Cereal – Why don’t we have Shepherds Pie for Breakfast?

So, a funny thought entered my head – How weird is cereal!

Putting oats/grains in a bowl, pouring over milk and having it as a breakfast dish. Why is it not as acceptable to have shepherds pie for breakfast? I decided to look at where it first came from and who made it everyone’s start to the day!

I have discovered, after some research, that it all began because of religion. The Seventh Day Adventist Church is a protestant Christian denomination who are notable because they have their Sabbath day on a Saturday rather than a Sunday. They were formed in 1863.

There were food reformers at this time who were trying to promote against having meat for breakfast. It was common at this time to have meat hash for breakfast, a mixture of minced meats and potatoes. The Seventh Day Adventist Church made this reform part of their religion.

Ferdinand Schumacher, a German immigrant living in America, was the first to grind oats in his back room to make them digestible. This was in 1854. These ground oats gave a substitute for breakfast pork. In 1877 he adopted the Quaker Symbol. This is the first registered trademark of breakfast cereal. Eating oats for breakfast finally became common for all types of religion, not only the Seventh Day Adventist Church.

Cereals have obviously come on leaps and bounds since then. “The number of different types of breakfast cereals in the U.S. has grown from 160 (1970) to 340 (1998) to 4,945 (2012)!”

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The most exciting part of my morning as a little girl was opening a new box of cereal and being the first to get the toy inside! ‘W.K. Kellogg was the first to introduce prizes in boxes of cereal. The marketing strategy that he established has produced thousands of different cereal box prizes that have been distributed by the tens of billions.

Kellogg’s Corn Flakes had the first breakfast cereal prize. The ‘Funny Jungle Land Moving Pictures Book’ was given to customers by the shop owners when they bought two or more packets of corn flakes. In 1909, this changed to a book in the post if you applied with tokens. ‘By 1912, Kellogg’s had distributed 2.5 million Jungle land books’. This book was finally exchanged for more modern and flashy toys in 1937.

Anyway, perhaps we could have Shepherds Pie for breakfast; after all it’s quite similar to the meat hash (meat and potatoes) that they we were eating before Quaker Oats came along. If you want to eat minced meat for breakfast – go for it, it’s traditional.

 

Aichner, T. and Coletti, P. 2013. Customers’ online shopping preferences in mass customization. Journal of Direct, Data and Digital Marketing Practice, 15(1): 20-35.
http://www.nndb.com/people/760/000165265/
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South Indian Fish Curry (Turmeric Part 2)

After spending five weeks in South India i fell in love with the coconut fish curry available at nearly every restaurant. It never tasted quite the same. It was almost a daily gamble of what type you were going to get. Some were much sweeter than others, or more fresh and citrusy. Following on from my turmeric post i wanted to share with you my recipe that includes marinating the fish in turmeric. After much trial and error here is my favourite fish curry. It serves 2 accompanied with rice. I think its fresh, healthy and delicious. Alter the amount of lime / sugar depending on your taste.

fish curry 1

1 Fillet of Cod (or white fish)

1 tsp Turmeric

Salt

1 Garlic Clove (minced)

1 Onion (sliced)

1/2 tsp Mustard Seeds

1 tsp Sesame Seeds

8 Fresh Curry Leaves

1 Vine Tomato (chopped)

1 tsp Ground Coriander

1 Hot Small Dried Chilli

200ml Coconut Milk

Small Bunch of Coriander Chopped

Sugar / Lime Juice to Finish

Slice the fish into 2 inch pieces. Marinate the fish by rubbing the pieces with turmeric, minced garlic, a sprinkle of salt and a drop of oil. Keep in the fridge for half an hour.

fish curry 2

Heat two tablespoons of vegetable oil in a frying pan (skillet) and fry the onions, mustard seeds and sesame seeds for about 8 minutes until brown.

Add the ground coriander and curry leaves. Take the dried chilli, break it in half, pour the seeds in followed by the shell. Fry for a few minutes.

Add the coconut milk and chopped tomatoes. Reduce the sauce until it thickens on a simmer. Season with salt, sugar and lime juice until the flavour is rich.

Add the pieces of fish and cook in the sauce on a simmer for 4-8 minutes depending on the thickness of the pieces.

To finish sprinkle over the chopped coriander and a final squeeze of lime.

fish curry 3

 

Turmeric – Bring it back this Winter!

Personally, I think turmeric is one of the most versatile spices in the cupboard. Ground turmeric powder, which most of us have in our homes, is made from taking the rhizomes (the stem/ root) of the turmeric plant, boiling them for 45 minutes then drying in a very hot oven until they are able to be ground up into that familiar sunshine orange powder. The turmeric plant is part of the ginger family.

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Turmeric From The Market. Varkala, Kerala.

Before it was used for culinary purposes it was used as a dye and medicinally in Ayurvedic treatments. Research found that it has ‘been used medicinally for over 4,500 years.

Analyses of pots discovered near New Delhi uncovered residue from turmeric, ginger and garlic that dates back as early as 2500 BCE. It was around 500 BCE that turmeric emerged as an important part of Ayurvedic medicine.’

http://www.pbs.org/food/the-history-kitchen/turmeric-history/

I came across this when I was first working in India. I came into the kitchen with a terrible cold one morning and one of the Indian chefs insisted that I drunk his concoction that he made in a saucepan three times a day. He boiled water together with a few tablespoons of turmeric and a handful of basil leaves. It was really quite a disgusting drink but under strict instruction I continued his prescription. Anyway, I think it worked – try it for yourself this winter. Turmeric is said to be anti-inflammatory, anti-tumour, anti-bacterial and anti-viral!

It was first used as a dye to colour the beautiful orange robes of the Buddhist monks and saris in India. It has since been used as a cheaper alternative to saffron. Furthermore, ‘turmeric has an important place in Indian weddings. Turmeric paste is applied to the bride and the groom as part of the haldi ceremony just before the wedding to give them fresh glowing skins and to ward off the evil eye.’

http://www.medindia.net/alternativemedicine/turmeric-powder.asp#ixzz3ru9t48pr

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Turmeric on The Beach. Varkala, Kerala.

In cooking, turmeric is used for flavour and also preserving. When preparing fish for Indian dishes you often start with marinating the fish in salt and turmeric before keeping it in the fridge overnight. It makes fish last so much longer and gives it a beautiful colour. It also protects fish from sunlight.

Indians tend to add turmeric to almost anything that they think needs to be bright orange. If in doubt chuck some more in! – I’ve found turmeric on the labels of sports drinks, biscuits and ice cream. Pakoras are a delicious Indian deep fried hot appetiser. Vegetables are dipped in a batter of corn flour, flour, water and turmeric. When deep-fried these little bundles of pieces of vegetables are bright orange. They are served with either a peanut dipping sauce or coriander chutney. I think they are great with tzatziki. I’ll put up a recipe for some mixed vegetable ones shorty.

For a beautiful addition to your meat and two veg dinner (if that’s on the menu) –toss together small florets of cauliflower with some vegetable oil, salt, cumin seeds and turmeric. They will brighten up any dish scattered around the plate.

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Spices In The Market. Varkala, Kerala.

Fun Fact – 1 tablespoon of turmeric is 24 calories! – Who’s counting!

It’s rich in fibre, iron, potassium and magnesium and perfect to boost immunity in the winter months. This is because of the main ingredient, curcumin.

Although not the easiest to find in the UK, raw turmeric root can be eaten raw, chopped up finely in salads. It adds a peppery flavour.

Anyway, as the coldness creeps in why not try and add some turmeric into your diet.

 

It’s been keeping India full of sunshine since 2500 BCE!

Coconut Oil – Why’s everyone so nuts about it?

FUN FACT ABOUT THE COCONUT – The scientific name for coconut is Cocos nucifera. Early Spanish explorers called it coco, which means “monkey face” because the three indentations (eyes) on the hairy nut resembles the head and face of a monkey. Nucifera means “nut-bearing.”

In England you can’t go anywhere without hearing about coconut oil. We’re told to cook with it, put it in our hair, on our skin, and to drink it! It’s used a lot in health / vegan recipes as a binder when ingredients such as butter or egg have had to be admitted. It’s also seen as a healthier alternative to most cooking oils for pan-frying, especially as it has a high smoke point making it perfect for stir-fries.

It has become quite the fad with health food cooks and eaters, however the main problem is that this is not a cheap ingredient in the UK. Coconut oil, once overlooked in the supermarket, has now had its price tag multiplied. It’s now sold as a ‘new’ health product with implications that it’s going to change your life!

However, the oldest discoveries of the coconut are fossils that date back 55 million years ago, found in India and Australia. Furthermore, ‘coconut oil is of special interest because it possesses healing properties far beyond that of any other dietary oil and is extensively used in traditional medicine among Asian and Pacific populations. Pacific Islanders have long considered coconut oil to be the cure for all illness.’

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The Coconut Boss. Varkala, Kerala.

Personally I am quite sold on it. Slightly behind, I first discovered it while being massaged with it two years ago in India. I started using it as moisturiser while living there. Famously Indian women use it to keep their plait of shiny black hair looking so luscious. Over there, this product is being sold in 1 litre bottles for no more than a pound, this same amount sold in two smaller pots is an extortionate £30 at Holland and Barratt and probably more at Whole Foods! Everyones going crazy for it – a friend of mine gargles it in around her mouth for 10 minutes a day, she ensures me it will make her teeth whiter! You can only afford that if you live in India (it’s also really unpleasant to do). Also – fun fact – when used as sunbathing oil it apparently has a natural SPF of 6 – super handy!? There are claims it’s good for heart disease, seizures and promotes weight loss etc.

 

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Don’t mess with the coconut man. Varkala, Kerala.

‘Once mistakenly believed to be unhealthy because of its high saturated fat content, it is now known that the fat in coconut oil is a unique and different from most all other fats and possesses many health giving properties.’

http://www.coconutresearchcenter.org/

But more interestingly ….

To cook with – As a really simple way of bringing coconut oil into your diet I would recommend using it firstly, when roasting any vegetables for a more interesting flavour. I once had kale roasted in the oven in coconut oil with sesame seeds until crisp, then finished off with cooked brown rice and soy – delicious. Secondly, try it as an alternative to butter in baking – I have tried with great success. Thirdly, try using it instead of your normal veg oil. You can get coconut oil with reduced flavour so that your dish isn’t smothered by it!

The strangest / most unusual uses that I’ve come across online are –

  1. Using it with apple cider as a natural treatment for lice – which works apparently.
  2. By itself as a natural deodorant – not sure about that one!
  3. Evidence suggests that regular ingestion of coconut oil can help prevent or reverse Alzheimer’s.
  4. As a natural lubricant that won’t disturb ‘vaginal flora’ – I’ll let you be the judge of that!
  5. It can be rubbed on the scalp to stimulate hair growth.

Anyway, give it a go and let me know how it goes (if you can afford it in England)!

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Behind the coconut stall – A hard days work!

Welcome to India -The Goan Sausage

For the following weeks I am going to be researching the history of food in India. I want to look at the vast scope of diets across India, often to do with availability and / or religion. For instance, in the religious faith of Hinduism the cow is worshipped and therefore beef is strictly prohibited. High up in the north of India in Muslim states, such as Srinagar, pork isn’t available. In the south of India, where the majority of the people are Christians, beef and pork are on the menu. The ingredient found in the south that I am particularly fascinated by is the Goan sausage.

The History of the Goan Sausage

Some could call it an early ‘food fusion’ between India and Portugal (before it was a la mode!) The Portuguese arrived on India’s West coast in 1498.

Many ingredients were introduced into India in the holds of Portuguese ships such as chillies, coriander, potatoes, tomatoes, cashews, aubergines, and pumpkins.

Inspired by chorizo, Goan sausage was welcomed on the Christian Goan shores. Cured sausages were perfect, at this time, as they could keep for up to 6 months. This was ideal for the sailors on the trade routes at sea. During the monsoon, when fish were harder to come by, pork offered an alternative source of protein.

Making Goan Sausage

In ‘The Art of making Goan Sausages’ I learnt that ‘the meat in the sausage is cured using a combination of Saltpetre or Potassium nitrate common salt.  The saltpetre decomposes into nitric oxide, which inhibits growth of bacteria and other harmful organisms. Goan sausages are spiced with cumin, cinnamon, black pepper, turmeric, ginger, garlic and Goan vinegar. They are smoked by burning grass below and then dried in hot sun.’

Goan Sausage

In Goa

I have tried a different type of Goan sausage dish every day whilst being here for the last four days. The Goan sausage is best described as being similar to the Portuguese chorizo.

Goan Sausage Pao – Crumbled Goan sausage, in a burger-type bun with sweet sliced red onions. Perhaps more suited for a night snack after a few Kingfisher beers.

The Dunes, Mandrem, Goa

Goan Sausage Pulao – Fried rice with small pieces of Goan sausage mixed through with whole cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, star anise and bay leaves. A heady mixture of strong spices that sung out, enhancing the plain rice and matching the strong flavour of the sausage. The huge mound of it that arrived at the table was devoured instantly.

Sea Creek, Ashvem, Goa

Goan Pork Sausage Chilli Fry – A stir-fry with potatoes, red onions and green chillies. Perhaps eaten with a chapati or naan bread. The chunks of potato were cooked so that they still had some bite. The potatoes had turned a golden orange because of the juices released from the sausage whilst frying.

Molly’s Nest, Mandrem, Goa

Goan Sausage Pizza- What is says on the tin! Deliciously prepared in a wood fired oven, the mixture of mozzarella and crumbled sausage was the perfect combination.

Roma, Ashvem Beach, Goa

I have found one recipe online which teaches you how to make and cure your own Goan sausage over four days, which I have put below. However from experience, if you want to buy them to use as an ingredient, the link below offers very high quality products.

http://goanfood.co.uk/products/all-products/sausages-goa-sausage.

Recipe

by Crescentia and Chris Fernandes who own Bernardo’s Goan Restaurant in Gurgaon, Delhi.

Ingredients

1kg Pork Meat (shoulder)

90g Sea Salt

30 Dried Red Chillies

5g Cumin

6 1inch Pieces of Cinnamon

30 Peppercorns

25 Cloves

8g Turmeric

30g Ginger/ Garlic Paste

90ml Goan Vinegar

5g Salt Petre (Sodium Nitrate)

3 Metres of Sausage Casing

The pork used must be fatty. Wash it well and drain the pieces of pork.

Add two handfuls of sea salt. Mix it well in a plastic or wooden colander (not metal). Put a plate to cover the meat and put a weight on top so that all the liquid drains out below.

In a blender make the masala. Put chillies, cumin, cinnamon, pepper, cloves, turmeric (which helps to preserve it), and ginger garlic paste into the blender. Add the vinegar to make a smooth spice paste.

Add salt petre to the pork and mix well.

Pour over the spice paste and mix well.

Marinate overnight or for a couple of days in the fridge. (You can use the meat just like this stored in a jar, or smoke the meat for a better flavour)

Fill the sausage casings with the pork mix using a funnel and a cutlery knife to push the meat down. Tie the casings at each end.

Two days later – smoke the sausages. Light a pile of damp leaves and grass on fire outside. Hang the sausages above so that they are consumed by the smoke coming from the leaves. You can cover the sausages so that they are properly smoked.

Sun dry the sausages on a washing line in the hot Indian sun for a day.

They are now ready to be cooked.

Fry without oil, the sausage will release its own red delicious oil that will flavour ingredients added to the pan or soak into large chunks of white bread.

I worked at the fantastic Indian small plate and cocktail bar restaurant called Kricket this year.

http://www.kricket.co.uk/

The inspirational head chef there, Will Bowlby, used Goan sausage in one of the lunch favourites. This is one of the dishes I learnt to make.

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Goan Sausage Roll with Pachadi Mayo, Pickled Red Onion and Mustard Seeds.

Ragu – One Special Recipe – Sixty Years On – Thanks to Elizabeth David

In an article in the Guardian in 2013, chefs such as Jamie Oliver and Prue Leith were asked to choose their favourite Elizabeth David recipe and explain why they thought it was so special. Leith chose David’s instructions on poaching eggs. She said that ‘there are a lot of myths about poaching eggs but this tip I had never heard. She recommends you to submerge the whole egg in its shell in boiling water for 30 seconds before fetching fresh boiling water and continuing with the usual drop of vinegar and swirl technique when poaching the egg’. Apparently this helps the egg, once out of its shell, to keep its shape. I am definitely going to try it!

Jamie Oliver chose a recipe for a ragu from “Italian Food” by Elizabeth David. This is a very special recipe that was cooked in the 1950’s by Zia Nerina (owner of Trattoria Nerina in Bologna), in the 1960’s by Elizabeth David, in 2013 by Jamie Oliver and now in 2015 by me. Today I listed down the small list of ingredients and headed to the butcher for some livers!

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What interested me about this recipe for ragu is that instead of finding the traditional ingredients such as olive oil, garlic and red wine they are replaced with chicken livers, butter and white wine. I was sceptical at first, as was my Dad who kept asking me to decrease the amount of livers (haunted by calves liver at school) if he was going to try it.

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Anyway, I stuck exactly to the recipe and all I can say is that I’m never going to go back. It was buttery, meaty and marvellous. I couldn’t get hold of any uncooked ham so I used un-smoked back bacon. I did find I had to reduce it for a good hour without the lid on to get the thick ragu I desired instead of grey meat in a watery sauce.

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The end result really was fantastic and has further increased my adoration of Elizabeth David. If it’s a surprise to me to taste such a delicious ragu sauce in 2015, I can only imagine what it must have been like for her in 1960.

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The Recipe

From ‘Italian Food’ by Elizabeth David
This is the true name of the Bolognese sauce which, in one form or another, has travelled round the world. In Bologna it is served mainly with lasagne verdi, but it can go with many other kinds of pasta. The ingredients to make enough sauce for six generous helpings are 225g lean minced beef, 115g of chicken livers, 85g of uncooked ham, both fat and lean, 1 carrot, 1 onion, 1 small piece of celery, 3 tablespoonfuls of concentrated tomato purée, 1 wineglassful of white wine, 2 wine-glassfuls of stock or water, butter, salt and pepper, nutmeg.

Cut the bacon or ham into very small pieces and brown them gently in a small saucepan in about 15g of butter. Add the onion, the carrot, and the celery, all finely chopped. When they have browned, put in the raw minced beef, and then turn it over and over so that it all browns evenly. Now add the chopped chicken livers, and after 2 or 3 minutes the tomato purée, and then the white wine. Season with salt (having regard to the saltiness of the ham or bacon), pepper, and a scraping of nutmeg, and add the meat stock or water. Cover the pan and simmer the sauce very gently for 30-40 minutes. (However i actually then removed the lid and simmered for an hour at least to reduce the sauce). Some Bolognese cooks add at the last moment 1 cupful of cream or milk to the sauce, which makes it smoother. (I didn’t think it was necessary.)

When the ragu is to be served with spaghetti or tagliatelle, mix it with the hot pasta in a heated dish so that the pasta is thoroughly impregnated with the sauce, and add a good piece of butter before serving. Hand around the grated cheese separately.

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/dec/08/classic-elizabeth-david-recipes

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An Ode to Elizabeth David

I have recently acquired a 1964 edition of Elizabeth David’s “French Provincial Cooking”. It welcomingly smells of an old library and has a charming inscription which reads,  “To Marion, Not so much a cookery book, more a tradition in eating, un manuel de bons plats de ma chere France. Bien amicalement, Rolande, 1964.” This translated is “A Handbook of Good Food of my Dear France”. And this is exactly what I found while leafing through the pages.

Elizabeth David is a heroine of mine as, in my mind, she began the adoration of mediterranean ingredients in England. I am doubltful that she single handedly achieved this, however publishing her book ‘A Book Of Meditarranean Food’ in 1950, just as rationing was finally coming to a close, successfully filled food enthusiasts with great delight. Butter, cheese, margarine, cooking fats and meat did not come off the ration until 1954 and so recipes with ingredients from abroad were exciting and full of hope for the future at this time. Post WWII everyone was craving something a little more exotic. At last, food enthusiasts could experiment with flavours and recipes after suffering on beige diets of bread, lard and potatoes.

From reading obituaries and articles about Elizabeth David’s life, she sounds like she enjoyed a few bottles of Chablis regularly and got what she wanted. She spent the war on a sailing boat with a lover ending up in Egypt before eventually marrying Anthony David, a relationship which was apparently ‘doomed from the start’.

The contrast of her dining experiences in Egypt, compared to when she returned to England to live with her sister Diana, really explains why David took it upon herself to bring foreign flavours to England. A story that really explains the lack of ingredients that were available in the 1940s and 50s is when David had returned to her sisters house from shopping. She says “one day, I took back to her, among the broken biscuits and the tins of snoek … one pound of fresh tomatoes. As I took them out of my basket to show her, I saw that tears were tumbling down my sister’s beautiful and normally serene face.” Elizabeth asked Diana what on earth was wrong. “Sorry,” came the reply. “It’s just that I’ve been trying to buy fresh tomatoes for five years. And now it’s you who’ve found them first.”

David comforted herself during these times by writing lists of ingredients that she missed.  “Apricots, olives, butter, rice, lemons, almonds…. This, then, was how she first began to write. Her notes and recipes were an expression of her yearning, a way of assuaging something that was not homesickness exactly, but which must have felt a lot like it.”

(http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/dec/08/elizabeth-david-first-lady-of-food).

This may explain why she was someone who chose to cook, as being born into a wealthy household she had a full team of staff in the house that would have provided all of the family meals. But, perhaps the British palate now bored her after trying ingredients from overseas. She cooked the food she missed from her times abroad during the war and then started writing fondly and descriptively, educating England on the flavours of the Mediterranean and France.

Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche … Apparently

This well known saying stems from the book on stereotypes about masculinity, ‘Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche’, by Bruce Feirstein, published in 1982.

I do sort of get it – if I saw the hunkiest of men standing at the other side of the buffet table and I walked up to him while he was delicately forking his way through a slice of quiche I may think again! When I think of quiche I think of bits of it squashed in a lunch box or picnic hamper or a large one sweating on a buffet table. My memories of it at cookery school are of dread – short crust pastry and egg cooking. There is no way of hiding a badly blind baked tart mould or a souffleing centre. Bad quiche has got to be the most terrible thing known to man. The cheap ones you can buy for pennies in supermarkets are all one shade of beige and its seems as if they have gelatine in them. However, you can now get fancy quiches – 8cm in diameter and about £5 a slice from a posh Notting Hill delicatessen. Anyway, I now am a big fan of the quiche and here is why.

You can have it hot or cold, veg or non veg, and everyone will try one slice at least (even the real men). You can have it in summer or winter and it’s good for all ages etc. etc. Basically I’ve now decided it’s fantastic!

Elizabeth David had a rant in an 1985 edition of The Tatler about everyone calling any open-faced pie a quiche. She longs for the traditional delicious “golden, blistered, alluring cream tarts” and detests the ‘modern’ Quiche Lorraine, which breaks all the rules including the addition of cheese! David cries that “it’s too late now to restore the ravaged image of the quiche as we know it”. She insists that to find the real thing you have to “go to Lorraine and eat them on the spot. The pastry is always very thin; it’s always baked in shallow tart tins, the filling is always composed of eggs and cream, it never contains gruyere or parmesan cheese, and usually there is a small amount of streaky bacon.”

The definition of a quiche is a savoury custard pie, which sounds dreadfully unappealing. “Although quiche is now considered a classically French dish, it actually originated in Germany. It started in the medieval kingdom of Lothringen, under German rule, which the French later renamed Lorraine. The word ‘quiche’ is from the German word ‘kuchen’, meaning cake.” The bottom crust was originally made from bread dough which Elizabeth David feared would have a renaissance in the 80s. She advises us to “keep that from the pizza houses or the next thing we know there will be Pizza Loraine”. The bread dough base has long since evolved into a short-crust or puff pastry crust. “Quiche became popular in England sometime after WWII, and in the USA during the 1950s.”

At the end of the day I think life is too short – if you want cheese in your quiche – you go for it!

HERB QUICHE (WITH CHEESE) WITH THYME AND PARMESAN SHORT CRUST PASTRY.

Pastry –

245g plain flour, pinch of salt, 115g chilled butter, 25g finely grated parmesan, 2 tablespoons chopped thyme, 2 egg yolks and 3 tablespoons of cold water mixed together.

Sift the flour and salt into the bowl of the blender, and add the parmesan and thyme. Cut the chilled butter into cubes. Add the butter to the four. Pulse the blender until the butter and flour resembles breadcrumbs.

Add a tablespoon of the liquid mix to the breadcrumb mixture and start the blender. Slowly add a few tablespoons of the liquid mix at a time until the dough comes together as a whole.

Tip the pastry onto clingfilm, wrap and put in the fridge for half an hour.

Roll out your pastry and line a 24cm flan ring.

Chill the lined pastry case in the fridge until very firm.

Heat the oven to 200c and blind bake the pastry with a cartouche and baking beans for 20 minutes. Then remove the cartouche and baking beans and bake for a further 10 minutes.

Reduce the temperature of the oven to 150c.

Filling –

2 small leeks finely sliced, 2 tablespoons each of finely chopped marjoram and parsley, 30g butter, 100g finely grated gruyere cheese, 3 eggs, 350ml double cream.

Melt the butter in a small pan. Wash the leeks then cook in the melted butter with a wet cartouche until soft.

Drain the leeks. Mix the eggs and cream together well with a fork and then sieve. Add the leeks, herbs and cheese. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Pour the mixture into your blind baked pastry case.

Bake on the bottom shelf of the oven for 45 minutes. It is done when there is still a small wobble in the centre but no liquid remains.

Garnish with red amaranth, chopped parsley and freshly ground black pepper.

Parmesan and Thyme Shortcrust Pastry

Parmesan and Thyme Shortcrust Pastry

Herb Quiche with Red Amaranth

Herb Quiche with Red Amaranth

http://www.puckles.com.au/pages/a-history-of-quiche

Real Quiche by Elizabeth David in TATLER, September 1985 Volume 280 Number 8

Mead, Honey and ‘The Idler’ Bee Weekend

Recently I have discovered mead, which is an almost forgotten alcoholic drink made from fermented honey and water. It can be a little sweet and too rich for me but actually I was lucky enough to try some dry mead recently, which was absolutely delicious.

I cooked for a ‘Bee Weekend’ hosted by the fantastic magazine The Idler last month where bee and honey enthusiasts spent the weekend learning about bee keeping and discussing all things honey. For dinner on Saturday night I made a honey banquette using delicious honey which came in a huge bucket!

It’s lovely that honey from different parts of England, and obviously the world, have completely different tastes. The honey I was using had come from the coast so the bees there had taken pollen from plants that are covered in salt and can survive the harsh winds. I also tried some urban honey that had been made in hives on the roof of a house in West London. They definitely had their own unique flavours.

Honey has been around for an very long time. According to the Honey Association “cave paintings in Spain from 7000BC show the earliest records of beekeeping, however, fossils of honey bees date back about 150 million years.” Furthermore “the earliest record of keeping bees in hives was found in the sun temple erected in 2400BC near Cairo. The bee featured frequently in Egyptian hieroglyphs and, being favoured by the pharaohs, often symbolised royalty.” The Romans and the Greeks were both fond of using honey in their cooking. They used it as a sweetener as well as using it to make cakes as an offering to the gods.

Mead can be traced back to nearly 40,000 years ago. Unfortunately it’s not readily available these days. I had to go to Jerry’s Liquor Shop in Soho to buy a bottle. Other than that you can get it online. I was very proud of my bottle of mead and carried it in my hand on the train journey to Gloucestershire for the Bee Weekend. I needed it specifically for a pudding that I was planning to cook; Pears Poached in Mead.

Recipe-

Firstly, peel the pears (one per person), leaving the stalks on.

Put the pears in a large cooking pot, lay each one flat on one side and pour in your prize bottle of mead. You want the liquid to come half-way up the pears. If it needs topping up do so with water. Add a few bay leaves and a few tablespoons of honey and simmer on a low heat.

After 30/45 mins feel the side of the pear that has been submerged in the mead. When it is soft to the touch turn the pears over and cook them on the other side for the same amount of time. Once the pears are soft through remove them onto a dish and keep warm. Return the liquid to the heat and reduce until syrupy.

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To serve: put one pear in a bowl with a few tablespoons of the mead syrup. I served it with some vanilla ice cream and an edible flower (after all there wouldn’t be any mead if it wasn’t for the pollen from the flower!).

Now I have been looking out for it I have noticed that a few pubs in the countryside are serving mead as a speciality drink. Hopefully we are experiencing a renaissance in mead, as it is both delicious and a great cooking ingredient.

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http://www.honeyassociation.com/index.asp?pid=9

http://www.medovina.com/history.htm

Starters in the Sixties

When I go to a restaurant with friends I know that it’s either a particularly special occasion (or we must all be really hungry) if we order starters. If we are just going for a catch up, and the wine is more important than the food, then it will be one course each – hoping that it will be enough to soak up some of the booze and therefore preventing potential headaches the following morning. But if it is a foodie outing, and we are going to settle in at a restaurant we have been discussing and been looking forward to, then we will never have less than 3 courses, with wine and probably a cocktail as well!…

Typical Italian starters that I adore are beef carpaccio, melanzane alla parmigiana, fried whitebait and bresaola. We might have nachos before a Mexican dinner and perhaps some edamame and tempura before Japanese. All of this is pretty substantial and exotic, but well worth the time and money.

At a Chinese restaurant the appetisers like spring rolls and prawn toast are my favourite part!

I’m baffled by the selection of starters that were around in the 1960’s. Don’t get me wrong – prawn cocktail is fantastic and now getting the label of “so untrendy it’s trendy”! Most of the other options have completely left the restaurant tables of Britain. For example, a glass of fruit juice (tomato or orange and not even fresh) as a starter seems so peculiar now. Half a grapefruit with a maraschino cherry (now seen as a breakfast fruit) was one of the few things on the first-course menu at the tables of the 1960’s.

Starters in the 60's - Grapefruit with a Maraschino Cherry

Starters in the 60’s – Grapefruit with a Maraschino Cherry

Everyone seemed to be obsessed with melon in those days. It often appears as an option for a starter and pudding on the same menu (for instance at The Hungry Horse in Fulham in 1968). The ‘melon baller’ was essential in all kitchens – a tool that has nearly disappeared now.

And what about egg mayonnaise? I understand an egg mayo sandwich but a pile of cold mushed up egg and mayonnaise when you are out for dinner (even with a consoling glass of wine) seems completely alien to me.

It’s interesting how some of these these starters have disappeared in just over fifty years, overtaken by culinary history. I was thinking of testing them out on friends but I can’t help thinking that my guests would get confused as they took their seats at dinner, the wine having being poured, while I set down a small glass of ‘tomato juice cocktail’ for each of them. They would probably think I was handing out Bloody Marys to cure their hangovers from the night before…

Bloody Mary Cocktail

Bloody Mary Cocktail