Wild Garlic Season – Ramsons Relish

Ramsons form fragrant spring carpets in shady woodland areas at this time of year. The origins of many place names such as Ramsey Common, Ramsdale and Ramsbottom are derived from this ancient word. The plant is related to chives, and their botanic name, Allium Ursinum, contains the latin word for bear (ursus) as bears are extremely keen on them and dig up the bulbs with enthusiasm. Wild Garlic is easy to find in woods, just follow the aroma of garlic in the air and look for their shiny ovate leaves and white balls of little star-shaped flowers.The leaves taste much milder than bulb garlic and can be eaten raw. The flowers are also edible, have a peppery flavour and are very tasty when fried in batter as tempura.

Seasonal and delicious, Ramsons Relish has many uses –

Sandwiches – An excellent addition to cucumber, chicken or cheese sandwiches

Pasta – use the condiment like pesto

Smoked salmon or pan-fried fish – an excellent side sauce

Mayo – Mix it into fresh mayonnaise and use as a dip

Rice – Wild garlic risotto

Mash –  Mix the relish into mashed potato.

Soup – Use the relish as a drizzle

Salad – Ramsons Relish makes an excellent addition to vinaigrette

Scrambled eggs – stirred into creamy scrambled eggs, divine.

Potato Frittata – one the side, one of the best

A pathway of wild garlic at Buckland Abbey

 

 

Artichokes favoured by a King

In the 16th and 17th century walled vegetable gardens were springing up on country estates all over the land. With fashion comes profit and new vegetables like artichokes were soon grown in the market gardens that developed around London as the middle classes sought to emulate the gentry with tables laden with fresh fruits and vegetables.

Patrick Lamb master cook to “their late Majesties, King Charles II, King James II, King William & Queen Mary, and Queen Anne” gives seven recipes for artichokes in his ‘Royal Cookery’ book published in 1710, and a little later John Nott, chief cook to the Duke of Somerset, among many other aristocrats, listed seventeen recipes in his book ” The Cook and Confectioner’s Dictionary in 1723″ so their popularity and status was rising pretty swiftly.

To Pickle Artichokes by John Nott

“Take Artichokes that are not too ripe, because they will be full of strings; when you have pared them around to the bottom, let them be boil’d tender, take them up, and let them stand to cool; Make a pickle of white-wine, good stale beer, a good quantity of whole pepper, and a little salt and put all into a barrel, and keep them close; they will serve for boil’d or bak’d meats for all the year.”

More contemporary ways with Artichokes

Artichoke Pasta – The mint is the key to this recipe. Buy a tub of grilled marinated artichokes (in olive oil), chop them up a bit, pour some of the oil from the tub in a frying pan and fry for about 5 mins. Squeeze on the juice of 1/2 a lemon + the zest and toss with pasta. Finish with a handful of fresh mint leaves. Serve Parmesan in a separate dish.

Simply eat the leaves with vinaigrette, then plunge the whole heart into the sauce dish and gobble it greedily down. Satisfaction.

Green Pizza with artichoke, feta and pesto

Artichoke and wild mushroom pie

Artichoke hearts and potatoes braised with peas in tomato sauce

Artichokes baked with anchovy stuffing
Podded broad beans with artichokes cooked in vegetable stock and white wine.
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Rhubarb Fool (for 4) Rhubarb Gin and Tonic (for 1)

Rhubarb is Mongolian, Siberian even, cousins with the Chinese and with Tibetans on the side. This only seems odd to me because somewhere along the way rhubarb became ‘Britishified’, who would have thought our favoured nursery dishes: rhubarb crumble, tart, pie, rhubarb and custard, had their origins in the vicinity of the Himalayas and the grassy steppes. No one even ate it as a dessert in this country until the eighteenth century.

The Chinese have cultivated rhubarb as a medicinal plant for thousands of years, used to relax the digestion or as an astringent tonic for liver and gall bladder complaints, bad skin and even the plague. It was traded along the silk route and reached Europe in the 14th century and England in the 16th but it was sold only as a medicine.

The first recorded mention of an English food recipe is in Glasse’s ‘Compleat Confectioner‘ of 1760: “These tarts may be thought very odd, but they are very fine ones and have a pretty flavour….To make rhubarb tarts. Take stalks of English rhubarb, peel and cut it the size of gooseberries; sweeten it, and make them as you do gooseberry tarts.” So rhubarb must have begun to be establishes before this was published, but continued to be a bit of a novelty for some years yet. I believe the moment we really took rhubarb into our hearts was when we began to ‘force’ it as a winter foodstuff and that happened by accident in 1815. I love this story.

The horticulturists were growing rhubarb at the Chelsea Physic Garden, in London, as part of their collection of medicinal plants. A bed of rhubarb became buried under the earthy spoil of thrown up by some workman digging a trench. When they came to clear the up the mess they found the rhubarb had produced long thin stems in the light deprived environment. The gardeners ate it. I love that bit, I can just imagine them huddled around the long pink stems “Oi, Dave, come and look at this, do ya think it might be tasty winta vegetable?” They discovered it had a fine and sweet flavour. The news was hastily shared in the trade literature at the time and fervent gardeners began to experiment with buckets and all sorts. Joseph Whitwell, a market gardener from Leeds took up the baton and created a forcing business, constructing candle lit sheds devoted to the plant. His neighbours followed suit and the Rhubarb Triangle in West Yorkshire (between Wakefield, Morely and Rothwell) became famous for early forced rhubarb, with a special train laid on to rush the stems to London from December to March. It was known as ‘Champagne Rhubarb’ and they are still producing it, but sadly the train has gone.

Rhubarb now has a firm place in British cuisine as a dessert but top chefs are rediscovering it as a foil for new flavours (asparagus with rhubarb hollandaise, beetroot and rhubarb salad) and the latest craze, of course, is to add it to gin. I use it in many ways: rhubarb trifle; rhubarb Eton mess; as a savoury vegetable to add the sour element to Asian Lao fish soups; I also enjoy eating it raw with salt and chilli. My favourite is rhubarb fool which is so delicious it’s painful to wait for it to cool so why not make a cocktail while you do. My mother used to make vats of this (fool not the gin) which we scooped up with ginger biscuits and then turned the excess into ice-cream!

Rhubarb Fool (for 4) with Rhubarb Gin (for 1) on the side

I prefer a rougher, sharper fool so I don’t mash it up too much or add as much sugar as some I’ve seen (1/2 weight of sugar to weight of rhubarb, too much) but the choice is up to you.

400g rhubarb, roughly chopped

65g of caster sugar or vanilla sugar

a couple of drops of pure vanilla essence

300ml double cream, whipped

  1. Place the rhubarb in a WARMED pan with the sugar and the vanilla essence. DO NOT ADD WATER. Cover with a lid and heat gently on a low heat until tender which should take about 5-8 minutes depending on your rhubarb.
  2. Now taste for sweetness and add a tablespoon more sugar if you prefer. Drain the rhubarb in a sieve and reserve the juice in a bowl underneath. Allow to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, whip the cream to soft peaks.
  4. Mash the cooled rhubarb with a fork and add back ½ the juice (rhubarb syrup).
  5. Now make a Rhubarb Gin and Tonic – 50ml gin, about 25ml rhubarb syrup, tonic, a squeeze of lime juice and a sprig of mint if you have some.
  6. Fold the rhubarb into the cream and allow to cool in the fridge for at least an hour which will give you ample time to enjoy your cocktail (or mood-shifter as my husband would call it).
  7. Serve the fool. It won’t last for long.

More Ways with Rhubarb

The tartness makes stewed rhubarb a natural partner for creamy vanilla crème anglaise or ice cream

Bake it with a little water, caster sugar, two green cardamon pods & the zest and juice of an orange.

Rhubarb crème brulee, trifle or Eton Mess

Use it green as the sour ingredient in sour Asian fish soup

Smoothie- coconut water, rhubarb, mango, ginger

Ottolenghi’s Beetroot and Rhubarb salad

PS. Remember rhubarb leaves are poisonous do not eat them.

Rhubarb Gin and Tonic

Mr Percy Parsnip and his Parsnip Pup

Mr Percy Parsnip and his parsnip pup.

Mr Percy Parsnip and his parsnip pup.

To a palate un-jaded by refined sugar, a parsnip, simply roasted, can be as honeyed as a lollipop, and that is how it was often used in the past – in sweet dishes, fritters and cakes but this native root really is born to be the constant companion of roast beef and is an essential part of ‘all the trimmings’. The parsnip caramelises with salty savour in a way the usurping potato can never hope to achieve.  I think they’re so good I often make parsnips chips as a savoury appetiser before supper. They all go, and pretty darn quick.

Parsnip chips

Salt is essential to parsnips so don’t skimp.  They must be salty enough to counterbalance the caramelised sweetness of the root and thin enough to be crisp. Once cooked, I like to sprinkle them with thyme but it depends on my mood, other complimentary sprinklings that I find good are cumin, nutmeg, garam masala, crushed bay leaves or paprika, all of which go down go down a treat. Add some prosciutto dressed with a squeeze of lemon on the side and you have a starter.

Directions: Peel 6 parsnips and boil them for a few minutes so they soften but remain firm. When done, slice the parsnips lengthways into 8 pieces each so they resemble chips. Dry them in a cloth and then shake them up with some flour, seasoned with plenty of salt and pepper. This will give them a crisp coating. Meanwhile heat a large pan (so they lay separately) to smoking with sunflower oil, if you don’t have a big enough pan cook them in batches. Fry them until golden which takes about 5-10 minutes, turning them occasionally with a pair of tongs. Sprinkle with fresh thyme, taste and add more salt if needed. Serve hot.

Other tasty ways with parsnips

Parsnip and shallot tart tatin with ready roll puff pastry

Mashed parsnip cakes coated with egg and Panko crumbs

Parsnip, puy lentil and watercress salad

Curried parsnip and apple soup

Parsnip and parmesan soufflé

My love affair with our NutriBullet

Devonium

image This morning’s juice of spinach, cucumber, baby beetroot, strawberry, pineapple and banana.

A year has passed and I’m posting this again because my husband and I still share a green smoothie every morning and I’m glad I bought this little gizmo. Speed, that’s what I love about our NutriBullet. I used to have a juice extractor that took over an hour to produce one cup of juice – you had to chop the vegetables, ram the bits into a narrow feeder tube a little at a time, then take it apart and clean 8 different pieces with a toothbrush thingy. Ahhh! and you don’t even get the fibre. I sold it on Ebay with great joy. Now I make a fabulous fruit and veg smoothie every morning in about 30 seconds, with a nifty little machine that pulverises everything to such a smooth consistency I can suck it through a…

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Powderham Food Festival 2014 – 4th October at Powderham Castle

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The Royal Marines are bringing their ‘Field Kitchen’ to Powderham Food Festival. Watch them demonstrate their superb cooking skills.

Saturday 4th October 10am-5pm
At Powderham Castle, Kenton, Exeter Devon EX6 8JQ http://www.powderhamfoodfestival.com/
Admission £6 Adults, £2 for children 4-16, family tickets available too.

This year Powderham Food Festival presents the “Theatre of Fire and Smoke” – everyone will be cooking over traditional fire – fire pits, BBQs, wood fired ovens . . . . searin’ and smokin’.

Bring out your inner caveman or woman! Feast your eyes on our theatre of Fire ‘n Smoke and then literally feast on chunks of beautifully char-grilled Devon meat washed down with fabulous West Country ales and cider. The sparks will fly as our pit-masters cook up a storm. Expect delicious outdoor kitchen fireworks and some amazing BBQ food to guzzle.

It’s Autumn: think fire, succulent barbecued meat, hot chestnuts, slow-cooked pulled pork, roasted pumpkins, fish baked in corn husks, clams scattered onto hot coals, sizzling mussels, ravishing ribs. Outdoor cooking over traditional fire all served up in the beautiful surroundings of Powderham Castle.

With four exciting cooking demo areas:

The Main marquee, our “Theatre of Fire and Smoke” – with fire pits, smokers, wood fired oven, Kamado BBQ – and even a smoking wheelbarrow!
Amazing line up of open fire experts performing great culinary acts transforming simple ingredients into searingly, succulent meaty masterpieces, vibrant vegetables and flaming fish.
Image 2 Area 2 – The Royal Marines from Lympstone Training Camp (subject of TV series right now) are also coming, bringing their Cooks Field Tent and Cook Van. They cook at any time anywhere in the world from the heat in Afghanistan to the cold of Norway, constantly raising their skills and team bonding while using limited rations and equipment. They have to think creatively while ensuring that they provide the nutritional content necessary to keep the guys going in the field. Watch our boys demonstrate their superior skills and drink a bottle of special chilli brewed Hunters Ale “Fire King” while raising money for the Marines C Group Charity with a donation from each bottle going to their fund inspiring business to support marines in need.Image 3

Area 3 is the sweet ’n pretty Garton King, AGA “Baking Perfection” marquee. Are your loaves leaden? Do you despair at your sagging sponges? Are your rock hard scones even rejected by the ducks? Help is at hand, here we’ll be serving up superb demos on how to faultlessly bake everything from the perfect meringue to the perfect pasty by a varied line up of expert cooks including AGA supremo chef, David Pengelly, who will be creating wonderful bread and cakes baked in the Dual control AGA, James Strawbridge cooking the Perfect Cornish Pasty and Saira Hamilton revealing Bengali baking secrets. Come along to see David and friends, ask lots of questions and get baking! And a new exciting news – ‘The Vanilla Queen’ is coming too. Image

Area 4 – ‘Fun Kitchen” at Powderham Food Festival. Learn the art of cooking with a series of short, free, hands-on children’s sessions, run all day at Powderham Castle. Fun Kitchen will show children how to have fun creating fresh traditional dishes from scratch. And not only will children be able to taste the fresh food difference in the finished product they take home, they’ll also know just what’s required to make fun wholesome dishes when they get home. Fun Kitchen quick workshops at the Powderham Food Festival are a great way to encourage children to learn more about food in a fun way!

BBQ cooking is taking Britain by storm – chefs all over UK are installing fire pits in their kitchens, giving customers a simple but delicious alternative to more complicated offerings. At Powderham Festival 2014 we are reflecting this in our dazzling line up of guest cooks. From fire-pits to charcoal filled wheel barrows, via flaming tandoori ovens, the festival provides a bonanza of barbecued and char-grilled meats including venison from Powderham parkland, fish and shellfish from Exe Estuary, superb grass fed Devon beef and pork from Pipers Farm.

We will be reveling in all things fiery and smoky with over 100 producers exhibiting in the castle and grounds, fascinating demonstrations, talks and tastings.

Heading the lineup –
Jane Baxter – ex head chef Riverford Field Kitchen Jane Baxter is a chef and food writer. She trained at the Carved Angel under Joyce Molyneux before moving to the River Café. After a stint travelling and cooking around the world, in 2005 she set up the acclaimed Riverford Field Kitchen in Devon. She is co-author of the Riverford Farm Cookbook and Recipes for Everyday and Sunday. Currently based in south Devon, her latest book, co-written with Henry Dimbleby, is Leon: Fast Vegetarian.

Magdalen Chapter Hotel – The core ethos of the Magdalen Chapter Hotel is to create simple, seasonal and classic dishes, with a focus on local produce. Ben Bulger, head chef at the hotel will be demonstrating dishes that have helped to gain the hotel a reputation for excellent food.

Peter Greig co-owner with wife Henrietta, of Pipers Farm, produces award winning grass fed free range meat. Peter began by working in his father’s industrial chicken unit but was keen to change direction to traditional, slow growing farming methods. Heading down to Devon and establishing Pipers Farm, Peter then travelled continental Europe to witness very different butchery methods, teaching himself to butcher. The prime focus is producing contented animals, slowly, on the land in small groups to minimise stress – and to produce fantastic tasting meat. Today Pipers a Farm embraces 25 family farms who use traditional, sustainable values to produce healthy food. Peter is a master at the fire pits, famous for his smoked BBQ beef brisket.Image 1

Zimbabwean-born chef, Kumbirai (Kumbi) Gundidza, has just launched a range of truly delicious sauces, Kumbites,  largely influenced by his African childhood. Growing up in Harare, Kumbi spent holidays with his grandmother on her smallholding outside the city where she grew many different varieties of fruit and vegetables. His aunt too was a caterer and he remembers being in Victoria Falls and eating crocodile tail cooked over an open fire pit. Now living in Dawlish, Kumbi delights in sea air and the glorious Devon countryside. He will be working with Peter Greig of Pipers Farm, prepping some of that superb meat with his African flavoured sauces spiked with different chillis and fragrant with warming spices.

Patrick Fogarty, Bronx Bar and ‘Cue in Teignmouth – London restaurant entrepreneur, Patrick Fogarty is a Devon lad returning to his roots to open Bronx BBQ restaurant and bar to add to the emerging and exciting Teignmouth restaurant scene. Committed to using best local meat, serving killer cocktails and Devon craft ales, Patrick will be serving up a fiery storm with his Head Pitmaster, at Powderham Castle Food Fest this October.

Saira Hamilton is known for her gifts of packing flavour into every dish of delicious Bengali-inspired food. Saira has an intuitive ability to take everyday ingredients and create an extraordinarily good meal. She uses the best of British produce combined with the spices and cooking techniques of her Bengali heritage to create delicious fresh-tasting dishes which are achievable without specialist or hard-to-find ingredients. Her food philosophy is all about keeping it simple and is rooted in her love of good, home-cooked food which is made to be enjoyed and shared with friends and family.

James Strawbridge, proprietor “Posh Pasty Company”, grower, poet, environmentalist, eco-technologist, TV presenter and cook, brings along his “BBQ Smokehouse” serving home-produced pastrami sandwiches. A “Hungry Sailor”, together with his Dad, Dick Strawbridge, he has sailed the coast of South West Britain making landfalls to find the best locally produced food and appeared on his own show. They also appeared together on “It’s not easy being green” and “Saturday Farm”.

Masterchef winner chef, Mat Follas regularly runs courses on foraging and wild plants which he turns into delicious recipes- think elderflower tempura and wild garlic arancini. He is a regular judge for BBC Masterchef and Mat’s recipes are published in a variety of magazines including Good Food, Olive and Delicious magazines.

Patricia Rain, The Vanilla Queen, will be demonstrating with Little Pod in the Perfection Tent. Patricia is an author, educator, culinary historian, and owner of The Vanilla Company (www.vanillaqueen.com), a socially conscious, product-driven information and education site dedicated to the promotion of pure, natural vanilla, and the support of vanilla farmers worldwide. The Vanilla Cookbook established her as an authority on this exotic rainforest product. Ms. Rain is the voice for small vanilla farmers worldwide, providing information on growing, curing, packaging and shipping vanilla to the world market, providing a forum for networking and representing their needs and concerns through writing and speaking engagements. Additionally, The Vanilla Company is actively working with individuals and groups in vanilla-growing countries to establish projects and to get medical and other needed supplies into rural areas.

And that’s not all. Powderham Forge will be adding fire and sparks ringing out into the Autumn air and woodland crafts people, Running Deer, will be making charcoal and cooking over campfires.

Helen Hayes, PR manager of Helpful Holidays, the key sponsor, is looking forward to the festival “We can’t wait to celebrate a third year sponsoring this event. Fabulous West Country food is very much a part of our guests’ self-catering holiday experience and we are happy to be involved again.”

Family fun, live music and an abundance of fabulous food & drink – don’t miss it.
Powderham Castle, Kenton, Exeter Devon EX6 8JQ http://www.powderhamfoodfestival.com/

Admission £6 Adults Kids £2 aged 4-16 Family tickets available.PowderhamFood-MattAustin-54

All photographs by Matt Austin.

Rustic Dartmoor Pad Thai

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I craved Pad Thai today, the street kind, with little dried prawns  and a bit of pickled radish, fresh tofu and sprouts. Comfort food, nothing fancy, like a bowl of mashed potato, this dish goes down well on a cold, rainy day on Dartmoor. It is a quick dish to cook but takes a little time to prepare as you need to chop up several ingredients before you start.

Ingredients:

250g dried flat rice noodles, soaked in cold water for half an hour

The Sauce

3 tablespoons of fish sauce to taste

3 or more tablespoons of tamarind pulp

2 tablespoons of palm or coconut sugar, to taste

Heat the wok

4 Tbs. vegetable oil for frying

First add (there are more ingredients further down, which you will need to prepare in advance too)

3/4 cup firm pressed tofu, cut into small cubes

3 shallots, thinly sliced (or substitute with half a medium onion)

1/4 cup small dried shrimp, re-hydrated with some hot water

1/4 cup chopped preserved salted radishImage 3

Soak the flat rice noodles in cold water for half an hour or so. It helps to stop them sticking together.

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Start with the main three – tofu, radish and shallots chopped finely. Fry these first.
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Gather the ingredients together and make the sauce from a mixture of tamarind paste, palm sugar and fish sauce.

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Then add the soaked noodles and the sauce stirring to stop the noodles from sticking.

Add 2 eggs, stir to mix

3 cups fresh bean sprouts

1 cup Pak Choi,  finely chopped

3 spring onions, the green part only choppe finely

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Stir everything together for about a minute or so or until all the noodles are coated.
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Garnish

A small handful of chopped salted roasted peanuts

2 limes, cut into small wedges

a handful of fresh coriander or Thai basil

Chopped green chillies

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Thai comfort food. Even better the next day served cold, but maybe that’s just a personal preference?!