Category Archives: Foodstuffs

My my, my American style pumpkin pie…

It started with a pair of pumpkins. My boyfriend arrived home with the suggestion of a carving challenge, but I fancied a cooking challenge!

Pumpkins

Pair of Pumpkins

If you think about it, there aren’t many obvious things to make with a pumpkin, other than soup or pumpkin pie. I searched online and through cook books for inspiration but decided since I hadn’t ever made pumpkin pie that I’d give it a go.

Pumpkin

The Victim

I searched through various pumpkin pie recipes and loosely based it on Felicity Cloake’s Pumpkin Pie Recipe. I added bourbon instead of rum, allspice instead of ground cloves (I couldn’t be bothered to grind up my whole cloves!) and also made my pastry really easily in my Magimix.

I started by roasting the pumpkin, which was different to the BBC Good Food Pumpkin Pie Recipe which calls for boiling. After roasting, the pumpkin is peeled, whizzed up to a puree then strained over a sieve to remove the liquid (there was loads!).

Roasting Pumpkin

Roasting Pumpkin

I hadn’t made pastry myself for years so thought it would be nice to give it a go. I overfilled the pastry a little and had excess too, so filled my little pumpkin coloured Le Crueset pots and made a couple of baby pies too.

Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin, Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin, Pumpkin Pie & Mini Pie

Sadly, I didn’t quite cook the pastry enough on the blind bake, so created myself a bit of a soggy bottom! The pie was delicious though, and was the perfect end to a delicious American Feast! It wasn’t too sweet, had a lovely autumnal feel to it and a perfect amount of spice. Despite the soggy bottom, the pastry was deliciously crisp round the edges.

Pumpkin Pie Slice

Pumpkin Pie Slice

Look out for my next post which will include Tom Kerridge’s amazing fried chicken, the star of the feast! What will you be making with pumpkin this Autumn? Let me know if you have any recipe ideas!

I’ve started blogging at www.fabulousfoodfinds.co.uk so if you want the most up to date posts and news, please sign up to posts by email, or follow there. Thanks!

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Macarons and More – Tim Kinnaird’s Beautiful Shop

You might remember the brilliant Tim Kinnaird from MasterChef a few years back? The one with Tim, Alex and Dhruv Baker in the final three and Dhruv ended up winning? Well, after the show, Tim went on to develop his own patisserie business, Macarons & More and recently realised his dream by opening his very own shop, by the same name, in the Royal Arcade, right in the centre of the fine city of Norwich.

Shop Front

Macarons

In addition to the fabulous selection of macarons you will find the ‘more’ which certainly exceeds expectations! You’ll find flavoured marshmallows, meringues, pastries, bread, amazing brownies, hot chocolate, nut brittle and lots more! You can also buy a fantastic coffee or tea to drink in or take away to compliment your sweet goods.

Marshmallows

I dare you to resist the gold and silver brownies…

Brownies

Artisan bread comes from a brilliant local baker.

Breads

The shop displays and windows are beautiful, inspirational and made to make your mouth water!

Macarons and More Window

Favours

Window Display

My selection of macarons were the perfect chewy texture, full of flavour and gorgeous to look at. After much deliberation I went for peanut butter and jam which is a classic combination but utterly perfect in a macaron, salted caramel which was buttery, creamy and slightly salty and cappuccino which had a great coffee kick to it.

Macarons

If you can’t get yourself to Norwich, you can buy online or find Tim’s Macarons & More at the BBC Good Food Show Winter 2013, handily overlooking the MasterChef theatre!

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Award Winning Black Pudding from The Fruit Pig Company

I love black pudding, so when I heard about a local producer winning a rather special award from the French for his fresh blood black pudding, I couldn’t help but find out more. What is Matt Cockin’s The Fruit Pig Company doing so well to win a coveted award from the French? I asked if I could pay him a visit and learn some secrets behind his success, and he was delighted to accept!

Matt Cockin

Matt Cockin sources his pigs from local farms and small holdings that he knows and trusts. I was lucky enough to visit one of the small holdings which is located just outside Wisbech (on the borders of Norfolk and Cambridgeshire) and had a great time with the pigs and getting out in the fresh air!

Now, these pictures are pretty cute, so please do bear in mind that these lovely pigs live a great life and the reality is that they wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the demand of us meat-loving humans wanting to eat them. It’s also important to understand and appreciate that meat was once a live animal and we should all try to buy the best standard of meat we can afford, or perhaps cut down rather than buying lots of cheap, unethically reared meat.

The farm (or I should probably say small holding) owner loves his pigs, and you can tell that they live happy and fulfilling lives.

Matt really knows his pigs but has chosen to stick to what he does best with the butchery and charcuterie making – all the better for us I say!

Matt warned me that his unit probably wouldn’t live up to my expectations of a traditional wooden shack or cottage out in the country – instead I found a functional, spotlessly clean unit in a business park, which ticks all the boxes for what Matt needs to make his delicious black pudding, sausages and other meaty goods.

Most black pudding producers in the UK use dried blood to make their black puddings. It is rare to find a producer using fresh blood, which takes a lot more effort to do. Marc Frederic, a well respected British Charcutier, is an advocate of using fresh blood in black pudding. In fact, when Matt was experimenting with recipes he asked Marc for his opinion – Marc wouldn’t even taste a dried blood version!

So now it gets a little gruesome… but what did you expect from a post about blood pudding?! Matt has to be super quick to collect the blood from his slaughtered pigs – if he’s too late, the blood starts to coagulate and clot, like our own blood would. As soon as possible he must add the oats, so has a great system for doing this (no secrets given away here!) but he does have to get up ridiculously early to do it! It makes him realise why so many producers take the easy option and use dried blood!

By the time I reached the unit, the oats and blood had already been mixed, but the colour was still shockingly vibrant.

Fresh Blood Mix

So, aside from the obviously good fresh blood, what were Matt’s secrets to the success of his award-winning black pudding? Unfortunately somethings have to be kept exactly that – secrets! Matt mixed his added ingredients before I arrived so I couldn’t tell what was in there – clever man! I did take a good snoop at all the ingredients on his shelves though…

Secret Spices

Secret Ingredients

Oatmeal is a key ingredient in their black puddings – as with all blood puddings there needs to be a binding agent, which is usually some kind of grain like barley or rice but in England oats are usually used.

Oatmeal

Fat is also added to the black pudding, which Matt melts down to give an even consistency to the pudding.

Mincing Fat

The mixture is stuffed into black skins and then placed in a water oven to cook through. I didn’t know, but black pudding is actually cooked when you buy it, so all it needs is a warm through, and for me a little bit of crispness!

Black Puddings

The Fruit Pig Company’s black pudding has a flavour and texture that is definitely worth the extra effort that Matt puts in. It almost has a creaminess to it, which adds to the rich, meaty flavour and crumbly texture.

Black Pudding

Every year in the old French market town Morgagne-au-Perche, over 600 black puddings from across the globe are judged by the Brotherhood of the Knights of the Black Pudding. The festival runs over 3 days with the aim of uncovering the very best black puddings in the world. Matt did England proud by bringing back a silver medal – congratulations!

The Fruit Pig Company don’t only do black pudding… they also have a delicious range of flavoured sausages, bacon, meat joints and other charcuterie items too. I asked whether he was doing anything about the pulled pork trend – of course! Matt opened up an upright smoker and lo and behold shelves full of pork joints smoking ready to be sent out to chefs for pulled pork!

Pulled Pork Shoulders Smoking

I think it’s important to support producers that make this kind of effort with their produce – The Fruit Pig Company work hard to produce a quality product and deserve our attention and custom. Luckily if you aren’t local enough to visit the Creake Abbey or Kings Lynn farmers markets then you can buy online from their online butchery.

If you are keen to find out more about black pudding, and the festival organised by the Knights of the Black Pudding, listen to the brilliant Radio 4 Food Programme on the subject.

If you’d like to see more pictures from my farm visit – take a look at my Flickr page.

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BBC Good Food Show Summer 2013 Highlights

I’ve just about recovered from the BBC Good Food Show Summer – as ever it was an awesome show, with well over 100,000 food and gardening lovers coming through the doors! I’m still buzzing with inspiration after meeting so many fantastic producers, chefs, bloggers and food lovers during the show. Here are a few of my highlights, I’m afraid I was having too much fun to take many photos so you will have to use your imagination for some of it!

Backstage snacking

As part of the show team I get backstage access so on Emily Cloke‘s birthday we took some Ooo Meringues behind the Belling stage and ate them with the lovely Simon Diss… then along came Rachel Allen who is even more beautiful and lovely in real life as she looks on the TV!

Katy Truss and Emily Cloke

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Food Find of the Week – Nova Scotia Steak Pie

What better way to celebrate St George’s Day with a classic English pie made by a dedicated Yorkshire farm? Nova Scotia Farm are the ultimate producers – not only do they rear their own meat for their pies and ready meals, but they also produce 90% of the feed for their animals too! Traditional short-crust individual pies, suet crust pies and a range of ready meals are made with the highest quality, well hung Yorkshire beef and are truly delicious.

Nova Scotia Farm can be found in the heart of Yorkshire, where happy families of cattle graze on grass sweetened by naturally filtered water which drains down from the Vale of York. Their natural surroundings and traditional husbandry means the herd is close to organic, just without all the paperwork! Back in 2001 the company were one of the first to start selling their beef nationally online, and from there they started making the pies. As demand increased, Mark and Sally the farmers, focussed more and more on pies and meals as customers looked for more convenient products, that still had the quality they were known for. As the company has grown, they now also use beef from other ‘similarly minded cattle producers’ to keep up with demand. How refreshing it is to find a convenient ‘ready meal’ that is made by a truly passionate artisan, that you can really trust!

If you buy online you can choose either baked or unbaked pies – I went for frozen unbaked pies as I wasn’t sure when I was going to be able to eat them. They arrive in an ice packed box, complete with ‘dishes to dine for’ cooler bag, which I think you get free with your pies if you buy them at a show or festival.

Concise cooking instructions are provided, along with advice to accommodate different types of oven and baking tips if the pie didn’t come out quite right first time.

45 minutes of baking from frozen… what do they say about a watched kettle?! The smells coming from the oven were making my mouth water!

The result was a deliciously golden, steak filled pie with a really tasty, meaty gravy. You can see the hefty chunks of meat in the picture below, which are cooked to a melt in the mouth tenderness, along with the perfect amount of gravy. The pastry is the ideal thickness and crispness, expertly balanced to let the highest quality beef take the limelight. Mark and Sally have collected some rather impressive (and entertaining) testimonials on their website, so you don’t have to take my word for how wonderful they are.

These pies would be perfect for dinner with mash and fresh vegetables or taken on a picnic for a real treat… or just eaten on their own like I did! You can buy them and other beef based dishes from Nova Scotia Farm Produce online and at lots of food shows and festivals across the country. Their ready meals are sold under the brand of ‘Dishes to Dine For’ so keep a look out for both – they certainly are ‘to dine for’!

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Food Find of the Week – Well Seasoned Spring Pesto

This food find was delivered to my desk and there is no doubt that this is the tastiest thing I’ve eaten in ages! Well Seasoned won a bursary to attend the BBC Good Food Show London last year and I’m so glad to have found them, and that they sent me their latest delicious Spring flavours!

From a brilliant blog based on seasonal food and cooking Well Seasoned was born – versatile pestos/dips that change with the seasons. The new Spring flavours are stunning – wild garlic, basil and mint which was gorgeous in colour and packed full of flavour and roasted spring onion and parsley which was rich and again had an incredible flavour. Both pestos tasted so fresh and not only could you identify the different ingredients by looking at it, but you could taste all the ingredients too – cobnuts, rapeseed oil, cheese and the seasonal additions.

In keeping with the ethos of seasonal and British, Well Seasoned use Kentish cobnuts, extra virgin rapeseed oil and Old Winchester cheese in all of their pestos. The ingredients change with the seasons so back in the Winter (yes I know it seems like we are still there with the bitter cold at the moment!) their flavours were roasted parsnip and thyme and caramelised shallot and rosemary. Take a look at their website to see the other flavours, and be sure to check out their summer flavours when they launch. You can buy from Partridges in London or a box of 6 online for £19.50 + £3.50 postage (don’t worry they freeze really well).

I ate mine at my desk for lunch two days running… on Ryvita thins, with bread, stirred into plain pasta and on its own too! So worthy of being my food find of the week!

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Salone del Gusto 2012

The Salone del Gusto is an incredible gathering of food and people; organised by ‘Slow Food‘, it runs on the principles of a good, clean and fair approach to food. Back in October, my MD and I took a flying visit to Turin to experience Salone del Gusto and see if there is anything we could learn from the event and of course do a spot of shopping and eating too!

We were led from massive meat displays to towers of cheese, from interactive workshops to lecture theatres, street food to circus food – we totally immersed ourselves in the world of Slow Food and the food of the world.

The Street Food area was extremely popular and after a review of everything on offer we decided to share a fritto misto, which was incredible!

There are huge halls dedicated to the different regions of Italy, and from large companies to small artisans you could taste your way around the Country, trying and buying some of the most amazing, exciting and delicious produce available. Below is a quick walk around the highlights of the regions:

Chillis galore…

Lots of nduja (soft, spicy salami) in the Calabria regional area…

You could even buy nduja warmers!

One man and his boar…

Wall of ham…

Pasta growing on trees…

In the centre of these nests of hay lay delicious cheeses…

I was intrigued by a crowd around one stand and was pleased to find them selling arancini balls – this one was filled with beef ragu and mozzarella and was packed full of flavour.

Beautiful jars of peppers…

Pasta making lessons…

A caper tree and lots of caper products…

Rather special giant onions…

We then went on to visit the world food area, where representatives, and their produce were showcasing their wares.

Pit fermented cabbages from Germany…

Beautifully branded spanish canned fish…

Biscuit heaven (we stopped here for a coffee and a biscuit)…

Happy lady from Thailand proudly showing off her rice…

Snails and snail caviar from Vienna…

We had to try the snail caviar, which were like little bursting pearls of saltiness.

Black honey bread from Vienna…

We were there to experience everything we could, so when we heard about a Michelin starred dinner, in a big top with circus entertainment we made a beeline to get ourselves tickets. We were delighted that after waiting in the rain there were tickets left to the event, and at only 22 euros thought we were on to a winner! Sadly for me, two of the courses had a strong goats cheese as their main ingredient – I’m not one to be too fussy, but with two pungent anchovies laying on top of a goaty risotto I was gutted not to be able to eat it. I really don’t like goats cheese.

Dessert was very exciting, and based around vegetables sweetened with what we concluded must have been sugar beet. It was pretty and deliciously absorbing and as we ate tension mounted as one of the circus acts climbed higher and higher on her trapeze… the result was rather shocking and to keep it brief we didn’t get a chance to finish our dessert and decided not to mix circus and food at our shows!!

I hope you have enjoyed this whirlwind tour of the Salone del Gusto – take a look at my Flikr page if you would like to see more images. Did you go to the show? If so, what were your highlights?

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BBC Good Food Show Scotland 2012 – My Highlights

Last weekend I was up in Glasgow for the BBC Good Food Show Scotland. I think most will agree it was one of the best shows yet with a great celebrity chef line up, including the lovely Hairy Bikers, and an even better selection of speciality, artisan and passionate producers from across Scotland, the British Isles and the world!

It’s our London show next week (9th -11th at Olympia) so I’m super busy getting ready for that… but here is a quick run down of my highlights in pictures. Just click on the post title if you can’t see the images!

The show started with a bang as Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry opened the show – after the ribbon was cut thousands of food lovers burst into the show to start their fabulous food experience! It’s a great sight to see, and always gives me goosebumps as the show officially comes to life.

Borders Biscuits were asking visitors to decide whether their new Christmas spiced biscuit should be put into mainstream production. We put our deciding token into the ‘Oh Goodness they’re yummy’ box!

The lovely Kate from Gower Cottage dishing out her amazing brownies…

Whole Foods Market Glasgow were sampling and selling sourdough loaves, giant meringues and Prosecco!

Have you tried Boozeberries liqueurs? Fresh berries inside gorgeous Irish artisan fruit liqueurs… I’m going to be buying some at the London Show for adding something special to sparkling wine at Christmas.

A quick break for delicious fresh cream filled meringues and scones from the Dancing Goat!

Mo and her Cookie Dough! Morag was one of our bursary winners and did a brilliant job of making the most of the opportunity to appear at the show!

Mr Puddledub Buffalo giving out advice on how to cook his fresh buffalo meat.

A quick stop backstage led me to bump into the Hairy Bikers – Si and Dave look great after their dieting and I must say Si looked like a rock star with his skinny jeans!

What is your Christmas meat of choice? A Taste of Galloway were sampling their succulent goose, which is a lovely luxurious way to celebrate at Christmas.

The Champagne Bar was a welcome addition to the show…

We paid a visit to have a well deserved glass of champagne at the end of the day on Saturday – cheers!

We even had a shark!

Only a lucky few of us get to go up and work at our Scotland Show – so the team back in Teddington were delighted that we brought back a range of flavours from the wonderful Ochil Fudge Pantry!

 

I think my highest highlight was walking Mary Berry around the Producers’ Village before the show opened, she was so enthusiastic and interested in the producers and produce!

And now its on to the next one – London is next week, and then our flagship show at the NEC is on the 28th Nov – 2nd Dec. See you there?!

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Pre-Show Madness

I can’t believe our Scotland Show opens in just three days! Three weeks later it will be our London Show at Olympia and then the biggie at the NEC at the end of November. I always try to get organised before the shows but they just seem to sneak up on me.

I wanted to take a breather to tell you whats going on at the shows that I’m excited about…

Great British Bake Off – sessions on the Super Theatres at Scotland and London and its very own theatre at the Winter NEC Show! Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood at all shows, winner at London and NEC and finalists and others at the NEC!!! Will definitely be hanging out backstage to snaffle some tasters!

Good Food Champions – brand new area of the shows that I introduced based on my desire to highlight some of the best producers at the show. From oils to ethical veal, liqueurs to scotch eggs, smoked fish to fresh venison you are sure to find something to get your mouth-watering!

Producers Bursary Award Winners – all of them small, outstanding producers and brand new to the BBC Good Food Shows so go and show them your support. Look out for fresh cookie dough in Scotland, crystalized edible fresh flowers and foraged ingredients in Birmingham and natural seaweed seasonings in London. Take a look at our tasting day here.

World Cheese Awards – nearly 3000 cheeses all out on display is an incredible sight. I always make sure I’m hanging around this area of the show when they announce the winners (Wednesday afternoon). Two years ago Philip from the Cornish Cheese Company won supreme champion and it brought tears to my eyes seeing him win. It was also pretty fun watching him get through bottles of champagne in the bar that evening!

BBC Food and Farming Awards – held at the show on the Wednesday afternoon, I’m making time to watch the awards ceremony this year as the shortlist of nominations is so exciting! You can add a theatre seat to your booking if you have tickets for the Wednesday.

Right, back to work… hope to see you at the shows and please just ask if you want to know more about any of the exciting stuff going on at the shows!

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Food Find of the Week – Iberico Blood Chorizo

After a boozy afternoon at the AEO Excellence Awards on Friday, where I was delighted to be part of the team that contributed to the BBC Good Food Show Summer to make it win best consumer show 2011, I stopped off at The Real Food Market for some dinner. That’s me rather smug with the award below, and the team collecting the award…

Anyway, enough showing off, back to the food! After a couple of bites of my boyfriend’s delicious Jacobs Ladder burger it was time to find my own dinner… I went for one of Black Acorn‘s flame grilled Iberico chorizo rolls, with grilled red peppers, rocket and chilli sauce which was really delicious, especially with a large glass of their special recipe sangria!

I was intrigued by their Iberico blood chorizo so bought one (£5) to take home and try. It is made from acorn fed black Iberian pig meat mixed with some of its fat and blood, which is then minced and flavoured with pimentao paste, garlic, wine, vinegar, salt and spices. I had planned to eat with scrambled eggs, but didn’t have the eggs so ended eating dry fried on its own as a pre dinner snack. I like the richness that is similar to black pudding but the added texture, saltiness and spice that comes from a chorizo style sausage really made it unique and delicious. Next time I would probably try with scallops or prawns, perhaps on the BBQ.

You can buy Black Acorn’s range of Black Iberican pig charcuterie from their website, or if you are in London why not try one of their chorizo rolls and a sangria down at the Real Food Market on the South Bank?

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Food Finds of Weeks Gone By…

So, I started the Food Find of the Week thing to force me to post on a weekly basis – but due to various distractions I’ve let it slip, and owe about 6 food finds to catch up! Ooops! So, following the BBC Good Food Show Summer just a couple of weeks ago, and a full on food filled diary to follow, I have collected a number of food finds for your pleasure…

Tan Rosie

I was really excited to meet Lee Sylvester of Tan Rosie Foods fame at the BBC Good Food Show Summer, who produce a range of Caribbean specialities and run a really popular, Birmingham based supper club. The sauces were great, but I particularly liked her fiery chilli fudge, which not only had a nice heat to it, but you could really taste the chilli flavour too. The ginger, vanilla and chocolate  and chilli fudges were also really good and worth a try.

 

Pelagonia Range

A delicious and unusual range of Macedonian meze items including roasted peppers, pumpkin jam and Aivar, a gorgeous aubergine and pepper dip. They come in really attractive jars and are very well priced around the £3.50 mark. They have limited stockists around the country but will also be on show to sample and buy from at the London BBC Good Food Show in November.

Peter’s Yard

Many people will have heard of this brand by now, but I have to feature them here as I was totally inspired by a talk by one of the co-founders, Wendy, at the recent Foodie Bugle Lectures. The artisan crisp breads are made to a traditional Swedish recipe here in the UK and are not only really good for you, but delicious too! The original bakery is up in Edinburgh, and is on top of my must visit list!

Lahloo Tea

Another speaker at the Foodie Bugle Lectures, Kate Gover, who I have met before but never realised her faultless passion and drive for tea and her own growing business Lahloo Tea. I particularly liked the tasting notes on the tea tins, of the few I saw two mentioned baked apples with brown sugar and butter, and one talked of madeira cakes – great to be able to pull out flavour notes from the tea that you can relate to. She has recently opened a tea pantry in Bristol, which is also on my must visit list, and is planning on opening more outlets across the country in the future, definitely one to watch!

Demijohn

Angus Ferguson is a BBC Good Food Show regular, but he never stops impressing me with his passion, enthusiasm and simply outstanding liqueurs. This year his new flavour was Morello Cherry Brandy, which was really delicious but I always fall back to his Rhubarb Vodka, which was particularly tart this year. At the end of the show Angus was busy finding picnic fayre to satisfy the participants of his upcoming annual elderflower picking pilgrimage – lucky pickers!

Hardiesmill

I took home a couple of souvenirs from the Royal Highland Show, Edinburgh, last week – some Hardiesmill Aberdeen Angus popeseye steaks and a beef haggis. The steaks were really, really tender and you could really taste the difference of grass-fed animals in the fat too. The highlight was the haggis, which didn’t seem as fatty as the lamb based version, and had a lovely delicate flavour and firm texture. You can buy fresh beef products and charcuterie from their website.

So I think that brings me up to date with my fabulous food finds, but I must find the time to write up more highlights from the BBC Good Food Show Summer, my judging of the Great Taste Awards, my visit to the Royal Highland Show and the wonderful Foodie Bugle Lectures too! Its been a busy few weeks!

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Brockley Market – My Highlights

I recently took a trip down to the much talked about Brockley Market and was really impressed! Created by a local photographer (Toby Allen) with a passion for food, dedication to succeed and the ability to spot an opportunity to create a new market to benefit his local community. I had a lovely time there, great producers, great street food and space to either sit or stand around and eat. Here is a quick run down of my highlights.

Amazing looking stand and food from Mike and Ollie, must try on my next visit.

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Food Find of the Week – Quince Juice

My latest food find is perfect for Summer cocktails – quince juice from Norfolk producer Drove Orchards. I was very happy to find it in my sister’s fridge and just had to try it. I drank it with Vestal Vodka‘s Amber elderberry flower liqueur, with a little soda and lots of ice, a delicious cocktail to drink in the sun.

I’m not sure where my sister got it from, but I believe it’s widely available across Norfolk delis and in their farm  shop near Hunstanton (definitely visiting next time I’m back in Norfolk!). Their website says they are hoping to start selling their range of juices online soon, but give a number to call and order if you can’t wait that long!

It’s so good that the Great Taste Awards judges awarded it two gold stars last year, here’s what they said about it:

 Good smell of Quince.  Slight Cloudiness.  Pleasant honey flavour.  Blended very well.  Quince comes through very nicely – good balance.  Sugar is well in control, good tartness.  ‘Grown-up’ product – this would be lovely even with a mixer.  A summery drink.

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Food Find of the Week – Natural Seaweed Seasonings

This week’s food find is from The Sea-Spice Co who have created a range of super healthy seasonings made purely from naturally harvested, Celtic seaweed. Fiona Houston and Xa Milne, also known as the sea spice girls, have established themselves as experts in seaweed foraging through their own book ‘Seaweed and Eat It: A Family Foraging and Cooking Adventure’, magazine columns and radio and TV appearances. Earlier this year they launched their range of sea~sons, and seem to be going from strength to strength!

I must admit to only having tasting the seasonings with bread and oil, and haven’t had a chance to try in a recipe yet. I’m really keen to try the pepper dulse, which is known as the truffle of the sea, sprinkled on top of seared scallops. The range also includes sea lettuce, which is bright green and looks a bit like parsley to be used as a garnish or towards the end of cooking. The dulse is a deep purple colour, and the tasting notes suggest a hint of smoked bacon and that it is strong and robust enough to pair with meat and game, almost like an anchovy equivalent. Shony flakes are a blend of seaweeds to be used as a table condiment and to add colour and flavour in cooking. Finally, Celtic Kombu provides an umami boost to dishes and can be used as a stock. I can’t wait to get experimenting!

Find out more by following @seaspicegirls on twitter, or if you fancy trying some, you can buy from the range at their online shop. Their website also gives some great recipes and suggestions for use, along with the story behind the company and some of their recent success stories.

I will update once I’ve had time to use some in a recipe, but for now I will keep dipping my finger into the pouches when I need a savoury kick!

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Wiveton Hall Café – North Norfolk

Along the beautiful North Norfolk coast is an unassuming fruit farm alongside a grand hall, farm shop and café, the Wiveton Hall Cafe. Delia Smith recently said it’s the best eaterie in the world, but more importantly my friend Ben Pert is one of the head chefs and my dad has just joined his kitchen team as a sous chef! I took advantage of my Easter weekend with family back in Norfolk and had a wonderful lunch at this uncomplicated, beautiful cafe on Easter Sunday.

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Food Find of the Week – Findlater’s Fine Foods

I was in my local Waitrose on Saturday, looking for lunch, and spotted Findlater’s Fine Foods‘ Chicken Liver pate on their shelves. Having featured at the BBC Good Food Show Scotland and at the NEC in the past I was already familiar with their delicious range, but I’d just only ever had little tasters! So I bought a pot, along with a crusty baguette and hurried home to devour it.

It was so good that I had to make it my Food Find of the Week!

The chicken liver pate, with brandy and port, is delicious, so creamy, rich, smooth and full of flavour, without being too ‘livery’. With salty butter and crusty bread, it is the perfect picnic piece!

Find out more about the history Findlater’s Fine Food on their website, and be prepared for your mouth to water over the rest of their range – venison pate with pancetta and whisky, roast salmon pate with cracked black pepper, lemon and lime or even a meat free avocado and cashew nut pate with mango and chilli.

Well deserving of my Food Find of the Week, and great to find some quality Scottish produce south of the border! Let me know if you have tried it, and what you think of it.

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Food Find of the Week – Cannon and Cannon

I’m really excited about my Food Find of the Week – it gives me a chance to share my passion for new producers, products, people and places and also makes me even more motivated to search harder and wider.

This week’s food find is Cannon and Cannon, a pair of young brothers from North Norfolk (Sean and Joe Cannon) with a serious passion for meat. They specialise in artisan British charcuterie, so are a one stop shop to buy the very best produce from passionate artisans leading the way in hand crafted cured meats. From Cornwall to Scotland, Wales to Kent, the brothers have scoured the country to find the very finest they can. By selling produce from superb producers such as Forest Pig, Moons Green, Trealy Farm and Great Glen Game (among others) and always being on the look out for the next new thing in charcuterie you really can be assured of buying the highest quality and most pioneering produce possible.

I’ve only met one of the brothers, Sean, who really knows his stuff about charcuterie. They have a stall in the Green Market area at Borough Market, Thursday – Saturday where you can learn more about, taste and buy from their range. I ended up taking home a veal, thyme and lemon salami from Trealy Farm and a rather special hazelnut and champagne salami from Forest Pig. I can’t wait to go back for my next meaty fix!

Have you already heard of Cannon and Cannon? If not, find out more by visiting them at the market, following them on twitter @cannonandcannon or take a look at their website – www.cannonandcannon.com. I’ve been told that there is exciting news being announced on Friday, so stay tuned.

Check back here next Wednesday for my next Food Find of the Week, or why not pop your email address in the box over there on the right, and you will get emailed as soon as I write a post!

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Introducing my Food Find of the Week

I have decided to introduce a new element to this blog, a weekly post dedicated to my ‘Food Find of the Week’. I regularly meet wonderful producers, retailers and food lovers, and find new products, books, cool shops and places to eat and drink –  it seems a shame not to share my favourites here on my blog, and by going weekly I have no excuses but to post!

I speak to a mix of well established, popular producers that you may already know and people who may just be in the development stages of their business – I love asking questions about why they came to do what they do, why their products are so great and whether there is anything new in the pipeline.

Look out for my ‘Food Find of the Week’ on Wednesday!

Oh, and just in case you thought any differently, please be assured that I will only write about things I genuinely love/ like/ am excited about on this blog.

 

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The Cheese and Wine Company

A few years ago I met my colleague’s dad Steve Parker at one of the BBC Good Food Shows and we excitedly talked in-depth about his dream to open a cheese and wine shop that would host tastings too. 18 months ago Steve opened The Cheese and Wine Company in Hampton, and I am embarrassed to say that it has taken me this long to pay him a visit (sorry Steve!). I was really impressed with the place, firstly as a brilliant fine food shop but even more with the way he has created a destination for foodies to come to taste, buy, eat, learn and share their passion.

The shop is a cheese/ wine/ food lover’s dream – a wall of wine, an open fridge with a diverse range of cheeses, fresh bread, a selection of speciality and artisan produce and an enormous table in the room next door to host meals and tasting events. One thing that Steve made clear was that they didn’t just sell cheese and wine, but the stories behind the produce and experiences too – The Cheese and Wine Company is about tasting, learning and sharing and having fun whilst doing so.

Steve and his team really know their stuff about cheese – the fridge is divided into different types of cheese, from the recognisable to the unusual. As a result of Steve encouraging tasting in his shop, customers are able to try things they wouldn’t normally dare to, and this exploration can lead to finding some great new cheeses that you wouldn’t ever normally buy. I’m sure we are all guilty of choosing cheeses we know we are going to like!

With wines to suit most budgets and tastes, and helpful advice on what and how to choose the best wines, it’s a perfect place to buy wine whether you know your stuff or don’t have much of a clue.

The shop is also filled with other artisan produce such as chutney, biscuits, flavoured salts, fresh bread, oils, vinegar and a few sweet things too!

I was particularly intrigued by this bottle of olive oil, which is from Steve’s brothers farm in France, La Ferme du Bon Dieu. He produces this cold pressed extra virgin olive oil from Provencal verdale olives – exclusively available from The Cheese and Wine Shop! 
The second room is dedicated to tastings, events and meals where a huge shared table is surrounded by cosy corners, bookshelves and interesting cheesy paraphernalia.

 

 

Steve talked us through some of the cheeses, cutting off small pieces for us to try. Norwegian brown cheese (made with condensed milk) was a little too weird for me but we tried some amazing cheeses too. We bought Halloumi for tonight’s dinner, a creamy wedge of Soumaintrain from Saint-Simeon and a bottle of Doppio Passo (Italian primitivo wine) which came highly recommended. I can’t wait to return for one of the tastings or themed evenings, I doubt I will be able to miss the hot cheese night on Thursday when he is serving fondue alongside fine wines without a corkage fee! Check out his website for more information about his produce and events or to buy online – although its definitely worth the trip to Hampton for!

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Making Marmalade

I had the intention of making marmalade this Seville season, but hadn’t got round to making time to do it – so when I came across a handy supermarket fixture selling both Seville oranges and preserving sugar I mindlessly added the ingredients to my basket. My holiday got nearer and nearer as the oranges sat there in the kitchen… I was running out of time before they would start to spoil. The day before my trip to Chamonix was supposed to be used for last-minute packing, exchanging pounds to euros and getting an early night ready for our 2am start… to my family’s despair, I thought it a good idea to add marmalade making to our schedule.


I had never made marmalade before so I ‘asked Delia’, to whom I turn to when I need to find a classic, traditional recipe – she didn’t disappoint and the marmalade recipe in her Complete Cookery Course was easy to follow and seemed to deliver great results too. Delia has kindly added this recipe to her website for all to follow if they would like. Below are a few pictures, tips and changes to the original recipe that I made…

I squeezed the oranges over a sieve to ensure no pips got through as I added the juice to the water. This made for an easy way to collect the pips and extra pith needed to add separately to the saucepan.

I had a few handy muslin bags designed for mulled wine spices in my cupboard so used one of these instead of a sheet of muslin and string.

I found the shredding of the oranges particularly tiresome and even ended up with a blister on my finger from all the chopping! I  kept looking over at my Magimix wondering if there was a shredding attachment but in my haste just kept chopping by hand. According to Delia the shreds are supposed to be ‘thinnish’. My shreds were rather misshapen – some thin, some thick, some chunks, some shreds and it worried me. Once boiled down you couldn’t really notice the different sizes though, so no need to worry about uniform shreds.

By now it was nearly dinner time, and the holiday packing still wasn’t complete. The fruit must be simmered for two hours or so, so I distracted the family while I waited for the shreds to soften… once done we could go out for dinner.

After the two hours of simmering it should be time to add the sugar. At this point I took a two-hour pub break and returned to the simmered fruit later, full of scampi and warm with wine. I added the sugar at this stage (around 300g of granulated sugar was replaced with icing sugar as I found myself short) and stirred. After 15 minutes of fast boiling it wasn’t crinkling on my chilled saucer so I continued to boil for a further 10 minutes, and then a further 5 to get to what seemed to be a ‘set’.

I carefully decanted into jars with a jug (annoyingly, the special silicone funnel I bought didn’t fit the jar openings).

Ta daaaaa… my lovely jars of marmalade, ready with minutes to spare before bed time.

I am writing this post after the holiday and must say that homemade marmalade on buttered toast, with tea, was the perfect welcome home after a very tiring, but fun, week away in the snow. If you haven’t made your own marmalade before, it is very rewarding and tastes so much better than the shop bought kind… just make sure you give yourself a good 4-5 hours or so to make it properly!

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