Posts Tagged ‘foodie’

Some Recipe Ideas For Laura Santtini’s Alchemical Larder Ingredients

Friday, February 17th, 2012

I have been asked by several people to give some starting ideas for the various goodies within Laura Santtini’s Alchemical Larder box that we provide to Fortnum & Mason, Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges amongst others.  So while there is a small card insert in the boxes, it does not contain any recipes.  Here are a few ideas and if anyone has there own suggestions please insert them into the comments section below.  It’s a bit of a list, so many apologies for that.

Easy Tasty Magic chicken breasts

Serves 4

4 boneless chicken breasts
2 tbsp olive oil
1tsp East Tasty Magic rubs – any of Carnal Sin, International Jerk or White Mischief

Pre-heat oven to 180oC/ 350oF.

Place the chicken breasts onto a baking dish.   Brush with the olive oil.

Sprinkle over the seasoned salt and thyme and rub into the breasts.

Bake for 30 minutes until juice of chicken is clear when thickest part is cut.

Carnal Sin beef fillet

Serves 4-6

1.25kg beef fillet, rolled and tied
125ml red wine
2 sprigs of fresh thyme, or 1 tsp of dried thyme
1tbsp Carnal Sin rub
2 red onions, cut into 6 wedges
2 heads of garlic, cut across 1 cm from the top
Olive oil
Salt of the Earth and freshly ground black pepper

For the horseradish cream sauce:

6tbsp crème fraîche
2tbsp mascarpone
2tbsp horseradish (fresh or bottled or dried)
1tsp dried rose petals
Pinch of yellow mustard powder

Spread the onion wedges and garlic heads in the bottom of a roasting tin, douse with olive oil and season with Salt of the Earth and ground black pepper.

Remove the leaves from thyme and chop finely, then mix into the Carnal Sin rub and add enough water to make into a paste – around 1tbsp water.  Pat the fillet dry with some kitchen paper and massage all over with the Carnal Sin rub paste.  Place onto the onions and garlic in the roasting pan and leave to infuse the flavours at room temperature for ½ an hour, or in the fridge overnight.

While the beef fillet is marinading, make the cream sauce by mixing all the ingredients together, adjusting the seasoning as you see fit, then bung into the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 200oC/400oF.  If the beef is in the fridge, take out to return to room temperature while the oven is warming up.

Place the beef fillet into the centre of the oven and cook for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, pour over the red wine and return to the oven.  Cook for a further 30 minutes, or longer if you prefer it medium.  Leave to stand in a warm place for 10 minutes before carving and serving.

While the beef is resting, put the roasting tin onto the hob.  Heat the onion mixture, deglazing the pan with some more red wine and season to taste.

Carve into chunky slices of about ½ cm thick and serve with the red wine gravy and the horseradish cream sauce.

Spicy parsnips Dauphinoise

Serves 4

750g large parsnips (about 3), sliced thinly
425ml double cream
250ml vegetable stock
2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
½tsp grains of paradise, coarsely ground
¼tsp white peppercorns, coarsely ground
Freshly grated nutmeg – 2 larger pinches
Sea salt, to taste

Preheat the oven to 200oC/400oF.

Place the sliced parsnips into a steamer.  Steam over boiling water until just tender, which takes 4 – 5 minutes.

Lightly grease or butter an ovenproof dish, then arrange and layer the parsnips in it.

Heat the cream and vegetable stock into a heavy bottomed saucepan.  When warmed, add the garlic and season with spices and sea salt.  Stir and remove from heat just before it boils, as small bubbles start to form on the edge of the sauce.

Pour the sauce onto the parsnips, cover the dish with foil and bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.  Take off the aluminium foil and bake for another 20 minutes.

Season the top with a sprinkling of freshly grated nutmeg.

Smoked paprika potatoes

Serves 6

1kg good potatoes, sliced medium thick
150ml soured cream
300ml vegetable stock
1 medium onion, sliced thinly, then chopped into small pieces
2tsp (level) smoked paprika
30g butter
4 tomatoes, peeled and chopped

Preheat the oven to 200oC/400oF.

Place the sliced potatoes into a steamer.  Steam over boiling water until just tender, which takes about 5 minutes.  Lightly grease or butter an ovenproof dish, then arrange and layer the potatoes in it.

While the potatoes are steaming, melt the butter in a pan and cook the onion until translucent and soft.  Stir in the smoked paprika and cook for a further 2 minutes, then add in the soured cream and season with sea salt.  Add the vegetable stock and stir together and bring to boiling point, and remove from heat

Pour the tomato sauce over the potatoes, cover the dish with foil and bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes.  Take off the aluminium foil and bake for another 20 minutes.

Pink peppercorn poached salmon

For the poaching stock:

250ml rosé wine
125ml water
4 slices of lemon
1 carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
1tsp white peppercorns (whole)
1 blade mace
½ vanilla pod, sliced down centre (optional)

For the wild salmon:

1tbsp sunflower oil
25g finely chopped shallots
4 salmon fillets
¼tsp Salt of the Earth
¼tsp coarsely milled black pepper
100ml double cream
1tbsp pink peppercorns, lightly crushed

Put all the ingredients for the poaching stock in a pot and bring to the boil with the lid on the pot.  When it starts boiling, reduce the heat and leave to simmer gently for 30 minutes with the lid on, so letting all the flavours infuse into the stock.

Pre-heat the oven to 100oC/ 210oF and put a plate or serving dish in the oven to warm up for later.

Lightly oil a heavy bottomed, metal casserole dish and then sprinkle the chopped shallots over the base of the pan.  Place the salmon fillets on top of this and then season with some sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper.  Gently pour in the poaching stock (or rosé wine plus lemon slices) half way up the fillets, reserving any of the excess stock for later.  Put the lid onto the casserole dish and gently poach in the stock for 8 – 10 minutes, depending on the size of the salmon, but try not to overcook.  Lift out the poached salmon and place on a warm plate, cover in foil and keep warm in the pre-heated oven.

Pour the juices into a clean pan through a sieve to remove the bits and add any of the excess stock reserved earlier.  Bring to the boil and reduce the liquid to about 150ml.  Add the cream and simmer until the sauce starts to thicken a little.  Add the crushed pink peppercorns.  Check and adjust the seasoning, if necessary, but do not add black pepper under any circumstances as it will ruin the effect.  Sprinkle over with another pinch of Salt of the Earth.

Serve on warmed plates.  Firstly, arrange the salmon fillets onto the plates, then pour over the sauce.  Serve with new potatoes, fresh green vegetables or salad – perhaps a watercress salad.

Spicy tomatoes

900g ripe tomatoes, peeled and deseeded then chopped
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1tsp organic cumin seeds, dry roasted
1tsp sumach
½tsp paprika
½tsp black pepper, coarsely ground
½tsp Salt of the Earth, or more to taste
2tbsp sunflower oil
1tbsp extra virgin olive oil

In a heavy casserole dish, heat the oil then sauté the garlic until translucent.

Add the tomatoes and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes.

Stir in the black pepper, sumach, cumin seeds and salt and simmer for 5 minutes.

Serve and eat with couscous, or allow to cool and serve with pitta bread or toast as an appetizer.

Homemade Marshmallows

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

It is not very often that I rip out pages from cookery magazines for use at a later date, so it was a surprise when the other day I found some pages I had ripped from a copy of the magazine, Delicious, from some years back.  In it, I had obviously fallen for some beautiful photography of brightly coloured and divine looking marshmallows.

I love marshmallows.  They are one of those things that I know I should dislike but really love – another guilty secret is Haribo sweets, which we used to buy as a treat when we went to Munich to visit relatives back in the 1970s, but which are ubiquitous nowadays.  Many years ago I tried to make my own marshmallows but they came out as a truly gloopy mix – a cross between a sweet and jelly cubes.  So I liked the idea of creating something really fluffy and delicious.

This recipe really does work and the key is getting the fluffy, bubblegum stage in the middle just right.  Interestingly, after a week, they had the texture and flavour of shop-bought marshmallows, which just goes to show how different freshly made is from manufactured foods.

I reckon that you could make deliciously flavoured versions with orange extract or rose water (or better rose oil), or matcha.  The bittersweet of matcha tea against the sugar syrup of the marshmallow would go well, and the colour would be weirdly enticing.

Homemade Marshmallows

Homemade Marshmallows

Recipe for marshmallows

120ml /4¼ fl oz liquid, cool
23g / ¾ oz gelatine
440g /1lb caster sugar
160ml / 5½ fl oz golden syrup
115ml /4 fl oz warm water
Vegetable oil for greasing
Cornflour for dusting

Line a baking tray of rough dimensions that’s 2cm (½ inch) and 30cm by 20cm (12 inch x 8 inch).  You should use clingfilm for this that has been well oiled with the vegetable oil.

Pour the cool liquid into a mixing bowl, ideally the bowl for your mixer.  You can use this stage to get a good flavour into the marshmallows, for example we used citrus and berry smoothies.  You could use matcha tea or spice flavours (see notes later), but if you want to add cocoa powder or coffee or fruit liqueurs or spice extracts, these should be added later.  If you are adding flavours later, just use water at this stage.  Sprinkle over with the powdered gelatine.  Set aside to allow the gelatine to absorb the liquid; it may need a stir to ensure that any dry patches are fully dampened.

Put the caster sugar, golden syrup and warm water into a heavy bottomed pan, then over a medium heat dissolve the sugars to create a syrup.  At this stage, you should stir it gently to help with the creation of a sugar solution, brushing down any sugar crystals on the edge of the pan as these could burn later.

When dissolved, increase the heat and let the sugar syrup start to boil.  Let it boil pretty vigorously, but obviously without going over the top of the pan.  Do not stir, but check the temperature every so often.  When the temperature gets to 130C/266F, take off the heat and let cool for 1 – 2 minutes.  Do not let the temperature rise above 140C/284F, nor use below 130C/266F.

As it is cooling whisk the gelatine-liquid mix in a food mixer using a balloon whisk attachment.  Slowly drizzle the sugar syrup down the side into the mixing bowl; do not pour into the middle directly on to the whisk as this will crystallise out the sugar.  Whisk for some time to allow the mixture to cool down and to expand in size to an opaque bubblegum texture.  You can add flavours like coffee, chocolate, cocoa, fruit liqueurs or vanilla extract at this stage, or maybe rose oil or matcha tea.

Whisk Up Marshmallow Mixture To Bubblegum Texture

Whisk Up Marshmallow Mixture To Bubblegum Texture

Pour Marshmallow Mixture Into Tin Lined With Clingfilm

Pour Marshmallow Mixture Into Tin Lined With Clingfilm

Pour the mixture into the lined baking tray, then smooth over the top with an oiled knife or spatula.  Cover and leave to set for at least 2 hours by which time the top will be firm, but very sticky.

When set, dust a surface with some cornflour and turn the marshmallow on to this surface.  Gently remove the clingfilm, which will be pretty tightly stuck with the marshmallow.  Then with an oiled sharp knife cut into cubes and then dip into cornflour to counteract the stickiness.  Eat and enjoy.

As alternatives, you could use an infusion of mug of matcha tea or perhaps 1 cinnamon quill infused in boiling water for 15 minutes, then allowed to cool.  It is important to let the liquid for the gelatine be cool, so place in fridge to make sure of this.  Then for a colourful outside, you could grind some freeze dried fruits or berries in a coffee grinder, or you could use desiccated coconut.

Give Some Time And Make Some Christmas Sweets

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

In this festive period, we have been asked out to various families for drinks, or the kids out to parties.  And the question always is what to give people in a period of giving.  So yesterday, the kids and I spent a happy day making sweets, much as we have done before.  So there was a kitchen full or sugar, ground almonds and the smell of chocolate.  Our clothes were covered in the light white snow of icing sugar and there was a healthy crunch of caster sugar beneath our feet on the kitchen tiles.

Our Kitchen Table Covered In Homemade Sweets

Our Kitchen Table Covered In Homemade Sweets

But why bother, when you can buy sweets in the shops.  And where they are way cheaper as well – excluding the ingredients, our time would cost each sweet at about 50p, and that’s sweet and not box of sweets.  The answer is in part that they taste much nicer as we use better ingredients like organic Fairtrade sugar, and are much more generous in the luxury components like chocolate and vanilla.  But also, it is the giving of our time.

In an age where everyone claims to be so time poor, giving excuses like I am far too busy to play with my children or cook a meal from scratch or to make sweets or bake, what is more generous than giving over some time to make something for friends and family.  And they taste pretty damn delicious as well.  Think if I were a hedge fund manager or big corporate fat cat, I could perhaps even get the cost per sweet up to £18 or more per chunk of fudge – think how generous my time would be then.

So I say, please give some time and make something for your friends and family and show how generous you can be by releasing some of your precious time to show how much you love and care.

Enough of that and down to the nitty-gritty, we made marzipan kugeln (or marzipan balls dipped in milk chocolate), peppermint creams (shaped as circles and stars and dipped in chocolate), milk chocolate shapes (Merry Christmas tablets, santas and stars), vanilla fudge and chocolate fudge.  There was something about the fudge that made it extra soft and velvety this year and less crystalline and tablet like.  I think it was the patience and extra diligence over the stirring, but it could just have been the recipe, which was tweaked for the ingredients I had to hand.

Homemade Chocolate Fudge

900g / 2lb caster sugar
100g / 3¼oz unsalted butter
1 large tin of evaporated milk (410g/ 14½oz)
¼ of evaporated milk tin of cold water
250g / 9oz milk chocolate

Prepare a tin, by lining the base with some baking parchment.  We use a 2cm (½ inch) deep pan that is 30cm by 20cm (12 inch x 8 inch).

Put the caster sugar, unsalted butter, evaporated milk and cold water into a heavy bottomed pan.  Put the pan over a medium heat and with a wooden spoon stir the mixture until it is fully dissolved.  While the sugar mixture is melting, melt the milk chocolate over a pan of boiling water, then when melted switch off but keep warm by keeping over the pan.

Turn up the heat a tad and let the sugar mixture boil rapidly, stirring consistently all the while.  When the mixture reaches the soft-ball stage (114C/238F), remove from the heat immediately.  I reckon this part takes around 20 minutes, but many books seem to claim it is much quicker.  Now you need to vigorously stir the mixture until it starts to thicken and begins to become rough – this takes 10 to 15 minutes and is quite tiring on the old arms.

Pour the fudge mixture into the baking tray, smooth over with a spatula.  Then using a sharp knife, cut the fudge into whatever sized cubes you want.

Leave to cool for 3 hours, then turn out of the baking tray, break off the fudge pieces, eating a few along the way to ensure the taste and texture are spot on, then put into an airtight container or some pretty gift boxes for pressies.

Homemade Chocolate Fudge In Gift Box

Homemade Chocolate Fudge In Gift Box

Recipe For A Thoroughly Modern Vegetarian Balti

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

Once in a while, I really need to go without meat of any form and I am going through one of those patches at the moment.  So I have tweaked my Chicken Balti Recipe from earlier this year to be more tofu friendly and so usable as a vegetarian dish. At the same time, I have simplified the spices in the recipe to make the whole thing a bit quicker; if you want to mix the spice blend from scratch, I have put the spices as a note to the whole recipe. Now it is something that you can whizz up quickly at the end of the day and keep the whole family happy – for a short while as well.

Vegetarian Tofu Balti

Vegetarian Tofu Balti

Stage 1: the smooth Balti tomato sauce

3tbsp sunflower oil
1 medium onion (125g / 4½oz), roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
2cm fresh ginger, grated finely
2tsp Steenbergs Balti curry powder
150g / 4½oz chopped tomatoes

Firstly, we need to make the base balti sauce. Add the sunflower oil to a heavy bottomed pan and heat to sizzling hot. Add, then stir fry the onion and garlic until translucent which will take about 3 – 4 minutes. Add the fresh ginger and stir once. Add the Steenbergs Balti Curry Powder and stir in, turning for about half a minute, making sure it does not stick to the pan. Finally add the chopped tomatoes and simmer gently for about 5 minutes.

Blitz the sauce either with a hand held blender or take out and pulse in a Magimix until smooth. Set aside until later.

Stage 2: the Balti stir fry

3tbsp sunflower oil
500g / 1lb 2oz Quorn or tofu, cut into 2cm x 2cm cubes
1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped into 1cm x 1cm pieces
150g / 5oz onion, finely chopped
150g / 5oz button mushrooms, chopped in half or quarters
3tsp Steenbergs vegetable curry powder
2tbsp chopped tomatoes
1tsp Steenbergs garam masala
100ml / 3½ fl oz / ½ cup water
Handful chopped fresh coriander leaves

Heat the oven to 100C / 212F. Add half of the sunflower oil to a wok and heat until smoking hot. Stir fry the Quorn or tofu in batches until lightly browned. Put the cooked Quorn and tofu into the warmed oven. When complete, clean the wok.

Add the remainder of the sunflower oil to the wok and heat until hot and smoking. Add the green peppers, chilli and button mushrooms and stir fry for 4 – 5 minutes, stirring constantly, making sure it does not burn and is fried well. Tip in the vegetable curry powder and stir through twice, then add the smooth balti tomato sauce and mix in plus the 2 tablespoons of chopped tomatoes. Heat until simmering, then add the water and reheat to a simmer, mixing all together. Cook on a gentle simmer for 15 minutes.

Add the cooked Quorn or tofu pieces and mix together. Add the garam masala. Cook for a further 10 minutes. About 2 minutes before the end add the chopped fresh coriander and stir through.

Serve hot with naan, plus we like dhal with it.

Spice blends for those doing the spices from scratch:

Spice mix for Balti sauce (1)

½tsp cumin seeds
½tsp coriander seeds
¼tsp fennel seeds
½tsp chilli powder
½tsp Fairtrade turmeric

For these, mix together then either grind iun an electric coffee grinder or break up in mortar and pastle.  Alternatively you could use powders rather than whole seeds.

Spice mix for Balti stir fry (2), instead of vegetable curry powder

½tsp cumin powder
1tsp paprika
¼tsp fenugreek powder
1tsp turmeric
¼tsp cinnamon powder
¼tsp cardamom powder

Recipe For Nurnberger Christmas Cookies – German Lebkuchen

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

Following on from the spekulatius blog, we have been having fun trying to make German lebkuchen cookies.

There really is something Christmassy about the spices used in these Christmas biscuits – it’s that glorious mix of cinnamon, nutmeg and that extra richness from the cloves.  Everything about Christmas smells seems to revolve around cloves whether it is the Christmas cake, lebkuchen cookies or making your pomander.  And cloves are such a tricky spice that can completely overpower many spice blends, but seem to conjur up the right flavour for this festive period.

After a few goes at this recipe, this is where we have gotten to this year, but just like for the spekulaas I need to invest in some festive cookie shapes for next year.  Also, I think it would work well with a light chocolate glaze as an alternative to the icing sugar glaze.

Christmas Cookies

Christmas Lebkuchen Cookies

Lebkuchen Recipe

Working On The Lebkuchen Recipe

Working On The Lebkuchen Recipe

The ingredients bit:

250g / 9oz / 1¾ cups plus 1tbsp organic plain flour
85g / 3oz / ¾ cup ground almonds
2½tsp Steenbergs lebkuchen spice mix*
1tsp baking powder
½tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
175ml / ¾ cup clear honey (or golden syrup)
85g / 3oz softened unsalted butter
½tbsp lemon juice (this is lemon from ½ lemon)
½ lemon, finely grated zest (or combine to 1 lemon zested)
½ orange, finely grated zest
Some flaked or half blanched almonds (optional)

For the icing:

100g / 4oz / 1 cup icing sugar (confectioners’ sugar)
1 egg white, beaten

The recipe part:

Sieve the dry ingredients into a large bowl.

Warm the honey and butter in a pan over a low heat until the butter melts, then pour these into the flour mixture.  Add the lemon juice and lemon & orange zest.  Mix well with a hand held whisk until the dough is throughly combined.  Cover and leave to cool overnight, or for at least 2 hours. to let the flavours meld together and work that festive magic.

Heat oven to 180C/ 350F / Gas Mark 4.

Roll the lebkuchen dough in your hands into around 25 balls, each 3cm wide (1 inch wide), then flatten each one slightly into a disc.  Into the centre of the discs, place an almond flake. 

Divide the lebkuchen mixture between 3 baking trays lined with baking parchment, or ideally with an edible baking paper, with a decent amount of room for them to expand into.

Bake for 13 – 15 mins, or until when touched lightly no imprint remains, then cool on a wire rack.  While still warm, glaze the lebkuchen with the icing glaze, made as below.

Brush The Lebkuchen With Glazing Icing

Brush The Lebkuchen With Glazing Icing

While the cookies are baking, make your glazing icing: mix together the icing sugar and egg white to form a smooth, runny icing.

Brush the top of each biscuit with the glazing icing.  Leave to dry out.  I then glazed the top of the icing to give the lebkuchen a shinier lustre, but this is optional.

For the glaze, I took 100g (½ cup) caster sugar and 50ml (¼ cup) of water, melting these in a pan.  Then, I boiled the mix to 90C/200F, when I added 15g (1 tablespoon) of icing sugar.  This glaze was then bushed over the icing.  Granted that it is extra fussy, but then it is Christmas.

You should ideally, allow these Christmas cookies to mellow.  To do this, you should store the lebkuchen in an airtight container for a day or two to allow the flavours to mellow and the cookies to become softer.  To improve the flavours, you could include a few pieces of sliced orange or lemon, but make sure that they are not touching the lebkuchen as this will make them soggy and change the fruit every day to stop them going stale or mouldy.

* To make your own lebkuchen spice mix: ¼tsp ground cloves, ½tsp allspice powder, ½tsp nutmeg powder, 1¼tsp cinnamon

My Most Well Worn Cookbooks

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

I don’t know whether it is when you really learned how to cook that determines what are your favourite books, or whether some books are just better than others.  However, I noticed recently how I still keep on going back to a few cookery books that I have simply had for ages.  They are really well worn, with the stains of tried and tested dishes on really special and popular recipes.

For me, the classics that I still find irreplaceable are: “Floyd on France“, “Floyd on Britain and Ireland“, Sophie Grigson’s “Meat Course“, a few books by Maddhur Jaffrey’s “Indian Cookery”, and then I use Elisabeth Luard’s “European Peasant Cookery”, Reader’s Digest “Farmhouse Cookery”.  Then for Christmas and other special occasions, I turn to – Claire MacDonald’s “Celebrations” and Delia Smith’sChristmas” for inspiration.

I’ve got stacks of cookery books, but were I to go to a desert island these are the books that I would take with me, plus perhaps some books by Ray Mears, so I would be actually be able to build a shelter, forage for food and practise my survival skills.

What books could you not live without?

Lamb Stew With Rosemary & Lemon

Sunday, November 6th, 2011

I was pottering around the shops the other day and their was some good looking shoulder of lamb.  They called out to me “Cook me, take me”, so I asked the butcher for them and popped them in the basket.  Back at home, I found some lemons that need using up, picked some rosemary from the garden, then set to it. 

The key on this versatile stew is to cook long and slow, which gives time for the collagen and tougher bits on these cuts of lamb to break down, while the fat keeps the meat deliciously moist.  It  tastes even better if you cook it slowly one day, then come back to it the next night, when the flavours really do infuse throughout the meat.  The other thing is the temperature of 160C, since as the lamb gets to this temperature the collagen liquifies into gelatin, giving the meat that “melt-in-the-mouth” tenderness, as well as killing off any bugs that might be in the meat.

Lamb Stew With Rosemary & Lemon

2kg / 4½lb stewing lamb, ideally on the bone – shoulder is good
6tbsp olive oil
Juice of 3 lemons
1 glass of dry white wine
2tbsp fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
2 cinnamon quills
Salt & pepper

Prepare the lamb if it is shoulder by cutting off most of the meat and chopping into 2cm x 2cm (1 inch x 1 inch) cubes.  Keep some of the meat on the bone as this will become easy to cut off after cooking.  Put the meat pieces and bones into a large pot.

Add the olive oil, juice of the lemons and glass of white wine to the meat.

Add the cinnamon quills, chopped rosemary, one or two grinds of black pepper and a pinch of salt.  Give it all a stir around.

Lamb Stew Before Cooking

Lamb Stew Before Cooking

Put the oven on to 160C / 320F.  Put the lid onto the pot, then heat the meat over a gentle heat on the hob, and simmer for 30 minutes.  Open the lid, give the stew a stir, then replace the lid and put into the oven.  Cook for 2 – 3 hours.

Lamb Stew With Lemon And Rosemary

Lamb Stew With Lemon And Rosemary

Either eat straight away or the next day.  Serve with rice (we had saffron rice) and vegetables, then use some freshly baked bread to soak up any of the dripping on your plate.

Gorgeous and so, so very simple.

A Couple Of Simple Recipes Using Steenbergs Peppermint Extract

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Using Steenbergs relaunched organic peppermint extract, I made a few peppermint flavoured sweets the other evening for a Diwali meal that we were treated to by some good friends.  They are really simple and quite delicious; the hostess loved the Peppermint Chocolate Biscuit Cake the most, but none of these sweets was left over by the end.

Peppermint Creams

Peppermint Creams

Plate Of Peppermint Creams

450g / 1lb organic icing sugar, sifted
125ml / ½ cup condensed milk
4-5tsp Steenbergs Organic peppermint extract
200g/ 7oz dark chocolate

Sieve the icing sugar into a mixing bowl, then add the condensed milk.  Mix the condensed milk thoroughly into the icing sugar.  To mix it in use a spoon and your fingers to mix it through.

Then add the Steenbergs Organic Peppermint Extract and work the peppermint flavour thoroughly through the mix.

Roll the peppermint cream mix out on a clean surface until about 4mm thick.  Using a small circular cutter of around 1.5cm in diameter, cut out circles and leave these on a plate or piece of baking parchment.  Leave to dry out for about 1 hour.

Melt the dark chocolate over a pan of boiling water, then dip the peppermint circles into the melted chocolate to half cover the peppermint.  Place onto some baking parchment to let the peppermint creams cool down and harden.

Peppermint Chocolate Biscuit Cake

Peppermint Flavoured Chocolate Biscuit Cake

Peppermint Biscuit Cake

160g / 5½oz butter
4tbsp golden syrup
16 digestive biscuits
200g / 7oz milk chocolate
1tsp Steenbergs Organic peppermint extract

Grease a small baking tray then line the base with some baking parchment.

Break the digestive biscuits into crumbs (easiest to do this in a plastic bag tied at end, then bash with rolling pin).

Put the butter and golden syrup in a heavy bottomed pan and melt together over a low heat.  Add the broken biscuit crumbs to the butter syrup and mix well.  Scoop into baking tray and press into the tray.  Chill in fridge.

Break the milk chocolate into a bowl and gently melt them over a pan of simmering water.  Remove the bowl from the pan carefully (it will be hot).  Allow the melted chocolate to cool for 5 minutes, add the Steenbergs Organic Peppermint Extract and mix into the chocolate and then spread over biscuit base.  Chill in fridge.

Turn out the biscuit cake, then cut into 2cm x 2cm squares.

Blending Breakfast Teas (Part 3)

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

So how to get us started? Well, I decided to start at the end first and to work backwards, so I tried to work out what were the types or styles of tea that we wanted to come out with as products. Basically, we were looking for light, medium and strong teas for drinking in the morning, which would cover China, East Frisian and Irish Breakfast Teas to complement our English Breakfast Tea. The light tea should be drinkable without milk or sugar or brewed stronger and taken with a little milk, while the others would be cuppable with milk and/or sugar. Next, I tried to consider the ways of blending tea and styles of tea that were out in the market. I have drunk a heck of a lot of different teas from tea blenders across Europe and into the USA, plus read old books and magazines that either covered or hinted at how to make tea. Obviously, very little is given away as most tea blends are proprietary and closely guarded secrets, rightly so I might add.

I began with the Light Breakfast Blend which is designed to be drunk without milk or sugar, or just a smidgeon of each if you need to. As a base, I used a sentence I found in “The Girl’s Own Paper” from 1882 on “The Right Way Of Making Tea And Coffee” where it was written “Many grocers mix Moning and Kaisow, and thus furnish an excellent tea.” Taking this as our starter, I blended a number of red and black teas together to create our China Breakfast Tea that harks back to the Regency and Victorian periods. We have Ching Wo tea to provide a red hue and the base flavour, one that is silky, rich, like a lightly oaked wine. This is contrasted to the Keemun varieties for the black-leaf congous that give a richer, fuller and altogether more juicy flavour that in its higher notes has an orchid floweriness. This is a great tea for the morning, giving a gentle ease into your hectic day.

Irish Breakfast Tea

Steenbergs Irish Breakfast Tea

In contrast, the next tea I devised is a more vigorous wake up call. This is Steenbergs’ Irish Breakfast Tea or Strong Breakfast Tea. For this, we have based the tea on a blend of broken Assam teas from a number of different estates, however it is based around a Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe from the fabulous Borengajuli Estate in the Mangaldai district of Assam. This Assam is malty, lightly astringent and full of sweet fruitiness, like a rich strawberry jam, with an herby floweriness from the abundance of tip within the tea. This is second flush Assam at its best. Against this, I have added some Pekoe Fannings for extra colour from another Assam estate and some more flowery tip from Jamguri, a biodynamic estate in the Golaghat district of Assam and part of the Ambootia group, from whom we get our green Darjeeling at the moment. Then to round off the astringency, I have used a couple of teas from Ceylon and Nilgiri that give extra flowery tip and some extra polyphenol power. This tea is an awesome breakfast cuppa that will wake you up.

Then sitting somewhere in the middle, I have made a tea (that I have moulded around samples of Ostfriesen Mischung from various German tea companies, including Dallmayr, Eilles and Thymian Tee) that sits somewhere between the two other breakfast teas. Steenbergs Medium Breakfast Tea is a more flowery and gentler blend of Assam teas that has been topped out with some Ceylon from Lovers’ Leap and Darjeeling second flush teas. The idea here was for a more sophisticated breakfast tea than the typical small leaf breakfast teas, so here we have used mainly Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe teas from estates like Dekorai (named for the Dickori River in Sonitpur district) and Hazelbank (Dibrugarh district), together with Ceylon teas. All in all this is a good fresh start to your day, combining the malty strength of four different Assam teas with the gorgeous complexity of Lovers’ Leap that is reminiscent of Darjeeling teas. Interestingly, the Darjeeling tea we have used uses the same Assam jat tea bushes as are indigenous to Assam rather than the China jat of most Darjeeling Estates, so here we get the muscatel flavours from the high Himalayan flush but with the body of an Assam coming through – this is terroir over genotype. I have named this Steenbergs’ East Frisian Tea in homage of the strong Assam based teas from Northern Germany, although I have made this more subtle by used larger leafed tea and a tiny, teensy amount of Ceylon and Darjeeling to reduce the bitterness that often comes through.

These new teas are designed to complement our classic English Breakfast tea that we have been blending to our own recipe for some years now, and hopefully give our customers a decent choice of flavour types to suit your palates and water. Our English Breakfast tea is more plural, using Assam, Ceylon, Darjeeling and Nilgiri teas, while using a smaller leaf that the East Frisian Tea, so it sits somewhere between Steenbergs Medium Breakfast (East Frisian tea) and Strong Breakfast teas (Irish Breakfast tea). Then Steenbergs’ English Breakfast Tea is organic and Fairtrade as well.

I hope you like something amongst these new tea blends, but as I said in the previous post – anyone who has any hidden little family recipes our classic tea blends that they know , I would love to here about them for curiosities sake.

Blending Breakfast Teas (1)

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

I have been doing some research while trying to create a range of Breakfast Tea blends to complement our very popular English Breakfast Tea.  This has partly been a matter of curiosity as I like, in a slightly anoraky way, reading old books on tea, so have acquired small pamphlets on tea and tea blending from the Victorian period through to the mid 1930s.  What they give is a window into a completely different world, plus it makes me realise how much more interesting people’s palates must have been in olden times.  Also, it raises some historical anachronisms that I have sought to address in my range of retro tea blends.

The first thing is that tea blends contained a complex mix of flavours in everyday teas that mingled the simpler black teas with scented teas like lapsang souchong, jasmine green tea and osmanthus or gardenia oolongs in your everyday teas.  So tea must have been really quite exotic and not the strong malty, astringent black tea flavours that I had always imagined were being drunk.  Prior to then in the Regency times and before, teas were more likely single teas or simple mixes with more green teas and oolongs were being taken; smoky lapsang souchongs were perhaps the most popular teas in olden times, with it being written in the 1894 that “the old fashioned lapseng [sic] souchongs are also shipped from Foo Chow [Fuzhuo today], and the finer grades keep up the old characteristics and give us an idea of the sort of tea prized by our grandfathers; they still find their way into some of the best of the blends going into consumption.”  Lapsang souchong was still popular in the finer blends in the 1930s, but by the post WW2 period these type of blends appear to have fallen out of popularity.  Where general mixes are mentioned earlier, papers from the East India Company in 1730 suggest “if you mix Pekoe and Congo [sic], you shall have an admirable tea; you have all the goodness of the last in the first two waters, and of the first in the last two or three, but even then the water should not stand long.”

Secondly, the anachronism is that I often read something that goes along the lines of “research shows that Keemum was the original English Breakfast tea from the 1800s”, as suggested for example by Harney & Sons in the USA and Wilkinsons of Norwich.  However, in the 1800s, the Keemun region only made green teas and not black tea, so Keemum could not have been the basis for English Breakfast tea.  By 1883, Keemun is being suggested as a “one of the newest tea descriptions of China tea”, by which time Indian teas were already being grown and imported in quantity and forming around 50% of each tea blends.  Further, while we now would choose a Keemun over a Kintuck in the the 19th century and early 20th century, Kintuck was rated more highly than Keemun – tastes change, we all change.  Then by 1894, tea blends were pretty much using only Indian teas.  Prior to the late Victorian period, the core of blends was black teas, or Monings, like Ning Chows and Oonfas mixed together with red teas, Kaisows, like Ching Wos and Tseu Moos.  In fact, a blend of black and red teas still formed the basis for many blends in the 1930s, with Keemuns joining Kintucks as the Moning teas of choice, with Ching Wo  and Panyong teas being the popular Kaisows.  I don’t disagree that the original breakfast teas would probably have been made with China teas as Indian teas only started being produced in sensible quantities during the 1870s, growing from 6,750 tons in 1870 (10% of UK consumption) to 22,000 tons by 1880 (22% of UK consumption), however there was a switch from tea being a posh items to being everyday as pricing came down and perhaps sociologically as tea became a drink of men and women and not just the ladies – a polite way of saying men reduced their intake of booze as livelihoods became more industrial and less agricultural or artisanal.  Notice also that black teas and red teas were actually different categories of teas that have become merged into one by the 21st century – perhaps as we have become less discerning about the subtle differences between the various regional teas within China.

As you can see, there was a mindblowing array of different names given for teas with different names given to China and Indian tea grades.  Also, names change, so originally all black tea was called Bohea, then it became the lowest grade of black tea, before being more correctly attributed nowadays to lightly fermented oolongs.  Even more confusingly, Bohea is an anglicisation of Wu-I, which is a mountainous area of Fukien, from where China oolongs originally came from, i.e those that were lightly and up to 60% fermented.  Finally, teas were often sold as different things to they were and some were adulterated, for example, the leaf of [Canton Scented Capers] was “faced with soapstone, &c” and other books suggested these were “highly faced with gypsum, Prussian blue, magnesia, and other colouring matters.”  So getting down to what people actually blended together is fraught with difficulties.

Blending began in earnest when the Indian and Sri Lankan teas began arriving into the UK.  This was in part for pricing reasons, i.e. trying to make a decent, consistent blend from as cost-effective ingredients as possible, and the fact that the new teas from India especially were much more astringent and strong than the flavours that consumers were used to, so you needed to use Indian teas for bulk and strength and China teas to smooth out the flavour edges and add some character.  Therefore in 1883, it was written “the greater proportions of the English people like in every blend at least half China tea.  The reason is that most Indian teas have a sharp acrid taste, not to be found in the teas of China.  This acrid taste tea-drinkers rarely like, unless it is tempered by the softer milder flavours of some China varieties.”  However, by the 1930s, most tea blends were cheaper mixes with Ceylon, Indian and Indonesian teas making the blends.  In the post war period, especially, African teas took over from Indian teas, however the balance has shifted back towards India with many of the UK household brand names now owned by Indian tea groups, e.g. Tata Tea owns Tetley Tea and Typhoo belongs to Apeejay Surrendra Group.

Actually, I think tea blends and the growth in tea had more to do with class than anything else.  Prior to the late Victorian times, tea was a luxury item and its growth was defined by snobbery and the fact that it was expensive – as taxes on tea increased it only served to drive up sales further.  Blends were expensive and tea was a posh item for the afternoon for those with time to spare.  However, as wealth became less concentrated in the upper classes and so tea became more available with increased supplies arriving from India and Sri Lanka, tea became more of a general household item, hence blenders needed to create cheaper, more consistent brews for sale through the general tea shops set up by Lyons and later multiple grocers such as Sainsbury and Tesco, which had begun by selling tea in 1919.

However, tastes change and people become accustomed to different flavours.  Old tea blends would have been smokier in flavour and lighter in colour and taste than modern blends, as Kintucks and Lapsang Souchong have a strong smokiness, whereas Ching Wo and Keemun are much lighter but still have that hint of smoke; this comes from the process of making Chinese black and red teas which includes a roasting stage.  Then nowadays, we find that some tea blenders of fine teas actually blend in these bitter flavours either by using particular Assam teas as in Ringtons’ 1907 Blend and English Breakfast tea or by adding green teas as in Dallmayr’s and Eilles’ English Breakfast Teas. or Fauchon’s Siva Afternoon Tea dating back to the 1910.  All of these could do with milk and sugar, which perhaps reflects how classic English Breakfast teas were originally drunk, i.e. strong, with milk and sugar, in the early 20th century.  However, at Steenbergs, we like our tea to be smooth and capable of drinking without milk or lemon when brewed lightly or with milk if you want to take it strong, except for the very strong brews like an Irish Breakfast tea.