You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘food’ category.
Every Sunday thousands of British friends and families sit down together to eat a veritable feast of roasted meat served with accompaniments. Typical meats for roasting are joints of beef, pork, lamb or a whole chicken. The Sunday roast is accompanied by roast potato or mashed potato, Yorkshire pudding or stuffing, vegetables and gravy.
There are (at least) two opinions on the origins of the Sunday roast. One holds that, during the industrial revolution, Yorkshire families left a cut of meat in the oven before going to church on a Sunday morning, which was then ready to eat by the time they arrived home at lunchtime. The second opinion holds that the Sunday roast dates back to medieval times, when the village serfs served the squire for six days a week. Then on the Sunday, after the morning church service, serfs would assemble in a field and practice their battle techniques and were rewarded with a feast of oxen roasted on a spit.
Whatever the origins, the Sunday roast lunch is a fine British institution. Steve and I don’t observe it every single week, but we had our dear friends to stay this past weekend and decided to go out to The Huntsman Inn in Ide.
It was a perfect English summer day, sunny and warm. The trees and hedgerows were in full leaf. We picked up a hitchhiker for part of the journey.
The hedges were filled with foxgloves and roses.
Bees hurled themselves into their pollen-filled centres.
On any expedition, the journey is as important as the arrival. We took the back lanes into Ide and the lane segued into a small river. We decided to blaze ahead!
We arrived in the village of Ide, pronounced /ˈiːd/, rhymes with ‘feed’.
As soon as we parked and entered the garden behind the pub, some of us immediately collapsed on a shabby chic upholstered bench to bask in the sunshine.
The Sunday roast menu offers local beef or pork belly and 8 hour-cooked lamb from Cornwall with all the trimmings. There was ‘Today’s Special’ of pan fried line caught wild sea bass which tempted at least one of us, but in the end, we all opted for four-legged flesh. The price was right at £12.
We had a pre-lunch drink in the garden,
before going inside to claim our table.
There was an excellent wine list from which we chose a very nice bottle of red.
The food was exquisite. I don’t think that any words could speak more eloquently than this:
We had a few questions about the food , eg, What kind of fat is used in the Yorkshire pud? Vegetable oil. What breed of lamb? Not sure, but it’s from Cornwall. Are the potatoes deep-fried too? No, just the parsnip.
Our charming host and maitre d’ Andy patiently ferried our queries and the answers to and from the kitchen. He also gave us sample menus for lunch, weekday evening meals and the very special Friday & Saturday night meals to take with us. Sample menus because, of course, the menu changes weekly depending on what’s in season.
After lunch, we went for a stroll along the river.
A sterling pub lunch in a great location with a warm welcome. We will definitely be back for an evening meal, not to mention many Sunday lunches. BTW, The Huntsman Inn didn’t win the award for Devon Life Best Dining Pub of the Year in 2012 for nuthin’.
I first saw this Chocolate Pear Tart recipe in May’s The Observer Food Monthly and squirreled it away. On my way into work on Thursday I picked up some more asparagus from the Farmer’s Market and these gorgeous pears from The Real Food Store. If you recall, I already had designs on an Asparagus & Roquefort Tart.
Then I thought, ‘Hmmm . . . each tart serves 8. Steve + I = 2.’ Luckily we have friends living just down the street and around the corner that we can message on Facebook and implore to come over and help us out with a couple of tarts.
So we had a last minute, ad hoc dinner party on Saturday night .
I forgot to take photos of the Asparagus & Roquefort Tart (which was lovely) so I promise to make it again before the end of asparagus season. We also had a bottle each of New Zealand and Austrian Pinot Gris which I shall report on in due course.
But onto the chocolate one!
Alistair pointed out that it looks very like a Stargazey Pie – a Cornish dish of pilchards baked under a pastry crust, with fishheads poking through the crust as though gazing skywards! The pie originates from village of Mousehole where fisherman Tom Bawcock once saved fellow villages from starvation through a record catch in stormy seas. The fish were baked poking out to prove there really were fish inside the pies.
Chocolate Brownie and Pear Tart
Makes 8 portions
For the poached pears
- water 1 litre
- sugar 250g
- lemon juice of½
- pears 8, whole and peeled
For the brownie filling
- dark chocolate 185g
- butter 185g
- large eggs 3
- light brown sugar 275g
- cocoa powder 40g
- white chocolate buttons 100g (optional)
For the pastry base
- flour 240g
- soft butter 180g
- water 60ml
- salt a pinch
You will also need a 28cm tart tin*
To make the pastry, place the flour on a work surface. Make a well in the centre and add the salt and soft butter. Slowly bring the flour into the centre and mix with your fingertips to a crumbly texture. Then add water and work the dough with the palms of your hands till smooth. Wrap in clingfilm and place in fridge for 30 minutes.
Once the pastry is chilled, roll out the dough to 4mm thick and line the tart tin, making sure all the sides are pressed in so it sticks against the side eliminating any air bubbles. Leave a slight overhang all around the tin and blind bake at 200C/gas mark 6 with baking beans, till a lovely golden colour.
To cook the poached pears, place the water, sugar and lemon juice into a medium pan and bring to the boil to dissolve the sugar. Place the whole, peeled pears in a pan with enough syrup to cover them before adding a piece of greaseproof paper (with a hole in the middle to allow the steam to escape). Bring to the boil, simmer for 10 minutes or until the pears are tender. Cool in the syrup.
To make the brownie, melt the dark chocolate and butter over a bain-marie. Place the eggs and sugar in a bowl and whisk until white and fluffy, then pour the melted chocolate mixture over. Next add the cocoa powder and fold in with a plastic spatula. Possibly add the white chocolate buttons and mix.
A quick word about the buttons. I used Green & Black’s dark baking chocolate and cocoa for the filling. We got Nestlé Milkybar white chocolate buttons from the Moreton Co-op. Inferior chocolate from an evil company.
I forgot to add them and I don’t think the recipe suffered one bit. So my advice is to add buttons at your discretion.
Spoon in the chocolate mix into the pie shell. Cut the pear in two, across the middle, so you have a top and bottom section and push the eight tops around the outside of the tart. Next, core out the middle of the bottom sections and cut into two pieces. As you will have too much pear you will only want to use half of the bottom pear sections for this recipe. Cut in two again before adding to the centre of the tart and between the tops.
Reduce the oven temperature to 180C/gas mark 4. Bake for 20-25 minutes or less if you like it gooey in the middle.
* I also misread the pan size and used a 23 cm instead of a 28 cm one. With the resulting leftover filling, I made a small pan of chocolate pear brownies which I sent home with one of our guests.
We offered a choice of clotted cream or double cream with the tart. It was pretty darn good!
Steve and I, well mostly I, have been orgiastically gorging ourselves on asparagus for the past 6 weeks. We’ve stopped eating the year round stuff flown in from Peru, so it’s a special treat when English asparagus begins to appear in the shops and on menus. Ironically, the first asparagus we had this year probably was from Peru, because we had it at a Peruvian Kitchen & Pisco Bar, Ceviche, that we stumbled upon in Soho in early May (and stumbled out from after a couple of rounds of Pisco cocktails). You’ll hear more about Ceviche and Pisco later. Today, it’s all about asparagus!
At Ceviche, we popped our 2013 asparagus cherry with grilled white and green asparagus with Huancaina sauce.
White asparagus is being grown and sold in British markets for the first time this year. I haven’t seen any in Devon, but I’ll be sure to hunt some down in 2014. To be honest with you, I couldn’t really taste the difference, but it may have been due to the sauce and the watercress baffling my taste buds.
BTW, Huancaina sauce is a spicy, cheesy cream. Of course I had it with a glass of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc to keep the coppers off my tail.
I had hoped to find an ‘A is for Asparagus’ alphabet illustration for this post, like the Kate Greenaway illustrations, but this was the best I could find:
However, I found a veritable cornucopia of vintage crate labels online. They are visually fabulous and as I am a California Girl they have a special place in my heart, since 80% of American asparagus is grown in the Golden State.
Back to the UK. Our ‘local’ asparagus is mainly from Worcestershire, Herefordshire and my ‘home’ county of Devonshire. Asparagus-wise, the Vale of Evesham is da’ bomb though.
These honeys are from The Real Food Store, a whole food market in Exeter.
We normally prepare and eat asparagus as simply as possible. Break the tough parts of the stems off, steam for about 6-8 minutes and then finish them off in the grill for about 2 minutes, brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper. After removing from the grill, annoint with lemon juice and zest, if you have it. Sometimes we have a side of Hellman’s mayo with some lemon juice stirred in.
Yep, English asparagus is the best in the world, but we don’t do cute labels like the Yanks do.
Asparagus is an elegant vegetable. It makes a fabulous accompaniment to the likes of chicken breast fillets in a lemon caper sauce
or grilled lamb chops with mint pesto and boiled new potatoes.
At first, I couldn’t figure out the relevance of Holland and Dutch motifs in these labels. Then I found, with a few clicks of the mouse, that the Holland Land Company was incorporated in 1916. Its operations headquarters were in Reclamation District 999, Clarksburg, California, Yolo County. During the 1920s, the Holland Land Co. owned more than fifty thousand acres in Solano and Yolo Counties. The company used equipment including clamshell dredges, ditchers, draglines, pumps, and tractors to build levees and canals and reclaim Delta marshland. The company built roads, bridges, and buildings on its land and planted a wide variety of crops. The Holland Land Co. was dissolved in 1942.
I found these particularly striking and my eye is always caught by images of Native Americans, although they have nothing to do historically with asparagus. But I won’t get started on cultural misappropriation since, it’s all about asparagus!
Finally, my most recent purchase.
I’ve separated the stalks out into slender, for tonight’s supper of Tagliatelle with Asparagus, Crispy Pancetta & Parmesan, and plumper for tomorrow night’s dinner party dish of Asparagus and Roquefort Tart. Yes, we are going to sail out of asparagus season in fine style.
My parents were from the South and I grew up eating Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day. Black eyed peas were cooked and seasoned with the hock from the Christmas ham, some greens and served with cornbread. “Peas for pennies, greens for dollars, and cornbread for gold,” said the old expression. “Eat poor on New Year’s, and eat fat the rest of the year,” echoed the refrain. Steve and I eat this New Year’s Day meal of humble peasant food with our vermin candle holders on the table.
We had acquired a ham a couple of days after Christmas, but when we went to the market, alas, there were no black eyed peas.
Never mind. We picked up some duck legs to make into confit and had some dried haricot vert beans, so I invented a new prosperity dish for the New Year, Jean le canard sautillant. Which more or less translates to John the Hopping Duck, I think.
To make the beans, (I’d clean forgot to soak them on New Year’s Eve) I brought them to the boil and let them stand for an hour before draining them. I sweated an onion and half each of a red, yellow and orange pepper we had in the fridge. Added the beans, ham hock, chunks of ham and seasoned it with oregano, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper. Then let it cook for several hours on a low heat.
I had remembered to prep the duck legs. As is my wont, I read about 6 recipes and came up with a plan of attack. My first port of call was to consult Larousse Gastronomique, the definitive French cooking encyclopedia and one of my Christmas presents. Its a gorgeous bronze-covered, black-slipcased English edition, weighs in at 8 lbs. and contains 1,206 pages of techniques, recipes and definitions. It is an incredibly interesting and useful resource.
Confit is a piece of pork, goose, turkey or duck cooked in its own fat and stored in a pot, covered in the same fat to preserve it. Since I was only making a couple of duck legs and they wouldn’t be around for very long, I did a quick version in which they were not immersed in fat whilst cooking.
The night before, I seasoned the legs with salt, pepper, fresh thyme and a splash of brandy. The next morning, I put them in a covered dish with a couple of big spoonfuls of goose fat and cooked them in a very low oven (100°C) for a few hours until the meat was fork tender. Then I lifted them from the fat and seared them in a very hot oven (225°) for about 25 minutes to get the skin really crispy.
A fantastic meal to start the new year. BTW, Hoppin’ John isn’t in Larousse Gastronomique. Go figger!
Steve and I getting together with my American cousin and her family on Sunday to celebrate Thanksgiving. They’re living with their new baby #5 in a beautiful part of Devon called the South Hams. Susan and I Skyped last night to finalize the menu. All the usual suspects: Turkey, sage and onion stuffing, cranberry sauce, roasted root vegetables, sweet potatoes & marshmallows, a curious side dish of green beans and canned mushroom soup topped with crispy fried onions which would only appear on a Thanksgiving table, cornbread and of course, pecan pie.
We divvied up the list and I’ll be doing some cooking on Saturday. They’re getting the turkey from Aune Valley Meat, a family run butchers. They went to check it out a couple of days ago and said the turkeys are still alive and kickin’ and one will be butchered to order for our feast on Sunday. It will be slowly cooked in an AGA, so should be fantastic!
I got to thinking about a Fabulous Furry Freak Brother cartoon I read when I was about eight. I grew up in the 1960′s in Southern California and my big sibs were hippies, so I used to peruse their stash of Underground Comix. Of course I didn’t understand most of them at the time. This one’s pretty funny. For a closer look you can click on it and zoom in.
Of course the Aune Valley crew will probably be using a more traditional butchering method!
I hope everybody in the US has had a good and happy Thanksgiving and that you all have plenty to be thankful for. Lots of love x
Let’s begin with the food! Steve and I have at least one very grand meal of poultry each year.
We get our fowl from Michael Howard whose shop is conveniently located across the street from us.
The first was Caneton à l’Orange in 2009, for our first Christmas celebration in our Home. Steve cooked, using Julia Child’s classic recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, while I luxuriated in the bath tub. I emerged around the same time the duck came out of the oven.
Steve had prepared the sauce beforehand and it went to the table in about 3 minutes, very beautifully presented I might add.
Our great friends John and Jayne came for an Autumn weekend in 2010 and we roasted a goose for the occasion. They are pretty large birds, but the Michaelmas (Sept/Oct) goose is smaller than the Christmas goose and perfect for 4. They are quite fatty so a rack is essential. We collected and saved the goose fat for roast potatoes.
Goose is my favourite fowl. The flesh is very savoury and rich and the crisp skin is outstanding. I’ve only had it three times and look forward to the fourth.
We had a big Thanksgiving gathering in 2011.
Steve masterminded the bird. I’m always very impressed by his ability to wear a dress shirt whilst cooking and remain absolutely spotless.
This weekend, Jayne and John came to visit. We very nearly had goose again, but decided to make Pâté de Canard en Croûte, aka Boned Stuffed Duck Baked in a Pastry Crust. This is another recipe from Julia Child which you can find on pp. 571-6 in the aforementioned book.
First, we made a pork and veal farce, which is a meat mixture used as a base for paté. The pork gives flavour and the veal gives lightness. BTW, we use free-raised rose veal, from calves raised in the pasture and who have unlimited access to their mother’s milk and pasture grasses. Our butcher boned the duck, as we were too busy with other occupations to devote the necessary time and concentration to the task.
We haven’t a trussing needle, so I deftly tied and bound the stuffed skin with cook’s string.
I’m a dab hand at pastry making and had earlier prepared and chilled some pâte brisée. I did have a look at a few blog posts about this dish and I was dismayed to see that many cyberchefs merely dotted the pastry enrobed duck in circles of pastry, making it look like a polkadot clown shoe. I have some Autumn leaf pastry cutters in my batterie de cuisine and Steve used these shapes to decorate the croûte.
Prior to serving, we cut around the seam of the lid and lifted the meat out to remove the trussing string.
Although Julia Child recommends serving this chilled, we had it warm the first night with a salad of baby lettuce dressed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, Gorgonzola, pear and walnuts.
We had it chilled the following evening and we all felt that the flavours and texture of the pâte was much improved. Everyone asked me if I was going to blog about it. I said “I’m planning a post entitled ‘Duck, duck goose’”. “What is ‘Duck, duck, goose?” they asked.
One of the first games I learned when I was in kindergarten. Apparently it’s a North American game.
A group of players sit in a circle, facing inward, while another player, the “picker” (a.k.a. the “fox”), walks around tapping or pointing to each player in turn, calling each a “duck” until finally picking one to be a “goose”. The “goose” then rises and chases and tries to tag the “picker”, while the “picker” tries to return to and sit where the “goose” had been sitting. If the picker succeeds, the “goose” is now the new picker and the process begins again. If the “goose” succeeds in tagging the picker, the “goose” may return to sit in the previous spot and the “picker” resumes the process.