Archive | U.K.

Whisky Sour Recipe

 when Christmas was cancelled …

Besides the finger numbing painfully cold weather, I love being in Scotland around the start of the year as the Scots really know how to celebrate.  Not only do they bring in the New Year, or Hogmanay as it is called there, with great style but only a few short weeks later they are back partying hard celebrating the life and works of their most famous poet, Robert Burns. These events obviously all require copious amounts of whisky which is why this postcard recipe shows you how to make the most stupendous whisky sour cocktail.  Perfect to start your evening in style or for when you can’t drink any more neat.

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Recipe | Poached eggs, avocado, tahini toast with ricotta and chilli flakes

The Brekky Prize

I spent 4 hours rolling, folding, cutting and meticulously filling the seafood pasta. The sauce alone used three different pans and the finished dish required me to make 4 different flourishes to decorate and add those precious final touches. It smelt amazing and tasted even better. My clients went wild for it. Instagram did not.

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Recipe | Wild garlic and lemon risotto and wild garlic pesto bread

If you go down to the woods today ….

You are quite likely to find a host of lush green edible leaves… and me picking them !

Wild garlic, a.k.a ramsons, buckrams, wild garlic, broad-leaved garlic, wood garlic, bear leek and bear’s garlic has just started to spring up, an exciting sign that spring really is here.

Bears apparently like to munch on it when coming out of hibernation to help get their digestive system fired up which perhaps helps explain its Latin name of Allium ursinum (Ursa being Latin for bear). When foraging here in the UK it is most unlikely that you will need to fend off any bears whilst gathering your wild garlic ( though possibly you will me)!   What you do have to look out for is mistakenly picking the plant Lilly of the valley, which looks similar, but is toxic. If unsure give the leaf a rub and you should instantly be able to smell garlic.

Other animals keen on it are cows which can be unfortunate as it then taints the milk.  Naturally garlic milk would of course be perfect for making a delicious béchamel sauce… but less so when its comes to a nice cup of tea.

So excited was I about smelling, finding and picking my first basket of the season last week, that I took a bag with me on my job cooking in Herefordshire for the weekend.

Personally, when it is in season, I would quite merrily have it in most things including risottos, pasta, bread ( one of the recipes for this postcard), pesto’s and my personal favourite.. laced into scrambled eggs for breakfast.   I did manage to restrain myself from putting it into everything for my clients though as showing diversity in the kitchen is always appreciated and expected in my profession.

I used up my bag on the first day but then discovered down by their river there was a carpet of the lovely stuff (and some amazing Jurassic era looking plants). If you are out on the hunt for it yourself you are most likely to find it in ancient deciduous woodlands, shady lanes, hedgerows, near patches of bluebells ( though they appear after) or dimly lit river banks. Failing that I saw some bunches at borough market, though at £1.50 for a tiny bunch it may be more cost effective to travel out to your nearest woods to try and find your own!

If you find wild garlic I think the best way to harvest it is to cut the leaves near the base instead of pulling up the entire root which will reduce the amount of plants available next year ( the plant reproduces through forming underground bulbs) and bring with it a load of mud. You can eat the bulbs but it is the leaves and in a couple of weeks the flowers you should really be after…

Once you have them back home wash the leaves well several times and depending on where I get them from I sometimes add a dash of Milton to the water to help get rid of any unwanted germs. You should check carefully through your stash before cooking and eating as it is easier to pick up other plants like ivy which you clearly don’t want to be eating.

When not cooking dishes involving wild garlic my other weekend food included an epic curry night ( I have found the best Kerelan curry recipe ever), rhubarb tarts, ice cream and a refreshing rhubarb, ginger and rosemary sorbet, roast beef – Hereford really does produce some fantastic meat, a whole baked monkfish with harrissa and zhoug, and the instgram star of the week avocado, ricotta, tahini, poached eggs with sourdough and chili flakes.

For this postcard I have included not one but two recipes as I would love you to eat lots of it, in lots of different ways before the short 6 week season flies by and ends. When the flowers are out don’t forget to try my fritter recipe from last years wild garlic post  Deep fried wild garlic flowers. It is also worth keeping an eye out in the shops a little later on in the year for Cornish yarg cheese ( normally wrapped in nettles) wrapped in wild garlic leaves.  I like to eat the two types side by side as its quite amazing how the same cheese can taste so different just from being covered by a few different leaves.

This week

Every home should have : a river with banks carpeted in wild garlic in the garden.

Dishes with wild garlic : 7 ( at home)

I’m loving : local Herefordshire beef

I’m driving : a sporty Audi A5 and a Peugeot 208 ( less sporty)

 

Wild garlic pesto laced bread

Pesto

Handful of washed wild garlic

100g freshly grated Parmesan

1 small garlic clove, crushed with a pinch of salt.

Juice and zest from ½ lemon

50g lightly toasted hazelnuts ( skin off)

150ml olive oil

Place everything except the oil in a food processor or NutriBullet ( the are amazing) ( no I’m not sponsored by them) and whizz up till smooth. Stir in the olive oil and season with pepper and possibly a pinch of salt (as the cheese is salty and the garlic had salt when being crushed, you may not need it).

For the bread ;

2 1/2 tsp dried yeast

2 tsp honey

250ml warm water

450g white bread flour (plus a little extra)

1 tsp salt

40ml olive oil plus a drizzle extra

Pre heat the oven to 180 °C fan.

In a jug mix the yeast, warm water and honey together and leave to stand somewhere warm for 5 minutes – it should start frothing.

In a big bowl mix the flour, salt and olive oil then pour in the water. Bring together into a bowl and knead for 10 minutes.

Leave to rise in a bowl covered with a tea towel for 30 minutes then gently fold in a few spoonful’s of the pesto.

Lightly roll out into an oblong 1 inch thick and transfer onto a lightly floured baking sheet or a piece of baking paper.

Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise for 30 minutes.

Remove the tea towl and using your fingers make a few dimples in the dough, drizzle on a little olive oil and sprinkle with some salt flakes.

Bake on a lower shelf for 20 – 25 minutes ( it should be lightly golden and have a firm bottom) .

Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes before cutting into slices and serving.   You can serve with the extra pesto to smear onto it or save the pesto to stir through pasta or risotto.

Wild garlic risotto.

Serves 2

1 tbs butter

1 tbs olive oil plus a little extra.

1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 sticks celery , washed and finely chopped

300g risotto rice

splash of white vermouth

1 glass dry white wine.

1-liter of light chicken, game or vegetable stock ( hot)

100g freshly grated parmesan

zest and juice of 1 lmon

2 large handful of washed, roughly chopped wild garlic.

In a saucepan gently sauté the onion and celery in the butter and olive oil.

Once softened ( about 10 mins) add the risooto rice and stir until all coated and hot. Add the vermouth and wine and a ladleful of hot stock and stir.

Keep adding the hot stock one ladleful at a time, stirring and waiting for the liquid to be absorbed before you add the next one.

Once the rice is nearly cooked take off the heat and add the lemon zest and juice and 2/3 of the parmesan and some freshly milled black pepper.

In a clean pan fry the washed chopped wild garlic with a little extra virgin olive oil until wilted then stir this and any pan juices into the rice.

Check for seasoning and consistency ( you may want to add a little more hot stock) then serve straight away with extra parmesan on top.

 

Next stop …County Carlow .

 

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Recipe | Seville Marmalade

A pot worth Orange

Obviously I bought the Seville oranges pretty much as soon as they came into season back in January.  I got out and washed my eclectic mix of pots and lids to store the marmalade in once made and then….I kind of ignored them all.

Distracted by trotting up to London and doing some serious catching up on restaurants that had recently opened, the beautiful, tangy, tasty fruit just sat there in a bowl.

As anyone following me on Instagram will be aware of I have been methodically going round London , mainly eating at places that have opened in the last 12 months.   Amusingly a follower from the States contacted me after I had failed to post anything new for 3 days to enquire if I was alright, had I “shut my bolt” or had London run out of food ?  “All fine this side of the pond ”! I assured them, ”Just had to slink back off to the West country for a few days to deal with the fruit bowl”.

As it was code red in the cupboard (only one pot of 2015 marmalade left)* the oranges in the bowl weren’t going to get any better and I had just heard that we should be eating 10 portions of fruit and veg a day not 5, it was now or never to get making this years marmalade. I haven’t found anyone willing to say that orange marmalade spread onto thick buttery piece of toast counts towards your recommended daily dose of fruit and veg but I also haven’t read convincing arguments to say it doesn’t ( on purpose).

* So much was made in this batch that we skipped doing any in 2016.

According to recent studies at Imperial College London we should be eating around 800g of fruit and veg a day, that’s about 10 portions, if we want them to be beneficial. Beneficial translating as reducing the risk of chronic diseases (like cancer) and premature death. Have to say my non scientific/ life loving mind translates that as essential rather than beneficial but there we go.  I was interested to read that it didn’t make a difference if they were eaten cooked or raw as I know many people get overly anxious if they should be steaming and not boiling vegetables or worrying if they should even cook them at all.

The study also mentioned that taking supplements did not have the same results, as you needed the whole package that eating fresh fruit ad vegetables gives.  It was noted however that one of the factors that the study did not take into account was if the people eating more fruit and veg and suffering less from chronic diseases also made other lifestyle choices like exercising more which probably also helps to reduce the risk.

In the spirit of better late than never and on the off chance I am not the only one who didn’t made their marmalade in January this postcard’s recipe gives you my favourite way to do it. And if I am the only one who came late to the party, heres how I think you should have done it! This method is simple and well worth the effort of all that chopping and juicing so you can spend the rest of the year enjoying it and if you’re feeling generous even give it away as presents.

They are just about to go out of season though so you best get your skates on! Though have checked in the local grocers, Waitrose and Borough Market and they still had some boxes.

This week

Restaurants eaten at : 12

Marmalade made : 7 lbs

Daily Fruit and veg targets reached : er…..no.

 

Seville Marmalade

Clearly if I was a more earnest food blogger all my pots would be stylishly the same size but I’m happy to report the house is fairly chaotic and jam jar discipline very slack so the mongrel assortment below is what we had to use.  

Makes about 5 kilos or 9 jars

4 litres water

2 kilo Seville oranges

2 lemons juice and pith only

3 kilo preserving sugar

Wash the oranges, slice in half and juice.

Keeping all the pips in a bowl.

Using a spoon scrape the pith from each of the juiced skin halves and add to the pips.

Thinly slice (or thickly if you like thick cut marmalade… but I disagree ) and place in a large heavy based pan.

Add all the orange juice , lemon juice and the 4 litres of water.

Using a muslin tie up all the pips and pith from the oranges and lemon and place in the pot.

Bring to a simmer and cook for about 2 hours or the skin has softened and liquid reduced by half.

Remove the bag , leave to cool then squeeze out as much of the juice from the bag with its  pectin as possible and scoop this into the pot, discard the pith / pips ect. .Wash the muslin and dry for its next adventure. 

Add the sugar to the pot and slowly heat until all the sugar has melted then bring up to a gentle rolling boil and cook for 15 mins and start checking for setting point.

You know you have reached setting point when a spoonful of the marmalade placed on a cold saucer and left for 4 mins forms a skin and wrinkles when you run your finger through it.

Once setting point has been reached you can pot your marmalade into clean sterilised jars and seal.

Once cool wipe the pots and label. Keep in a cool dark cupboard.

I am not sure how long the shelf life is of marmalade but we have happily kept and eaten ours from over two years ago. 

Next stop…Hereford.

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Recipe | Spiced Sticky toffee apple and pear cake

Season Eatings…

Season greetings to you all, I hope you had a very Merry Christmas!

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Currently at an airport waiting to board my next flight I wanted to send you a quick christmas postcard but I am seriously distracted by the festive flavours going on in the coffee shops, although not at all tempted.

I simply can’t imagine what Gingerbread house latte laced with elf shavings would be like or how eggnog essence mince pie tea topped with Santa’s beard sprinkles would work on the palate. However it is amazing how quickly even the thought of some flavours can make a dish be Christmassy.

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Over the last few days back at base, unable to tear myself away from the stove, light on the festive flavours I was not. Unctuous Cinnamon and star anise slow cooked local beef Brisket with clementine’s and ginger went down a treat, super tender with a crackling crunch free range pork belly with plum sauce and five spice was gobbled up and there is not a trace left of the chocolate, chestnut and brandy log.

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Although not strictly speaking a traditional Christmas food household there are certain foods I will always make sure are in stock around this time of year. Layers of locally smoked trout, wedges of Dorset Blue Vinny, home made mince pies ( I am still working my way through the pots of 2013 filling that I over enthusiastically made), mint chocolates ( currently stocking six different varieties) and of course mountains of clementines.

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The other staple that I like to have waiting in the wings for those unexpected guests or hungry family members or even a pre breakfast breakfast is plenty of cake after all mince pies alone are not a balanced diet.

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So, just before I dash, for this postcard recipe I want to share with you my sticky toffee apple and pear cake, obviously laced with festive spices.

 

This week

Turkey cooked: 27 kilos

Spice cupboard : much depleted

Brandy used : 1 bottle ( yes that’s a lot…it made its way into a fair few cocktails )

Clementine bowl : now empty

 

Apple and pear caramel cake

5 small Apples

1 tbs Demerara sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

Caramel sauce

150g salted butter


110g golden caster sugar


60g dark muscovado sugar


260ml double cream

Cake batter

250g soft salted Butter

250g caster Sugar

250 g Self Raising flour

4 organic Eggs

2 tsp ground Cinnamon

½ grated Nutmeg

1 tsp Ground ginger

2 pears

Line a 10 inch deep cake tin with baking paper.

In a small saucepan gently bring all the ingredients for the caramel sauce to a simmer and cook for five minutes.

Pour half on the sauce into the cake tin.

Peel and core the apples then split in half horizontally toss with the 1 tbs demerara sugar and 1 tsp ground cinnamon and 1 ts ground ginger. Place into the cake tin and move around to coat with caramel sauce then arrange flat side up.

To make the batter

In a bowl beat the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy.

Add half the flour, all the spices and 2 of the eggs. Gently beat until combined then add the rest of the eggs and flour and gently beat again.

Grate the pears , sin and all but discarding the core. Stir through the batter then pour on top of the apples.

Bake on the middle shelf for 40 mins or until a skewer comes out clean ( its just the batter you don’t want to see on the skewer – there may be caramel sauce

Leave to cool in the tin then turn out on to your serving platter.

Gently arm the rest of the sauce and pour over the top of the cake.

This is delicious with whipped cream or even brandy butter.

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Next stop… Val d’Isére.

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Recipe | Poached quince

Not the apple of my eye

I will admit I go through obsessional phases with certain foods. Looking through my October menus, despite there being a broad range of occasions – think Jewish New Year to Partridge Shoot Suppers, there has definitely been a lean towards one certain ingredient.

Pomegranates, anchovies, star anise, honey, caraway, venison… are some of the foods that have had their moments as the centre of my culinary attention, though thankfully with not too much overlapping but right now, clients are highly likely to see me suggest Quinces on their menu as I cannot seem to get enough of these mysteriously rewarding fruits.

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History and literature also seems to have had its fondness for the Quince over time with the first records of them being planted in 1275 at the tower of London during Edward I reign. Paris gave Aphrodite a quince in exchange for the love of the most beautiful women in the world, Helen of Troy and it is often seen in her hand (Aphrodite’s) as a symbol of love. Up to the 18th century the soon to be father in law would often give a basket of quince to the bride to be to bring happiness to their marriage (admittedly not necessarily a sure fired method but at least something to throw if things quickly turn sour) and we must not forget this fruit was also part of the marital feast for the surprisingly romantically entwined couple, ‘ The owl and the pussy cat’

‘They dined on mince, and slices of quince,’

The Rosh Hashanah supper I was asked to cook for at the beginning of the month, which celebrates the beginning of the Jewish New Year, despite having plenty of traditional and symbolic foods that had to be woven into the feast also managed to accommodate some quince.   On a tangent to this blogs quince centric theme I found planning the food for the Rosh Hashanah a fascinating task as there is so much symbology with the food.

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The meal starts with honey, apples, pomegranates, dates, challah and blessings and then moves on to other dishes like fish, meatballs and of course dessert. Below are a few of the foods and why they are included in the feast.

Apple and honey: to bring in a sweet new year

Round loaves of Challah: to symbolise the continuity of creation (as with any foodie groups the callah had to be bought from the best bakery in London which meant queuing for hours at night ( admittedly not by me ).

Pomegranates: representing a new fruit in season, is to wish our good deeds for the new year will be as many as the seeds in a pomegranate and to be thankful for bringing us into the new year.

Fish complete with head: to symbolise the start of the year and moving forward and to remember it as the ancient symbol for fertility and abundance.

Leeks: the word for leeks is related to the work to cut kareyt, so the leeks symbolize cutting away those who wish to harm us.

Dates – similar in Hebrew to a word translating to end, so dates are eaten in hope that enemies will cease. Also it is generally believed that when Israel is referred to the land of milk ad honey that to refers to date honey.

Beetroots and their leaves: The Hebrew word for beets is selek and is similar to the word for “remove.” Beetroots are eaten in hope of causing the departure of our enemies.

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Then later in the month there was the partridge shoot weekend near Chichester that of course also managed to accommodate quince based dishes.

2016-10-23_0008  It is worth noting while we are in the hight of shoot season that Quince goes really well with game as its fragrant flavors contrast well to the earthiness of the meat.

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For this postcard recipe I will give you a basic method of cooking quince which you can then use to add the fruit to other dishes.

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This month

Quinces cooked with: 87

Dishes involving quince: 15

Cocktails drunk with quince juice: count unreliable but lets say more than one.

Every home should have: a quince tree.

Peter Quince : is a character is Shakespeare’s, A midsummers night dream

The apple of my eye : is in fact a quince

Baked quince with brandy, cinnamon and star anise

The recipe below can be seen as just a starting point. Once the quince is cooked you can simply serve as is with cream, ice cream, crème fraiche or yogurt or to take it further you can chop it up and add to apple pies, crumbles, stewed brambles ( blackberries) to eat as a compote, whizz it up and make into sorbet or one of my favourite uses adding the fragrant cooking liquid to cocktails.

Serves 8

8 quinces

3 sticks of cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

2 star anise

400g light brown sugar

water

1 and a bit glasses of Brandy

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Peel the quinces and chop in half vertically.

Place in a pan with spices, the sugar, top up with water and add a glass of brandy.

Bring to a simmer then pop on a lid and cook until the quinces are all soft – this can vary greatly in time but start checking after 30 minutes.

Once cooked add a splash more brandy and serve two halves each, warm or cold, in a bowl with some of the juice and a dollop of cream,

The quinces will keep well In their juice in the fridge for at least a week ( unless I am around).

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Next stop…. Cawdor.

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Deepest Dorset

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 Deepest Dorset …

Its here ! A brilliant new book called Deepest Dorset discovering the people, places and roots of a unique community.  Contributors include Julian Fellows, Rose Prince, Kate Adie, Valerie Singleton and recipe sections by me!

(Link to buy the book is in ‘This Week’ section at the bottom of the post).

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When I was asked to join in on this project I was  very excited (even by my standards).  I moved to this county at the age of 4 and have had roots here ever since.  It was here my love, interest and obsessions were cultivated with food and how it is produced and I learnt the joys and importance of sitting around a table and sharing a meal together with friends and family.

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Dorset has been described as England’s Tuscany ( a quote that particularly tickled me ) but more importantly set me thinking.  Having traveled a good bit of the world, writing and waxing lyrical about the exotic smells and spices of the far east, the wonderful markets with their perfect produce of Provence, the inspiring localness and seasonality of Paros and Sardinia  with their rich history of food and the beauty of Scotland with its wonderful abundance of wild food I have slightly been ignoring the incredible offering on my own doorstep.  Text book slip up but on reflexion it would obviously be hard to find greener grass elsewhere….

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The book is raising money for Dorset Charities: The Royal National Lifeboat Institution , Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance, Weldmar Hospice care Trust and Community Foundations Dorset Fund. We were lucky enough to hold the launch at the stunning house St Giles that has been the ancestral home to Earls of Shaftesbury for many generations.

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I was asked to do the food for the launch party but decided rather than rolling out the canapés we would carry on the theme of celebrating Dorset and get local suppliers and producers to show case their food and drink.

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When deciding on my recipes for the book I wanted to highlight the wonderful diversity we have here : a fabulous coastline of fish, a rich abundance of wild food like venison, mushrooms and hedgerows of berries,  impressive fruit and veg growers ( including of course our apple orchards) delicious cheese including Woolsery Goat and one of my favourite blue cheeses,  Blue Vinny  and now our award wining sparkling wine and beer makers.

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(pic. Viscount Rothermere one of the trustees of  The Rothermere foundation whom kindly funded the book )

The brilliant authors and editors of the book Fanny Charles and Gay Pirrie  – Weir were delighted with all this and even more so when I suggested I wanted to photograph and serve the food of platters made by                                               Dorset potters.   2016-10-11_0001 They did however think I was taking my Dorset enthusiasm  too far when I suggested we find some local alpaca or sheep wool to knit clothes out of for the waiters to wear on the night….

photograph by Hattie Miles ... 28.09.2016 ... Book launch of 'Deepest Dorset' at St Giles House, Wimborne St Giles ... Delicious food from around the county was enjoyed buy guests ... here are some of the catering team ready for the event.

The project was such fun to be involved with from the meetings with the editors, and the discovery of Dorset suppliers and producers to the party planning and book talks. I confess I had a sight twinge of post party blues as we finished the get out from the launch however on very much the upside I now have a copy of the book Deepest Dorset and am greatly enjoying reading about our impressive art, music, film, food, literature, landscape and history.

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 This Week

Every home should have : a copy of Deepest Dorset. To buy the book please click on this link Deepest Dorset.  Money raised will go to 4 Dorset charities.

I discovered : Liberty Dorset vodka ( a great use of Dorset’s abundant sacks of apples )

I’m reading : Deepest Dorset (obv)

Im eating : Capreolus charcuterie ( some of the best I’ve ever had)

Next stop …cooking for a Rosh Hashanah supper and my annual trip to the charming Witterings …

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Recipe | Deep fried Wild Garlic flowers

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Fashion flower…

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The fashion shoot really whizzed by in a flash. The days were long but fun and everyone was on constant alert in case they were needed. The stoves in the kitchen fired up around 430 am in order to make first breakfasts for the cast and crew before they had to venture to the chilly outside to make the most of the amazing morning light. Like hobbits (all be it very super, tall and beautiful ones) they would return a few hours later for second breakfast and a rest before lunch and then head back out for more shooting. They would all start to pile back in for tea time around 5pm and spend a few hours tying up jobs from the day and prepping for the next before tucking in to a late supper.

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It amuses me that when I tell people I am off to cook for a fashion shoot every one always assumes its all about lettuce leaves and the trendiest grain of the moment (I believe we are meant to be still obsessed with teff) but I can tell you the early morning bacon butties were immensely popular although power balls once again seemed to be in high demand.

They also assume that the crowd will all be rather high maintenance and requests like “Go and find 48 local blue flamingos, quick!” or “ Love the mountain in the back drop but can you just move it 3 meters to the left?” would not be uncommon but in my experience everyone is super organised, reasonable and works their socks off!

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Once the shoot was over I headed home for a few days where the garden was putting on an outrageously beautiful fashion show, declaring big, bright and blousy was in.

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In the food world although ingredients aren’t quite so subject to going in and out of fashion they certainly can come quickly in and out of season.

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For this postcard recipe I wanted to make sure we were all making the most of the wild garlic. Like many spring ingredients the season is short so we have to make the most of it and although the leaves may be past their best the flowers still make delicious eating.

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This Week

Power balls consumed: 178

In fashion: Wild garlic flowers

Out of fashion: sleeping

I’m driving: Evoque Range Rover

New Facebook videos on top tips and trends from a private chef: 2

 

Deep fried wild garlic flowers

This makes a tasty pre dinner nibble with a glass or two of fizz but would also work well as part of a main dish for fish or meat.

Serves 5 as a pre dinner nibble.

10 wild garlic heads

5 tbs plain flour

1 level tsp. baking powder

200ml approx. chilled beer

1 lemon

Oil for deep-frying.

Cut the stalks so they are about 2 inches long

In a bowl whisk the flour and baking powder with a pinch of salt the slowly pour in the beer, whisking continually, until you have reached the consistency of a loose double cream.

Dip the flower heads in the batter, shake off the excess, and then fry for 10 – 15 seconds until they go golden.  

Carefully remove and drain on kitchen paper.

Sprinkle with salt and add a little squeeze of lemon, eat instantly.

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Next Stop, Salmon Fishing in the Highlands….

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Recipe | Prawn, chicken and chorizo paella

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Leaping into spring some exciting developments have happened,

Firstly Philippa Davis, postcard recipes now has a face book page which I would love you all to like and share, I will be posting more photos, videos, cooking tips and recipes. Click here to like face book 

I also have been on the radio chatting to the lovely William Sitwell, editor of Waitrose Food, about life as a private chef. You can listen to the interview by clicking this link Radio Soho 

If you see a crocodile…

‘Row, row, row your boat’ has got to be a top classic when it comes to kids songs, this was made clear to me when my 5 year old niece recently gave me all her variations. Favourite renditions would have to include:

“Row, row, row your boat gently down the river

If you see a polar bear don’t forget to quiver”

Row, row, row your boat gently to the bay

If you see a pirate ship sail the other way “

Row, row, row your boat gently to the shore,

If you see a lion there don’t forget to roar”

These lines were unfortunately swimming round my head as I went to my job cooking for a party of 50 people celebrating the start of a rather serious and successful female London rowing team.

 

I love cooking for parties whether there are 2 or 150 guests expected (just providing I haven’t been told to cater for 2 and 150 show up). I know some find it more stressful then pleasurable catering for numbers so I thought I would use this blog post to give a few tips and tricks for preparing for a party.

Firstly anything you can prepare before the day, do and if you don’t have a fleet of staff at your disposable get some friends or family to help, its more fun.

The Table

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Laying tables, this can be done up to two days before the event if you turn the glasses up side down.

Flower arranging can be done the day before, if you have some where cool to keep them, and moved into situ on the morning, make sure they are either low enough to talk over or will tower high like a canopy above the seated guests. You can use anything from jam jars to Milano glass just try and get some sort of continuity with either colours, shapes or style. When decorating a large table it can take more time and flowers than you think.

 

Linen

Think how formal you want it to be and what sort of occasion you are catering for, if its for a rather fun loving and rowdy crowd you probably don’t want to get out your best white linen and spend the evening worrying that someone’s going to decorate it with their red wine.

Napkins – for large numbers believe me everyone hesitates whether it’s acceptable to use good quality paper instead of cloth. Trust me no one will ever go home tutting that the evening was spoilt not being able to dab their mouths with a Weissfee napkin.

Sort out serving dishes and utensils the day before (carefully dusting down that wedding gift dinner service you only use every seven years).

 

Drinks

Chilling drinks.

Nothing is worse than a warm glass of white wine (ok that’s a bit of an exaggeration but its not nice). Drinks can all be bought in advance and put in the chiller, remember it can take longer then usual when there are lots and the fridges and freezers are fuller than normal with food ect.

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Cocktails – are a thoughtful and fun way to start the party, I like to put seasonal twists on mine so at the moment it’s all about forced rhubarb or blood oranges.

Water – make sure you have lots of jugs or bottles at the ready and that they are refilled, no one will thank you for a hangover due to dehydration. If using jugs it delicious to put slices of lemon, lime or cucumber or sprigs of mint in.

 

Food shopping

In a ‘Stepford Wife’ (or husband as men these days are in the kitchen more than ever) perfect style world you would of course calmly gather all the ingredients from local shops and markets in ones wicker basket. In reality you are probably trying to juggle preparing for the party, taking little Johnny to the dentist and keeping a watch on that piece from 1stdibs that has caught your eye. So if short of time there is no shame in getting the bulk of ingredients in an Ocado delivery.

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The Menu

If you are a fearless and experienced cook its fine, you can choose to put soufflés for 16 on your menu or make 5 different flavoured macaroons for petit fours if not…choose dishes you have made before and that are not too complicated. It’s meant to be a fun occasion for everyone so it doesn’t make sense to choose something that causes tears and tantrums in the run up.

Don’t plan on making too many different dishes, its best to do a few really well then prepare a Caesar like feast.

Make sure one course is completely finished before guests arrived (I usually do the desserts) so there is less pressure and distraction on you as the host during the event.

Buffets (although not a word I love) or platters of food popped in the middle of the table are a brilliant way to feed a group and take my word for it everyone from Dukes to Captains of industry are doing it. This style of serving food has various advantages in that guests can control their own portion size, its saves time and space on plating up food and passing round food or gathering at the feeding trough can help break at the ice at the beginning.

 

Remember if you decide on using a buffet table think about the flow of people – centre isles are great as guests can work their way round and not cause a human traffic jam but if you have to serve from a table in the corner make sure they start at the wall end with the empty plates then work their way into the room finishing with picking up their cutlery and napkin.

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Choosing your menu

Good dishes to prepare for parties are ones that don’t take up too many pots and pans ( you don’t want a pile of washing up as guests arrive) or that can be made ahead and cooked or reheated on the day.

Curries, pies, cobblers, lasagnes and tagines are all good for this as well as paella which is the recipe for this postcard.

 

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This week

Philippa Davis postcard recipes now has a face book page, please click here to like and share face book

Boats rowed to shore: 9

This seasons party cocktail: Rhubarb, gin and prosecco

Paper vs Linen : Paper

Chilled drinks and hosts: 100 %

If you see a crocodile ; run!

Ive been on William Sitwells radio show Biting talk, click hear to listen

Biting talk 

 

Chicken, Chorizo and Prawn paella

Serves 12

The stock

Amazing soups, risottos and paellas start with an amazing stock so it is totally worth investing time and money in it.

If you don’t have a paella pan you can make it in one or two large frying pans and transfer it onto platters for serving.

2 tbs olive oil

2 large handfuls of prawn shells or 300g of prawns with their shell on

1 glass of white wine

½ a glass of dry sherry or brandy

1 free-range chicken carcasses

1 white onion peeled and roughly chopped

1 head of garlic sliced horizonattly in half

bunch of parsley stalks

1 tbs black peppercorns

1tbs fennel seeds

In a large pot fry the prawns shells in the oil until starting to slight;y brown then slosh in the wine and brady or sherry.

Add the there stock ingredients then fill the pot 1 inch from the top with cold water.

Bring to a boil then turn down and simmer for about 1 hour ( preferably 2).

Drain the stock through a sieve into another sauce pan and leave to one side.

The Paella.

There are of course many variations including a rabbit and snail one, but no ones ever requested it. My favourite is this chicken, prawn and chorizo.

2 tbs olive oil plus a little extra for the chicken

2 white onions peeled and chopped into approx. 1 cm squares

2 red peppers chopped the same size as the onions

4 cloves of garlic finely chopped

6 bay leaves

300g cooking chorizo chopped into small chunks ( can be the spicy sort if that’s what you like).

10 skinless and boneless chicken breasts cut into 3’s (you can use more or less depending on how hungry the crowd you are feeding are)

840g paella rice

700g peeled raw prawns

2 handfuls of cooked peas

3 tbs finely chopped parsley

3 lemons

1 x large pinch of saffron mixed wih 50ml just boiled water

Bring the prepared stock to a simmer

In your frying / paella pan sear all the chicken pieces in a little of the olive oil till browned on each side then remove from the pan and put to one side (you are not cooking them through at this stage).

Then on a medium heat fry the onions, pepper, chorizo, garlic and bay leaves in the olive oil for about 10 minutes until lightly caramelised, stirring regularly.

Add the rice and stir well so everything is hot .

Carefully pour the stock onto the rice so it comes about 2 cm above the rice, add the chicken and season with salt and pepper.

Let the pan simmer till most of the liquid has been absorbed then test the rice to see if it needs more cooking and liquid.

Once the rice is almost there add the prawns and peas. Cook for another couple of minutes so the prawns cook through and the peas are hot.

Once everything is cooked sprinkle over the saffron water and parsley. Squeeze over the juice from one lemon then cut up the other 2 into wedges and place on top of the rice

Serve with garlicky aioli and a fresh crunchy green salad.

Note – You don’t want the paella too sloppy or dry so you will have to judge for yourself how much stock to add in the final stages of cooking.

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Next stop, Portugal…

 

 

 

 

 

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Recipe |Wild Suckling Boar with roasted quince

whisk

Boar to death, literally.

“Where are you off to now”? my mother asks as I fly out the door.
“London then heading East to Gloucester for that pheasant shoot”
“Erm, Philippa dear, Gloucester is West of London and didn’t you say it was Herefordshire?”
“Ah yes, don’t worry, Ive got it all sussed”! then off I dashed…

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The truth is I did have my travel all sussed but my mind was a little pre occupied on what I was going to cook that weekend. My client had just emailed telling me I had two wild boar piglets to play with. I was somewhat excited and partly wondering if they meant dead, or that I would have them running round my feet in the kitchen. You never know…

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I arrived and was delighted to find out they did mean dead. I have cooked suckling pig before, though admittedly it was a quite few years ago when I worked at Moro in London. I remember slowly roasting them in the wood oven with the effect of having meat so tender that you could carve it with a cazuela. The meat is so young that the flavour is still milky and totally delicious.

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Before I arrived West in Herefordshire I managed to spend a good bit of time researching on the Internet tips and techniques on cooking suckling pigs (there was nothing on wild boar piglets having said that) though surprisingly there wasn’t that much. There were quite a few Spanish videos that involved drinking cerveza whilst watching the stuffed piglet on a charcoal pit and an excellent one by the formidable Fanny Cradock (who I could happily watch regardless of what she was actually cooking) jollily rubbing the piglets in oil, roasting them then once cooked decorating them with garlands and poking flowers in their eyes. I didn’t particularly go down either of these routes.

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Wild boar have been absent from the wilds of Britain for a good few hundred years (research tells me anything from 300 – 700 years). It wasn’t until the 1980s that it was officially recognised they were back. This was due to boar farms having a few ‘escapees’ and breeding rather well. The reestablishment of wild boar seems to not without its debate, as does the culling of them. Their numbers were probably dramatically reduced to nothing due to overhunting by humans but recent reintroduction has not been without its controversies.

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Wild boar have started to cause agricultural damage (mostly to fences and crops) and although they prefer to forage the woodland floor for food they have also started to enjoy, particularly when natural food is scarce, foraging in people’s allotments and gardens. They can be rather boisterous toward humans and dogs especially when with their young. There is also a possible risk of passing on diseases to farm animals. As they are wild it is hard to give exact numbers but numbers are certainly increasing. This helped soothe the guilt as I sprinkled the cute creatures with salt and massaged olive oil over their little bodies before popping them in the oven.

This Week,

I’m loving: Fanny Cradock videos.
Every home should have: some woods.
Mince Pie clementine ratio in grams : 3:2
I’m traveling: by train (West).
Butter cooked with : 12 packs
Eggs used : 91

Slow roast suckling wild boar with roasted quince.

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Feeds 8 -12 depending on hunger levels and size of piglet.

Although ours were tiny they yielded a fair bit of meat, there is something spectacular about cooking and serving a whole animal so I would seriously consider adding a piglet to your Christmas feasting table.

2 wild boar piglets (about 2 – 3 kilo each in weight).
20g thyme on the stalk
6 stalks of rosemary
4 heads of garlic cut horizontally in half.
1 small handful of parsley stalks
4 apples cut into quarters
6 banana shallots peeled and roughly chopped
4 tbs olive oil
3 tbs crushed juniper berries
½ bottle red wine
300ml light meat stock (could be game / beef / or chicken).

5 quince
2 tbs honey
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp crushed cardamom seeds.

Pre heat the oven to 200° C

For the quinces
Wash the fluff off the quinces and cut into ¼ ‘s.
Toss with the spices and honey then lay them on a roasting tin with the wine.
Cover with parchment and foil and place in the oven.
Bake for about an hour then once just soft remove the foil and parchment and let them caramelise on the top shelf for a further 15 – 20 mins.

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For the piglets
Make sure the wild boar piglets have their entrails removed and the cavity looks clean – with wild meat I often give it a wipe with a damp clean cloth. Stuff with the apple, shallots, thyme, parsley stalks and rosemary.
Lie them belly down in a roasting tin like an Egyptian jackal with their legs all stretching forward (sadly ours had no head but if yours do and you want to stuff an apple in it at the end place a ball of foil in its mouth whilst cooking then remove and replace with an apple when about to serve).

Sprinkle with salt then rub all over with olive oil then with the juniper berries.
Place in the oven for 30 mins on high then remove. Lower the oven to 160 ° C add the stock and wine , lightly cover with baking parchment and foil and return to the oven for 2 – 3 hours or until the meat is super tender.

Leave the meat to rest for 20 mins then shred from the bone, serve with the warm quinces . This goes really well with lots of lovely roasted veggies and greens or you could do a winter coleslaw, potato wedges and brioche buns.

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(Sunday morning survivors party)

Next postcard from … The West Highlands (yes I am sure in what direction I am heading)

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