Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Calorie, Is it outdated?

The BBC Food Programme is an excellent show and I make time to listen to it every week. Although it is mainly based around concerns and food trends in the UK occasionally this it covers topics which relate to any region. A recent broadcast was featured on the Calorie, something I suspect many of you have been counting at some point and potentially the amount of calories in a food item has caused you to make changes in what you are choosing to eat. The premise of this broadcast is that the the Calorie as related to the consumption of food is outdated in determining how healthy something might be and even how it might affect weight gain or loss. Like most of the Food Programme shows they look at the subject from a very balanced viewpoint with both sides represented. If you are a calorie counter, or someone who is concerned  about diet and how certain foods affect your weight I suggest you give this episode a listen.

The Calorie

Mon, 24 Oct 11
28 mins

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Home made Bangers (Sausages)

This time of year as the weather gets cooler and the nights are drawing in, my mind turns to comfort food and on my list is the sausage or as they are called in the UK bangers. Unfortunately like most things what we often find in our supermarkets are highly processed tubes of meat from suspect sources full of preservatives and often over seasoned (salted). I find that a shame beacause almost every culture on the planet has its own unique combination of meats,spices and cereals stuffed into a casing and then dried or cooked fresh into a suculent savory delight.
Given that I mosly get my meats direct from the farm in whole form, what I tend to have a lot of is good ground meat. So a few years ago I bought an inexpensve sausage stuffer and delved into the art of sausage making and I have to say that I haven't looked back. In fact, for the last three years my wife and I have hosted a sausage making party where friends come over and make sausages and share both recipies and laughs. The event has been a big success and everyone enjoys not only the event but the treats they go home with.

Most sausage recipes consist of some good ground meat and seasonings (salt and pepper) and optionally spices, herbs and fillers. The latter can be a controversial item and the use of fillers is dependent on the type of sausage you are making. In general that add both softness and moisture to the end result as the soak up a lot of juices from the other ingredients, most sausages from the UK include some kind of filler. Italian sausages tend to be all meat and if cooked alone will become drying but these are often broken up into sauces to retain all the juice when cooking. Sausages to be dried would not use fillers as they would cause spoilage. When using fillers they should always be good quality either oatmeal, bread crumbs or multi-grain cereal and should be soaked and drained before use. When using fillers about 5% by weight is a good ratio, for 1Kg of meat use 50g of filler.

There are loads of recipes online which use various combinations of seasonings however all sausages need salt and probably more that you might imagine. I good rough guide is about 5-10g of salt per kilo of meat. Because cooking has an effect on the power of seasonings it is a good idea to take a little of your mix and ether fry it or poach it in order to test for seasoning as this will allow you to adjust before stuffing.

Stuffing is basically inserting your sausage mixture into a casing. This is necessary for traditional links but you can just shape your mixture into patties but links are easier to store and freeze since the casing protects them. The are a large number of choices for casing both natural and synthetic. Most recipes will provide guidance on the type of casing. Since I normally make pork sausages I go for natural hog casings (or runners) and there are various sizes depending on your own tastes and machine. I get my sausage supplies from online sources such as Amazon and Sausage Maker who provide the casings and stuffing machines. The casings need to be soaked before use as they are stored in salt.

The process of stuffing a casing is fairly simple, no matter if you use a machine, a kitchen aid or even a funnel. Basically there is a container for the meat, a tube through which the meat is pushed and some means of forcing the meat into that tube. Firstly run the soaked casing up over the tube and gather it up. Make sure the tube is loaded with sausage meat before you tie the knot at the end of the casing (prevents and air lock). Then slowly fill with meat allowing the casing to pull off the tube. The trick is to guide the casing off the end of the tube once it is filled with the meat and making sure there are no air holes. This is vital for dried sausages as air will create spoilage. Keep stuffing the casing until you come to the end and then simple knot the casing to seal the meat in the casing. Finally you can twist the links

So here are a few of my favorite recipes, they are all pork based. Ground pork can be found in good markets like Wholefoods and Genes (locally) but if not pork shoulder or a combination of shoulder and pork belly can be used and ground up. You butcher will often do this for you.

Herby Sausage 

This has become a favorite at our sausage making parties and many of our friends rate it as one of the best they have tasted.

  • 950g coarsely ground pork
  • 50g filler
  • 7g salt
  • 20 Sage leaves
  • 20 Chives
  • 4-5 sprigs of thyme
  • bunch of Marjoram
  • 1 tsp of freshly ground black pepper.
Simply chop all the herbs finely and mix with the rest of the ingredients.

Gloucester Pork Sausage

This is from my home county in the UK and is a family favorite. Use Gloucester Old Spot pork if possible.

  •  950g coarsely ground pork
  • 50g filler
  • 10g salt
  • 1tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1tsp ground Nutmeg
  • 10 sage leaves finely chopped
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 sprigs of marjoram
Chop the herbs, grind the spices and mix with the rest of the ingredients

Easy Chorizo

This is for a fresh chorizo sausage and can be put in casings or simple used as is in recipes calling for chorizo.

  • 1Kg of fresh ground pork
  • 1.5 tsp of smoked paprika
  • 1.25 tblsp of salt
  • 25ml of white wine
  • Small head of garlic minced, grated or finely chopped
  • 3 tblsp finely chopped oregano
Just mix together, check seasoning and stuff the casings.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Be a little subversive and Occupy your garden

Roger Doiron: A Subversive Plot - How to grow a revolution in your own back yard

I found this TED talk earlier this week and felt an extreme resonance to the point which Roger Doiron makes. I took to my garden about three years ago and although it has been a struggle to find time, and resident rodents in the neighbors redwood have reduced the crop I have to say the food is by far the best food we eat. We are no near self sufficient but every little helps plus there is the added benefit of bring outdoors and exercising. I encourage you all to watch the video and take from it the points that matter to you and be a subversive and go dig your gardens and thrive....

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Simple Scones

This has to be the simplest scone recipe I have ever found. It works really well and to be honest goes against the general theory.

I was given a baking book by Paul Hollywood which I have to say is very good and as I was thumbing through this morning I happened on his scone recipe. I am familiar with the traditional way of making scones which involves mixing flour and cold butter together to form crumbs but his technique was different I had to give it a try

  • 1lb 2oz of String White Flour
  • 2 medium eggs beaten (plus 1 more egg for an egg wash)
  • 3oz of sugar (caster or bakers sugar if you have it)
  • 1oz of baking powder
  • 3oz of butter (softened! - use microwave)
  • 8fl oz milk
  • 3.5 oz of Raisins (optional --- but why not)
So here is the procedure. 

  1. Put all the ingredients (except egg wash and raisins) and put them in a mixer with a paddle attachment. or put them in a bowl and use your hands/spoon
  2. Mix on low speed for 2 mins - 5 mins if by hand
  3. combine the raisins if using
  4. Scoop out onto lightly floured surface and pat/roll in to a rectangle about 2 inch thick. 
  5. Cut out scones (use a 2 - 3 inch cutter and cut straight down, no twisting!)
  6. Place on a parchment lined baking tray and egg wash the tops (no dripping down the sides)
  7. Place in the refrigerator for 30mins while you heat the oven to 425F.
  8. After 30 mins egg wash again and then place in oven for 15 mins.
 As you can see they turned out great. This is now my go to recipe for scones.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Prince William’s Chocolate Biscuit Cake

Well this post is a little off-piste but since there a big Royal Wedding back in my homeland and also because my wife begged me to make I did a bit of research into this simple (no-bake) cake that became a favorite of a future king and will be served at the wedding along side a more traditional wedding cake.

It should be said that there are many recipes online for this cake and they are all subtly different in nature but they all contain two main ingredients and do not require you to fire up your oven. This then is my interpretation compiled it must be said from the many versions I found and uses as many local ingredients as I could find. Unfortunately one of the main ingredients is McVities’s Rich Tea biscuits (you probably could substitute any butter biscuit) which are not local and might prove hard to find. For those readers in the Cupertino area who want the authentic article, you can find them at Genes Market in Saratoga. The other key ingredient is Chocolate and I would suggest you find a nice fair trade variety of at least 70% cocoa.

So putting the ingredients together we haveIMG_20110428_122828

  • 1x 7oz packet of Rich Tea Biscuits
  • 1 Cup of heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons of local honey
  • 4 tablespoons of butter
  • 16oz of (at least 70%) chocolate bits
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For hardware you will need a mixing bowl and a 7-8inch springform pan which has been well greased.

To make the base of the cake simply break up the biscuits into chunks you want them to be 1/4 – 1/2 inch not crumbs. Place them in a bowl. Put the cream, honey and butter into a pan and bring to a good simmer. Turn off the heat and add the chocolate. Stir until you have a smooth glossy mixture with no lumps. Add the vanilla extract and combine. Then pour this gooey mixture over the biscuits and fold together.

Transfer the chocolate and biscuits to the springform pan and smooth out the top. Gently tap the pan on the counter to remove any air holes. Then put the whole thing into the fridge for at least 3 hours.

Once the cake has set you can gently remove it from the springform pan. It is good enough to eat right now but for an extra bit of royal flourish it is an idea to glaze it with more chocolate. To make the glaze take the following ingredientsIMG_20110428_203815

  • 2 Tablespoons of butter
  • 1/4 cup of cream
  • 6 oz of 70% chocolate

Put the butter and cream into a pan and bring to a simmer, then add the chocolate. Mix until it is smooth. Place the chilled cake onto a wire rack over some parchment. Then poor the mixture over the cake starting in the middle. User a knife or spatula to smooth the glaze over the cake and down the sides. Allow to firm up, then transfer to a plate. Keep refrigerated until serving time.

This is a very simple cake to make and would something that kids would be able to do (with supervision) and enjoy the results. If you fancy a bit of royal faire on your table then give it a go..

Saturday, March 19, 2011

100% Wholewheat Bread

I have been baking bread for a few years now and something that has escaped me is a 100% Wholemeal loaf that didn't look like frisbie, tasted like sawdust or took 3 days to make.

The problem is the lack of gluten in wholemeal flour making it hard to develop a strong structure when proving. Adding a portion of white flour can improve things but that defeats the object.

Well I discovered a recipe in Darina Allen's book called Forgotten Skills of Cooking entitled Ballymaloe brown bread. It is so simple to make, no kneading required and it yields a crusty yet soft delicious tasting loaf of bread. The recipe was developed in the 1940's by Doris Grant for the Ministry of food (no not the Jamie Oliver one).

The only bit of special kit you need is a 5x8 inch loaf tin then gather the following ingredients.

450g Stone ground whole meal flour
1tsp Salt
1tsp molasses
425ml lukewarm water
15g Dried yeast
Oil for greasing
Seeds such as sesame

Preheat oven to 450F

Grease loaf tin (I recommend lining the tin with parchment)

Mix the yeast with 140ml of water and molasses and mix. Leave for a few mins to froth.

Put the flour and salt in a bowl and mix to distribute the salt. Pour in the water and the frothy yeat mixture and mix to a sloppy dough. Note this will be too wet to knead if not add a bit more water. Mix in the bowl then put into tin, sprinkle seeds on top.

Cover tin with towel and wait for 20mins just for the dough to rise to the top of the tin. The gently place it in the oven. Leave for 20mins then turn down the oven to 400F.

Cook for 40mins then remove from tin and place loaf back in the oven for 10mins to crisp the crust. Remove and cool then slice and enjoy. A simple, everyday 100% wholemeal loaf do youself a favor and try this recipe

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Welsh cakes

I made these last weekend in preparation for St Davids day, March 1st. I remember my mother and welsh grandmother made these most weeks only they called them bakestones. There are made in a similar way to scones but cooked on a griddle like pancakes. Very with a nice cup of (fairtrade) tea. There are a number of recipies on the net but I will post my recipe later

Friday, January 7, 2011

Book Review: Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food

Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food by Paul Greenberg might seem like a rather dull subject and to be honest I am not sure what attracted me to pick this book for my Christmas read. Perhaps I was looking for answers to the questions I get on what fish to bye, perhaps it was my childhood passion for fishing or even the vague memories of the Icelandic cod war which I thought was such a strange thing to go to war over in my late teens. Whatever reason it was, I am glad I did. This is a remarkable book that is incredibly informative and educational while presenting the argument for a sustainable future for protein from our seas and oceans. The book  presents the story of four fish rather like the style of botany of desire by Micheal Pollen and as such outlines the human impact in the desire for the various traits of each fish and how we have driven each species to the edge of destruction and are now trying to control their existence through farming techniques with potentially negative affects on both the environment and the remaining wild forms.

Paul questions the choice of the species we have set our sights on and compares their compatibility for domestication with the animals we have selected for our meat based protein. The four fish species are the main characters in this book, their stories share a common plot and it is told in great detail and as you go through the pages the eventual conclusion is obvious. The characters we have selected are, Salmon, Bass, Cod and blue fin Tuna, the plot is similar for each although the individual stories as diverse as the characteristics of the particular fish. This isn't one of those finger pointing environmental books that leave you with more questions than you had at the start or make you feel guilty about your existing lifestyle choices. It offers real advice to consumers, the anglers who catch, the fishing industry, fish farmers and even the political bodies that set fishing policies.

If you eat fish and want to understand how to be more informed and make sustainable choices this is good book for you and it will also provide you with the information to get involved in the debate and lobbying for a sustainable industry that can provide our need for fish protein and the future of fish as a sustainable wild and domesticated source.