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Greek Olives and Olive Oils

Hello,

Thank you for taking a look at my blog.

It’s been a very busy few days here at Source Fine Food Towers – perfecting final recipes for the Source Fine Food products, finalising labels, testing products from other producers and samples from specialist and regional food importers.

Today I had a very successful meeting with a very helpful lady from a Greek food importer.

She brought some fantastic samples for trial:

Some fantastic samples from my Greek importer.

  • Kalamata Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • P.D.O. Extra Virgin Olive Oil from the Mylopotamos region of Northern Crete
  • Preserved Lemons
  • Throumbes Olives – Sun-dried and salted
  • Rovies Cocktail Olives
  • Kalamata Olives
  • Lucques Green \Olives
  • Picholine Green Olives
  • Pitted Green Olives with herbs
  • Pitted Green Olives with chilli
  • Green Olives stuffed with pimento
  • Green Olives stuffed with almonds

I had been in touch with this particular importer after having used the Rovies Cocktail Olives (listed above) in my previous restaurant business. These are, and remain to be among the best olives that I have ever tried for the price point at which they’re offered. However, I think that I’ve just established a new favourite; Throumbes Dark, Sun-dried and salted olives are an absolute revelation! I’ve tried other varieties of dried and salted olives before but they’ve usually failed to really hit the spot. The only time that I have ever had such good olives have been in top London restaurants. Throumbes olives are sun-dried black Kalamata olives from the island of Thasos in Greece and have proven – for me at least – to be rather difficult to source, until now!

Throumbes olives appearance wise, are somewhere between a large raisin and a small date. They have a raisin quality to their slightly smoky and very savoury flavour with a very fruity perfume. The texture is very soft and if not for the skin of this olive, I suspect that upon placing in the mouth it would probably break down immediately on the tongue! This is no bad thing as the slightly bitter, apple flavour stays with you until your next sip of aperitif and probably beyond. In short, I think that this is THE perfect pre-dinner cocktail snack. Forget about fancy looking canapes to get the palates of your guests going! Save yourself the time and energy and serve a small bowl of these with an aperitif.

A lonely Throumbes Olive - It didn't sit there for long! Mmmmm!

 

Thanks for reading and until next time,

Happy Eating!

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Gimme A Pizza That!

Hello there and thank you for looking at my food blog!

Last night we needed a quick and tasty dinner, Leann had been at work all day, I’d been at the computer tinkering with product lists and spreadsheets and Poppy and Archie had been at nursery all day. A quick look in the kitchen confirmed that home made Pizza was a very good idea.

The best thing about pizza is how quick and easy it can be to make if you are prepared to cheat a little (hopefully no Italians are reading this!). I put the ingredients (listed below) for the base in the KitchenAid and let it mix and knead the dough for ten minutes before covering the bowl with a tea towel and leaving it to prove whilst I walked to nursery to collect the children and meet Leann.

When we arrived back I turned the grill on to a high heat and put a large Paella pan on a gas burner on a medium heat, the dough had doubled in size and was ready to be knocked back and divided into three. On a floured surface I rolled the dough and stretched the edges to a rough circle, then spread a very thin layer of tomato puree on the base, leaving half an inch at the edge. Then I put a little olive oil in the pan and lifted the pizza base in to the hot Paella pan. Working quickly, I sprinkled the chopped sun-dried tomatoes over the base, layed the – home grown by a friend in Guilden Sutton – dressed rocket leaves on top, ripped pieces of the Proscuito and placed them evenly on the Pizza, then tore pieces from the Buffalo Mozzarella and scattered it on top. After a quick drizzle of olive oil, it was ready to be cooked under the grill.

After a few minutes, the first of the three Pizzas was ready, I took it out from the grill and put it on a chopping board, ran a Pizza Wheel through it and served it to my hungry family. After repeating the above exercise twice more there was plenty of dinner for the four of us and from start to finish the labour process took less than half an hour!

A few basic hints and tips when making a Pizza at home are:

Ensure that your oven/grill is hot enough. A proper pizza oven is wood-fired to around 400-500 degrees Celsius. My oven, like most domestic ovens, struggles to get past 220 which is why I’ve adapted the cooking process to ensure that both the top and the bottom of the Pizza are cooked very quickly at a very high temperature.

Don’t over-load your Pizza with toppings, it should look fairly sparse so that each ingredient gets as much exposure to the heat as possible.

Once cut into pieces your pizza base should remain quite crisp, a good test is to pick it up at the crust. If the whole triangle lifts without the tip (or the middle of the pizza) sagging or flopping down too much, it’s perfect! If it is floppy you’ve either over loaded the Pizza with toppings or the cooking heat has not been fierce enough.

 

Ingredients:

Base: 650g Strong White Flour, 1 Sachet Dried Yeast, 1/2 teaspoon Salt, 2 tablespoons Olive Oil, 400ml Water.

Topping: 3 tablespoons Tomato Puree, 18 halves of Sundried Tomato (soaked and chopped), 1 good bunch of Rocket (dressed with olive oil), 9 slices Proscuito, 2 balls of Buffalo Mozzarella.

 

Do try this recipe, it really is very quick and easy!

 

Thanks for reading and happy eating!

Apple Sauce…..

Hello again and thanks for taking a look at my blog.

For the past few months I’ve been perfecting recipes for various items that will be making it onto my product list. This evening it was time to test the Apple Sauce. This is a condiment that I’ve been tinkering with for many years. In my restaurant days I would try lots of different approaches to it; chunky, smooth, thick, thin, sharp, sweet, Bramley, dessert apple, etc. and I think I’ve finally cracked it!

The whole point of what I’m striving to do with all of the products that I’m creating is to give the purest flavour of the main ingredient. This is not easy when you take into consideration the guaranteed shelf-life that is required for consumer food products sold by retail. I’ve always been used to making recipes in small batches to be used within three to five days. I’m not at all willing to put any preservatives, bulking agents, artificial flavour enhancers, etc. in any of my products which means I must take a lot of care when selecting every ingredient in the final recipe.

Roasted Leg of Pork with my Source Fine Foods Apple Sauce, Sauteed New Potatoes and Wilted Lettuce

In my Apple Sauce recipe there are only three ingredients. I would have liked to use a recipe that I used for my own wedding which consists of Granny Smith apples and….. and that’s it! However, in order to give a longer shelf-life I’ve had to add a small amount of fresh lemon juice and an even smaller amount of sugar. Fortunately, the quantities of each do very little to alter the essential apple flavour that I have been working towards and I’m now very happy with the flavour and texture of the final recipe. I have used Granny Smiths this time, but must confess to being less than happy with the food miles involved with this species of apple. This means that there is likely to be a very small amount of seasonal variation to the flavour of my Apple Sauce. I personally don’t see this as a bad thing as I know instinctively what characteristics the right apple for my sauce must posess from simply tasting it raw. This will give consumers the experience of tasting various single apple species sauces at the same time as being environmentally responsible.

If you have any comments regarding the characteristics that you like from your apple sauce, please do feel free to let me know. Also, I will have some small sample jars of various products that I would like feedback on from a small sample of people. Again, if you would like to be in this group just let me know.

 

Thanks for reading and until the next time, happy eating!

Hawarden Estate Farm Shop’s “Blackcurrant Bonanza” Pie…..

Our haul of berries

Hello again and thanks for reading my blog.

Last Saturday I happened to notice on Twitter that one of the local farm shops was having a “Blackcurrant Bonanza”. This sounded good to me! It was at Hawarden Estate Farm Shop, they have a pick your own fruit option with choices of Raspberries, Strawberries, Blackcurrants and Gooseberries at this time of year. Their “Blackcurrant Bonanza” weekend included the chance to pick 1kg of Blackcurrants for free. This was a rare treat! So, off we went as a family for a good look around.

Hawarden Estate Farm Shop is a marvellous site with almost everything you could ever need (food-wise) under one roof and everything of superb quality. In addition to the lovely produce inside there’s also the land outside with all of the produce that’s ripe for picking. We set off for the far end of the field to start with the Gooseberries. Poppy and Archie soon became fed up of the spikes on the Gooseberry bushes so we moved onto the Blackcurrants which were more than abundant and perfectly ripe. After harvesting a full kilogram punnet, we moved to the Strawberries which again were at their peak, so much so that I think Archie may have eaten his own weight of them! (Sorry

Archie the Strawb-aholic!

Hawarden Estate, luckily he’s not too big!) Finally, we harvested any Raspberries that were ripe enough for the picking, went to get a fantastic Sour-dough Loaf and pay for what we’d picked.

When we arrived home I made a batch of rough puff pastry in preparation for the following day’s pie. I love fruit pies but have never made one with fresh Blackcurrants alone so this was going to take some careful judgement when it came to adding sugar to the filling. The following day I lined my pie dish and after washing and picking through the fruit to make sure all the stems had been removed, I

Freshly Baked Blackcurrant Pie

tossed them with a sprinkling of caster sugar and 50g of diced butter before putting them in the pie, covering it with the remaining pastry, glazing it with some beaten egg and baking in a hot oven. Whilst it was baking I whipped some double cream with sugar and vanilla to complement it perfectly.

After allowing the pie to cool to an edible temperature, I served each piece with a dollop of the sweetened vanilla cream. The pie was reassuringly sharp but served with the creamy accompaniment, it became perfectly balanced. It was an immediate hit with all of us!

A big thank you to Hawarden Estate Farm Shop for our free Blackcurrants and all of the other marvellous produce we bought. Apparently, more than 400kg of Blackcurrants were picked in total, so I think it’s

Blackcurrant Pie served with Chantilly Cream

fair to say that a fantastic weekend was had by all!

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you soon!

Jase

Homemade Vanilla Fudge!

Hello again! Thanks for looking at my blog.

I just wanted to let you know about one of my favourite items of confectionary and how easy it is to make.

Homemade fudge really is an absolute doddle! Providing that you follow a few very simple rules, you’ll be enjoying this recipe for a long time.

The basic recipe that I use is: 900ml Whole Milk, 1050g Caster Sugar, 300g Butter, 2 tspns Vanilla Essence.

Take all of the ingredients apart from the Vanilla and put them in the biggest, deepest pan that you have. They’ll look lost in the bottom of the pan but it is essential that such a large pan is used to save from having to clean up a sticky, boiled over mess from your stove top! Bring all of the ingredients to a gentle boil, stirring often with a non-matallic spatula and keep it steadily bubbling until the mixture reaches the “soft ball” stage. Soft ball is when a small spoonful of the sugar mixture will form a soft ball if it is removed from the pan and dropped into a bowl of cold water. However, the easiest way to judge this is with a sugar thermometer. Sugar thermometers can be bought for around £15 and are very useful for many kinds of confectionary, sugar work and jam making. As soon as the the sugar thermometer reaches 115 degrees Celsius, which is the exact temperature for the soft ball stage, you need to take it off the heat. Working quickly, add the vanilla essence and beat the mixture as thoroughly as you can until the mixture firms up and takes on a fudgey consistency. I like to cheat by using an electric mixer with a paddle beater, this takes a lot of the arm ache out of the process! If you’re going to use an electric mixer, please be careful! It must be made from a material that will withstand the high temperatures of sugar boiling. I use a KitchenAid with a metal mixing bowl and a metal beater, with an all metal constuction it’s ideal. Also ensure that you start the mixing on a very low speed and rest a teatowel over the top to prevent yourself from being burned by splashes of the hot fudge mixture. As soon as the mixture has a smooth texture, carefully turn it out into a tin lined with cling film, smooth the surface and cover until it has cooled to room temperature.

When the slab of fudge is cold, turn it out onto a cutting board and carefully cut it into cubes, diamonds or whatever shape you prefer, arrange

Ian and Paul at the top of The Horseshoe Pass

your pieces of fudge on a platter and serve as petits fours after dinner, with coffee or anytime really. Or, as I do, use it as an energy source when exercising. Yesterday I rode my road bike on a sixty mile road route over the Horseshoe Pass and I can assure you that it really powered me up the climb to The Ponderosa Cafe at the top. I was first to get there! Tonight I’ll be at The Velodrome in Manchester where I’ll be using the same fuel!

It really is easy to make. The main tips I can give are to use a huge pan, watch for 115 deg.C like a hawk and use an electric mixer to beat the hot fudge.

What are you waiting for?!

Thanks for reading and happy eating!

An Easy To Serve Dinner Party!

Hello! Hope you’ve all been enjoying the sunshine!

Tonight I have my parents coming to dinner. Yesterday I had the usual Saturday things to do, wash car, mow lawns, dry washing etc. Leann and I had been invited to a party in the evening, which I wasn’t able to go to after drawing the short straw when the babysitter cancelled. And today I was mountain biking so I thought I’d better organise something fairly easy to serve with the bulk of the preparation done well in advance.

A terrine of ham hock is the perfect starter to prepare the day (or even a few days) before the event. This involves blanching a couple of ham hocks and then simmering them slowly for two to three hours. While simmering, I like to add some onions, carrots, celery and herbs to make a fantastic ham stock – perfect for the base of a Minestrone soup! As soon as the ham hock meat is beginning to fall from the bone, take them out of the stock and keep them to the side until they’re cool enough to handle. While they’re cooling, turn the stock up to a fast boil to reduce it by half. When you’re able to handle the ham hocks, strip any skin, fat, sinew and bone away from the meat and discard. Then cut the remaining meat up into varying sized chunks. Put this in a bowl and add any flavourings that you enjoy with ham. I like to add finely diced shallots, coarsely ground yellow mustard seeds and lots of chopped fresh parsley. Mix all of this together and add a good couple of ladles of the reduced stock. Mix this together again and put the mixture into a terrine or loaf tin, level the top surface and chill overnight. The following day, loosen the sides of the terrine and turn out onto a chopping board, slice and serve with some good toast and piccalilli!

For main course, we’re having Spaghetti Bolognese, which I made following the same principles as for Chilli Con Carne (see earlier blog post) but with different seasoning. I made the Bolognese sauce yesterday and used a blend of freshly ground fennel seeds, a touch of freshly ground chilli flakes and a couple of ground star anise seeds. I have found that the star anise really helps to bring out the flavour of the beef. As with many stewed meat type recipes, Bolognese sauce is better the following day and is very easy to serve, in that all I’ll need to do is cook the spaghetti and shave some Parmesan.

For dessert, I’ve made a vanilla fudge cheesecake. This is one that I’ve adapted from a New York cheesecake recipe. Earlier this week, I made someVanilla Fudge Cheesecake biscuits from Marcus Wareing’s Nutmeg & Custard book, I’ve found that almost every recipe in this book is slightly (sometimes massively) out in terms of ingredient quantities and I ended up with quite a few bits of biscuit left over which were begging to be made into a cheesecake base! On the same day I’d made a batch of vanilla fudge, which I always get off-cuts from when cutting the slab into fancy diamond shapes. So, these off-cuts were quickly cut into bite sized chunks and arranged (dropped) into the cheesecake topping before baking. This will be served with pieces of caramelised banana.

So, that’s it! Nice and easy! A well prepared, easy to serve dinner party! What are you waiting for?

Thanks for reading and I’ll let you know how all three courses were in my next post…..

Vegetarian? Me Neither! Fancy Trying Gnocchi?

Hi! How’s your week been?

I’ve been attempting to get my head around e-commerce websites all week. Not an easy task for me! Suddenly it’s Friday evening and I feel like I’ve got nothing done!

Anyway, time for dinner. I fancied cooking something relatively quick and easy for this evening’s meal, so it had to be one of my all time favourite Italian treats. Gnocchi! This is a version of one of the dishes I used to serve in the restaurant, it was almost always greeted with the deserved amount of enthusiasm by the diner who had made such a well-informed selection from the menu. It is packed full of flavour and all things good for you!

A lot of people appear to have been put off gnocchi at some point, myself included, usually by a version that has been boiled within an inch of it’s life and served in a thick, claggy sauce. This dish could not be more different. My favourite way to cook gnocchi is to saute it in olive oil and garlic butter, this gives it real texture.

For this dish, take an assortment of mediterranean type vegetables and cut them into slightly larger than bite sized chunks. I’ve used courgette, celery, red onion and red, green and yellow peppers, but feel free to vary these as you see fit. Then toss them in a little olive oil and char-grill them until they’re tender and have char lines. Put these to the side and keep them warm. Cut some cherry tomatoes in half and slice some garlic nice and thinly, then put a wide based, non-stick pan on a medium heat. Drizzle some olive oil in to the pan with a knob of butter, then add the garlic and enough gnocchi for the number of people you’re cooking for. Cook this on a low to medium heat until the gnocchi starts to turn a golden brown colour, then add your halved cherry tomatoes and char-grilled vegetables. Keep turning the contents of the pan until the vegetables are hot and the tomatoes are softening, then add a handful of fresh rocket leaves and a good spoonful of decent pesto and turn the heat off. Toss or stir the pan contents for a couple of minutes to distribute the pesto and wilt the rocket, then serve immediately into hot bowls and shave a little parmesan over the top.

This is a very easy recipe and is adaptable to use the vegetable contents of your fridge. Even if you’re not vegetarian, I think that you’ll love this. I personally love good quality meat and eat quite a lot of it in my diet, but I can honestly say that in this dish there is enough going on for me not to miss it!

I think this recipe and adaptations of it would really suit anyone who is trying to incorporate a meat free day into their week. It certainly works for me!

Thanks for reading and enjoy!