Get out and celebrate your local butcher today

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The meat counter at Dickies, my local butcher

 

Today marks the end of National Butchers Week and, given that it’s Sunday, then perhaps it’s time to visit your local butcher and get the Sunday roast in.

If you’re lucky enough to have a butcher then they are something to treasure and make the most of. My best choice of local butchers is Dickies at Plungar, which has been a great addition to the local area.

Like any great butchers, Rich knows where the meat came from, how it lived, and how it died. Beef is well aged, and about as far away from supermarket beef as you can get. I love that he has the more unusual cuts, so things like picanha steaks, onglet and skirt.

 

Picanha steak from Dickies

 

If you don’t know how to cook it, then ask and he’ll give you a good idea. If you don’t know what something is, then ask. If you know what you want to cook then Rich will let you know what he recommends. And if you only want to spend so much, then he’ll let you know what’s best value for your money.

That to me makes the perfect butchers. The fact that they serve great bacon and sausage rolls, make a very decent cup of coffee and have great bread and pastries from Hambleton Bakery.

If you have a butchers, then please do what you can to support them. They are treasures that you need to make the most of, not just this week, but in every week. I’m a great believer in eating less meat, but better quality, with great provenance, and your butcher will hopefully provide you with that.

I forgot, the other thing Rich also provides is a great line in chat. Don’t go in if you want to not interact with a human. Go to the supermarket for that. Stay and chat a while, you’ll be amazed what you might learn.

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Time to get busy on the pie front

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Celebrate British Pie week by getting making your own at home

This is one of our favourite weeks, British Pie Week. The British Pie awards were judged yesterday just up the road from us in Melton Mowbray, and there’ll be a chicken and mushroom pie featuring soon on the menu here.

Are you all set for pie making? These would be my essentials.

Silicone mat for pastry rolling out

Professional silicone pastry mat

Ok, until I had one of these I never thought this was an essential. Now I have one, I wouldn’t give it up. It makes it easy in terms of not sticking, but also for rolling out to the right size. It doesn’t take up much space, can also be used for things like chocolate and tuiles, so I think it makes a good addition to any kitchen.

An adjustable rolling pin

 

Adjustable rolling pin from Joseph Joseph

So, once you’ve made getting the right size of pastry sorted, then there’s also the thickness. I’ve often still worked with a pound coin at the side to check, but this clever rolling pin definitely takes a lot of the guesswork out of it. I love that Joseph Joseph continue to think about how to make things just that little bit easier.

A conversation-stopper of a pie funnel

 

Rooster pie funnel for pie perfection

 

There’s nothing like the sight of a fabulous, steaming pie heading to the table, and especially when there’s an interesting pie funnel in the middle of it. I’d like a set of these animal ones for different kinds of pie, so rooster for our immediate plans, but there are cows and lambs as well, not to mention apples and other fruit.

A great set of tins

 

Simple Simon Pie Moulds

Who says that it has to be all about one big pie? Although that is never a bad thing, I really love this set of tins from Simple Simon for making a set of small raised pies. It’s a clever adaptable bit of kit in terms of size, and definitely useful for if everyone likes a different filling, or for making pies for a fabulous buffet spread.

A beautiful pie dish

 

Fluted stoneware deep pie dish

 

I’ve always been in two minds about ceramic dishes. You certainly need to work a bit harder to avoid a soggy bottom, but when you’ve got that cracked then there are so many beautiful dishes around. I really like this fluted stoneware one from Nom Living. A beautiful dish for a wonderful pie.

Five things to make at home pie making a little easier, or a little more stylish. Although if I don’t get round to making a pie, then maybe it’s time for another order from Bray’s Cottage. Still our favourite pork pie maker bar none.

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The Friday Five – in praise of toast

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In praise of toast

 

Ok, I’m a day late, National Toast Day was yesterday. But who doesn’t love a delicious slice of toast?

So, whilst I am sure these are not the first cookbooks you’d rush out to buy, given their single inspiration, if you love your toast, then these could take that love to the next level.

Toast: The Cookbook

 

Toast the Cookbook

Well, it’s not the most imaginative title, but it’s a good place to start. Fifty recipes, sweet and savoury, for each season, it also includes some celebrity chef contributions including people like Fergus Henderson. Guessing that might be the bone marrow on toast, but maybe not. Beautiful looking, and actually the recipes look interesting and tasty. Spicy pepperoni butter sounds like a good topping to toast any day.

 

Posh Toast

 

Posh Toast

 

These are apparently recipes for glorious things on toast, not just any old thing. Whipped gorgonzola, rocket and honey drizzle on toast definitely sounds a step up from my usual Cheddar on toast. According to the blurb though, the trend for posh toppings begin in San Francisco…I’m not convinced. I mean, surely good pate on toast counts as posh? Well, it does in this house!

 

Things on Toast

 

Things on Toast

 

Things on toast are my favourite standby meal, but this would help get you a bit beyond the staples of cheese, beans or scrambled eggs. This covers you from breakfast to supper, savoury to sweet, with everything from poached eggs with chilli and chorizo through to griddled steak with anchovy butter. A bit more cooking involved with this, but that’s definitely no bad thing.

 

Toast: Homage to a Super Food

 

Toast: Homage to a superfood

 

That title will have the clean eating brigade choking on their quinoa and kale smoothie! We eat more toast than any other food in the UK apparently, and Nick Parker the author wanted us to stop undervaluing its role in our daily diet. Part love story, part recipe book, this is a great gift for someone who really, really loves their toast.

 

Toast

 

Toast

 

Shortest main title, but longest sub title, which is “Tartines, open sandwiches, bruschetta, canapés, artisanal toasts and more”. Which should pretty much cover it! Beautiful photography and layout, quite minimalistic in approach, but very tasty sounding recipes. Some great ingredients make their way into this one, like burrata and fresh figs. Lots of inspiration.

So whether you go posh toast, or just the comfort of a toasted square of cheap white bread (which is my food vice) then go ahead, get toasting and celebrate the toasted carb in all its glory. What’s your favourite thing to toast?

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Going sweet and savoury with Great British Biscotti

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Learning to make our biscotti

Learning to make biscotti on our trip to Italy last year was one of our highlights, and one of the things we make most often. However, when I saw what the Great British Biscotti Co are up to, then it made me think about changing things up a bit.

 

Savoury biscotti from Great British Biscotti Co

 

Savoury biscotti.

Never come across them before, and have to say I’m quite converted. The team sent me a box of pretty much everything they do, and we’ve had a great time sampling them.

Twice baked, as per tradition, these have some great flavours going on. For the savoury ones, they’re great alongside a chilled glass of wine, but I decided to try the tribe out on these with some different toppings too.

 

Great British Biscotti Serving Suggestion

 

For the Chorizo & Parmesan and Parmesan & Fennel, I made some whipped ricotta with olive oil, lemon zest, salt and pepper. I added some parma ham to the chorizo one and then a fennel salami to the other one.

I was a bit stumped on the Indian spice one, and in the end went with a goats cheese with a hint of honey. The sweetness set off the warmth of the spices nicely.

I would say these are great to have in the cupboard as a standby for a plate of snacks like these, or a last minute crouton on some soup, or just for munching. The sweet ones had traditional flavours like the almond one, perfect to go with a coffee. We were also really fond of the honey and lemon as a perfect accompaniment to an afternoon cup of tea.

 

Great British Biscotto Co

Check out their stockists list to find them close to you, or look out for the distinctive bright packaging in good food stores in your area.

Though I still think they missed out on a great naming opportunity, I’d have gone with Britscotti myself.

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What food says I love you?

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How not say to I love you on Valentine's Day

 

So, it’s coming up to Valentine’s Day, which means only one thing to me.

It’s the night of the year not to go out to eat.

I apologise to all those in the restaurant trade, I know you’re doing you’re best. But generally the set menus are bland or trite (not you, The Modern Pantry, loving your work).

And the worst offenders are those that rename dishes with “romantic” titles. To me, fancy pant restaurant dishes are really unlikely to say I love you, in spite of every good intention.

What would you choose then, what really says I love you? Here’s my choices:

 

Tea & Toast in Bed. Heaven

  1. Saturday morning toast and tea delivered to bed by MFL.

 

Chicken soup makes everything better

 

2. Chicken soup any time you’re under the weather, even if you have to heat it up yourself.

 

Sprinkle as though you're a 7 year old!

 

3. Anything your kids make for you.

 

Time for tea. Any time.

4. A good cup of tea anyone else makes for you, just when you need it most.

 

Macarons from a loved one

5. Someone bringing you something that they remembered you liked, like when a friend arrived with a box of macarons straight from a Parisian patisserie. Or a chunk of Parmesan straight from a cheese shop in Rome.

What does it for you? What says I love you from you to someone else, or them to you?

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Doing Valentine’s Day with style

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Valentine's Day with taste

 

I’m not a great lover of Valentine’s Day, for its over-commercialised predominance of pink and red crap. And never mind the idea that romance is just for one day a year.

But there are some tasteful, not to mention tasty, options around, if you look now, and avoid the last minute trip to the supermarket!

 

The Modern Pantry Perfect Breakfast Hamper

 

For instance, I wrote last year about the lovely hampers from The Modern Pantry, and this year would be no exception. I love their collections, and sure any food lover would too. Also worth checking in on Ottolenghi as well.

 

 

For chocolate lovers, I would try Drop Dead Chocolates or Amelia Rope, as my favourites. Oh, but then there’s Rococo. Not to mention my last great find of The Chocolatier, who would definitely have lots of tasty choices.

 

Heart shaped box from Pong

The only cheesy gifts I’d think about giving on Valentine’s Day would be good cheese ones. Pong are still one of my favourite suppliers of interesting cheese, whether you choose a single cheese or a hamper.

 

Burleigh Pink Edition Gin

And then there’s fizz. Or not fizz. I love Adnams for something a bit different on the wine front, but it might also be a good time to give a pink gin. Burleighs have a limited edition pink edition if you can still get hold of it, or Edinburgh Gin have a very pretty looking rhubarb one.

So, as always from me, my recommendation is go for taste first and foremost, design second, and pre-made Valentine tat only in very ironic, last minute desperation!

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Gung Hay Fat Choy – my favourite New Year

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Celebrate Chinese New Year in tasty style

I don’t love the New Year that falls at the end of December. It always seems to be disappointing reality over incredible expectation. I mean, how many dreadful, overpriced meals, followed by a triple rate taxi ride if you can get one have already paid the babysitter quadruple rates.

How much better to wait a few weeks, and then indulge in some great Chinese food. I mean, we’d love to be heading to Hong Kong to celebrate it, but Chinatown would do, or even just a good local Chinese restaurant.

I’m sure if it’s a good restaurant, you’ll need to book for the weekend ahead, but I reckon it will still be a better deal than most places on New Year’s Eve. Alternatively, have a trip to a good Chinese supermarket ahead of time and get stocked up. I’m buying won ton wrappers and making pot stickers.

I’m sure if you live near a Chinatown then there’ll be plenty going on to enjoy. And you might not even need a babysitter, as most events happen in the daytime. Now, pass me some dim sum please!

Photo by Paolo Camera on Flickr.

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What to drink on a Dry January Friday night

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Drinks for Dry January and beyond

 

Let’s be clear on something:

  1. I’m not doing Dry January.
  2. In spite of my love of gin…and wine…and champagne…I’m not actually a very big drinker.

So actually I spend quite a lot of time drinking non alcoholic stuff. Which has been dominated basically by elderflower anything. It’s a move on from lime and soda for sure.

But I think what’s really exciting is the development of lots more alternatives in the drinks department geared towards adults. So whether you’re doing Dry January (in which case please go and try these in your local pub, they still need you) or you choose not to drink alcohol all the time or just sometime, then these are worth a look:

Non alcoholic wines from Belvoir Fruit Farms

Belvoir Fruit Farms deliver a large amount of the cordial content of this house, mainly because they are just up the road. I am really excited by their alcohol free wines as something new to add to the table, particularly for a dinner. The white is from Chardonnay grape juice, blended with peach juice and elderflower, and the red is Shiraz with elderberry and blackcurrant juice. The rosé is a mix of grapes of all colours, but sounds delicious none the less. I can see me keeping stocks of all of these in.

 

Gunna Drinks

I quite often switch to a ginger beer, particularly if I’m eating something more meaty or spicy. Gunna say they are here to spice up the soft drinks market, and their original drink would seem to do that. A blend of spring water, natural gingers, lemon juice and aromatic spices, this sounds like a good winter version of a soft drink.  Great looking packaging too.

 

Seedlip Spirits. Which are not spirits.

 

Seedlip seem to be a very sophisticated offering in this field, and act as great alternatives to gin and vodka. Copper pot distilled, these are sugar and sweetener free, no artificial flavours and still calorie free, these are designed to work with tonic. I think Spice 94 would be my winter choice, moving to Garden 108 for the warmer weather. Not cheap at £27.99, and I think I’d want to try it before committing to a bottle so will be looking out for bars serving it.

 

Nix and Kix Two

 

Nix & Kix would also spice things up, as this one is delivering a hit of cayenne chilli in each drink. Mango & Ginger sounds like a ready made bedmate for chilli, Cucumber & Mint less so, but not tried it so I won’t knock it. Look, it’s a bit light on the benefits of cayenne, it references the 1000 years of benefits but not what it’s doing for you here. Which I imagine is not much. Buy it for the taste, not benefits.

Double Dutch Premium Mixers

Double Dutch’s products could be mixers, or could just be a great drink on their own. Pomegranate & Basil would be right up my street, but then Cucumber & Watermelon sounds great too. Just keep me away from adding the gin to them!

So whether it’s Dry January or Sober October, or all the months in between, then definitely worth checking out your options, whether in a bar, the pub or the supermarket. And if they’re not stocking anything interesting then ask for it, it’s the only way to get things changed.

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Food culture, not just ancient culture, in Paphos

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Food culture and more in Paphos

Paphos is the joint European Capital of Culture this year (along with Aarhus in Denmark, in case you’re interested). Which might surprise you, as you might just think of it as a place for a week in the sun. But there’s more to it than that.

Now, there are lots of incredible sites of ancient culture in Paphos and the beautiful surrounding countryside, which you could spend weeks exploring. There are many beautiful hotels, and there are some really naff ones (hello The Roman, I’m looking at you).

But I’ve already written that my favourite thing, unsurprisingly, about Paphos is the food, which is definitely about culture to me. Let’s face it, if anything binds us to those who went before, it has to be that we all had to eat and drink.

And culture can be many things. There’s history to the dishes, passed down the generations from ancient starting points. There’s the mixing of cultural influences, particularly in somewhere like Cyprus, a great trading post or stopping off post for travellers in all ages.

There’s myth and legend, which is bound to either get mixed up in food and drink, or get some good retellings after a little bit too much of the local wine. And there is some good wine, although my experience it doesn’t travel well.

My original article is here, and I would love to be there, eating some of these dishes, at some of these places. I have to give a health warning here, I no longer have connections with the island (well, not living ones, my dad is enjoying his eternal rest under a shade giving tree there) so I haven’t been in about 4 years, but I would still recommend it.

Look, like many places with sunshines and beaches, there are some incredibly naff parts where you could be anywhere. But with a bit of searching out, and heading a bit off the main drag, then you will definitely find out why Paphos is well deserving of its year in the cultural spotlight. And you will enjoy some brilliant, local, seasonal cooking, at a fraction of the price those titles might set you back in many other cities.

And I would still prefer a Keo beer to Denmark’s biggest beer export. Especially on the beach at sunset.

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Japanese Peruvian food is this year’s big thing!

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Lemon and chilli to get us going

 

Well, it is in this household, thanks to a great couple of hours on a course at Divertimenti just before Christmas. I’d never heard of Japanese Peruvian food and, being an out of towner, then couldn’t reel off 3 Peruvian restaurants I’d eaten at.

All the Londoners could.

Let’s face it, we haven’t even got a Wahaca yet in Nottingham. But I digress. We picked this because it was the course on the date nearest to MGGs birthday, not because we’d seen in Olive that Peruvian and Japanese Peruvian would be big in 2017.

Led by Fabricio Cano, this gave us an introduction to the cuisine, but with recipes that I’ll be making at home. Teriyaki sauce will be coming from a pan not a bottle in the future, apparently keeps well for a fortnight in the fridge. This time we converted it into a Peruvian teriyaki beef with stir fry vegetables, definitely one for a week day supper.

 

Beef teriyaki on the go

 

I loved doing the ceviche and the sushi rolls. I mean, look at the tuna we started with!

 

Some serious tuna going on

 

Being in the Midlands fish this fresh is a little more difficult to come by, but I would definitely do this if I was passing a good fishmongers.

 

Tiradito Nikkei

 

We did a salmon ceviche maki alongside the tuna dishes, all amazing. Fabricio talked about lots the techniques of ceviche, how long to leave it for, even down to things like ditching the middle of the red onions for ceviche as the flavour is too strong.

 

Ceviche Nikkei

 

MGG and I both loved making the gyoza, and were pretty impressed with our pleating. We could have just polished off the plate of these, and will be making these soon.

 

Pork gyoza, pleated by us

 

I loved this as a course, there were 7 of us on it, everything was really well organised, and the pace was great. Sitting down to eat everything we’d cooked together was lovely too, helped along with some sake, a classic Chilcano de Pisco and some good wine. That was me, not MGG.

 

Peruvian Japanese lunch is served

 

This is not for you if you’re a bit shy, as you are essentially cooking in the middle of the lower shop floor, but that wasn’t a problem for us. I’d definitely look to go on other courses at Divertimenti, there’s everything from baking through Italian food, knife skills to Malaysian. Fabricio is teaching again in March, this time Peruvian street food.

Lovely to go on, reasonable from a cost perspective and a great range of subjects. The only downside is you’ve got to try and get through the Divertimenti shop without spending anything…! So tempting, so many things you never knew would help your cooking and baking!

 

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