Friday, 26 November 2010

From mill to loaf

How is this for traceability and total freshness. We visited Tuxford Mill in Nottinghamshire on Monday and used the stone ground spelt flour to make some really tasty spelt sourdough loaves on Tuesday. Spelt bread was made in ancient times, so I quite like the fact mine unintentionally look a bit symbolic of medieval times.

There are only a few working windmills left in the country and they date back as far as the 17th and 18th century (this one is about 1811). Using wind power to operate them, the ideal milling wind condition to produce flour needs to be between 15-20mph.

The engineering inside the mill was fascinating, like going back in time. There are four levels, the meal floor, the stone floor, the bin floor and right at the top the dust floor with all the turning gear. The old fashioned method of stone ground uses the open wind sails to operate the turning mechanics of the steel and wood cogs and then gravity force to drop the flour down the shoot to ground level.

Tuxford Mill is privately owned and the guy only started milling 5 years ago having previously worked in IT - an interesting career path !

Monday, 22 November 2010

Abbie's amazing chocolate brownies

Abbie found Nana's stash of chocolate and so she decided to make some yummy chocolate brownies.

Unfortunately, during the process, Nana fell down the stairs and fractured her leg.

But we all enjoyed the brownies :-)

Nana now recovering with crutches - hopefully will heal soon as she is really fed up with 
hopping around !

I love you Abbie x x

Serious sausage making

This has got to have been the best lesson yet...was hilarious!

We cut all the meet straight from the shoulder joint of the saddleback and minced this with sage, thyme, garam masala, salt and rusk. I made two massive string of sausages (about 48 in total) , took them home at the weekend and somehow between us all we have eaten our way through them. 

After last weeks butchery course, this weekend has been something of a meat feast. We've had pork burgers, meatballs, savoury ducks (aka faggots), sticky sausages, traditional sausages and meatballs. Oh and I made a pea & ham soup with the hock.....especially for big Noel.......Yumbo !

Saturday, 20 November 2010

The Great Chicken Debacle

Hugh has rallied for chicken welfare, challenging the mighty Tescos to change their policy and remove supply of battery chicken houses. Jamie also stood up for chicken rights and was filmed entering the appalling sight of battery caged chickens. This raised awareness, but these chickens are still on sale in our supermarkets. 

There is a serious issue about our value on meat generally. Most want it cheap, most want to eat it every night and as long as its presented in a familiar polystyrene wrap, most are comfortable with buying it and taking it home for evening meals. Thanks to the BOGOF deals of the supermarket and the 2 for £5 chickens, most have a perception that anything over £5 is expensive. Think again, how do you think the supermarkets can afford to sell chickens this cheap? - Easy, someone pays for it and its not them!

Pammy came to visit us at the School, she and her husband own a small holding, some 17acres down in Dorset, where she lovingly rears chickens, ducks, geese, pigs, lambs and cattle. Pammy started with birds.  Pammy rears her birds like family, allowing them to roam free, swim, fly and generally do natural things that birds like to do. This way they grow strong, robust, have a happy time and give you a tasty meal at the end of their life. Is there a difference to the supermarket birds?....First up, Pammy's chicken versus Waitrose essential range.
Notice the colour, the Waitrose essentials chicken looks pale in colour. The yellow colour of Pammy's bird comes from the Beta Caratin in the grass and the yellow grade depends on how well the individual bird can synthesis the Vitamin D (doubt the pale chick saw much sunlight). Look closely at the legs, Pammy's is strong and muscular compared to weaker limbs on the Waitrose bird that is likely to have been reared in on only 4 weeks to plump up for sale with little exercise. You can often also spot bruising around the limbs where they have either got hurt in transit or badly killed. According to the World Poultry, 2010 publication there is welfare concerns during the waterbath stunning. "It is beleived that in actual practise only 1/3rd of the birds is effectively stunned" Meaning pain and excessive distress caused. This is the most common method used in slaughterhouses in the EU and is also effecting the quality of our meat.  
See also the difference in their eggs....

Monday, 15 November 2010

A lesson in Butchery

An exciting day with lots of blood, flesh & organs. Ray and his wife Mary took our first lesson in Butchery today. Both extremely experienced, Ray was the butcher at River Cottage with Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and is famous for his 'pig in a day' courses and demonstrations. A true Londoner, he is just as I imagine a butcher to be; cheeky, jokey and keen to share the tricks of the trade. 

First, we made faggots from pig meat (mmm). I have to be honest, having never actually tasted one, I wasn't actually aware what a faggot was (in the food sense). A faggot is the off cuts of offal (ie. kidney, lungs, heart, fat).

Artisan producers encourage making use of everything and creating faggots are a good way to do this. We cut off lean pieces of the meat and then minced the meat. The liver gave it a rich colour and the fat gives good flavour.

Using a mixer we combined chopped onion, corriander seeds, sage and white peppercorns. In another bowl we had breadcrumbs with a large dash of red wine.

Mixing the herbs and the breadcrumbs together we then combined this in the bowl with the minced meat to form round meat balls.

The caul (a mesh like structure that holds the gut of the animal) made perfect netting for faggot parcels. Streaky bacon also did the job. 

Once I've finished this, I will cycle home and cook some up...will keep you posted on the taste tomorrow :-0 I also took some fine cuts of liver, which I love, so im looking forward to a bit of that with some bacon too.

In the afternoon, Ray brought out the saddleback from the chiller and got to work showing us parma ham, streaky bacon, back bacon, fillet, chops, rack of ribs - here he is in all his butchery block glory. More tomorrow...

Homebaked Rosemary & Cheese Grissini

Sam, Wen, Nat, Maizie, Daisy, Abbie, Rainbow, Jacob, Danny & myself enjoyed a traditional Holloway family lunch at Mums - Italian style with lasagne, tomatoe & aubergine bake, green salad, garlic bread, homemade grissini and plenty of vino. A perfect family gathering of all ages and lots of girls!
Our grissini were made with finely chopped rosemary and the curd cheese I had made the previous week but you can use any herbs you like. Here is Abbie, creatively shaping her grissini into heart shapes and 'ness.'....she loves her Auntie :-) 

 The recipe is from The Handmade Loaf, a beautifully written and photographed book by Dan Lepard, which I thoroughly recommend.

Grissini are served at Giorgio Locatelli's restaurant in London tipped with shavings of parma ham and served with a glass of dry Prosecco.

You make the ferment first with milk and fresh yeast. Leave for 1 hour. Then make the dough and rub in the butter, cheese and rosemary to release the aromatic oil into the flour. Prep time is about 2hrs 40 mins, as I kneaded the dough for 10 seconds every 10 mins (4 times). To bake they only take around 20 mins. Allow to cool and serve in a flute or on the go !

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

My Daily Bread

Day 2 in the bakehouse, we shaped our dough freestyle, learning to fold and knead & rest the dough. We fed our sourdough starter culture, which will be used to make the sourdough in around ten days time in order that the fresh yeast can ferment so that its bubbling and vinegary to smell. Lastly, we finished off with a spelt loaf (mix of spelt and dark rye flour), which I am currently nibbling away at as I write this. So after two days of baking, I now have seven loaves of bread, as do my two flat mates.....there's only so much a girl can in search of a chest freezer!

Monday, 8 November 2010

My first loaf !

Day 1 of my baking course and i absolutely loved it. Got my whites on this morning and my new crocs (essential baking footwear - thanks nat!) and felt really excited about the prospect of making my first loaf of bread ever.

Up until now, have felt slightly fraudsterish as I was the only one on the course that hadn't actually baked a loaf of bread before, bearing in mind I plan to open an artisan bakery in around twelve months time this was a big day for me! 

Well here they are (the basic wholemeal loaf made with shipton mill organic flour)....would love to have shared my first loaf with you all but just imagine the warm smell of freshly baked bread and your there in spirit. Its a special feeling that you have created something wonderful. So far so good !

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Monmouth Coffee Company - Artisan coffee roasters

Set in the old London railway arches of Bermondsey, Monmouth are an artisan coffee roasting company that pride themselves on sustainability and strong relationships with the coffee growers across the globe (they can agree the price directly with the farmer). Their frequent visits take them to Brazil, Costa Rica, Indonesia and Guatemala to understand the process from picking to harvest in the search for quality and fair trade. They have been roasting since 1978 and encourage consumers to taste the different varietals and appreciate the differing levels of aroma and flavours at their shops in Covent Garden & Borough market.
Rather like wine tasting, there is a coffee tasting etiquette. You first take in the coffee aroma, then dip your spoon into the cup and take a quick slurp to detect the levels of flavour and acidity around your mouth, discreetly spit to the front of your cup and most importantly decide whether you liked it or not.
These coffee beans have been roasted and are in their final stage of cooling in this large vat before being packed into crates and set on their way to market and local suppliers. Roasted and ground coffee is best served as fresh as possible, the journey of the green coffee bean from harvest to Monmouth would take around 8 weeks. 

Amazingly, a coffee plant can be productive for 120 years. During the first stage of crop growth you will see white jasmine scented flowers (critical signs of the likely size and uniformity of the crop) and then the cherry begins to develop, the colour of the cherry can make a real difference to the taste. The cherry from Brazil is yellow and can produce sweet and chocolate notes, whereas the coffee from Africa can be quite complex giving lots of flavour with strong fruity characteristics. During the tasting session, our sensory skills were put to the test as we travelled through 6 coffee varietals from across the globe. My favourite was the coffee from Guatemala with its chocolaty, caramel and burnt orange flavours, it didn't leave an after taste like some of the other varietals and it was really warming. 

A big thank you to everyone at Monmouth for a really informative and fun day. I left early evening dashing through the cobbley London streets with my goody bag swinging into the night, leaving a heady trail of freshly ground coffee aroma... all the way home.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Partridge - simply pluck & gut !

Never thought I would see the day, spending an evening with friends plucking & gutting partridges. Very different from the polythene wrapped and prepared breasts I had always bought from the supermarket. But somehow this process was far more satisfying, knowing the birds were totally fresh. It makes a real difference to the taste.

Partridges are surprisingly easy to prepare and make a great alternative to chicken. You softly pluck the feathers working up from the bottom to top on both sides, then remove the wings and legs by feeling for the joint and cutting off with a sharp knife. You then slit the neck skin to remove any grass or grain that your healthy bird has been eating, remove the head and lastly nip the skin on the bottom and scoop out the yukky bits....a good tip at this point is not to breathe through your nose!  Roast your partridge with butter, garlic, rosemary and pears...and enjoy. Thanks to Alex for her tasty birds.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Welcome family, friends & foodies

Having spent most of my working life in meetings with endless decks of powerpoint slides, I feel hardly qualified to talk about food, but this is where it begins. Six weeks ago, I decided to leave a successful career in Marketing to do something completely different. I started a new life in food.

I moved to Nottinghamshire to join The School of Artisan (pic), within a beautiful rural setting on the Welbeck estate to learn about the food system and food production.  Why?... partly because I was drawn by the romance of making bread and jam, but really I wanted to create a business of my own and offer people honestly produced food with a great sensory experience. In my mind this is what food should be all about.