Friday, 29 February 2008

Taste Meme

I don't often get tagged for this sort of thing and often wouldn't know where to start if I was but Naomi over at Straight to bed cake free and dried tagged me for a taste meme which sounded fun. Of course she picked several in her five I would have considered and I might still duplicate her as it is meant to be my five favourite tastes not five no-one has done yet.. however the first couple were not on her list.

My top five Tastes

1)Red and Black Berries

Pretty much any of them but my top favourites have got to be red and black currants and raspberries, oh and wild strawberries. The Small likes them too though he tend to stick to raspberries and strawberries which is fine by me as I get all the currents. When we got the allotment end of last year he was asked what we should grow and he said ALL the fruit. Over the winter we have put in red, white and black currents, a gooseberry, a cross between gooseberry and blackcurrent, three types of raspberry and three apple trees.. we will of course plant strawberries as well a bit later. I'd expect to add to that later with things like Tayberries, Loganberries and so forth.

Why do I love them so much? I think it's the intensity of flavour and freshness. The feeling of summer and being alive and of course the excuse to eat cream :). I love blackberries too not so much for the flavour which varies a lot but for the memories of picking them as a kid.. something I hope to continue with Small in the coming years.

There is much talk of superfoods currently and most come from far away places, at least as far as us Brits are concerned, but actually when you look at the levels of the various substances in these foods which are meant to be good for you blackcurrants win hands down over cranberries and blueberries. There are a couple of basic articles on it here. and here

Currently something like 95% of the blackberries grown here go into Ribena, which could almost be considered one of our national drinks but still we should eat more of them too, sometimes it's the native foods that get forgotten and seen as ordinary.

I very rarely add sugar to berries as I like the tart ones as much as the sweet ones so unless I'm using them for cooking they tend to be eaten as is.. if I'm feeling good I might get as far as washing them but straight off the bush is even better!

One of the best ways to cook them is summer pubbing though I have yet to do a Gluten free version. I have very fond memories of having it every christmas at the family get together. My aunt always froze a mixture of fruits specifically to do a summer pudding for us all.

Finally on the subject I have to try British Cassis this year as I've heard wonderful things about it.

2) Pickles

As in vegetables pickled in Vinegar. These have been one of my favourite food as long as I remember, I was certainly eating them by the age of two according to Mum. The most common ones I have are pickled onions and beetroot (beets for those the other side of the pond).. I did say vegetables but pickled eggs are wonderful too. All of these are items you pickle in jars and leave to sit for weeks or months before eating. Some last ages, others need to be eaten within a specific time or they get too soggy, overly sharp or similar. I also like red cabbage, radish seed pods, gerkins.. well you name it really.

When I was young we always had cucumber pickled too, though in that case it was done only a few minutes before it was eaten. In fact I must try that again along with tomatoes in a peppery vinaigrette which I first had on the farm I lived on when I did a French exchange program as a kid.

Pickled onions and pickled eggs are a common extra when having traditional fish and chips from a chip shop too..

3) Sorrel

A wonderful herb or salad leaf. I think one of the reasons I like is it looks so mild but has such a huge taste. In the past we have grown two types which I hope to have again this year. The first is the sort with biggish leaves sort of sword shaped as in the picture. This one tastes very lemony and is wonderful to pep up a salad or as a green soup. That is the one most people seem to know. Once established in your garden it just keeps on forever.

The second in some ways I like even more though is less vigorous to grow and possibly less adaptable cooking wise. This is the Buckler leaf Sorrel or french sorrel. You can see both types one the Jekka Herbs site. It has a different shaped leaf, much more rounded. A Buckler is a form of small shield that just covers the hand and the forearm. The great thing about it is it tastes of sharp apples, something like a granny smith which is really unexpected.

4) Clotted Cream

I know Naomi had cream and I do love all forms of it but Clotted cream well that is a whole extra level. Unless you live in certain parts of the UK, mostly the west country, you may never have come across this delicacy.

We take cream seriously over here, as you can see from this wikipedia entry we have legal definitions for a whole bunch of different types and I know from doing Daring Baker recipes that we commonly have higher fat content cream than most places. For instance I use Double cream as standard which comes in at 48% fat content but clotted cream is even higher at 55%. It is also effectively cooked and the end result is almost solid with a distinctive crust on the top.. I grew up in Devon for a good chuck of my childhood and down there you get clotted cream in trays much like a baking tray.. In the midlands the best I can normally find is a small pot of it but that's better for my waist line!

Clotted cream is the cream you should have on a cream tea anything else is just not doing it properly !

And Finally
I had to think about this last one. I was tempted by chocolate but I couldn't think of much to add to Naomi's post on the subject. So instead I have picked bacon

5) Bacon.
There is something about bacon of all the meats that makes it hard to resist. It is the one meat vegetarians most commonly say they miss and it somehow makes you crave it in a way you wouldn't other similar items. I like to have bacon in the fridge or freezer at all times just in case. We have three types of bacon here streaky which is long and thin with lots of fat marbling, back which is in the picture and middle which is both types still attached together. We also have a range of bacon joints which is basically several different pork joints cured as bacon, gammon is a form of bacon joint but there are others.

As a treat at weekends we might have a full English breakfast which always includes plenty of bacon and eggs whatever else we have. It has such a wide variety of uses either in slices, as joints or cut up in sauces and so forth. When I was a kid we kept our own pigs and dad made bacon by curing the meat in salt. It was so salty that we had to soak it in several changes of water for at least a day for it to be possible to eat it. I do prefer traditionally cured bacon, preferably smoked though I'd rather a unsmoked traditional salt cure to a fast cured, smoked but even that has it's uses to add flavour to soups, sauces and so forth.

We even have smoky bacon crisps but I DON'T like those at all they don't taste anything like bacon to me. I don't like bacon bits either and most are made with wheat so I have a good excuse not to eat them.

Well there you go my five favourite tastes or at least five of my favourites as I'm sure I will think of others as soon as I post this !

I actually managed to cook stuff

Back on Wednesday I managed to do some real cooking. not just throw something in the oven. Now don't get me wrong it was nothing complicated but I did three different dishes which is more than I've managed to do some whole weeks recently.

Firstly I used up a whole lot of apples that were going spare to make an apple crumble with added saltanas. Small had claimed he wanted to help but decided he was too tired and playing on the computer was more interesting.. he was keen to know when it was ready though and it got eaten before I thought about pictures. Was a little too sweet of me. I must remember eating apples don't need much sugar as I'm used to using Barmleys for cooking.

Then I made my version of Trainee Domestic Goddess's energy bars. I only adapted them slightly so you can find the recipe here. The only changes I made was to use gluten free muesli and to swap the almonds for cashews and the peanut butter for cashew butter mostly because we had a couple jars of it that had been forgotten in the back of the cupboard and needed eating.

They came out very well indeed. Personally I'd have a few less sesame seeds but I'm not sure that isn't that in a funny sort of way they taste similar to the cashew so with a different nut base I might think differently. Tom was very impressed with them.

Finally instead of doing mince and pasta, I tried Gluten Free Mommy's sweet and sour meatloaf. It was very easy to make and was well received. Someone else was co-opted to cook some potatoes and veg to go with it as I was flagging by then though. There was enough for all three adults that night and some left to have with poached eggs for lunch the next day for a couple of us.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Menu week 25th - 29th Feb

I've actually managed to do a menu this week. I'm still struggling but I didn't have to pick the Small up from school at all last week as Tom took him in before work and picked him up in his lunch hour. This week however he is doing an early shift which on the face of it look more school friendly but even with booking Small into breakfast club he can't get him there and be at work by 8. Luckily his best friends mum has said she will take him as she takes her two there anyway. I have a couple of friends who are going to help with picking him up in the afternoons so hopefully I will only have to do a few of those. We will see how it goes.

Last week and indeed still now we have various extras we need to get though which are left from an event Tom ran last weekend. We had rice pudding as an excuse to use up extra milk.. I used the recipe from one of the River cottage cook books which was posted over at Domestic Goddess in Training and is much better than Delia's.. Why do you put egg it it Delia it really doesn't add anything and in fact makes it worse. Definitely 1 to Hugh on that score.

We still have lots of eggs to get through and some pulses though they will last. There is at least a meals worth of stew for a day when we really can't be bothered.

On to the menu.

Sunday - Tonight we had rice and stuff.. ie rice mixed with leftover meat and some vegs.

Monday - Egg and potato bake, with some sort of dark green veg.

Tuesday - Chicken Thai Curry

Wednesday - Pasta and mince

Thursday - Omelets

Friday - not sure yet something simple and meat based, depends what looks nice later in the week but red meat to keep my iron levels high, though they are much better than they were.

Apparently this weeks ingredient is bananas which we don't currently have any of. We do however have lots of apples left over so the current plan is apple crumble possibly Monday as Small expressed interest in helping to make it. Gluten Free Mommy's Banana Bread does look lovely though.

Monday, 18 February 2008

TeatimeTreats Event

This is a bit of a cheat as I'm re-posting a recipe I posted last year. However I wanted to support Naomi over at Straight to bed Cakefree and Dried with her new Gluten free baking event and I'm not up to cooking and photographing anything new.

These cheese scones are a real teatime treat in our house so in that way at least I'm not cheating. Scones are a really traditional part of teatime in Britain be they plain with jam and cream, ones with sultanas in served with butter or cheese ones like this. This recipe goes down very well with the Gluten eaters here as well so hopefully everyone will enjoy them.. they come out a little flatter than gluten ones tend to but not by much to be honest and have a nice rustic look to them and a good flavour.

As with any scones really they are best served fresh still warm from the oven. They will re-warm in the microwave the next day if you like and keep reasonably well though they rarely last past a day with us.

Gram flour Cheese Scones

(adapted from Wholewheat cheese-crusted scones in Delia Smith's Complete cookery course.)

6oz Gluten free general purpose flour mix
6 oz Gram flour
1 tsp salt
4 tsp GF baking powder
4 tsp Xanthan gum
2 pinches of cayenne pepper
2 oz butter (room temp)
1 tsp mustard (Delia uses mustard powder, the old tin of colmans I used to have included wheat flour in the ingredients list but on-line it seems to just list mustard flour now in which case you can use it)
6 oz grated cheddar cheese (or similar strongly flavoured hard cheese)
4 -6 tbsp milk
2 large eggs
extra milk to brush tops and a little more cayenne if you like them to have a kick.

Preheat oven to gas mark 7, 425F or 220C

Shift and mix the flours, salt, cayenne, baking powder, Xanthan gum plus mustard if you have a powder rather than a wet mix all into a big bowl.

Cut the butter into small pieces and rub in with your fingers till the mixture is crumbly.

Mix in most of the cheese, keeping back a little to use on the tops later.

In a separate bowl beat together the eggs and 4 tbsp of milk. Mix in the mustard if it is a made up variety. Add to the main bowl and mix until you have a soft dough. You may need to add a little more milk depending on the size of the eggs.

Roll out on a floured surface to a bit less than an inch then cut out rounds with a cutter. I vary how big I make them but about 2 inches or so is a nice size. Place on a greased baking sheet and brush the tops with milk then sprinkle with a little cheese plus more cayenne pepper if you like.

Bake for 15-20 mins towards the top of the oven unless you have a convection oven where it matters less. transfer to a wire cooling rack and allow to cool till warm... eat with butter or more cheese or both!


I have also made these with half the cheddar and half small pieces of feta plus some chopped sundried tomatoes which is a nice combination.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

On hold till the Baby comes

I can't see me doing any posts here till after the birth now. To post to a food blog you need to have something to say about food and currently food is something we are doing just enough to survive on.

I am not doing very well with the SPD and have had to cut back to the bare minimum of activities and then some at times. I have an appointment early next week so we will see what they say but if I go to term I have about 20 days left. To top the SPD off I am now having problems keeping hydrated and being sick.. so all in all food and me are not as friendly as normal..

I will post once the baby is here and please keep your fingers crossed it goes well and I don't end up with a c-section or the SPD continuing much after birth (it shouldn't but it can on occasions)