Beetroot soup

I love beetroots, especially roasted or in soup. In fact roast beetroot soup is just brilliant, super tasty and very easy to make. I just had some for lunch so I thought I’d share my recipe.

What you need (makes enough for 6 as a light lunch):

1kg of uncooked beetroots

2 large floury potatoes

2 medium onions (chopped)

1 litre of stock (I used the simmering liquid from a gammon a cooked the day before)

rapeseed or sunflower oil

What you do:

1. Wear rubber gloves or you’ll end up with beetroot stained hands!

2. Top, tail and peel the beetroots and cut into quarters (make sure they are roughly even sized so cut larger beets into eighths).

3. Put beetroot pieces in a bowl, pour over about two tablespoons of oil and toss the beets to get them evenly coated.

4. Roast the beets for about an hour in the oven at R6/200C, turning once or twice. Its nice id the corners catch a bit but not too much. They are ready when you can slide a knife in easily.

5. Gently cooked the onions in a tablespoon of oil for about 10 minutes so they are golden and soft.

6. Meanwhile boil the peeled potatoes until soft but not falling apart.

7. Add the cooked beets and potatoes to the onions, pour on the stock. Taste for seasoning. My stock was well seasoned so it didn’t need any more at this stage.

8. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 10 minutes. Leave to cool slightly.

9. Blend to a relatively smooth soup using your preferred method/gadget. Pour back in the pan and warm through.

To Serve:

Good things to sere with this are:

– crusty bread and butter or tangy goats cheese

– dollop of creme fraiche/greek yoghurt/cream to swirl in

 

 

Orange Voddy

Oranges seem to be on 3 for 2 special offer at the moment so I have quite a lot. They are super juicy and tasty. As I like orange liqueur I thought it might be good try an orange voddy.

I’ve just prepared it now and its in the pantry doing its fruit voddy thing.

Here are the steps:

You can find my rules of thumb for fruit vodka making here.

Seville oranges: spicy, savoury style marmalade

Last year when everyone was making marmalade with seville oranges I bought a couple of bags from the supermarket thinking I’d join in the fun.

Then I remembered that the last batch I made had lasted about 10 years as I don’t really eat marmalade that often.

So I wondered if there were any more savoury recipes…I’m a fan of chutney and pickles and started thinking along those lines. I couldn’t find any specific recipes and several people I asked were unsure if it would work.

After a bit of juggling ideas I decided to give it a go and try to make a sort of spicy seville and onion marmalade hybrid.

With no recipes to guide me I struck out and just made it up as I went along. Naturally I also failed to write down what I did.

Possibly more inevitably, almost 12 months later, when I opened the first jar to test it just before Christmas it was amazing. Mellow spices, sweet and orangey but with enough sharp tang and bite.

So here I am staring at the pictures I took hoping I can work out what I did.

I think its fairly simple.

It roughly goes like this:

Ingredients:

Seville oranges

Onions

Chilli peppers

Dried smokey chillis

Coriander seeds

Fresh ginger

Method:

Juice the sevilles and set aside the juice. Slice the peel into strips.

Slice the onions. Cook the onions slowly in butter over a low heat to soften them.

Add the sliced peel, juice, spices and a some cider vinegar.

Simmer until soft and thickening and reduced by about half.

Put in sterilised jars and seal straightaway while warm.

Leave for ages to allow it to mellow.

Eat, with cold cuts or with poppadums…or just however you would normally have spiced chutney.

Slow smoky BBQ brisket

Barbecue food has always created a bit of a debate in this house. I like it but Ian claims he’s not much a of a fan…I think this has more to do with the faff of lighting the barbecue than the food. Suffice to say the last time we used the barbecue was 2 years ago.

But everyone, just everyone, keeps going on about ‘proper’ barbecue and I’ve been watching too much Food Network recently and I decided we had to learn to barbecue. A recent visit form a good friend who likes to experiment with smoky barbecue flavours and my mind was made up.

Ready to go on the BBQ

In the freezer was a piece of rolled brisket from the supermarket cheaps counter (i.e. the marked down stuff where you get real bargains if you arrive at the right time – a method of shopping perfected by my twitter chum Lynne and which I have been trying to emulate).

Smokin' away

So we had brisket. I googled and whoa tons of links for how to barbecue it especially lots of slightly mad You-Tube clips. They all seemed to be talking about digging pits and cooking long and slow for 20+ hours. This seemed little excessive for a 1kg piece of meat…then I realised they were cooking about half a steer!

After a bit more searching I decided there were 5 key steps:

– marinating the meat in vinegar and spices (4-5 hours minimum for a piece the size I had)

– covering with some form of secret spicy rub

– cooking long and slow at a relatively low temperature

– getting smokiness into the meat – this could be at the same time as the slow cook or separately

– serving with a sticky sweet sour spicy barbecue sauce

So this is what we did:

– mixed some of TZ the Urban Spiceman‘s Dirty Liars Club spice mix with 4 tablespoons of white wine vinegar. Rolled the meat in it, covered and left for 5 hours to marinate.

– when it was time to cooke heated the oven to Gas 3 (150C)

– mixed the marinade with more of TZ’s spice mix and some oil and rubbed all over the meat

– placed the meat in a snuggly fitting oven proof dish, added 1 glass of red wine, covered and cooked for 3 hours

– with about 45 minutes to go we got the barbecue ready, light the coals and letting them burn down to the right level, we added some beech wood chips (you soak them first so they produce smoke rather than burn)

– smoked the meat on the barbecue for 40 minutes with the lid on

– reduced down the leftover cooking juices in the pan from the over cooking adding some of TZ’s Wor Sisters Sauce and some sugar to get a thick sweet sour spicy sauce

– let the meat relax for 10 minutes, cut in thick slices and served simply with boiled potatoes and buttered cabbage and the sauce on the side

IT WAS AMAZING

Ready to slice

There was plenty left so we had some in homemade buns with slaw and potato salad later in the week and finally we stir fried the last bits with greens, fresh ginger and garlic  and served on rice noodles.

Leftovers made a tasty stir fry

So easy, so delicious. We are both now BBQ converts.

 

Beautiful brassicas

You might remember that I used to write a monthly blog for Francoise Murat Design about season British food. Well, Francoise has had the blog redesigned and its now called Rendez-vous Deco & Jardin, it looks lovely and I’m please to say I’m back doing my monthly feature.

My first piece was on how versatile brassicas are in the kitchen are and how useful they can be in in the lean vegetable months before the UK growing season gets into swing.

You can read the article here, its packed with ideas on how to use brassicas from spicy to mild, british to asian cooking, there is sure to be something to suit you.

Easy slaw

It’s taken me a long time to be a fan of coleslaw. Scarred by childhood memories of gloopy overly vinegary stuff from tubs and at the other extreme overly wholesome versions with yoghurt and stale nuts, I’ve always approached the dish with caution. But my husband is a big fan and so I thought ‘how hard can it be’ to make a good version…so I tried.

At first I refused to add any extra vinegar, the recipes got a modest thumbs up but the comments ‘too thick’. Then in summer last year there was a twitter conversation about making slaw with chums @josordoni, @roystonandhayes, @lahoguefarm and @cjmsheng each having their views on essential and optional ingredients. Chris from La Hogue was kind enough to tweet us the version he uses in the cafe (all typos his not mine on this one !):

“Ok our *Coleslaw*-carrot,cabbage,onion,good plain mayonaisse >>then dressing of local honey,lemonjuice,womersley vinegar,wholegrain mustard & olive oil -only use a small amount of dressing ;0)”

So since then I’ve been using that a a basic structure but playing with the mix depending on what’s to hand, what its to be served and what flavours I fancy. I’m an inveterate recipe fiddler. The mix immediately got the thumbs up and each batch seems to have been more winning than the last.

The picture above was made as follows (makes enough for 6):

1/2 head spring cabbage, shredded

1/2 head celeriac, sliced finely

1 red onion sliced finely

125g of Stokes mayonnaise (my current favourite mayo)

1 tbsp coriander seeds lightly crushed

1 tbsp Womersley blackberry vinegar

Mix all the vegetables together, add the mayo and coriander and stir in, leave to stand for 30 mins. Pour over the vinegar and stir through.

We served it with venison burgers the first evening and with smoked salmon and Peters Yard crispbread for a light lunch.

Variations:

cabbage: don’t just stick to the white or red varieties all different sorts will work as will kale or green, you just get a different texture

root veg: carrot is traditional but beetroot is lovely as is parsnip

spices/seasoning: mustard is traditional but I like cumin, chilli, coriander, fennel, onion seeds, poppy seeds depending on what I’m serving it with. Experiment.

 

 

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.