Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Ice Cream Wednesday: Scandilicious' Banana & Cardamom Ice Cream

It would be easy to dismiss my friend Sig's new book as jumping on the Scandi band wagon, but it'd be completely wrong to do so. Since June 2008 Sig has been sharing the joy's of Scandinavian cooking via her blog, Scandilicious.

Describing her heritage as Scandinavian-English-American-Irish-German-Jewish-Lithuanian (and born to a Norwegian father and English-American mother) Sig is well known for sharing an eclectic range of recipes with a distinctly Scandinavian theme. Having studied food anthropology, graduated from Leith's and been one of the students that contributed to Fiona Beckett's The Ultimate Student Cookbook, she has brought all her experience into her first solo book Scandilicious.

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Wonderfully warm, just like the author in person, Scandilicious is an attractive and engaging book. I particularly like the use of sketched illustrations by artist Liam Wales, though there are plenty of photographs of the finished recipes too. It really has its own style, and is not at all like any of the other Scandinavian cookbooks on my shelf.

There are many tempting recipes such as a range of fruit compotes and jams (to go with home made yoghurt amongst other treats), banana and cinnamon crispbread, raspberry and rhubarb lemonade, vanilla and sour cream waffles, a whole range of open and closed sandwich ideas, spiced blueberry juice, mor monsen (Norwegian lemon, currant and almond cake), kladdkaka (Swedish gooey chocolate cake), mustikkapiirakka (Finnish blueberry tart), Bergen fish chowder, chilled cucumber and borage soup, beetroot and ginger soup, pickled herring, Janssons frestelse (Swedish anchovy and potato gratin), lemon and nutmeg krumkaker (cornets) and lingonberry jelly. And that's only a selection – there are many, many more appealing recipes!

This banana and cardamom ice cream is very simple but quite delicious.

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Scandilicious' Banana & Cardamom Ice Cream

Feel free to substitute grated nutmeg or ground cinnamon or clove if you fancy a different flavour combination. If you're making this for children, you may wish to omit the alcohol.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients
300 ml whipping cream
1 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
4 small ripe bananas
50 grams fructose (or 75 grams caster sugar), plus more to taste
1 tablespoon rum or brandy
pinch of salt

Note: I had only brown cardamoms, most commonly used for savoury cooking in my house, rather than the smaller green cardamoms used for savoury and sweet. As the recipe didn't specify, I ground the seeds from within from these enormous pods. It gave a nutty, woody flavour alongside the usual cardamom perfume; it worked really well.

Method

  • Put the cream and the ground cardamom in a small saucepan, bring to a simmer and cook for 1-2 minutes before removing from the heat. Allow to infuse for 30 minutes and cool completely.
  • Once the cream has cooled, blitz the bananas and fructose (or sugar) in a blender or mash together by hand. Add the cardamom-infused cream, alcohol and salt to the sweetened banana and either blitz or mash together, as appropriate. Taste to check the sweetness and add more fructose (or sugar) if necessary – the mixture should be slightly sweeter than you want the final ice cream to be, as it will taste less sweet once frozen.
  • The next step is to freeze the ice cream. I used my loan Gaggia machine, but the recipe also provides instructions for those who don't have a machine.

The ice cream was delicious and the addition of cardamom and brandy to the banana was wonderful; it worked really well.

With thanks to the publisher for my review copy.


Published by SaltYard, Secrets of Scandinavian Cooking ... Scandilicious is currently available on Amazon for £11.61 (RRP £20).

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Monday, 25 July 2011

Pete Drinks: Windsor & Eton Brewery Tour-At-Home

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This evening’s beer is from the Windsor & Eton Brewery, another of the ‘new order’ of London breweries. Founded just last year, they have an impressive list of pubs to the south and west of London (and plenty, of course, in Windsor, and Eton) carrying their beer on tap. I’ve had to make do with their bottled offerings, but the beers don’t seem to suffer for that!

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Starting with their Windsor Knot, a 4.5% ale specially created for the Royal Wedding, but happily I’m told they’re still brewing it for cask, and are considering further bottlings. It has a thin but fine bubbled head, and a light amber colour. The nose is sweet, with lots of floral hops. In the mouth, there’s an almost champagne-like mouthfeel with buckets of fine bubbles; a great range of flavours coming from the generous hopping, with both bitterness and a delicious, raw green hop, citrus lime tang. There’s sweetness there, but without much in the way of malt. It’s a well balanced, refreshing summer beer – it’s perhaps telling that the last thing in my tasting notes is “too small!” – coming in a 330ml bottle, unlike the 500ml bottles for the rest of the range.

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Next up is Knight of the Garter, less strong at 3.8%. A paler, golden syrup colour with another fine but shorter lived head. The nose is floral and hoppy again, but more subtle than the Windsor Knot. A nice body in the mouth, hoppy and slightly sweet. A great example of a golden ale, with lingering hoppy bitterness. It’s not normally my style – I like my beer darker – but it goes down nicely on those hot summer evenings.

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For our third beer, we have Guardsman Best Bitter, a traditional best bitter coming in at 4.2%. Another short head, and a copper colour in the glass. A simpler hop nose, without all the citrusy notes of the first two beers, and distinct toasted malt too. Sweeter, with the malt, almost caramel flavours coming through and a more heavy hitting – but still controlled - hop bitterness in evidence. There’s a tang of something else that I can’t quite put my finger on – some sort of spice perhaps? There’s nothing particularly outstanding about this one, but it’s a good, tasty session beer.

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And finally, Conqueror Black IPA at 5.0%. Now, Black IPAs are all the rage these days; every brewery seems to be jumping on the bandwagon. I have to admit to being a bit of a grumpy old man about this, but what exactly does the ‘P’ in IPA stand for? Pale, for heavens’ sake! The idea of a black, pale ale is absurd. Surely we can come up with a better name for it than Black IPA?

Ok, rant over. Despite my issues with the name, I’m forced to admit this is a pretty fantastic beer. A thin head, as black in the glass as the name suggests. A rich, dark wood nose that reminds me of the smell of wooden indian furniture! In the mouth, it’s rich, not quite chocolate, with a deep roasted bitterness without being sickly sweet. There are hints of dark dried fruits, a coffee bitterness in the tail and still those woody hints. Delicious, very, very drinkable and my favourite of the bunch.

Overall, it’s a great collection of seriously tasty beer, and it’s a brewery I shall certainly make an effort to track down on tap.

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Saturday, 23 July 2011

Burgers & Beer at Byron

Fast growing chain Byron Burgers has gained a loyal following in the 3.5 years since they opened their first branch, me included.

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On a recent visit, we took our friend Gothick, who declared his classic Byron burger the best burger he'd ever had!

Byron's burgers are mighty fine and certainly blow competitors such as GBK (Gourmet Burger Kitchen) and Ultimate Burger out of the water. And Haché too, for that matter, with their ciabatta bun wrongness.

Burgers are moist and beefy. Accompaniments are simple (no scavenging hunt list of oddities such as peanut butter, onion bhaji, marmalade or pineapple, none of which I ever want to find inside my burger!). And the bun is plain white and doesn't disintegrate while you eat.

Lastly, those pickled gherkins are just perfect, though I'd prefer them in a sliced format I could have inside my burger, rather than alongside.

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I'm also a big fan of the courgette fries, essentially zucchini fritti just like our local Italian restaurant makes.

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And oh my, there were two very happy smiles about the new craft beer menu featuring a great selection of British and American beers.

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Service was friendly, knowledgable and helpful.

If you're looking for a decent burger in Central London, I'd certainly recommend looking up your nearest branch of Byron.

Tiny niggle? Please remove one of the banquette tables along the front wall and spread the others out. Legroom at those tables is really tight.

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Chime in with your thoughts on what makes the ultimate burger.

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Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Ice Cream Wednesday: Chloe's Candied Bacon, Toasted Pecan, Maple Syrup, Southern Comfort & Salt Ice Cream

Fellow chocolate fiend Chloe, The Faerietale Foodie, was unable to make the Gaggia coffee and ice cream event I attended several weeks ago. (A 5pm start for a blogger event does rule out most bloggers, who have full time jobs alongside their food blogs). Initially, she was most disappointed about missing the coffee half of the evening, and the chance to meet and listen to top barista trainer Paul Meikle-Janney. However, when Dom and I shared what a great time we'd had, and were then sent Gaggia ice cream makers to review for the summer, she was visited by the green eyed monster!

Dom and I couldn't bear to see her cute little pout so we quickly suggested an #icecreamwednesday party for Chloe and a few other friends.

Chloe's candied bacon, toasted pecans, maple syrup, Southern Comfort and salt ice cream went down a storm and she has kindly agreed to share her recipe on Kavey Eats.

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Handing over to Chloe:


I’ve never made ice cream before. I don’t often buy it either. Not that I don’t like the stuff you understand... more that I don’t have much freezer space and dessert wise, I prefer cake, or chocolate.

But the chance to invent new and exciting flavours was an opportunity not to be missed and you can imagine how all sorts of crazy thoughts went through my brain!

My first premise was that it needed to be something you can’t buy in your local supermarket, and the first ingredient that sprang to mind was bacon. Well, it just had to be done didn't it? I’d been playing around with bacon for my candied bacon butter recipe and I was pretty sure my fellow #icecreamWednesday guests would create more traditional recipes so my decision was easily made.

I decided to cheat by using double cream and ready made fresh custard instead of making fresh custard on the day. The bacon and pecans I prepared the evening before. I added the maple syrup and salt to taste just before churning the ice cream. At that point, I felt it needed a hint of something extra…. my brain cried bourbon, Kavey produced a bottle of Southern Comfort and it worked!


Chloe's Candied Bacon, Toasted Pecan, Maple Syrup, Southern Comfort and Salt Ice Cream

For the candied bacon:
Thick cut streaky bacon
Light muscovado sugar
Drizzle of maple syrup

  • Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
  • Lay your bacon rashers on a non stick baking tray and heap the sugar on top of each piece, giving a good drizzle of maple syrup for good measure.
  • Pop into the oven for around 15 minutes, turning the bacon half way and giving a swish around to gather up lots of that syrup.
  • Careful, as this has a tendency to suddenly burn.
  • When it’s beautifully crisp and glossy, let it cool down, then chop into teeny tiny pieces.

For the toasted pecans:
Pecan halves
Softened salted butter

  • Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
  • Toss your pecans in the softened butter before laying in a single layer on a non stick baking tray.
  • Place in the oven for around 5 minutes to toast but keep an eye on them as they can scald very quickly.

For the Ice Cream:
Double cream
Good quality fresh custard
Candied bacon
Toasted pecans, roughly chopped
Maple syrup
Southern Comfort
Salt

Note: I’m afraid I wasn’t paying too much attention to quantities here as I was caught up the excitement of playing with the shiny new machine, so I added ingredients to look and taste.

  • Add roughly equal parts cream and custard to a bowl and stir until combined then add plenty of maple syrup; I found I had to add a fair amount to get that maple flavour to come through.
  • Chuck in a good couple of handfuls of pecans and the same of the bacon, and then the salt and booze to taste.
  • Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker of choice and leave to churn for around 30 minutes.

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I might be ever so slightly biased... but I was pretty pleased with the result and was thoroughly impressed with the Gaggia machine. Can I have one too please?

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Monday, 18 July 2011

Pickled Rock Samphire & Pork Rillettes + Rules For Foraging Safely & Responsibly

There's something deeply satisfying about making a meal of ingredients foraged directly from the earth, not by some faceless stranger who's sold his lucrative hedgerow hoard to a restaurant chef, but by your own hands.

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Common mallow

Of course, there's the thrifty delight in a free meal. £3 for a bundle of asparagus or marsh samphire for free? £2.50 for a punnet of raspberries or blackberries for free? A few quid's worth of leeks or wild garlic for free? £2 for a bag of spinach and rocket leaves or black mustard and sorrel leaves for free? You get the idea!

But it's more than that, isn't it?

In today's society of plastic-wrapped supermarket shopping, there's a joy in reconnecting with nature as you search, pluck and pick wild food directly from the land.

Of course, across much of Europe and indeed, the rest of the world, wild food is still very much a regular part of the diet and entrenched in traditional food cultures. In my mind's eye is an image of little old ladies across a hundred different landscapes, carefully guarding and passing on their hard-won knowledge of where to find abundant crops of mushrooms, the juiciest wild fennel, a wide array of herbs, fruits and nuts…

Here in Britain, where is this is the exception not the rule, there's more than a little romance in that image.

 

Foraging and Cooking

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Caroline and Simon

Simon Day, founder of unearthed, has discovered during his travels around Europe, that many areas still have a thriving wild food culture. Indeed, he has found that many producers of local and regional food specialities, of the type he seeks for unearthed, are very much aware of what the land around them has to offer.

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A few weeks ago, Simon invited a small group of food writers and bloggers to join him on a special foraging and cooking day organised and run by Caroline Davey. Caroline is the founder of the Fat Hen Wild Food Foraging And Cooking School, a few miles from Land's End in Cornwall.

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When you learn about Caroline's life, it seems almost inevitable that she should be doing what she does now. Much of Caroline's childhood was spent living in the Far East, Africa and England; everywhere she made a deep and lasting connection with nature. Whether tramping around in the British countryside picking mushrooms, berries and chestnuts or eating lotus seeds in the early morning mists of Kashmir with Mr Marvellous, the flower seller, Caroline developed a fascination with wildlife and wild food. In addition, her Welsh  mother passed on a love of good food, cooking and entertaining that was very much a part of family life. Studying and qualifying in Zoology and Environmental Impact Assessment lead to a 12 year career as an Ecological Consultant, most of it in Cornwall, where Caroline visited many of the county's wildest corners to record and document habitats and species. She honed her plant identification skills and developed a deep understanding of natural ecosystems, the impact of farming methods and local wildlife conversation issues. But Caroline felt she needed a more interactive relationship with nature than merely recording and reporting on it. As she taught herself about the plants around us, she wanted to know what they meant to us and how we could best use them. After a year as a freelance forager, during which Caroline became intimately familiar with what could be foraged where and when during the year, she started offering foraging courses a few years ago.

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Our day with Caroline was hugely enjoyable. Waterproof coats and shoes protected us from the rain as we took a walk in the local countryside, learning how to identify a wide range of wild plants and how best to collect them, tasting and collecting as we went. Even in the rain couldn't dampen our enthusiasm as Caroline brought nature's larder alive for us.

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We returned back to the warmth of Fat Hen, located in a converted goat barn and the family farm house kitchen.

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There, Caroline and Simon had arranged for local chef and teacher Mark Devonshire to give us a demonstration of how to use the wild food we'd foraged, in conjunction with some delicious unearthed products such as rillettes and chorizo.

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Simon and Mark

Mark spent 17 years working for Rick Stein at The Seafood Restaurant in Padstow, the last 8 of which were as head lecturer at the Padstow Seafood School. These days he teaches at Cornwall College where he shares the joys of food with eager youngsters. His latest class were due to graduate just after we attended the course, and his pride in their success and hope for their future was very clear. We sat around the beautiful big table smelling and tasting the tidbits Mark and Caroline prepared and offered.

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After the cooking class, we enjoyed a delicious meal that made full use of locally foraged ingredients.

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Pork Rillettes with Pickled Rock Samphire Served on Soda Bread Toast

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Ingredients
Pork rillettes
Toasted soda bread
Large handful rock samphire, washed and patted dry
300 ml cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
Pickling Spices
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 bay leaf
1 clove garlic
Pinch of chilli flakes
1 teaspoon black peppercorns

Method

  • Heat up the cider vinegar with the pickling spices in a saucepan until boiling, take off the heat, add the rock samphire and transfer to a sterilised glass jar. Seal and leave for at least a month before eating.
  • Serve the pork rillettes on top of soda bread toast with pickled rock samphire laid on top.

 

Rules for Foraging Safely and Responsibly

Caroline was keen to stress to us a number of key rules for foraging, some of which I've paraphrased below.

  • Only pick something that you are 100% positive you have identified correctly. As we saw during the day, many plants are easy to confuse and some are deadly. It's not worth taking chances.
  • Leave enough for the plants to grow back and use a scissor or knife to cut cleanly.
  • Don't deplete rare species. There are plenty of common plants that grow in abundance.
  • The exception to the above is invasive plants such as three cornered garlic (Allium triquetrum), which originated in the Mediterranean. Three cornered garlic is a different plant to our native wild garlic (Allium ursinum); both can be foraged and used in cooking, but you can also dig up the bulb of the former without worry.
  • Be aware of pollution. Find out if fields have been sprayed, avoid picking along heavily trafficked roads and next to any paths where dogs are commonly walked.
  • Get permission from landowners before foraging on private land.

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