Tuesday 18 November 2008

The charcuterie boys

I finally got around to meeting the charcuterie boys at Trealy Farm; a picture book farmhouse at the end of a long climb with a rewarding crystal clear view to the Sugar Loaf mountain and a yard animated by strutting hens.
It is here that enthusiasts, James, Graham and John produce an array of artisan charcuterie from locally bred free range pigs. Like so many other farmers finding themselves in difficult times they had wanted to do something more profitable with their pigs. It took time to find one another and to get the know-how together; finally setting up in business 3 years ago.
They have been to Germany, France, Italy and Spain in their search for expertise and now produce a large range of traditional British specialties such as their award winning sausages and bacon and products rarely made in the UK such as chorizos, air-dried hams, loins and pancetta and a range of salamis including lightly smoked snack-sized ‘salami’ and cabanos.
Serve a selection of their cold cuts with handmade cheeses, pears cooked in perry, farm house butter and crusty bread washed down with local cider or perry......... a true taste of the British countryside today!
Check out the website and farm markets from Cardiff to Cheltenham.

Thursday 17 July 2008

I drew the line at the redcurrant jelly but now I have to go back and get the gooseberries

Driving to a hospital appointment yesterday through the south Herefordshire countryside washed by mellow sunshine, filled me with the kind of well being normally associated with uber chic spas and treatments. My hospital visit was unusually efficient and good humoured and I was back on the road, still cheerful and with half an hour to spare before the next stage of my day.
Over the past week or so it has dawned on me that I have not seen two lovely friends for the best part of a year and luck would have it that I was about to pass their farm gate. Sarah is from Tasmania originally and has a wonderful sunny disposition much of which I am convinced is rubbed off onto her excellent produce. She and her husband George run Treberva farm. George conducts the serious business of a modern farm in a competitive market all be it in idyllic surroundings. Sarah lovingly tends the human resources that oil the wheels of the business, the local post offices and corner shops that pass on the fresh seasonal produce around the district, and her farm gate shop and customers.
Luck would have it that Sarah is in the shop bobbing around between produce, paperwork and customers. Tender lush broad beans, peas, baby carrots, beets and new potatoes, waxy young courgettes, cherries, strawberries, raspberries, red currants, black currants, black and green gooseberries and seriously fresh free-range eggs are picked daily. She insists everything is picked young, dew fresh, tender and flavoursome.
My problem is, knowing where to draw the line. This time of the year I make big bowls of leaf and herb salads mixed with the prime of the season’s veg cooked al dente and dressed while still warm to give them extra flavour. These make good starters especially if there is some roasted beetroot in them too. They also make lively accompaniments to simply cooked fish and meat dishes so suited to summer. I load up the back of my car which now looks like a harvest festival and drive on to work full of the joys of spring.
Now the jelly bag is dripping with the clear claret colour of redcurrant juice and later, on will go the preserving pan and soon there will be rows of little pots of crystal clear jellies.
................I must go back at the weekend and pick a basket of those gooseberries I drew the line at. I want to smoke some duck breasts and I just can’t get the thought of smoked duck and gooseberry jelly out of my mind………
Let me know if you would like the recipe!

Thursday 17 April 2008

Cherries under threat

I love cherries and growing up on the boarders of Herefordshire and Gloucestershire they were very much part of my childhood summers. There was the White Heart tree at Babylon Farm at Gorsley producing chip basketsful of pale peaches and cream coloured cherries. Then there were the little brown paper bags of dark blood red fruit oozing with juice bought with my pocket money on school outings. Today I look forward to the appearance of all the local fruit as the summer months come and go but cherries are still my favourites.

It was therefore quite a wake up call to hear that this luscious fruit is under threat from cheap foreign imports; not just here in the county but nationwide.

Help is at hand in the form of Cherry Aid, to be launched at the Real Food Festival at Earl’s Court in London on 24 April. It is spearheaded by Henrietta Green and supported my some of the country’s top chefs and will bring together consumers, cherry growers, and producers of cherry-based delights in what if hope will be a fruitful fight for survival. As the resource for the campaign, FoodLoversBritain.com will be packed with ways in which we all can do our part to help save the glorious cherry. The campaign will culminate in British Cherry Day on 19 July.

Plump, ripe and juicy, the British cherry is a burst of home-grown sunshine but sadly, this heavenly little fruit is in a pickle. Since their introduction by the Romans in the first century AD, our cherry orchards have survived wars, floods and droughts; now they are being destroyed at the hand of unfavorable economics.

It is sad to say that most of the frothy cherry trees (aptly described so by screen writer, Dennis Potter) that once blossomed across the country have been grubbed up. Figures for the decimation vary but one estimate is that the area under orchard in Kent alone has shrunk by a massive 85% in the past fifty years. With the market flooded by ever cheaper foreign imports, the few remaining local commercial growers are being forced to consider if their orchards can survive.

The value of traditional and heritage varieties to our landscape, culture and local livelihoods is at last being recognized. Backing up the old guard, new varieties have been developed to be more resilient to our climate, mature more quickly and grow on smaller trees that are easier to harvest. These factors promise a plentiful and stable domestic supply but only with our help.

FoodLoversBritain.com would especially love to hear from people who:

Sell British cherries.
Produce or sell food or drink made from British grown cherries.
Own a cherry orchard in which visitors can taste and buy cherries; can sponsor a tree; or can enjoy a picnic under the trees.
Will be featuring locally-grown cherry dishes on their summer menu.
Organise a competition for the best cherry pie, cherry jam, cherry wine or other British-cherry-based goodies.
Have any other suggestions for how to support one of our great natural treasures.

Those wanting to sign up for action should contact Jo Dodsley at FoodLovers Britain jo@foodloversbritain.com; or you can nominate a business in the Food Finds section at FoodLoversBritain.com.

Monday 14 April 2008


Wow, what a week it’s been; well that is my excuse for not posting any news since last Monday. I had a training course which went on all weekend to prepare for and G2 always keeps me pretty busy. All the recipes turned out well and I shall be very happy to cook them all summer long - no doubt some new dishes will present themselves, they normally do.Two recipes had warm asparagus in. One was a salad with warm roasted beetroot and soft boiled eggs, the other a bruschetta with mozzarella. The Chin family, Wye Valley asparagus is exceptional this year. I don't think I have enjoyed asparagus like it since we grew our own in the garden at home. It is so tender but solid and has a delicate flavour. I can't stop eating it and just think in recent years I have been saying it is over rated I would just as well have broccoli. Forget that!
Needless to say it is grown in poly tunnels, but it does the little blighters no harm. It is an extraordinary sight too, mesmerising in fact, to see the pickers silhouetted against huge expanses of whiteness like peasants toiling in the snow on the Russian Steppes. It is strange though to be eating local asparagus in April, such a cold one too, but much as I love seasonality on the table I just don't want to resist this one and anyway it is grown on the doorstep and picked the same day we eat it. Food does not get better than that.
I noticed the Lilly of the Valley are up early too - no thanks to poly tunnels either. When I lived in Penzance they were always in flower for Helston Flora Day on May 8th (or is it 9th) and always bloomed a week or so later here.
Speak soon Lindy

Monday 7 April 2008

Abruzzo, Frosinone, and Jorg Hagemeyer

Drove to NEC this morning, no problems arrived on the dot of ten. No hold ups on the M42. Beautiful sunny morning so walked from the car park.

The Abruzzo stand was very limited, not like the Italians at all. Really disappointing as I had hoped to pick up some artisan meat curers and the like. There was also a Frosinone (Lazio, south of Rome) stand; they were much more switched on but again a fairly limited range of producers.

The Welsh stand stood out - eye catching - well thought out with an amazing glass box kitchen with a kind of sushi bar conveyor belt spilling out great tastes into the hall. Designed I was told in Italy. Bacheldre Watermill was there with their speciality flours and Michael Leviseur from the Organic Smokehouse with his beautiful smoked salmon. Came across, The Knobbly-Carrot makers of great soup....
The best of the rest: Delicioso - I tasted some Spanish acorn fed ham to die for - Bellota Negra – it’s just salted and air dried - very soft - melt in the mouth - a cross between cooked ham, cured ham and cream. The pigs have a pedigree akin to that of a race horse which may explain its price tag of £19.00 per 100 g in a certain food hall in Knightsbridge......delicioso though!

Dinky queen scallops on their shells from Island Seafare, Isle of Man and traditionally smoked Manx kippers

Then there was Mr Jorg Hagemeyer export manager of the German spice and additive company AVO. Struck me immediately as a bon viveur, well suited, very charming. He told me about Sauerbraten a traditional home marinated beef dish from Cologne - can’t wait to try it - I will let you know how I get on. It involves rubbing the meat with spices and herbs and leaving it for some days. I need to research it a bit more first though - German food it very under rated!

Got home around three and had to set to and get my boxes ready to set up for tomorrow. then a meal to cook as no Sunday left overs. Did a small pice of boiled ham with watercress sauce celeriac and purple sprouting and now its ten o'clock and time for bed!
A presto.

Sunday 6 April 2008

Well that's another weekend nearly over, but a good one! Went to see Uncle Vanya yesterday in Malvern: Saturday matinee –what a luxury and gorgeous lunch to day with friends.

It has gone really dark - it's blowing a blizzard - the snow flakes are almost as big as the magnolia petals that are coming off the tree in the wind. Battery is flat in the camera, - typical!

Madly putting recipes together for my demonstration on Wednesday. Could not decide on the pudding, Pimm’s cup, Campari cocktail jelly or rhubarb and brioche crisps - so made them all again this morning and ended up having to force myself into tasting them between my boiled egg breakfast and six course lunch – It’s hell being a food writer – no it is really – I was not hungry but it had to be done. Came down on the side of the rhubarb concoction as even with a full stomach I could not stop eating it - I only ate half – really I did.

Snow has slowed down to a drizzle

Our friend John (husband to Marianne of gorgeous lunch fame) has a bit of a weakness for Fernet Branca and insists that he receives a bottle for Christmas every year; I myself have a kind of addiction – generally only fed in Italy – however – I can depend on a snorter at their house. I love the stuff, it cures hangovers, stomach upsets and here I am writing my blog with no ill effects from alcohol after a five hour lunch - not bad hey? I find it terribly underrated everywhere except in its home country.

Anyway the recipes have been tried, tested, typed and emailed to the printers so I shall be able to go to the ball tomorrow – well actually the Food and Drink Expo at the NEC. I don’t normally go and I don’t normally go off gallivanting so close to G2 but the Abruzzo region of Italy has a bit of a presence and the Abruzzo is strong on salumeria. So I am hoping to gather some fodder for my new book - more of that tomorrow. Enjoy what is left of the weekend!

Friday 4 April 2008

The Guild, the lunch and the book

Yesterday was the Guild of Food Writers AGM, an auspicious occasion to facilitate its members, in amongst other things, getting out. For a food writer’s lot is for much of the time a lonely one, convivial animal though he or she may be.
The meeting was held in the upper library at Christ Church Oxford, a room lined with books as you may well expect but also flooded with light and embellished with delicate carving.
The meeting was swift and to the point, reports delivered efficiently by committee and other business fielded in a timely and tidy fashion by our chair; affording just enough time to drink in our breathtaking surrounding before being ushered off for an appetitive before lunch.
We are food writers and first things first but always with lunch or dinner. We enjoyed a glass of frivolous Argeo Prosecco Brut Ruggeri light, slightly fruity and frothy with excellent olives and slow roasted tomatoes. We went on to the hallowed surroundings of the Great Hall chomping on a selection of antipasti, artichokes aubergines pepper, shavings of Parmesan, slices of prosciutto crudo, salami, mortadella the usual thing; washed down with a gorgeous Gavi di Gavi Fontanafredda 2006. Monachs Henry and Elizabeth and many fine chancellors looked on from their lofty heights as we tucked into trofie liguri, special pasta from Liguria with pesto (Sacla’) and Parmiggiano and brasato al Dolcetto. Beef marinated in wine served with creamy best ever polenta and some disappointing green beans.
There was an interesting architecturally challenged Montebore stepped cheese and some rose scented icecream, biscuits and chocolates.
The lunch sponsored by Sacla’ in so august surrounding had brought a good cross-section of members out of hibernation and from many parts of the country.
I should swiftly add it was not solely for our benefit, the lunch was to celebrate a new book The painter, The cook and L’arte di Sacla’ written by Anna Del Conte and illustrated by artist Val Archer and was part of the Oxford Festival of literature.
The book is a delight and goes into the food culture of six of Italy’s eighteen regions. For the Italians eating is like breathing it is an essential part of life. The kitchen is the heart of the family, and the family comes together at the table. So no surprise then that the Italian Ambassador was there too chomping along with the rest of us to celebrate the occasion and Sacla’, one of Italy’s successful exports in the food market.
Today as you can see, I am back at my desk slumming it with my telephone and screen for company, my magnolia to gaze out at in idle moments and the leftovers of last night’s marinated spiced chicken (made for my other half) tossed into a green salad for lunch.
Its one of many recipes I am working on for my next week’s demonstration. Try it and let me know how you get on. I’m out tonight, its poker night – very light hearted and light weight the stakes are £2 per person per evening and best of all some one else gets to make supper.

Spiced chicken kebabs
Serves 4

3 free range chicken breasts, skin on weighing say 600g total
1 lump fresh ginger (egg size) peeled and finely chopped
4 large garlic cloves finely chopped
1 heaped teaspoon ground turmeric
1 heaped teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
1 level teaspoon salt
Good pinch chilli powder
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Cut the chicken breasts into large bite size chunks and put in large bowl, add all the other ingredients and mix well. Cover and stand for 1-3 hours as time allows. After this time thread the chicken onto skewers, and suspend them across the sides of a small roasting dish. Add a half glass of water to the bowl that the meat was marinated in. Swish it around and pour into the base of the roasting dish. Drizzle the chicken kebabs with a little oil. Put in a pre-heated oven 190C for 25-30 minutes or until cooked through: turning once during this time. Serve either on a green salad or on spiced rice

Spiced rice
Serves 4

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small lump ginger, finely chopped
1 small onion or shallot, finely chopped
1 teaspoon each cumin, paprika
1 level tablespoon turmeric
500g (cooked weight) boiled rice
100ml vegetable or chicken stock
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Olive oil

Cover the base of a pre-heated saucepan with olive oil. Add the finely chopped garlic, ginger and onion and when they start to bubble, add the spices and simmer over low heat until the vegetables are transparent. Add the ready boiled rice and the stock and stir fry until well coated and boiling hot. Stir in the chopped parsley and serve.

Buon appetito
A presto