Category Archives: Suffolk Diet
I was lucky enough to be part of a large party at The Table in Woodbridge recently. This was no accident, we were there for the chef! Lovely Mino Mazzotta had travelled from the Salento, the southern part of the heel of Italy to be guest chef for the weekend. On the Sunday the offering was a rolling buffet of wonderful Puglian flavours. Mino had created a wide range of fresh cold, hot, fish, meat and vegetarian dishes that are typical to his home area; from stuffed squid to gridded aubergines, salamis, octopus, beautiful meatballs – actually too many different dishes to list from memory. The meal was great value and you could (and we did) go up to the buffet as many times as you liked.
I had not been to the Table in its latest incarnation but was really pleased that we had one long table for our large party, which gave the feel of a big Italian friends and family gathering. The staff were really charming and we all enjoyed a long leisurely lunch followed by tiramisu, fruit salads and ice-creams; we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The food was always going to be great, having tried Mino’s cooking before in the warmth of Italy, the only question was going to be if it transferred successfully to Suffolk – of course it did! There was a successful draw to raise money for Mino and his wife Val’s interests in supporting stray and injured dogs in their home area. Take a look at the Puglia Pooches pages for more information.
Thank you to The Table for hosting and I really hope Mino will be back to Suffolk again in the spring; if he isn’t I’ll just have to wait until I’m back in Puglia again for those luscious fresh, flavours.
Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival went really well this year. I had a great time taking people out on forays to look at some of the potentially edible plants and to talk a little about their folk-lore. It was also fun to take part in the pickled egg competition and the bread competition even if my extraordinary entries didn’t win any prizes – still as the school motto said, to strive is to accomplish – I’ll keep on striving!
I have managed to track down a couple of other people’s blogs and I have to say its the first time anyone has attempted to create a painting as a result of one of my forays, huge thanks to Mary Woodin, click on her name to see more of her amazing work. Another great blog was written by Lucy of the East Anglian foodies Eat Anglia. If you came out on one of the forays, thank you.
As always I was bowled over by the range of food and drink of superb quality on offer and particularly thrilled to see Jonny and Dulcie from Fen Farm dairy make their first appearance with their Baron Bigod cheese, it is their raw milk I use for my efforts at cheese making in my Sciapod Dairy project. Also it was good to meet many of the producers who I have heard on the Foodie Fix show on Radio Castle. Of course it was great to see so many old friends too and sampling great products such as the latest from Pump Street Bakery, their bean to bar chocolate; I’m hooked on Madagascar 72%. – talking of Pump Street, did you know Cedric is now hanging out at Garnett’s Gardens on a Sunday? Two specific highlights will stay in the memory though; one was the amazing drumming by school children as part of the thought provoking conference on the Friday and second is the pigeon plucking with singing on the very last moments of the final day. Well done to everyone involved in the whole event, it is a massive amount of effort, but well worth it.
Still needing more foodie moments? There are still a few fringe events to run and of course next weekend is Framlingham Sausage Festival!
The weather has been amazing in the UK; for Easter Bank Holidays it is unparalleled, not surprising then that I haven’t written anything here for ages. There seem to be pairs of things queuing up; please skip to the bits that interest you most. In the following order we have:
2 Apps; the 360Panorama and the Moleskine
2 Cakes; a giant Jaffa cake and a sweet, tart, redcurrant tart
2 Fungi; A Dryad’s Saddle Paper experiment and St George’s Mushroom
2 Foragy bits; Sea Purslane and an experiment with cleavers and milk in an attempt to make cheese
2 Fabulous cycle rides, mapped from Framlingham, one following the Alde and one Green Bagging in Bow and Arrow Country
2 Local Food Discussions; why does Suffolk have a strong local food culture and a new local food festival?
2 Swims – How is my training going? – first sea swim of the season
Two Apps – 360Panorama and Moleskine
I have recently downloaded two apps for the iPhone that I am enjoying immensely. The first I heard about from @ssilvestori who showed pictures of Lecce using it. Fantastic images; Silvestro is currently cycling around Puglia to generate interest in the small towns of the region. His website is worth a gander, he offers food and wine courses and much more besides. The 360Panorama app allows you to take 360 degree images that can be shown flat, like the one below, or if you have an iPhone, the images can be uploaded and viewed as interactive 360 images.
The second app that I am enjoying is a digital version of the Moleskine note book. I think it is going to be great fun for gardening and foraging notes, especially as it allows you to geotag pictures. Now if it could just capture sounds and smells, and if I could draw a little better….. However I am quite pleased with my cover and a simple gardening note.
Two Cakes – Giant Jaffa Cake and Sweet, Tart, Redcurrant Tart
This being Easter cake baking seems essential. I have been quite pleased with two cakes this holiday so I am recording them here so I don’t lose the recipes. The first is a giant Jaffa Cake. Based on a Guardian recipe designed by Ottolenghi and supplied by the lovely @downatheel, it is a rich almondy, moist cake. I adapted it by adding a jelly layer. Using 300ml of fresh Clementine juice and gelatine at 1.5 times the normal ratio. I set the jelly in a soup plate before scooping it onto the cake. I allowed the chocolate coating to cool as much as I dared before covering.
The second cake is described as a tart but is somewhere between a cheesecake, meringue and a desert sponge. It is sweet-sour and just plain lush. I used frozen currants which worked well but makes the meringue very tricky to apply as it part freezes as you mix them in. The whole cake is gloriously messy to make, but well worth the effort. The recipe can be found on Catalina Bakes.
Two Fungi – Dryad’s Saddle and St George’s Mushroom
Spring is a joyous time for mushrooming, mostly because the spring ones are a bit easier to identify. A friend brought me a Dryad’s saddle. Not many commentators declare this to be edible, but it is supposed to be able to be used to make paper. I cooked it for hours, smushed it, strained it and ended up with some thing crispy stuff – nothing to write home about or on…. but it had an interesting transulcence so it might be useful added to other materials.
Much more exciting was the early appearance of the St George’s mushroom. One thing I have learnt is the earlier it arrives the less likelihood of worm damage. This year there were far fewer, so I only picked two, but they were in tip-top condition. For the record, this year’s photograph April 18th whereas last year they didn’t appear until May 8th – what a difference a year makes. This year I sliced them and placed them with trout and Jack by the hedge, wrapped in foil and cooked on the barbecue.
Two Foragy bits – Sea Purslane and using cleavers to make cheese
Spring is a great time for foraging on salads, two of my favourites at the coast are samphire and sea purslane. The samphire was not much in evidence this week but there were some lovely snacks of crisp, salty, purslane to be had.
Another favourite of mine is cleavers, a fresh pea-pod taste that makes weeding a pleasure. I had read that it was used in the past as a rennet for cheese making. I found a recipe for feta cheese and bought some goats milk. I heated the milk, added the yogurt and then decided to squeeze a massive handful of cleavers into the milk mixture. I left it and left it for days at room temperature. After two days I had remarkably fresh smelling yoghurt, no goaty smell, no cheese though. I think that cleavers other title of ‘milk sweet’ might be interesting to explore further.
Two fabulous cycle rides – Orford/Iken/Alde and ‘Green Bagging’
This spectacular weather has been a great excuse for some serious cycling. Regular readers will know I am hoping to take part in the Dunwich Dynamo so I am steadily increasing my distances. I don’t seem to be able to increase my average speeds though so I think I will be on the bike for in excess of 10 hours. Several chums have asked me how I manage, especially now I have a bike with a more racing style seat. The seat is quite comfortable, I am naturally ‘well upholstered’ and I have recently invested in silicone knickers, with thick padding they are supposed to be good for up to three hours – so do I need to wear four pairs?
Two great rides though. I have remapped these from Framlingham for you, parking in Framlingham is good at the Elms car park. Both rides are mostly on very low traffic routes. The first takes you to Orford, where there are plenty of pubs and the wonderful Pump Street Bakery, I also include a slight side track to High House Fruit Farm where they have fresh apple juice and Asparagus. Points to watch out for on this route too Adders! on the Iken lanes, basking on the tarmac. It is worth stopping and strolling down to the river for a spot of foraging (see above), you may also see Alpacas between Blaxhall and Farnham. Click on the image below to go to the full map at MapMyRide.
The second ride was my Suffolk version of Munroe bagging. I recently downloaded an app called Hill Lists, needless to say Suffolk doesn’t feature. However, if someone would like to create the antidote I think it could be used for bagging greens, bottoms or castles all of which abound round here. In this ride I count nine Greens, it goes over two commons, the one at Wingfield complete with tethered cattle. It is worth checking the Wingfield website before you leave, if you have time to stop they have magnificent arts exhibitions and can offer tea and coffee. There are plenty of pub stop-offs, if your timings suit; The De la Pole at Wingfield, the Low House at Laxfield (actually named the Kings Head, but called the Low House) and the Queen at Dennington (actually named the Queens Head but known as Dennington Queen) all have solid reputations for food and ale. If you just want quick supermarket fayre there is a shop in Laxfield and Framlingham has a full range of shops, coffee houses, pubs and a cycle repair shop. This journey is largely traffic free and you will find miles of Bow and Arrow country – remember too the #bowandarrowtweetup if you are interested in joining a few of us for drinks or to watch The Social Network on 25th May 2011 at Wingfield Barns. As before click on the map below to go to the MapMyRide site.
Two Food Discussions – Why does Suffolk have a strong local food culture and a new local food festival?
One of the features of Twitter is that it is not a forum or a place for lengthy discussions; until one breaks out. A few comments and before long a group of us were involved in a discussion about why Suffolk and Norfolk have a strong local food culture, as opposed to other areas which seem to feel a bit adrift. You can read and add to the full conversation synopsis here. It ranges from great products and producers, through sympathetic media and a relative absence of the ‘big stores’, but covers much more besides.
Pride in local food is important in so many ways. There has been a food, craft and music festival at Framlingham College over the last three days. The pre-publicity did not give many clues about who the exhibitors and demonstrators would be and I knew that a couple of local food related people were not involved so I wondered what the outcome would be. Framlingham has a bit of a reputation for events being called off due to appalling weather, with the Gala rained off, fireworks not even making it to the stage of damp squibs etc. However, the setting could not have looked better in glorious sunshine, looking at the castle across from the college green was a rural scene befitting of Midsommer Murders. There were a few local food suppliers, notably the Chilli Company, Jimmy’s Farm, Suffolk Cup Cakes and local chef Emma Crowhurst was providing demonstrations. There were also suppliers from further afield so it had the air of the food stalls at a county show. It will be interesting to see if the event is run again and grows to include more local suppliers, they certainly had the best possible of weathers and things looked reasonably busy, with plenty of cars in the car parks and people wandering the grounds and at the demonstration. I bought chilli sauces, curry sauces, sausages and enjoyed Emma’s demonstration, not least because real time demos are so much better than edited TV for things like sugar work.
Two Swims – How’s my training going?
I think I’m on track for the Grethathalon two swims; one the Great East Open Water Mile and the other a dip at Dunwich Beach preceded by the 120 mile overnight Dunwich Dynamo bike ride. I am gradually increasing my miles on the bike. I have been doing more reading around the subject and beginning to understand why the training plans also focus on shorter, faster rides. I hope this will make me try and ride faster, to build up the relevant muscles, mitochondria etc to improve my overall performance. It has to be said I am a bit sedentary at the moment.
Yesterday I did my first sea swim of the season, at Dunwich Beach; no way was I going to attempt crawl or put my face in the water though, so back to the old chestnut of controlling the drowning reflex.
If you would like to make a donation, I am supporting Diabetes UK this year. My Just Giving page is here.
It’s been a while since I blogged – so some catching up to do. Let’s start with a playlist for those with Spotify – Click Here
- The Fantastic Truffle Pig Pop-Up in Brandeston
- How do I give feed back when asked – “is everything OK for you” and whilst OK it’s not great
- Why detox anyway?
The Truffle Pig Pop-Up
Way before Christmas, the delightful @suzannewilliams started mentioning the idea of a Pop-Up restaurant to be held at Brandeston Queen’s Head for one weekend only. I liked the idea; but from mid-January to mid-February I like to detox. For me that means no meat, wheat, dairy, fish, tea, coffee or alcohol. Now Suzanne’s other half is a great cook, I know because he has influenced the food at Brandeston Queen for some time now in his role as consultant, so I was rather sad to think I might forego the pleasure. However, quick as a very fast cheffy knife, they came back with ‘so? We’ll take you on, tell us what to avoid,’ thus a cunning plan was born.
A group of tweeting friends and other halves, six of us in all including @adrianmelrose, @fiswaff and @spudballoo decided to book. In the meantime Adrian experienced an epiphany (if that’s not too strong a word for it) and decided to become a vegan too, having read Eat to Live. Did Truffle Pig rise to the challenge? – You bet they did.
The aim with Truffle Pig was for Suzanne and David to run the show in their way, putting their stamp on everything from the food, suppliers to service and publicity. This is importantly different from acting as a consultant where you are influencing, advising and supporting others to develop their ideas. What a sign of a truly professional relationship though that the host location for this Pop-Up was Brandeston Queen’s Head who are current consultancy clients.
From the moment we walked through the door, coats were taken by attentive staff and we were directed to our table. The meat eaters had menus to select from but the detox two had each course introduced with due ceremony. To start was cucumber jelly with apple sauce and salad, delicate, colourful little roundels of jelly perfectly set and light on the palate. The main course included golden beetroot in a vegan consommé, rosti potato, with pak choi and tight spinach bundles. Desert was a trio of red fruit delicacies. For meat eaters there were such spectacular delights as pig’s head starter, pig’s trotters or blade steak for main course these of course were anything but ordinary. Every course created with the accent on flavour and beauty.
This was an evening to savour a long, leisurely meal with some absolute wow factors built-in. As if to prove that I’m not a food blogger, I failed to photograph anything as I went along; so many thanks to Suzanne for the photographs.
The extra good news is they are about to Pop-Up again. Follow @trufflepigpopup and register at their website to receive more information.
So half way through the detox and I was being treated like a queen – all good. Then came the end – time for a blow out meal but…
How do I give feed back when asked – “is everything OK for you” and whilst OK its not great
At the end of detox month, time for a meal out. I shan’t name the place (but if you think it’s you, ask). I have always said I’ll post the positives here and if there are negatives I’ll give feedback direct. First meat in a month, first wine etc, etc. I don’t think it was my palate being askew, if anything it should have been heightened and relishing good food. So how do I, or should I even, give feedback when food is OK, as in nothing to complain about (which I would do) but just uninspiring; the location hollow and empty and the whole experience leaving a feeling of – well we’ve tried it and now we know not to go back again? “Fine”. I would genuinely welcome your views. Since that meal another impromptu lunch date was totally unspectacular too – I swear, what gave the appearance of freezer sausages in freezer stew-pack veg with some watery stock does not constitute a sausage casserole in my book – “interesting”.
However I refuse to end on a down note – today I went to Marlesford Farm Cafe, squashed goat pie, mash and mushy peas – simple, fabulous in a deservedly busy, carefree atmosphere. p.s. no goats were squashed in the making of the pie, it is goat cheese and squash. When asked I was happy to say -“it was great thanks!”
Why detox anyway?
I promised Niamh a fuller response to her tweet to me (above). My version of detox might be more appropriately called a month’s rest. It is not intended to be a whole life change, but just to get me back on track after the Christmas excess, before you ask, I know I should just be less excessive over Christmas. It also is linked to dropping a few pounds in weight and getting out and active once again, fit and ready for the spring. It works for me. Basically I just eat super healthily for a month and then slide back into eating other stuff gently with the aim of being better with my self control thereafter. I am not trying to remove weird and wonderful substances from my body in weirder and wonder-fuller ways. I am more than happy to post Ben’s YouTube clip below, I don’t disagree with what he says, there is far too much hype about products etc., not sure that this clip is any more scientific than some of the things it is commenting on though. Many cultures, for many years, have had some period of abstinence, often fitting with religious festivals or timing that neatly fits with seasonal shortages or periods when eating certain foods might be more dangerous due to climate. None of this is new, a period of rest, a little pause, regroup and then off we go again.
One final comment:
RIP Broadhouse Hotel. Catering and hospitality is a difficult world. The Broadhouse Hotel recently announced its closure. It was a great place to stay. Sadly staff, customers, investors and suppliers will all have been impacted – it is such a pity, I can’t begin to understand the economics of it all, I hope others can and good will come of it in the long run.
Hello, excuse me whilst I walk over your sleeping bodies on the floor. I’ll be round with bacon butties later.
This is the second day of Christmas, my beloved has sent turtle doves and if you scrutinised your invitation you will realise that is the train of thought I am following today. Here I am picking through the leftovers from yesterday wondering what unusual food combinations I could come up with. I have some once cooked giblets and a little Christmas pudding so perhaps a mock turtle soup. If you have a strong stomach you might like to read the wikipaedia article on mock turtle soup – I wonder why it fell out of fashion?
On the topic of unusual food, whilst out to coffee with @josordoni and @flyingchef1 I bought some Sea Salt Chocolate from Pump Street Bakery @pumstreetbakery– that was gorgeous, made by Rococo Chocolates and sadly I did not treat it with the respect the price tag demanded, it went very quickly. Whilst in Orford I also bought a smoked ham hock from Richardson’s smoke house and made Nigel Slater’s Elephant Stew. The stew is not made with elephants but ham hocks; so perhaps it is really mock elephant stew. My friend @goodshoeday quite rightly pointed out who wants food that reminds you of eating ellies anyway. The final thought on the stew was that it was ‘all-right’, but in conversation with @theflyingchef1 we are agreed it needs a little something. I would a) partially precook the hock in a pressure cooker then b) add some Aspall Premier, the potatoes, carrots etc and maybe some veg that would thicken the sauce more like aubergine or FlyingChefs thoughts were butternut squash and c) would cook the last stage in an oven casserole so it dries out a little more. The question is with all those changes would it still be elephant stew or would it be mock-mock elephant stew.
Do you have a classic ‘mock’ recipe – one that really works that you could share?
And as a second comment (so I don’t inadvertently publish your answer) The Russian Roulette question for today; before I ask it you might like to warm up with this game……
Q2 What is the expected lifespan of a turtle-dove?
If you are feeling cruel you might like to make these ‘truffles’
And finally I leave you with Franz Ferdinand
I feel like I’ve held out on you. I’ve eaten out at the Queen’s Head, Brandeston and not posted anything. Mostly because I’ve been in great company, enjoying the conversations so much and because the food was so good I’ve been eating it not photographing much of it. Just as well I’m not a professional food blogger.
Now, I have a big secret to share. Brandeston Queen’s Head is about to host a ‘pop-up’ restaurant, for two days only at the end of January. David Williams @stillcooking has been working as a consultant for Alan Randal @queensheadbrand at Brandeston Queen’s Head. Knowing that David and his wife Susanne @susannewilliams are looking for their own restaurant eventually the idea of the ‘pop-up’ was born. This will be run to their ideas, food and service ethos. The team have worked hard over the last few months developing ideas for the Brandeston Queen’s head and if this new venture follows on the high standards they have set so far things should be very good indeed. For more information see their website here.
Orford is rapidly becoming a mini food capital of the East of Suffolk. It has provenance with Pinney’s smokehouse and Oysterage and a wide choice of pubs that have done good business for years. The Saturday market does a roaring trade and there is an award wining butchers. The village shop has had new life breathed into it too. The latest addition is Pump Street Bakery, which has just officially opened. I whizzed in at 10.15 this morning and they were already practically sold out of pastries – the pain au raisin, with my coffee was spectacular though. The café element is one long table where you sit together with the other customers, a log fire blazing and enjoy the company. Say hello to Jo (aka @pumpstbakery on Twitter and @PatOrford), if you read the journal on their website you will realise just how hard they have worked to turn a building that had been unoccupied for years into a business.
As I wandered around Orford I was struck by the architecture and the impact of competition in what is an intriguing little village. The bakery is one of the few Suffolk Pink plastered buildings, the predominant material here is brick. Houses range from the commanding to petite cottages, hunkering down to avoid the weather. This is a place of contracts, spitting distance from the sea, yet miles from it; protected by the Ness. This means a long river trip for anyone wishing to get out to open water by boat or in the season a ferry over to the Ness and a walk across the spit to find the sea. The Ness itself has been a site of mysterious goings on for years. The many eating places have their chalk boards outside ranging from the slightly intimidating “Smart lunches, more formal lunches on Sundays” (perhaps not the place for me to go after a long muddy bike ride or dog walk then) to the children horses and parrots welcome, humans by appointment. I like the bakery having no external signage at the moment, like a ‘best kept secret’; you feel as if you are wandering into someone’s house.
Part of the beauty of Orford is that there is something for everyone. I hope the many people who stay in holiday houses there enjoy and make the most of the special treats on offer as much as the locals.
Today I have had fun shopping for food in Framlingham, Yoxford and the Sandlings. Yesterday, I had a mystery shopping assignment to a top four supermarket. What a soulless place it was; the assignment itself was interesting but above anything it restored my understanding of why I don’t shop in the big four often. Today was a wholly different experience. First I picked up from the Framlingham Market Facebook page that the lovely Darren, below, was doing a Facebook deal on sea bass. So I went along and ask for two Facebook, great success – apparently I wasn’t the first, someone bought their’s with the papers at 7.00am.
Then I popped over to see Roger Etheridge on his veg stall, I bought watercress which will go nicely with the bass and a few purple sprouting plants. There was a time when I bought boxes of fruit and veg from Roger, but now I grow more and buy less.
Next stop was to meet Twitter friend Carl, or as I know him @solebaycheese, another one of those introductions where I have to remember that most people only know me as a green blob and a dodgy twitter name. Carl has just taken over the Yoxford Post Office and is in the ‘soft opening’ phase. This allows for the Post Office training to be carried out by the previous Sub-Post Master; I dutifully posted a parcel to ensure the training was maximised. Carl served me the most gorgeously gooey piece of Vacherin cheese, whilst dispensing tips on how to prepare and cook; that’s service. Good luck to you Carl, I really hope the new business takes off and look forward to the coffee and free wifi once it’s up and running.
Next stop was Orford country market to test out @PumpStreetBakery’s bread. The market is run in the hall and is a delight. I also bought some sausages with caramelised onion and some potatoes. The Pump Street Bakery stall was being run by @patorford and there was a roaring trade. Some fabulous looking pastries, croissants and meringues too. I now have a huge loaf of crusty bread to enjoy with the cheese. Pat mentioned that the village shop in Orford is taking off. It is fantastic, full of local produce and with a small coffee area, I bought a beautiful Romanesco and some Marybelle milk.
From there a quick jaunt to Snape farmers market for High House discovery apple juice, perfect pale lemon pink in colour and Suffolk Blue cheese, piri-piri Sutton Hoo chicken and then off Friday Street market for some Paddy and Scott’s coffee and smoked garlic. All in all, far more miles than I would normally do, but such fun and I have a tidy haul of food to serve over the next few days, topped up with some more veg and fruit from the garden, all will be well.
So what do you think – are we about to see a renaissance for the village shop or market? It may never be able to compete on price but how about quality and friendliness combined with convenience, is it a price worth paying? Vote below and add comments, for example should local shopping use social media more?
Aldeburgh Food Festival has some great fringe events, I joined two separate farm walks and thoroughly enjoyed them both. [Here is your Spotify playlist to accompany this post]
The first was at Whitegates Farm, just off the A140 at Creeting St Mary and home of Suffolk Farmhouse Cheeses. If ever you have the chance to go on tour do. Here is a happy farmer, with happy cows and a great example of turning adversity into advantage. The whole project started when Jason’s employer decided to sell up his herd leaving Jason without a job. Now he and Katherine, after a few false starts along the way, have perfected their Suffolk Cheese, using milk from their Guernsey herd. You may remember the cheese featured in my Suffolk diet dinner a few months ago. The creamy milk is gorgeous too and I thoroughly enjoyed the pork sausages I brought home.
The spare whey goes to feed an eclectic mix of pigs, who grunt eagerly for scraps of cheese experiments that have gone past their sell by dates. I am looking forward to hearing how the air dried ham and Brie style cheese trials are going. If you are interested in learning the craft of cheese making, you may like to join one of the Food Safaris that are run at the farm.
The second visit was to Peakhill Farm at Theberton, here the emphasis is on the beef end of cattle production with beautiful South Devon cattle strolling through the meadows, slowly creating full flavoured organic beef. I wish I had taken my proper camera as I only have one photo. Rob is a charming host and talks passionately about his love of his farm and cattle. Here beef never goes to slaughter, it goes on holiday and comes back ready for the shop. The last year has seen the farm add another element of diversity with a small caravan site; a fantastic location for those wanting to hide away near the Suffolk coast. The walk finished with tomato and basil soup, jacket potatoes and beef casserole and quince crumbles all produced by the delightful Karen and cooked in the field kitchen. I bought a beef pack and the brisket was great, the rest will come out of the freezer over the coming weeks and the dried field mushrooms are being turned into a Heston Blumenthal recipe soup.
It was great to meet Rob and Karen, having ‘conversed’ with them via Twitter for some time before the walk. Slightly worrying that Rob was expecting an older woman with a ‘large chest’; but as he ended up having to push my car out of the pond I guess he had to deal with the batty creature that turned up anyhow.
So two farm visits, plenty of luscious meat and dairy to eat and then along came a code to allow me to try and Graze on nuts and olives. If you haven’t come across the concept before, you order a Graze box, it is posted to you (typically your work address) and you munch. I quite enjoyed the nibbles, fresh and very tasty; I would normally pack a small selection of nuts or dates with my lunch box anyway, but I do have a basic packaging over expediency problem with the whole idea. So not sure I will be joining the herd, long-term, or only for very special treats but I can see how it would appeal to the office bound with only a cake shop to fall back on for comfort.
If you would like to try the Graze experience click HERE you will receive your first box free (until the voucher expires) and I will receive either £1.00 off my next box or to donate to a Uganda farming project.
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.