Festival of Food at Southbank Centre

cheese stall

The Slow Food movement is running a food festival on London’s South Bank from today until Sunday 21st. They’re running free food demos, sampling, a “busy bee” craft tent for kids and a good range of food and drink stalls.

slow food stall

The Slow Food movement is incredibly important for anyone who believes in quality, honest, fair global produce. I’m a member and so should you be, there’s bound to be a branch near you.

cyrus todiwalla

I went along to the festival today and found it small but perfectly formed. Arranged around the Royal Festival Hall, there’s oysters, bread, cheese, meats, game, a very tasty Portuguese pork roast, and much more. The cookery demonstration given by Cyrus Todiwalla of Cafe Spice Namaste was very good – it’s not often nowadays you can get an entertaining and informative lesson for free.

peter gott

The talk by Peter Gott of Sillfield Farm was a good lesson in what slow food really means and the importance of supporting pig farmers in this country. And he showed us how to butcher half a pig, which is always a useful lesson. I bought a large bit of the belly for a tenner, which is a bargain when you know how much attention and care goes into producing it.

The festival runs for another three days and includes talks/demos inlude how to smoke your own food at home, how to make honecomb, great dishes for under a fiver and “Be a bee” for kids. Go along!

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A Magical Bread Recipe for Novices That Works Every Time

white bread

It’s so satisfying. It’s just a plain white loaf, made by hand. But it works every time and it’s ridiculously simple. If you think you can’t do bread, you can. This will work I PROMISE.

Ingredients
500g white strong bread flour.
7g dried yeast sachet.
1tsp salt
300ml water
3tbsp olive oil. Plus a bit extra.

The Cooking

Mix the flour, yeast and salt together in a large bowl. Pour in the water and the olive oil. Mix with wooden spoon until it’s together enough to take out of the bowl.

Kneed on a floury surface until the dough feels elastic and silky smooth the the touch, and bounces back slightly when prodded. This should take about ten minutes.

Place in a warmish area and leave to rise until doubled in size. This should take about one hour.

Knock back the dough and kneed for a minute or so. Dough will be elastic and bouncy when prodded. Mould the dough into a round-ish shape or put it in a loaf tin. Slather the surface with olive oil (this will give a soft, chewy crust).

Leave to rise for another hour or so on the tray or in the loaf tin which you are going to put it into the oven.

Pre-heat oven to 220/200 fan/gas mark 7. Bake dough for 25 – 30 minutes until a nice golden colour.

Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Ta dah! Seriously, try this recipe. Your friends will be astonished at your baking prowess.

Cornish Pasties

cornish pasties

A classic British recipe, these pasties are fantastic for taking out and about or eating at home. We ate ours walking down the high street on the way to the dog races, how’s that for Laaahnden life? Sorry Cornwallians, the pasties were right at home with us.

Ingredients
Makes 7

For the pastry:
400g plain (all-pupose) flour
A pinch of salt
120g cold butter, cubed
75g cold lard or vegetable fat, cubed
3 tablespoons very cold water

For the filling:
300g chuck steak
1 onion, finely chopped
1 large potato, finely diced
1/2 a swede (rutabega), finely diced
salt and freshly ground black pepper

To glaze: 3 egg yolks

The Cooking

Okay, make sure you’re wearing an apron. Making pastry is messy. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl and then rub in the cubes of lard and butter with your fingertips. Try to do this lightly with the tips of your fingers and persevere until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. This takes about 5 or 10 minutes.

Add two tablespoons of very cold water to the mixture and mix it to a firm dough, first with a knife and then with your hands. If absolutely necessary, add more water but the pastry should not be too damp – although crumbly pastry is more difficult to handle, it produces a lighter result.

Roll the pastry into a ball, cover in it clingfilm (saran wrap) and pop it in the fridge while you get on with the filling.

cornish pasty mix

I made half my pasties with meat and half without for my vegetarian friends. If you’d like to do this, use 200g chuck steak instead of 300g and divide the vegetables unevenly to make each half have an equal amount of filling.

Heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4

Take the pastry out of the fridge and divide it into 7 balls. Flour your chopping board and rolling pin and roll out the balls of dough to about 5mm thickness. Take about a handful of the filling and pop it in the centre of each rolled out pastry. Do this is batches if you haven’t got room. Fold the pastry over the filling and squish the edges together to seal it. Bring the edges in towards the centre and fold over, so you create a kind of rolled edge. Using your thumb and forefinger, crimp this roll by doing little pinches all along it – see the above picture for how this looks.

Place on a baking tray and brush with the egg yolks all over to glaze them. Pop them in the oven for 45-50 minutes. If they look like they’re going too brown, cover them.

Eat hot or cold. Lovely.

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Chocolate Profiteroles

profiteroles

There’s a lot of emphasis these days put on “easy” cooking. And sure, it’s important to have a good stock of simple recipes you can knock up in no time. But sometimes, it’s good to take on a challenge. Choux pastry takes a bit of concentration, but it’s not the hardest thing on he world and once you’ve learnt how to do it, it’s an excellent string to a cook’s bow.

Ingredients
Serves 6-8

CHOUX PASTRY
225mls/7.5fl.oz water
75g/3oz butter
95g/3 3/4oz plain (all-purpose) flour, seived with a pinch of salt
3 medium eggs, beaten with a fork.

FILLING
300mls/10fl.oz double or whipping cream

CHOCOLATE SAUCE
175g/6oz plain chocolate
300mls/10fl.oz water
125g/4oz caster (superfine) sugar

The Cooking

With most recipes you can mess around a bit, fudge the amounts, cut stuff out if you feel like it. But please, don’t do that here. Measure carefully, that’s the secret to choux pastry. I made this in a cookery class and the teacher was standing over me, making sure I measured exactly, and it’s good that she did because it came out well. Follow the recipe carefully, it’s tried and tested and will work, I promise.

Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas mark 6

First, put the water and butter for the pastry in a saucepan and bring them slowly to the boil, making sure that that the butter melts before the water boils. Grab a whisk, have it handy, then pour in the flour all at once, immediately whisking firmly and quickly until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan. It’ll be a bit like wallpaper paste, smooth and glossy.

Take the pan off the heat and add the beaten eggs a little at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon all the time. Don’t panic if it goes a bit sloppy, just keep stirring. Once all the eggs have been added, it should have the same texture as it did before you added the eggs but will now be glossy. Glossy wallpaper paste. Lovely.

Grease a baking tray and using a spoon (or two) , put small balls of the dough about the size of a pingpong ball onto the tray.

Sprinkle water around the pastires and turn the oven up to 220F/425F/Gas 7. Bake the pastries for 30-40 minutes until well-risen and light brown.

While the pastries are in the oven, make the chocolate sauce:

Melt the chocolate with the water in a saucepan over a low heat. When it’s smooth, add the sugar. When the sugar has dissolved bring the solution to the boil and boil for 10-15 minutes until the sauce is rich and syrupy.

TO FINISH:

Lift the pastries off the baking tray and prick each one to release the steam. Allow them to go cold. Whisk the cream until it’s light and fluffy, make a slit in the bottom of each pastry and either spoon or pipe the cream in.

Pile the pastries into a pyramid and pour over the sauce. Await praise from your friends and family.

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In Which I Learn New Things

I’ve started a cookery course. It’s every Thursday, nominally French Provincial Cookery although there will be a few dishes from other parts of the mediterreanean, and each week we’ll be given four recipes and choose to make two of them. This week my choice is between walnut bread, coq au vin, celeriac soup and Noramdy pear tart. I have chosen to make the coq au vin and the pear tart because they are the most challenging and what’s a lesson for if not to learn exciting new stuff?

I will of course be recording the recipes and successes/failures right here. And my workmates are going to love me for bringing in nice food every Friday.

In the meantime, here are a few things I learned during last week’s lesson:

– Mace is the fruit of the nutmeg. And it really is the same stuff they use in mace spray.

– If you sprinkle garlic cloves with salt they’re much easier to mash. The salt breaks down the fibres. How did I not learn this before?

– A good way to de-skin tomatoes is to pop one on a fork and hold it in boiling water – when the skin splits between the fork tines, it’s ready to be de-skinned. This is useful because before I never knew how long to keep it in the hot water. This way takes about 12 seconds. Then you put the skinned tomatoes into cold water to stop them cooking.

Useful, eh?

Man, I absolutely cannot wait to make this Normady pear tart.