April 8, 2015 § Leave a comment
Last weekend, some 50 family and friends descended on the Northern Lake District hamlet of Fellside near Caldbeck to share our friend Bruce’s 50th birthday. As my contribution to the celebrations, I offered to cook a meal for all the guests staying over on the Saturday night.
This is the menu I put together with its foundations in the Lake District classics of Herdwick lamb sourced from Yew Tree Farm in Rosthwaite and Sticky Toffee pudding, a recipe that originated at Ullswater’s Sharrow Bay hotel.
Menu for Bruce’s Saturday night
Dukkah and olive oil
All with pitta
Herdwick lamb tagine
Seven vegetable tagine
Both with preserved lemons and harissa
Date and orange salad
Root vegetable slaw
Chargrilled broccoli with chilli and garlic
Sticky toffee pudding
Toffee sauce and cream
Cheeseboard with water biscuits and Winter Tarn Farm organic butter
Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire
Keverigg (like Caerphilly) from Winter Tarn Farm near Penrith
Burt’s Blue from Altrincham
The lamb tagine/sticky toffee pudding formula is a tried and tested way of feeding a crowd and I’m indebted to my friend Shelley for introducing me to this lamb tagine recipe which can be made ahead of time and will appeal even to those who, like me, are not lovers of stewed lamb. The fell-bred Herdwick lamb shoulder becomes meltingly delicious, sweet and spicy after two and a half hours of slow-cooking.
And for those who prefer vegetables to lamb, I offer a recipe for a Moroccan-inspired seven vegetable tagine. The vegetables are given flavour twice over first by being marinaded in olive oil, garlic and harissa and second by being roasted in a hot oven to concentrate their flavour further. As the sauce is made from pureéd vegetables and a little stock, this recipe is both gluten and dairy-free, an added bonus when feeding vegetarians with different dietary requirements.
Both recipes are straightforward to make, freeze and reheat well and are equally good eaten for supper at home or scaled up for a celebration.
Contact details for Yew Tree Farm, Borrowdale (for Herdwick Lamb via mail order or in person from the farm shop)
Joe and Hazel Relph
Yew Tree Farm
Tagine of Herdwick lamb
Adapted from Antony Worrall Thompson recipe on the BBC Food website. Serves 6 generously or up to 10 if served with salads and side dishes. Doubled up, this fits comfortably into a preserving pan and if making ahead and freezing, the double quantity can be ladled into 5 pour and store bags each serving four people and holding 1.1 litres/kg tagine.
The quantity of spices given in the recipe if measured accurately with cook’s measuring spoons will give quite a spicy tagine, particularly so if your spices are fresh. If you prefer a milder tagine, put in a quarter (for a mild end result) or half (for a medium end result) of the stated quantities of cayenne, ground ginger and black pepper. Replace the hot spices with more of the milder ones (paprika, cinnamon and turmeric). Taste the sauce half way through the cooking time and crank up spices according to your taste at that stage.
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 and a half tablespoons mild paprika
1 and a half tablespoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon turmeric
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 boned shoulder of Herdwick lamb, trimmed carefully to remove excess fat and sinew and cut into 5cm chunks. There should be approx 1kg trimmed weight of meat
2 large onions, very finely chopped in a food processor (original recipe calls for grated onion)
2 tablespoon light olive oil
2 tablespoon argan oil
3 cloves garlic finely chopped
570ml tomato juice
400g can chopped tomatoes
115g natural colour (unsulphured) dried apricots, halved
55g Deglet Nour dates, stoned and halved
55g organic sultanas
85g flaked almonds
1 teaspoon best quality saffron stamens (I like Brindisa Belefran brand from Spain)
570ml lamb stock
1 tbsp clear strong tasting honey (I like heather honey)
1 can drained rinsed chickpeas
chopped fresh flatleaf parsley and coriander to garnish
Combine the dried spices in a small bowl and mix well to combine. Place the trimmed lamb pieces in a large bowl and toss together with half the spice mix. Cover with cling film and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, preheat your oven to 140 degrees C fan.
Heat 1 tablespoon light olive oil and 1 tablespoon argan oil in a large casserole dish. Add the finely chopped onion and the remaining half of the spice mix to the pan and cook over a gentle heat for about 7 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and cook for a further 3 minutes then turn off the heat.
While the onion and spices are cooking, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon each of olive and argan oils in a large frying pan and brown the pieces of lamb a few at a time.
Add the browned lamb pieces to the casserole along with any juices. Deglaze the frying pan with a quarter of the tomato juice and add these juices to the pan.
Add the remaining tomato juice, chopped tomatoes, dried fruits, flaked almonds, saffron, lamb stock and honey to the casserole dish. Bring to the boil, cover, place in the oven and cook for 2 and a half hours. Cool, skim off and discard any excess fat. Add the chickpeas, stir in well and heat through when ready to serve. Garnish generously with chopped fresh herbs and serve with couscous.
Seven Vegetable Tagine
Source: adaptation and combination of several recipes from Paula Wolfert’s book “Moroccan Cuisine”. Apparently, in both Fez and Marrakesh, the number 7 is considered lucky and this recipe has both seven vegetables and seven flavourings so is doubly so.
This recipe was originally devised for a Moroccan-themed party to suit a vegetarian family member who cannot eat tomatoes.
Serves 7-8 as a main course; 12-15 as a vegetable accompaniment
The 7 vegetables
1 butternut squash, peeled and quartered
2 medium aubergines
2 red peppers
1 medium turnip (not swede), peeled and quartered
3 medium onions, peeled
1 large bulb fennel, trimmed
1 can white cannellini beans (400 g can, drained weight 225g) drained and rinsed
4 tablespoons olive oil
The 7 flavourings
4 crushed cloves garlic
3 teaspoons harissa
3 tsp cumin seeds
few twists pepper
2 tsp dried thyme
1 generous pinch saffron threads
Three quarters to one pint vegetable stock (I use Marigold vegetable stock powder)
Cut all the vegetables, other than the beans, into bite sized chunks (roughly 1” cubes). Don’t worry if the the onions and fennel fall apart.
Put the flavouring ingredients except the saffron into a large mixing bow, add the olive oil and, tip in the vegetable chunks (but not the beans) and mix everything together with your hands, making sure all the vegetables are well coated with the flavoured oil.
Tip into large roasting tin – don’t cram them into too small a tin otherwise the vegetables will steam rather than roast – and roast for approx half an hour in a hot oven – 220 degrees C in a domestic fan oven. The vegetables are ready when they are soft but not mushy and the top layer are toasted and golden brown with darker brown edges – don’t let them blacken and burn. Stir them about once or twice while they are roasting.
While the vegetables are roasting, soak the saffron threads in a little hot water (1-2 fl oz) in a measuring jug for 15 minutes or so. Top up the measuring jug to the three quarter pint level with vegetable stock.
When the vegetables are cooked, remove from the oven, tip in the drained beans and stir to mix. Remove approximately one quarter of the vegetable mix and liquidize or blend with the saffron stock liquid to make the sauce. Add up to a further quarter pint of vegetable stock if the liquidized sauce seems to thick. Tip the sauce back into the roasting tin and stir gently to mix, scraping any toasty brown bits from the base of the roasting tin as you do so, but being careful not to break up the roast vegetables too much.
To serve – warm through and garnish with chopped fresh coriander and offer extra harissa and chopped preserved lemons separately.
November 30, 2013 § Leave a comment
It’s just over a week ago that my friend Gwyneth and I joined forces with our lovely cleaning lady Fe Silva and her formidable team drawn from our local Filipino community to put on a very special fundraising event to raise money for the UK Disaster Emergency Committees Philippines Typhoon Appeal.
Last Friday, 22 November, St Luke’s Church, Bowdon Vale in Cheshire was transformed from an austere place of worship into a lively restaurant packed with well-wishers and supporters:
It was Gwyneth’s young son Bill who came up with the idea. Moved by the plight of the Filipino people filling our television screens after the onslaught of Typhoon Haiyan and wanting to help Fe with whom he has a special bond, he came up with the idea of a cake stall outside his house to raise money. Within 48 hours, this seed of an idea quickly germinated and grew into a plan for a full-scale Pop-Up restaurant catering for up to 50 people, offering authentic Filipino food prepared and served by a team comprising Gwyneth and myself and members of the local Filipino community – Fe, Kai, her husband Russell, their daughter Maru, Vicky, Jane, her daughter Jasmine, Helen, Mira and Meridel.
Another 24 hours later, our local church – St Mary’s and St Luke’s had offered a venue free of charge, an initial donation to the appeal of £1,000 and just as importantly, encouragement and help with publicity.
Next step was to decide on the menu. This is what we came up with:
Empanadas – miniature pasties
(contain chicken and pork)
Asian salad (V)
Pan de Sal – Filipino bread rolls with crunchy breadcrumb topping
Picadillo (minced beef and vegetables in spicy but not hot tomato sauce)
Vegetable chop suey (V)
Filipino Cream Puffs
Tropical fruit platter
Filipino coconut macaroons
Coffee, tea, mint tea
Gwyneth took on the empanadas, salad and chop suey; I opted for the Pan de Sal, Picadillo, ice cream, and shopping for the tropical fruit platetrs. Kai volunteered to make an authentic Chicken Adobo and Fe co-ordinated a battery of rice cookers and sack of imported Filipino rice. Further help came from the locally-based MD of Bakkavor Laurens Patisseries who offered several stacks of profiteroles aka Filipino cream puffs, an offer we gratefully accepted.
The next few days were focused on shopping for and preparing the various dishes and of course publicising the event and co-ordinating all the guests.
Here are Gwyneth’s beautiful-looking empanadas and chop suey vegetables (thanks to Jenny Peachey too for helping with the veg prep). It’s a shame we don’t have more pictures but to be honest we were focused on getting the event up and running:
Here are some of the mango ice-cream and tropical fruit platters. I discovered that canned mango makes an absolutely superb ice-cream with no need to search out the ripest mangoes and laboriously purée and sieve them. My knowledge of tropical fruit has been expanded too after a trip to the specialist Asian groceries of Chinatown, Levenshulme and Chorlton to track down papaya, custard apple, persimmons and the unusually flavoured guava as well as the more familiar mango, pineapple and grapes.
The Picadillo was quick and easy to make, incorporates loads of veggies so no need for a separate side dish. Served with rice, it’s going to become part of our family mealtime repertoire:
Greatest fun for me was making the Pan de Sal rolls – delicious soft and puffy brioche-like rolls made with the secret Filipino ingredient, evaporated milk, and with an intriguing breadcrumb topping:
Sorry there are no pictures of the coconut macaroons – they disappeared in a flash!
All bar two of the evening’s recipes are given below in case you’d like to try them yourselves at home. Kai has yet to divulge the secret of an authentic Adobo, and similarly Gwyneth’s husband Graeme is keeping his crunchy and vibrant Asian salad recipe close to his chest.
We’re so grateful for all the help and support we received and absolutely delighted to have raised the sum of £7,467.50 for such a worthwhile cause.
Pan de Sal – Filipino bread rolls
Adapted from a recipe on Allrecipes.com. Makes 20.
6g fast action instant dried yeast (the kind that can be mixed directly with the flour)
500g strong plain flour
50g golden caster sugar
240g canned evaporated milk
1-2 tablespoons milk sufficient to form a soft pliable dough
50g fine dried breadcrumbs
additional evaporated milk for dipping
Mix the yeast, flour, sugar and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Rub in the butter then pour in the eggs and evaporated milk and mix well together adding a little additional milk to the mixture to form into a soft dough. Knead for 12 minutes. A mixer with a dough hook makes this job easy but you will need to scrape down the sides of the bowl several times during the process. Form the dough into a ball, oil lightly, cover and leave to prove for 2 hours until the dough has increased in bulk noticeably. It probably won’t have doubled in size.
Divide the dough into quarters using scales, then divide each quarter into 5 small balls. Each ball will weigh 48-49g.
Form the mixture into small balls (weigh each one) and shape into rolls with a smooth top. Dip each ball in more evaporated milk then in dry crumbs. Place the rolls on a baking sheet crumb side up. Cover and prove for up to a further hour until noticeably enlarged (again they won’t quite double in size).
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C. Slip the rolls into the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 180 degrees C. Bake for 8 minutes then reduce the heat again to 170 degrees C and bake for 5 more minutes until the rolls are golden-brown top and bottom and are completely baked. Cool on a wire rack.
A hybrid recipe: the filling comes from Charmaine Solomon’s “The Complete Asian Cookbook” paired with an empanada pastry recipe suitable for baking rather than deep frying. Makes about 20.
300g unsalted butter
600g plain flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
6-8 tablespoons water
more beaten egg to glaze
3 rashers bacon
1 tbsp lard or oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 medium onion
250g pork and veal mince or Spanish sausage, finely chopped
125g finely chopped raw chicken
¾ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp tomato sauce
3 hardboiled eggs, chopped
2 tbsp chopped pickled gherkins
Begin by making the pastry. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and set aside to cool a little. Sift flour and salt into a bowl and mix well. Add the melted butter and beaten egg to the flour and salt and mix to incorporate, adding a little water as you do so to make a soft, pliable dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and need for about 2 minutes until smooth. Return the dough to the bowl, cover and set aside while you prepare the filling.
Remove any rind then chop the bacon into small pieces and fry until the fat runs. Remove the bacon from pan, add lard or oil and fry garlic and onion over a low heat until soft and golden. Increase the heat, add the meats and fry, stirring, until they change colour. Add salt, pepper and tomato sauce, stir well. Lower the heat, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Stir in hardboiled eggs and pickled gherkins and allow to cool before using the filling. Taste and add more seasoning if necessary.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C and line 2 large baking trays with parchment.
Divide the dough in half and roll out the first piece to 3mm thickness. Stamp out as many discs as you can using a 12cm cutter. You can of course make smaller empanadas by using a smaller diameter cutter and less filling. Put a dessertspoon of filling onto the centre of each disc, brush the edges with water and fold in half to make a semicircle. Press the edges together firmly and either mark with the tines of a fork or crimp to seal decoratively. Place on a baking tray. Repeat with the second piece of dough then reroll the trimmings and repeat once more. You can of course make smaller empanadas by using a smaller diameter cutter and less filling
Brush the empanadas on the tray with beaten egg and bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Best served warm.
Filipino Style Picadillo
A recipe collated from various sources. Kai says that to be authentic, this should be runny, almost a soup. To make serving easier, we cooked the mixture down until it was thick and reduced, more like a chili.
2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
500g lean minced beef
1 beef stock cube
1 can chopped tomatoes (14oz)
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tbsp fish sauce
150g (approx) waxy potatoes (eg Charlotte variety) unpeeled, scrubbed and diced
gnerous handful of frozen peas
1-2 peeled diced carrots
1 small diced red pepper
salt and pepper to taste
Fry the onions and garlic in the vegetable oil until soft and golden(about 10 minutes). Add the minced beef and cook until brown. Add the tomato sauce, fish sauce, ketchup, stock cube and water Add potatoes and bring to the boil. Cook, uncovered over a medium heat for about 20 minutes. Add the vegetables and a little salt and pepper and bring back to the boil then simmer for 5 minutes to cook the vegetables. Taste and add more salt, pepper, ketchup and/or fish sauce if required.
Filipino Vegetable Chop Suey
A recipe compiled from various sources. We made our version suitable for vegetarians but non-vegetarians can use chicken rather than vegetable stock and fish sauce rather than soy sauce to boost the flavour.
1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 onion, sliced
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into batons
1 small head cauliflower, separated into small florets
7-8oz baby corn, trimmed and halved lengthwise
1 small head broccoli, head cut into small florets, stalk peeled and cut into batons
1 stalk celery, cut into batons
1 green or red pepper, halved, deseeded and cut into strips
8-9 oz green beans, trimmed
1 small chayote, cut into batons (courgette suggested as substitute or make up with more of the other vegetables)
4 oz mangetout, trimmed
half head cabbage, outer leaved removed, quartered and thick stalks removed then shredded
2 teaspoons vegetable stock powder
1 tablespoon cornflour
235 ml milk
235 ml water
salt, pepper, soy sauce to season
In a wok or large pan heat the oil then fry the garlic and onion until golden brown.
Add the vegetables except the cabbage in the order listed above (firmest first) to the pan stir fry each for a few minutes before adding the next. This process should take 15-20 minutes in total.
Meanwhile slake the cornflour with some of the water.
Sprinkle the stock powder over the vegetables then add the water, milk and slaked cornflour to the pan and bring to the boil, stirring as the cornflour thickens the mixture.
Season with salt, pepper and soy sauce, stir, then throw in the shredded cabbage, cover with a lid and allow the cabbage to steam until just done, about 3 minutes. Stir and it’s ready to serve.
Charmaine Solomon recipe from Philippines chapter of Asian Cookbook modified by me. She says it serves 6 – I think this quantity will serve 12 or more.
2 large egg yolks (70g)
1 teaspoon cornflour
50g golden caster sugar
470g milk, whole or semi-skimmed
further 33g golden caster sugar
2.5 sheets leaf gelatine soaked in a little cold water for 5 minutes
450-500g mango pulp (I used approx. 3 cans Sainsbury’s canned mango in light syrup drained, pureed and sieved to remove fibrous bits)
2.5 sheets leaf gelatine
200g whipping or double cream
Whisk the egg yolks with 50g sugar and the teaspoon of cornflour in a bowl until thick and light. Heat the milk with the remaining 33g sugar in a small saucepan until nearly boiling. Be sure to stir to dissolve the sugar while the milk heats. Pour the hot milk onto the yolks whisking constantly then return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over a very low heat until it coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat, allow to cool for a minute or two then add the softened gelatine and stir to dissolve.
Now stir in the mango pulp followed by the cream. Chill then pour the mixture into an ice-cream machine. Churn until frozen then pack into a freezer box and freeze until firm. Transfer the ice-cream from the freezer to the refrigerator approx. 40 minutes before serving to soften.
Filipino Coconut Macaroons
Adapted from various internet recipes hence the US cup measures. Unlike a traditional coconut macaroon that can be a touch dry, these macaroons are soft, chewy and tooth-achingly sweet and we think they’re best enjoyed petit-four sized to serve with coffee. Makes 40-50 petit four sized macaroons.
1/3 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup golden caster sugar
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup flour
2 cups desiccated coconut
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at time, then add condensed milk and vanilla extract and continue to beat until blended. A hand blender makes short work of this task.
In a medium bowl, combine flour and desiccated coconut. Add to egg mixture and beat until combined.
Spoon or pipe the mixture into petit four cases and bake in a 170 degrees C oven for about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack.
April 25, 2013 § 3 Comments
Oh dear. I’ve been silent on the subject of the World Marmalade Awards at Dalemain this year which were held at the beginning of March.
It’s time to disclose that this year I achieved marks of only 15 out of 20 for my Seville orange marmalade and, slightly better, 17 for the bergamot. This compares to the almost perfect score of 19 last year and, worst of all, to husband Tim’s respectable score of 18!
So what went wrong? I did go and chat to the white-coated WI judges this year. It seems I went a little bit too far with my liking for a soft set, and once again my marmalade was criticised for being cloudy. This is a tough one to crack but their advice was NOT to squeeze the muslin bag containing the pectin-rich peel and pips.Just to remind myself for next year, previous advice on achieving clarity was NOT to add the knob of butter when boiling but to skim, skim and skim again, also to add a just a dash of alcohol at the end when ready to pot.
On reflection, my peel was slightly unevenly distributed within the jar. Thinking back, I potted hot straight from the pan relying on a gentle shake to redistribute the peel but was distracted from doing this by a teenage tantrum shortly before setting off to a match at the Etihad stadium…The lesson is that marmalade cannot be rushed.
So far so fair. I felt somewhat peeved to have been docked a mark for having placed my label a few millimetres too high up on the jar. The WI ladies like it low it seems. I did subsequently have a look at The National Federation of Womens’ Institutes “On the Show” publication which states:
“Labels should be plain, neat and straight and of suitable size for the container. Place label between the seams of the jar. Label should state contents and day, month and year of making.”
Hmmm, nothing about vertical positioning of labels here. I think I was robbed.
Bitterly disappointed but undaunted I went along to the marmalade Q&A session to learn how to correct my mistakes and also to try and answer a couple of queries raised by a like-minded friend Shelley who had written a week or so earlier as follows:
“Really nice to talk to you about marmalade last week. Looking at your notes and reading various recipes gave me quite a bit to think about. The part in the recipes that was puzzling when I made mine this year was in the Riverford recipe which states 1.5 kg oranges, 2 lemons and approx 2.5kg sugar BUT in the video on the Riverford website the guy says after boiling there should be approx 1.7litres of liquid and then to add 450g sugar per 500ml which would only require 1.53 kg sugar so big discrepancy. As I mentioned to you I have always been a bit puzzled by the fact that the amount the liquid reduces by can vary between batches so I quite liked some guidelines on how much liquid should be left.
Also in your notes from the Marmalade workshop with Jane Maggs the optimum sugar content was 59-65% but if you add 450g sugar per 500ml liquid then sugar content is (450/950)*100% = 47% unless I am missing something.
I would like to try another batch just to see if I can get a different result but it is getting late in the season and I’m not sure we could eat it all anyway.”
First of all Shelley, I have to admit to a typo of my own – the recipe actually said 2kg of sugar and I then typed it incorrectly as 2.5kg. There’s still a discrepancy but not as bad as it first appears.
I put the water question to the panel comprising from L to R Jane Maggs of Wild and Fruitful; Jonathan Miller preserves buyer for Fortnum & Mason, compère Dan “Master Baker” (careful how you say that) Lepard, Pam “The Jam” Corbin all round preserving expert and author of Preserves: River Cottage Handbook No.2, and finally Rosemary Jameson, the Jam Jar Shop lady.
There was unanimous agreement that it would make perfect sense to put a lid on your pan and use less water. For reasons of custom, tradition and utility most recipes expect you to add water to the peels in a non-lidded preserving pan, boil for 2 hours to soften the peel by which time approximately half the liquid will have boiled away. Most people used to have just one large unlidded preserving pan thus recipes were drafted to take account of the larger amount of water needed.
Jane Maggs said that most standard marmalade recipes adopted a rule of thumb by which for every 1lb fruit, 2 pints water and 2lb sugar were required. If half the water boils away then you’re left with 1lb fruit and 1 pint water which is matched to 2lb sugar giving approximately a 50:50 ratio. There is approximately 5% natural fruit sugar in the boiled peel liquid so that plus the small amount of evaporation that takes place when boiling for a set will give you the right sugar percentage of around 60% to achieve a set.
Thinking afterwards, there’s an unstated assumption that 1 pint water weighs 1lb. It doesn’t unless you use a US style pint which is just 16 floz rather than our UK 20 fl oz pint.
Looking again at the Riverford recipe, I think it’s never going to work matching 450g sugar to 500ml liquid. All that will happen is that the liquid has to boil away until the correct balance is achieved. Next time I’m going to work with a 1:1 ratio. This will require 1.7kg sugar for 1.7 litres liquid, so still a discrepancy with the 2kg weight of sugar stated in the ingredients list but not so great any more.
The other difference between the Riverford marmalade recipe and the standard ratios is the proportion of water added (2.5 litres) to weight of fruit (1.7kg once lemons are taken into account). The standard ratios would suggest 3.4 litres water (twice the weight of the fruit). I wondered why this might be and remembered that the Riverford recipe uses only finely shredded peel removed from the whole fruit using a peeler. This means that all the pith which is used still attached to the peel in a standard recipe is discarded in the muslin bag. As less fruit is used, so the quantity of water needs to be less. I assume that what the recipe wants is for the boiled liquid to be equivalent to the weight of fruit you first started with (1.7kg fruit for 1.7 litres water) which sounds both nice and neat and inherently sensible in terms of achieving a good concentration of flavour.
So that’s it – rather technical I know but at least I’ve recorded my thinking ready for next year. And if I can’t achieve a clear marmalade I can be happy in the knowledge that Jonathan Miller, buyer for Fortnums will only ever consider cloudy marmalades as these have more flavour.
April 9, 2012 § 2 Comments
Once again, the World Marmalade Awards held at Dalemain in Cumbria brightened up those last days of February just before spring proper arrives. Tim and I had both submitted our marmalades for judging, each using our favourite recipe. Tim favours a straightforward Delia Smith recipe with a firmish set, whereas I’m wedded to an alternative recipe with very fine shreds of peel and a softish set. You can find both of our recipes via the Recipe Index page.
We were delighted to discover that both of us had been awarded 19 marks out of a possible 20 this year. This gained us a silver award each and, more importantly meant marital harmony over the breakfast table was maintained.
So where did we each drop that final elusive mark? In my case the judge remarked that my marmalade was “just rather cloudy” which was true as this picture of my 2012 batch shows:
I don’t know what made my marmalade cloudy this year but the most likely tip I’ve found is to skim off the scum rigorously while boiling and NOT to add a knob of butter to the boiling pan to reduce scumming as this will cause it to be dissolved back into the mixture, thus making it cloudy. So that’s the change I’ll be making next year.
In Tim’s case, the judge quibbled that his peel “needs a little more cooking” something which can be pretty easily put right. I think this may have happened as his oranges were hanging round in the fridge for about a month before he got round to making his marmalade right at the last minute.
It’s human nature to dwell on the one point lost but perhaps it’s more constructive to focus on what we did right.
We both used beautiful organic oranges delivered via our Riverford veg box man. This was really top quality fruit which was bursting with zesty flavour. I bought my fruit early and used it straightaway and found the peel was quick to soften (ready in half an hour or so whereas older fruit can need an hour or more to soften) and a set was achieved relatively quickly once sugar was added. I think a shorter cooking time means a fresher, zingier citrus flavour.
I experimented with a sugar thermometer this year and stopped boiling once my marmalade reached 104.5 degrees C in order to achieve the wobbly softer set I was looking for. I think if I’d used the chilled saucer and fingertip wrinkle test alone, I’d have been tempted to boil the mixture for a good 5 minutes or so longer.
I potted while the mixture was still extremely hot, filling the jars to the brim, hoping that the peel would be correctly saturated with sugar and would therefore be suspended in the marmalade in perfect equilibrium. It didn’t work and infuriatingly rose to the top! This was soon put right by making sure the lids were on firmly and gently inverting and rotating the jars once the marmalade had cooled a little to help redistribute the peel.
Enought navel-gazing and what of the marmalade festival itself? As well as viewing the hundreds, nay thousands of jars of marmalade on display in the house itself, I attended three additional events this year.
The first was food historian Ivan Day’s talk on the history of marmalade and its links with Dalemain. He then proceeded to cook “Lady Westmoreland’s White Pot” a recipe for an enriched bread and butter pudding from a collection within the Dalemain archive. He’s a fascinating man with a laudable devotion to authenticity and an evident passion for his specialist subject. I’ll be checking out his website http://www.historicfood.com/portal.htm for details of food courses next time I feel like treating myself.
The second was celebrity baker Dan Lepard’s breadmaking workshop. One might have expected Dan to talk about baking the perfect loaf of bread to set off a pot of award-winning marmalade, but this session was more of an improvisation on the theme of bread prompted by audience questions. Lots of interesting tips for the serious home-baker with a good deal of previous experience, but I’d defy a novice to be able to bake a simple loaf after this 2 hour session!
My final special event was a marmalade-making workshop run by The Jam Jar Shop team. Our little group of four actually made a batch of marmalade in less tanusing the boiled whole orange method under the watchful eye of our friendly Jam Jar Shop tutor who took this picture:
In case you’re wondering how we managed to prepare a batch of marmalade in less than 2 hours, the whole oranges had been precooked in order for us to be able to complete the marmalade making process in a reasonable timescale.
What did I learn that was new? Well, making marmalade with soft precooked oranges is something I don’t do often. It’s pretty easy to cut up the peel and scrape out the pith using this method but I still prefer to begin with raw fruit as I think ease of cutting is outweighed by a slight loss of flavour.
I learned how to refine my muslin bag-making technique. First, we enclosed all the pith and pips in a big square of muslin and tied the square securely with string to enclose all the contents and stop them escaping. So far so good. Next, we were told not to trim the string but to fold in all the loose raw edges forming the neck of the bag then roll it back down towards the knotted string. Next we wrapped the string around the resulting roll of fabric and tied securely thus enclosing all the raw edges and stopping any loose threads escaping into the pan of marmalade. Finally, the long ends of string were knotted together to form a loop secured to the pan handle for easy retrieval. Very professional looking and a tip I’ll be using again.
This method forms a robust bag that can stand up to the all important squeezing to extract as much pectin as possible so that the marmalade achieves a good set.
The peel was a little irregular as four different people had cut it up each according to their own preference and skill level but the end result of the workshop wasn’t at all bad:
If you fancy giving this marmalade-making method a go next year (or maybe you have some Sevilles stashed away in the freezer), you can download the recipe directly from the Jam Jar shop website by following this link http://www.jamjarshop.com/makingjam/marmalade/index.asp
November 10, 2011 § Leave a comment
Perhaps the only good thing about having the kitchen redecorated is that we’re forced to get out of the house. When a glistening fresh coat of extra-slow drying oil-based eggshell arrived on the cupboard doors on Friday afternoon, we were forced to spend a weekend away. Fortunately, it all fell into place as there was a weekend of glorious high-pressure weather forecast for the North of England (remarkable for the first week in November) and my favourite youth hostel, the remote but cosy one up on the Honister Pass in the Lake District, had a family room available. So we packed the car, upped sticks and were rewarded with the most fantastic autumn weekend in and around the Borrowdale valley.
Saturday was spent on a circular lower level walk which, in addition to uplifting views and vibrant autumn colours, took in 4 different tearooms at Grange-in-Borrowdale, Watendlath, Rosthwaite, then back to Grange for a visit to its other tea establishment. Definitely my kind of walk.
I took the opportunity to stock-up on local products including this fantastic comb honey available from the Grange tearooms. According to the label, it comes from S. Edmondson of Troutdale, just down the road. It’s a dark, clear honey – from heather perhaps? and spread on my breakfast toast this morning I can confirm that the taste is divine – deeply fragrant, not too strong, and, odd as it may sound, I love the chewy crunch of the little bits of honeycomb wax.
I’ve now done a little reading round about the etiquette of whether or not to eat the wax in honeycomb. The consensus amongst the beekeeping community seems to be to go for it and eat the lot, honey, wax and all, so I now feel vindicated. There are some more delicate folk out there who prefer to chew then discreetly spit out – each to his own I suppose.
The village of Rosthwaite is home to Yew Tree Farm and its Flock-In tearoom which with its practical slate floors and generously sized cakes and mugs of tea, offers a warm welcome to walkers.
They make their own Borrowdale teabread here and sell whole loaves to take away as well as buttered slices to accompany your tea. I love teabreads of all kinds – quickly made, wholesome, and because there’s generally not much if indeed any fat in the cake mix itself, you can feel justified in enjoying a slice spread with lots of lovely butter.
Borrowdale teabread is a dark, moist slightly spicy loaf cake. Its colour comes both from the tea-soaked dried fruit it contains and the soft brown sugar used in the mix. I had a chat with Mrs Relph of Yew Tree Farm who was behind the counter that afternoon about the origins of Borrowdale teabread. Her view was that the dried fruits, spices and indeed tea in this teabread are a legacy of the overseas trade from the nearby port of Whitehaven. She mentioned that her recipe is made without the addition of fat so that it needs to be well-wrapped and stored in an airtight tin if it’s not to dry out if kept for any length of time. Not much chance of that in our family…
I’ve researched Borrowdale teabread recipes and have come up with my own version which I give below which combines the best bits of each recipe. I think the addition of a little melted butter which several recipe authors suggest will improve the keeping qualities of the cake.
I was then reminded of a treasured recipe for Borrowdale biscuits which I assume must originate in this same Lake District valley. Here’s the recipe given to me by my schoolfriend Helen Wright’s grandmother absolutely ages ago and kept in a file ever since:
These are the most moreish pale gold crunchy biscuits – like a superior Hob Nob for those familiar with the McVities product range. Going back to Helen’s house after school we’d be offered some of these with a cup of tea. I’m not proud to say I’d help myself to 6 or so more than the polite 2 offered when I thought nobody was looking…
I’ve tinkered with the original recipe just a little, substituting butter for margarine as I avoid margarine if I possibly can on grounds of flavour and odd as it may sound, health – all those lovely fat-soluble vitamins in butter from grazing cows can’t be all bad.
Most of the measurements in the original recipe are in “small teacups” so I’ve done my best to standardise the measures to give a consistent result.
I can’t wait to get back into my kitchen to start cooking once again rather than relying on baking memories, but in the meantime, it’s good to be outdoors burning off those cake and biscuit calories.
Recipe for Borrowdale teabread
Adapted from various sources including a Lakeland contributor to the Farmer’s Guardian, Carole Gregory’s little booklet “Favourite Lakeland Recipes”, Sizergh Barn’s online recipe (unusable as published as riddled with errors) and eating carefully the of Flock-In tearoom’s own teabread. I’ve maintained the key ratios and ingredients of the recipe but have incorporated what I think are the best elements of each recipe.
Good spread thickly with salted butter and maybe a wedge of crumbly Lancashire cheese.
Makes one large loaf cake.
½ pint (225 ml) strong hot black tea
14 oz (400g) dried mixed fruit (to include sultanas, raisins and glacé cherries)
6 oz (170g) dark soft brown sugar (use light soft brown sugar for a paler teabread with a less pronounced molasses flavour if you prefer)
1 large egg, beaten
grated rind of 1/2 orange and 1/2 lemon
1 oz (25g) melted butter
7 oz (200g) plain flour
2oz (50g) wholemeal flour
3/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon mixed spice
Mix together the dried fruit and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Pour over the hot tea, cover and leave overnight to steep.
The next day, prepare a 2lb loaf tin by greasing and lining the base with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 160 C (fan).
Add the beaten egg, melted butter, grated citrus rind and grated nutmeg to the bowl containing the soaked fruit and mix well.
Sieve together the flours, bicarbonate of soda and spices. Tip any bran from the wholemeal flour or any larger pieces of grated nutmeg which don’t make it through the sieve back into the bowl too. Add to the bowl and fold into the mixture to blend thoroughly.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for about 1 hour until firm when pressed lightly, well-risen and a deep golden brown.
Cool in the tin for 30 minutes then turn out and cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight tin. Best left overnight before eating to allow the flavours to develop and the bread to soften and become sticky.
Recipe for Borrowdale biscuits
Adapted from a recipe given to me by my schoolfriend Helen Wright’s grandmother.
Makes 50-60 biscuits
8 oz butter
8 oz golden caster sugar
2 dessertspoons golden syrup
6 oz rolled porridge oats
8 oz self raising flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 tablespoons boiling water
Cream together the butter, sugar and syrup. Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in the boiling water. Add to the mixture then add the dry ingredients.
Pinch off and roll between your palms small balls of the dough about the size of a heaped teaspoon and set a little way apart on a prepared baking tray.
Bake at 160 degrees C/325 F/gas 3 for approximately 15 minutes.
Yew Tree Farm
Tel 01768 777 675
Borrowdale honey – jar and whole honeycomb in box available from tearoom in Grange-in-Borrowdale
Details on honey label are:
June 23, 2011 § Leave a comment
If you’ve ever been tempted by the mound of dainty salad leaves sold by weight in Chorlton’s legendary Unicorn grocers, you may have noticed not only that they beat supermarket sealed-bag salad leaves hands down for flavour and freshness but also that they are grown just down the road at Glebelands Road in Sale by an outfit called Glebelands City Growers.
Glebelands City Growers threw open their picket gates for last week’s Open Farm Sunday so I decided it was time for another visit to this idyllic little urban growing spot on the banks of the Mersey. Arriving via a very ordinary looking urban street, you turn down an alleyway between two semis and suddenly you arrive in the most unexpected haven of lush greenery.
Glebelands City Growers is not a faceless organisation but is Charlotte, Adam, Sally and Ed who collectively bear more than a passing resemblance to Velma, Shaggy, Daphne and Fred from Scooby Doo – no dogs in evidence last week though. The four of them have established a most happy blend of idealism combined with capitalism. They farm their small patch of Eden using organic methods and produce some of the products that we’re all clamouring for: unusual salad leaf mixtures complete with edible flowers if you’re lucky, coriander, basil, baby spinach, broad beans – the kind of stuff that finds its way into glossy food mag photo shoots at this time of year. So they’ve got the product range right on target and they succeed in making a profit but also follow sound ethical principles too – organic, sustainable, local, all with a healthy dash of pragmatism thrown in.
We were welcomed on our arrival by Adam with big mugs of tea or a glass of his home made elderflower cordial. The forecast rain arrived then, right on cue so we sheltered in one of the seed cultivation areas whilst people arrived ready for the first guided tour. We were in distinguished company – here’s Trafford Mayor Jane Baugh rubbing shoulders with the commoners in the high-tech potting shed:
When 30 or so visitors had arrived, the tour began. The team grow all their own plants from seed, unlike some growers who buy in seedlings to grow on. Polytunnels are used extensively to provide protection from the worst of the weather and play a part in keeping weeds and pests under control. Here’s Ed demonstrating the use of the hoe, the primary technique for keeping weeds under control:
Growing under cover provides protection from the wind and cold, but how are the plants watered if there’s no rain falling on them? The answer came as we entered the next polytunnel which housed a crop of fragrant basil. The plants are nurtured using efficient drip-hoses fed from collected rainwater where possible:
At the heart of an organic farming system is the idea of feeding the soil rather than the plant. This is achieved firstly by applying organic matter in the form of home made compost. The team has an arrangement with Unicorn whereby all the shop waste is composted down and applied to the soil. The second key feature is the use of a crop rotation plan whereby different plants are moved around the plot each year so pests and diseases never have chance to build up in the soil. After a period of trial and error, the team work to a five year rotation in which the land is left fallow in the fifth year. In the next picture you can see a fallow strip on the left and a crop of broad beans on the right, a legume performing its vital nitrogen fixing role as well as tasting good.
Finally, we learned about the harvesting of the leaves which takes place four times a week and is carried out by hand using a pair of scissors. The produce then travels some 3 miles to its primary retail outlet, Chorlton’s Unicorn Grocers (Chorlton is a suburb in South Manchester). It really is fresh and local.
Fortunately for us, there were a few bags of salad for sale on the day. I’m ashamed to say that once the tour was concluded, I raced to the trailer where the salad was for sale, shamelessly overtaking other visitors as I didn’t want to miss out. We were rewarded with a lunchtime salad to savour:
SO, if you can’t grow your own and live in the South Manchester area, get yourself down to Unicorn and try it for yourself. Just remember they’re not open on Mondays though.
89 Albany Road
Tel: 0161 861 0010
Glebelands City Growers
February 28, 2011 § 2 Comments
I posted recently about my silver medal winning marmalade at the World Marmalade Awards at Dalemain in Cumbria and promised to divulge my new marmalade recipe. OK folks here’s how it’s done:
Recipe for Thin Cut Seville Orange Marmalade
This is the recipe which was enclosed with my Riverford Organics “marmalade kit” (a big brown paper bag containing 1.5kg of spanking fresh Seville oranges and 2 lemons, all unwaxed and organic of course). Many thanks to Riverford and owner Guy Watson for this recipe which Guy demonstrates at www.riverford.co.uk/marmalade
I’ve quoted it exactly as printed with my editorial comments included in brackets.
1.5kg Seville oranges
2.5 litres cold water
Approximate 2kg granulated sugar
1. With a sharp knife (or vegetable peeler) peel the skin from the oranges and lemons, leaving as much white pith on the fruit as possible. Chop the peel into 3mm strips (or thinner if you have the patience) and put into a large pan (lidded stock type pot rather than a preserving pan best for this stage).
2. Line a large bowl with a piece of muslin, leaving plenty to overhang the sides of the bowl. Cut the oranges and lemons in half. With your hands, squeeze the juice from the fruit over the bowl, dropping the leftover squeezed fruit, pith, pips and flesh, into the muslin. Lift the muslin out of the bowl, gather the sides and squeeze any remaining juice into the bowl. Tie the muslin together to keep the fruit in and form a bag.
3. Place the muslin bag in the saucepan with the peel, leaving the top of the muslin overhanging the saucepan. Add the squeezed fruit juice and 2.5 litres cold water to the pan. Heat until boiling, then reduce the heat and simmer for 2 hours, until the peel is tender.
4. Remove the muslin bag and squeeze all the sticky juice from the bag into the pan. An easy way to do this is to put the bag in a colander and use a spoon to press it out. Measure the contents of the pan in a jug (or weigh in the pan using a suitable pair of scales having had the foresight to weigh your pan in advance). Return to the pan and add 450g of sugar for every 500ml liquid. Gently heat for 15 minutes, until the sugar crystals have dissolved. Increase the heat and boil rapidly for 15 minutes. (Knowing what I know now, I would start testing after just 5 minutes of rapid boiling especially if the oranges are very fresh).
5. Test that the marmalade has reached setting point by putting a teaspoon of the liquid on a cold saucer and gently pushing with the back of a spoon. If the liquid starts to wrinkle, setting point has been reached. If no wrinkling happens, keep boiling and retest every 10 minutes. (I would in fact retest every 5 minutes). Turn off the heat as soon as you reach setting point.
6. Skim any scum from the surface. Leave the mixture to stand for 15 minutes. Stir gently, then carefully spoon into warmed sterilised jars. If using screw top lids, put the lids on while the marmalade is still hot and turn upside down for 5 minutes (surely should be 5 seconds?) to sterilise the lids. If using cellophane, put a wax disc on the marmalade while warm, then seal with cellophane and an elastic band.
So that’s it – the time consuming part is cutting the peel into appropriately thin shreds, and removing the glue from recycled jam jars of course…
After attending a really helpful marmalade making workshop given by Jane Maggs at Dalemain, I have a few extra pointers for success. Jane runs an artisanal preserving business “Wild & Fruitful” from her home kitchen in Cumbria and took double gold in the artisanal producers category at last year’s Marmalade Awards with her Lemon and Lavender Marmalade so could not be better qualified to advise all us would-be winners. An added bonus to the workshop was the presence in the audience of previous amateur winner Dr Yen-Chung Chong. Dr Chong, a retired biochemist now living in Brighton struck gold with his Campari and blood orange marmalade. He helped us out by adding a good dose of scientific method to marmalade-making and debunking one or two marmalade making old wives’ tales along the way.
Pointers for marmalade success:
1) DO try and use really fresh Seville oranges from early in the season – they become available in late December. The fresher they are, the more flavour they have and the higher the pectin content meaning a set will be achieved with less boiling. Less boiling means more fresh flavour and no caramelisation (a marmalade fault in the judges’ eyes).
2) DON’T omit the lemons – these sound in some recipes as if they are optional but a good set can only be achieved if the mixture has the correct acidity – a pH of 2.5-3.5 is apparently optimal. No need for litmus paper, just aim for breakfast orange juice acidity. Jane tasted her mixture after adding and dissolving the sugar, adding the juice of 2-3 more lemons to the mix at this stage. Don’t be afraid to do the same.
3) DO soak the peel, juice, water and muslin bag of pith mix overnight. This helps dissolve the pectin and soften the peel. Given that it takes a while to cut up all those oranges, it helps in terms of time management to be able to spread the process over 2 days.
4) DO make sure the peel is boiled until it is thoroughly softened. This may take 2 hours or even more. Tough peel is a common marmalade making fault picked up by the judges. And don’t imagine that the peel will continue to soften when the sugar is added – in fact it firms up a little at this stage.
5) DON’T be afraid to add extra water during the peel softening stage if it boils off too quickly. And you can measure whether your mixture has reduced by half by using a wooden spoon handle or chopstick calibrated with a discreet pencil mark.
6) DO squeeze your muslin bag to extract all of that vital pectin – it really won’t make your marmalade unduly cloudy.
7) DO consider warming your sugar in the oven to make sure it dissolves quickly.
8) DON”T bother with expensive big-crystal preserving sugar (no need for jam sugar with pre-added pectin either). Ordinary white granulated sugar is just fine. There was a consensus that cane sugar just had the edge on beet sugar in terms of flavour, clarity and set. You can salve your conscience about the extra food miles in cane sugar by buying the fair trade version.
9) DON”T add too much alcohol if you like a boozy marmalade as it will prevent it from setting. Keep the alcohol content down to 2% of the finished product if you want to achieve a set without boiling for too long. Dr Chung informed us that alcohol will help to clarify your marmalade and will not all be boiled away but will reduce proportionately with the rest of the liquid.
10) Don’t try and reduce the sugar content in your marmalade recipe too much. Sugar, acidity and temperature are all contributory factors to achieving a good set. Jane reckons that a 65% sugar content for marmalade is about right and counsels not taking the percentage below 59%. In fact for anyone selling marmalade commercially, 56% is the minimum sugar content set by Trading Standards so go below this at your peril…
11) DO start testing for a set early on in the boiling process. Jane reckons on achieving a set with really fresh oranges early in the season after just 4-5 minutes. So start testing after 5 minutes and every 5 minutes thereafter.
12) DON’T overboil as a rubber set is not good! Jane removed her pan from the heat during the testing process and spent quite a bit of time testing for a set, waiting for the marmalade to go cold before pushing the surface of the gel with a clean finger to test for that all important wrinkling. Experienced marmalade makers can simply lift the spoon from the pan and if the liquid falls in thick droplets “flakes” from the spoon, they can tell at a glance that it’s ready.
13) DON”T wait too long before potting if you want your marmalade to keep well and not go mouldy. Waiting 15 minutes before potting is probably too long. We’re told to do this to make sure the peel is evenly distributed and doesn’t all rise to the top. Jane reckons that if the peel has absorbed the sugar syrup correctly it will have the same specific gravity as the surrounding liquid and won’t rise to the top even if potted when very hot. She advises potting hot, filling the jars very full, screwing on the lids straightaway and, with a hand suitably protected from the heat, gently inverting the filled jars after 10 minutes to correct any tendency in the peel to rise. Doing it this way stops bubbles forming in your marmalade too.
14) DO use new lids if you want to a win a competition – also try and fill your jars with a jam funnel so the jar top is left completely clean. And only use the wax discs if you’re covering with cellophane rather than a screw top lid – some entrants were marked down for using a redundant wax disc with a screw top lid.
All that remains is to affix a pleasing label neatly to the side of your jar, package the jar well in bubble wrap and cardboard and pop it in the post.
Best of luck for next year’s competition!
February 19, 2011 § Leave a comment
Husband Tim and I decided to go head to head this year and both enter jars of marmalade into the World Marmalade Awards at Dalemain in Cumbria. Tim achieved modest success last year and achieving 16 marks out of a possible 20 and hoped to up his game. Risking marital tension but unable to resist the challenge I decided to take him on and enter a jar of my own.
This was perhaps a little rash as I am practically a novice at marmalade making having only made one batch before. I was inspired by a slightly different recipe for marmalade which accompanied our Riverford organic fruit and veg box in mid January this year. This was accompanied by a little video clip of hunky Guy Watson, proprietor of the Riverford business nonchalantly cutting peel to make his version of marmalade. The differences are that the peel is removed from the orange using a sharp knife or vegetable peeler before shredding, resulting in delicate shreds rather than chunks, also there is markedly less sugar in his recipe. I thought that this less sweet marmalade might play well with the judges.
We decided to visit the Marmalade Awards in person as they take place up the road in Cumbria so it was the perfect excuse for a weekend away. We arrived early, parking on the sweeping lawns which front this rather lovely stately home. On into the courtyard to pay our entrance fee then with bated breath we entered the main house searching for our jars amongst the thousand plus entries…
I was surprised and delighted to discover my jar (Thin cut Seville category) with a silver award and 18 marks out of a possible 20…
Still basking in my triumph a week later but hope I haven’t upset Tim too much.
It was a really fun day out and I was surprised to find both my sons enthralled by the marmalade making demo given by the very knowledgeable Jane Maggs who makes artisanal preserves under the name “Wild and Fruitful”:
The range and inventiveness of commercial marmalades on display was an eye-opener too. Clearly I wasn’t the only one attracted to this “Breakfast Mojito” marmalade made with limes, muddled mint and a healthy dash of white rum:
I can see that the Marmalade Awards are going to become an annual event in our household from now on with even younger son Arthur keen to enter a jar of his own next year.
My next post will be on the new recipe I used this year, annotated with top tips picked up from the demo plus ideas on how to pick up those extra marks from the demanding Women’s Institute judges.
January 4, 2011 § 1 Comment
Just had a look at my blog stats for 2010 and apparently had over 12,000 visits last year. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the page most visited was a post entitled “Macaroons Made in Manchester” which detailed my first not particularly successful attempt at making Parisian style macarons.
I imagine most people were looking for a supplier for these dainty morsels not wanting to see what some bumbling amateur was attempting to turn out.
I hate to disappoint so I’m delighted to report that there are at least 3 places where you can buy macaroons in Manchester now:
1) English Rose Bakery http://www.englishrosebakery.com/ was started up in June 2010 by friends Emma Brown and Wendy Lewis – they bake from premises in Oldham Street Manchester and sell at farmers’ and food markets in Chorlton and around Manchester. Website pics look gorgeousm very professional – I haven’ tried them yet but hope to catch up at their next event on Jan 15th.
2) My friend Gywneth and business partner Mike have set up “Vintage Afternoon Teas” and I believe sell a box of 10 macaroons for £6.00. Phone 07811 684 365 with enquiries.
3) Finally the mass-market option – Waitrose now with stores in Manchester, Altrincham and Wilmslow stock a box of 12 Maison Blanc macaroons priced at £6.49.
July 21, 2010 § 1 Comment
You know the ones I mean at the end of her fun “California Gurls” pop video feat. Snoop Dogg? http://www.katyperry.com/ Here they are balancing on my strawberry pudding with Kendal mint cake water ice:
So this is what funky head chef Lisa Allen gets up to in her spare time…
After years of thinking about it, I finally made it to Northcote (they’ve quietly dropped the Manor part of the name in an effort to sound up to date I think) in Langho, near Blackburn, Lancashire for lunch with my father Bob and stepmother Kath. It’s about an hour’s drive away which has been the problem all along – a bit too far for a convenient night out and a bit too close for a weekend away. By the way this Northcote is not to be confused with its namesake in Devon some 300 miles away in the SW of England.
A bit of background – Northcote is a small country house hotel founded in 1983. The business is owned 50:50 by chef Nigel Haworth and business partner from the hotel and wine trade Craig Bancroft. The restaurant gained a Michelin star in 1996 and has successfully held on to it ever since. Nigel has become well known throughout the UK in part thanks to regular appearances on BB TV’s “Great British Menu.” New head chef Lisa Allen stepped into Nigel’s shoes (he’s now executive chef) at Northcote 6 years ago aged just 23 and made her Great British Menu début earlier this year.
As you pull into the carpark, you wouldn’t immediately know that there’s anything special about the place. The hotel looks like what it is, a late Victorian gentleman merchant’s residence, comfortable, practical and solid looking rather than drop-dead gorgeous like its Devon namesake.
It soon becomes apparent that this is a slick and well run operation – everything happens smoothly and runs like clockwork. We were shown into the lounge area for drinks and the maître d’ quickly took us through the menu choices. I was delighted to find Lisa’s Great British Menu available in a number of formats as a lunchtime special so all 3 of us opted for that. Decision made. Here it is:
EITHER Levens Hall Wild Rabbit
& Leek Turnover, Piccalilli
Wild Morecambe Bay Seabass, Shrimp Toastie,
Growing Well Tomato, Samphire
Salt Marsh Lamb, Crushed Peas, Woodland Mushrooms,
English Onion and Sweetbread Fritter
Sunny Bank Farm Strawberries, Meringue,
Quiggin’s Kendal Mint Cake Water Ice
I opted for the rabbit turnover, Bob and Kath for the seabass. After drinks in the bar served with the lightest-ever pea mousse with bread crisps as a nibble, we were shown to our table.
The dining room itself is simply decorated in pale colours eschewing the overpowering brocade and dark stained wood look that some of the houses of this period have. I liked the plain white napery, solid cutlery and understated glassware. Nothing too fancy and all of good quality which I suppose is the house style. The ladies’ cloakroom, always a bellwether of whether the management pay attention to detail, was rather lovely in a cosseting kind of way:
The only lapse of good taste was my flashy “lay” plate which seemed at first to be blue and white willow pattern type of decoration but on closer inspection proved to be a faux-aged mugshot of Nigel… Fortunately the lay-plate was soon whisked away and the more aesthetically pleasing starters arrived. Here’s my dinky rabbit turnover with deconstructed piccalilli:
The pastry was crisp and the rabbit fillet within flavoursome and juicy. I was reminded as I ate what a good pickle picalilli is making use of the now sadly out-of-favour cauliflower. I really should make some soon.
Next up was the rack of saltmarsh lamb- a suitably summery dish made by the inclusion of the sweetbread and onion fritter. Delicious with a lipsmacking contrast of textures and flavours. The portion sizes are not too large which is perfect for lunch:
And then the rather glamorous strawberry pudding served in its Eero Arnio bubble-chair bowl on the now obligatory slate. I enjoyed the strawberry elements – a thin layer of jelly on top of strawberry mousse, plus whole fruit, also the textural contrast provided by those naughty little meringues but remain unconvinced about the mint flavour. The problem with mintcake is that it is a very pure mint flavour with all the green herbal elements removed but it is in fact these green herbal flavours that marry best with the strawberries. Having checked my trusty Harold McGee I think it’s the menthol which gives the pure almost medicinal mint flavour which is too predominant in mint cake whereas it’s the various terpenes and pyridines within the spearmint plant which give its fresh leaves their special aroma.
I felt quite starstruck when Lisa came out to meet us afterwards in her chef’s whites and clogs: she’s slender and elfin in appearance with a shock of ash-blonde hair, a bit like a young Annie Lennox. She is also down-to-earth and charming and is clearly passionate about what she does in the kitchen. It was a lovely way to round off our meal, along with the delectable miniature Eccles cakes.
Northcote Road, Langho,
Tel: 01254 240555
Fax: 01254 246568