Yet another wild garlic recipe!

WHEN the wild garlic appears I go demob happy from winter and high-tail it down to my favourite spot to gather armfuls of it. But there is only so much pesto one couple can consume.

I have a jar in the fridge and more in the freezer and it’s been in soups, as a dressing for new potatoes, inside ravioli, spread on braised pork chops but, as it happens, not very much as a pasta sauce. A few fresh leaves have found their way into tonight’s bubble and squeak.

But I still wanted a few more ideas on what to do with ramsons or Stinking Jenny, by far the best folk name for this short-lived spring green. And I found it in my copy of Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi’s The Gentle Art of Preserving,

It’s a recipe for wild garlic wrapped labneh (a soft cheese) preserved in oil. You can use any soft cheese, or goats cheese or feta, but they made theirs with home made labneh and so did I.

It’s rewarding in itself. Just strain a 500g tub of Greek yoghurt through a double layer of muslin overnight (I used a sterilised jelly bag) and by the morning you’ve got, in my case, 270g of creamy, tangy soft cheese. This needs to be mixed with a teaspoon of sea salt for each 150g and chopped herbs of your choice.

Now I gather if you leave it for a day or two the labneh firms up but I’d already picked my ramsons and needed to press on. Don’t select either too small or too big leaves, which will be coarse, but something in between. You will probably need two teaspoons to put a blob of cheese at the bottom of the leaf then roll up towards the pointed end.

I sterilised a Kilner har by boiling it and, when cooled, put a little oil in the bottom. The recipe stipulates extra virgin olive oil but as this was an experiment I used ordinary olive oil. Using tongs, I managed to get the little parcels in without mishap. Then I added a dried chilli and topped up with oil and sealed the jar. I got about nine parcels of varying sizes in.

Normally I’d roadtest this recipe before blogging but if you fancy having a go you’ll need to collect some ramsons before the season is over. I’ll give them a week in the jar and report back.

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Did Shakespeare eat this bacon?

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Rashers Elizabethan-style

IT IS April 23 as I write, which is both St George’s Day and Shakespeare’s birthday, although some say it was Francis Bacon who really was the Bard of Avon.

I’m having no truck with that. In fact, I’m thinking ‘Did Shakespeare really eat this bacon?’

Recently I’ve been making my own bacon at home to an Elizabethan recipe which uses ginger and caraway in the cure, along with salt and sugar. In the finished product you can’t really isolate either spice but they meld together in a gentle, subtle way. And it’s just the thing Shakespeare could have eaten.

The recipe is courtesy of Maynard Davies, regarded by home bacon curers as the absolute tops, who took the trouble to research the cure. But it comes second hand, being quoted in that excellent book, The Gentle Art of Preserving by Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi (Kyle Books, 2013).

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The joint has been boned and is ready for curing

Their version of this recipe can be made in a sealed ziplock plastic bag, or similar, without any of that draining and repeated rubbing in conventional dry-curing as outlined here. 

You can use either pork belly (for streaky) or loin (for middle cut) and it’s probably best to ask your butcher to bone the joint for you. I always keep and freeze the bones until I have enough for a stock or feel like boiling or baking beans. I buy mine from Waterall Brothers (www.waterall.co.uk), the pork specialists on Sheffield’s Moor Market.

I ask for a kilo of bacon at a time, or just over to allow for the bones to be filleted, which is the size which will fit the bag. If your butcher cuts too big a piece simply cut off what you don’t need and use the meat some other way.

This recipe doesn’t use curing salts (the type which turns bacon a pleasant pink and makes it last longer) but if you care more about flavour than looks then ordinary table salt will do (rock or sea salt will prove more expensive).

For each kilo of boned meat you will need:

35g salt

18g brown sugar

3g each of ground ginger and crushed caraway seeds

Mix them all together in a bowl and with your fingers massage all of the cure into the joint, ensuring most is on the meat side and just 10 per cent on the skin.

Now slip it into a ziplock or similar. I put this bag inside a big plastic bag to prevent leakage and pop that into an empty ice cream container for good measure. Then all you have to do is leave it in the fridge for seven days (date the back with a marker pen), remembering to turn the bag every day to make sure the resultant brine covers all the meat.

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Wrap the joint in a plastic bag

When its time is up take it out and discard the bags. Drain the bacon (it will feel much firmer than when you put the joint in) and resist the temptation to rinse it but pat it dry. Now you must dry it for a couple of days. I put mine on a plastic draining tray (so the air can circulate) and put it back in the fridge.

You now need a sharp carving knife with which to cut it, particularly if you want rind-on bacon. If not, carefully slice it off. If you think the slices are too thick simply lay them between two sheets of clingfilm and bash them flat with a rolling pin.

A kilo is a lot of bacon so I freeze my bacon in batches of six rashers so I need to cure bacon only once every three weeks or so.

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The finished bacon needs to dry

As far as I can discover, William Shakespeare never mentions bacon once in his plays and poems but that doesn’t mean to say he didn’t eat it.

FOOTNOTE: Maynard Davies is the author of several books on curing bacon, hams and other cuts, beginning with Adventures of a Bacon Curer in 2003. Two others, Secrets of etc and Manual of a Traditional Bacon Curer (2007 and 2009) may well be rebranded books. There is a fascinating video of him, interviewed by Sophie Grigson, available at https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Sf9RhKlkODk

 

Marco, Dan and a Lisbon tart

A PORTUGUESE custard tart at Lisboa, that little cafe with the custard yellow fascia in Sheffield’s Peace Gardens, is £1.95. That’s two euros.

“Last time I had one of these was in Lisbon when it was only one euro,” I say to the chap behind the counter, then pause. “But I expect you’ve heard that before?” The server, wearing a yellow Lisboa t-shirt , nods wearily. “Several times a day. But everything is imported from Portugal.”

“Everything. Flour, eggs, the baker,” says co-owner Dan Martins, sitting at the next table. He opened Lisboa – a bakery and cafe with a handful of tables – last December with fellow countryman and business partner Marco Matias, Sheffield Wednesday’s Portuguese footballer.

Dan, an architect, says: “I always wanted to open a cafe and bring something of Portugal to England. We put our heads together and it turned out out to be pasteis.”

These are not the first Portuguese custard tarts in the city but they are very authentic. And good. We first saw them from Chris Wong, who sold them from a stall in the Moor Market and now from Da Da Shu  on Furnival Gate. The Chinese encountered them in Macao, then a Portuguese colony, from where they travelled to Hong Kong. Local bakeries also make them, with varying degrees of success. And they are made by the Anglo-Russian Cossack Cuisine. The world , it seems, has taken this little eggy tart to its heart.

A pastel de nata (pasteis is the plural) is the photographic negative of the English version. The pastry is flaky not short. The filling, which in England tends towards the underneath of a creme brulee or burnt cream, is lighter and slightly jellied in texture. The top is scorched, not with a blowtorch, but by natural caramelisation of sugars in the oven.

There is artistry in this. A Portuguese can sum up the excellence of a pastel de nata by looking at the markings which should neither be all black nor too pale.

I am a sucker for a pastel de nata. I am not saying it is better than the English version but it is different .

I thought when Lisboa first opened they hadn’t quite got the texture right. Dan agrees. He blames the Sheffield water although I am not sure in which way. The end result, as I ate the other day, is a pleasingly rich mouthful.

Lisboa, which has a floor of authentic Portuguese tiles and a tiled street sign, Rua Fernando Pessoa (he’s the Portuguese Shakespeare), sells some 600 tarts in a good week.

It also makes other pastries, Nutella brownies, croissants, palmiers, custard slices and the Ham and Cheese Wonder, plus a couple of styles of loaves, but if you are going in for a coffee and a pastry you’ll probably have a pastel de nata. The coffee, by the way, is also Portuguese.

There are only three or four tables plus a couple of smaller ones tucked away at the back but an application has been made to the city council for outside seating.

Dan and Marco seem to gave scored a greater success with custard tarts than the Owls have in the Championship.

Kommune gets it together

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Mann’s salmon fishcake

AT Sheffield University in the Eighties urban geographers detected an invisible line which ran through the then Hole in the Road. Below it, past C&A down to The Wicker, taking in the Castle, Sheaf and Rag and Tag markets – and the courts – was territory occupied by what sociologists called rough working class.

Above it, from Rackham’s to High Street, Fargate and the Moor was the domain of the respectable working class and the city’s relatively small middle class.

Modern sensibilities being what they are, we no longer use these terms but some may raise a wry smile that there is now a bridgehead of gastro-gentrification in what was the old Brightside & Carbook Co-Op in Castle House, now the Kommune Food Hall. Here they sell lobster thermidor for £30 a go, Korean spicy pork, vegan salads and sourdough loaves not 30 yards from the Poundland opposite.

Kommune sounds a bit beardy and trendy with tattoos optional and indeed it is, on both sides of the counter. But in the opening weeks this enterprise with 10 different food options has had a real vibe and exciting atmosphere. Sit at the communal tables, bar stools or booths and you get just a hint of Lisbon’s Time Out food hall, although not the sophistication.

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Part of the seating area

On our first two visits it was packed and difficult to find a table, on our third, a Tuesday, it was quieter but still busy. And certainly livelier than when you went to get your divi at the old B&C.

At lunchtimes you order from each kiosk, pay and are given a buzzer when your food is ready. Evenings are more relaxed: pagers are dumped and food is brought to your table.

Kommune is still being developed. On the non-food side there is a splendid bar curving around the well of the building’s impressive spiral staircase, an art gallery and arty magazine shop but the building still has acres of empty space.

I’ve eaten or bought from seven of the independent businesses here. There is a ubiquitous burger and a pizza place, which I have yet to try, but the star of the show has to be Mann’s fish bar, the offshoot of the wet fish business at Sharrow Vale (where owner chef Christian Szurko already cooks up lunchtime fish ordered from the slab).

Kommune is all about street food and you might say Mann’s is hardly that. Here we had an excellent, if slightly small salmon fish cake (£10, to a Savoy Hotel recipe) on a dazzlingly good dill sauce and a ‘fish finger sandwich’ of battered goujons inside a squid ink-coloured bun. Chef Scott Mills, Christian’s partner, is enthusiastic about things so far.

The menu looks tempting: there is also dressed crab, clam chowder, steamed mussels and stuffed squid but did he really sell many thermidors? “They fly out,” he said, perhaps a little over-dramatically. “We don’t make anything on them but it gets us known.” He covers the breakfast and brunch market with dishes like kippers and haddock frittata with more expensive and sophisticated offerings at night.

We have yet to go at night. A trip to the Chaat Cart, a South Indian street food joint, produced an excellently flavoured chicken kati roll (£8), spiced-up poultry with vegetables on a roti. It was chicken for me from Shoot The Bull, a rotisserie and grill. I enjoyed my quarter chicken (£7.50) which was hardly more than a leg. This had been first brined then basted with maple syrup so there was plenty of flavour in the flesh and skin. The price included top quality chips fried in beef dripping. One thought: I never saw more than two birds on the rotisserie so the stall lacks kerb appeal.

Pom Kitchen is an Australian-inspired vegan and veggie option. The salad bowl (£7) was lively salad with decent focaccia let down by boringly bland hummus. A trip to Yoki, a Korean enterprise, offered an interesting spiced pork (slices stir-fried with chilli) which combined heat with a touch of sweetness. It came with a timbale of rice and salad garnish.

Kiwi coffee from local enterprise Tamper is stronger and richer than your average cup (each shot uses 42g of beans instead of the usual 36g) so you might not be safe drinking it after 2pm!

So far, so good. Kommune could do with a desserts offering, perhaps to justify lingering in the evening. It’s so refreshing to see something good, locally owned and independent in the city centre as a change from all those dreary old chain eateries.

Kommune is at Castle House, Angel Street, Sheffield S3. It opens Tues to Sat 9am to 11pm, Sun 9am to 9pm. Web: http://www.kommune.co.uk

#Castle House, a Grade II listed building has a lot of history and a story of delay caused by two world wars. Land was originally bought by the B&C on Angel Street in 1914 just before war broke out so building was delayed until 1927. It was slowed by discovery of the Sheffield Castle site and not completed until 1938. The building was destroyed in the Sheffield Blitz of 1940. The new building, designed by G S Hay, took as its inspiration Irving Park’s Sears Roebuck department store in Chicago, with its two blind walls on the first and second sales floors. The splendid interiors, including a mural, are by Stanley Layland.

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The curving bar