Pip! Pip! It’s Lindy’s Jam Session

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Faye (right) watches Beulah crack almond kernels as Lindy preps

“HOW many pips have you got in your lemon?” asked Lindy Wildsmith, cookery tutor and author of umpteen books on kitchencraft. Now there’s a novelty. “Five,” said Faye, who was partnering me that day in the demonstration kitchen at Welbeck Abbey’s School of Artisan Food.

“That’s enough,” said Lindy, the woman who wrote Preserves and Sunny Days & Easy Living. It’s the pectin in them, you see. You need it to set your jams and jellies. We didn’t mean to be smug but the people at the next workstation only had two pips.

You join me at the school’s Best of British Summer Preserves & Pickles course, to which I was invited as a guest. Regular readers know I’m an enthusiastic pickler and preserver but there’s always more to learn. There was. As pips are so important but lemons are so unpredictable you can keep surplus pips in your freezer ready for when a citrus lets you down.

This is my second time at Welbeck. The first was in 2009 shortly after the school had opened and I was writing a magazine article about it. I knew it was a stately home, once belonging to the Dukes of Portland, but the title had died out. I was to meet the school’s guiding light, a lady called Alison, but unfortunately had not done my homework.

First we had a cuppa in the farm shop café before she took me for a spin in her battered car around the 400 acre estate. It looks a small posh village. Imposing buildings once used as garages and carpenters shops now housed the school, a brewery, bakery, dairy, cheesemaker and much else. It was only as the car climbed a rise and the magnificent Abbey rose into view and Alison said “That’s home” that it dawned on me she was the chatelaine of Welbeck itself.

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Birthday girl Kate (left) stirs her pot

She was Alison Swan Parente, wife of current owner William Parente, grandson of the seventh and last Duke of Portland. I was being chauffeured by a member of the aristocracy, albeit with her coronet knocked off.

There were seven women and three men on the course. Faye, the youngest, a teacher from Chapeltown, had won her place in a competition at this year’s Sheffield Food Festival. Paul, from London, and Jonathan from Nottingham, were serious foodies. Kate had been given the place as a 50th birthday present by her friends so three of them decided to join her. Likewise Audrey and Caroline, who were sisters. Some had made jams and jellies before, others were chutney chumps.

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Preserving sisters Audrey and Caroline

We had a whole day to make apricot and Amaretto jam, redcurrant and apple jelly, sweet chilli tomato jam, raspberry cordial and spiced beetroot and marjoram chutney – and take them home to our admiring families.

“It’s addictive. You won’t be able to walk past a market stall laden with fruit and vegetables and not wonder what you can do with them,” Lindy said breezily. “It’s not rocket science but certainly very rewarding.” Too true.

A little later she addressed the elephant in the room. You can’t get away from it but jams, jellies and chutneys contain an awful lot of sugar and that contains an awful lot of empty calories. “Sugar is public enemy number one. It’s taken over from salt. You see some people walking around with Coca Cola bottles in their hands – they are living on the edge. But you won’t get that trouble from home made preserves,” she said.

I tried not to think of that day’s story on page four of The Times which said that sugar made men (but not women) depressed. It sounded like junk science but even so I will be spreading that apricot and Amaretto jam (which smells and tastes heavenly) a little more thinly. I don’t want to live on the edge and be depressed.

I liked Lindy’s style. She was patient and thorough and fussed around us like a mother hen as we roasted (the beetroot), simmered, boiled, stirred, zested, strained and funnelled up a whole store cupboard of preserves. Everything tasted good. “I’m going to have that raspberry cordial with some gin tonight,” said Faye wickedly.

Lindy taught me the upside down spoon test for a set jelly. I do the wrinkle test: put some jam or jelly on a cold plate, leave it in the fridge for five minutes, and if it wrinkles when you push your finger through it’s ready. Lindy scoops some up in a spoon, puts it back in the fridge and turns the spoon upside down five minutes later. If it doesn’t fall off you’re on.

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Jonathan (left) and Paul busy chopping

Some of the students were so keen this was the second or third course. The school runs 15 different courses in baking and breadmaking, 13 in butchery (there’s still time to get on the goat butchery course on October 29, no need to bring your own goat), six in cheesemaking and well over a dozen others from pies and chocolates to foraging and ice cream.

Patience is a virtue in preserving. You can’t rush things. It took Faye and I three attempts before the apricots set. The smell when Lindy dropped in a slug of Amaretto! I don’t mean to be smug (again) but that redcurrant and apple jelly set the first time. And we’d forgotten the pips.

*The School of Artisan Food is at Lower Motor Yard, Welbeck, Nottinghamshire S80 3LR. For details visit www.schoolofartisanfood.org or call 01909 532 171.

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The author pots up

 

Best before Feb 2007

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This tin was only ten years out of date

WE found the tin of Princes peaches in grape juice at the back of the cupboard. On the bottom it said ‘BBE Feb 2007” so they were ten years out of date. We don’t worry about little things like that so we ate them, eventually. No one fell ill.

 They’d have come from my mother in law’s store cupboard. She died ten years ago this year so she would have bought them, probably, around 2005.

 The tin had hung about our cupboard until I unearthed it while rooting through trying to find some marrowfat peas, the kind in pea-ey liquid that helps to make a good gravy if you’re in a hurry. I said we’d better eat them for tea. It took us a month or two to get around to it.

 It was partly in tribute to Margaret and her husband Alan and partly because I wanted to revisit my own Fifties childhood. On Sundays we had tinned peaches for tea, sometimes with evaporated milk, which was to us then what cream (or crème fraiche) is today. Most families did. My father insisted on us eating the peaches with slices of bread and butter. That used to rankle with me but with three growing boys you have to eke out a Sunday tin of peaches.

 My wife has the same memories, only her father would sprinkle his bread and butter with sugar if he thought no one was looking. My father saved the sugar for his lettuce.

 Sitting at my family dinner table I silently vowed that when I grew up and left home I would have my tinned peaches without bread and butter. And so it came to pass. I found myself alone in my bedsit with a tin of peaches on a Sunday evening. I opened the tin and ate the fruit. But something was missing. It didn’t feel right. So I went to the bread bin and buttered a slice of bread.

 I soon got out of the habit but we haven’t bought a tin of peaches for years. Come to think of it, I haven’t had evaporated milk, either. It was always a feature of Chinese restaurants’ businessman’s lunches, three courses for half a crown (12.5p today), soup, chow mein and tinned fruit ‘with E. milk,’ as the menu put it.

 All this went through my head as I opened the tin. I was slightly surprised to see it had a ring-pull but it was obviously an early prototype because it cut me. That tin must have been waiting years to do that. But the peaches were pretty good.

 

 

 

 

 

The Joy of Chickens

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ONE of the continental book fairs, I can’t be sure whether it was Frankfurt or Hamburg, used to run a competition for the silliest book title. My favourite was Know Your Pony but another year The Joy of Chickens came top of the list.

I’ve never forgotten it and it makes the title of this post. If you’re a foodie who cooks and wastes nothing you will already know that a chicken just keeps on giving and the initial cost, whether cheap or expensive, is spread over meal after meal.

The other day we bought a medium chicken from Kempka’s on Abbeydale Road (you have to order in advance these days and collect on Saturdays), see http://wp.me/p5wFIX-K8 and I cut it up into portions because I was going to marinate it in lemon, olive oil, garlic and herbs before grilling for Sunday lunch.. As there was just the two of us, my wife settled for a breast and I had a leg. We didn’t want the skin so while I was busy in the kitchen I snipped it into bite-sized bits and gently fried them as a snack, see here.

It was amazing how much meat was left, if you really looked for it. I got enough for a curry and a stir fry, which I froze, with some left over for a pie. The carcass made a stock for a soup, although I grilled the wings for part of my Monday lunch. I had bought some leeks so the greens went in the stock while the whites made it a chicken and leek pie. So one chicken gave ten main courses (the soup was substantial) and a couple of snacks.

You really can’t do this with any other meat: leftover beef or lamb with give you a cottage or shepherds pie, duck just runs to fat. For me it really is the joy of chickens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There by the skin of my teeth

I ONLY got to judge Radio Sheffield’s chef cum celebrity cook off this Bank Holiday weekend at the city’s food festival by the skin of my teeth – literally. I was having the two front teggies replaced by implants but not until after the contest. Then disaster! The temporary falsies snapped and the standby teeth shot out every time I sneezed.

A food critic is no good without his gnashers but luckily my dental surgeon got them fitted in time.

It was fun. The radio station’s presenters Paulette Edwards and Steve Bailey were paired with two of Sheffield’s finest, Lee Mangles, late of Silversmiths, now at the Lawn View Clubhouse, and Luke Durkan from Craft & Dough, respectively.

Both chefs had 20 minutes to cook up a dish with celebrity help, or hindrance in the case of Luke, from a box of mystery ingredients. I was a little surprised they didn’t have the same ingredients. 

Lee had a baby rack of lamb which he finished off as three chops, served with spinach and an ace onion jam, made there and then. Nice but he wasn’t given any rosemary and the pressure of time (or helper Paulette) lost marks because the broad beans hadn’t been skinned. They weren’t young or tender enough to eat unskinned.

Luke’s fillet of Moss Valley pork won the day on taste and a clever little orange, garlic and chilli sauce, even though Steve lost half the orange zest while prepping.

It genuinely was close and while I was there by the skin of my teeth poor Lee lost through the skin of his beans!

Paulette, Lee, Steve and Luke cook like fury at Radio Sheffield’s cooknoff

How to upset the French

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Jay Rayner upset the French with his review

THE French don’t like it up them, as Corporal Jones might say, when an Englishman criticises their food and drink. As The Guardian’s Jay Rayner has found after his coruscating review of his £500 meal at the three Michelin star Le Cinq at the Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris.

 He complained of an unappetising gel globe, looking like ‘Barbie sized breast implant,’ under-cooked pigeon so raw that a few volts could have brought it back to life, served with acidic Japanese pear and a canapé involving ‘the blunt acidity of the sort that polishes up dull brass coins.’

 The reaction has been predictable. Rayner was accused of setting out to make fun of the French. His criticism was worthless because he was British. And so on. But even allowing for a little writer’s hyperbole (and reviews wouldn’t be entertaining without it) it was clear from his accompanying photos that something had gone badly wrong.

 Compared with the restaurant’s own pictures Rayner’s food didn’t look anything like them. And when you pay that amount of money at a high class restaurant you expect every dish should be served the same way as the head chef has decreed.

 I, too, have upset the French. But it wasn’t their food: it was their wine. Back in the Eighties I took part in the ritual of the first tastings in Sheffield each November of Beaujolais Nouveau. To make the main edition I drank it icy cold in cellars across town from 7am in the morning. I arrived at the office slightly paf, as the French say.

 To be honest it was never really any good. After all, this was very young wine which hadn’t settled. But it was fun, some years were better than others, and I went along with the hype. Then one year it wasn’t very good at all. In fact it was horrible. And I said so in print.

 My cutting was faxed back to France by a local Frenchman and, zut alors, the merde hit the fan. There was a letter in The Star from the French Chamber of Trade, or whatever. The stink finally died down and so did the fashion for Beaujolais Nouveau. Some years later I discussed the episode with that self same Frenchman who has snitched me up to his countrymen. He grinned. “You were right,” he said.

 I do seem to upset the French. I was less than enthusiastic about one bistro but when the owner hit back he was unwilling or unable to defend the food. Instead he accused me of racism as I had used the word ‘froggy’ in my review – and this was in the days before political correctness ran rampant. I was merely describing the mutual miscomprehension between les rosbifs and the froggies. So imagine my surprise when, a year or so later, he revamped and renamed his restaurant . . . Froggies!

 The Italians are very touchy, too. I thought I was being affectionate when I described a local restaurant owner as ‘meatball shaped’ but he was furious. “You can criticise my food but not me,” he fumed.

 It was worse when I thundered about my meal in a North Debyshire Italian restaurant. It was awful. My abiding memory is of the fat congealing in globules on the back of the spoon in my minestone soup.

 There was hell to pay. The restaurant (which eventually took me to the Press Council and lost) wanted another review by someone who was not called Martin Dawes. And if not “We invite Mr Dawes to come again, announced, and see what good food really is. Then we will take great pleasure in throwing him out.”

 I didn’t take them up on the offer.

 

 

 

Normal service will be resumed . . .

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The Half Marathon kept up interest in the blog

I have been proper poorly. Don’t ask for details but it hit me like a bolt from the blue. I lost the will to eat although not my sense of taste. Life is bleak when you’re ill, even bleaker without food.

It wasn’t just me that suffered. So did the blog. Without regular posts to maintain interest and the curating, adding links to encourage traffic from other sites – The Star, Facebook, Twitter and Sheffield Forum – the number of hits dwindled. Until there was a big spike: suddenly everybody wanted to read the post on the demise of a certain iconic burger bar headlined: Yankees, No Longer Doodle Dandy. And they had almost all come via Facebook.

In fact this post had far more ‘hits’ than when it originally appeared. But why?

It was my wife who came up with the answer. The interest coincided with the Sheffield Marathon when thousands of runners pounded down Ecclesall Road and past Yankees where they saw the ‘For Let’ signs. Now because almost everyone in Sheffield has been there at least once in their life it is not just another burger bar (although that is what it became). So they went home, clicked on to its Facebook page and there was a link to my obituary of the place. So my grateful thanks to the Sheffield Marathon!

Not all posts are read when you most expect: some have a slow burn and it can be a year before they take off.

I’m on the mend but am not completely out of the woods so reviews are going to be thin on the ground. If I had not been struck down I would have trumpeted the fact that the site has now exceeded 50,000 ‘views’ in just over two years but I shan’t tempt fate!

Normal service will be resumed but not just yet. And if you missed the Yankees story it’s here http://wp.me/p5wFIX-Oo

 

Giving a fork about your pork

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Konrad Kempka at the 70-year-old bacon slicer

SINCE THIS PIECE WAS WRITTEN KONRAD KEMPKA HAS DECIDED TO RETIRE FROM ‘RETAIL BUSINESS.’ HOWEVER YOU CAN STILL BUY MEAT BY TEXTING YOUR ORDER ON 07848 035 061 AND COLLECTING FROM THE SHOP SATURDAY MORNINGS. BACON, SAUSAGES AND MINCE WILL BE AVAILABLE FOR CASUAL SALES. KONRAD MAY POP UP AT A SHOP NEAR YOU AS HE IS WORKING AS A REIEF BUTCHER AND STILL MAKING HIS FAMOUS PIES. THE FOOD PROCESSING AREA AT THE BACK IS BEING REVAMPED AND EXPANDED. .

PORK BUTCHERS SHOP F J KEMPKA & SON ON ABBEYDALE ROAD, SHEFFIELD, CELEBRATES ITS 60TH  YEAR ON THE BLOCK

At first sight F J Kempka & Son’s butchers shop on Abbeydale Road, Sheffield, could be a TV set designer’s recreation for a series set in the Sixties. The name is written in elegant flowing script across a red and white fascia conveying a subtle message: these are the national colours of Poland.

‘Pork Butchers’ it says underneath and, as if you need reassurance of the fact, there are sides of mahogany coloured just-smoked bacon hanging in the window, their residual warmth faintly misting the windows.

You walk though the doorway with its metal flyscreen and see the pork pies, coils of sausages, the old fashioned bacon slicer which, at 70 years, is older than the shop, pork chops, slabs of glistening liver and the faintly racy ‘I Give a Fork about My Pork’ poster on the wall and think, ‘This is how I want a butchers shop to look.’ It smells that way, too, with whiffs of woodsmoke and garlic in the air.

There’s a whiff of history in the series of faintly blurry black and white photographs on the walls. The butcher in the picture is Polish-born Frank Joseph, a dark haired man with a look of concentration on his face as he strings a row of gleaming black sausages – perhaps just the ones he used to sling into the pannier on his cycle and pedal all the way to Thurgoland to sell to the Polish miners living there.

“When he took over the shop it was not doing well so he started smoking bacon and making Polish sausages and would cycle over in the afternoon with them. Even today, I get third generation families coming to buy them here,” says Konrad Kempka, the ‘& Son’ on the fascia.

This month sees the 60th anniversary of his father starting the business, hence those old photographs. It’s quite a story. Young Frank was a 17-year-old apprentice butcher when the German tanks rolled into his village, just 15 miles from Auschwitz. “They put everyone in a German uniform or shot them,” he adds drily.

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The shop opened on 5 January, 1957

His father was sent to the Russian front then, when that was going badly, to France, where he, like others, escaped to join the Free Polish Army and fight in Italy. When the war was over he was given the choice, Canada or Britain. He found himself in a Polish camp at Hardwick Hall and while some went to work in the steelworks, he took up his old career as a butcher, working for Roneys on Sharrowvale Road, then for Cyril Rackham, who had a string of shops in the city. Dad worked at Heeley Green but when Rackham retired he sold him the shop on Abbeydale Road.

In the meantime Frank had met a local girl called Jeanne at a dance at St William’s Church Hall on Ecclesall Road and married. With the Communists in charge in Poland there was no chance of going back.

As for Konrad, he ‘just fell into’ the butchery trade, from keeping watch on the shop to helping out his Dad. For a time it seemed he wouldn’t. At 21 he went to Los Angeles, working illegally as an engineer, but the pull of Sheffield was too strong. There wasn’t enough trade in the shop so he bought a lock-up butchers on Greystones Road, taking over when his father retired.

He’s seen some changes. “I probably sell less continental stuff these days but at one time we were the only people who sold garlic in Sheffield. Now garlic is in everything. And we sold buckets of sour cream, local people couldn’t believe it! And at Christmas we used to sell carp from Poland in blocks of ice. You couldn’t do that now.”

There are still reminders of the shop’s heritage. Kabanos, long, thin, smoked Polish sausage, are in the display counter, along with two types of Black Pudding, one English, one continental. The shelves are lined with jars of bockwurst, gherkins, sauerkraut and red peppers. In the window is a stack of Ukrainian loaves.

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Konrad’s father Frank – see the resemblance?

Kempka’s is still mainly a pork butcher although you can get chicken, lamb and beef. Oxtails will often hang in the windows along with magnificent home smoked hams, a fine sight at Christmas but available all year round. A Kempka’s pork pie is a wonderful thing, always praised when pork pie lovers swap recommendations, and among the biggest sellers, along with Konrad’s smoked bacon. I am, though, one of the few customers who ask for it still with the rind on. You can do a lot with a bacon rind!

He and his wife Pat, who helps in the shop, have noticed that customers have shied away from fatty pieces of meat, But that, we agree, is where the taste lies. “It will come back again,” he says. That is why he always buys bigger sides of pork to include the fat for, unlike some shops which buy in their sausages and bacon, they need it in the manufacture of products.

The shop has seen some 60 years. Konrad, at 63, and always a little hazy on dates, reckons he has done half that. But for how much longer will Kempka & Son keep going? Konrad, serving his second year as president of the Confederation of Yorkshire Butchers Councils, won’t be drawn.

Those of us who like their smoked bacon, a ham to boil at Christmas and a pork pie – ‘hold it upright as it’s still warm and not quite set’ – for tea or, as the poster says, give a fork about their pork, hope it will not be just yet.

352 Abbeydale Rd, Sheffield S7 1FP. Phone: 0114 255 1852

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Smoked hams in the window at Christmas

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