Archive for October, 2010

Pepper Review – Kampot Pepper Notes

Friday, October 29th, 2010
Kampot Peppercorns - White, Black And Red

Kampot Peppercorns - White, Black And Red

I have been spending some time recently reviewing our pepper range at Steenbergs, including going through the recipes for Steenbergs’ pepper-based blends.  The result is a few tweaks in some of the non-core blends and a few new ones to be added over the next few weeks, as well as the addition over the last year of several interesting and different pepper varieties. 

Selim Pepper

Selim Pepper

So at Steenbergs, we now have pepper from Penja in the Cameroon, Tasmanian Mountain pepper, a wild mountain pepper from Madagascar, all of which add subtle twists to the idea of pepper.  To this, I have just added Selim Pepper or Moor Pepper earlier this week.  The Selim Pepper has a really woody texture so you have to grind it down, then its taste is initially a musty resinous taste that has a smoky tea-like flavour; after a few seconds a bitter chemical warmth (not heat) comes through reminiscent of burnt tyres which lingers in the throat.

This week I have also had some samples of some fine pepper from a NGO in the Kampot region of Cambodia.  The black and red pepper were really fruity and had a milder piperine taste than you normally get.  I reckon that they will be worth adding to range when I can get some stock.  Here are my tasting notes:

Black Pepper: 3 – 4mm, deep brown, wrinkled.  Characteristic musty, resinous warming aroma. Taste: mild, fruity but nice, soft warmth building after 20 seconds which is not overpowering but lingers at back of throat.  No sharpness.  Really good.

White Pepper: 2 – 4mm, off white/tan with shape reminiscent of coriander with base to corn and then striations from base to tip.  No smell of sweaty socks, really clean and well made with almost no aroma.  Taste: hard bite, no fruitiness, immediate intense heat with slight mustiness coming through.  Good but too direct and no particular character.

Red pepper: a real red pepper from Piper nigrum; 5mm, faint redness but browning.  Fruity aroma with a little piperine and a hint of chocolate.  Taste: very special → lots of fruit, followed by mild piperine coming through; warming but not intense.  Glorious, perhaps the best I have tasted.

Kampot Black Peppercorns

Kampot Black Peppercorns

Kampot White Peppercorns

Kampot White Peppercorns

Kampot Red Peppercorns

Kampot Red Peppercorns

A Journey Through Back To True Korma Recipes (Part 1)

Monday, October 25th, 2010

When I made the Chicken Tikka the other day, I also made a Lamb Korma.  The end result was nothing like the British Kormas that I had been used to, so I decided to investigate the concept of the korma further.  The first thing to say is that I liked to alternative korma style that I had stumbled on, and secondly that the British korma has little linkage back to the true korma.

What seems to have happened is a story of early British curries.  When the curry house started appearing in a wave in the 1960s – 1970s, the style of cuisine was rural Bangladesh and these early “Indian chefs” realised soon that their new clientele wanted inter alia a range of curries that included a hot curry, a medium one and a mild one.  These morphed into the Anglo-Indian vindaloo, chicken tikka and korma classics of modern British-style Indian food.  For us Brits, korma now means a mild, creamy meat dish, whereas the true korma originated out of the Islamic courts of the Moghuls and other Muslim rulers of India over the 10th to 16th centuries.  This korma from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh is a rich banquet dish that is showy and uses lots of yoghurt together with expensive flavourings like cardamom, nutmeg, rose water, saffron and nuts like almonds and dried fruits.

My first trial was a variation on a simple korma, called Korma Narendra Shahi, which is slightly sweet and mild, with a pretty rose water flavour which some might not like, but is something I enjoy and is a key flavour of Arabian and Indian banquet-style-food; if the rose flavour is an issue just reduce the levels of rose water you use.  It is based on a recipe from one of my favourite little gems of Indian cooking “Cooking Delights Of The Maharajas” by Digvijaya Singh; this is a collection of recipes collected from the Royal kitchens of India by Mr Singh who really would be the Maharaja of Sailana, hence he was able to collect these recipes and continue his father’s quest to find some of the best recipes from his contemporaries’ households. 

The next korma recipe will be a mash-up between two of the really fine recipes in the same book, mixing up the Persian style Korma Shiraz with a recipe for Korma Asafjahi from the kitchens of the Nizam of Hyderabad in 1905 and will follow in my next blog…

Recipe for Korma Narendra Shahi

500g / 1lb lamb chopped into 2cm / 1 inch sized peices
2tbsp + 2tbsp ghee, sunflower oil or vegetable oil
500g / 1lb onions, half chopped finely and the other half sliced thinly into rounds
115g / 4oz plain yoghurt
¼tsp – 1tsp chilli powder (vary this to taste, but it is meant to be mild)
1tsp cumin seeds (or powder)
3 green cardamom pods, broken open
Pinch of turmeric
1 pinch of salt
A pinch of saffron diluted in warm water
30ml / 2tbsp rose water
1tbsp fresh coriander leaves, chopped
1tsp garam masala

Start by dry frying the cumin seeds, if you are beginning with whole ones. When nicely toasted, crush them in a pestle and mortar.  Make the saffron infusion by placing the saffron filaments in a mug or glass and pour over newly drawn water that has just been boiled and leave to infuse for 30 minutes then strain out the saffron.

Heat the ghee in a frying pan and add the onions and fry gently until translucent.  Add the chilli powder, cumin powder and salt and fry together for 1 minute, then add the yoghurt, stir well and cook for about 10 minutes at a gentle simmer with the lid on.

Korma Sauce With Light Creamy Look

Korma Sauce With Light Creamy Look

While you are frying the onions, start frying the lamb pieces in ghee in a separate frying pan.  Cook these quickly to brown and seal the edges.  When ready, which should be as the korma sauce is finishing its 10 minutes’ initial cook, add the lamb to the sauce, cover and cook at a medium heat for 1½ hours.  Lift these pieces of lamb out of the ghee with a fork or slotted spoon, i.e. leave the fat behind.

When the meat is tender, which should be after about 1½ hours, simmer with the lid off to let the liquid dry up almost completely.  Now add the remaining ingredients (saffron, rose water, coriander leaves and garam masala) and stir until warmed through.

Homemade Korma Narendra Shahi

Homemade Korma Narendra Shahi

Serve straight away, or even better leave a day and eat the next day when the flavours are much more subtle and have infused completely through.

Recipe For Chicken Tikka Masala

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010
Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala

We had to rearrange our weekend as our daughter got chicken pox mid week, which meant her birthday party needed to be rearranged, childcare and cover at work needed to be sorted.  So with no baking to do for the weekend, I felt like making some of the Anglo-Indian curry classics  We start with the quintessential of fusion meals, Chicken Tikka Masala, which has become one of the icons of modern British food.

I like it in part because it tastes good, but also because it really is one of those evil meals that makes use of ingredients that I would never normally touch – Heinz tomato ketchup and Heinz tomato soup.  I know you can make a more authentic Indian sauce without these ingredients, but that misses the point about Chicken Tikka Masala, i.e. that it is tandoori chicken with a lightly spiced tomato-curry sauce using quick-to-hand ingredients; you can feel the panic of the chef who invented it – what do I do to make a tomato curry sauce? Oh I know tomato soup, tomato ketchup, tomato, cream and some spices with a dash of sourness from vinegar and see what happens.

So here is my version, which can be made hotter but this is designed to be child-friendly rather than adult-authentic, so if you want some heat added just add 2 – 4 green chillis to the tikka masala sauce and you should be okay.  Also, you could circumvent all the spices by using a tandoori masala for the chicken-yoghurt marinade and a tikka or Madras curry powder in the tikka sauce.

We also made lamb korma which I will write about soon.

Axel’s Chicken Tikka Masala

Stage 1: To marinade and roast the spiced chicken

1tsp organic paprika
½ tsp cumin seeds, dry roasted then ground in pestle & mortar
½ tsp nutmeg powder
½ tsp coriander powder
¼ tsp yellow mustard powder
1tsp garam masala
4 green cardamom pods, opened so the flavour from the seeds comes out
1 green chilli (medium heat), deseeded and chopped
2tbsp lime juice
3tbsp plain yoghurt
500g / 1lb chicken breast, chopped into 2cm / 1 inch cubes

Spices For Tikka Marinade

Spices For Tikka Marinade

Firstly prepare the spices, dry roasting the cumin and deseeding the green chilli.  Add all these to a metal or glass mixing bowl.  Stir in the lime juice until you have a paste, then add the yoghurt and mix through all the flavours. 

Finally, with the best chicken you can find or are happy buying, chop this into cubes and then add to the spicy marinade and stir through throughly.  Cover with clingfilm and leave in fridge to infuse with the flavours.  I try and leave it overnight but a minimum of 3 hours is fine. 

Chicken Pieces Infusing With Spices In Yoghurt Marinade

Chicken Pieces Infusing With Spices In Yoghurt Marinade

As for chilli, you can increase or decrease those quantities to suit your desire for heat; as we have two children, they are not too enamoured of over hot food so I tend to keep the heat quotient down for them.

On the next day, while you are making the tikka masala sauce, roast these curry flavoured chicken pieces by placing them evenly on a baking tray and cooking in a 180C / 350F oven for 20 – 25 minutes until nicely browned.

Roasted Tikka Chicken Pieces

Roasted Tikka Chicken Pieces

Stage 2: Making the tikka masala sauce

2tbsp ghee or sunflower/vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 large onion (1½ medium onions), chopped finely
½ sweet pepper (red or green), chopped into small dices
1cm / ½ inch fresh ginger, grated
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp medium curry powder
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp coriander powder
¼ tsp chilli powder (or more to taste)
1tbsp white wine vinegar
4tbsp chopped tomatoes from a tin
1tbsp tomato ketchup, ideally Heinz as it should be slightly sweet
175ml  / ¾ cup tomato soup, once again ideally Heinz as the colour and sweetness is right
100ml / ½ cup single cream
½ tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped finely
½ tsp sea salt, or chaat masala

Spice Mix For Tikka Sauce

Spice Mix For Tikka Sauce

Start by preparing the spice mix that is needed for the sauce, i.e. the fresh ginger to coriander powder in the list.  When done, heat the ghee or vegetable oil in a frying pan.  Add the onions and garlic cloves and fry gently for 3 minutes until starting to get translucent, then add the chopped bell pepper and fry for another 2 – 3 minutes.  Add the spice mix to the onion-garlic-pepper and mix throughly and fry for about 1 minute. 

Gently Fry Onions, Garlic And Ginger In Ghee

Gently Fry Onions, Garlic And Ginger In Ghee

Now add all the liquid ingredients to the onion mix and stir completely - that is the white wine vinegar, chopped tinned tomatoes, tomato ketchup, Heinz tomato soup and single cream.

Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 15 minutes.  Then add in the garam masala, fresh coriander leaves and chaat masala/ salt.

Stage 3: Fusion Time – bringing it all together

As a final stage, add the roasted spicy chicken pieces to the tikka sauce.  Stir it together and let cook together for about 15 minutes.

Homemade Chicken Tikka Masala

Homemade Chicken Tikka Masala

Serve with rice and naan bread.

Tasting Exotic Meats From South Africa

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

Earlier this year, we were contacted at Steenbergs Factory by someone asking us whether we had any sausage seasonings.  The answer to which is yes, however they then asked us whether we had anything that would go with kangaroo, which was not what we had been anticipating.  Anyway we sent them samples, but intrigued I investigated who they were and it transpired that Osgrow sold a range of exotic meats, having grown out of being an ostrich meat importer. 

I do not know whether readers remember the days when ostrich was all the rage and we were all being told that its meat was leaner and richer than beef etc, but then there were various financial scandals of the Ponzi scheme style and the industry disappeared into the ether.  Well, Osgrow seems to have started as the industry in the UK become dust and has created a neat little niche for itself.

It has taken some time for me to pluck up the courage to purchase, however we have done that now and received a well packed polystyrene container within 2 days of ordering online.  That is decent service and the meat was vacuumed packed and the container had one of those freezer cubes in it to keep the temperature down.  After much consultation en famille, we had gone for the Safara Grill Hamper for £47.75 (containing  2 x 125g wildebeest steaks,  2 x kudu steaks, 2 x eland steaks, 2 x springbok steaks and 2 x crocodile tournedos), plus 2 ostrich steaks (£6.99) and 2 more springbok steaks (£5.75).  A gripe I would have is that we ordered the extra springbok steaks as they were not stated as being in the Safari Grill, but on the upside we did not get the bison steaks (which I can get locally in Yorkshire) receiving wildebeest instead, so on balance we were satisfied, I suppose.

Kudu Steaks From Osgrow

Kudu Steaks From Osgrow

Frying Springbok Steaks

Frying Springbok Steaks

Tasting Crocodile Meat

Tasting Crocodile Meat

We tried the game over a few weeks in time and our tasting notes are as follows:

Crocodile: white flesh with a texture akin to shark or tuna.  Relatively flavourless and bland with a taste close to shark, a sort of very mild chicken taste with a slight hint of fish, which we guess is because of its water-based lifestyle.

Cooked Crocodile Steak From Osgrow

Cooked Crocodile Steak From Osgrow

Eland: this is a sweet type of venison, but I found it had an unpleasant almost sour-milk-like aftertaste, but Sophie quite liked it and preferred it to the springbok.

Kudu: this is a sweet, meaty type of venison without any overpowering meatiness.  The flesh has a relatively soft easy bite.  This is the family’s favourite with three out of four scoring it top.

Springbok: gamier flavour than the kudu and without any of its sweetness, but without the richness of a British venison.  Soft texture.

So of the venison and crocodile, kudu was the preferred choice.  However, I must admit that it did not taste as good as when I have eaten it in South Africa in the past; I do not know whether that is a case of the ambience and setting not being quite right or whether (as I suspect) that the meat is perhaps not as good as it could be.  I think that the venison from the UK tastes much better and is more authentic.

Finally, we taste tested the wildebeest and the ostrich steaks.  These were once again fried in a small amount of melted butter.  The wildebeest tasted of tough beef steak, which was really disappointing, whereas the ostrich steaks were really good – meaty, flavoursome and velvety in texture.

Overall, I would not buy the exotic game meats again as I did not think they were especially special and would recommend that you buy a British venison from a good producer like the Clutterbucks at Hornby Castle or from Holme Farmed Venison.  I would, however, buy ostrich again as those steaks were really good and would also work well in a casserole.

Perfecting A Carrot Cake Recipe

Thursday, October 14th, 2010
A Slice Of Carrot Cake

A Slice Of Carrot Cake

Jay kept on calling my “gingerbread” “carrot cake” over the last few weeks, so I took the hint and started trying to perfect a carrot cake recipe. 

The first few attempts did not go down with the kids as firstly they contained walnuts (“I always have hated walnuts” was the response, but in our household it is more of a case that if I can see it then I cannot/must not like it) and then I found them a bit too dry.  So walnuts removed and buttermilk added, I have come up with a carrot cake recipe that passes muster – moist and tasty.  You can always add the walnuts back in again should you so wish; I would suggest 115g / 4oz / 1 cup of chopped walnuts.

The kids got to the icing and topped it with a vast amount of sprinkles which they loved eating as much as the cake itself.  Overall, it is not a bad way to claim you have eaten one of your 5 -a-day.

For the cake:

175g / 6oz / ¾ cup unsalted butter
175g / 6oz / ¾ cup light muscovado sugar
3 egg yolks at room temperature and gently whisked
3 egg whites at room temperature
30ml / 2 tbsp sunflower oil or buttermilk 
175g / 6oz / 1½ cups organic self-raising flour
5ml /1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp sea salt, finely ground
¾ tsp organic cinnamon powder
½ tsp organic ground nutmeg
50g / 2oz / ½ cup ground almonds
225g / 8 oz / 1½ cups freshly grated carrot

For the icing:

175g / 6oz / ¾ cup mascarpone cheese, or cream cheese
40g / 1½oz / 3tbsp icing sugar
1tbsp lemon juice
Walnuts or sprinkles to decorate

Set the oven to 160C / 325F.  Line a large loaf tin with baking parchment (dimensions: 12 x 19cm; 4½ x 7½ inches).

Sieve the self-raising flour, salt, cinnamon powder, nutmeg powder and baking powder together into a large mixing bowl.  Separate the egg yolks and whites; mix the egg yolks together gently with a fork or a whisk and set the egg whites aside. 

Cut the butter into small pieces and put into a mixing bowl, then add in the soft brown sugar.  Cream together the butter and soft brown sugar.  Add the egg yolks and the buttermilk or oil and whisk until thoroughly mixed in.

Put Butter And Sugar In Mixing Bowl

Put Butter And Sugar In Mixing Bowl

Cream The Butter And Sugar

Cream The Butter And Sugar

Add the self-raising flour together with the other dry ingredients and the ground almonds; mix it all up with a silicone spatula or hand whisk. 

Whisk the egg whites until stiff, then add this and the grated carrots to the cake batter and fold in fully.

Add The Whipped Egg Whites And Stir In

Add The Whipped Egg Whites And Stir In

Scoop the carrot cake batter into the prepared loaf tin. 

Scoop The Carrot Cake Batter Into The Loaf Tin

Scoop The Carrot Cake Batter Into The Loaf Tin

Put into the centre of the warmed oven and bake for about 70 minutes.  As the hour comes up, start checking the carrot cake by gently pressing the top in the centre to feel whether it feels springy and spongy rather than liquidy; when done a skewer should come out without any dampness on it.

Leave to stand for 10 minutes, then turn out of loaf tin, remove the baking paper and allow to cool on a wire rack. 

Baked Carrot Cake, Cooled And Ready For Icing

Baked Carrot Cake, Cooled And Ready For Icing

When cool, it is time to start preparing the mascarpone ice cream.  To make the cream cheese icing, put all the icing ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix together thoroughly.  Spread this over the top of the carrot cake and decorate with sprinkles or walnuts or other nuts for that matter.

Spread The Mascarpone Icing Over The Carrot Cake

Spread The Mascarpone Icing Over The Carrot Cake

Decorate Your Carrot Cake

Decorate Your Carrot Cake

Enjoy with tea or a coffee, or indulge yourself and enjoy as is and without the excuse of a beverage.

Blending Christmas Tea

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

It is that time of year when customers are after our Christmas tea which is made to my own special recipe. 

Steenbergs Organic Fairtrade Christmas Tea

Steenbergs Organic Fairtrade Christmas Tea

We use a high grown organic Fairtrade from the POABS biodynamic tea estates in Kerala in Southern India as the base.  This is a lovely clean drinking black tea, while at the same time being mild in flavour without any maltiness or meadowy flavours coming through; therefore it is a wonderful base tea.

Whole Fairtrade Spices Ready For Grinding

Whole Fairtrade Spices Ready For Grinding

I take organic Fairtrade cardamom, organic Fairtrade cinnamon quills and organic Fairtrade cloves from the Small Organic Farmers’ Association in the Kandy region of Sri Lanka.  I then get some organic Fairtrade vanilla pods from the warehouse and chop these to about 1 cm in size.  All of these are mixed together and then ground down to a 1 – 2mm chop.  By grinding the whole spices in small batches, I can ensure that the quality of flavours is fresh and strong and that I am happy with their quality.

These are added to the tea together with some organic orange peel granules.

Cracked Spices And Black Tea

Cracked Spices And Black Tea

I mix it all together by hand, transfer it into sacks and leave to infuse with these gorgeous spicy flavours for a couple of weeks before testing and releasing for packing.

Christmas Tea All Mixed Up

Christmas Tea All Mixed Up

No additional flavours are added, no chemicals; it’s just tea and spices, blended by hand in North Yorkshire by me.  The final tea is a gently spiced, homely and warming for these darker evenings.

Recipe For Rich Apple Cake

Friday, October 8th, 2010

The idea for this cake comes from the wonderful cook book “European Peasant Cookery” by Elisabeth Luard; it is her recipe for Apple Cake or Æblekage, which comes from Denmark.  “European Peasant Cookery” is one of those great cookbooks that is packed with recipes that will inspire you and has no pretty pictures to beguile you and get in the way of the cookery.

A Slice Of Rich Apple Cake

A Slice Of Rich Apple Cake

I have changed it quite a lot, switching self rasing flour for plain and increasing the number of eggs used, but the underlying concept remains the same – a rich, moist apple cake.  The result came out as a rich and fulsome apple cake that can be eaten hot or cold, as a cake or a pudding with custard or cream.  It is a delicious balance between the sweetness of the cake with the tart freshness of the cooking apples; it reminds me of Zwetschgendatschi, which is one of my favourite flavour memories buried deep in my soul from holidays spent in Bavaria around the Chiemsee.

Axel’s Apple Cake

500g / 1lb cooking apples, thinly sliced
Juice of 1 lemon
2 pinches of organic Fairtrade mixed spice
1tbsp Fairtrade caster sugar, or flavoured sugar like cinnamon or lemon sugar (if using cinnamon sugar, drop the mixed spice)
225g / 8oz unsalted butter, at room temperature and chopped into cubes
195g / 6¾ oz Fairtrade caster sugar
6 large eggs, at room temperature and whisked gently
1 tsp natural vanilla extract
195g / 6¾ oz organic plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp sea salt
½ tsp organic Fairtrade cinnamon powder
75g / 2½ oz organic ground almonds

Preheat the oven to 160C/325F.  Take a 23cm / 9 inch cake tin and lightly oil the tin, remove any excess oil, then line the base with baking paper.

Windfall Apples From The Garden

Windfall Apples From The Garden

Go pick your apples, peel and core them, then slice thinly.  Place in a bowl and sprinkle the lemon juice over them all, then sprinkle with the caster sugar and a couple of pinches of mixed spice.  Thoroughly mix it up to make sure all slices are nicely coated with sugar and spice.  Leave until later.

Grind the ground almonds in a food processor to make them finer – I know it sounds weird but they are usually just too coarse.  Put to the side for use later in the recipe.

Cream the butter and the sugar together until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs and Steenbergs vanilla extract and whisk up fully.  Sieve together the flour, baking powder, sea salt and cinnamon powder.  Add the flour mix into the cake batter and throughly mix up, then add the ground almonds and mix into the batter.

Sugar And Butter Ready For Mixing

Sugar And Butter Ready For Mixing

Cream The Sugar And Butter

Cream The Sugar And Butter

Mix In The Eggs And Flour Mix

Mix In The Eggs And Flour Mix

Pour half the cake batter into the cake tin, then layer over half the apple slices.  Cover with rest of cake mixture and then layer rest of apple slices over the top of the cake. 

Layer The Apples On The Cake Batter

Layer The Apples On The Cake Batter

Bake in the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  At around 1 hour, sprinkle the top of the cake with 1 tablespoon of sugar and start looking and checking the cake to ensure you catch it just when it is cooked.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool in tin for about 10 minutes then turn out and cool on a wire rack.

Home Made Apple Cake

Home Made Apple Cake

Serve warm with custard or whipped cream, or cold as a cake with double cream or on its own.

Interesting Food Blogs In September 2010 (Part 2)

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

There has always been a place in my soul for some of the Indian Gods as they remind me of my grandmother, who spent many years in India and so her small flat in Munich had this exotic feel as it was full of momentoes of here years and love of India.  For me, Ganesha has perhaps been the most important because of his frivolous nature and exotic, otherworldy elephant head and many arms.  So we have a small statue of Ganesha here in my office at home that my grandmother gave me and at the factory, so I love the colourful photos at Mahanandi showing her Ganesha Pooja for the Vinayaka Chaviti Celebrations and Homemade Ganapati Bappa.  Indira’s Brinjal Sesame Kura looks good and simple, which cannot be beaten as a combination, and we will have a go at it this year in our Diwali meal.

At Orangette, Molly Wizenberg has been blogging about a recipe taught to her in Paris by a lovely sounding French lady by the name of Corentine and sharing this Leeks Vinaigrette which might also work with celery so I may try that as a variant and delicious sounding Red Lentil Soup With Lemon from “In the kitchen with a good appetite” by Melissa Clark.

At Smitten Kitchen, Deb has made a lovely simple, but extremely tasty, Peach Shortbread, which links to her earlier recipe from Thick And Chewy Granola Bars that seem just amazing and a Single Crust Plum And Apple Pie that solves my abundance of fruit problem (bizarrely this recipe came via a Nigel Slater recipe in The Guardian, so it travels from UK to New York and back to the UK – I like that shrinking of the globe that the Internet can do).   The Beef Chili With Sour Cream And Cheddar Biscuits is something for this coming weekend as it sounds spot on (even if wrong to any Texans who might stumble on this blog which I somehow doubt).  I liked the sounds of Skirt Steak With Arugula And Blue Cheese (but I would make you own dressing as I am unsure of the one posted which perhaps could do with some soy sauce and possible some crushed chilli) and Linguine With Tomato-Almond Pesto which sound delicious and so, so much better than the standard quickly made homemade tomato sauce we serve at home.

Ree Drummond at Pioneer Woman Cooks has been industrious like the supermum that she seems to be with recipes nearly every other day.  Ree made these Chocolate Chip Cookie Sweet Rolls that sound supersweet and referenced into her Cinnamon Sweet Rolls (plus additional notes on Cinnamon Rolls).   She shares her version of Meatloaf from her book which is different as it is shaped out of a loaf tin and is wrapped in bacon like a monster sized sausage roll, which might just work; by the way, I love meatloaf and terrines generally and feel they are much underrated, perhaps as they smack of being poor-man’s food rather than posh-nosh and they are great as you can take them to work and eat cold as packed lunch rather than eating a soggy sandwich – bring back the meatloaf should become a new campaign by the celebrity cooks and newspaper columnists.  Finally, there are simple but classic recipes like Burgundy Mushrooms and Roasted Vegetable Minestrone and the homely Sugar Cookies.

And finally, at The Wednesday Chef there is an interesting recipe for Ragu di Pesce and at Wild Yeast Brunkans Langa bread.

Interesting Food Blogs In September 2010 (Part 1)

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

September has been a busy month for food bloggers.  I think that is partly as many have had a holiday in August and recharged their batteries, but also it is harvest time and so there’s a huge amount of culinary stimulation in the fields, gardens, markets and shops.  For me, harvest time is perhaps the most wonderful time of year as the earth’s bounty repays the effort you have put into the soil; perhaps not as light and joyful as spring and as full of promise, but fulsome.

At A Slice Of Cherry Pie run by Julia Parsons, there are a couple of a nice and simple looking recipes – Autumnal Welsh Lamb Steaks With Butter Beans and Baked Figs With Maple Syrup.

At Cannelle et Vanille (how come the photos are just so beautiful – it is just not fair as mine look like an amateur has snapped them however hard I try), Aran has been still enjoying her vacation in here native Basque region in Spain and wrote a beautiful piece about apples and an apple cake, which puts my efforts on apples to shame; I must try Aran’s recipe as I am on a quest for a decent apple cake at the moment.   Also, I love her post about mushroom picking with her father as my mum enjoys her mushroom foraging at this time of year, which earths her back to the soil; I am so pleased that the mushrooms were cooked in a simple risotto dish as good food should be simple and natural and not overfussy.  Finally, the Leek, Butternut Squash and Potato Soup with the Apple and Gruyere Muffins have a delectable, autumnal feel about them, but with the amount of apples I have got at home an apple soup recipe would have been welcomed with open arms.

At Chocolate And Zucchini, there is a really useful post called Tomato Burger Buns, which sounds intriguing as a title.  What interested me the most was the links into an article in the New York Times about the perfect hamburger.  So I feel minded to rekindle my quest for the perfect burger, which can restart now that the nights are drawing in and I have some inspiration for the buns’ component, which was where I had been struggling for a way forward.

At Chubby Hubby, he and his wife flew off to Bangkok to eat at David Thompson’s new restaurant and has shared the recipe for Grilled Pork Neck With A Spicy Sour Sauce, which has that wonderfully Thai feel to it.  This links in nicely to a pre-press viewing at Delicious Days of David Thompson’s up and coming book on Thai street food – David Thompson’s Pork Skewers; they also do not seem too hot so would be great as children’s food.

At CookSister, there is a fabulous round up of braai recipes in celebration of national (South African) barbecue day; I like the sticky pork ribs from Simply Delicious and a Kudu Potjie which is a really traditional South African type of pot cooked casserole and Cooksister’s own Whole Leg Of Lamb Barbecue and later her Lamb Sosaties.  There is a definite autumnal, harvest-like feel to Stuffed Courgettes and inspires me to cook up our marrows from the garden.

David Lebovitz has been busy travelling to Ireland and showing folks around Paris on a chocolate tour.  In amongst it all, he has included some great recipes – a recipe for a brown soda bread inspired by his trip to Ireland and a lovely post about making butter in Cork, as well as a perfect sounding Plum And Rhubarb Crumble cooked by the lovely Rachel Allen, who is one of my favourite cooks.

Helen at Fuss Free Flavours has cooked a healthy and wholesome courgette and red lentil dhal and a Four Seed Tapenade that would be excellent on pasta, plus a Harissa Lentil Salad With Lettuce which (I must declare an interest here) uses my Harissa With Rose Seasoning.  I like the idea of the Polenta Bread that uses this corn meal staple within the bread; with Helen Best-Shaw and David Lebovitz baking bread, I reckon this winter is going to involve experiments with bread making, something which has been hold for a couple of years now.

…continues in part 2 [lots of activity in blogosphere this month]…

Review of Gillette Fatboy Razor From Late 1950s

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010
Gillette Fatboy With Case And Blades

Gillette Fatboy With Case And Blades

I bought a 1950s Gillette Fatboy razor about a month ago, which cost me a relative fortune.  It came swiftly from an Ebay seller in the USA with blessings from god which was mildly spooky.  It was really well presented in an original box with some original Gillette blue steel blades still in the packet; it had been cleaned and disinfected and looked in great condition.

The Gillette Fatboy is a legend with an iconic status amongst many old style shavers like me.  I am now owner of an increasingly silly number of razors, including the Gillette Red and Blue Tips, plus now the Gillette Fatboy.  But would it live up to its awesome reputation?  The quick answer is yes, except for my only minor frustration with the shape of the classic Gillette razorhead.

Gillette Fatboy And Blue Steel Blades

Gillette Fatboy And Blue Steel Blades

The Gillette Fatboy weighs in at a heavy 80g, a full 14g heavier than the Gillette Red Tip.  It is, also, 85mm long, so 1.5cm longer than the Gillette Blue Tip and Red Tip razors.  The razorhead is the same, sleekly engineered butterfly action razorhead as in the Blue and Red Tips but the heavier weight makes for a much better balance and hand feel than these other razors.  The balance is perfectly poised for a great shaving action, bringing the razor to the face with excellent control, whereas the lightness of the Gillette Blue Tip, for example, forces the shaver to be a bit more cavalier with the blade. 

Gillette Fatboy Showing Butterfly Mechanism

Gillette Fatboy Showing Butterfly Mechanism

 The Gillette Fatboy is awesome and commands great respect, and has a sleek and masculine engineering that is more like a Harley Davidson or even a Dodge truck or rather than a fast car like a Porsche.

This advanced razor, also, gives you the ability to change the angle of the blade to suit your shaving action or you can tweak it and so have a tighter shave over the face and then loosen the blade as you go over your neck.  I have used it for a few weeks now and have settled on a setting of about 4, which seems to work all over the face.  The shave is close and precise, without any extra aggression despite the comments of many others.

Adjustable Head On Gillette Fatboy

Adjustable Head On Gillette Fatboy

My only complaint is simple and it is a fault of all the Gillette’s I have tried so far – the head is so big that you cannot get in close around the nose, so I need to use my original Gillette with a Contour blade to sort out the fine detail.  Similarly, the Gillette blue steel blades are period pieces but the blade is too flimsy and can make for an uncomfortable shave, so I prefer my normal Wilkinson Sword blades that have more strength.

Overall, this is a master of the shaving art, a really great piece of kit and worth the expense.