Monthly Archives: May 2008
Over this Whitsun Weekend, I’m off visiting my parents in Devon. Devon is a county in the Westcountry (the south-western peninsula) which remains rural and has an abundant and beautiful coastline. Because of the number of cows (everywhere) the Westcountry has a foodie reputation for dairy products (notably butter, cream, icecream, rice pudding and custard) which gave rise to the Ambrosia company’s advertising slogan “Devon knows how they make it so creamy!”.
For me, cream teas are strongly associated with garden tea rooms and are best eaten outside. Yesterday, we went to Coleton Fishacre (pronounced: coll-erton) which is a beautiful house of the arts and crafts/deco style with a stunning interior and gardens that extend forever down to a swimming cove and the rugged Devon coast. After having my breath taken away by the deco styling, and then by the walk up from the cove, it was time for an afternoon cream tea. And so we ordered (cream teas are a staple in the Westcountry) and sat just outside the house, overlooking the gardens, out to sea. My mum and I shared this cream tea:
Because cream teas are so ubiquitous in the south west, I never even considered that they don’t have the same status elsewhere. Sometimes I crave a cream tea and, living in the north as we currently do, I’ve found it nearly impossible to find a tea room that does one and it’s taken me 6 months to locate a shop that sells the one absolutely unchangeable element of a cream tea: CLOTTED CREAM. Oh, it sounds repulsive I’ll give you that. But it’s divine. I’m not quite sure how it’s made, but it has a firm buttery top and a thick liquid bottom.
I suppose this is the point where I address the burning issue of constructing the cream tea. I should warn you that, although I respect diversity, I am unwilling to compromise on this issue*. There are times when I’ve seen the jam being put on first, inevitably by a grockle (local term for a tourist) where it’s been hard to control the urge to turn over the tables and challenge such unorthodox behaviour. I have even witnessed someone eating a scone like a sandwich. I believe education is the only way to solve this problem, so let me state categorically that it is my belief that the scone is split, and each half is treated as a separate delicious entity (though favouring one half, as I do the top half, is unavoidable) and that the cream is spread on first, the jam dollops on top.
Wikipedia states that this is the Devonian way – which makes sense I suppose. Doing it this way provides what I think is the best textural combination. It also allows you to get the most cream on (with a knife) and the most jam on (with a spoon). Besides, spooning clotted cream is incredibly difficult. When it comes to the fruit scone/no fruit scone issue I am less dictatorial. Do as you please.
So I sat with my cream tea, with wonderful Devon all around me, until I came to my last morsel.
To make the soup for two, I used four shallots, two rashers of bacon, a packet of pea shoots, ham stock from the freezer and salt and pepper. I cooked the shallots and bacon, added the stock and seasoning and let it simmer for a while before adding the peashoots at the last minute.
I whizzed the lot up (this was very difficult as the peashoots were determined to escape) and it made this pleasuringly lurid soup. It was tasty, and I think I will cook it again as long as the peashoots are in the shop.
I kept some shoots and bacon aside as a garnish, but unfortunately it sunk as the soup was thinner in consistency than my soups usually end up!
When I was at uni in Cambridge, Pimm’s was a total staple of the “summer season” of garden parties, punting trips and post-exam jubilation. There were no worries, no appointments, no timetables. Of course, we were so lost without structure that we imposed Pimm’s o’clock in the afternoon. For me, there is little else that screams summer relaxation like Pimm’s. At least not in England.
I don’t think I had a glass last summer (what with being on a desert island and everything) so I was so happy to stop off at the supermarket after work and gather the necessaries for my first Pimm’s in a long time. On my list was cucumber, apple, orange, lemon, strawberries, mint, ice cubes, lemonade and of course the classic Pimm’s number one cup.
When I arrived at my friend’s house she was totally excited because she’d never had Pimm’s before! I supposed it was maybe a Southern thing (living oop north as I do now) but she said, “nah, it’s just posh”.
The fruit is sliced up, Pimm’s and lemonade added in a 1:3 ratio (but I tend to go on the stronger side). I go overboard on the fruit, partly because I think it tastes ace, but mainly because everyone loves delving into the jug and having a nibble.
The ingredients of Pimm’s are a bit of a mystery, but after a phonecall to Diageo today the main ones are gin, orange liqueur, spirit caramel and sugar. And best of all it is suitable for a gluten -free diet!
I’m feeling like it’s Pimm’s o’clock again already…
p.s. I have some Pimm’s cocktail stirrers and should have used them in my picture!
This ethereal looking wine was given to me by my brother for looking after his four children (!!). He also gave me a home-made lego lampshade, make of this what you will. I was very intrigued by it, and had read the back several times but didn’t dare touch it.
What made me finally crack it open was its featuring on a dish on The Great British Menu, a TV programme currently on the BBC aiming to find a great modern British chef to cook at the Erotic Gherkin for Heston Blumenthal (himself a gastronomic alchemist) and chums.
The programme showed Chris Horridge visiting the winery, the tapped silver birches and finally having a tasting with his chef rival.
So with that, I took my own first sip. At first it tasted of nothing in particular, fairly sweet. Then a very peculiar taste indeed emerged which was mellow but almost musky. I sipped my way through a glass of the stuff, but it did have a definite after taste. TLM said it was like paint stripper, which I found hard to argue against.
So in conclusion: I expect the majority of the purchases are made on a curiosity basis and there are few repeat customers. The lego lamp however, rocks.
Please excuse the recent obsession with lamb, but I’ve never liked it before and we keep finding it on offer. This is SO quick to cook, and would work very well with beef too. I used half an onion, a red pepper, a green pepper, some mange tout and a handful of pea shoots (what I had left over from the weekend) – any old veg would work well.
The sauce is what the recipe’s about really. I’ve always been apprehensive about Chinese 5 Spice (easily found powder in a supermarket) as it always smells strongly of liqourice. But I gave it a go, and it was DELICIOUS.
SO for two, whisk up the following in a little dish and marinade the finely sliced meat in it.
- 3/4 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce (the recipe asked for Hoisin, so I substituted)
- dash sesame oil
- 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
- 1 red pepper (seeds and everything)
How to Make it
Marinade the fincely sliced meat (as much as you choose) in the sauce. Heat a wok with some oil, then throw in the meat and sauce, cook for barely a few minutes to keep the meat tender. Set the meat aside, then cook the onion and peppers and hardier veg for a few minutes. Add the mangetout and lighter veg and cook for maybe a minute longer. Take the wok off the heat. Add the cooked meat and sauce back, stir it in and let it sit while you plate up the noodles or rice. The meat will warm through again and the sauce will have a chance to coat the veggies.
And that is that. Superfast and delicious.
I read in one of my cookery books that lamb, peas and mint is a classic combination. When I saw pea shoots at the supermarket, I immediately thought of a small piece of lamb in the freezer and the mint I’ve been growing in a pot on the windowsill.
With TLM revising hard for his finals, there was only me to feed at lunchtime. I popped the pea shoots and some cucumber on a plate, mixed up some garlic, chillis, fresh chopped mint and a dash of wine vinegar together and then flash fried the lamb.
It made a very nice combination. I think it would work really nicely with chives rather than garlic, but I only got the seeds yesterday so that’s out of the question! Might go for a drizzle of olive oil next time too… (but was trying to be good today)
Or so we like to think – I’ve not got the knack of scotch/drop/American pancakes, but have perfected the traditional type. For a long time, I just couldn’t make nice pancakes – they were chewy or burnt or too thick or too thin. Anything that could be wrong with a pancake in various combinations. I also seem to forget how I did them just right the last time, so I’m writing this down so I will never forget!
The recipe I now use is from Marguerite Pattern, who is hard to fault. The thing with pancakes is that you have to go through a lot of trial and error with your equipment to get them just right. So this is how I manage to make them the way we like:
1. I have a “pancake pan” I bought on a whim (in the hope of better pancakes). It is very shallow, which makes turning them a lot easier.
2. A large non-stick spatula, which I use to turn the pancakes (more details later…)
3. A ladel that I know contains the right amount of batter with one full scoop – the right amount for us is just enough to cover the whole bottom of the pan without any excess pooling in the centre
4. Unsalted butter to cook the pancake with – chop a tiny amount off, then running it round the bottom of the pan with a pastry brush gives the perfect amount.
I am useless at flipping pancakes. So I found a way to turn them without inevitable disaster/folding. I ladel my batter in and let it coat the pan by rolling it around. There should be no excess. I wait for the pancake to start to cook, then when it is set on the underside, I lay my spatula flat on the pancake and nudge it, so that the pancake overlaps on the far side of the frying pan by about an inch. I then put my spatula to one side, grab the dangling pancake and in one quick motion (eech, ooch, ouch) lift it up, towards me and flop it uncooked side down back into the pan. It then takes only a few more seconds for that side to be cooked through.
I forgot this technique while we were away over the summer, and when I made my first pancakes I couldn’t for the life of me remember how I did it – so this is now more than a mere mental note!
Pancake Ingredients -makes 6 pancakes
- 100 g plain flour
- 250 ml milk
- 1 or 2 eggs (I use two usually)
- generous knob of unsalted butter, melted (absolutely necessary for a good texture)
How to Make the Pancakes
Sieve the flour, microwave the butter in a cup, then add the milk and egg and butter to the flour and mix.
I’ve found it doesn’t really matter about letting the batter cool for these pancakes. Pancakes can be disappointing on too high, or too low a heat. You need to get the pan hot enough to melt the butter, but not so hot that it burns – medium heat is best. Cook until one side is set then flip if you can or use the turning trick if not!