By Heck, nothing but good stuff here

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Heck Chorizo - great gift for a food lover with a taste for bangers

 

This is sort of the collision of two things: going back through the quick notes I made of interesting companies in the mêlée at the Good Food Show and also because next week is Coeliac Awareness Week.

What I couldn’t have known as I flew past the stand (I lie, inched by more like) is that Heck sausages are all gluten free. The fact that sausages have gluten in them will be a surprise to some I’m sure, but probably not to those on the look out for that kind of thing. However, this would definitely appear to be a range of products where gluten free is no compromise on flavour.

I’ll admit, I haven’t tried these, but reading the descriptions I don’t know where I would start. Of course there are proper family favourite styles, but I find myself very drawn to the smoky chorizo, the chicken italia and the pork and apple. I also love that there is square sausage, much beloved of a proper Scottish fry up, and a lot less wriggly in a sausage sandwich.

This is a great sounding family business, taking great care over the meat choice and the production. Pretty much to me, as long as the product turns out to be tasty, then this ticks all the boxes. The website has a mail order facility, and a store locator. For my local area, they are in Tesco. Oh heck, a conundrum…as I don’t shop at Tesco! I supposed I could just go in, and buy these and come out again!

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Eat, Drink, Shop Locally Like Never Before

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I know, eating local is nothing new, it was all the rage last year. And, lets face it, 2008 and 2009 were incredibly tough years for everyone and just when we thought there was light at the end of the tunnel the snow came. We all wanted to hibernate. Nice and warm, but bad for business.

 

Melton Mowbray, ruler of rural food

 

So now the snow and ice are leaving us, this is my plea for you to get out there and support your local food and drink businesses: everyone from the producers to the retailers, the farmer’s markets to the restaurants. Many will have had the best part of nearly 3 bad weeks, which is not the best start for the new year. Never mind food trends, they need you right now. Here’s my shameless plug for the local businesses that will be getting my cash over the next few weeks:

1. Red Lion Inn- these guys don’t really need the plug (they were on the Hairy Biker’s and Olive Magazine called the team in charge the dream team) but they deserve all the praise, and the rewards. Early doors dinner is just £16.50 for 3 courses, and this week included a spectacular smoked haddock risotto with poached egg, pan fried sea bream with chorizo and mash and braised blade of beef.

2. Caffe & Deli Italia– probably the best proper cappuccino going in Melton Mowbray, not to mention a great deli. This is a great independent business, a family business. Skip the chains, head here.

3. The Melton Cheeseboard– we’re blessed around here with great cheese makers, and also with a great cheese shop in Melton Mowbray. If you love cheese, you’ll love it in here. If you’re avoiding cheese, you will need to avoid here! With Stilton from Long Clawson and Quenby and Sparkenhoe Red Leicester, you can be busy supporting several local producers at once.

4. Brockleby’s Farm Shop – perfect for devotees of Melton Mowbray pork pies, Ian Jalland and the team produce the only organic pork pie produced in the borough of Melton, and mighty fine it is too. The farm shop also carries meat from their rare breeds, and a full range of everything that you’re going to need for some great dining at home.

5. The Malt House Deli– if I’m working at home during the week, then I tend to sneak out for breakfast at The Malt House. You can get a full English, but I tend to go for a sausage butty, made with good Lincolnshire sausages. A small but good selection of victuals, and a really good selection of breads, including a very good spelt one.

6. Crossroads Farm Shop- this is my nearest farm shop, and does fantastic pork. Have a look at the pigs in the farmyard, and then pop inside to see what they’ve got. We had a brilliant joint of pork from them to make porchetta at New Year, and Best Foodie Friend had an amazing gammon joint. Cracking bacon too!

7. Colston Bassett Dairy- talk about cutting food miles! During the week and on Saturday morning you can buy your Stilton direct from Colston Bassett Dairy, from the shop on site. Just don’t come at lunchtime, it’ll be closed. If that’s the case, then pop just down the road to Colston Bassett Store, as they carry it too. You might even be able to get into the coffee shop for lunch. Failing that, you could always head over to The Martin’s Arms. Not cheap, but will be one heck of a good lunch.

These are my local food haunts and whilst I’d love everyone to visit them, first and foremost get out and find the equivalents in your area. It’s not just a gift to you and your family, but to them and their families, their employees, their suppliers, their families….and so the circle goes on. Money spent locally continues to do good locally. This is not about being parochial, but thinking about how you spend your money. And maybe think about spending just a little less this week and sending it to the Haiti appeal.

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What do your team want for Christmas?

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What's on your team's Christmas list?

 

I think I’ve possibly heard the oddest, but most foodie, Christmas request from a team over this weekend. The team of builders from Poland who work for a friend are not having a Christmas bonus, but are having a whole pig. A dead pig, but a whole one, which apparently will be converted into a variety of dishes. They have built their own smoker, and there will be sausages heading back to the boss at some point.

Finding a whole pig is relatively straightforward apparently, theirs will come from the Crossroads Farm Shop at Eastwell. Also in Leicestershire, try The Number One Pig Place, where you can buy a whole pig in installments, getting updates on how your pig is fattening up along the way. If you’re not the sentimental type, you can even go and visit the pig during its short but happy lifetime.

Not sure you’re up to a full pig? Well, Huntsham Farm will do you a half or quarter box of a Middle White, giving you shoulder, chump fillet, leg, chops, liver and sausages. If you don’t have Polish neighbours who you can barter with for homemade kabanos, then Asda always seems to have them, along with a whole heap of other Polish specialities.

If you’ve got the space, I guess you could keep your own pigs. I always think they are fabulous animals, highly intelligent, and if we had space I would have some. If you need some advice, you could start with a book, but you would be better chatting up a local farmer or breeder I would think. And if you’ve got children then you should buy them All Pigs Are Beautiful. Whether or not you want to keep pigs, buy your children this book, it’s fabulous.

So, if your team want a pig, there’s some ideas for you. I have to say, I think there won’t be many teams that follow suit! Some may go for the cash, or perhaps just a Christmas pudding!

Fabulous photo of a prize winning pig by The Pug Father on Flickr.

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Bring on the bangers!

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Big Beautiful Bangers
Big Beautiful Bangers

Another great food week to celebrate, as it’s National Sausage Week. Can’t beat a good sausage I feel, and we’re lucky that we still have a butcher in the village who makes fabulous Lincolnshire sausage. If you ever eat at the Red Lion Inn then you can get to experience them too.

What else is good? Well, here’s a few suggestions for some unusual meat treats to gift to the meat lover in your life!

1. How about a real Cumbrian sausage, made in Cumbria by The Cumbrian Sausage Company. Made only with natural ingredients, select cuts of pork and a special blend of herbs and spices, this will perk up sausage and mash, or a barbecue.

2. Give them the very best, with a box of award winning sausages. Twenty four sausages, all of which have been award winners at The Great Taste Awards. This could make for one amazing sausage sizzle with friends, or just a lot of solo dinners! The box includes Pork & Real Ale and Pork & Leek from Redhill Farm, Pork & Caramelised Onion and Pork, Apple & Black Pudding from Ramsay’s of Carluke. A very unusual gift, but a very tasty one, from British Fine Foods.

3. What about a great tasting sausage that also supports the continuation of rare breed pigs? For me, look no further than the Classic Essex Pork Sausages from Jimmy’s Farm. I usually buy these whenever I see them at a food festival, particularly if the ebullient Dolly is on the stand. Simple, meaty and just crying out for some brown sauce.

4. A bit of nostalgia from me, but when we lived in Hampshire, then a BBQ wasn’t complete without sausages from O’Hagansin Fishbourne. I was always very fond of his Lamb and Mint, Dr T still misses the hot merguez. Best wedding reception I ever went to was an O’Hagan’s sausage sizzle. Scrumptious!

5. For those with gluten allergies, sausages can be one of those nightmare foods that catch you unawares. More and more places are offering gluten free versions, which can end up very meaty. My favourite is the gluten free sausage from Gonalston Farm Shop. A fabulous farm shop with over 30 different sausages to choose from, although sadly just the one for the non gluten eaters! But it is at least a very good sausage!

So get out there and celebrate Sausage Week with some fabulous bangers!

Fabulous banger shot from Spigoo on Flickr

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The Friday Five – Being Single-Minded

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Having written about a whole load of tomatoes providing a whole heap of fun, I thought this week’s cook books should be about a single ingredient. And you’d be amazed what’s out there! So, if the foodie you’re shopping for has an ingredient they adore, there’ll probably be a book about it! Here’s a few to set you off.

 

The Heirloom Tomato

 

1. The Heirloom Tomato: From Garden to Table: Recipes, Portraits and History of the World’s Most Beautiful Fruit – one heck of a title, and this takes single ingredient to a bit of an extreme, as it’s not just any tomato, this is a heirloom tomato. There are 56 recipes to work your way through, as well as some great stories and history of the plant. A very unusual cook book, but if they love tomatoes, this could be one for them!

2. Sausage by A D Livingston – 100 different ways to use sausages, although I am not sure it has the recipe for the perfect sausage sandwich (in my view, the only permissible use of cheap white bread, and definitely needs brown sauce). Perfect for the sausage loving meat eater.

3. Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient – this is a really great book, being both an interesting read and having wonderful recipes. It’s a real foodie book and certainly an unusual one, but quite inspiring. It covers all kinds of animal fats, so some sectors of the health police may fall over when they spot it on your bookshelf, but you should get them to read some of the details.

4. The Dolce Vita Diaries – part travel book, part business book and part cook book, all about the story behind Nudo olive oil. A great read, some great simple recipes, which is what you’d expect from a great olive oil company.

5. Best 50 Banana Recipes by David Woods – probably the most common fruit in the average fruitbowl, and the one that’s always going to be heading towards going off. So here are 50 different suggestions of what you could be doing with them, other than mushing them up and making banana bread!

Researching these just showed me that there are books about pretty much any ingredient you care to choose, so even if they have a real foodie passion for something unusual, you’re bound to be able to find a great book to make the perfect gift for them.

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For the BBQ Kings & Queens

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Lets face it, with the temperature soaring, there’s not much inside cookery going on round here! There’s the nightly smell of food on a hot grill, which can have varied results.

If your foodie continues their endeavours outdoors too, then here’s some great suggestions to make this their best season of outdoor cooking yet!

Smokin' Rigs and Great Recipes
Smokin' Rigs and Great Recipes

1. Show them that barbecue can be an extreme sport, not to mention a technique for mass catering, with a copy of Extreme Barbecue: Smokin’ Rigs and Real Good Recipes. If they start building contraptions in the garden, then it’s probably something out of here!

2. Buy them a barbecue that will be real talking point! Have a look at the Nordic barbecue, which is a tower barbecue, which is different. It’s said to cook things more healthily than normal, as food cooks next to the heat source and you get no flames from dripping fat. And apparently all that makes the food taste better, which will be key for the foodie! They’re also pretty new, so will be a real wow when they have friends round. If it’s a competitive foodie environment, they score big brownie points!

3. If there’s likely to be steak on the grill, then how about a branding iron? Firebox have one that you can personalise, so you can put everyone’s name on their steak, or any message you like! It’s a bit of fun, but serves a practical purpose!

4. Buy them something fabulous to slap on the grill. A good time to check out your local butcher, farm shop or farmer’s market. We used to live in Hampshire, and would make a summer weekend trip to O’Hagan’s Sausages to stock up with something unusual. Drunken Duck sausage anyone? We’re also enjoying some from Jimmy’s Farm that we bought at a country fair recently. We had the lamb sausages, and also the gluten free classic sausage, so perfect if your foodie suffers with an intolerance.

5. They might need something a bit more special than HP Sauce and Heinz Ketchup to go with those burgers. I’m quite impressed with the ones Jamie Oliver is offering, the tomato one in particular. It’s a bit special, and very tasty!

They should also try checking out the BBQ Blog, this is about serious bbq’ing complete with competitions! We have such a long way to go here in the UK! There’s a great entry on a barbecue road trip, so if you want to treat them to a very different trip across the US, this might be for them!

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