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Monthly Archives: September 2009

The mainstay of global cuisine this cultivated vegetable is a member of the lily family, and related to asparagus. It has a rounded edible bulb with a hard pungent flesh, and concentric layers beneath a flaky brown skin. Used cooked as a vegetable or raw in dips, salads, etc. Onions are used as an ingredient in almost every dish including chutneys, soups, sauces, stews, etc, etc. Not commonly found growing as a wild plant, the onion is a difficult plant to pinpoint. It is thought to have originated in Asia, is mentioned in the Bible and has been cultivated for some 5000 years. Eaten in ancient Egypt and appearing painted on the walls of tombs. A food for slaves, an object of worship for priests and a method of payment for labourers. A staple food of Rome and Greece, ware they are known to have been consumed in huge quantities. Especially with cheese. Brought to Britain by the Romans and known as an ‘unio’, a Latin word translating as ‘single white pearl’. Next exported to France and referred to as an ‘oignon’, which is then converted to the ‘onion’ that we know today. They can be eaten raw, fried, boiled, braised, roasted or pickled. Almost all recipes begin with an onion and the smell is recognized the world over. There are several varieties of onion, the most common types being the ‘bulb onion’, ‘Spanish onion’, ‘white onion’, ‘pickling onion’, ‘pearl onion’, ‘silverskin onion’, ‘tree onion’, ‘red onion’, ‘Welsh onion’, ‘Spring onion’, the ‘grelot’ and ‘cipolin onions’. The Bulb Onion is the common brown-skinned variety, the smaller the onion the more potent it will be. Spanish onions are larger than the bulb variety with a more yellowy coloured skin and higher water content. The white onion is a mild and sweet flavoured with a white skin. Pickling onions are small, round and have a rich brown coloured skin. Perfect for pickling. Pearl onions are extremely small with a white skin and sweet flavour. Silverskin onions are sometimes referred to as ‘cocktail onions’ and are usually pickled. Tree onions as the name suggests grow on trees. They have a small bulb and a stubby stem, with a flavour similar to garlic. Red onions have a mild sweet flavour and a purple-red colouring. Perfect for salads or roasting whole, but no to good for frying as the tend to loose all flavour and turn to a muddy brown colour. The Welsh onion looks less like an onion and more like a cross between a chive and a leek, and grown in small clusters of six. Spring Onions were traditionally immature bulb onions, picked early in the season, and having white stems and small green shoots. Specific spring onion varieties are now grown, and are perfect eaten raw in salads or with dips. The grelot is a mature spring onion that is no longer mild enough to be eaten raw excellent in stir-fries or frittata. Cipolline onions are a pretty looking little Italian onion, turban shaped with a sweet mild flavour, wonderful as antipasti with flatbread and balsamic.
 

When Julie Powel began her quest in 2002 she was one among few. A trailblazer. Julie had decided to cook every recipe contained with in the pages of ‘Mastering the Art Of French Cooking’ by Julia Child, and to record every detail of her task through use of the internet. Cyberspace had only few culinary contributors back then, so the subsequent success of her chosen subject may have come as something a surprise. People were fascinated. Hooked. The blog she produced would inspire may to emulate, eventually inspiring a hit film staring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. Today we have thousands of Julie Powel’s sharing there foodie thoughts across the internet, spreading food online to millions of readers on a daily basis. It is possible to locate blogs on any subject or taste. From apples to aperitifs, haute cuisine to hotdogs or Viennese to vegan, anything and everything is covered by someone someware. Many are armature ramblings produced by people who appear to know little of food basics. But an increasing number are written by serious and experienced cooks. Dinner smart foodies who are more than capable of producing a credible restaurant review. Mums with culinary and housekeeping savvy. An increasing number of working chefs are heading for the computer soon after hanging up their whites for the night, logging the days events. This is a trend that could spell disaster for restaurant critics and cookbook publishers as we turn away from what they have to offer us. Or should I say sell us. Why pay for something published in a magazine or book that we can get for free, on demand, over the internet? Television cookery programmes meanwhile are becoming more about performance and showmanship. Chefs that no longer cook, parading around, shooting things in swamps before chopping and flambéing in a field. An authentic Louisiana gumbo, well I’m sure that I could Google that one.

 

A tart and juicy variety of sour flavoured English apple with a firm creamy white flesh and a rich green coloured skin that sometimes also has a slight red blush. Not suitable for eating raw. Especially used in crumbles and pies due to the fact that it maintains it shape even when cooked. Named after Matthew Bramley, a 19th centaury English butcher from Nottinghamshire. This apple should in fact be known as a Brailsford , being first grown in 1809 by Mary Brailsford of Southwell, Nottinghamshire, in the garden of her home. The apple was not grown commercially however until 1876, when cuttings from the original tree were taken by nurseryman Henry Merryweather. In order to do this he had to obtain the permission of the then owner of the house, a Mathew Bramley.

Fairtrade Is an international food labelling system, indicating that products have been produced with a high regard for environmental and social issues. Usually applied to Third World produce, it guarantees a fair price, working conditions and wages as well as protection from volatile markets. Products include cocoa, coffee beans and fruit juices. While the term Organic denotes food that has been farmed or produced without the use of pesticides, artificial feeds, antibiotics or steroids. The term organic is defined by European law, and anyone using it to describe a product must hold a licence. These licences are only issued by an approved and certified body that must comply with regulations and standards set out by law. Organic produce sold within the UK must display a certification symbol and EU code number. This identification mark indicates that the product complies with the minimum standards as stipulated by UK law, and the number demonstrates that it meets European and international standards. The term Food Mile is a measure of the distance travelled by a foodstuff from producer to consumer. Long distances are considered detrimental to quality, the environment and prejudicial to local producers. Foods transported by air are increasingly being regarded as undesirable, especially due to the carbon foot print left by air transport. Some suppliers now indicate with labelling if a food has been transported by air. Even organic and fair trade produce is now sometimes regarded as undesirable if it has been transported in this way, with many preferring locally produced foods; even if they were farmed using non organic methods. For example the soil association suggests that asparagus, produced in the UK using pesticides and chemical fertilizers, would have less of an environmental impact than asparagus organically grown in Thailand using fair trade procedures, but which is then flown into the UK to be sold next to is English competitor. As a response to the food mile issue many crops normally associated with warmer climates, are now being grown in Britain. Melons normally associated with the Mediterranean, for example, are now being grown commercially in Thorrington Essex. Finally, it is important to appreciate that many years ago all food was ‘local produce’. It is only due to the development of mass transport and modern preservation methods that food has become global. Once upon a time milk would have to be from ‘the local farm’ otherwise it would go off during transportation. The Victorians would be unlikely to see a fresh mango.

 

A rich dark steamed pudding produced using dried fruits, candied peel, spices, suet and usually fortified with brandy. Traditionally prepared and cooked well in advance, then reheated by steaming and eaten on Christmas Day. A good pudding may be made more that a year in advance, preserved due to the often high alcohol content. To produce take 100g/4oz self-raising flour, pinch of salt, 2½ ml/½tsp of grated nutmeg, ½ ml/½tsp of mixed spice, 75g/3oz suet, 100g/4oz raisins, 100g/4oz of sultanas, 100g/4oz of currants, 100g/4oz of soft brown sugar, 50g/2oz of mixed peel, 2 medium eggs, ½ a lemon grated and 60ml/4tbsp of brandy. Macerate the dried fruits overnight. Grease a 1.2litre/2 pint pudding basin, placing a small round of greaseproof paper in the bottom of the bowl to help prevent the pudding from sticking. Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Add the eggs and brandy, mixing well. Pour the mixture into the prepared basin, placing a second round of greaseproof paper onto the top of the mixture. Cover with foil and then a cloth. Secured with string. Steam for 8 hours. Allow to cool completely. Keep the pudding in the cooking basin and store in a dry place until required. Reheating by steaming for 2 hours. Serve as required.

The fig is a small, sweet tasting, delicately flavoured pear-shaped fruit with a juicy flesh, jam-like textured pulp, leathery rind and containing many seeds. Native throughout the Mediterranean and in season from June to October. Often available dried or pickled but always best fresh. Figs come in a range of colours, from a pale green through to gold, red or a plumy black. When ripe they are soft textured but with a slightly firm and springy feel. They will usually have a slight honey-like moisture on the skin when ripe. Figs should be handled gently as they bruise easily. Store in a fridge but always eat at room temperature. Serve simply. Delicious with Greek yoghurt, honey and toasted almonds. If still a little under ripe then bake with maple syrup, or grill with crumbled goats cheese and serve with Parma ham and rocket. Try roasting whole fresh figs together with fresh orange halves, butter, a sprinkle of brown sugar, a cinnamon stick and a vanilla pod.

A Christmas classic eaten throughout the festive season and consisting of a mixture of spiced and finely chopped fruits including apples, raisins and candied peel presented within a sweet, crispy pastry. Traditionally served warmed with a flavoured cream. To produce this English tradition first make the sweet mince filling. Take a lemon, 100g/3½oz of raisins, 100g/3½oz of sultanas, ½ a Bramley apple peeled and chopped, 100g/3½oz of dried mixed fruit, 75g/2½oz of mixed peel, 100g/3½oz of beef suet, 100g/3½oz of dark brown muscavado sugar , 100g/3½oz of currants, ½ a tsp of ground cinnamon, a ¼ tsp of freshly grated nutmeg, a 1 tsp of mixed spice, a ¼ tsp of ground ginger, 50ml/2fl oz of brandy and 50ml/2fl oz of sherry. Boil the whole lemon for an hour until soft. Allow to cool. Quarter and remove all of the pips. Core and dice the apple. Place the lemon, raisins, sultanas, mixed peel and apple into a processor. Whiz to a paste. Add the suet, muscavado sugar, currants, cinnamon, nutmeg, mixed spice, ground ginger, brandy and sherry. Blend with a spoon until the mixture is combined. Allow to rest in a fridge overnight. For the pastry take 450g/1lb of plain flour, a tsp of baking powder, 120g/4oz of unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing, a tbsp of caster sugar, 140ml/5fl oz of fresh orange juice, the zest of two oranges and a medium egg. Grease a muffin tin with butter, you will need a tin with 18 wells. Sieve the flour, baking powder and salt together into a bowl. Cube the butter and add to the mixture, rubbing it in until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the orange zest. Gradually add the orange juice. Blending continuously until the mixture comes together as a dough. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead lightly until smooth. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for an hour. Preheat an oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Cut the chilled pastry in half. Roll out one half of the pastry onto a lightly floured work surface to a ½cm/¼in thickness. Using a 7cm/2½in pastry cutter, cut out 18 discs placing one into each of the muffin tin wells. Spoon a tablespoon of the mincemeat mixture into each of the mince pie cases and brush the rim of each pastry case with a little beaten egg. Roll out the remaining pastry onto a lightly floured work surface to a ½cm/¼in thickness. Using a 5cm/2in pastry cutter, cut out 15-18 discs and place one on top of each mince pie. Press together the edges of the pastry to seal. Use a knife to cut star shaped lids for a more decorative effect. Brush beaten egg over the tops of the mince pies. Make a small steam hole in the top of each pie if using a full lid. Dust with castor sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until pale golden-brown. Serve warm with whipped cream, brandy butter or vanilla ice cream.

A large pot shaped fruit cake, produced using a yeast dough and originating from Milan, Italy. Traditionally eaten at both Christmas and Easter. Baked in a special tubular mould to give it its distinctive height and shape. They are usually presented in tall decorated boxes. To produce take 450g of strong white flour, a tsp castor sugar, a tsp of salt, a lemon, 50g of pine nuts, 50g of raisins, 50g of mixed peel, 7g of yeast, an egg, 25g of unsalted butter, 200ml of warm water and 2 eggs and a little butter for a finishing glaze. Pre heat an oven to 190°C. Place all of the ingredients into a bowl, retaining two eggs for the glaze. Mix thoroughly, forming a stiff dough. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes. Beat the two remaining eggs together with a little melted butter. Brush over the dough. Place the dough into a greased tin. A terracotta flowerpot works well when making panettone, it should be at least 18cm in diameter and 9 cm deep. Cover, and place in a warm place to prove until doubled in size. This should take about 2 hours. Place in the oven an bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Traditionally panettone is held upside down to cool so that the lightness of the cake is maintained.

A savoury muffin that works well served as a breakfast or brunch treat, and best when eaten straight from the oven. To produce 6 of these muffins you will need 150g/5oz self-raising flour, 75g/3oz rolled oats, 1½tsp English mustard, 1tsp baking powder, 200g/7oz grated courgette, 6 green olives, small skinned red pepper cut into 6, 150g/5oz grated strong cheddar cheese, 75ml/3floz milk, 5tbsp vegetable oil and a medium sized egg. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4, 180° C or 350° F. Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a bowl, add the grated courgette and cheese saving a small amount of each to use as a topping. Whisk the milk, egg and vegetable oil together and then add to the other ingredients blending with a spoon. Fill 6 paper muffin cases or tin with a large spoon of the mix adding an olive, a strip of red pepper and some of the remaining courgette and cheese to the top of each muffin. Bake for 30 minuets and serve hot.

Born in London in 1708, the illegitimate daughter of Isaac Allgood and Hannah Reynolds. The Allgood family were respected and prosperous members of Northumberland society, and Isaac’s daughter Hannah is known to have been brought up in the families hometown of Hexham. Hannah and her family had a colourful history. Her farther was as a heavy drinker, often described as being in a ‘drunken stupor’ and Hannah regarded her mother as a ‘wicked wretch’. Her mother had once tricked Isaac into signing control of his estate over to her. Upon her fathers death Hannah did not initially receive the £30 annual payment as set out in his will. It took the intervention of her half brother Lancelot Allgood, a powerful political figure and trained solicitor, before the issue was resolved in 1740. It was in 1732 that she moved to London. Much later in 1746 Hannah wrote to an aunt in Hexham explaining that she had begun working on a book entitled The Art of Cookery. This was her third economic venture the previous two, selling a medicinal elixir and weaving cloth, having failed. Eventually published by subscription in 1747, the first print run of 202 was sold to eager readers though Mrs. Ashburn’s China Shop, London. The finished book entitled, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, gave plain and easy instructions for low-cost fine dining and swiftly reformed the cuisine of the professional classes. It also transformed Hannah’s financial situation, however the book was first issued anonymously, although she did later register the title in 1746 at the Stationer’s Hall, listing the book as intending to assist the lower classes in cooking for their employers. The fact that authorship of the first edition was anonymous led to the claim that it had been written by John Hill. In ’Boswell’s Life of Johnson’ a dinner party is recounted in which the books publisher Dilly suggests Hill was the true author. Johnson was not convinced, but the myth proceeded until Hannah Glasse’s identity was finally confirmed by researchers 1938. Hannah had 11 children, although only 5 survived. She ensured that each received an excellent education. Her two sons attended Eton while her daughters were tutored privately in Latin, French, writing and household accounts. Hannah found fame and fortune with her cookery book, and was described as ‘mother of the dinner party’. She died in 1770.

Click here to view a selection of original recipes from Hannah Glasse