Category Archives: Food

I’m a non-believer

For a fairly devout non-believer I’ve spent a relatively large amount of time in churches over the past month. Firstly for my inaugural enrolment as a godfather (fingers crossed at appropriate times) and then twice in 12 hours over the cusp of December 24th & 25th – midnight mass in St Laurence’s in Ludlow and the Christmas morning service in our village church. Feeling non-festive at the close of the shop on the 24th I thought that midnight mass might engender some spirit of the season in me.

Today, on a rare day trip away from both work and home, we had 2 rural churches in the Herefordshire and Gloucestershire border lands in our sights. There was also the additional impetus of a visit to the wonderful Butcher’s Arms in Woolhope for lunch.

All Saint’s in Brockhampton is that rare beast, an Arts & Crafts church. Completed in 1902 and designed by William Lethaby it’s a complicated piece of architecture; making use of thatch, stone and timber, but all executed to such a high standard and sitting so neatly next to each other.

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The craftsmanship and attention to detail continues inside: beautiful light fittings (both electric and candle), altar tapestries by Burne-Jones and these amazing hand stitched covers to the prayer books.

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The second church on the list was St Mary’s at Kempley was more ancient; boasting the oldest roof of any building in Britain and the most complete set of Romanesque frescoes in Northern Europe. Sadly . . . . those that are habitually programmed to not look for opening hours for churches will find that it is closed until March. So both frescoes and roof will require a re-visit; but the Norman exterior (with add ons) was enough on a sunny January day.

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Peanut and Rosemary Cookies

When I get around to it I bake biscuits for the shop on Saturdays . . . and then aim to proffer them to customers instead of eat them all myself. Mr Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet has provided many of the recipes for these biscuits – namely the double chocolate cookie and the ginger and spelt cookie this week I turned to his Guardian Weekend recipe.

There was a recipe book in my parents kitchen which was a collection of recipes submitted by residents of the village in which I grew up; my mum was the editor of this fine publication and someone else in the village provided pen and ink illustrations.  Lots of these recipes reflect the provincial cooking ideas of the time; concepts of dinner party entertaining that should remain preserved in aspic, WI baking and the onset of the macrobiotic/wholefood school of cooking. I suspect that if you replayed the concept today the WI baking aspect would remain and there would be a surfeit of cupcake recipes. There was a recipe in this book for peanut cookies – and very fine it was too – Mr Lepard’s version is however even better, the rosemary almost tastes like ginger at first.

Today’s desktop biscuits haven’t yet been touched. There’s hope for a mid afternoon snack after all.

 

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Marmalade

My annual marmalade making owes more to the delight in the process than a delight in the final product. I do really like marmalade, but the legion of jars of batches from previous years that lie in my kitchen cupboards point towards less of an overwhelming passion for the stuff rather. It does however allow for year on year comparisons. My recipe is always one cobbled together from various sources, the chief one being the WI preserves book. To some the chopping and slicing of seville orange skin is a chore, I take a zen like pleasure in the repetition, but then again I’m not going for a fine shred. I actually made this batch a fair few weeks ago; giddy with the sight of seville oranges in the grocers. As an aside, if you like the smell of seville oranges then, Bigarade Concentrée by Frederic Malle is the scent for you, it’s very fleeting on me but the man in Les Senteurs said that the bitter orange scent would reflect my personality – reader, I took it on the chin. Anyway 3kg of oranges was twice what I needed for marmalade so currently stowed in our cellar is an trial at using the excess to make a seville orange gin – the recipe for that says it needs to be stored for 4 years before being opened, not entirely sure my resolve is that strong.

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Stir up Sunday – the cake version

Traditionally stir up Sunday is the last Sunday before Advent, and I think only applies to Christmas pudding. Autumn term half-term was always the marker when I was growing up for the cake to be made; these days I think it depends on whim. The whim struck last week.

I’ve learnt, at the knee of Nigel Slater (figuratively, not literally) not to be relatively relaxed about the dried fruits. He gives a general quantity for combined weight of currants, sultanas etc and another combined weight for other dried fruit. I don’t see the point in currants (maybe an consequence of having a pet rabbit) so a combination of sultanas, raisins and cranberries went in my cake together with apricots, fig and dried pear (we’ll see how the last of these works out, they are off script and untested). The occasional feed of something boozy will now happen and undoubtedly I will leave a decision about icing and marzipan until the last moment. The basic recipe I used is the one in the Kitchen Diaries, which is a smaller version of the one in Appetite. May I also recommend the Silverwood multi size cake tin; it basically gives you free rein to make whatever size square cake, or indeed multiple separate cakes that you desire.

 

 

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Elisabeth Luard – A Cook’s Year in a Welsh Farmhouse

It’s Ludlow Food Festival this weekend . . . cue much trumpeting of food credentials, food miles and, owing to ludicrous Network Rail decision to suspend services to Ludlow over the weekend, increased traffic. Our food festival window is in place (judging takes place tomorrow – cue tears and tantrums) and I’ve had my delivery from Bloomsbury of stock for Elisabeth Luard to sign on Saturday.

I’m planning to bake a couple of things from her book for our delightful customers, including the almond and cardomom cookies pictured below. As per a previous post – if you would like to be the proud owner of a signed copy of this esteemed tome (or give it away to someone you really like) then let us know and we’ll reserve one for you; likewise if you want a dedicated message delicately scribed by the author. I may even dig out a decent pen instead of an end chewed bic.

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Book Signing – Elisabeth Luard

The behemoth that is Ludlow Food Festival descends on September 9th-11th. We’re playing our own small food-related role by hosting a book signing by the renowned food writer Elisabeth Luard.

Her recently published book, A Cook’s Year in a Welsh Farmhouse, is a handsome Bloomsbury publication. Elisabeth will be here signing copies from 2pm – 4pm on Saturday the 10th, if you can’t make it but still want a signed copy please let us know and I will put one aside for you. If you can make it . . . i’m going to cook some things from the book to tempt the good public in . . . probably along the lines of almond cookies with cardomom and chocolate madeleines rather than smoked mackerel fishcakes owing to food finger issues!

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Cake, cake and more cake

If I had the patience I would make cakes like this.

Actually it’s not a lack of patience that would stop me from doing it, its an overriding controlling attitude that would see me rearranging the colours as soon as one of the cakes was removed and wanting to constantly refill the plate so that it always looked near perfect.

Image half inched from House of Origin.

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