Talking turkey

It’s pretty much the hottest day of the year and I’m about to eat a full Christmas dinner in deepest Berkshire. Just what is going on. Especially as I’m not turkey’s number one fan. It’s okay but to date its not had a guaranteed place on my christmas table….

When I was a kid we always had roast turkey for Christmas dinner and it was good, but it never seemed as nice as the excitement it generated amongst everyone else. For me it was never quite a tasty and juicy as roast chicken. Maybe the plethora of trimmings overshadowed it …. what with tons of chipolatas wrapped in bacon, my mum’s top notch roast potatoes and my gran’s secret chestnut stuffing I’m not sure the turkey had much of a part to play. At least not for me.

So once I got to be in charge of cooking christmas dinner I varied what was on offer. If we were having turkey cooked for us elsewhere close to Christmas. I’d cook something else. If we were hosting the main event I’d stick with turkey (and still secretly wish it could be chicken we were having), if there was just the two of us well then I had free rein beef, duck, goose,chicken, pork, ham all possibly except lamb eaten over the years.

So is this turkey different? Well for a start I know a lot about where its from and how its been reared. On the basis that an animal that has lead a happy life is supposed to taste better then this has all the hallmarks of being winning. It’s also been cooked by Brenda Copas and is about to be carved by her husband ‘Old Tom’. What the Copas family don’t know about rearing, cooking and carving turkey probably isn’t worth knowing. They’ve been rearing turkeys since 1957 and still use traditional methods and breeds. All the turkeys are grown to maturity and the different breeds provide the size variation rather than many producers some of whose turkeys are slaughtered younger to provide smaller birds. Copas say that for traditional breeds its the way the turkeys are reared rather than the breed that creates the flavour.

We’ve visited the farm and met the turkeys (curiously inquisitive animals whose odd looks belie a docile nature). We’ve heard about what makes the turkeys special:

– grown to full maturity

– only raised during the traditional breading season and not year long

– raised outdoors in orchards, grass fields with maize banks for foraging

– access to shelter at all times and spend overnight in big roomy barns

– slaughtered with the highest possible welfare standards and low stress environment

– dry plucked by hand

– game hung for 10-14 days

– hand prepared and packed

Tom carves, plates are handed round and after a toast we tuck in. Its good, very good. Lots of flavour, moist, tender. The breast meat is excellent with a good balance of delicateness and proper flavour to satisfy everyone the legs are gamier and much more remisent of other birds. Some of each is a good contrast. Several people have seconds (this is getting rather like real Christmas) some of us are pretty full so save a little space for dessert.

So will I be switching to turkey every Christmas??

Wisely sheltering from the sun

That’s a really difficult one, now I know what excellent turkey tastes like and how to cook it…well its definitely much higher up my list but I’m a contrary thing and I’d probably still vary from year to year depending on who I’m cooking for. One things for sure I’d be seeking out a Copas turkey and if I was too slow and missed out (after all they do only rear about 50000 turkeys each year) then I’d be looking for something that was reared in a similar way from a farmer with high standards.

Copas Turkeys have a Great Taste Awards Two Gold Stars (2010) and having been a judge for the 2011 awards I know how high the standard is to achieve that .

Order your Copas turkey online or through one of the butchers who stock them. Be quick they sell out fast.

I was a guest of the Copas family and  Story PR.

Warming stew: Lentejas

Its pouring with rain today in London making the autumn evening dark even sooner…whats needed is a warming stew.

I’ve made this one a few times but the first time I did was back in early 2010 when the lovely people at Orce Serrano Hams sent me some of their chorizo and morcilla to try. This dish adapted from the Moro cookbook seemed the perfect way to try them out.

It’s pretty easy and quite and of course you can use chorizo and black pudding sourced in the UK but the Orce morcilla was something truly special, well worth treating yourself or friend to.

My Lentejas (Lentil, chorizo and morcilla stew)

200g of whole chorizo sweet or spicy as you prefer, slice into 2cm chunks

200g of morcilla or black pudding from your favourite supplier, slice into 2cm chunks

1 large onion, chopped


smokey paprika

chilli flakes

250g of green lentils

10 peppadew peppers, sliced (optional)

stock or water

Heat the oil and then add the sliced chorizo and fry over a medium heat to cook and low the spicy juices to flavour the oil. Push the chorizo to one side and add the onion and peppers if using, cook for 5-10 minutes over a low heat to soften. Add the lentils and then the spices. Pour over the stock and bring to the boil. Drop in the sliced morcilla and top up the liquid so everything is just covered. Simmer until the lentils are cooked  and the liquid absorbed (20-30 minutes).

Serve with steamed greens or cabbage and mash or sourdough bread.


Festive menu, part 2 (cheese terrine)

The first of the recipes from my festive menu is the cheese terrine we had as a starter with Peters Yard crispbreads and a selection of smoked and cured salmon from Forman’s.

The terrine is adapted from a recipe in Delia Smith’s Christmas (the old version I’ve no idea if its in the recently published version). I particularly wanted to use a range of Lancashire cheeses but you could use any mix of cheeses you have and it would be a good way to use up what’s left of a cheese board. It makes a good starter or a light lunch dish (which is what I’ve been doing with the leftovers).

Cheese terrine

You need:

  • 275g of cottage cheese or other mild young soft cheese, I used Lancashire curd from Butlers but I think Brock Hall Farm soft goat cheese would also be brilliant.
  • 75ml mild good mayonnaise or greek yoghurt
  • sachet of gelatine powder or two leaves of sheet gelatine
  • 50g each of three hard cheeses, one of which should be a blue cheese, I used  Blacksticks Blue, Creamy and Tasty Lancashire combined (25g of each) and Goosnargh Goats all from Butlers Cheeses
  • tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs of your choice, I used flat leaf parsley
  • water and lemon juice to dissolve the gelatine
  • 150ml double cream
  • salt and pepper
  • a loaf or terrine tin 18 x 9 x 5 cm lightly oiled

Dissolve the gelatine as per the packet instructions. Blend the cottage/curd cheese with the mayonnaise/yoghurt until smooth. Cube the hard cheeses into 1/2 cm pieces. Whip the cream to the floppy stage.

Add the dissolved gelatine to  the soft cheese mixture and stir thoroughly. Add the hard cheeses, herbs, salt and pepper and mix. Then add the cream and stir through. Pour or spoon into the terrine mould. Cover with cling film and leave to set for 3 hours or more in the fridge. Turn out onto a plate and serve in slices or allow people to help themselves.

Enough for 8 as a starter.

Festive menu, part 1

I’m sure everyone has their festive menu’s already sorted. Their shopping list written, deliveries planned, meat ordered and so on. Down to the last detail. So my festive might have come to late. But if you are dithering then read on (and into the remaining parts as they appear) you might find some inspiration. And for those who have everything planned out with military precision well you might find some ideas for surpluses or things to make if you can’t get what you need for your menu on your final dash to the shops.

I cooked this menu last weekend when we had a pre christmas, Christmas dinner with my parents and my brother and sister in law. we’ll all be in different places with other bits of our families on Christmas Day so this was our festive get together complete with tree decorating, silly games, sherry and presents. and of course lots of food.

Here’s the menu:


Selection of smoked and cured salmon
Terrine of Lancashire cheeses (recipe to follow)


Slow roast shoulder of pork served with two stuffings (Chestnut Stuffing recipe to follow)
Roast root vegetables
Roast potatoes
Sprout and peas
Lashing of ‘jus’ from the meat


Sticky ginger pudding
Clementine sorbet (recipe to follow)
Jersey cream

And in the spirit of making things easy for the chef so everyone could spend time chatting rather than sweating over hot stoves lots of it was ‘cheaty’ so bought in but from top quality suppliers. And some of it was very easy to make in advance.

Here’s where I sourced things from:

Salmon: Forman & Sons London Cure smoked Salmon and 3 gravadlax cures

Lancashire cheeses for the terrine (recipe to follow): Butlers Cheeses

Crispbread: Peters Yard (of course!)

Pork shoulder : Anna’s Happy Trotters

Sticky Ginger Pudding: Cartmel Village Shop

So that’s it delicious food from good suppliers making the menu easier but still delicious. Watch out for the recipes coming soon.

Good Food Show Winter 2010 (very special competition)

I’ve been to local food festivals, I’ve been to food trade shows but I’ve never been to any of the big, big food shows like The Good Food Show. The idea of the NEC packed with good food is is slightly overwhelming.

But this year I’m going to be there. Not cruising the aisles checking the produce mind you. Oh no. I shall be a Pop-Up Pie Assistant to the wonderful Brays Cottage Pork Pies. If you are in any doubt about their wonderfulness then consider that they were one of only ten producers selected from over 70 to win a Bursary Award to enable them to have a stall at the show. And the list of people who rave about their pies is simply too long to mention…

I’m really excited about being Pop-Up Pie Assistant, I’m following in the trailblazing shoes of this list of luminaries of the Pop-Up Pie Assistant academy:

@Farctum and @Josordoni and @DrTimKinnaird and @deantoms and @enjoynorwich and @JonnyB and apparently even an MEP

…..each had their trade mark style I’m hoping mine will be a porkpie hat…

So of course naturally you want to come along and see me being pie assistant. You want to meet Sarah the driving force behind Brays Cottage. You want to sample the pies. Of course you do. Who wouldn’t.

And you’ve two ways to get there:

1. The usual way: pay your entrance fee pop along to the stall and buy a pie. We’ll be thrilled to see you.


2. The GSD special way: enter my competition to win one of 3 pairs of entrance tickets donated by the show organisers, pop along to the stall, flash your special Pie Voucher and YES YES YES you get Bray’s Cottage pie for FREE. And better still you get a special GSD/WKF limited edition for this competition only gift.

WOW. This is truly an exclusive competition. You CANNOT get this deal anywhere else.

So what do you need to do:

Leave a comment on this post telling me why you deserve to win and how will your life be changed by experiencing pork pie nirvana. I’ll pick 3 entries (pair of tickets to each winner) on some basis yet to be determined, probably the 3 that I like most and failing that by random number generator.

Get entering you have until midnight on Friday 19 November. I’ll pick the winners on Saturday 20th and mail the tickets out to you.

Small print:

1. Tickets are general admission only. Excluding Saturday. They are non transferable and cannot be exchanged for cash.

2. You must present your special Pie Voucher to claim your free pie. One pie per person. And I’ll have a cunning system in place to ensure only the winners get their mitts on the free pies so don’t bother making your own, photocopying or anything else ‘smart’.

3. The Pie Voucher is also used to collect your GSD/WKF exclusive gift.

4. I’m the judge and my decision on who wins is final.

5. You can’t enter if you are related to me, sorry.

6. Oh and I’m there Thursday and Friday but you’ll still be able to claim your pie etc if you choose to go a different day

E17, the food, the place, but mostly not the band

I just looked up E17 on wikipedia…..where it tells me that it can refer to:

Well I never and I just thought it was the postal district adjacent to mine famous for its dog track (now defunct), being the birth place of William Morris (pioneer of the Arts & Crafts movement) and well all sorts of other unlikely people passing through like Ian Dury and Florence Nightingale’s dad!

But today I journeyed their not to find evidence of famous past residents but to sample its farmers market and shops. There’s a farmers market right in my own lovely high street that has now been going for a year and I love it, but its only once a month so that leaves a lot of weekends when something better than the supermarket should be the source of my food. Walthamstow farmers market is every week and despite it being a mere 2 miles from me and having been there since 2007 I’d not managed to go until today. That’s London for you, you’ll traipse to the other side of town for something you’ve heard is great but you’ll forget to check out what’s almost on your doorstep if the journey is in any way convoluted and believe me going a short distance in London is often harder than you might imagine. But spurred on by the possibility that Dallaways specialist cherry grower from the Kent/Sussex border was likely to be there off I headed, via a convoluted route of course.

First stop was to go and meet up with Lynne of A Greedy Piglet, who is Chingford way, then in her car we went back down to Walthamstow and explored the market…and the shops…and we found loads of great stuff…

On the farmers market itself we explored all the stalls…..and bought goodies from the Giggly Pig (trotters, faggots, sossies), Ted’s veg stall (radishes, patty pans, broad beans), one of the two bread stalls (100% rye loaf), Muck & Magic (Tamworth breed crackling, Red Poll mince beef, Norfolk Horn lamb mince), the herb plant stall (horseradish, french tarragon) and Alham Wood (cheeses and milk) and of course the cherries we had come for.

Then we headed for a stroll along the shops dipping in the fish shop (amazing selection of fish all looking super fresh, live crabs, salt fish) and the halal butcher (boiling chickens, cows feet, goat, mutton) to check out the produce for another day. And on into the various (green)grocery/minimarts. Walthamstow being the culturally diverse place that it is these were a mix of Turkish, Caribbean and Indian influenced shops. In all of them the staff were super helpful and rather amused at two somewhat past their first flush of youth English women exploring their shops wide-eyed like kids having a Charlie and Chocolate factory moment. After much ooo-ing and ahhh-ing we invested in dhal, pomegranate seeds, mixed aubergines, sweet peppers, puri shells, flat breads, daktyli bread, flat peaches, apricots…and I think that was it….

We struggled back to the car with out heavy bags sampling the warm flatbread as we went….then home and to work out how to fit it all in the fridge.

Please note that the items listed were our joint haul of food I did NOT buy all of this myself, though I may have bought somewhat more than half (cough)!

Eating Norwegian for Eurovision, naturally

Its Eurovision time again. Tonight. In Oslo. Surely you are going to be watching? And you’ll need something to eat whilst the 25 contestants do their stuff followed by the age long voting process. So how to decide what Eurovision dish to have. Well you could rustle up a menu from the cuisine of the country you are supporting, you could just have something random and un-Eurovision related or you could try something from the cuisine of host country Norway.

Some of you might be saying ‘what Norwegian cuisine, isn’t it just herrings and meatballs?’ Apparently not according to Signe Johansen of the blog Scandilicious, and currently working on her first cook book. She’s already ranted on the very topic at the Real food Festival recently and she’s one a number of people championing Nordic cuisine as being seasonal, tasty and good for us too. Another champion of Scandinavian food is Trina Hahnemann, Denmark’s own Delia apparently (wonder how she feels about that!). Trina has had two books published in the UK in the last 18 months and both have plenty of recipes to whet the appetite for a fresh regional cusine that not Mediterranean. Even Jamie Oliver cooks Sweden in his latest book and series.

Regular readers will know that I’ve sampled various Norwegian dishes before, and that I have a particular penchant for the curious thing that is brown cheese (gjetost). But always keen to explore more, particularly if there is cheese on the menu, I jumped at the chance to attend a cooking demo and lunch with Trina being held at Madsen earlier this, especially because it was in association with Jarlsberg cheese.

Its not that Jarlsberg is new to me in fact I’ve been eating it from back in the days when it could only be bought in the food halls of smart department stores (all good department stores used to have rather nice food halls back then). My Dad used to buy it and rather lovely German style rye bread and it quickly became a staple on sandwiches. For whatever reason that’s kind of where it stayed. It never occurred to us to cook with it, and so it has remained in my mind a cheese for pairing with good bread and tomatoes but not one that is cooked with.

Until the lunch spent with Trina. To start off Trina explained a bit about how Jarlsberg is made (the exact recipe is a secret of course!), the process and ageing are like Gruyere and in fact the gentle nutty flavour and texture are very similar. Had I spotted this similarity myself I might have thought of cooking with it sooner. We then moved on to the demo where Trina made a cheese bread and a rye based pizza using Jarlsberg. I can hear the traditionalists howling at the very idea of the latter and Trina was mindful that it was a dish inspired by pizza but made with ingredients more traditional to Scandinavian food. I was a little sceptical, I love rye bread, I love pizza but I wasn’t sure how the two would fare together. Whilst Trina finished off the other elements of our lunch we all went back up to the restaurant where we sampled beers from AERØ. The food started to arrive and Trina came back to join us. We had a huge spread of citrus cured salmon with scrambled egg, Jarlsberg bread, rye pizza with bacon potatoes and Jarlsberg, a kale apple walnut and Jarlsberg salad, crispbreads, huge hunks of Jarlsberg, a variety of AERØ beers, tomato salad, plum compote and… you can imagine we were pretty full by the end. Trina was great company telling anecdotes about cooking in Denmark and also a font of useful information about Scandinavian cuisine.

After coffee we were packed off with giant goodie bags. And in my case a new set ideas for a cheese I’ve been a fan of for many years. For all you doubters the rye pizza was delicious, very hearty and full of flavour and just what you probably need for a long evening in front of the Eurovision.

You can find the recipe here on the Jarlsberg site.

With thanks to Jarlsberg, Trina Hahnemann and Madsen for hosting a great event.