seen a bit of twittering about this (hence the # tag – used in twitter to make searching easier) and wondered what it was so I headed over to Becca’s blog to find out more. Here I saw that Becca was about to spend the next 7 days (she's started today I think) trying to only eat foods that had been grown with 100 mile radius of where she lives in Sydney, Australia.

Interesting challenge I thought and then also spotted that it was a wider initiative to get people to undertake projects and habit changes that were locally focused,such as cycling to work.

Hmmm wonder if I can join in and what I could do. A few tweets later and I’m signed up at LiveLocal as the first UK participant (woo hoo I’m a global first – yes quite!). Then to thinking about a plan. I like Becca’s local eating idea and I already try to buy local food but its pretty easy to realise that you can do much more and that also you might have to make some sacrifices along the way.

I decide to investigate where a 100 mile radius allows me to source food from using this map tool and find that as well as a the whole of the South East and much of the Midlands, Calais and Boulogne are within 100 miles! I’m not quite sure that northern France can be called eating locally when I live in East London. So I think again, I want to do something that starts to shift my eating habits to local and decide on the following:

  • my cupboards and freezer are stuffed full of things that have been lurking for sometime, so first part of the challenge is to start munching through these. I’ve already probably burnt a giant carbon footprint acquiring them so I really should get on with making use of them.
  • dried and frozen foods aren’t going to cut it for a whole week though are they so anything extra I need has to either come from my herb garden or be sourced from an area bounded by the Thames to the south, the east coast of England, a line up from the western edge of the M25 and a line cutting across from Norwich. I’m guessing this about the same area as 100 mile circle (or less) but seems to make more sense as to the direction I should look for food stuff.
  • I'm only to walk, cycle or take the Tube/bus to the shops but I can incorporate shopping into an existing car trip.
  • I’m going to think about everything I eat or drink and wonder about its provenance and whether I can change how I buy it. I know right now I’m not going to give up coffee so am I buying the most ethical I can and I am supporting a local roasters.

It seems easy on the face of it but I think it’s going to be quite hard, but I’m enjoying thinking about how to be more local in my choices. I’ll be blogging about how I’m getting on so come back to find out more. Wish me luck!

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Celebrating: Norwegian style

They’ve got a lot to be happy about in Norway today.

Firstly its national day when they celebrate their declaration as an independent nation in 1814 with parades, parties, flag waving and plenty of food. And to add to the festive atmosphere their Eurovision entry, Alexander Ryback, stormed to victory last night with the highest ever score recorded and over 150 points clear of his nearest rival. Its only the third time Norway have ever won and for many years they were rather more well known for their 1978 ‘nul points’ than anything else.

So today I think they’ll all be going a little crazy. The flags will have been flying high on every building and there will be much merriment. Norwegians enjoy a good celebration and important events are marked with special dishes and the hoisting of your own flag on your very own flag pole; christenings, weddings, confirmation all have their own rituals but all involve the flying of the flag.

And I’m going to join them by trying one of their celebratory dishes.

When I was researching my Eurovision inspired Norwegian breakfast I came across a dish called rømmegrøt that I wanted to try, but further investigation told me that its wasn’t a breakfast dish at all but more of a festival one. I think I was thrown by the translation of grøt as porridge.

So what is rømmegrøt? Well having now tried it earlier today I’d say it a kind of sour cream custard rather than porridge in the way we think of oat porridge here in the UK. It’s very rich and quite sweet and then you add cinnamon and sugar, although apparently it’s also traditional to serve it with fenalår (air dried lamb leg – a kind of lamb version of Serrano ham – its lovely though fairly strong flavoured).


Rømmegrøt really is a celebration or treat dish and as well as being served today (17 May, National Day) is served on occasions such as weddings, Christmas and harvest festival. At Christmas some might be left out for the Christmas pixie, a bit like we leave mince pies here, and on farms at harvest it is traditional to leave some out for the ‘nisser’ or house spirits to appease and thank them.

Here’s the recipe I used, I went for the richest version to get the full on experience, some recipes are thinned down with milk and others use barley flour or semolina (I found at least 10 subtle variations).

Serves 4 (from The Norwegian Kitchen):

1 litre 35% sour cream (I used regular sour cream from the supermarket and that caused a small problem)
¾ cup plain flour
salt
sugar and cinnamon (or fenalår) as garnish

Simmer the sour cream for 15 minutes and then stir in the flour, keep cooking and the butterfat should rise to the surface and you skim this off but keep it. This didn’t happen and I guess the sour cream had too low a fat content (having looked at the label I think its only about 18%). The mixture will go lumpy and so whisk it to get it as smooth as possible. Add a little salt then serve with the reserved fat drizzled over and your choice of garnish (I had to cheat and pour over a little unsalted melted butter but that seemed to work). The book suggests that as this is so rich you might want to use it as a topping for other porridges such as rice porridge.

It was really tasty but so rich we could only eat a little sample. My husband thought it would be great with bananas and fruit or compote would also go well to make a really nice rich dessert dish. We’ve put the leftovers in the fridge to see if its tasty cold as well. I’ll report back.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Eating Eurovision: Part 2 Russia - bring on the blini…..

They say you should breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper. And today I am trying pretty hard….I’ve breakfasted like King Harald V of Norway on brown cheese and flatbrød and now I’m about to lunch like a Tsar (or Roman Abramovich) on blini and vodka. Its all good stuff and in aid of Eating Eurovision (a rather mad project thought up by journalist and food blogger Andrew Webb) – 25 food bloggers eat 25 cuisines within the M25.


I got Russia out of the lottery pingpong ball bag and also opted for Norway as an extra.

And that is where I came unstuck.

I woefully underestimated how long it would take to track stuff down, get it, eat it, write about it. I did Norway first because I thought it would be really hard to find the foods I wanted but actually it wasn’t so bad, finding Russian contacts and leads has proved much much harder. I thought there were lots of Russians in London and maybe there are but I didn’t find any. I found a possible deli in Queensway (Kalinka) but after buying my Norwegian cheese mountain had no time or strength left to get there to check it out. I'd spotted various restaurant options but time was short and I wanted to do some actual cooking. 

Then I thought of vodka tasting at Potemkin but my friends could not be convinced to leave the grotty surroundings of the pub they had started the evening in to walk less than half a mile, they suggested the nearer Polish bar but that’s Polish so how was that going to help. I bet vodka isn’t just vodka you know, I bet it has hundreds of subtle nuances. Oh and to be fair to my mates by this time it was pouring with rain so we would have got drenched.

So having drawn some blanks and having been pointed at blini by fellow Tweeters – I thought lets make blini (and wash them down with a splash of vodka). I was tempted to go to a Lithuanian deli in Leytonstone I’d spotted during internet research for a (very) vague bit of almost authenticity but having seen @hollowlegs tweets about her Lithuanian restaurant eating I decided maybe not. Anyway I needed a recipe first, now I might have hundreds of cookbooks but curiously not one of them is about Russian food. Surfing the web throws up lots of blini recipes and some earlier surreptitious reading of books in Foyles suggested that actually mini blini are okay but the real deal is to have big huge proper pancake size blini – oh yay lunch sorted: big savoury blin (apparently the singular of blini according to wikipedia…hmmm doubtful) followed by big dessert blin.


Sorted right? Wrong. By this time it’s already past the deadline to post and I’ve only just decided what I’m doing. Oh dearie dearie me.

And there are only two choices in such circumstances: don’t post and FAIL completely or CHEAT.

So I cheated. Yes I did what we were not supposed to do I went to Waitrose bought the most Russian looking things possible, came home, cooked, ate and made myself listen to the Russian entry on repeat as penance! I could have cheated more by pretending the vodka we already had was Russian but I didn’t, maybe that makes it all ok?

My blini were good, they were rather thick so could perhaps be classed more as oladi (which are well, big fat blini) and very filling. I did a bit of a cheats recipe (what not more cheating) and followed the recipe on the bag of buckwheat flour using baking powder instead of yeast to get the raised texture but it worked fine. The 100% buckwheat flour makes a very brown looking batter. For the savoury topping I had sour cream, Russian (i.e. beetroot) cure salmon and chopped quails eggs and for the sweet more sour cream with warm raspberry compote I quickly made from frozen raspberries. Then I had a splash of Russian vodka to finish it all (and me!) off.


I am very very full now. I’ve had two hearty cuisines only a few of hours apart – perhaps fine if it was snowing and minus something scary outside but a little much for spring day in London. If I’m lucky it’ll mean I sleep through tonight’s competition and don’t have to watch all those crazy acts again.

I’ve also learnt that if you bite off more than you can chew you’ll get indigestion somewhere along the way but on the other hand, as Tennyson almost said:

‘Tis better to have tried and cheated than to have never tried at all’. 

Yeah right!

Eating Eurovision: Norwegian for breakfast

What did you have for breakfast today? Cereal? Toast? Fry up? Nothing?



Whatever you had I know it can’t have been as interesting as my breakfast was. Why’s that? Well I was Eating Eurovision and you, unless you are one of the other very mad food bloggers taking part in this caper (each with our own country to sample), you weren’t. Today for you was probably just a normal day with a normal breakfast. My breakfast may well have been normal for any self respecting Norwegian on any normal Norwegian day but it was an adventure through another culture for me.

So how exactly did I get to be eating Norwegian delicacies in East London on a damp Saturday morning (hey Norwegian style weather to make it more authentic excellent!)?

Um well, via the wonders of the superinternetmotorwaytechiethingy I recently joined a London food bloggers forum and, lo, one of then had come up with the challenge of 25 food bloggers eating the food of the 25 Eurovision finalists within the M25. Sounded like fun so I signed up and duly spent Thursday evening in a meeting room at the BBC watching the second semi final with 20 people I’d never met before…..ah the wonders of the internet bringing people together – a new approach to community. Once the complex voting for the last ten coveted slots was over we each selected (with some fear for which country we would get) a pingpong ball from a bag.

I got RUSSIA. 

And so why have I just been eating Norwegian breakfast? Well poor old Norway hadn’t been picked because we were a few bloggers short - so I gallantly said I’d take it on – I mean they are right up there as one of the favourites to win tonight how could we not sample their cuisine plus it was going to be a great chance to introduce BROWN CHEESE to the rest of the world.


Now I happen to have some Norwegian connections in my family so I’ve eaten Norwegian before and been to the lovely city of Bergen several times. So I sort of knew what I was letting myself in for but I had no idea how easy or not it would be to get my mitts on some Norwegian breakfasty things within the M25 in time to blog about it all today.

First stop was Twitter where the airwaves were buzzing with #eatingeurovision tweets from everyone taking part trying frantically to track down leads for their country. I didn’t get any Norwegian specialists this way but I did get some general Scandinavian pointers. I moved onto the internet proper and that miracle tool that is Google. ‘Norwegian food cooking london’ and other similar phrases threw up a link to the Official Norway site in the UK – here there’s lots of info about all things Norwegian including the upcoming festivities for National Day this Sunday 17 May (which has its own favoured dish I’m going to blog about separately) and some background on Norwegian foods. Rather worryingly it refers to lutefisk simply as a fish dish particular to Norway when in reality it’s a pretty frightening sounding concoction involving cod that has been dried then soaked in lye or caustic soda until it becomes soft and jelly like. Moving swiftly on I find a link to a shop near Oxford circus that sells food goodies from Scandinavia so I decide to pin my hopes on this.

I get to Scandinavian Kitchen just before the lunchtime rush and I’m so excited I forget to take any pictures of anything, dear oh dear. I spot the cheese section fairly quickly and can see they have some of what I’m after so I have a little chat with the guy behind the counter, telling him what I’m up to and asking what else my Norwegian breakfast should involve, he directs me to the flatbread (flatbrød) but also tells me that crispbreads are not very Norwegian and steers me away from a Ryvita type moment. He has to get back to serving so he hands me over to a lovely lady who takes me on a whistle-stop tour of what I need: the cheeses are good, flatbread is good, there should be fresh bread too (they don’t have any specifically Norwegian stuff at the shop so she suggests sourdough but not rye, Norway is not big on rye bread she says and they like their bread less sweet than the Swedes!), liver paste, lamb salami, a Norwegian take on Nutella, fish egg paste (I skip on this option), boiled egg, jam (but she doesn’t have any cloudberry so I skip on getting jam as well). I’m pretty loaded up by now and then along comes a customer she knows well who happens to be Norwegian and so we double check the breakfast options with her and we are bang on track, I just need to drink a big cup of coffee with it and I’ll be having a full on Norwegian breakfast moment. I take my haul to the till, pay up (ouch the prices are high but they are also high in Norway, food is not cheap there) and dash off weighed down with stuff. The friends I’m meeting for lunch are all a bit bemused when I roll up with a huge bag full of Norwegian stuff and clearly think I’ve gone completely mad since they last saw me, ah well, they don’t know what they are missing.

On to this morning and its time for a Norwegian breakfast feast. My husband looks a bit dubious as I start getting all the stuff out and is clearly disappointed that it’s not the bacon and mushroom sandwich option that Saturday usually brings. But he joins in skipping only on the brown cheese.

So what did we have and what was it like? Here’s the spread:


We’ve got (L to R, back row first):

lamb salami (this one is actually Swedish but the shop didn’t have any specifically from Norway and I wanted to give it a go)
Flatbread (take a look inside the box….erm where does the packing stop and the bread begin….)

My nice glossy Norwegian cookbook that my brother gave me
some Ridder cheesesome brown cheese (Gudbrandsdalsost)
Liver paste (isn’t the kid cute)


the chocolatey nutty spread
some Norvegia cheesemore brown cheese (Ekte Geitost)

And here it is on the plate with my lovely Norwegian pewter cheese slice (essential for cutting slivers of these boingy cheeses):



Was it good? 

Pretty much so. The salami wasn’t as lamby flavoured as I’d expected and it was rather too salty but pretty nice. The flatbread was very dry (you could play the eat 2 creams crackers challenge with it) but that’s part of the point, its dry so it stores well, its not especially interesting or full of flavour and when I told my husband I’d spotted a recipe for soup made with it he looked at me rather oddly; its not inedible just a vehicle for other stuff. The chocolate-y spread was so so sweet I couldn’t have more than a mouthful – I guess you either like that kind of thing or you don’t. The liver paste was really tasty, a smooth liver pate basically, good stuff. The two paler cheeses (Ridder and Norvegia) were fairly mild, a bit like Edam; the Norvegia was a lot like Jarlsberg which you can get easily in supermarkets here; the Ridder was stronger with a slightly earthy flavour and probably better as a lunch or dinner cheese.

And the BROWN CHEESE??

They are both made from goats milk and are very traditional Norwegian cheeses. There are quite a few variations available in Norway in terms of strength and creaminess, sometimes cows and goats milk are used together which generally makes a for a milder cheese. All are made from a mix of milk, cream and whey cooked together until they caramelise which is where the brown colour and surreal sweet flavour comes from. I really love the flavour, its weird but tasty (think savoury fudge!), others think it’s vile (e.g. my husband for one). The Ekte Geitost was stronger and had a drier texture than the Gudbrandsdalsost, which is milder and smoother.

Go on give them a go you know you want to and you can get them at some branches of Waitrose according to the Norwegian Cheeses UK site. Hurrah a constant supply for me ☺

And as for tonight well lets hope young Alexander Ryback has been brought up on a good diet of smooth tasty brown cheese – its sure to give him the edge over rivals. Go Norway Go.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

National British Sandwich Week

Apparently, according to Jonathan (aka @Browners) who writes a Sandwichist slot, its National British Sandwich Week this week. Right. Yes. You already knew that didn't you?


Anyway Mr Browners is fed up with pre-packed sandwiches and I'm fed-up with look-a-like Pret's all over the place. Pret was good once (honestly) back in the days when it was just starting and only had a few stores, it was a revelation as well as independent. Like many good things they expanded and expanded then they needed big corporate money. I guess there might a place for that kind of thing when you visit a town you know nothing about and are desperate to eat and have no time to find real recommendations - it makes acceptable food on such occasions, but day to day it get a little dull.

But there are LOADS of independent sandwich shops out there (some good, some bad) plus you could always try your hand at making something yourself. Browners asked for people to go in search of great sandwiches - so we did.

I decided to do not just one but two sandwiches. One from a shop, one homemade.


First up the shop one. Its from Caradell in Red Lion Street, WC2. Caradell is a nice little deli close by where I used to work so I've been there often but having moved on job wise I'd not been in nearly a year - time to try it again. What I always liked about the place is that its busy, service is fast, the sandwiches are made to order and, most of all, pretty much everything is a variation on the classic ham and cheese. Well that might not be quite right but in my view you can't easily beat ham (or salami, or chorizo, or jamon etc etc) and cheese so maybe I just home in on those choices. On this occasion I went for proper British cooked ham off the bone with Emmenthal (no British cheeses in sight boooooo) with Cumberland Sauce - on bloomer of course. 

As you can see its pretty chunky and not for the delicate - its quite hard to eat (all their sandwiches are packed full of filling). It was a great combo but I'd prefer there to be some British cheese as an option. The Cumberland Sauce was nice and tangy, so good stuff all round. At £4.60 its pricey (but it is big and its quality ingredients) and in my view worth it.  I can also vouch that their other ham/cheese variations are also excellent.

And on to today when I decided to rustle up a quick sandwich myself. I went for all English using Village Bakery Pain de Campagne (sourdough), Hawkston cheese from Suffolk (a bit like mild Lancashire), glass grown tomatoes from the Isle of Wight (via Waitrose) and some Stokes Lemon Mayonnaise. Yum - and probably not £4.60!






Making chocolate: an experiment

A few weeks back Julia at 'A Slice of Cherry Pie' was offering 5 Mayan Magic Chocolate kits to food bloggers who promised to blog the experience. Sounded like fun and as I love chocolate I rushed in and bagged one. It arrived a few days later but it sat untouched for a while - I was busy and wanted to do it justice and also blog as much of each step as I could.....so here is what you get and do:

1. The kit:

2. What's inside:


3. The butters:

4. The powders:

5. My chosen flavours (lavender, cardamom, lemon zest). I hardly used any of each:
6. The butter ready to melt in a bain marie (i.e. over hot water):

7. The powders after sieving (they needed it they had gone quite solid):

8. The melted butters:

9. Whisking in the powders (I added a little of the agave at the end for some sweetness but it didn't need much):


10. Then I spilt it into 4 lots and added the flavours and kept one lot plain. I learnt here that you need to keep each lot warm else it cools so quickly you can't pour it into the moulds properly and it becomes all mis-shapen (see later)

11. I poured (and pushed!) it into ice cube trays and got 4 'cubes' per flavour so 16 cubes in total. Then it went into the fridge to set for 1.5 hours (or in my case overnight).

12. Next morning at coffee time so we popped the cubes from the trays.

13. Some worked:

14. Some looked a bit mangled:


And the taste:

The flavours were nice but over-powered any chocolatey-ness (and I only used a teeny bit of each), the plain version was okay but not brilliant.

The texture:

Very grainy/gritty and not smooth at all, disappointing. Alex over at 'A Brit's Dish a Day' had the same problem so I'm guessing that's how it is rather than us getting it wrong.

Fun?:

A bit. But the instructions aren't clear that it will cool so quickly and become difficult to pour into moulds. I made it hard for myself by doing 4 flavours with one kit - the instructions anticipate one flavour being added to the melted butters before the powder.

Would I buy one?

Having looked up the price (£14.25 plus shipping, as far as I can tell, for 150g of chocolate) I had to lie down. I can get 3 different flavored Rococo bars (70g each) for this money or about 14 Divine plain bars (100g each). I'm sorry to have to say that I wouldn't buy this either for myself or as a gift. It wasn't enough fun, its pricey and the taste/texture wasn't the tops. 

Not currently a winner - it needs some re thinking I feel.


Sunday, 10 May 2009

In season: more asparagus


A few weeks ago I treated myself to a 'Tarte Maison' tin from John Lewis. Its a lovely thing, 3 times as long as its wide and calling out to have something pretty made in it. Initially I'd intended to make a rhubarb tart that I'd seen Jonathan (aka @Browners), over at 'Around Britain with a Paunch' mention on Twitter. I've not got to the rhubarb tart yet - mainly because we don't eat that many desserts so it just hasn't happened.

But this weekend I thought it would be nice to do something a little bit different with asparagus that still let it shine and played to its best qualities but moved away from simple steaming and dressing (much as I love it just steamed).

The tart tin seemed just the thing to show off the asparagus.

It was quick and easy:

1. Steam 10 asparagus spears until tender and then immediately plunge them into cold water so they retain their vibrant green colour. Cut each spear in half so you have a bottom end and an end with the tip on.
2. Grease the tart tin and then line with four layers of filo pastry (I needed 8 sheets which overlapped in the middle). Pour in baking beans and blind bake for 7 minutes at Gas 6/200C/400F. Remove from oven and careful remove the baking beans. Allow to cool slightly.
3. Lay the bottoms of the asparagus spears in the pastry case. Add soft goats cheese cut into small pieces (I used 100g of Pants y Gawn). Pour in beaten and seasoned eggs (it took 6 medium eggs).
4. Lay the tops of asaparagus spears on the eggy mix. Bake 20 minutes at Gas 6 until the mixture is firm. Allow to cool, admire, slice and serve.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Under the bonnet: Sourdough progress

On Sunday Monday I finally decided to make a sourdough starter. It takes FOUR weeks of patient waiting and 'feeding' before you get to make a loaf.

Blimey.

I'm not a patient person so each time I pass I have to try very hard to resist taking a peek to see what's happening under the lid. Sometimes I just manage to leave it alone others I succumb. So I thought I'd share these peeks with you so you too can live the joys and worries of making sourdough.

I'll keep updating this post so come back if you want to see what's a foot - or follow me on Twitter to hear the latest. As I add new pictures they'll be right here so you'll need to scroll down if you want to watch the full process.

Update 6 (above): Well the yeasty foam is disappearing day by day to reveal the pinky brown cloudy liquid - nice. The smell is just as bad each time I lift the lid - so I'm mostly staying away. Feeding commences Friday 8.00am BST so have stocked up on flour and am ready to enter phase 2 with my sourdough - can hardly wait. Date/time: 13 May 2009 2.00pm BST

Update 5 (above): its now been just over a week since I made the sourdough thing (yes its a thing). I tried not to peek too much this weekend as we had guests and I imagined they might not want to feel like they were visiting an unattended football teams sock laundry pile! Anyway today the starter is looking rather sad. Its getting a bit of the promised pink tinge but the thick yeasty foam is collapsing and glimpses of dirty looking liquid can be seen below. Ugh. Only a few more days before the phase 2 feeding ritual commences....Date/time: 11 May 23.00 BST

Update 4 (above): just clocked through 100 hours of bubbling (and waiting). Its getting smellier but so far this isn't creeping out to fill the kitchen (a good fitting lid is clearly essential). Here's more of a close up on all that home grown yeasty-ness. Date/time: 9 May 2009 9.30am BST

Update 3: We are now 3 1/2 days in and its smelling like a VERY ripe cheese (but still only if you lift the lid). It doesn't look much different from yesterday so I decide to prod it with a spoon. I can tell its liquidy underneath with a thick sticky stretchy topping. Still yellow-ish coloured. This is where may patience is going to be tested severely I think.....Date/time: 8 May 2009 8.00am BST


Update 2: At 60 hours its going a bit crazy, lots of bubbling, bit more smelly and I'm worried its going to break free from the bowl: Date and time 7 May 2009 9.30am BST


First up: 36 hours old, yellowy colour, flour has settled to bottom, slightly tangy smell starting to develop (but only if you lift the lid): Date and time 6 May 2009 9.15am BST


Monday, 4 May 2009

For starters: thats sourdough starters

I love sourdough bread in all its varieties and I've always quite fancied making it myself. Looking around some of my favourite food blogs recently I saw that sourdough is of those things people are trying out - maybe its the credit crunch that makes us all want to bake bread, I don't know, but it certainly seems to be on the rise (!).

A  bit of looking about, a bit of tweeting and it seemed that the king (and queen) of sourdough recipes comes from Sam and Sam Clarks 'Moro' cookbook. It doesn't seem hard (or maybe it is and I'm just about to find that out) but it requires patience - lots of it - four weeks of it. Like WHAT - I've got to wait FOUR weeks before I can even get close to baking a loaf....now I'm not especially renowned for my patience so I decided to go off and look for other starter recipes. But I kept drawing a blank - they seemed too short and they had easy blend yeast in them - like right that's not real sourdough its just a minor tongue tingle effect.

So back to the recipe from 'Moro' and a whole lot of patience.

Here's what you need and do:

1 bunch of red organic grapes (okay so these aren't organic but I hope it still works)


Strong white organic flour: 500g


Water: 1 litre


Put the grapes in a muslin bag and secure the top of the bag - just so:


Mix the flour and water together to create a sloppy batter that looks like this:

Bash the grapes around a bit with a rolling pin and remember to save the juices to add the mix.


Having added the juice in go the grapes:

Cover and now its just a waiting game - two weeks and counting to next stage......