Wednesday, 14 December 2011


Why does Christmas always seem such a mega task?  
I write this feeling overwhelmed by what needs to be achieved this week before the children break up for school.  Obviously all the pressure is put on by myself trying to make it all lovely, local, special and social.  Last weeks main feat was to get through the Turkey.  There was turkey leftovers, turkey curry, turkey pasta, turkey in the freezer, turkey in the dog and of course turkey soup.  My lot in life at the moment is to make soup.  I have started to make soup for our shops and have also been involved in organizing soup lunches at school.  As a consequence my hands resemble celeriacs but I can now knock out a mean soup.  Making a stock from the turkey carcasse made a far superior soup to one made with water or a vegetable stock.  I just sweated some onions in butter and salt then added leeks and a good selection of winter veg: swede, parsnips, potatoes, carrots and covered with the stock and cooked until tender.  The soup was smooth and sublime.  I also used some of the stock to make a broth.  Frying off some onions, leeks and chestnut mushrooms then covering with stock some torn turkey and tarragon, this was stuff to nourish the soul.  That’s the next achievement for this season- to avoid getting ill, there’s worse ways to do this then filling ourselves with broth and clementines.
Now to ice the Christmas Cake...

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Christmas come early

I have celebrated my one year anniversary of shopping locally with a lush family breakfast at Star-anise.  I continue to take it very seriously and have not been to a supermarket in a year.  This Christmas I continue to find gems locally, there is nothing more exciting than finding a perfect present for someone you love in your favourite local independent.  This season a couple of fantastic pop up shops have appeared in Stroud, Nothing but Navy and the Weaving Shed.  In Nailsworth there is the newly opened Sharland and Lewis for all your present needs.  
Today I have been practicing what I preach and cooked a nine kilo turkey.  This beast will most certainly feed us for the week if not until Christmas.  The Elizabeth David turkey recipe had been hanging over me since the new year, and it was definitely worth waiting for.  I made her chestnut, apple and pork stuffing and filled him up with this and sausagemeat.  I then smeared him with butter and cooked him in a moderate oven for four and a half hours.  We weren’t quite ready for a full on Christmas dinner so we had him with braised celery and roasted beetroot, steamed sprout tops and roast potatoes.  For pudding we tested out a bakery Christmas pud, and my it was good with homemade brandy butter.  Christmas tip of the week,* heat your brandy and light in the saucepan before pouring over your pudding for the biggest flames you have ever seen- Elizabeth David would be proud.
*Disclaimer - ceiling touchup paint may be required. I or SNJ can not be held responsible for fire or burning in any way. 

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Christmas is coming

Elizabeth David is taking a back seat, the boy is working in London and I in school girl fashion have left all the tricky recipes requiring moral support to the end.  I can't see myself boning a duck at that twilight hour between 5 and 6 with four hungry tired children running wild.  Persuading my children after athletics one night that they really would like a dinner of oxtail stew or ox kidney isn't going to happen.
This means I will just have to seize opportunities as and when.  We had a jolly nice egg breakfast yesterday, baked with grated carrot and bechamel sauce.  Last weekend was my mother in laws birthday so I scored some points by cooking up an ED feast.  Scallops with garlic and parsley served with a winter salad.  A peasant stew, filled with pork, beef, rabbit and chocolate accompanied by good crusty bread and home grown kale made for a hearty autumnal main.  Then a pudding of  lemon ice cream and baked figs.  All finished with some jolly nice cheese and homemade membrillo.  
I am keeping myself busy without Elizabeth David by Christmas shopping.  I have managed already to get myself pretty sorted using great independent shops.  The girls wrote their Christmas lists yesterday and Father Christmas will successfully be able to tick off the list locally, there's lip gloss, hair bands and an electric toothbrush for the eldest, felt tip pens and all the Barbie princesses for the middle and for the youngest sylvanian families and a lollipop.    

Trout Triumph

Back on the ED wagon
Tonight I cooked a couple of trout bought from the long established David Felce and daughters in Stroud market.  For old times sake I cooked each to a different Elizabeth David recipe, one in a court bouillon cooked for only five minutes then topped with breadcrumbs fried in butter.  The second recipe was cooked similar to an a la greque.  Water and olive oil were boiled up together with the addition of thyme some crushed juniper and thyme.  The trout was cooked in this fast for one minute then slower for three, thats it.  perfect.  I served this with celeriac dauphinoise, purple sprouting and horseradish.
It marked a very welcome return to ED.
Hopefully this will be continue tomorrow when I cook my 9 kilo turkey!

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Remaining ED

This is work in progress and is my remaining recipes from French Provincial Cooking.  Like a defiant teenager I have left all the tricky recipes to the end-nice one!
Stock for sauces
Tresor de cuisine
Orange sauce
Sauce Bercy
Beurre blanc nantais
Sauce catalane
Horseradish and cream sauce
Marinade pour les gibiers
Salad of chickpeas
Celery with anchovy sauce
Mussel salad
Oeufs durs en tapenade
Tomatoes aux Oeufs durs et a la mayonnaise
Eggs in tarragon flavoured jelly
Pain grille aux anchovies
Le saussoun
Sweet sour cherries
3 x salad nicoise
Salad au Chaplin
Salade de pissenlits
Salad of artichoke hearts and lettuce
Bouillon pour
Game consommé
La soupe au lard
Cream of turnip soup
Lentil and sorrel soup
Marseillais fish soup
Nimois fish soup
Mussel soup
Oeufs mollets a la crecy
Hard boiled eggs with onion and cream sauce
Oeufs sur le plat, au miroir
Oeufs sur le play
Oeufs sur le plat Bercy
Oeufs Frits
Oeufs Frits au Beurre noir
Les Oeufs poches
Poached eggs with mussel stock
Poached eggs with meat sauce
Omelette aux truffles
Petites fondues a la bourguigonne
Semolina and potato gnocchi
Truffled pate of duck
Potted rabbit and pork
Galantine of pork with parsley and garlic
Sausage baked in brioche dough
Poached sausage with horseradish sauce
Cured knuckle of pork
Beet root baked in their skins
Cepes a la bordelaise
Dried haricot beans red wine
Lentils with parsley butter
Glazed turnips
Onions stewed in wine
Roast onions
Tinned petits pois
Sweet peppers stewed with tomato
Tomatoes stuffed with breadcrumbs and parsley
Fried smelts
Red gurney with cheese sauce
Grilled herrings with mustard sauce
Soft roes in jacket potatoes
Mackerel with egg butter and herb sauce
Fish mayonnaise
Whiting with red wine sauce
Turbot with cream and herb sauce
La bourride de Charles befit
Cream of salt cod
Salt cod in red wine sauce
Eel baked with leeks and black olives
Fresh water crayfish in court bouillon
Sweet sour carp in the Jewish fashion
Burgundian fish stew
Trout in court bouillon
Fried scallops with garlic and parsley
Mussels on skewers
Mussels with onion and tomato
Moules a la provencale
Lobster mayonnaise
Langouste comme chez nenette
Crawfish or rock lobster with cream and white wine sauce
Grilled Dublin bay prawns
Stuffed snails
Tinned snails with parsley and garlic butter
Frogs legs
Boeuf a la bourguigonne
Boeuf a la mode
Oxtail stewed with white grapes
Grilled oxtail
Ox kidney stewed in wine and mushrooms

93, and that's not it, to quote the third child "what the earth"!
Sent from my iPhone

Thursday, 10 November 2011

I couldn't carry a box

I always loved receiving my Riverford box,  arriving home to a box packed full of shiny fresh fruit and vegetables never failed to delight.  As you know a year ago with a tear in my eye I cancelled this in favor of shopping locally.  I was reminded of this on Saturday as I carried my loaded box of fruit and veg to the car, this box too was beautiful full of shiny fruit and veg.  Of course it is always all in the packaging and I am the first to fall for something wrapped in tissue with a bow round it packed in a paper bag.  But I realised this week, that carrying your shopping in an open box gleaming up at you is as good.  This is as satisfying for me at Horsley Community shop when I grab one of their used cardboard boxes and fill it with groceries, be it cereal, washing up liquid, milk or butter.  This week they are starting to stock Duchy Farm’s organic veg so my box will be all the more bountiful.
I have been busy with Elizabeth David this week trying to crack through those last recipes.  A couple of beef stews, lamb fillet and a pepper omelette.  Butter has been the ultimate ingredient this week, transforming some ordinary carrots to something extraordinary with a splash of cream and some salmon steaks cooked in butter then bubbled in white wine were sublime.
I heard a saying this week that taste is not in the cooking but in the shopping.  This I have to agree with, taking pride in my beautiful, locally sourced box of shopping, and what it’ll cooks up is invariably more tasty.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Food waste

As we sat down for Sunday roast kindly cooked for us, I felt overwhelmed by comfort and joy.  Next I try to work out when we last had a roast dinner and why did it seem novel and not the norm.  I cannot think of a better way to end the week or a more perfect way to start the week.  Fill your family up with hearty warmth then fill your fridge with leftovers for a busy week ahead.
It strikes me that a traditional Sunday roast is not cheering enough homes in these austerity times.  This is exactly how we should be feeding our families to save money.  A leftover joint should be dinner on Monday too, I have been known to make it to Thursday on Sunday leftovers.  Not just by buying an oversized joint but by making stock and being thrifty.  
At these times reducing food waste should be everyones priority, yet people seem to lack the knowledge of basic house keeping.  Best before dates have played havoc with our eating habits with people throwing away food just because it’s passed it date.  In our house we only don't eat it if it's blue and have all become expert milk sniffers,  and that now gets made into soda bread.  I heard a radio 1 DJ concerning herself that she ate an out of date avocado, when did we become so detached from the food we eat that we worry we can poison ourselves with an avocado.
In order to change what we spend on food, and how much we waste we need to look at how we shop and cook.  A friend has managed to dramatically cut her food bill by buying her fruit and veg from the local greengrocers Bramleys not the supermarket, and there’s no packaging or best before dates on that.  To learn more about food and cooking make it your job to cook a Sunday roast and eat it until there isn't a scrap left. 
p.s, buy good quality bread with as few ingredients in as possible, it will last longer, especially sourdoughs or overnight doughs 

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Feed your family for £60 for a week

Here is an outline for a weeks menu inspired by Sainsbury's  but to be used at the almighty Horsley Community shop.  Feeding a family of four on the finest local and sometimes organic food for less than £60. Eventually  I will write a shopping list and recipes or detailed explanations and recommendations for extras too. 
Breakfast; American Pancakes and honey
Lunch; Mushrooms on wholemeal toast
Dinner; Roast chicken, with potatoes, carrots and cabbage
Breakfast; Tomatoes on wholemeal toast
Lunch; Ham Omlette
Dinner; Hot chicken salad
Breakfast; Porridge
Lunch; Beans on sherston toast
Dinner; Pea risotto
Breakfast; Bacon sandwich on sherston
Lunch; Pea and lettuce soup with 3 seed wholemeal
Dinner; Fish pie
Breakfast; Porridge
Lunch; Ham and mustard sherston sandwich
Dinner; Mushroom and chickpea curry with rice
Breakfast; 3 seed Toast and honey
Lunch; Egg fried rice
Dinner; Horsley sausage with mash, cabbage and mustard
Breakfast; Boiled egg and 3 seed soldiers
Lunch; Hummus sandwich
Dinner; Spaghetti Carbonara 
Example recipe,
Chickpea and Mushroom curry
1 onion 
3 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp curry powder
200g mushrooms
1 tin of chickpeas
1 tin of coconut milk
Half a bag of spinach (chard or kale as good)
Fry your sliced onion in olive oil, add the chopped garlic, when softening add the curry powder.  Next add the sliced mushrooms, drained chickpeas and coconut milk.  Simmer gently for 25 minutes.  Finally add your torn washed greens and cook till they are tender. Season. 
I can only cook basmati rice one way, it always works, this is how.
Heat a splash of olive oil in a pan, add the whole pack of basmati rice (there is egg fried rice for lunch tomorrow).  Stir the rice till the grains are all coated in olive oil.  Add twice the volume of water to rice.  Bring to the boil, stir, then put a lid on and leave for about 8 minutes.  When all the water has absorbed turn off the heat and cover with a clean tea towel and the lid and leave until needed, it is fine for up to an hour.  
Serve the rice with the curry remembering to keep back half the rice for tomorrows lunch.
Optional extras* serve with coriander, mango chutney, soy sauce or chilli sauce
*All optional extras take you over your weekly allowance.

Sunday, 9 October 2011


It's not been a bumper year at Quince Tree Cottage year, this is probably the first year I have anticipated their arrival and had a list of recipes lined up.  I of course was hoping to finishing Elizabeth David's, French Provincial cooking as the last quince fell, this hasn't happened.  I could blame it on my shortfall of quinces, but the reality is I was being over ambitious.  Julia took a year and I think I will too.  
I have a bounce in my step for Elizabeth again, now I only have one hare recipe left I think I can do it.  Every recipe continues to be a  success, but I still have to bone a duck and a chicken and cook a partridge in a cabbage, what?!!
Her quince recipes were great, a delicious quince marmalade and a divine quince paste.  I have made quince paste before to cut up into sweet sized portions.  Her recipe cooked the quinces rubbed of their downy skins whole in the oven until they were soft enough to be put through the food mill, then reheated with sugar and cooked in a low oven.  I can't work out how the recipe differs from membrillo, whether the paste is just smoother and typically cooked for longer.  I will have to wait for next years fruit to find out unless anyone has any quinces going spare.  

Welcome home

The husband had been away "Do"ing his thing in Wales.  He was welcomed home by a good fish supper, Elizabeth David of course.  Red mullet cooked in vine leaves, picked from the garden and globe artichokes (down in price in Bramleys).  The fish was good and really took on the flavour of the leaves and was served with melted butter.  The globe artichokes were good served with a vinaigrette.  I like cooking them whole, I don't get the benefit of cutting out the choke and just cooking up the heart.  I love the crescendo of chewing the leaves as they get tenderer until you reach the nectar in the middle.  The chips were courtesy of Hobbs House Bistro.  

Tuesday, 27 September 2011


Homegrown tomatoes

Last summer I had a moment of optimism when I thought I could grow my own vegetables. We inherited a garden full of fruit trees and raspberries and blackberries, having watched and tasted friends homegrown produce I decided this was the way forward. Last year I was helped by Riverford Organics and cheated by just planting their seedlings. This year I decided to take it more seriously and have grown lots from seed. My intention was to grow for my Elizabeth David project. I think I can safely say I failed on every count. Two packets of courgette seeds were defeated by slugs, the sorrel and spinach just wouldn't oblige, a mere two miniature but tasty beetroot were consumed this week, the broad beans got rust and the peas were eaten before they made it into the kitchen. There was also the one and only globe artichoke that tasted good cooked in a combination of oil and water with a squeeze of lemon.
Despite these failures I have produced enough greens to not have to buy any for weeks. A few French beans but the runner beans, chard and kale have been prolific. The tomatoes have required a lot of attention but hopefully this Indian summer is looking like we could be heading towards a bumper crop.
My conclusion of this year is that you reap what you sow, I have been unable to put much effort in, I am always too busy cooking but I see that it's a steep learning curve and hope that my fingers with time will turn green.

Horsley produce show

I can now tell you that the prize winning was all with the kids, they did us proud, I let the side down, my baking skills particularly.  My cooking apples did get a noble 2nd.
Horsley church fete
The Horsley church fete is such a momentous annual occasion in our lives that lots of great memories are formed around it.  There is nothing like the first fete in your new village to suss out just where you have moved, walking apprehensively through lines of bargain hunters, past the silver band and under the bunting;  as young newlyweds we quickly realised we had struck the jackpot. With the finest cream teas for miles around and some bric a brac Cath Kidston would break her right arm for, we knew we had landed.  In the years following there is the memory of parading our first newborn in the then obligatory land rover buggy to the coos and woos of the villagers.  Now there is the endless cry for just one more £1 Mummy, for another failed attempt at the tombola.  
As years go by the fete has been tweaked and improved, for us it’s become a lot moreabout the children, but reassuringly the essentials remain the same, the cream tea is still delicious and the strong bent for locally produced food has grown and grown and grown.  The famous and formidable Horsley sausage in a Hobbs House jumbo finger roll will give you a tasty hot dog fill whilst keeping food miles to a minimum.  The Horsley Orchard project sells preserves and work hard pressing apples: you are encouraged to bring along your apples and good wind falls, have a turn in the deck chair slicing and pressing, and for your effort you’ll be rewarded with your own prize bottle of Horsley apple juice to take home. Then there’s the cake stall with an ambitious and enviable selection of great home baking, each plate as diverse as its baker, hinting at Horsley’s breadth of influence and rich diversity (well, for Gloucestershire anyway). If it’s cake you’re after, guess the weight of a fruit cake to win it is a treasured classic, or buy a raffle ticket to be in with a chance of winning a Hobbs House Bakery Matildaesque chocolate cake.  For the first year the mighty and heritage-rich Winstones ice cream will be trundling their van from over the common to scoop their finest frozen fayre for us all.  If you fancy something stronger, in a glass and pint sized, then there’s beer from the award winning Stroud Brewery.
This year is the first year of the Horsley Produce show, with adult categories such as best jam, roses in a vase, best loaf and the longest runner bean.  The children have their own categories including the finest pizza and the biggest sunflower.  Judged by Hobbs House Bakery and a revered local farmer, the competition is sure to be tough.  Watch out though, it will be my victoria sponge and marmalade winning (fighting talk/competitive spirit), but I am not convinced the redcurrant jelly has got the edge.   
What is great about this fete is how it encompasses all of the community, young and old, from the football team to the landowners, all there running there own stalls, from the balloon race to see whose gets the furthest (last year’s winner reached France) to an impromptu ride in a vintage motorbike and sidecar which proved more of a hit around the field than the ponies.  All to the accompaniment of Clog dancers and the Nailsworth Silver Band.  
Of course, this is Horsley, so the Rosettes will be recycled, the compere will be eccentric, sporting a panama, and loud enough to make electronic amplification unnecessary. I am convinced you will feel you have struck gold with a quintessential summer fete. This rural idyll and yesteryear scene, a bonkers  Archers, Hobbit-Shires, and  Enid Blyton hybrid is actually very progressive and contemporary. There is a deep rooted heart for sustainability and community, being lived out in a way that is open, welcoming, hard working and wants to have fun. The program and attractions and passion for all things local gives structure to this much anticipated yearly event, but it’s the people we love and the times we’ll share there. Held on September 17th as the combines stop and the bails are away, it is the perfect celebratory end to a hopefully balmy English Summer.

September supper

I'm not sure I can make it to the end of Elizabeth David.  I got some hare out of the freezer but just couldn't face cooking it.  It was meant to be hare with beetroot, I had even pulled up my only beetroot to use. The puny golf balls of beetroot didn't encourage me to remove the hares membrane and start cooking.  The problem with French Provincial Cooking is whenever I count up the recipes I seem to always only be just over half way through.  Classically I have left the worst and most challenging recipes to last.  My initial plan was to finish as the last quince ripened.  My girls picked the first lot this afternoon, it's not a bountiful year so I will try to make the ED quince recipes this week.
This photo was therefore our dinner a perfect September Supper.  Globe artichoke cooked a la greque a la ED.  The chanterelle mushrooms were cooked to one of her recipes.  Washed well and randomly chopped, fried in butter, seasoned, parsley added then some left over meat juices, amazing on shepherds loaf.  The tomatoes are from Horsley and some of Mary Holbrook's cheese, what more would you want.
Better put the hare in the fridge.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011


We were given this wonderful book when we gave our September born daughter the middle name Plum.  This tale tells of a Dad who decides as the plums start to fall to make plum jam.  He makes plum jam until he has filled all the jars, vases and a teapot.  The plum consumption then begins with jam sandwiches, pancakes, roly polies to glue for tiling the bathroom floor, until it's all used up just as the plum tree is full of ripe fruit again.  A beautiful story and one I can relate to.  This year is a good year for plums, we have a reliable small cooking plum tree but also discovered a smaller cherry plum sweet to eat tree.
This year's great plums are apparently not good enough for the supermarkets, who continue to buy from abroad  Fools.
Our plums are good enough for us and this is what I have been doing with them.
After much searching I found the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe I remembered,
Plum jampote, with hot and sour dipping sauce by-product. (I love a by-product)
For every kilo of plums you need 500g of sugar, put these in a saucepan and top up to half full with water.  Bring to the boil, simmer for 20 minutes then pour off and sieve most of the syrup into a new pan.
To this syrup add 2 garlic cloves chopped, 1 hot chilli, 100ml of soy sauce, 100ml of rice or cider vinegar.  Boil this rapidly for 10 minutes then bottle up.
When the other plum mixture is cool enough to handle pick out the stones - I loved the feel of oozing sticky jam in my fingers.  Then boil the mixture occasionally stirring for 5 minutes, pot up for a loose jam and keep in the fridge.
I have also been roasting plums a la Elizabeth David.  Running a knife down their natural line and piling them in a pyramid(?) in an earthenware dish, sprinkling generously with sugar and sticking in a split vanilla pod.  These have been roasted in the oven until tender but still holding their shape.  These are delicious with yoghurt and made a nifty trifle with a dodgy sponge cake the 8 year old had made.
The plum finale is cooking tonight from Elizabeth David, Plums in Brandy or in my case the alternative she recommends, Plums in vodka.  The process is tedious, there had been a lot of boiling and reboiling of the fruit with sugar.  The result is hopefully a boozy plum compote.
All this talk of Plums is making me hungry to go out and buy some other fine English varieties.
To be continued.....

Rockness onions

First day at school

The third child started school this week, she claims she is bored and has already adopted the attitude of her 10 year old brother.
It has taken until my third child for me to realise that I can sew name labels in successfully with a sewing machine and white socks are useless, grey is the new white.  

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Note to self - always grow sweet peas

I have been picking sweet peas since June, in June with the hope of long summer evenings and hot days ahead, now as the evenings draw in, sweet peas present warmth and comfort.  They have offered their colour and sweet scent at birthdays, anniversaries and a funeral this year. 
Plant in abundance next year.  

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Recovery plan

As the fresh term approaches, another child starts school and the trees already start to change colour I am filled with optimism of some order being restored.  The last academic year flew by with no ticks off of last September's list.  This year of course will be different as the third child starts school and I need to start to think about life on the other side.

Things to definitely achieve:
Complete Elizabeth David
Learn to make fail proof jam
Sort out the garden, prune trees, master vegetables and grow beautiful flowers.
Write a weeks menu for under £50 for Horsley community shop

Things I should achieve
Use up all my garden fruit
Make membrillo for Hobbs House Butchery
Make other produce for Hobbs House e.g, soups and chutneys.
Get kitchen EHO certified.
Start up provision of weekly cooked school lunches for Horsley School.
Sell my Cynthia and Betty children's vintage clothes online

Things I could achieve;
Beekeeping- I have the suit

Rockness enterprise

As I buy a string of onions and shallots from a neighbour the children sell toys and books to passers by.  

If I had a phone I would post a picture

My i phone has not recovered from being put in a white wash, and yes it was a white one.  The girls and I in an attempt to maintain our holiday carbs have just made scones.  No ordinary scones, butterfly, christmas trees, hearts and teddy bear scones. All now washed down with some disappointing homemade strawberry jam and black tea (no milk).
Please see next blog for recovery plan....

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

No photo available

Perfect camping dinner,
No photo available, a good sign as the photo was an after thought after it was all ate with gusto. Sausages cooked ED style - boiled then fried to brown. New potatoes cooked to a smash with lashings of butter and some new season runner beans thrown in for one pot wonder. On the side baked beans souped up with onions, cider, and some chilli chutney. All making wet welsh camping ok.

Rack of, rack off

I am still beavering away at ED, there is a lot to report but I've allowed myself to complicate the process. Convincing myself I don't have time, time, but it only takes seconds, but I didn't take a photo I declare.  Well this is a fine example of a recent dish, rack of something, I have repeated this recipe with rack of roadkill and rack of lamb, rack of lamb was preferable the roadkill was intense.  

Picnic time

Monday, 18 July 2011

Fish Saturday

On Saturday morning I managed to get daughter 2 to ballet for 9am.  Afterwards as the rain hammered we embraced Stroud Farmer's market.  I love the organic fruit and veg in Shambles Market.  I miss my Riverford box and this comes close.  Also in the Shambles Market is a great fish stall,  David Felce and daughters.  With Elizabeth David in hand I chose lemon sole fillets for dinner, whilst standing in the pouring rain I thought it was the day to tick off a fish soup recipe too so I bought some prawns and cod.
When we got home wet through it was time for breakfast, another ED tick, eggs mollet with tinned sardines.  No sooner had we finished breakfast than it was time to cook lunch.  A Nimois soup.  A broth  was made from some carrots, tomatoes a stick of celery, the cod, the prawn shells and a stick of fennel. These were all boiled up together.  A paste was made from breadcrumbs and prawns, crushed together in a pestle and mortar.  The sieved broth was then added to this gradually, with a finish of cream transforming into a deletable soup.
Then for dinner the sole in a cream and onion sauce, (delicious despite burning the shallots),  with home grown kale.
As we sat down to watch the second part of Ghandi I felt disappointed I hadn't achieved more on Saturday, but the food was great and Ghandi even better.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Friday night bliss

It's a friday night and it's been raining cats and dogs all day.  The husband is still not home from work, children to bed, husband still not home from work.  Husband appears, dusted with flour: he's been baking.
Dinner time.  We open wine, red a 2004 bottle of bordeaux, "were we meant to keep that?", "drink it", worth it.  What's for dinner?  Veal escalopes (18 more veal recipes to go).  Escalopes de veau cauchoise, in little more than five minutes I produced the nicest dinner I had eaten all week.  The escalopes were seasoned with salt, pepper and lemon juice.  A peeled apple was diced.  1oz of butter was melted in a pan the escalopes were fried on each side,  the diced apple was added, a heated glass of brandy( calvados or whisky is apparently better)  was ignited and added and finally 1/4 pint of cream all cooked for a couple more minutes.  I braved the rain to pick our first lot of kale, steamed on the side, friday night bliss.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Not my birthday

This is the year of the 60th.  In previous years we have been very wedding focused and since having children it has been all about weddings, to the point that our eldest daughter is being a bridesmaid for the fifth time this year.  The succession of 60th birthdays is not due to our age but our parents and their contemporaries.  This week was the turn of my father-in-law.  After a very successful party of pork, elderflower cocktails and great music, I followed with a subdued dinner for 10 on his actual birthday.  It is usually my privilege to cook this summer dinner ideally eaten outside.
This year the weather let us down and as I prepared the food I thought Elizabeth was going to too.  I had a topside joint of veal (I have 19 more veal recipes to complete), left soaking in a brine of lemons, onions, white wine vinegar, salt and salt petre for four days.  This was then boiled slowly to produce the tenderest of meat.  Veal is a delicious tasty tender light meat, a hit with the kids.  I then used the strained broth to make a beetroot consomme by reboiling it with raw beetroot in.
We started the proceedings with homemade elderflower champagne, this lot didn't fizz over like the last bottle:  disappointing. I then found the perfect accompaniment better than some salted peanuts, fresh home grown podded broad beans raw just sprinkled with sea salt.   Our starter was the beetroot consomme served with small bits of diced beetroot in and a dribble of cream.   I then served the veal with a cucumber salad, minus the nasturtiums I searched Nailsworth for and new potatoes.  In true french style we had a garden green salad and cheese.  All of this was served with the perfect loaf, a shepherds loaf.   For pudding I triumphed with the Elizabeth Classic St Emillion de Chocolat and apricot ice cream.  
The evaluation of the meal concluded in  a pretty good michelin starred meal straight from the 1970’s.  
Before the three 60th birthday parties in July I have my birthday, to start the celebrations I have just shared half a suckling pig with friends.  I can therefore tell you that next weeks article will be telling you mainly what to do with another half of a suckling pig, the veal chapter will have to go on hold for another week.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Real bread at Glastonbury

Changing my mind about my virtual Glastonbury,  Janelle Monae followed by Chemical Brothers.

Cracking on

I have knocked out a lot of Elizabeth David's recipes this weeks, and when I haven't I have found myself cooking much more instinctively with great results.  Tonight for supper we had Williams mackerel fillets.  Tossed in flour fried in olive oil.  I served this with an ED tomato sauce that I had already made which the kids loved.  Frying a chopped onion in butter with salt until softened and yellow, adding to this 6 skinned chopped tomatoes (never any deseeding thanks Elizabeth), a chopped garlic clove, torn celery leaves and some dried basil.  Simmered until soft then passed easily through a mouli.  With this we had pan roasted new potatoes just sauteed in butter with the lid on, on the hob.  I also cooked the last endive recipe with my expensive endives.  Slow cooked in butter in the oven.  
Last night I cooked one of the recipes I was really looking forward to, steak with bone marrow.  I was so determined to cook this I made us have a barbecue in the rain(the recipe sated cooking on charcoal). The bone was simmered gently in water for 20 minutes then the marrow was mixed with shallot and parsley.  The steak sat in olive oil and was well seasoned whilst the barbecue hotted up.  The steak was cooked on one side then flipped and the bone marrow mix was smeared over the top.  We had this with barbecued flat breads and garden chard fried with peppers and a splash of red wine.  I was thoroughly enjoying the steak but not particularly finding the bone marrow flavour until Tom suggested maybe he had just been cooking on coal and all the food tasted funny.  Unfortunately he was probably right, obviously I ate mine anyway.  


Whilst not at Glastonbury, I have been cooking. I came to make some meringues for tomorrow- the eating of the pig.  I normally make Ottolenghi's recipe but I have lent my book to the mother in law.  My first problem was the quantities I had a load of egg whites in the freezer in a measuring jug that I just kept adding too, this meant I needed to weigh them and work with the sugar proportions.  Unfortunately I didn't know the proportions so a mad google bought me to this blog that had the recipe for me, Not only did these girls provide me with my recipe but a beautiful blog, also living locally and some covetable wall paper.
Back to the Meringues, to make good meringues not as good of course as Sasha's at Hobbs House Bakery this is my secret recipe not hers.  Get some egg whites(always freeze surplus), weigh them, weigh twice as much sugar.  Put your sugar in a baking tray on greaseproof and heat until just colouring at the edges.  Meanwhile whisk your egg whites until stiff, then add the heated sugar gradually and whisk until practically cold (10 minutes). Dollop onto the same lined tray used for the sugar. Cook in an oven, either consistently in a low oven or start off in a hot oven until browning then transfer to a low oven.  Then cook for a long time until the bottom is tappable.

A Saturday not spent at Glastonbury

Last night whilst watching U2 at Glastonbury I figured whilst I would love to see U2 at a festival (hopefully without too many U2 fans), the rain may have got the better of me.  I can all too clearly see the predicament of wet, tired, grizzly children not lasting another minute in the rain, not even for us to watch U2, " you who".  Then today watching non stop Glastonbury - amazing job BBC- do we ever need to go again?  I was remaining neutral until they start to announce "later Paulo Nuttini, Friendly Fires followed by Elbow", and the sun is shining.  As a grey cloud hangs over Horsley, Glastonbury is suddenly so appealing.  We even allowed ourselves a game of who would you see, studying the line up in detail, we are left with a Saturday night gap, no to Coldplay, nah to Chemical Brothers, early night? We did go before in 2005 when it rained to Glastonbury/biblical proportions, I was converted, Tom who did more carrying of what was then just two children still needs convincing.  This week Tom delivered to Glastonbury a whole lot of bakery products and is now quietly sitting on the fence over a return visit.  I more proactively will be taking the children to Camp Bestival in July and taking a view as to whether festivals are our future?

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Porked out

After largely assisting with the consumption of 7 hands of pork and it's crackling at the weekend I am feeling  a little porked out.  The combination of Elizabeth and our new Hobbs House Butchery has massively upped our meat consumption, this morning I was imaging having some weeks off meat- once we had ate the forthcoming weekends suckling pig.  But no chance flicking through the book I realise I have  19 veal recipes alone to complete.  Classically I am guilty of leaving all the nasty complicated recipes to last, yes I still have to bone a duck, cook a calf's head and revisit the game waiting in the freezer.
Does anyone fancy dinner?

A birthday lunch and vague instructions

It was a friends 40th birthday so I cooked her lunch.  A Galantine of Pork and ED's crudites.  The galantine appears to be a lighter version to rillettes sitting in stock rather than fat.  The pork was boiled with vegetables herbs, bones, rind and a trotter.  Elizabeth then tells you to chop the pork "not too small", but how small is not too small, for me it meant generous dice, but in eating the galantine I suspect this is too large.  You then add some of the rind and strained stock to this and leave it to set.  I still can't decide whether I like these fatty pork composites.  Elizabeth then gives a recipe for a jelly made with the remaining stock, which I am currently eating for lunch and now have slimed on the keyboard.  The stock was warmed with whisked egg white as the eggwhites gathered grime and sat on the top of the simmering liquid I worked out that they clarify the stock-Thankyou Elizabeth for telling me! This was then strained through a warm rinsed cloth to make a jelly.  Tasty as it is I am not entirely sure of it's purpose, answers on a postcard please? 
As for the crudites, it was great to work my way through her suggestions.  Tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers seasoned and dressed.  Young broad beans picked from the garden, raw with salt.  Carrots grated with shallot, sugar, lemon and oil, celeriac remoulade and radishes.  I also made an egg mayonnaise, thrilled with the mayonnaise I produced in my kitchen aid, with 6 minute boiled eggs on top and a sprinkling of parsley.  
For pudding I made ED's Melon aux fraises des bois, I hollowed out the melon diced the fruit mixed with garden alpine strawberries and raspberries, kirsh and sugar stuffed back into the melon, yum.  A friend made Nigella's lemon polenta cake which was amazing despite the fact the children had gauged handfuls out of it first.   

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Marble cake

I have been making marble cake from Peyton and Byrne's recipe book.  In googling the recipe I was surprised to find my blog as the fourth result, and thought I should probably add the recipe. I always used to make the Baker and Spice recipe but this one has the edge
So here it is the official one,
and here is my minimum washing up quick method,
125g unsalted butter(or omit the salt and use salted)
170g sr flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
200g caster sugar
3 large eggs
1tsp vanilla essence
150g plain yoghurt
40g cocoa powder
60ml boiling water
I used my kitchen aid to cream together the butter and sugar, I then added the eggs alternately with the flour, bicarb and salt.  Then mixing in the yoghurt and vanilla.  In the bowl you have been weighing the ingredients in mix the cocoa with the boiling water.  Then add half the cake batter to the cocoa mix  (Not as the 10 yr old son did and added it all to create a light chocolate cake that didn't win the yummiest cake competition).  Grease and line a loaf tin and dollop alternate spoons of the mixes.  Finally zig zag a line through the mix with a pointed knife to create the ultimate marble effect.  Cook in the oven (180c or bottom right of a four door aga) for 40 minutes.  The proper recipe has a white chocolate icing but ours have always got eaten before I have iced it.

You can't kill a bechamel sauce

Even the greatest attempt to lump a bechamel sauce seems to be reversed by a good whisk.  This evenings attempt at an all in one method with flour not cornflour was salvaged.  I added all the ingredients ignited the hob, was distracted by something I needed to google and retuned to boiling milk but a harsh whisk makes a sauce that I am sure will suffice for a kids macaroni cheese.
Elizabeth recommends making a roux with the butter and flour adding warmed milk cooking then cooking again in a bain marie.
She is yet to convince me that my method of a lump of butter, a bit of cornflour and a slosh of milk is any worse off.

Friday, 27 May 2011

The Little People Company

This week a retail giant said, “There will be no more high streets in smaller towns.  Everybody is dropping small, expensive, inefficient shops”  As Mary Portas hits the headlines as Cameron’s sidekick, this quote presents a pernicious argument against our high street.  Is this what we want for our local towns?  In this debate issues of car parking, price and convenience ring out against uniqueness, community and service.  If you live in the Stroud valleys, fortunately you still have a choice, we have fantastic high streets on our door steps, but if you don’t use them not only will you lose them but you lose your voice to have an opinion too.
I have been exclusively using our local high streets since November and I can repeat, not only is it easy but it’s jolly nice too.  There is nothing nicer than buying something recommended by a knowledgeable assistant.  At the heart of shopping locally is great customer service and it is our job as shopkeepers to uphold this.
The other strong advantage our local towns have over those that have died is being “foodie towns”.  I think that if a town has food in it -butchers, bakers and a greengrocers, they are poised to survive.  Nailsworth and Stroud have these and Cirencester and Tetbury do too.  Not to mention great markets, I believe if people can buy their groceries regularly in a town’s independents then the other shops can survive too. 
This all comes in the same week that one of my favourite shops in Nailsworth that I have been closely involved with closed down.  This just reminds me how essential it is to use them but also what hard work it is to run a shop.  There is a popular but wrong misconception that its an easy life having a shop where you can shut up at five and just walk away. Truth is, there has never been a more challenging time to be in retail. 
I implore you, with a smile for the shopkeeper and an open purse to use your high street and play your part in seeing them thrive. 

The third child

I have been telling friends recently about the joy of having a third child.  Our third child often feels like a reward for the first two.  She is so full of life and energy she brings us constant amusement and challenges.  She arrived four and half years ago,  the tiniest, mellowist thumb sucker.  Now she keeps us all on our toes, I think I will use this post to update you on our daily adventures;
Today she picked the only allium in the garden.
A pink witch;  The picture above was the consequence of her wanting to give away my Mother's Day present.  She had sewn a beautiful flag at playgroup but she was insistent that she wanted to give it to her cousin.  To comfort my disappointment she offered to draw me a picture instead- a pink witch.
Whilst picnicking on a bench last week Josephine asked whether somebody had died on it because"sometimes people do die on benches".
It is this child in asking about where babies come from, and being told of the Mummy and Daddy's special hug, responds "next time you and Daddy make a baby I would really like to watch".
I promised to update you on the life of the third child, we have made it to July with her running circles around me.  I have been met with comments that "sometimes they are just ready for school", is it that I suspect she is just naughty.  I was very aware of not wishing away her pre school year and we have had a lovely time, but now school will do us both good, it just leaves me fearful for the teacher.
Her playgroup report claims she is well behaved and congratulates her on not only knowing the playgroup rules but sharing them with other children!
Last week it was the school fete so after having far more than the other children's allocated £5, she returns begging for another 70p for the bouncy castle, her persuasion works.  She returns grinning cheek to cheek proclaiming she tricked me and got a tattoo instead, and low and behold she had- a pirates ship on her arm.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

1986 Marjorie and Sam High St CS outside shop

Finding myself in new pastures, last Saturday I did all my food shopping in Chipping Sodbury, home of Hobbs House bakery. I can happily confirm that it is totally possible to shop locally at independents in Sodbury too. I managed to buy all I needed for an epic weekend of family feasting in one pretty circuit. Obviously I started in the Bakery with bread, there we also sell cream and milk and an obligatory coffee to drink whilst shopping. Next stop was the Hobbs House butchery, where my eagerly anticipated, well hung rib of beef was waiting for me. I also bought all the ingredients to make a pate (a more normal person could just buy their pate from Henry & Jolly Alan), some cheese, butter, eggs and a slider from outside. On Saturday’s a grill is set up outside where we bought our sliders, a perfectly pink burger in one of Hobbs Houses new ultimate burger baps.
We then purchased some birthday presents from the gift shop on the corner where there is a lovely selection of reasonably priced delights. Then we headed down to Ian’s for his fine selection of fruit and veg. It took my intrepid four year old daughter to find his ‘out the back room’, amazing, stacked high of all the dry goods you could possibly need - in our case hundreds and thousands and dishwasher salt. The service in Ian’s is great, cheery and helpful, they wouldn’t even let me carry my box of goodies to the car outside.
The only thing left on the shopping list was anchovies. Just as I was thinking Sodbury was going to fail me I whizzed to Hamptons where they were thrilled to offer me two types of anchovies. Wherever my lively gaggle stopped to buy, the service was really enjoyable and the quality inspires me to write, cook and share, all at very good value. AND there were plenty of shops that I didn’t get to try.
My plea to you is, don’t just use your local High Streets, before you lose them, encourage your friends and families to use and enjoy them too.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Smoked oatmeal

We received a very exciting looking package in the post the other day, heavy but roundish, bulky and compact.  In the package were some smoked oats from St Monan's in Scotland,  sent from friends.  This was my kind of package.  In looking through the new Peyton and Byrne cookbook that I am loving I quickly set to making chocolate digestives.  The combination of smoked oats, a large pinch of salt and dark chocolate was unique and too much for the children, but more for us.  Their preference was for the great Peyton and Byrne marble cake.
The next test for the smoked oats was for Marefield Pie.  A Wells' family recipe probably only ever to be made by Wells', but I will give you the recipe anyway.  This recipe was originally taken from a pinhead oatmeal packet by my Grandfather in law, and named after where he was living at the time (Marefield).
Tomatoes, fresh or tinned
Pinhead oatmeal
Fry the bacon, add the tomatoes to a simmer, add the oatmeal, cook until tender then add a significant amount of  roughly chopped parsley.  Serve with scrambled or poached eggs on Hobbs House bread for breakfast.


I seem to of have an obsession with dresses.  In years gone by I have spent hours surfing the net looking at dresses I can't afford.  Often in search of something specific I can't afford, be it a wedding dress for my sister or a dress for me to wear to a wedding postnatally that I wouldn't possibly fit into.  Searching the likes of Net-a-porter, Matches or Browns I mastered the technique of either looking at the awe inspiring most expensive to start, "purely for inspiration".  Then reversing to cheapest first, a hard button to hit and swallow.  Anyway with these credit crunch times and shopping locally I had diverted my passion, maybe to Elizabeth David.
Since April 29th, I have mainly been obsessing about dresses again, oh yes those of Kate Middleton but this week Michelle Obama v's Sam Cam.  I think Michelle wins hand down, partly because Sam Cam's royal wedding Burberry efforts just didn't do it for me.  So in between watching clips of grounded limo's and awkward high fives and barbecues I have mainly been perving over the dresses.

Summer supper- why's it not hot

Long live the rib of beef.
We continue to eat the rib of beef.  The rib of beef that cost me a fortune on Saturday but sat resplendent on Sunday for the ultimate Sunday Lunch to celebrate my dear Granny's 88th birthday.
On Wednesday we are still eating it with one more night to go.  Tonight I thought I must get back onto Elizabeth.  The roast beef is so beautifully pink that I can't bear to reheat it so we are eating it cold, hence the cries from the children, "why's it not hot?"  Tonight I made some salads to accompany.  An ED potato salad, new potatoes cooked on the underdone side, then peeled, sliced, seasoned and dressed with olive oil, a splash of white wine vinegar and some snipped chives from the garden.  The potatoes were delicious, probably because of the lumps of sea salt, even more yummy on a bit of baguette - why do double carbs taste so good?  I also made ED's version of salsa verde, Sauce Ravigote.  I used my hand held chopper whizzer thing to cut the herbs (watercress, parsley, garden chives and tarragon), capers and a gherkin mixed with olive oil "a thread of lemon" and a splash of vinegar. I added the optional dijon too, this is pretty much as I would make a salsa verde, this is not as my four year old would who was in charge of the whizzer- the result was pureed Sauce Ravigote.  
I am now officially back on with Elizabeth David and looking forward to the changing seasons and the different recipes.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Terrine de campagne

Another attempt at terrine.  Good, good, good but a little overcooked. This is Elizabeth David's recipe for pork and liver pate.  I bought minced pork and veal from Henry's butcher along with a pigs liver and some flare fat too.  The meats and seasonings were all mixed together (I chopped the liver rather than mincing it), some brandy and wine was added too. I left this all to stand whilst we ate dinner and then cooked it in a bain marie whilst watching the King's Speech.  Being possibly the last people to watch it we were rather engrossed and forgot about the pate.  The result was a tasty, good looking slightly over cooked terrine.  None the less this is probably my best so far, the seasoning is right and it looks a lot less anaemic than previous attempts. 

The Hungry Caterpillar and Eurovision

This column for the Stroud News and Journal was written whilst watching the Eurovision, spot the songline;
This week I have unintentionally had a week off cooking Elizabeth David, this means I will be popular with the kids.  But for us this didn’t mean a low calorie week with appetites similar to that of The Hungry Caterpillar we haven’t starved. In writing this column I realize we have almost exclusively eaten veal, of course not the controversial white meat but rose veal an ethical by-product of the dairy industry.
My culinary week usually starts on a Sunday with a joint of meat that must have leftovers to get us started at the beginning of the week.  Last Sunday it was the turn of Elizabeth David’s Epaule de Veau Boulangere.  Rose veal pot roasted on potatoes made for tender meat and succulent potatoes.  On Monday night the kids had veal stir fry; veal with peppers and noodles and a chinese five spice sauce.  On Tuesday night the truffle omelette was put on hold due to an impromptu dinner cooked by the butcher brother in law.  Fortunately he has maintained his chef skills and stayed with the theme and cooked us veal meatballs with pasta and a chilli tomato sauce and some homegrown chard.  On Wednesday I made the truffle omelette for lunch - overrated, I think I need to experience some different truffles to discover their true beauty.  For dinner it was veal stroganoff and rice.  On Thursday we took the kids to the Bistro. Tired of their groans about us leaving them with the baby sitter when we indulge our habit of a weekly visit, we all headed down and, oh heck we had breaded Rose Veal and Triple fried chips.  In amongst some splendid seasonal starters and scrumptious chocolate truffles.  On Friday it was Little Chef Friday, we were out for a friends birthday and the kids cooked for themselves unaided - frankfurters in baguette and homemade smoothies!  On Saturday we ate a beautiful butterfly -we didn’t it was a skate wing- similar (here ends the Hungry Caterpillar comparison).  
This week I fed us on just leftovers and everything else was from Horsley Community Shop.  On Saturday I needed a picnic and food for the weekend in a rush, this was achieved in just two shops in Nailsworth(Williams and the bakery), with helpful advise it was quick, delicious and good value.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011


 Local and seasonal are serious buzz words in the food industry at the moment.  As fuel prices rise, it makes sense to source locally and of course eat what is in season.  For me, this is epitomized by asparagus;  it’s got to be English, and despite its short season, producers race to achieve the earliest crop.  As we drove through Somerset on the Easter weekend, my heart raced at the asparagus signs at the side of the road, there is no better way to eat it than straight from the field.  
Back in Nailsworth on Tuesday, the highlight of my week was as I went to pay for my one humble packet of asparagus at the local greengrocers and I found seven for the same price in the bargain box.  So this week we have mainly been eating asparagus.  To prepare it I edge my knife along the bottom until you can cut off the woody end through a tender stem.  This year I have resorted to boiling it, after years of grilling, I learnt from the chef at the bistro that a thirty second boil before grilling or barbecuing gives a much tastier stalk.  I have also followed Elizabeth David’s recipe of boiling in bunches standing upright in the pan for less than ten minutes.
We have enjoyed asparagus with a dippy egg, asparagus in a salad and of course there has to be english asparagus in the Royal Wedding picnic.  According to Elizabeth David there is no better way to serve it than with a hollandaise or mayonnaise.  I have now perfected my hollandaise in any quantity.  By whisking an egg yolk with some salt and a splash of white wine vinegar, over a bain marie I then whisk in knobs of unsalted butter, (about 2oz per egg yolk), and stir until thickened.  As for mayonnaise, I only seem to be able to make this with a minimum of 3 egg yolks, again whisked with salt, I then add up to half a pint of olive oil drop by drop stirring by hand.  When it’s like a thick jelly I add a little lemon juice then a tablespoon of boiling water, if it’s to last. 
I urge you all to go out and find some local asparagus, and even if you just smear it in butter, never will English food taste any better.   

Roast chicken and baked beans

Last night for an impromptu dinner for four I served Roast chicken and tarragon and haricot beans with onion and tomatoes.  The chicken I am sure I have already done but hadn't ticked off in the book.  It was stuffed with butter loaded with tarragon and roasted smeared in olive oil and turned during cooking.  A flaming ladle of brandy was poured over the cooked chicken before popping it back in the oven for five more minutes to mellow the brandy.  To the juices I added a little cream and a splosh of madeira.  Really yummy but I wish I had drained the fat off first- I must get better at removing fat.  I decided at lunchtime to cook haricot beans rather than new potatoes.  This meant that I hadn't soaked the beans but I remembered in an earlier ED recipe that she said to bring the beans to the boil then leave them to soak in that water.  I left them until I needed to cook them(two hours max), I then boiled them in fresh water with an onion studded with a clove, a celery stick and a bouquet garni.  ED recommends seasoning the beans just for the last ten minutes of cooking.  The beans were then drained and the onion reserved.  This onion was fried in butter with two skinned tomatoes for a couple of minutes.  The beans were then added and some of the chicken juices.  We served this with hot wild white bread and wye valley asparagus. absolutely delicious although I think our guests believed they were baked beans!

Wild White

E71W8195 by HOBBS HOUSE bakery
E71W8195, a photo by HOBBS HOUSE bakery on Flickr.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Humble jam tart

Yesterday I realised it was time I got my head back into Elizabeth David.  I am about half way through now, not bad in four months.  A busy week had meant that Elizabeth had been overlooked.  I managed to complete all the lobster recipes with the lobster we brought home from Scotland.  Then this week was somewhat busy with Easter and our daughter's 9th birthday- she did not want Elizabeth David for her birthday dinner.  Lasagne was her choice but I did sneak in a cucumber salad and cooked asaparagus a la ED.
Last night the in-laws came for dinner they bought the meat and I did the rest.  A good opportunity for some ED action, carrots, potatoes and shallots cooked together.  the carrots and new potatoes were boiled to two thirds cooked then fried in butter with shallots and a final sprinkling of parsley.  I revisited her onion sauce which is delicious and just tastes of an Elizabeth David classic.
For pudding I made her Bourdaines  -apples baked in pastry.  Eating apples were peeled and cored. I then made her pate sablee(pastry).  This was divided up for the apples.  Rolled into an individual square the apple was placed on top and the core filled with quince jelly.  The apple was wrapped in the pastry and baked in the oven for an hour, unfortunately the jelly seemed to escape so it wasn't as juicy as I hoped.  The by product was probably more successful, I used the leftover pastry to make jam tarts filled with quince jelly, yum.
Pate sablee recipe,
6oz butter
12oz plain flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
5 teaspoons of sugar
Mix together, (I used my kitchen aid) until like sand then bind together with a few tablesppons of cold water.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Pot au feu

 I bring you Pot au Feu, the tremendous French Peasant dish which is exactly what we should all be cooking in frugal times.  This dish, call it a  stew or a soup or both continues my ongoing theme of “how to feed your family for a week”. For the meat I used beef flank, oxtail, bone marrow, ox liver, knuckle of veal and chicken giblets.  For the vegetables, carrots, leeks, grilled tomatoes, a little celery, parsnip turnip and an onion studded with cloves.  What you are left with is a consomme, cooked meat and stewed vegetables.
In true Elizabeth David style there were no details on how to serve it. After transporting it to Scotland we set about deconstructing it and deciding what bits to eat.  The kids had the flank with consomme and carrots served with pasta.  Tom and I eagerly dug into the different bovine bits, savoring them all like children in a sweet shop.  The next night the vegetables and the oxtail became a more conventional stew, which was a pasta sauce for the kids the next night.  The consomme was amazing from a flask on the beach and a divine espresso cup of a starter for friends.  I was never convinced I fancied the broth but one sip and the flavour totally won us over,we were hooked.
The flank had the most meat on, so this made delicious beef sandwiches with dijon mustard on shepherds loaf- the 2 kilo spelt sourdough loaf, bought from home that “fed the family for a week”. The last meal we got from the pot was a beef salad, basically the cooked beef cut small, mixed with a salsa verde, perfectly simple and so, so good.
In reading up on Pot au Feu I now realize we missed a trick,  the bone marrow should have been served on toast with the consomme.  The bone marrow was the only disappointing bit and just tasted fatty on it’s own and no match for the famous St John’s roasted bone marrow we adore.  
I will be making this again, not only for the bone marrow but for the joy of cooking a meal of the cheapest cuts of meat that can nourish us all week long. 


It's with a tear in our eyes that our week in Pittenweem ends.  We came on a mission, not only a much needed holiday, a catch up with friends but to cook lobster.  8 lobsters later I will be leaving Fife with some more ticks in the book and a very full belly.  We have been staying in a fisherman's cottage and have loved watching the day boats coming in.  Pittenweem has a working harbour and was where Raymond Blanc visited recently to find the very best lobsters.  Whilst here I have cooked ED's two recipes for homard a l'americane and boiled up another 4 to take home for the rest of the recipes.  The two recipes vary slightly, both require you to kill the lobster and cut it into pieces.  I have just discovered I am scarred of lobsters and have a tendency to squeal like a girl when they move in my hand, our 4 year old daughter is fearless and has been racing them across the floor.   
In the first recipe you saute the lobster in butter then add the sauce, the second you make the sauce and add the lobster pieces to it.  I will give you the recipe for the second, well my slight variation of it.
Melt a lot of butter in a pan, add an equal amount of grated carrots and shallots(a cupful of each).  To this add 1/2 a bottle of dry white wine(chablis), a bouquet of parsley, 5 cloves of garlic, 2 skinned diced tomatoes, olive oil, 3 tablespoons each of cream and meat juice, a good seasoning of pepper, a pinch of saffron and curry powder.  This was the simmered for forty minutes.  For this one we(Tom) just killed and halved the lobsters and these were added to the sauce and cooked for about 30 minutes -I love seeing the colour transformation from black to the deepest pink.  Tom (my now uber capable helper- lobster killer) was sent to the fisherman's pub with a mug to get a double shot of cognac.  He returned triumphant for me to heat it, light it in a ladle and pour flaming over the lobsters.  I then removed the lobsters to a serving dish (ED recommends a timbale), I then mixed in the greenish bits (liver?) and some parsley into the sauce and poured it over the lobster.  We served ours with rice which was quite nice to soak up the juices but not completely necessary.
Today we have boiled up the remaining 4 lobsters.  I added to some heavily salted water a halved red pepper, 2 leeks and a glass of madeira.  When this was boiling we put in the live lobsters(2 at a time), head first tuned onto their back.  I did manage two after a brief melt down over the one full of roe (motherly instincts flowing, or too much Nemo), suddenly moving in my hand prompting me to drop it and squeal to the taunting chants of my children.  
The lobsters were then left to cool in the broth and Tom kindly removed all the meat.  This will travel home with us to make homard a la charentaise(sounds like a thermidor recipe) and homard courchamps which is in soy and mustard.  If there is any meat left ED has a few fish in mayo recipes I could tick off with the lobster.
As for the broth I was just pleased with myself as I whizzed it up and added some cooked crab(we also cooked 6 crabs), and a splash of cream to it to make a delicious crab soup.
If you can't envisage the lobster picture enough the boys have made a film, here it is,

Climb a mountain

On Wednesday we decided to climb a mountain.  Before departure I advised the kids to dress up warm, so independently they all appeared waring all their clothes they had with them for a weeks holiday.  JP was probably the record holder with 6 tops and 2 pairs of tights and a dress.  As we loaded our michelin men into the car with the crab sandwiches we headed from east to west to Argyll and Bute.  Of course in true Herbert style there was a bakery enroute that needed visiting.  We dropped in at Mhor in Callender for a fine illy coffee and a bright pink lamington.  An inspirational family run bakery with lovely packaging, macaroni pies and a fine bouncy sourdough.  
Then we headed through the scenery of 'real Scotland' in search of a mountain suitable for a family to climb.  A car sick stop later- just remove the top two layers(four to go), we were hungry for our lunch.  We stopped by Loch Lommond with our crab sandwiches and planned a route.  From here there were various  marked routes up.  So we headed up Cobbler or was it Arthur, with the boy enthusiastic to carry his back pack the whole way.  The girls bought up the rear removing a layer every 50metres intermittently with filling their pockets with crystals.  As we walked through the forest there was debates to stop but we made it above the tree line conquered Herbert Eagle ledge and ate the last of the birthday fridge cake.
The walk down was a cinch then a mad dash to the original Loch Fyne oyster restaurant before last orders made an oh so perfect day.
Some lessons learnt;
You don't need six layers to climb a mountain on a sunny day.
You do need more than 2 bottles of water between 6
Wear shorts not tights to brown legs
Take a bag to carry stripped off layers
Take more apples

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Sunny day

Generally I feel pretty fortunate to live the life I do, somedays this is especially highlighted. At the moment with the sun shining extraordinaire as the season changes this is somewhat exaggerated. There was the day when me and my girls cycled down to Nailsworh for a Saturday morning shop, legs out, hair blowing in the wind when you can't want to be anywhere else. Last week the hound and I strolled down our lane to get some wild garlic to take home and knock up some pesto to top a soup, bliss.
Actually I'll give you a recipe to make quickly before the season turns,
A handful of wild garlic leaves
Lightly fried pine nuts, a handful
Glug of olive oil
Grated pecorino
Whizz together, I used my hand held blender
Back to the point, one of my highlighted beautiful living on the top of the world days, was the day I had Silvana de Soissons for lunch.
She writes for the Foodie Bugle and here it is
This was a perfect kind of a day for me, a racing around kind of a day, but one of food, shopping and walking. The two big children were dropped at school and me and the smalls dropped the car at the garage. A quick last minute shop in Nailsworth for lunch, Wild White from the bakery, cream from Williams, collect some ordered books from the bookshop, then a quick walk home up the hill home to prepare for lunch. The next child was delivered to school and after some dodgy directions on my part Silvano arrived. As the smallest slept we enjoyed a scrummy lunch of nettle soup, rillettes and salad nicoise. This was followed by a flat but divine chocolate and almond cake and coffee. As Silvano left I raced along our sunny lane to fetch the big kids and reflected on why this was exactly the kind of life I want to lead.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Birthday dinner

The husband has got another year older today, so what better opportunity than to have a day of constant eating.
We started with tea and Easter biscuits in bed. For breakfast I was thinking I would just knock up a half hearted scrambled eggs and bacon, then I remembered I could do better than out. Eggs Benedict is always the dream and the breakfast I yearn to go out for, and mostly disappointed by-last time they had the cheek of serving it with a cheese sauce. We had Henry's delicious home cured bacon with a reasonable attempt at a poached egg with hollandaise on shepherds loaf, good enough. Then for the birthday cake, ok it was only 10am, but why not it was his birthday. The scales batteries had run out so me and the eldest daughter knocked up a fridge cake, loaded with marshmallows, dried apricot and honey. Then for a visit to the great Pittenweem oatcake producers Adamsons. An amazing place selling fine handmade oatcakes from their bakery just on a Monday. The next food stop was at a chocolate shop, Tom needed a coffee and why not have a birthday waffle with the finest raspberry jam too.
Next I managed to persuade the family to head out for a long walk, not even having an ice cream on the way. We did have the oatcakes with some gorwydd caerphilly cheese and chutney. The really highlight was Tom's delicious perfect birthday present of a pack of Tunnock's tea cakes, consumed on a beach as we neared the final destination- a beautiful beach with a pub selling fine local ale and homemade scotch eggs-inevitable.
The next via was a farm shop 'for food lovers', where I got some accompaniments for dinner.
We then arrived home to find hanging and clicking in our kitchen 2 lobsters and 6 crabs. The dinner menu was, consommé from the pot au feu, lobster and local asparagus. The lobster recipe from Elzabeth David involved chopping a live lobster-husband steps in with pig knife,and sautéed with shallots, butter, tomato and wine. Of course with the final addition of butter and some tasty internal lobster bit, divine.
Now for the crap tv and salted caramels, bliss.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

edible new nephew

This new nephew is delicious, weighing in at 9lb 11 he is totally scrumptious.  This nephew bought to us three sleepless nights of anticipation and a visit to the Coop for rations- clearly this was worst for his parents.  A long labour demanded a supermarket sweep for some essentials, my first break of independent shopping since November.  
This also called for some cooking, celebration cookies, a Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall recipe from his family cookbook and some restorative chicken soup.

6oz of ox liver

Good job I have got a forgiving butcher as a brother in law. " How much of the ox liver did you want?" he asks.  "The whole one? " Just 6oz of the 7kg beast please.  
I am now trying to tackle more of the meat chapter which seems to be a lot of the remaining recipes.  The next recipe on the list is Pot au feu.  This contains a vast selection of meat that I hope will feed us for a week,  I'll let you know how it goes and watch out for the special on ox liver at the Hobbs House Butchery, Chipping Sodbury.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Mushroom soup recipe

I am now so familiar with ED* French Provincial Cooking that I know when I see mushrooms on offer in my local greengrocers that I have a mushroom soup recipe with bread in left to cook.  The said mushrooms were chestnut (my current favourite) at half price which meant I bought double the amount I needed, oops. I decided to triple the recipe as ED's soup recipes often make a small amount, for me soup is something that keeps in the fridge for lunch for a week until you are thoroughly bored of it.
This seems unlikely with this recipe as not only do I obsess about mushrooms but love mushroom soup.  And of course in true ED style the recipe was a resounding success.  My love affair is continuing to grow as all her recipes including the ones with stingy instructions and vague amounts turn out fantastically.  The only crosses in the book for me are ones where the effort out weighs the flavour.
2lb 4oz mushrooms, rinsed, patted dry and chopped small
3oz butter
nutmeg or mace
2 slices of bread
3 pints of stock(I used up the last of the goose, chicken or beef could be used)
4oz cream
Soak the slices of bread in a little stock.
Melt the butter , fry the mushrooms, when the juices run add the crushed garlic, chopped parsley, add a little salt, pepper and mace or nutmeg.
Stew for several minutes, enjoy the smell.
Squeeze some of the moisture out of the bread, add to the mushrooms, add the stock.  Cook for fiftee minutes until tender.  Blend to a puree, reheat add the cream and some more parsley.
Bon appetit.

*ED=Elizabeth David