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Friday, 31 August 2012

Crumbs! It's Sourdough, but not as we know it

I have always baked.

My long suffering family and friends have had to suffer an endless procession of bricks of textures varying from gravel to impenetrable Kevlar and rolls that would have gone down well in a medieval siege machine.

Over the years, however, something bread like began to emerge and the number of blue tits with bent beaks in the garden reduced. Sometimes people even asked whether there was any home-made bread in the kitchen, and not to decide that a fast food restaurant on the way home was the gourmet option.

Two people though reignited my love affair with bread and baking. Tim Allen taught us some of the mysteries at Ballymaloe Cookery School and baking on a daily basis for three months honed the skills. The other person I met through Ballymaloe, Declan Ryan, a great artisan bread maker from Cork. In addition to sampling his fine wares at Middleton Farmers Market we visited the Arbutus Bakery as part of our school trip and I was able to get a Sourdough Starter from him.

Back home I decided to maintain the routine of baking on a daily basis and soon every spare corner of the house was filled with different flours, bannetons and tins whilst the brewery smell of fresh yeast and sourdough cultures was an organic Febreeze, eliminating all other odours.

Eagerly I devoured Andrew Whitley’s Bread Matters, trying recipes and absorbing the writing, soon I was reading Richard Berthinet’s Crust and Dough, trying his recipes and techniques. My delight at getting a day’s course with him as a birthday present was immeasurable and there were two other ex-Ballymaloe students there as well!

Life settled down as I tried Fougasse and Batons in my newly acquired moulds. Bread was a fact of life and daily experimentation the norm.

Then in the spring of 2012 I met Duncan Glendinning from Thoughtful Bread in Bristol and life changed gear again. Duncan and Patrick Ryan had a book out Bread Revolution and reading through some of the recipes I decided that it would be the new bible. That doesn’t mean that others were dropped, Waterford Blaas (Niam Shields’ recipe from Comfort and Spice) remain favourites but the range of recipes had to be tried.

Anyhow this is all by way of a preamble.

A recent trip to Kent led me to Macknade near Faversham an excellent food store with a wide range of flours available.

The one that caught my eye was a bread mix for a Simple Sourdough! That can’t be right I thought, Sourdough relies on air borne yeasts and a long slow rise. But, it had to be bought and tested.

The list of ingredients were worrying, bread is simple – flour water salt and yeast (wild in the case of Sourdough).Why did the mix need 16 including dried yeast and potato flakes along with something called Dried Wheat Sourdough Powder?

When I bake the only tools used are my hands and a plastic scraper, following Richard Berthinet I do not use floured surfaces, just work the dough until it comes clean of the surface in a soft, springy ball.

“Add water and vegetable oil to the dry ingredients and mix together for 5 minutes until it forms a ball of dough, transfer to a floured work surface and rest for five minutes before kneading for 2 and shaping your loaf” were the instructions on the pack.

Hmmm, the sticky mass resolutely refused to form a ball and as much was transferred on to my hands as onto the surface. Using the scraper I cleaned my hands and doubled the size of the blob on the counter top. Perhaps the 5 minutes rest would allow the gluten to develop to a point at which the dough would start to form.

10 minutes of the bread equivalent of mud wrestling and the addition of more strong flour to the surface and I had a “ball” of dough. Now I was going to give this every chance so a bannetons was floured and the dough set to rise. 30 to 40 minutes to double in size promised the packet and indeed 1 hour later it had. A couple of quick slashes to the top and into the oven.

Allowing the packet, and my normal, cooking time of 30 minutes I returned to the kitchen and removed the loaf from the oven.

“Crusty on the outside, chewy in the middle” someone called Peter Sidwell had endorsed the packet. It was. However, despite using only Sunflower Oil the taste was more Focaccia than Sourdough and the annoying little pieces of Kibbled Rye gave it a Granary loaf texture.

Probably if you use an electric breadmaker and usually have only Sliced White Pan as your mainstay bread you would like this but for me, I’ll wait the hours and days and bake proper Sourdough anytime!
Foodies100 Index of UK Food Blogs
Morphy Richards

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Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Newport Food Festival Supper Launched

Tickets for the 2012 Newport Food Festival have just gone live, and one of the hottest tickets in town will be for the Food Festival Supper held on the eve of the festival.

I was lucky enough to get to the inaugural Supper last year and what an event it was!

Several local food businesses had teamed up to provide an excellent menu based on local, seasonal and sustainable ingredients and, almost more importantly for me the wait staff had all been unemployed and had been trained for the event with a view to getting work in the food sector.
Last years menu

With entertainment and dancing towards the end the event was a great showcase for the festival and set it off in just the right way.


This year the Supper looks to be just as good with three restaurants combining talents to provide a strong menu.




By The White Hart Village Inn/ The Waterloo Hotel & Bistro

- Quail Terrine, slow cooked egg yolk, sweet and sour apple, radish and watercress

- Grilled Swansea Bay Seabass on a bed of pickled fennel

- Sautéed wild mushrooms en-croute with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce


By The White Hart Village Inn/ The Waterloo Hotel & Bistro

- Roast Local Duck Breast, Duck Straws, Speculaas textures, Beetroot and Quinoa

- Baked Sewin with an almond crust, laver bread and potato cake

with a veloute of mussel and herbs

- Courgette, potato and sundried tomato fritters with spicy tomato sauce,

rocket and parmesan shavings


by Vittorios

- Tiramisu

- Pineapple and mascarpone


Any specific dietary requirements need to be indicated at time of final booking.


Places will be limited and in great demand s get your tickets –priced £30, early on 01633 656757.

The Supper is just the beginning though and on the Saturday award winning chefs such as Anand George, Bryn Williams and James Summerin will be holding demos and masterclasses, a wide range of producer stalls will fill the streets and the Junior and Teen Chef competitions will reach their climax.

Only in its second year Newport Food Festival is bigger and better and sure to be a major fixture on the Welsh Food Calendar.
Foodies100 Index of UK Food Blogs
Morphy Richards

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Friday, 24 August 2012

Tomato Sorcery!

I love this time of year as the Tomato season heads towards a glorious taste filled climax.

Naturally there are gluts of the sun drenched little fruit and preserving that glorious summer for the depths of winter becomes an imperative. Traditionally they have been dried, bottled or converted to rich fruity chutneys, even the under-ripe ones get to be Green Tomato Chutney, and modern technology allows us to freeze them whole as well.

For me, however, it is saving them as sauce that offers the widest range of possibilities. Make a couple of varieties Red and Yellow and ring the changes in dishes!

A little work now means a plethora of dishes later in the year and the possibility of using seasonal vegetables right away!

It’s a simple process that pays big rewards. Into a big pan put a little Olive Oil. A diced onion, a crushed Garlic Clove or two and a little Marjoram or Oregano along with freshly ground Black Pepper.

Sweat it for a few minutes to develop the flavours – they will help the final sauce without changing the overall tomatoiness.

Tip in the Tomatoes and heat on a low heat for 45 minutes to an hour whilst the fruit split and release that glorious sweet liquid.
Liquidise the content of the pan – I use my mighty Bamix – and then strain into another pan, turn the heat up a little and reduce to concentrate the sauce. Done!

For a really smooth sauce put the strained pips and skin into a Muslin bag and allow to drip into the reducing sauce, may as well get every last drop of summer out of the fruit.

To intensify the flavour oven roast some – or all – of the Tomatoes before adding to the pan at the beginning.

Once made the possibilities are endless: Pizza Sauce, Pasta, basis for a really rich Curry or Chicken Casserole, good old Soup or a couple of the recipes below.

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
Large Banana Shallot in large ½ inch dice
1 Aubergine Diced to ½ inch or 2 Snake Aubergines sliced ½ inch wide
1 Medium Courgette (Zucchini) Try the Yellow Ones
I Red Pepper in 1 inch sections
3 or 4 Cloves of Garlic
Fresh Oregano (chopped)
4 or 5 Basil Leaves
Sea Salt and Black Pepper.
½ Pint Tomato Sauce

Fry the Shallot and Garlic gently in the Olive Oil then add the Courgette and turn the heat up a little.
Add the Aubergine and Pepper and fry 2 minutes before adding the Tomato Sauce.

Add the fresh herbs then taste and season lightly.

Cover and simmer 20 minutes, taste and season then serve in bowls with good bread to sop up the remaining sauce.


75 grams of Paella rice per person
100g cooking Chorizo in ½ inch slices, either normal or Smoked (or even both)
4 cloves of Garlic
1 large onion diced
Red and Green Peppers in 1 inch chunks (Optional)
1 tsp. Smoked Paprika (Picante for those who like a little heat)
½ pint Tomato Sauce and ½ pint Vegetable Stock to make up
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil

Heat the Olive Oil and add the diced Onion and Garlic. Fry for 2 minutes then add the Chorizo to release the rich oils from the sausage.
Add the Smoked Paprika and stir well to ensure blended in.

Add the Tomato sauce and allow to bubble away for a couple of minutes before adding the rice and enough Vegetable Stock to cover.
Turn down heat and cook for 18 to 20 minutes under foil, stirring a couple of times at the beginning but then leave.

You will develop a crust on the bottom called a Soccarat which is highly prized in Paella circles.

Serve from the pan with the addition of a little Chopped Parsley garnish.

Foodies100 Index of UK Food Blogs
Morphy Richards

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Sunday, 19 August 2012

Faversham's Foodie Heaven

A family function in Kent and the need to source and prep ingredients for a major cooking episode (more of which in a later blog), left me with a dilemma – Where to find the ingredients I needed, at the quality and provenance that was required?

Fortunately for me on the way home, and a favourite destination for my Parents was Macknade, a farm shop just of the M2 in Faversham. Annoyingly the sign posting for the shop is a brown tourist sign to a “Craft Centre”. Sure there is one there but it is much smaller than the un-advertised Farm Shop, Fishmonger and Wine centre.

On arrival a large low red brick former farm building awaits. Step through the door and an Aladdin’s cave awaits.

Part Farm Shop, part high class deli, part food emporium Macnade is a foodie’s heaven.

There is a long history to the farm, the 1st Fredrick Neame (think Sheppard Neame Britain’s oldest Brewer and Faversham based) started to farm traditional Kentish crops, such as apples, pears and hops, in 1847. Macknade was a magnet to thousands of East Enders who came to Kent to pick Hops in season and had a good reputation as both producer and employer.

 In 1979 Renato Cuomo developed a market garden, to grow courgette flowers, mangetout and purple raspberries.

The Original Farm Shop was called Fir Tree Farm and was a simple tent in 20 hectares of Pick Your Own. As demand grew a large shed was built as a replacement and the range of goods expanded, Macknade think that many people had their first experience of Mangetout, Courgette Flowers and Yellow or Purple Raspberries there.

Today it has moved on further and offers brilliant local produce as well as top quality imported goods.

A range of fresh potted herbs greets you and inside a fresh bakery counter offers organic breads, sourdoughs, continental breads and pastries with a small oven constantly making fresh artisan breads – it could not be further removed from a Supermarket Bakery Section.

A table has special offers on it – today’s was a big box of local tomatoes for £4.50. It had to be snapped up and will provide sauces for pasta and Ratatouille as well as some sauce to be frozen and tomatoes to be frozen whole for a little summer sun in winter.

Good dairy included un-homogenised milk, fresh local creams and crème Fraiche, cheeses, yoghurts and butters. Hard to fault, then on to good local bacons, sausages and hams as well as a range of continental meats - though not as many as the main Delicatessen section.

Finally in the chillers Salad Leaves. I needed some good quality leaves to give a strong and slightly bitter counterpoint to a dish that I planned and with Frisee, Watercress, Land Cress and Lambs Lettuce I was not to be disappointed. All found their way into the trolley along with some rather fine looking Golden Enoki mushrooms, visions of omelettes with a butter-fried Enoki filling and garnish sprang instantly to mind.

Huge shelves of fruit and vegetables were tempting; much of it very local and with three types of Aubergine, several types of Courgette, huge Banana Shallots, Green White and Red Onions, trays of fresh beans and carrots, potatoes brassicas and salad vegetables menu planning was a cinch. Again I loaded up and moved on.

A good range of traditional flours would have kept any home or artisan baker happy whilst for the starter in baking good ready mixes were available. I settled on a large bag of Shipton Mill Organic Flour and, just to try it a Sourdough mix. I make Sourdough and do not begrudge the time taken in the least but culinary curiosity made me buy the mix – can it possibly match the real thing?

Asian and European flours formed the next section along with spices and spice blends, whilst Rices finished the little area. A bag of Paella Rice crept into the trolley, partly because a large Paella Pan at a bargain price was on display and promptly snaffled. (This may have relevance to another future blog post, but my lips are sealed – possibly contractually!).

A quick break for coffee, a Double Espresso for me and a pre-11am Cappuccino for the long suffering Mrs K, and we hit the final leg the Delicatessen. (I had already decided not to enter the enticing world of Wines, Beers and Soft Drinks and to ignore (nobly) the cakes, biscuits, chocolates and exotic fruits in brandy or other alcoholically infused syrups.

The large Meat counter had all the usual hams, though these were local, sausages and chorizos, salamis and kabana’s all of great quality For my Welsh readers I was pleased to see, and purchased Cardiff based Franco Gorno's Pastrami and Salt beef whilst two types of cooking chorizo – Smoked and Green- made up the final purchases from that counter.

The cheeses would not have disgraced a dedicated Cheesemonger and offered a range of British, Irish and continental types from Ireland’s great Coolea to Gorgonzola and its younger relative Dolce latté, hard and soft French and German Cheeses, Manchego from Spain and several maturities of Gouda. It was again great to see many Kentish and Sussex cheeses, from hard mature Cheddars to the UK version of Parmesan, soft Brie or Camembert styles, Blues of varying vintages and strengths and all available to taste.

To be honest I could have stayed all day but time and my budget were pressing and I headed off to the car pausing only for Mrs K to slip a few punnets of Raspberries and Strawberries into the trolley “Well you can’t come to Kent and not buy local fruit” she stated – luckily for my straightened circumstances she forgot that there was brilliant Organic Double Cream back in Dairy.

Car loaded we headed off but one thing is certain, As Arnold Schwarzenegger said “I’ll be back”.
Foodies100 Index of UK Food Blogs
Morphy Richards

Visit UK Food Bloggers Association

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Brilliant Bloggers

Blogging has been somewhat disrupted by the arrival of my grandchildren for their annual holiday, though cooking with them has provided some good stuff for a future blog.

 However I am back in the groove and would like to start with a couple of bloggers whom I admire and follow.

Both are so much more than mere bloggers, both are inspirational and both also have regularly published newspaper columns, and have written books.

First up is Mona Wise who blogs as Wise Words.

Mona is a Galway girl, well Claregalway to be precise, and provides a running commentary on family life, good seasonal foods and restaurant reviews. But Mona is so much more besides.

She recently commenced a degree in Creative Writing and, as part of her course work had to produce a major piece of writing. Throwing herself into the project Mona wrote and published her first book in an amazing 24 weeks, thus meeting the university deadline and earning a distinction to carry forward in the quest for her degree.

I first came across her when researching recipes for a Buttermilk plant and Google turned up her blog . I was captivated by the writing style and rapidly added Wise Words to my favourites bar and followed her on Twitter (@WiseMona). In her own words “She writes, he cooks, the kids make a huge mess”. Mona writes about life as it happens and with a chef as a husband and an extended American Irish family there is a lot of cooking going on.

The Chef and I (a nourishing narrative) is the first book, I say first as Mona plans a trilogy and covers her emigration to the states, meeting and marrying Ron, establishing a restaurant, building her family and eventual return to Ireland. The writing style is entertaining and involving, often pulling the heartstrings, and to use a cliché “unputdownable”.

The second part of the book is a series of recipes from Ron, all very manageable and using good ingredients in a sensitive way to make the most of them.

The recipes are so good that Ron and Mona have a regular column in the Irish Sunday Times and- for those who cannot get it- they also appear on the blog.

I was gutted that I could not attend the book launch in Galway in May, the simple logistics of travel prevented me, but the book is one of my most treasured. Describing her studies Mona says that she was told to “find your voice”, in The Chef and I she certainly has found her voice and it calls to many of us.

The second blogger is a new entrant to the blogosphere but one that is well worth a follow, I am amazed that it has taken so long but, given her incredibly busy life I am not altogether surprised.

She is a personal inspiration, a legend in culinary circles, author, brilliant teacher and principal ofBallymaloe Cookery School , government advisor, President of Slow Food, Forager and all round star – Darina Allen.

With a number of great books behind her, and a regular column in the Weekend section of the Irish Examiner, TV and Radio appearances- both this side of the Atlantic and the other- Darina has taught many of today’s top chefs (think Rachel Allen, Thomasina Myers, Clodagh McKenna, Catherine Fulvio, James Ramsden, Lilly Higins) and has much to say not just about cooking but ingredients, the environment, supply chains and farming.

Well worth a read and, as the subjects of her first few blogs have been foraging and eating sea urchins on Inis Mean, edible tarantulas in Phnom Pen, Fluffy Chicks and Cookery books written by Ballymaloe Graduates.

Darina genuinely is an inspiration and you should definitely follow her blog

Foodies100 Index of UK Food Blogs
Morphy Richards

Visit UK Food Bloggers Association