Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Over a barrel – Guardian Article

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

The article on cost of house wine and who gets what, brought to mind a recent visit to southern Italy.

With my wife and a couple who are old travelling companions we were exploring the architectural and gastronomic delights of the south.

We had arrived in Lecce, in the late afternoon, having driven down from Matera where we had been staying in the Sassi. Refreshed and casually attired for dinner, we left the hotel to explore the city and find a suitable restaurant, when luckily we ran into the young lady who had checked us in, we asked her for a recommendation and she directed us to a small restaurant, that was conveniently, no more than 150 metres from the entrance to the hotel.

The restaurant specialised in authentic Salentine gastronomy, the food was delicious, the wine, they only served house wine, white or red was served by the glass,¼/½ or, litre carafe, there were four of us so we had a litre carafe of local white, it was excellent, so we indulged in another half a litre, but at this point you’re wondering how does this relate to the Guardian Article, well the wine, probably drawn from a demijohn or a barrel cost just 3.5 Euros, now that’s value, in fact I don’t think we spent more than 6 to 7 Euros for any of the local or house wines we drank during the whole  of our trip.

So when it comes to the cost of house wine in the UK and who gets what, whether its the price of wine, food, petrol,cars or bank loans, to say we are “over a barrel” is a bit of an understatement, more like poured into, corked up and rolled over would be a more apt description of the price we pay for most essentials in “rip or Britain”, compared to the rest of Europe.

Should you be in Lecce, looking for a ristorante tipico that serves a reasonably priced house wine, the Alle due Corti in the Corte dei Giugni is well worth a visit. The hotel, Suite 68, in the heart of Lecce’s historical district on the Via Leonardo Prato was a most enjoyable experience.

The Sassi, part of Matera is stunning a very spiritual place and should be in every body’s book of places to go and see before you die.

The Guradian article can be read here

Eating Local Seasonal Food – benefits the environment and our local communities.

Monday, November 16th, 2009

Buying locally produced food and drink can help support the local economy, reduce the number of food miles and reduce the amount of waste packaging that comes with most food purchased from supermarkets. The food is fresher and its nice to know how and where the food is produced and most cases you’ll be talking to the person who produced it.

Here’s some simple steps you can use to help in breaking the habit of shopping at the large multiples and start supporting local and artisan producers and eat  healthier and tastier more seasonal food.

  • Step 1: Be aware of the seasons and rhythms of nature from spring, summer, autumn and winter.
  • Step 2: Buy your food from small local outlets – farmers markets, local shops, farm shops, roadside stalls and trusted web sites.
  • Step 3: Try the different and often tastier varieties of fruit, vegetables and food produced by local and artisan producers.
  • Step 4: Buy from a local greengrocer and butcher  – or get an organic vegetables and fruit box delivered to your door, search online for a local or specific supplier.
  • Step 5: Grow some of your food yourself – in your back garden, an allotment or in pots and window boxes.

To find local food producers go to and for more information on allotments visit the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners Limited website

“ A thriving household depends on the use of seasonal produce and the application of common sense”

(Olivier de Serres 1539-1619)

Pumpkin Pie

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

When the Pilgrim Fathers, who mostly came from East Anglia, crossed the Atlantic to the new world, they took with them an old Norfolk recipe – Million Pie – that became the Pumpkin Pie that was served at the Thanksgiving dinner for their first harvest in the New World.

With so many Pumpkins now readily available thanks to the Halloween culture that’s has become fashionable over the last few years now is as good a time as ever to try this delicious old world Norfolk recipe come new world festive dish.

11/2lb/750g pumpkin purée
1lb/500g shortcrust pastry
1/2pint/300g double cream
3 large free range eggs
11/2tbs grated lemon peel
1/2tsp salt
8oz/230g caster sugar
11/2tsp grated ginger
1tsp ground cinnamon
1/2tsp ground cloves
1/2tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2tbs semolina (optional)

Method: Make the purée by cutting the pumpkin into 1inch slices, removing the outer skin, seed and pith. Cut the slices of pumpkin into 1inch squares, place in a large baking tray, cover with foil and bake in the oven at 180C/350F gas mark4 for about 40 minutes until tender. Drain then place in large mixing bowl and mash or blend until smooth, set aside to cool.

Roll out pastry and line buttered 10inc/26cm fluted or plain china flan dish, place in fridge to cool.

Beat the eggs, add cream, lemon peel and sugar, beat until smooth, stir this mixture into the pumpkin purée, add the salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, combine thoroughly. Remove flan dish from fridge, lightly cover pastry base with dusting of semolina (optional, stops purée soaking into pastry before its cooked). Pour in the pumpkin mixture until it fills pastry case and then lightly sprinkle a dusting of cinnamon and a little freshly ground nutmeg on the top.

Bake in a preheated oven 180C/350F/Gas mark 4 for approx 45 minutes until mixture is firm and light brown, reduce heat if it browns too quickly.

Serve with fresh double cream.

Hedgerow Harvest Sloe Gin – a real winter warmer

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

Now is the time to harvest the wild sloes that this year are in abundance in the hedgerows . Sloes (Prunis Spinosa) are the fruit of the Blackthorn whose pure white flowers herald the coming of spring The bitter blue black fruits with a blush of peacock blue make one of the most delicious traditional winter drinks.

You’ll need about a 1lb (500g), don’t strip the bush seek out a number of sources   making sure you leave some for the indigenous wild life, and remember to sow a few back into the hedges on the way home for future generations.

P1010146Hopefully you live in an area where the local farming community has not yet savagely cut back the hedges to the bare bones, removing all the winter foliage and berries. Inflicted annually, its a major contributor to the drastic decline of small mammals, wild birds, invertebrates and wild bee populations.

Remove the storks leaves and gently wash and dry the sloes, prick the sloes with a fork or for a quick method, get one of those pet grooming brushes, the one that looks like a porcupine, lots of fine wire spines, place the sloes on a tray and give them a gentle bashing. Place in large kilner jar or similar, add equal weight of sugar and about 75cl to a litre of gin. Seal and agitate daily until all the sugar has dissolved then leave it in a dark cupboard for 3 to 6 months, the longer its left the deeper the colour and flavours of almond, cherry brandy and blackcurrants.

Strain the contents through muslin and decant into bottles, at this point you can add more gin depending on what depth of flavour and colour you prefer.

Leave to settle for a couple of weeks, serve with tonic of straight over ice also great as a topping for vanilla ice cream.