Category Archives: pickles

#Suffolkdiet – Road kill rolls and Heston vs Delia Desert – Earth Day

We have a little tradition round here, a group of friends take it in turns to host a supper when it is one of the group’s big ‘O’ birthday.  This was my chance; ever one to set myself a challenge, I decided to try to source all the ingredients from Suffolk.  This is how the meal went, there is a Spotify playlist to go with the post; it was Earth Day too, so celebrating all good things around us seemed particularly appropriate.

The opening gambit from two of the friends when they arrived was, ‘so are we going to have road kill?’ – Little did they know.

Being fabulous people the first thing they asked was, “is there anything we can do?” – I explained that the one product I couldn’t buy locally was Suffolk butter. I poured some cream into a jam jar and asked them to shake it whilst they talked.  Passing the jar from one to another; we could eat once when we had produced butter.

Starters: Platters –  Salami and Ham from Lane Farm Brundish, Smoked Trout, Mackerel, and Salmon from Pinney’s of Orford, Green Peppercorn Dressing from Suffolk Mud, Mayonnaise from Stokes; mixed leaves from my greenhouse and Road Kill rolls made with white strong flour from Maple Farm, Kelsale.

The Lane Farm meats are dry and not overly fatty so really tasty to eat, especially with something a little spicy like a mustard or the peppercorn dressing.  The Pinney’s smoked fish is delicious.  The fish is soft and delicately smoked, not overly flavoured.  The Road Kill rolls were bread rolls shaped like flattened hedgehogs.  Kelsale flour is not bleached, so even their white flour comes up as a brownish roll, perfect for hedgehogs.  The flour has a gloriously silky feel when you work with it.  I was caught out though by using too much water in the initial mix, so much kneading on a well and frequently floured board was required to bring it back to a good consistency.  I proved the dough over night and did a secondary shaping and proving in the morning.

Another time I would make the rolls smaller, they did look rather intimidating.

Amuse-bouche:  Weed shot.  I made a soup using, Jack-by-the-hedge, cleavers (aka sticky willy), nettles, chick weed, sorrel and land cress from the garden and the lane.  I served the soup by giving everyone a shot glass and pouring the soup chilled from a White’s pear juice bottle.  Variously described as disgusting, smelling like drains and quite nice; I think it is possibly an acquired taste.  I’ll drink the rest for lunch, I guess it will have cleaned the palate if nothing else.

Venus and the Hunter’s return: The main course was a variation on coq-au-vin.  Made with chicken breast, Shawsgate Venus, onions, carrots, potatoes, a good bundle of fresh herbs as a bouquet garni and some chopped pickled walnuts (walnuts from one of the friend’s garden) stirred into the sauce.  I was trying to keep this course low fat, so didn’t thicken it with a roux and used skinless breasts, the little oil I used to soften the onions was local rape seed oil from Hillfarm.  With hindsight this may have been a mistake, the chicken came up rather dry and I wish the potatoes had a bit of a crispy edge to them.  Another time I think I would use a deep casserole, slice the potatoes and do as a layered topping.  The chicken, potatoes and carrots are all from local suppliers and bought at auction at Abbots at Campsea Ashe.  As there were already some veg in the casserole I just served it with a huge deep dish of Birds Eye peas.  Now I can’t guarantee these were from Suffolk but there is a fair to middling chance they were; but equally that they may be the last ones we see.  I have previously written about the pea harvest in this area; what I didn’t know at the time was that just before this year’s crop should have been planted, Birdseye would pull the plug and not renew the contract. Some of the farmers will have planted beans or other replacement crops, but various contractors have been laid off and had to find new work, all at very short notice.

Cheese: I served, Suffolk Gold, Suffolk Blue from Suffolk Farmhouse Cheeses, Creeting St Mary, and Shipcord, Hawkston from Rodwell Farm in Baylham near Ipswich.  Trying to avoid biscuits, I served them with spiced pickled pears that I made last year and some spiced peaches from Laxfield that I won in a WI draw.

At this point a friend that I knew was going to be late arrived.  It was agreed that she should try the weed shot before being allowed to proceed, she correctly identified nettles as an ingredient.

Heston vs Delia Desert: I am not a great lover of puddings and often pass on them preferring to tuck into cheese instead; so deserts with me are always a bit of a risk.  I gave each person a small plastic tub and a pipette.  The idea was to build your own desert taking as many (Heston) or few risks (Delia) as you like from the following list.

  • Baby meringues, eggs from garden, Aspall Balsamic Vinegar and Billington’s Sugar, at the time couldn’t find British Sugar.
  • Marybelle Creme Fraiche, Yoghurt
  • Coffee Granita made with Paddy and Scotts, Great with Friends Coffee
  • Tea Granita made with Sencha Wild Grey tea from Butterworth and Son
  • Beetroot Jelly made with ‘Beet it’ from Whites
  • Coulis – Wild Blackberry and Raspberry from Whites
  • Chocolate from Hadleigh Maid
  • Walnut Liquor made with green walnuts from friend’s garden (which is what the pipette was for)

Throughout the meal the drinks on offer were Shawsgate Baccus 2004 and a selection of juices from Whites.

The meal was finished off with a gorgeous cake that one of the friends had made, fizz from another friend and there should have been tea and coffee but I think by then I had forgotten that bit – oops.

I am hugely grateful to Eat Anglia, who when I was having problems getting the Kelsale flour called and asked them to deliver some for me especially, that’s service.

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Spiced Pickled Pears, or what to do with those fiddly little pears that are hard and never ripen

After my latest tweeted cooking session I had lots of requests for the recipe, so here it is. Basically the recipe is a slight adaptation of the one in Pam Corbin’s excellent book Preserves in the River Cottage handbook series – this is a fabulous collection of books and handily fit into a Christmas stocking [hint, hint]. In our garden we planted two espalier pear trees to divide the garden. They both produce pretty flowers but one produces zero fruit, the other produces small, hard pears that never ripen. I have used them when cooking pheasant and then when they all blew off the trees in the gales I decided it was time to do some pickling. So my adapted version goes:

300ml of Sarson’s pickling vinegar

150ml Aspall cyder vinegar

600g Billingtons caster sugar

About half a bottle of sushi ginger

1 hefty pinch of chilli flakes

A cinnamon stick

Handful of juniper berries

3 bay leaves

1.5kg small, hard, fiddly little pears

First put everything apart from the pears into a big pan and bring to a gentle heat that allows the sugar to dissolve and the flavours to infuse. Whilst that is happening peel, core and quarter the pears then pop them into the pan. Bring the pan back up to heat and then keep at just below simmering point, leave as long as it takes for the pears to become tender but definitely not mushy, you want them to keep their shape. Once they are cooked transfer to pre sterilised jars. Bring the liquid up to the boil and reduce down slightly ie about 5 minutes boiling; it should have a slightly syrupy quality. Then simply pour the liquid over the pears and seal. Ideally they should be kept for a month or so before eating with cheeses or meats.

What to do with Green Plums?


There was the phone call; ‘a branch of our plum tree has come down can you use green plums?’ Then a bit of research on t’internet which led to some interesting sites covering India, Persia and Japan in their influences:

First and most amusing was http://www.ifood.tv/recipe/pickles_from_green_plums two recipes using green plums to make mango/lime chutney like pickles.

The first hot and sour the second sweet and sour. I have tried to interpret the recipes. I may have some problems; the hot and sour one keeps developing a surface mould. The sweet one; once the sugar was added, became very liquid and appears to be ‘working’, creating slight fizzing activity. I suspect both would have been enhanced by Indian sunshine rather than English humidity. I’ll let you know if a) I am poisoned b) they explode c) I recommend repeating the process.

Second was http://persiankitchen.wordpress.com/2009/05/22/khoresht-gojeh-sabz-unripe-plums-stew/ – wow the result was SOUR. I can see how it might work,

certainly add sugar or honey but overall perhaps our English plums were just too unripe or bitter.

Third, http://www.deliciouscoma.com/archives/2009/05/diy_umeshu_plum_wine.html well; I’ll have
to wait and see the liquid is currently off brown,

but clear and I did put in plenty of sugar, so give it a few more weeks and it might be worth a try.

Post script added 20th September 2009 – Just tasted the Umeshu and decanted it into a bottle.  It is now clear, the colour of weak tea and tastes fantastic!

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