30 May 2012

“The Art of Eating” by M.F.K. Fisher – a Review



I recently bought Penguin’s Great Food series – 20 slim volumes for just £15.  No way would I (or could I) pay the list price of £140 for the boxed set, of course, but at this price they are a bargainaceous and delightful collection of food writing.  


The set includes “Love in a Dish”; some of M.F.K. Fisher’s writing, and I devoured this little book greedy for more so was delighted to discover that The Kitchen Reader’s book of the month is “The Art of Eating” by Ms. Fisher no less.


Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher (1908 – 1992), must be one of the wonderfullest food writers, or even writers generally, ever.  She is interesting, funny (“Central heating, French rubber goods and cookbooks are three amazing proofs of man’s ingenuity …”), informative and writes delicious sentences.  I have, actually, read her work before, long ago, and I am so enamoured of her I shall read her again and again, I think.  In fact I have become a tad obsessive, I've even googled her to see what she looked like.
  

Brilliant woman – when I grow up I want to be just like her.



 “The Art of Eating” by Ms. Fisher is, in fact, 5 books in one volume and so far I haven’t read all of it.  Instead of ploughing through as with a thrilling novel I am dipping into it, selecting a choice morsel and savouring it; this is not the sort of thing I would want to rush.  I have read about the years she spent in Provence, “How Not to Cook an Egg” including Eggs Obstaculos involving eggs, spicy salsa and beer, how to un-seduce someone (!) and recipes for Aunt Gwen’s Cold Shape, Garum and Mouth Wash.  There are so many goodies in this book!



Read more about this amazing lady and her writing here or get her book(s) at Amazon although, of course, other booksellers are available.


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28 May 2012

Kindle!

Just a very quick quickie (I've got reading to do!) ~ I won a Kindle!!!  



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22 May 2012

10 Things to do with Leftover Asparagus

~  Menu  ~

Cornish Asparagus with Flaked Smoked Trout and Hollandaise
Baker Tom’s Multiseed Bread
White Wine Spritzer

asparagus, smoked trout and hollandaise
I splashed out and bought some Cornish asparagus which, as you know, is delicious.  I ate half of the tips with some smoked trout fillets – not just any smoked trout fillets these were Lidls’ smoked trout fillets which were (quite correctly) recommended to me by a friend.  I couldn’t quite finish the fish.  Hence today’s lunch … 

I just heated and lightly crisped the trout in a little butter whilst poaching the remaining asparagus tips. 

Oh – and gently heated the M & S Hollandaise which surprised me in 2 ways.  Firstly that it contained cream and secondly that I didn't make my own but it’s a lot of faff to make for a person who has just been to M & S!  Here, however, is my recipe for Hollandaise which I made gallons of every Sunday for several years - not as a hobby, you understand, but as part of my job.

Easy Hollandaise Sauce

easy hollandaise sauce recipe

240g butter
6 egg yolks
juice of 1 lemon
salt & pepper

~   Melt the butter over low heat then turn the heat off and ignore it for a few minutes.
~   Blend together the egg yolk and lemon juice (in a liquidiser, food processor or bowl with a whisk) and then gradually incorporate the melted butter very carefully making sure that none of the solids, which will be at the bottom of the pan, enters the sauce.
~   Taste and season till delicious.

Hollandaise sauce is fragile – keep it warm by either standing a bowl of hollandaise in a warm water bath or keeping it in a thermos, as I used to do during service.

I still have the some asparagus left with which I may do one of the following ...

9 More Things to do with Leftover or Just a Little Asparagus


leftover asparagus ideas pinterest image
Perfect Pinterest image,
don't you think?

~   Serve as “soldiers” with dippy eggs.
~   Just a little asparagus and several people to serve?   Make a pretty side dish of peas, snow or snap peas and asparagus all tossed together in butter. 
~   Toss just cooked asparagus in butter with new pots.
~   Add leftover asparagus to omelette, frittata or scrambled eggs add bacon or ham if you can (and you want to!).
~   Stir into risotto.
~   Add to stir fries.
~   Toss with cooked pasta and Alfredo Sauce – add ham or chicken or smoked fish etc.
~   Raw asparagus - cut very thin diagonal slices or shave into fine strips with a potato peeler and toss in a salad with a light lemony, peppery vinaigrette, finely shaved Parmesan would be a good addition to this.


If your stalks are woody they won’t make good soup as they will remain woody whatever you do with them BUT you could cook them in a little water to make asparagus stock and then use the stock to give a boost to risotto, soups and sauces.

how to prepare asparagus




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13 May 2012

Fairfields Farm Crisps ~ Delish!

~  Menu  ~

Roasted Parsnip Soup with Parsnip Crisps
Glass of Cornish Rattler

This post is primarily about Fairfields Farm Crisps but before I start I’d just like to mention today’s lunch because, I accidentally made one of the loveliest soups I have ever eaten!


Maple Roasted Parsnip Soup (from leftovers!)



maple roasted parsnip soup with Fairfield crisps
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We bought 4 parsnips for 7p the other day and I forgot about them but found them in in the fridge today. I also found a cold cooked potato and a mug of ham stock left over after making ham and pease pudding

~   The parsnips were a bit iffy so I peeled them and roasted the best bits in olive oil. When almost cooked I drizzled them with a little maple syrup,
~   Simultaneously I cooked a small red onion till meltingly soft.
~   When the onions were completely tender and the parsnips soft in the middle and crunchy on the outside I ate the crispest of them and added the rest to the onions together with the chopped up cold potato and the ham stock.
~   After simmering for about 10 minutes I puréed the lot with some cream.



Normally I would have added a fair bit of black pepper but instead I ate the soup with a pack of Fairfields Farm Parsnip Crisps with Essex Honey and Black Pepper. I used a few for garnish but had to gobble them down quick before they lost their crunch. 

I realise this is a bit random, it is loosely based on my key soup recipe – I have written a whole book on the subjectSOUP (almost) the Only Recipe You’ll Ever Need which contains 50+ recipes including a nice Maple Roasted Parsnip Soup. 

Fairfields Farm Crisps




Quite a few years ago I read a book by Jeffrey Steingarten; The Man Who Ate Everything”, in which he said how, being a well known food writer, he was constantly being sent free stuff to review and I thought “That’s the life for me!”  Well here I am only 10 or 12 years later and I think it’s started already because the other day I received 7 packs of crisps from Fairfields Farm Crisps and I can only presume that this is the thin end of the wedge.

Fairfields Farm are award winning crisps; awards include 6 Great Taste Awards for three of their flavours and  Best Essex Retail Product 2010.  They are made in Essex by Laura and Robert Strathern from home grown potatoes. and are hand cooked on their farm near Colchester, Essex.  Other ingredients are sourced locally when possible, such as the Essex honey in the parsnip crisps.  With the exception of the Smoky Bacon, all Fairfields Farm Crisps are 100% natural, non-GM and are suitable for coeliacs and vegetarians.

One thing that concerned me about reviewing things was what would I say if the product was horrible?  Luckily, so far, this situation hasn’t arisen and these crisps are well worth recommending.  Thank you Fairfields Farm.

Fairfields Farm have released 3 new flavours in their range which now, in its complete form numbers 9:

~   NEW Butter & Mint
~   NEW No Salt
~   NEW Sea Salt & Black Pepper
~   Wicks Manor Smoky Bacon and Sunday Roast Potato
~   Lightly Sea Salted
~   Sea Salt and Aspall Cyder Vinegar
~   Sweet Thai Chilli
~   Suffolk Farmhouse Cheese and Chive
~   Parsnip Crisps with Essex Honey & Black Pepper

The flavour that most caught my eye was Parsnip Crisps with Essex Honey and Black Pepper and happily they sent me two packs of these because they are gorgeous.  I ate one packet with the soup above and the other one whilst sitting here typing this!  In my experience parsnips make somewhat harder and less crisp crisps than potatoes and so it was with these but that is the nature of the parsnip beast.  The flavour is excellent with a lovely afterglow of black pepper heat. 

The New No Salt crisps taste good and were quite moreish until I tried the Lightly Salted and then the No Salt seemed less flavoursome by comparison.  That’s salt for you, of course.  Both the Lightly Salted and No Salt had excellent potato flavour and great crunch.

The Smoky Bacon and Sunday Roast Potato Crisps I had with some egg mayonnaise because eating crisps always makes me fancy egg mayo.  The flavour was good and as one would expect – bacony!




I shall be looking out for their other new flavour, Butter & Mint which sounds just my sort of thing – nice with a (leftover) roast lamb sandwich! 

These “gratifying special crisps” are available from delis and farm shops and by mail order from  www.fairfieldsfarmcrisps.co.uk. Bags are 40g (70p) and 150g (RRP £1.75). 

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8 May 2012

15 Ways to Use (not leftover) Honey



leftover honey pinterest image
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Many years ago my real man and I both had bad colds so I made us a honey and lemon drink and it was so delicious we have had it as our morning tipple ever since.   I don’t imagine it is doing us any particular good other than it makes us happy as I think the hot water destroys any health benefits.  Anyhoo, for this reason we get through An Awful Lot of Honey – maybe 3 small jars a week – and as there is always a lot of it about I use it in many other ways too.

This is not about “leftover honey” because that just doesn’t happen; apparently honey keeps forever although I would recommend keeping it cool and dark!  (Too cool and it may crystallise in which case just stand the jar in a pan of warm water and stir a bit till it clears again.)  This being the case anyone that puts a best before date on it is just having a laugh. 


This post concerns honey you don’t quite know what to do with or if you have too much - see the bottom of this post for a picture of when I had too much honey behind the wardrobe!

15 things to do with Not Leftover Honey


1.     Use instead of sugar for casual sweetening!  What I mean is don’t replace sugar with  honey in baking or other precise recipes as they are different consistency, sweetness etc., honey being somewhat sweeter.
2.    To use every bit of honey rinse out the jar with hot water, add a squeeze of lemon and enjoy the hot drink mentioned above.
3.    Drizzle over Greek yogurt, add almonds or walnut, sugared walnuts (recipe here) are delicious in this.
4.    Drizzle over ice cream – vanilla ice cream (easy no churn vanilla ice cream recipe in my ebook!) sprinkled with salted peanuts with a trail of honey snaking over it is deliciously different.

drizzling honey onto ice cream
5.     Stir a little honey into freshly cooked carrots together with a knob of butter and shake to glaze.
6.     Honey plus a little whole grain mustard stirred into mayonnaise makes a great accompaniment to salads or spread in a ham sandwich.
7.     Toss a little in with butternut squash and red onion (recipe here) when roasting.  Not too much mind or the whole thing with caramelise before it is cooked.
8.    If you have just a spoonful of honey left in the jar add 6 spoonfuls of olive oil, 3 of lemon juice, salt and pepper and shake to form a great salad dressing.
9.    Brush a little warm honey gently over freshly baked cake, bread pudding and the like to glaze.
10.  Honeyed Blue Cheese on Toast - trust me, this is delicious.
11.   Stir a little into fruit salads.
12.  A spoonful over porridge might help it go down! I don’t really like porridge yet I instinctively feel that it should be served with light brown sugar, clotted cream and Drambuie, although I've never tried it!
13.   Stir together with a knob of butter till melted and hot and serve with pancakes.
14.   If you don’t want to eat the honey use it as a face mask – smooth onto warm skin, leave 15-20 minutes, wash off with warm water and then splash your face with cold water to close pores.  
15.   If you find yourself in possession of quite a lot of honey, and if summer ever arrives, then make this simple ice cream.


No Churn Honey Ice Cream


500 ml double cream
200 g condensed milk
200 g runny honey at room temperature

~   Whip the cream till thick.
~   Fold in the condensed milk.
~   Fold in the honey.
~   Freeze.

apple pie and a scoop of no-churn honey ice cream


Once you have been gobsmacked by how easy and how delicious the ice cream is immediately check out my book “Luscious Ice Creams without a Machine” which gives over 100 similarly easy and yummy ice cream recipes plus others for sauces, syrups, inclusions and serving suggestions. 


Too Much Honey Behind the Wardrobe!


Speaking of honey look what I found behind built in wardrobes in Tortola once, after a couple of months away. I knew something was up as soon as I unlocked the door; the place was buzzing! 

honeycomb



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5 May 2012

"Season to Taste" by Molly Birnbaum ~ a Review



A pleasant thing happened to me the other day.  Let me explain.  For some months I have been a really pathetic member of an online book club called Kitchen Reader whose members review books about cooking (not so much cookbooks as food writing).  The reason I have been so poor at this is all the books I have attempted to get hold of have been published in America and either very expensive or take ages to get here.  (I’m waiting for one now and it’s been quite a while.)

A lady called Sarah contacted me on behalf of the club and asked if I still wanted to be a member bearing in mind my non existent input and I explained the situation.  Guess what she did!!  Only went and sent me a book she had finished reading all the way from Hong Kong, that’s what!  What a lovely lady and what an excellent book.  


“Season to Taste ~ how I lost my sense of smell and found my way” is Molly Birnbaum’s account of her sudden and complete loss of her sense of smell due to a traffic accident.  At the time of the accident she was working in kitchens and about to start training in earnest at The Culinary Institute of America.  She writes of how it slowly dawned of her that she couldn’t smell, of her worries and fears and the implication it had on her life including her exciting career choice.  It isn’t a tear jerker tho', its fascinating.

In an attempt to understand her situation (and possibly to write a book!) Molly speaks to neurologists (including Oliver Sacks), perfumiers, attends perfumery lessons in Grasse, speaks to artists who create scent collages and symphonies and to flavourists who create tastes by mixing different chemicals to reproduce natural flavours or even create new ones.  Flavourists are essential to the processed food business.  

I find it hard to imagine a life without the sense of smell because I think it often runs in the background of our lives informing us without our actually noticing.  Since reading this book I often have a good old sniff to see what I can smell!  Sometimes I am surprised at what is going on olfactorily without my being consciously aware of it.  At the same time it is easy for me (after cheffing for over 30 years) to realise how great a loss it would be in the kitchen.

Happily Molly gets her sense of smell back, if that isn’t too much of a spoiler, but her journey makes for a fascinating read.

Season to Taste was recommended to Kitchen Reader by Katherine Martinelli whose interesting blog I shall be having a wander round shortly.  

Two Coincidences …

1.   Sarah from Kitchen Reader is not alone in her loveliness.  A day or two before I received the above from Hong Kong I received a surprise book from my friend Bob in New Hampshire, the U.S. of A.  Yes he is a friend but he’s never done this before!  He had finished the book; “Spice: The History of a Temptation” by Jack Turner, and thought, quite rightly, that I would like it.  I will let you know more about it soon in a separate post (which I have now written - here!)

2.   “Season to Taste” mentions Jack Turner's “Spice” ~ I had never heard of either of these books, received both as gifts from foreign parts in the same week and they are inter-related.



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2 May 2012

Unbelievable! ~ Very Short Non Foodie Post

Look what I saw in Padstow today ... 2nd May !!!  




HAPPY CHRISTMAS!


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1 May 2012

Pâté Cake (Baker’s man!) - ideas for Leftover Pâté!

~  Menu  ~

Chicken Liver Pâté Fritter!
Tender Leaves with Balsamic Glaze
Toasted Ciabatta
Glass of Dessert Wine
A Brandied Peach with Clotted Cream and Brandy Snap Crumbs
Coffee

chicken liver pâté

My friend Carol gave me a little pot of homemade Chicken Liver Pâté ~ delicious and happily rather garlicky so I didn’t have to share with my Real Man who, of course, doesn’t like that sort of thing. I did feel a bit panicky for a moment when I realised I had no red wine (!) but then I remembered a modicum of leftover dessert wine in the fridge and calmed down.  Phew! 

I ran out of toast before I finished the pâté and so trying to be a good girl I put the pot in the fridge for later and, of course, forgot about it. 



Today I noticed it and, among other things, I thought “hmm”. I was cooking some sweet and tender onions at the time  so added a spoonful of them to the pâté together with enough fresh breadcrumbs to make the texture capable of holding together.  I was tempted to add and egg but at the same time didn’t fancy it so didn’t and I’m glad.

I then made a little pâté cake, coated it in panko crumbs and fried till crisp.  It worked out really well with the sharp sweetness of the glaze and the crunch of the toast against the rich lushness of the pâté.

brandied peach, clotted cream and brandy snaps


Last night my darling brought home a jar of Tesco’s Brandied Peaches reduced from £3.49 to 38p and this is just one of the reasons I love him!  To make sure I use them to their best possible advantage I thought I ought to try one and assess the possibilities.   I added a little clotted cream and having finished off my amaretti only yesterday sprinkled with a few bits of broken brandy snap out of the biscuit tin.  A cup of coffee and my lunch was complete.

Here are some more ideas if you, like me, find yourself looking in the fridge and thinking ...


 “Bugger me, what shall I do with this bit of pâté?”


~   Make a savoury butter (lots of info on flavoured butters here).  Just mash the room temp pâté with about the same amount of soft butter.  Taste and season as necessary.  Roll into a log and chill (or freeze).  Slice and serve on top of steak or burgers or deglaze the pan after cooking same and then stir in a piece of the pâté-butter to monter au beurre as we say in the trade. Or perhaps we don’t, we used to!  Literally it means “to build with butter” ie to add texture and gloss to a sauce by stirring in cold butter at the last minute.
~   Reduce a little red wine to about half its quantity and stir in the pâté till melted and merged.  Add cream or butter and seasonings to taste and use as a sauce, if there is enough of it then toss with freshly cooked pasta and sprinkle utterly gorgeous bacon sauce - recipe here.
~   Crumble or cream the pâté and mix together with  vinaigrette (lots of vinaigrette recipes to choose from here) to make an interesting salad dressing, particularly good on spinach and bacon salads.
~  When making Beef Wellington  spread chicken liver pâté or leftover pâté de foie gras (you know how it is!) down the centre of the pastry before adding the seared fillet of beef!
~   Make Dirty Rice as follows …

Faux Dirty Rice


Dirty Rice is a Cajun dish comprising rice cooked with chicken livers, gizzards etc. which make it look dirty but taste grand.  Here is my cobbled together version ...

1 onion – finely chopped
1 rib celery – finely chopped
½ carrot – finely chopped
maybe ½ a red pepper – finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
smidge of garlic
salt, pepper and cayenne (optional)
1 mug long grain rice
2 mugs chicken stock
an assembly of porky things eg. minced pork, coarsely chopped bacon, crumbled     sausage etc.
leftover chicken liver pâté

~   Fry together the onions, celery, carrot and red pepper till tender and starting to brown.
~   Stir in the garlic plus salt and pepper and maybe a little cayenne and then stir in the rice.
~   Pour in the stock, stir a little and then bring to a boil
~   Turn down the heat, cover and simmer till all the liquid has been absorbed which takes 12-15 minutes. 
~   Meanwhile sauté the meats in a little more oil till cooked through.
~   When the meats are ready stir in the pâté and allow it to warm and melt.
~   When the rice is cooked pour over the meat mixture, cover and leave a few minutes for flavours to meld before gently folding in and serving, preferably with hot sauce to hand.  A parsley sprinkle would be a good idea too.


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