My Sloe food project


SO you’ve strained all the gin off your sloe berries and those bottles look a beautiful colour. But what are you going to do with all those leftover berries? Get the worms drunk?

It’s notoriously difficult to squeeze the last vestiges of gin from hard blackthorn but the alcohol is still in there. And as the watchword of this blog is Waste Not, Want Not, they are crying out to be put to more good use. As it’s Christmas, why not sloe gin truffles?

There is a small problem of getting the pulp off the small hard stones but I used a Mouli and got satisfying amounts of berry pulp through. You only need 75g for this recipe so freeze the rest for when you have time to make a boozy jam, jelly or chutney in the new year.

This recipe makes around 15 good sized truffles.

You will need:

25g butter
75ml double (heavy) cream
200g good quality chocolate, broken
75g sloe berry pulp
2 tbsp sloe gin
cocoa powder

Slowly melt the butter and cream together in a pan, stirring slowly. Let it just come to the boil for a minute then remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate, bits at a time, and stir until melted in. You may need to return the pan to the heat from time to time, still stirring. When all the chocolate is melted, thoroughly stir in the pulp and a little bit of your sloe gin.

Pour onto a Swiss roll tin, let it set then put in the fridge to firm up for a couple of hours. Then sprinkle the cocoa onto a plate and on your hands and scrape up spoonfuls of chocolate mixture and roll into balls. Cover with cocoa powder and put into little paper cases. The truffles soften quite quickly so you may have to put the tray back in the fridge halfway through for the mix to firm up.

Keep them in the fridge. They should last for a week if you’re planning ahead. They taste very good with a glass of sloe gin but be warned, they are very rich. It goes without saying you can use any other fruit you have used to infuse your gin or vodka.

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Fox got eggs in a pickle

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Clear vinegar shows the eggs off well

IF the fox hadn’t eaten the chickens I wouldn’t have pickled a jar of eggs. And I wouldn’t be writing this. I’d popped in the Down To Earth wholefood shop on Sharrowvale Road to offload some egg boxes and fill a couple up with their size ones from a farm at Whirlow. There weren’t any.

“Fox has got the hens again. There won’t be any more for about a month,” said boss John Leeson. But he did have some size threes, just the right size for pickling. I hadn’t done that for a bit. I bought a dozen and said: “All I need now is a packet of crisps.” He looked blank.

“You’re in a pub. You’ve got a pint of beer and feel peckish so you buy a packet of crisps and a pickled egg, put the egg in the packet and eat both together. Yummy,” I told him. He still looked blank. He’d never done it. Nor had other people I mentioned it to.

Now you can buy jars of pickled eggs but are they are very easy and cheap to make. And it means you don’t have to go to a pub to enjoy them.

Very often I fire off a blog, just because something has captured my imagination, and don’t expect many people to read it. Sadly, I am very often proved right. But the one here on eating a pickled egg in a packet of crisps  which I dashed off in June 2016 has, after a slow start, notched up over 800 hits and seems to gaining momentum. Something must be up.

So just in case you feel like registering the textures of egg and crisp and those little soft bits where the vinegar has soggeyed up the crisps, here’s how to do it. For American readers, crisps here are what you call potato chips.

I sterilised a big Kilner jar and boiled up the eggs. Here’s a tip: crack them all over and shell with the handle of a teaspoon, one with a rounded end and, if curved, have it pointing upwards so it doesn’t dig into the white.

You can buy a pickling vinegar but I like to make something unique. You don’t even have to boil the pickling spices first. You can use ordinary brown malt vinegar but that makes things a bit murky. I used white distilled vinegar and popped the spices in: some peppercorns, black and pink, a couple of blades of mace and two fresh bay leaves. I would have added some allspice berries but they’d gone AWOL. As the eggs take a couple of weeks before they are ready there is plenty of time for the spices to infuse.

Two weeks later they had and I ate the first one with a packet of crisps. Just as I remembered.

pickled egg in a packet of crisps

Crisps taste nicer with a pickled egg

 

 

 

 

 

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No beefing about my olives!

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Preparing marinated olives

NOW I like a nice posh olive and always enjoy them in restaurants but I seldom buy them these days. I know, as a foodie, I should but I love marinating olives to fill quiet moments in the kitchen. OK, they may not be as good as fancy kalamatas or whatever but they finish up a lot better than they started. And cheaper.

I first got the idea from Michael Peano when he ran Restaurant Peano in Barnsley (he probably used more superior olives to start with) and I seem to remember Wayne Bosworth at Rafters doing it. He certainly preserved little goats cheeses. In my olive buying days I used to admire the lovely displays when Nonna’s had its deli in Hickmott Road. I’d see olives marinated with little strips of orange or lemon peel and think ‘I can do that.’ And as I did it more and more I bought them less and less. I am sure some of my regular foodie blogging chums will be horrified!

If you fancy having a go, this is what you do. I usually buy jars or tins of brined pitted green olives pitted black ones from the supermarket, drained but not washed so you don’t lose the saltiness. I mix them together in a bowl and pour over a little olive oil (not virgin) then whatever herbs and spices take my fancy. This last time there were chopped rosemary, thyme and chives from the garden, plus black and pink peppercorns, coriander, garlic and twists of peel. Sometimes I add chilli. The oil helps the herbs stick.

Sterilise enough jars and pour a little more plain olive oil in the bottom to avoid air pockets. Then add the olives. When the jars are half full poke a bay leaf or rosemary sprig down the side and fill to the top. Add enough oil to cover and seal. If you have any leftover olives they can be eaten immediately. The jarred olives are ready after about a week.

Then, when you have finished all the olives, strain off the oil which will by now be considerably improved and use it for cooking or in a salad dressing: a case of two things for the price of one.

Provided you sterilise properly and don’t use your fingers but a spoon the olives should not spoil. I’ve only had a couple of occasions when the contents have gone a bilious green. And don’t store them in the fridge because the oil can solidify. Do make sure the olives are always covered in oil.

It’s fun. It’s cheap. You can experiment. I’m thinking of marinating olives in Chinese or Indian spices. And stuffing them with anchovies. Once you start you can’t stop!

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The oil will clear!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Name, this is the pack drill

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Griddled scallop starter at No Name

IT’S a beautifully made piece of ciabatta, I think, as I bite into it at No Name in Crookes. Look how it almost quivers, the open crumb and the delightfully olivey taste. It’s almost a shame to dunk it into the bowl of balsamic and olive oil.

I can recall when ‘Italian bread’ here was half a breadcake wiped with garlic. Then it was called Franco’s Pizzeria, no great shakes for food but chef patron Franco D’Egido ended the evening singing the Wild Rover while his wife Elaine let off balloons.

We went back 20 years later to find Franco had retired, it was still Italian but in different hands and the head waiter was called Nigel.

I turn to my dining companion, fellow blogger Craig ‘Mr Ciabatta’ Harris, a foodie and Italophile so keen on authenticity he slips out of bed early to make his weekly batch. What does he think? He nods enthusiastically.

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Crispy chicken beats KFC

No Name is tiny, a micro bistro. It seats 21 or 24 if you all breathe in. So is the menu with just 3-4-2 choices at each course. The prices aren’t micro, though, so a meal for two would be banging on at around £60 and I get a bit of a grump on when Craig, who books, tells me there are two sittings. If I spend that money I want the table all night, particularly at a weekend. But then again, if you’ve got a place that small, it helps pay the rent.

Happily Crookes hasn’t got the grump because No Name, which opened in June, has been a runaway success in an area which is all pizzas and pakoras and where Modern British Cooking has not previously reared its head. “Simply outstanding,” one diner trilled on TripAdvisor.

The owner-chef is Thomas Samworth, 33, one of Mick Burke’s star pupils at Sheffield College, who won the prestigious Maurice des Ombiaux in Belgium, a junior chefs’ European Cup, back in 2003. After a spell at Gary Rhodes’ W1 in London he came home to head up the kitchen at Rowley’s in Baslow, as well as the village’s Devonshire Arms. We’ve eaten his food at both places as well as at the Schoolrooms in Low Bradfield, although he had fewer tattoos back then.

When I saw the menu (there is no website, just a Facebook page) it looked very safe: butternut squash soup, lamb shank and duck confit. I was proved wrong. It’s the way he cooks them as someone very nearly said.

There is now no Nigel front of house but there is a very expectant Mrs Megan Samworth and the hope skitters across my mind that she won’t give birth between my crispy chicken starter and confit main. “If I drop my food it stays on here,” she laughs, patting her belly.

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Megan and Thomas Samworth

I had no idea what crispy chicken (£7) was but it turned out to be a sort of chicken rillettes bound in Bechamel and shaped into a crispy coated lozenge. That’s very modern and also very old, a souped up version of croquettes. What soups it up is a sauce of blitzed sweetcorn and a good helping of fancy micro mushrooms, lightly pickled.

The rest of the table has scallops (£8), three very sweet pieces, seared one side only, with apple caramel, hazelnuts and celeriac. Craig, a celeriac junkie, wished for a bit more oomph with the vegetable.

We men went for the confit (£16), served boned on top of a triangle of wonderfully crisp and starchy rosti potato, so good it threatened to upstage the main ingredient. This was a lovely dish, helped along with earthy kale and an elegant pickled blackberry jus.

My wife had an excellent piece of stone bass, nothing like sea bass but it’s an ugly blighter otherwise known as Atlantic wreckfish, now becoming popular. Craig’s wife Marie enthusiastically offered portions of her ultra-tender lamb shank to share.

In his micro kitchen (just two rings) Thomas said he had got fed up cooking fish and chips and gammon steaks in country pubs and wanted to rustle up the kind of food he liked to eat out. Some pop-up nights at his family home helped establish a following and by early summer the place was open.

And why No Name? “I wanted an air of mystery,” he said. Doubtless he was thinking of The Man Behind the Curtain in Leeds. Well, there’s no mystery why No Name is popular. It’s the good cooking. It’s also BYO so that sort of compensates for speedy eating.

We finish with either spiced plums or a good chocolate mousse with honeycomb. A great night out and we wish Megan and Thomas all the best with the birth. Let’s hope the owners of No Name come up with one for the baby!

#253 Crookes, Sheffield. Tel 0114 266 1520. Open Wed-Sat night. Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pg/NO-NAME-Sheffield-1695321363841840/about/?ref=page_internal

 

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Tiny but perfectly formed

 

 

 

 

 

Anchovies in the tin and on a slate!

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Anchovies in a tin – and on a slate – in Verona

 

IF I was going to enter my dish on that excellent website www.wewantplates.com then I was certainly going for broke on holiday in Verona. I was paying a good ten euros for the chef to peel back the lid of a tin of anchovies and plonk it on a slate with a sliced up boiled potato. Food in a tin and on a slate is the stuff of that site’s nightmares.

 The menu at Caffe Monte Baldo read “Acciughe del Mar Cantabrico, servite con burro, patate e crostini di pane caldi” translated as “Cantabrian sea anchovies in their tin served with butter, potatoes and warm bread croutons.”

 It seemed so unusual that I just had to have it for the novelty value alone.

 And it was marvellous. I’m sure being on holiday and feeling I had to justify my choice had something to do with it but those anchovies were excellent, by far the best I have ever eaten. Pairing them with potato is not new: think of that Scandinavian favourite Jansson’s Temptation, which bakes anchovies and thinly sliced spuds with cream.

 My only grouse is that there was not enough potato and certainly not that many croutons to justify all that butter. Would I pay a tenner for the dish back home although they were extremely superior anchovies?

 There was, briefly, a restaurant in London called Tincan which served everything in its tins but it has now closed. I wonder why? And I believe there is one in Spain which does something similar. But so far the idea has still to catch on.

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Squd ink ravioli with sea bass filling

 Caffe Monte Baldo is one of the city’s top restaurants. I also had a fabulous squid ink ravioli stuffed with sea bass on a tomato and butter sauce. The contrast in colours, black and red, was spectacular as was the firm texture of the pasta again the fish filling.

 Wouldn’t it be lovely to find something like this in Sheffield? No sure about the anchovies in tins, though!

 Web: www.osteriamontebaldo.com

 

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Caffe Monte Baldo in Verona

Still lovely jubbly in Bakewell

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Eric Piedaniel, un chef Normande

“LOVELY jubbly,” I say as I hand back the menu and wine list to our waitress. I catch my wife giving me a look. “That’s the third time you’ve said it since we got here.” That was only five minutes before. The woman at the next table is amused.

I don’t know whether I’m turning into Del Boy Trotter from Only Fools and Horses but he could very well try out some of his fractured French – ‘Mange tout, mange tout’ – at Eric Piedaniel’s eponymous restaurant in Bakewell because the chef-patron is from Normandy. But that was a long time ago. He and his wife Christiana have been in the mock-Tudor building in Bath Street for the last 23 years. And we’ve been going there on and off for all that time.

I’m not sure what the French for lovely jubbly is but we always get it at Piedaniel’s. Here is a chef who cooks accurately and simply and is dependably consistent. We drop in for Friday lunch and have a meal full of surprises.

I am quite content to stay on the TDH until my wife discovers the baked brioche and duck butter pudding (£7) on the carte and I am so intrigued I have to order it. It’s a new one on me. Think bread and butter pudding with the butter replaced by layers of shredded duck confit. The dish arrives as a square-shaped section, the brioche and duck quite compressed, and my tastebuds are in some confusion as sweet meets savoury head on.

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Brioche and duck butter pudding

It seems to make sense by the fourth mouthful, aided by a fine Madeira sauce. Yes, I’m won over. Christiana says it’s very popular as customers are intrigued, like me. But where did it come from? In his kitchen later Eric, aged 52, says he thought of it when there was brioche and confit in the kitchen at the same time et voila. Simple as that.

Meanwhile my wife is getting very excited about her cheese charlotte. No, we haven’t heard of that either. It turns out to be whipped mousse of goats cheese, Roquefort and something else which arrives at the table with an Eifel Tower of rocket and celery batons perched on top (£4). It is beautifully light and zingy, crisp and fresh and decidedly cheesy.

Our first visit here was in 1994, shortly after it opened. Eric, previously at the Cavendish Hotel, Baslow, had not checked his new kitchen was properly equipped. He didn’t have a tin opener to open a can of olives and had to use a chisel. On our night the full restaurant was in near mutiny because he was cooking unaided, the wait time was long and Christiana was not around to soothe uppity patrons because she was having a baby. We nearly joined the mutineers until the food arrived but were captivated by his style and culinary elan.

I’m due for a second surprise with my TDH main (all are £12), two soused mackerel fillets on warm crushed potatoes. I had only previously had soused fish cold but this warm in a vinegary sauce. Again, it takes me a couple of mouthfuls to be won over. Sue has an asparagus and vegetable tart which turns out to be a filo basket with a superior tomato sauce.

For the last eight years Eric has been cooking with Eleanor, from Bulgaria, as his second chef. “She came to do the washing up and we found she was a trained chef,” he says. He now also had a tin opener.

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The soused mackerel is served warm

We have never had a grumble here and we’re not going to have one now. Sweets (£4) are classically simple but beautifully executed: a shimmering crème caramel and a light steamed chocolate sponge with a proper (but not Bird’s Eye yellow and thick) home made custard.

As we go back into the lounge for coffee I can’t help telling the woman at the next table that it has all been lovely jubbly. She nods in agreement.

The bill, which we paid ourselves, came to £64.70.

Piedaniels is at Bath Steet, Bakewell, DE45 1BX. Tel: 01629 812 687. Web: http://www.piedaniels-restaurant.com

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Piedaniel’s mock-Tudor home in Bath Street, Bakewell

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