Posted in Food

Pulled Pork and Fennel a Delicious Combo

I must confess I have given in and had the heating on. Only for an hour first thing when I wake. But it has made me acutely aware the long summer days are well and truly behind us. This whole weekend has been a grim and grey affair, perfect weather to fire up the oven and get in the kitchen. I have made a delicious homemade soup and white chocolate fairy cakes. Pulled pork is turning tender in the slow cooker and potatoes are baking in the oven.

Time to prepare the fennel, which in my opinion comes into its own slow roasted. Earlier I chopped off the leaves and added them to my soup so as nothing is wasted. Now all I do is slice the bulb into approximately half centimetre slices (no need for a ruler), season with salt and pepper, drizzle a generous amount of olive oil, and roast for an hour in a pre heated oven at 160°C/Fan140°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Trust me mouthfuls of this crisp, sweet, aniseed send the comfort levels through the roof.

Back to the pork I prepared earlier. Now there are many accessible pulled pork recipes, some better than others. My idea of good pulled pork is a hint of barbecue which doesn’t decimate the wonderful flavour of the meat. Below is what I did.

Ingredients

  • pork shoulder
  • 3tbsp tomato paste
  • 1tbsp barbecue sauce
  • 1tbsp Worcester sauce
  • 1tsp paprika
  • 1tsp garlic powder
  • 1tsp mustard powder
  • 1tsp cumin
  • 50g light brown sugar
  • 50ml cider
  • 50ml chicken stock
  • 25ml apple cider vinegar

Method

Add all the marinade ingredients into the bowl of the slow cooker and mix until combined. Add the pork to the pot and coat in the marinade. Cook for 5 hours on slow or 4 hours on high.

The meat should fall apart with a fork when ready. Remove meat from the slow cooker and shred with 2 forks. Add as little, or much of the marinade as you desire.

Posted in Food

Chocolate Pecan Pats

I must confess I can take or leave the crispy, crunch of a traditional biscuit preferring, soft and chewy cookies. Chocolate and pecans go together like: crackers and cheese, fish and chips, or strawberries and cream. The recipe I am going to share with you today was discovered a few years back when my daughter was offered the occasional catering contract by a close friend of mine, baking for her colleagues in the respiratory department at the Royal Derby hospital. They cover every want in a cookie, sweet chocolate combined with the mellow nuttiness of pecans, the perfect combination of soft and chew in every bite. They were an instant hit, despite jokes about looking like mini cow pats, and have been aptly named Chocolate Pecan Pats.

Ingredients

  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 110g plain flour
  • 100g butter
  • 70g soft brown sugar
  • 70g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 80g pecan halves plus 12 extra
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda

Method

Heat oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Grease 2 large baking sheets.

Add the butter, sugar, vanilla, and egg to a bowl and mix until smooth. Melt 100g of the chocolate in the microwave, or over a bain-marie (a bowl over a pan of simmering water). Fold the melted chocolate into the butter mix and stir in the flour and bicarbonate of soda. Chop the remaining chocolate into small cubes and add to the mix with the pecan halves, leaving 12 aside.

Heap 12 spoons of the cookie mix, spaced well apart on the baking trays (6 on each tray). Add a pecan to each cookie. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes. Leave to cool before storing in an air tight container.

Posted in Food

Perfect Shortcrust Quite by Accident

Photo by Malidate Van on Pexels.com

Pastry making can cause dissension amongst bakers. The only golden rule agreed on, stems from the age old saying ‘cold hands make good pastry’. Keep the ingredients, utensils, surfaces, bowls, and your hands as cold as possible. Work quickly. And rest the pastry between each stage allowing the gluten to relax, preventing shrinkage and a tough finished product.

My grandmother made the most delicious pastry, which sadly has gone to the grave with her. Quite by accident I have discovered shortcrust pastry, that resembles her crumbly melt in the mouth finished product. Pastry chefs would no doubt banish me from their kitchen in disgrace; left to rot in kitchen purgatory. But I don’t care. I have been making pastry this way for some time now, with a crumbly, tasty consistent result.

Ingredients

  • 125g Plain Flour
  • 100g Self Raising Flour
  • 100g Butter
  • Salt
  • Water
  • 1tsp Vanilla Extract (for sweet shortcrust pastry only)

The addition of self raising flour, is the ‘quite by accident’ I am talking about. One day I did not have enough plain flour, so topped the scales with self raising. The result was perfect texture I had never achieved before.

As a child I was taught to rub my flour and butter with my fingertips. A food processor quickly combines the dry and wet ingredients, into a dough which can then be left in the fridge. For a better quality pastry I suggest using a stand mixer.

Method

With a paddle attachment on a low/medium speed combine the flour, salt, and butter until it resembles rough breadcrumbs.

Replace the paddle attachment with a dough hook, continuing on low/medium speed add the water 1 tablespoon at a time (if adding vanilla extract, do so at this stage). The dough will come together when the correct amount of liquid is added (which can vary).

Remove the bowl from the mixer and cover in cling film. Place in the fridge and allow to rest for a minimum of 10 minutes.

Before rolling the pastry wash your hands in cold water. Take the pastry from the fridge, and scatter a work surface and rolling pin with flour. Do not mould the pastry into a perfectly neat ball, which will toughen the cooked pastry. Simply roll the dough, occasionally turning clockwise to achieve the desired shape. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before using.

Posted in Food

Pina Colada Chicken Curry

The joy of experimental cooking combined with a love of bargains, has filled my kitchen cupboards to the brim. I am ashamed to say, I have for some time now headed to the supermarket crying ‘Old Mother Hubbard’, when in fact I have 3 months worth of staples. Enough is enough! No more is going in, until some comes out. This recipe was inspired by the Caribbean, and reduced my cupboard clutter of a tin of black beans, pineapple chunks and coconut milk. It was easy to make and a pleasure on the palate.

Ingredients

  • 8 Chicken Drumsticks/Thighs
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper
  • Tin of Pineapple Chunks Plus 100ml of Juice
  • 400g Tin of Black Beans
  • 400g Tin of Coconut Milk
  • 20g Fresh Coriander
  • 1tbsp Medium Curry Powder
  • 1tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2tsp Corn Flour

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Heat the oil in a large oven proof frying pan and brown the chicken, about 5-7 minutes. Deseed and chop the pepper and add to the pan, with the curry powder.

Combine the corn flour with the pineapple juice, before adding to the pan with the coconut milk and pineapple chunks. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook in the oven for 35 minutes, remove and add the black beans and chopped coriander, return to the oven for a further 10 minutes.

Serve with rice or noodles.

Posted in Food

Test of Time Raspberry Buns

Every home economics class across the globe, has been scattered with flour and filled with the smell of baking raspberry jam. Raspberry buns are a tasty easy to bake treat, somewhere between a scone, cake, and cookie. I was in year 7 when I first made a batch, returning home from school with nothing but a scattering of crumbs in my tin. These buns remain a firm favourite of mine. I continue to use raspberry jam, but any flavour work. The original recipe contains castor sugar, but I like the hint of caramel of soft brown sugar.

Ingredients

  • 200g Self Raising Flour
  • 100g Butter
  • 100g Soft Brown Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 1tbsp Milk
  • Pinch of Salt
  • Raspberry Jam

Method

Preheat the oven to 220°C/Fan 180°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6 and grease a large baking sheet.

Add flour and salt to a bowl and rub in butter with your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar.

Whisk the egg and milk together and add to the bowl. Form eight balls from the dough and place on the prepared baking sheet. Make an indent in the centre of each ball and add jam.

Place in the pre heated oven and bake for 10-12 minutes.

Honey & Mustard Pork with Soy Sauce

For a quick and easy taste of east meets west try this delicious fried pork dish, served with noodles and fried onions. Cheap, easy and tasty what more can you ask for.

Ingredients

  • 500g Diced Pork
  • 2 tbsp Honey
  • 1 tbsp Dijon Mustard
  • 3 tbsp Light Soy Sauce
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • 1 tsp Ground Ginger
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Dried Egg Noodles
  • Broccoli
  • 1 Onion

Method

Peel and crush the garlic. Marinade the pork in the honey, mustard, soy sauce, garlic and ginger for a minimum of fifteen minutes or chilled in the fridge overnight.

Prepare the crispy onions by peeling and thinly slicing the onion. Heat a dash of vegetable oil in a frying pan and when hot add the onion. Stirring often, the onion will first soften and turn translucent. It will then turn brown. Keep stirring and do not remove until dark brown and sticking to the pan. Drain on kitchen towel and allow to cool and turn crisp.

Drizzle a large frying pan or wok with vegetable oil and heat. Add the pork and marinade to the pan and fry until the pork is cooked through and the marinade browned and turned sticky, stirring often.

While the pork is cooking cut a head of broccoli into florets and steam or boil for 3-5 minutes. Then add the egg noodles to a pan of boiling salted water to soften.

Serve the pork and broccoli on top of the noodles and sprinkle with the crispy onions.

Posted in Food

Forgotten Mushroom Soup

Forgotten Mushroom Soup Without the Walnut

Autumn is the perfect time of year for warm and creamy soups and this one is delicious. It was supposed to contain walnuts which I forgot while desperately trying to escape the supermarket, so I replaced them with a packet of peanuts lay gathering dust in the store cupboard. The result was the mellow creaminess of mushrooms with a hint of salted peanuts. Yummy!

I used a mixture of white, chestnut, portobello and shitake mushrooms. This recipe works with whatever mushrooms are available.

Ingredients

  • 300g Mushrooms
  • 1 Onion
  • Knob of Butter
  • Pint of Chicken Stock
  • Handful of Peanuts
  • Dash of Single Cream
  • Handful of Parsley
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Method

In a large saucepan add a knob of butter and melt over a medium heat. Peel and slice the onion and add to the pan, allow to soften and turn translucent. Season with salt and pepper. Slice the mushrooms and add to the pan. Fry for a couple more minutes and then add a pint of prepared chicken stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Allow to cool and then blend, adding parsley and a dash of single cream.

Posted in Food

Give Me Coffee and Chocolate not Toilet Roll

A week has passed since my weekend away in Suffolk. In that time the air has cooled and decaying leaves have begun to fall, a second lockdown looms bringing the wrath of panic buyers with it. My kitchen resembles Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard, forcing me to face the supermarket aisles. A common cold not Covid has found me and I want to be snuggled in my pyjamas and slippers in front of the television, not dodging demented shoppers determined not to miss out on their 3 item daily allowance of bog roll. Newsflash! Unlike doctors surgeries, the supermarkets remained open during this pandemic. And if the apocalypse is coming I want coffee and chocolate by my side, not a room full of Andrex. I have a twelve packet at home that will see me through, so I steer wide of toilet aisle asylum and instead search for the ultimate comfort food.

Cinnamon Rice Pudding

Ingredients (Serves 2)

  • 45g Pudding Rice
  • 25g Soft Brown Sugar
  • Pint of Milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • Knob of Butter
  • Jam to serve

Method

Rice pudding is traditionally done in the oven, but I am not a fan of the skin. I have tried the hob option a couple of times, with varying degrees of burnt milk. Now I use the slow cooker, a sure way to achieve perfectly cooked (skin free) rice pudding each and every time.

All I do is add pudding rice, soft brown sugar, milk, cinnamon and a knob of butter to the slow cooker. Switch it on high and leave for three hours, stirring occasionally. Dish up and add jam. Simple, yummy and not a toilet roll in sight. Perfect!

Posted in Natural World

British Beavers are Back for Good

Image by skeeze from Pixabay

Once native to Britain, for centuries beavers were excessively hunted for their pelts, meat and scent glands, finally becoming extinct in the 16th century. Back in 2009 they were reintroduced to the UK when 11 beavers were released in Knapdale forest, Scotland. The project aimed to see if the animals could survive and if there presence would benefit conversation and the environment. After five years the beavers had successfully bred and the dams and canals they built were considered beneficial to the environment.

Since the success of the Scottish Beaver Trial, other areas of the UK have gradually released these large rodents into their waterways. But not everybody is happy about the reunion: farmers, landowners and anglers have concerns. Tree felling and dam building by beavers can be destructive and cause flooding. Fishermen fear the presence of beaver can alter fish migration and their dams could block essential spawning routes. There are also fears beaver will spread disease, including a particular tapeworm that can be fatal to humans.

This said, experts believe beaver to be ecosystem engineers. The dams they build slow the flow of water from high ground thus decreasing the risk of flooding. These dams also act as a filtering system for pollution in our waterways. And beaver habitats benefit and encourage other species. Back in August 2020 these buck toothed rodents were granted permanent residence in the river Otter, East Devon. After a five year trial water quality was up, risk of flooding was improved and other species were thriving.

Now after 800 years beaver are returning to Derbyshire, to an area less than 6 miles from my home. Two companies have granted Derbyshire Wildlife Trust £140,000. The money will be spent introducing two family of beaver to 20 acres of protected wetland in Derbyshire. A high risk flood area, the hope is the dams they build will divert water away from the village and instead onto wetland. The new residents will hopefully be arriving from Scotland as early as November 2020. There are also plans to build a visitor centre and circular walk to enable people to get up close to nature and these new residents.

So I would like to say a big hello to our two local beaver families.

Oh We Do Like to be Beside the Seaside…

Southwold: A Little Town That Offers More

Photo by Sebastian Voortman on Pexels.com

A regimental row of wooden beach huts like soldiers on parade, replace winding lanes lined with hedgerows rich in food and teaming with life. At first glance visitors could be forgiven for believing Southwold is a sparse and barren place, as East Suffolk greets the North Sea. In fact this small town and civil parish at the mouth of the river Blyth breeds like rabbits artists and writers, literally bleeding creativity, history and culture from every crack and crevice.

Mid September, the sun beams low in the sky and a brisk autumnal wind whips breaking waves into foaming fury. Upon the pier each wooden slat rattles and creaks, with every rolling wave. In a tiny sheltered courtyard in denim jeans, checked shirt and weave apron an artist stands at her easel and paints, upon her head a straw hat. Tubes of oil paint in a crumpled plastic bag beneath a stool where her palette is precariously balanced. In one hand a postcard and in the other her paintbrush.

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What is on Offer in Southwold?

All this and of course cream teas, rock, ice cream and candy floss can all be found in Southwold.