Archive | U.K.

White truffle and butter Taglierini

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Diamonds are for… dinner.

With various Christmas parties to cook for in West London last week I was racing around town to some of my favourite food shops hunting and gathering the various delicious seasonal offerings currently available.

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In Holland Park, besides the landmark butchers Lidgates and the impressive wine merchant and deli Jeroboams there is an excellent old school fruit and veg shop called Michanicou. Not only is their produce top notch but so to is the service. Outside and inside the shop there are towers of boxes and crates stuffed with beautiful ingredients. The routine is you go in, stand in the middle and spiel out your order, the numerous staff then leap round the shop selecting it for you whilst engaging in shop keeper banter – this time it was mostly at my expense as we all tried to decipher my shopping list.

“5 x orang-utans” they chuckled …”3 x ridiculous lettuces ,1 x spaceship, why yes miss, of course, coming right up”!

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On the spare inch of wall without actual produce I noticed a sign that announced they could source white truffles upon request. “Mmmmmm”, I thought.

Having asked a few questions as to how the season was going (a little late this year) , how much I would need to order one in advance they proudly told me how they sometimes store them overnight in their elevenses biscuit tin.   From various taste tests they informed me that although truffle infused shortbread is delicious, Garibaldis were frankly just weird (good to know).

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White Truffles, known affectionately as diamonds of the kitchen are highly prized. They are generally available between October and December/January.

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As cultivation is generally not successful the wild treasure has to be foraged. Sometimes done with female pigs (the scent apparently similar to the male pigs pheromone) but more often with well-trained dogs as they cause less destruction to the habitat, are less likely to scoff the truffle and of course are easier to pop in the back of the car. The hunters go out in dark and secretive early hours of the morning, often taking elaborate routes so as not to be followed.

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When I got a thumbs up from my client that white truffle should indeed be on the menu I was on the other side of town so decided to pay Tartufaia in Borough Market a visit. I love buying food (and shoes) from the Italians. Unlike the French whom as much as I love and respect can make you feel like you really don’t know anything, the Italians are more than happy to indulge in answering all your questions.

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We opened the jars and sniffed , we chatted and went through what I wanted to do with my truffle, we debated and discussed what I should and shouldn’t add and both nearly had watery eyes of joy as we discussed just how special these fruiting bodies of subterranean tuber fungus are.

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Points of note I learnt were:

Never store in rice as it will dry them out (store lightly wrapped in kitchen paper in the fridge.

They will last up to two weeks from being dug out of the earth – but the sooner eaten the better.

Clean with a slightly dampened (new) toothbrush.

Although most famously the white ones are from Alba in the Piedmont area of Northern Italy they can also be sniffed out in other places like Emilia Romagna, Tuscany , Croatia and Slovenia.

Once we had finished our natter over the truffle (and had I paid) I excitedly headed back to West London to start the preparations for that night’s party. The menu read as follows

Christmas Clementine Mule – clementine juice, lime, vodka and ginger beer

Canapé -Black olive tapenade crostini

Starter – White truffle with Taglierini and butter

Main – Slow cooked ossobuco in milk, sage and garlic with saffron risotto, braised cavalo nero and roasted carrots with garlic confit.

Dessert – Salted Caramel chocolate mousse.

It was a great joy to serve steaming bowls of hot pasta with lashings of white truffle shavings on top and to see the delight of guests as they were bought to the table.

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The next day the house was reset and ready to welcome 20 ladies for lunch and then it was time to pack my bags, don my country coat and head West.

This week;

Clementine: Mince Pie ratio 3:1

Every home should have: a mandolin

I’m loving : London’s Christmas Lights

White Truffle bought: 64g

I’m traveling: by Underground

I am delighted to contribute to the wonderful Yapp Brothers wine merchants a Christmas food and wine matching piece.

 

 

Taglierini with white truffle and butter.

Serves 6

30g white truffle

300g fresh egg taglierini pasta

1 yolk

100g freshly grated Parmesan

100g truffle butter

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This is not so much of a recipe as an instruction.

If serving truffle as a starter you want about 5 g each, make sure you have a truffle slicer or mandolin ( I had to visit 3 cook shops in W11 before I could find somewhere where they hadn’t sold out) to get the perfect thin slices.

Do not use truffle oil to enhance the flavour but you can use truffle butter like I did.

Don’t be tempted to add parsley to the dish. Just don’t.

Prep the truffle by brushing any dirt of with a slightly damp new toothbrush.

Cook the fresh egg pasta in a large pan of salted boiling water then drain (reserving some of the water).

Whisk a splash of hot pasta water with the yolk then add the Paremsan, toss through the butter and pasta.

Pile onto a warm serving bowl or share between warm starter plates then immediately shave over the truffle in very thin slices.

Next postcard from a pheasant shoot weekend in Herefordshire…

 

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Recipe | Pheasant au Vin

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 Fun and Game

At this stage in the game season I have noticed it is definitely the keen beans, the obsessed and the hardy that do most of the shooting in Scotland. It is of course still incredibly beautiful up there and yes there should still be a good bag of game to be had BUT it can also be bloody cold.

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So those that really love it and have a certain amount of experience at the climate are still game to don their tweeds and Barbours, be up and out at a reasonable hour and spend all the light the day gives standing in the great outdoors battling wind, rain and the cold in order pursue their love of field sports. I am always impressed (and possibly slightly smug as I get to spend the day in the toasty warm kitchen).

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Food, being an integral part of the weekend, needs to be plentiful, delicious, regular and warming. It was mentioned on the third day however of the long weekend that one of the guests began to feel like a fois gras duck as they pretended to waddle back out into the cold after lunch.

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We had designed the menus so firstly guests could help themselves which seems to be the most popular way these days especially when eating over a couple of days and people’s appetites vary and secondly that they contained lots of interesting vegetable dishes and winter salads to keep a healthy balance.

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It definitely should be noted that due to the tremendous energy needed all round for a shoot weekend, a lot of food is required. Long sociable dinners, early (ish) mornings, 5 to 6 hours out shooting (this in itself is impressive as lifting a gun to your shoulder at regular intervals requires  certain degree of  stamina and fitness) and of course the weather all make it a fun but full on weekend.  From a chef’s perspective, it is of course also rather full on and from a gun dog’s… well the excitement is exhausting!

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This week:

Eggs consumed: 91

Every home should have: T. Goodge China

Butter consumed: 13 blocks

Dogs ‘helping’ cook: 5

Mince pies verses clementines personally consumed: 2:1

I’m listening to: John Tavenor

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Recipe

Cooking with game at this stage in the season can require a little more love and attention. Often the meat is slightly tougher as it has been cajoled into flying about the place and had to start to contend with cooler weather.

For this dish it simply means cooking the breasts and legs separately or adding the breasts to the casserole dish at a later stage this is so they get a shorter amount of cooking time and the legs can slowly cook so everything becomes tender.

Chips of course are irresistible but I have noticed many people prefer not to be deep-frying things in their home due to the smell it can create. Homemade oven chips are a great solution and are very delicious (though if I am being honest, I would not win a chip battle against some duck fat triple fried chips).

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Pheasant au vin with confit garlic oven baked chips.

Serves 4

1 brace of pheasants plucked and cleaned

3 tbs butter

3 tbs olive oil plus

4 banana shallots peeled and chopped in half lengthways

6 bay leaves

1 small bunch of thyme

12 sage leaves

8 slices of streaky smoked bacon (Heston is currently selling a range in Waitrose which is top notch)

2 leeks washed and chopped into 2 cm chunks

1/3 bottle of good red wine (don’t cook with wine you wouldn’t drink)

12 chestnut mushrooms

400ml game stock (can be made out of the pheasant carcasses)

Confit garlic

2 heads of garlic

2 tbs olive oil

Chips

100ml veg oil

600g waxy potatoes

Pre heat the oven to 180 °C.

Peel the garlic cloves and mix with the 2 tbs olive oil. Roast in a baking dish for about 10 – 15 mins or golden and soft. Keep to one side.

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Wash and cut the potatoes into chip shape.

Bring a large pan of salted boiling water to the boil and blanch the chips in 2 batches for a couple of minutes  (you want the water to come back to a boil and bubble for a minute). Drain.

Lay them flat on a tray lined with baking paper and let them steam for a couple of minutes.

Drizzle with the veg oil then roast at the top of the oven for about 1 hour, turning occasionally.

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For the pheasant au vin

Separate the breast and leg meat

In a large frying pan, heat the 1 tbs oil and 1 tbs butter then gently sear the meat till golden.

Season with salt and pepper and remove to 2 casserole dishes (breasts in one and legs in another).

In the same pan, gently sauté the shallots in another 1 tbs of butter and olive oil, when golden, split between the casserole dishes.

Finally in the frying pan, add the last of the butter and olive oil and sauté the leeks, bacon and herbs for about 10 minutes, split between the two casserole dishes.

Deglaze the frying pan with a splash of red wine and add to a casserole dish then split the stock and red wine between the two, and lightly cover with baking paper then foil.

Bake the legs in the oven for about 1 – 1 ½ hours, the meat should be tender and the breasts for about ½ hour, they should be just cooked through.

Bring out of the oven, combine the two casserole dishes and stir through the confit garlic. Check for seasoning then serve hot with a sprinkling of parsley and the chips.

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Next postcard from party central W11 London…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Recipe | Honey, lime and yogurt sorbet

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Game of Drones.

Here in the UK we are using the week to pay homage to that wonderful sweet sticky substance that is made by bees from the nectar of flowers. Yes, National Honey Week is here and it’s time you too got stuck in.

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Besides from keeping the peas on your knife (only joking Mr Debrett, I know that’s what ketchup is for) honey has many culinary uses. It can add an amazing new level to dishes and having been more liberal with it than usual this past week I can confidently say it’s incredibly versatile. All the food dishes photographed in this postcard recipe have honey in them, well apart from one but I liked the photo so I wanted to include it.

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A few years back I remember a phase where practically every client had me out looking for mānuka honey, produced by bees in New Zealand and said to have particularly good medicinal properties. A friend of mine bought some, handing over £30 for the jar with high expectations of it containing the elixir of life. A few spoonfuls and days in to the jar they decided that although delicious, they would have been just as happy in life and wellbeing with a jar produced by local bees and at least £20 better off.

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Depending on what the bees forage on the honey produced will vary greatly. For instance heather honey in comparison to chestnut honey couldn’t be more different. This week as I was cooking lots of game I decided to use mostly Scottish heather honey, which naturally pairs well with that “of the hill” herby flavour of the wild meat. I noted that as we kept the jar by the salt, pepper and olive oil, ingredients that are constantly used, the honey became almost a 4th staple seasoning. As it is thought that over heating honey destroys some of its benefits I generally try and add it at the end of cooking or raw on top. Though this view does make me wonder why honey, lemon and a wee dram of hot whisky makes such a good medicinal drink…

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When buying honey it is really worth checking out the label and answering these questions. Is it from the UK? Is it a blend? Has it been pasteurised or is it raw? All of these factors will not only affect taste but also the benefits it can give you. There is this great company ‘Hive & Keeper’ (hiveandkeeper.com) which I just love the concept of. It is set up to sell unique jars of honey from different beekeepers dotted around the UK (sadly the majority of honey currently sold here is a blend and a lot of it imported). So you have the choice and can buy jars of honey made in Clapham Common in London or maybe a jar produced in North Lincolnshire (a perfect idea for Christmas prezzies). With bees foraging within a 3 mile radius of their hive every batch will be unique.

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The garden at home has 3 hives and earlier in the spring I thought it would be a wonderful idea to plant a wild flower meadow around the apiary along with rows of lavender. Secretly thinking I was the next Gertrude Jekyll I ignored the sceptics and enthusiastically scattered seeds into the rocks and stones around the hives convinced that when I returned in a few months there would be a flourish of life and colour. The below…
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Is not what I returned to and instead there was an impressive jungle of weeds.

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Apparently in a good year bees can produce 2 – 3 times more honey than needed to keep them going through the winter.  Even though many gardens may have looked a perfect bees playground many bee keepers have found the 2015 harvest has been very poor with a wet, windy and cool summer to blame.

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Despite the rest of the garden putting on a magnificent display our little darlings did not make enough honey for us to take any, I’m not really cross but if they don’t buck up there ideas for next year I am considering swapping them all for a llama.

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For more information on bees and what you can do to support them visit the British Bee Keepers Association ( bbka.org.uk )

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For this weeks postcard I want to share with you my Honey, lime and yogurt sorbet recipe. I served it with a tart lemon tart with orange and vanilla pastry but it would be perfectly happy starring on its own.
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This week:

Bad week: for those with melissophobia
Good week: for apiarists
Dishes made incorporating honey: 23
Honey coated spoons licked once finished with : 100%
Lb’s of honey used: 3 ½
I’m loving: the project Hive & Keeper, unique jars of honey from pockets of the UK.

Honey and lime yogurt sorbet

Makes 1 ½ litre (approx 16 scoops)
3 tbs honey (preferably local to you)
3 limes – zest and juice
900ml yogurt
2 egg whites
1 tsp cater sugar

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Mix the honey, lime zest and juice together (if the honey is hard gently heat it until runny enough to mix).
Stir the honey mix into the yogurt.
Churn in an ice cream maker till almost frozen then spoon into a large bowl.
Whisk the egg whites and sugar until soft peak stage then fold through the frozen yogurt.
Freeze completely (this will take at least 3 hours).
To get good balls of the frozen yogurt dip your ice cream scoop into hot water between every serving.
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Next postcard…from the Big Smoke..

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Recipe | Poached pheasant with ginger, garlic, chilli and lime.

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How to poach a pheasant…

This week I am delighted to be back up in the magnificent highlands cooking for various grouse, partridge and pheasant shoots.

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I should quickly clarify the title of this postcard, as I have already had to dig myself out of trouble from the gamekeeper for remarking the pheasants lolling around the lodge seemed quite stupid. He seemed quite defensive at this remark (almost as if I had insulted a family member) and bristled that they soon learnt to fly quick enough when flushed across the hills. Having seen them in action he was of course right.

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To make amends I thought I would comment from a chefs perspective how wonderfully plump and in good condition they look and how tender they were at present, this definitely put me back in his good books as he was quick to proudly agree (and I am pretty sure his feathers puffed up in pride).

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So to note, this postcard is about poaching pheasants form a culinary angle rather than the illegal “ Danny the champion of the world” style.

Pheasant season opens the 1 st October and runs to the 1st February. From a chefs perspective I think now the time you really want to get hold of them. Still young and tender from not too many flights, their meat is really delicious and can be treated like a decent chicken so great for roasting, frying and poaching. As the season goes on they still maintain their wonderfully distinct flavor but become more suited to slow cooking as they will need tenderizing.

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This postcard recipe is based on the idea that poaching a tender piece of meat not only gives you a delicious supper but also has the excellent knock on effect of providing a tasty liquid you can then use in broths, soups / risottos / pasta dishes ect….

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Various countries have their ‘go to’ poached meat dishes like in Italy they have Bollito Misto a dish originating in north, consisting of poached beef, veal, cotechino ( sausage) and chicken. It is often served with mostarda ( a ‘blow your socks off’ mustard candied fruits) and salsa verde. Bollto Misto has been appreciated for centuries and was particularly enjoyed by an Italian prince in the 1800’s when he used to sneak to the small town of Moncalvo, hunt wild game, enjoy a dish of bollito with his friends and then go off and frolic with his favorite mistress.

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In France they have pot au feu, translating as ‘pot on the fire’, which usually consists of beef, turnips, carrot and onions and is also a dish that has been around for hundreds of years. The dish of poached chicken ‘poule au pot’ was used back in the 1600’s by King henry IV as a standard of living he wanted all to be able to achieve. He proclaimed that he wanted even the poorest of peasants to be able to enjoy it on Sundays. Sadly this was not the case as meat was generally too expensive so the peasants really did have to be ‘poach’ their meat from the local lord.

This postcard recipe uses game but gives a nod to more Far Eastern flavors like chili and ginger which I think makes a refreshing change for the seasoned shooter who probably by now have had their fare share of hearty traditional game meals.

But phirst before I share the recipe here are some phun pheasant phacts from Philippa.

A male pheasant (cock) may have a harem of up to 7 hens (lady pheasants)

On average they will have a clutch of 10 eggs.

For some cultures the pheasant is symbol of luck, as apparently a Burmese hunter found an emerald in a pheasant he had caught, he went back to where he supposed it had been roosting which led to the discovery of an emerald mine.

When cruising the pheasant will fly around 30 mph but with a wind and when being flushed (disturbed by the beaters) they can fly up to 60 mph making it a pretty fast moving target.

This week:

I’m reading The miniaturist, Jessie Burton

I’m not reading: Danny the Champion of the world

Best bag: 373 (though the most stylish one is that metal clutch in the fall Valentino collection)

Every estate should have: bantering gamekeepers

I’m loving: the young and tender game birds

I’m driving : Range rovers / defenders / kia estate

Butter count: 25 packs and rising

 

Poached pheasant with lime, garlic and coriander.

This dish would be great as a restorative lunch broth or you could add noodles/ rice / vegetables / chopped green lettuce to make it more filling.

The sprinkling at the end of raw garlic, lime and coriander totally makes this dish, though is possibly not first date stuff unless you both go for it.

Makes about 4 bowls of broth.

1 whole pheasant plucked and cleaned

1 tbs cardamom pods

½ tbs caraway seeds

1 tbs fennel seeds

1 tbs coriander seeds

50g fresh ginger peeled and roughly chopped

1 large medium red chilli – to taste

25g coriander

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To serve

The zest of 2 limes

2 finely chopped cloves of garlic

2 tbs finely chopped corriander

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Give your pheasant a quick wash then place in a large saucepan with some roughly chopped red chili with seeds and membrane in tact (the amount depends on how hot you like it), the cardamom pods, caraway, fennel seeds, the spring onions ends and the ginger and some salt and pepper.

Fill with cold water to just cover the pheasant then place on a medium heat and bring to a simmer.

Cook for about 30 minutes – the pheasant should just be cooked the best place to check is inside the leg then leave with the heat turned off for ten mins.

Remove the pheasant and cover loosely with foil.

Strain the liquid into another pot then reduce by about a 1/3 then check for seasoning and chilli heat. Add the rest of the spring onions finely chopped on an angle.

In a small bowl mix the lime zest, garlic and coriander.

To serve, slice the breasts and take the meat from the leg bones. On a low heat gently warm the meat in the stock.

Ladle some meat and liquid into your serving bowl and sprinkle with the garlic mix.

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Next postcard celebrates national Honey week…

 

 

 

 

 

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Recipe | Chocolate caramel brownies

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 Tackling picnics…

“There is something a little unusual we would like you to do this time Philippa”
“Oh, yes?” Thought I, not entirely sure what my client was going to ask.

For the last few years I have been booked to make the journey to the boating heaven of Itchenor and prepare a post shoot dinner, arm the client with a selection of dinner party dishes they can whip out from the freezer when needed over the coming year and cook for a few casual family dinners.

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“We have been invited to THE Rugby on Saturday, we would like a pre match tailgate picnic.”
“THE Rugby”? Thought I, quickly trying to remember which match that might be.

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Part of the fun as a private chef is being exposed to so many different worlds. I have learnt more about the finance sector, the fashion industry, the art world, a bit on taxidermy, and a lot more on Scottish estates than I ever expected. I have found it useful and interesting to do a bit of homework on these varied matters hence my monthly diverse reading material ranges from Tatler to the FT and may include riveting reads like A Practical Guide to Algorithmic Strategies and Trading Systems and The Grouse in health and disease (ok the last two are still sitting by the bed). Rugby I am ashamed to say I know very little about.

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The plan was to drive to Twickenham, find somewhere nice to dine then off they would go to the match and then later that night we would return home in a state of celebration or misery (sadly we all know how the story ends).

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The picnic was a complete success despite on the way up a few anxious calls to those with local knowledge as to where we should have the picnic. There were good suggestions like a secluded little green patch they knew on the river bank by the Thames and less good ones like the local sports club car park or a friends driveway. We ended up in Bushy park , Richmond. The sun was almost ready for setting, the night was barmy warm for an October evening and the numerous stags who were rutting provided an unusual soundtrack to our al fresco dinner.

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Within minutes tables, chairs, table cloths and hampers had been unloaded from the Landrover, champagne corks had been popped and the feasting had begun. The pre-rugby picnic menu read as follows:

Canapés
Crab on toast with lemon, parsley and chilli
Smoked salmon pate with crudités
Cheese pastry swirls

Main
Slow roast shoulder of lamb with cabbage, caraway, pine nut and yogurt salad, hummus, chilli sauce and flat breads.
Lobster brioche rolls

Dessert
Chocolate caramel brownies
Fruit Kebabs

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I wasn’t quite sure of the precedent for a pre match picnic. Would it be like the ones at Glyndebourne where everyone tries to out do each other with candelabras and gulls eggs or would it be more a case of just making sure they eat some wholesome nosh as the nights can get a little wild at such events. I opted to go on the elaborate side. Personally I think if you are going to make the effort to go on a proper picnic you might as well go all-out on the food. Choose a few dishes you can tuck into straight away with the welcoming drinks and then maybe something like a chunk of meat that can be theatrically carved at the table.

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Passers by certainly were impressed with our spread and unfortunately so were their dogs with the slow cooked lamb bone, we even diverted the attention of a stag for a few moments before he spied his lady deer conquest across the park.

Picnic successfully consumed and the merriment underway the clients headed off to the match. We all now know what happened within the next few hours in the sad part of this tale but I wasn’t sure how bad they would take it and how moods would be for the journey back home.

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To help cheer things up I had at the ready trays of home made sausage rolls, glasses in the side doors and wine at the ready. This coupled with an impromptu Queen’s Greatest Hits sing along and an education in Pink Floyd led to a very entertaining and fun ride home. For the record, I was driving and was stone cold sober but in full voice nevertheless!
So overall the day was a great a success and greatly enjoyed by our party. Yes we may have lost the rugby but we certainly did it in style.

This postcard recipe is for my chocolate caramel brownies, damp and with a serious chocolate kick they will theoretically keep for at least 4 days, that’s if you can resist.

This week

Every home should have : a hamper

I’m driving: a BMW X5 and a Landrover

I’m loving : Royal park picnicking

I’m learning: about Pink Floyd

Dogs who tried to join picnic: 5

Owners who tried to join picnic :3

Chocolate Caramel brownies

Makes 12 squares
line a 20 x 20 cm brownie tin with baking parchment
250g 70% dark chocolate
250g salted butter
250g soft light brown sugar
4 organic eggs
1 tbs coco powder
130g plain flour
3 packs of Rolos

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pre heat the oven to 170°
Melt the butter and chocolate together in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water.
With an electric mixer whisk the eggs and sugar together till thickened and at least doubled in volume ( 4 – 5 mins).
Fold the egg mix into the chocolate then fold in the coco powder and flour.
Poutr into the tin and scatter with the Rolos.
Bake on a low shelf for 30 – 40 mins (you want the slightest of wobbles in the centre to make sure they remain moist.
Leave to cool completely in the tin before cutting into squares.
You can take them out a little earlier from the oven then pop in the fridge for a few hours if you like your brownies to have a very fudge like texture.

Next stop, the Land of Macbeth…..

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Recipe |Dragons blood sauce

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How to cook your dragon.

My coastal Boston to coastal Wales transition came as some what of a shock. Jet lag muddled with rain and chilly British waters was not a cocktail I was necessarily ready for. However once I had been persuaded that the best way to overcome the jet lag was indeed these chilly choppy waters I soon found myself happily immersed into my new surroundings.

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The area, besides being tremendously scenic with wild ponies, wild flowers and the occasional wild wave is also home to some rather delicious potatoes. The Pembrokeshire Early Potato , harvested in  May, is protected by geographical origin, similar to Champagne orParma Ham. They have been farmed here since the 1700s and it is said the spray from the sea is what makes them taste extra special. We were lucky enough to have a field of their later crop right next to the house, some of which may or may not have made its way into my cooking pot.

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With all this potato talk and my location being in Wales you may think I am missing a trick with a leek and potato style recipe for my postcard however what really caught my attention was the dragons. Local shops seemed to be selling dragon mustard, dragon jam, dragon bread and dragon cheese, which was all very impressive I thought considering I had trouble even getting hold of a local mackerel, let alone dragon.

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Legend has it that many blue moons ago the red dragon was fighting an invading white dragon and the shrieks from the battle were so terrible they caused death and destruction to the living. To deal with this dragon problem the king was advised to dig a pit, fill it with mead and lay a cloth on top. The dragons, as suspected, came along, drank the mead and fell asleep. The king wrapped the dragons in the cloth and buried them at Snowdonia.

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Some years later a new king tried to build a castle in the very spot where the dragons lay buried but every night unknown forces demolished any progress. The king is advised, to solve this problem, he needs to seek out a boy with no natural father and kill him. When they find such a boy and the young lad hears of his fate he tells the king the story of the two dragons. The king is persuaded to excavate the hill, release the dragons who can then finish their fight. The red dragon is eventually triumphant, and the boy, who we all know as Merlin, explains that the red dragon represents the Welsh who refused to yield to the Saxons.   For some the red dragon also marks the coming of king Arthur.

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For this postcard recipe I give you Red Dragon sauce, although, as they seem to be constantly out of season these days I have substituted beetroot for dragon.

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This week

Wet suits ARE my new LBD ( but literally for this week only)

Sandy sandwiches consumed : 0

Crabs caught :0

Every home should have: a fairy princess body board

Pembrokeshire potatoes scrumped : xxx

 

Dragons blood sauce

This sauce is great served with fish or meat and delicious with Pembrokeshire potatoes

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4 small /medium red beetroots

2 tbs horseradish sauce

2 tbs Dijon mustard

3 tbs crème friache

1 tbs olive oil.

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Boil the beetroots in slightly salted water till cooked, then peel.

Blitz in a food processor till smooth then add the mustard, horseradish, crème fraiche and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Blitz again and check the seasoning. Serve at room temperature with grilled chicken fish or some fine Pembrokeshire potatoes. 

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 Next Stop…Provence.

 

 

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Recipe |Scones

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Appointment with Devon

 This week I’m using my ‘little grey cells’ with my trusted chef friend from Devon to solve a West Country problem, but first….

  It is once again the foodie world equivalent of the Oscars (though probably involving shorter heels and less double-sided sticky tape) and voting will soon close for the annual Observer Food monthly awards.

I would be delighted if you would like to nominate Philippa Davis postcard recipes into their ‘Best Food Blog’ category.

Nominations can be made by following this link   

http://www.theguardian.com/observer-food-monthly-awards/ng-interactive/2015/apr/09/observer-food-monthly-awards-2015-voting-form

Voting closes 30th June.

A huge thanks and appreciation for you support,

Philippa x

 

And now….

 Having successfully painted the Emerald Isle red, I moved on to give the West Country a turn.  Steaming through the rural landscapes I arrived in Devon with pearls and twinsets at the ready, home to Agatha Christie and supposedly cream teas.

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 On the wild off-chance that you are unsure of what a cream tea might consist of, by my standards its scones (freshly baked unless you want raised eyebrows), clotted cream, strawberry jam and naturally lashings of tea.  Our problem was which should be applied to the scone first, the cream or the jam ? So with Poirot and Hastings like dedication, we set about our task.

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For something so charming as a cream tea there is actually a dark undercurrent of controversy. There have been bickering’s, petitions and strong words exchanged as to where it originates from and so who can actually lay claim to being the true home of this afternoon treat. We did a bit of research and with Devon and Cornwall being the main contenders (and my affections lying in Dorset) I’m not going to get too concerned and am going with it’s ‘a West Country thing’.

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Scones themselves most likely originate from Ireland so no points to either county there. Clotted cream was most likely bought over from what’s now Lebanon and Syria to Cornwall in approximately 500BC by the Phoenicians who where in search of tin.  The recipe was given in part exchange for the metal (an excellent trade I think) and so again neither county edges into the lead.

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Moving onto the practical side we both made a batch of scones. ‘Hastings’ with her heirloom Devon secret list of ingredients that produced a super rise and me with my recipe that although I am unsure of its origins has faithfully helped me produce over18,000 of the little fluffy light morsels over the last 6 years (I’m not exaggerating and got my Ph.D. maths friend to check my figures).

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  Luckily for our friendship it was not the best scone recipe which was in dispute. The real contention we were focusing on was  how to assemble the scone once made.

In Devon they like to slather the scone with cream then top with jam but in Cornwall they insist on doing it the other way round.

We diligently tried both and after much tasting, considerations, note making and debate I concluded….who cares!? As long as its piled high with both it’s totally delicious.

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 My Devon friend tried to be a little more opinionated and swayed to her county ways of doing things but I did notice whilst my back was turned ‘the incredible theft’ happened and the Cornish style one disappeared with only a scattering of crumbs remaining.

 I will happily leave you to dictate how you assemble your scone but for this postcard I give you my scone recipe.

 This Week

I would love: you to vote for Philippa Davis postcard recipes as the Best Food Blog in the Observer Food monthly VOTE 

Every good West Country home should have: clotted cream and strawberry jam at the ready.

Scones eaten: too embarrassed to say.

Mysteries solved: 0 (I know, Agatha would have been disappointed).

Modes of transport :Sea Tractors, boats, trains, Flybe flights and a nanny wagon.

 

Scones

Scones should be eaten on the day of making which should not be a problem as they generally disappear within minutes…

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(Make approx 6)

8 oz Self raising flour plus a little extra for rolling)

1 tsp. baking powder

2 oz caster sugar

2 oz cold butter

110ml cold milk plus 1 tbs.

 

To serve clotted cream (Rhodas from Cornwall is my favorite), strawberry jam and loose leaf tea in a cup and saucer.

 

Pre heat the oven to 190° C

In a bowl briefly whisk the flour with the baking powder and sugar.

Grate in the butter using the large side of a grater.

Mix in using our fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs.

Pour in the milk and bring together into a ball (you can add a splash more milk if needs but DO NOT over handle the dough).

Lightly dust a work surface with flour and roll out the scone to 2 cm thick.

Cut them out and place them on a baking sheet so almost touching and lightly brush with milk.

Bake for 10 mins or until risen and slightly golden

Once cooked leave to cool for a couple of minutes then split open horizontally and slather with clotted cream and strawberry jam in which ever order you see fit.

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 Tips

To help your scones give an even rise;

1)   Dip your cutter in between each scone into a little bowl of flour, this prevents sticking and gives a more even rise.

2)   Do not twist your cutter, plunge straight down and up – this again helps with an even rise.

3)   The scones seem to form a better shape if once cut you turn them upside down on the baking tray before cooking.

4)   Cut your scones close together to get the most out of your dough without having to re roll and over handle it.

 

 

Next I’m heading off to cook for a 4 day party extravaganza for 100 revellers….

 

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Recipe | Clementine Sorbet with chilled vodka

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Hair of the dog…

My clients, I think, went for the theory that the best way to recover from a dinner party was…to hold another one. So with impressive stamina, night after night they wined, dined and entertained. Located in the area around Holland Park it s a chef’s dream as far as sourcing quality produce is concerned.

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There is the fabulous Lidgate Butchers (where I had my first job in London), top notch green grocers and just down the road there is the excellent Kensington Fish Shop, Chegworth apple store (for those discerning apple eaters whom Pink Lady just don’t cut the mustard) and the super impressive Whole Foods.

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For those of you who don’t know, I feel I must tell you a little more about Whole Foods. It is a predominantly organic supermarket that has exceptional standards.

Staff are phenomenally polite e.g. even if you show the slightest sign of being vaguely lost or looking for something they will spring to your aid and / or they will bend over backwards to fetch, carry or hail a cab for you. I’m sure they would even agree to singing your favourite Christmas carol while you chose the most festive looking clementine’s if you asked.   The meat is excellent, the fish sourced well and I am convinced the vegetables are given a pep talk each morning to remind them to look their best and anythingless than perfect will be marched off the shop floor with no second chances.

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It is also the kind of place where you can find ethically sourced, completely natural, CO2 neutral, anti animal testing, biodynamic washing up liquid (that unfortunately doesn’t wash your plates very well) and breast feeding mothers happily sipping their decaf almond milk lattes (I spied 8 in various bits of the shop over the week).

There is also a fantastic local farmers market on Saturdays that had the finest display of brassicas I have ever seen as well as some happily reared meat, baskets of blue eggs, bread stalls that would impress even the French and bags of delicious UK apples.

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So with fantastic shopping just a short walk/taxi/tube away sourcing the food for the parties was easy and fun.   The menu for the first night read as follows:

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Moscow Mules

Canapé .

Goats cheese, San daneille and balsamic

Starter

Pan fried scallops with whisky butter, bitter leaves toasted hazelnuts and samphire with lemon

Main

Slow cooked lamb shoulder with vermouth, thyme and rosemary served with blanched chard and patats povres.

Dessert

Clementine sorbet with mint sugar

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For this postcard recipe I will give you the recipe for clementine sorbet, a light and refreshing festive dessert.

 

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This week;

Maids a milking seen; 8

Fluffy poodle like things seen; 14 (clearly the must have accessory around this part of town).

Mince pies personally consumed – a pathetic; 0

I’m reading; The London Underground Map.

Percentage of taxi drivers eating turkey for Christmas; 100%.

 

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Clementine sorbet with chilled vodka

 This dessert works really well around this time of year as with so many big meals and celebrations going on something light and refreshing to finish is most welcome.

The difference between sorbet and granita is the texture achieved by freezing methods. A sorbet is churned and should be smoother and the grainta will have ice crystals as is only agitated while being frozen.

You can make this recipe into a sorbet or granita depending on preference.

Serves 6

30 clementines

zest and juice of 1 lime

100g sugar

To serve

12 mint leaves

1 tbs Demerara sugar

50ml Vodka plus extra shots chilled to serve.

Juice the clementines

Briefly bring to the juice to the boil with the sugar, lime juice and zest then leave to cool. Add the 50 ml of vodka  (this lowers freezers temperature and stops it from freezing rock solid).

To make sorbet;

Once chilled place in an ice cream machine to churn till frozen

Or if you don’t have a machine;

Place in the freezer for about 4 hours (or till semi frozen )

Then blitz in a food processor till smooth, return to the freezer for another four hours or until fully frozen.

To male granita

Freeze in a dish occasionally agitating the mix with a fork. (about three times over the 6   -8 hour freezing period.

To serve the sorbet or granita;

Place the mint and Demerara sugar on a board and chop the mint so it gets crushed with the sugar.

Place scoops of the clementine sorbet/granita in a serving dish and sprinkle with the mint sugar.

 

Next stop…. Feeding the theatrical cast of Dorset Corset’s “A Christmas Carol”….

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Recipe | Blackberry Jam

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 Recruiting successful Hedge Find Managers…

 

The tropical sun set a thousand colours over the lush vegetation as the choruses of tuneful birds swooped through the warm evening air back to their roosts for the night…. Oh no, wait a minute, I’m in Dorset. Anyhow it was a beautiful end of a day.

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I had visited the Great Dorset Chilli festival. It didn’t take a Poirot to deduce what one might have expected from such and event, lots of chillies and chilli products showcased in Dorset, so no great surprises.

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I was surprised however to find out that I had up ‘till now been eating Padron in their infancy. For those of you who haven’t tried these, they are usually found as part of a Spanish tapas menu and are simply fried and sprinkled with salt, they go incredibly well with a glass of Fino sherry. I used to cook at the wonderful Moro restaurant in London, where the chefs would play Russian roulette with a cazuela filled of these. Our theory was 1 in 7 were really hot, the Dorset padron seller said 1 in 10 but the chances are increased as the Padron matures. So if you like it hot, and some do, go for the larger ones.

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I bought a bag full of mixed chillies with varying positions on the Scoville scale. We did a big curry night where I put ½ Chocolate Hababero into a Keralan style fish curry I was making. Silly me. The sauce was so spicy I couldn’t serve it and had to do a last minute substitution. I then donned protective clothing of overalls, goggles and thick gloves and split the seriously spicy Choclate Haberno chilli sauce into 8 bags before cryogenically freezing it for a date when we had either ‘manned up’ or could get asbestos lined mouths.

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The rest of the chillies are still in their bag in the fridge where they will remain for a bit, I am sure I can hear them taunting me every time I open the door.

“Cant handle us eh?!!, If you cant stand the heat…”

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Well as it turned out I couldn’t stand the heat and so took the chillies advice and got out of the kitchen to go for a walk. Scrabbling across the fields I was in perfect luck to have timed my trip here with the ripening of hedgerows full of blackberries.

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Despite the possibility of either being stung by nettles or pricked by the thorns it is great fun to go out hunting the hedges for these beauties, though be warned recruiting children to be the ‘hedge find managers’ is not always wise, as they tend to eat more than they put into the pot.

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The blackberries fate I decided was to be made into jam, a great way to enjoy the fruits little by little over the coming months, or in one tea time sitting when served with bread and butter to an army of kids as it turned out.

For this postcard recipe I give you my recipe for Blackberry jam.

 

This week;

Chillies cooked with: ½ a chocolate habaerno.

Chillies eaten 0.0000001% (of the half).

Blackberries picked 3 lb

Blackberries put in the pot 1 ½ lb

Successful head hunts for hedge find managers: 0

Every home should have … Jo Malone English Pear and Freesia scent sticks

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Blackberry Jam

I have tried lots of jam and I always come back to the conclusion that simple is best so I rarely add anything now apart from fruit and sugar into the pot.

This recipe yielded about 3 ½ lb jars.

 

Ingredients

Blackberries 1 ½ lb

Preserving sugar 1 ½ lb

1 teaspoon butter (salted or unsalted is fine)

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Method

Place 2 saucers in the fridge.

In a heavy bottomed saucepan heat the blackberries until they have yielded lots of their juice, stirring regularly and not worrying about them becoming a little bashed up, it will take about 5 minutes on a medium heat.

Add the sugar then stir on a low heat until the sugar has melted.

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Once the sugar has melted increase the heat so the mixture is simmering fast and cook for a further 8 – 10 minutes.

Take off the heat and scoop out 1 tbs onto one of the chilled saucers.

Put the saucer with jam on back in the fridge and leave for 3 minutes.

If after the 3 minutes the jam skin crinkles as you push your finger through it, the jam is ready. This is the setting stage. If not return the saucepan of jam to the heat and simmer rapidly for another 5 minutes, then test again.

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When setting stage is reached pour the jam into hot, sterilised jars and seal with the lid.

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Delicious on scones, drop pancakes , in melting moments, swirled through yogurt sweetened with honey and frozen as lollypops, layered between victoria sponges and cream, injected into doughnut, shaken with gin and topped with tonic water for a seasonal cocktail and of course simply spread onto bread and butter.

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Next stop, the South West of France…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Recipe | Slow roast shoulder of pork sandwich with rhubarb and radish salad

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 Happy as a pig in a bun….

Blossom is exploding all over Wiltshire at the moment with magnolia flowers and cherry blossoms bursting out from the branches and woodland floors being smothered in bluebells.

It is truly stunning.

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For a cook it is an exciting time of year as lots of spring produce is now available; asparagus, purple sprouting broccoli, nettles, rhubarb and my favourite….wild garlic.  If you are out and about in the UK or Ireland, sniff the air and see if you can get a waft of the sweet, aromatic tender young leaves.  Often found in damp broadleaf woods with dappled light, this taste sensation is best eaten before it flowers and gets slightly tougher.  I have found patches in Dorset, Wiltshire, London, Edinburgh and Dublin, the exact locations of which I will keep secret as if I had found a precious patch of white truffles.

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Wild garlic can be wilted down in a little butter or olive oil and added to soups, stews, as a side dish, pasta, risotto, or even folded through scrambled eggs. When picking remember:

  1. Disregard any advice your parents gave you and stray as far from the path as you can as you never know who or what has needed the call of nature along its way…
  2. Wash very thoroughly before use
  3. Only take what you are going to eat
  4. Be sure you know what you are foraging, ( the only other plant that wild garlic looks like is Lily of the Valley which won’t do you any good, so be careful!)

 

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This week, as I was in Wiltshire, I wanted to cook a good hunk of pork.  Pigs have been farmed in the area for centuries and delicious products like Wiltshire baked hams, really good bacon and the truly delicious lardy cake ( a spiced fruity bread laced with pork fat and sugar) are easily found.

The joint for Sunday lunch was to be a shoulder of Gloucester Old Spot pig bought from the local farm shop in Stourhead.   This cut can be roasted but I think that it is best slowly cooked until tender and then can be pulled apart. I remove the skin before cooking (leaving what fat there is on the shoulder) and cook it separately for crackling perfection.

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When slowly cooking meat it is worth really thinking about what flavours you want to add whilst cooking as you will get lots of juices at the end. I decided on apple, fennel, rhubarb and white wine.  Served stuffed inside a ciabatta and with a radish and rhubarb salad it made a scrumptious Sunday lunch especially with the sun shining and a chilled glass of flinty Chenin Blanc.

 

Next I am off to cook in Toulouse where I suspect the Easter bunny is safe but the ducks may well end up as part of the feast…

 

 

Slow roast shoulder of pork sandwich with rhubarb and radish salad

serves 8  – 10

To cook the pork you will need;

2.5 kilo of free range pork with the bone in and skin cut off.

1 head of fennel cut in half

6 sticks of rhubarb roughly chopped

2 glasses of dry white wine ( one for the pig, one for you as you have 6 hours to kill)

2 apples (Braeburn or similar) cut in quarters (no need to skin or core)

3 glasses apple juice

1 white onion peeled and cut into 4

3 bay leaves

1 head of garlic cut horizontally and outer skin removed

I was lucky enough to have access to a wood oven so I fired it up to about 400 C then let the pork cook slowly over night in the dying embers of the fire………. yes I did thoroughly enjoy that method! For those of you who don’t happen to have a wood oven in the back garden here is how it can be done.

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Pre heat the oven to 200 C.

In a roasting dish add the pork seasoned with salt and pepper, add the rest of the ingredients listed above.

Cover loosely with baking parchment then wrap tightly in foil.

Bake for 45 minutes then turn the oven down to 150 C and cook for a further 5 hours.

Take it out to rest while you turn up the oven to 180 C and roast the skin, placed on a flat baking sheet, till it goes crispy ( about 30 –  40 minutes).

Once the meat has rested shred with two forks into strands and cut some of the cooked fennel, rhubarb and onion into thin slithers and add to the meat for serving.  Toss well with all the delicious juice.

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Rhubarb salad

2 thin sticks of young rhubarb

1 apple

10 red radishes

4 sticks celery

handful of mint

handful of parsley

2 tbs mayonnaise

2 tbs olive oil

juice and zest of 1 lemon

1 tub of cress

Mix in a bowl the mayonnaise, olive oil, zest and juice of the lemon. Season with salt and pepper

Thinly slice the rhubarb, celery, apple and radish and add to the mayonnaise.

Add the parsley, mint and cress and mix well

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To serve;

10 ciabatta rolls

1 peeled garlic clove

olive oil

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To serve lightly toast the ciabatta then rub with raw garlic and drizzle with olive oil.  Stuff the bread with warm pulled pork and serve with some crunchy radish and rhubarb salad.

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