Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Last of the Blackberries - A Simple Jamie Oliver Recipe for Blackberry Tart

I reckon the blackberries are almost over in Devon.  There were still plenty on the bushes in Lustleigh today, but plenty of them were turning to mush in our purple-stained fingers.  There were a shameful amount of unpicked mouldy ones too.   Why doesn't everyone go brambling?  Maybe the walkers and residents in Lustleigh have had their fill.

In folklore, it is deemed unlucky to pick blackberries after September 29th, otherwise the devil has spat on them, so I guess we made a lucky escape today.

I made this:

 It's from Jamie Oliver's Italy and its Italian name is Torta di More and the full recipe is on his website here.

I cheated and used a pre-made all butter pastry case from Sainsbury's.  I'm totally useless with 'neat and tidy' pastry, so these cases are a godsend and magically keep for ages in your larder without any preservatives. Must be huge quantities of salt and sugar in them, or just Sainsbury pixie dust.

Then basically, you just whisk together in one go:

500g mascarpone,
3-4 tablespoonfuls of caster sugar,
the inside seeds of a vanilla pod,
100ml cream (supposed to be single, I used double)
a couple of tbsp of vino santo, grappa or other sweet liqueur.

Place that creamy mixture in the pastry case, sprinkle on some blackberries and then dob a few droplets of melted blackberry jam onto the fruit to make them sweet and sparkly.

My son said that there was far too much cream and he picked off all the berries (not much of a success for him then) but the rest of the family tucked in.  Delicious, and seasonal (just).

By the way, if you're ever near Lustleigh, try the Primrose Tea Rooms, a wonderful friendly place run by a mother and daughter team where I had a slice of fresh, light lemon drizzle cake for 80p.

This blog post has been entered in the Simple and in Season Blogging Event: http://www.renbehan.com/2011/09/simple-and-in-season-september-blogging-event.html

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Book Reviews: The Gentle Art of Cookery and Simple French Cooking for English Homes

These books look amazing.  If you like to own books, feel them, sniff them, display them on your shelves and slightly drool over the quality of the paper and feel a bit pleased when there is a little satin bookmark.....these are just the books you are looking for.  They are from a new series called Classic Voices in Food.  They are re-published 19th-mid 20th century forgotten classic cookery tomes.

The binding of The Gentle Art of Cookery is beautiful: a deep green cover embossed with a silver dandelion and contrasting scarlet edged thick pages.  I'm won over already.  Originally published in 1925, one of the authors, Mrs C F Leyel, was a bit ahead of her time in the use of herbs and spices and includes quite a few Arabic dishes that would have been seen as very modern at the time.  I particularly love The Alchemist's Cupboard section at the end of the book where she tells you all the best London shops where you should buy your Mushroom Ketchup, Parisian Essence (qu'est-ce que c'est?) and Cream of Hominy (dried maize kernels).

There's a hilarious recipe, The Ostrich Egg, that had me creased up.  It is suggested that children will be enchanted if you get a pig's bladder and via a convoluted method, cook 12 eggs inside it so that you end up with one enormous giant boiled egg.  My children would certainly be surprised if I made this and might think their mother had gone bananas.

The recipes are simple, a couple of lines long and don't specify quantities of ingredients.  It's all far more free form than our modern recipe books.  I love the old-fashioned-ness of recipes such as Prune Soup, Devilled Lobster, Green Foie Gras Sandwich (foie gras, slices of chicken and lettuce dipped in French dressing in between bread).  In common with other historic cookery books, there are way too many egg recipes.

It's all very homely and you get the feeling that Mrs Leyel and Miss Hartley, the authors, were jolly nice womenfolk, and passionate about their subject.

The second book, Simple French Cookery for English Homes by X. Marcel Boulestin has a bit more of a haughty 'Zee Ingleesh! Zey cannot call zemselves real chefs!' attitude.  Again, it's a beautifully presented book and I loved every minute of his faintly patronising tone.   He was a pre-cursor of Jamie Oliver, in fact, he was the first TV chef, appearing in 1937 and he does seem to be truly keen to make simple, good honest cookery available to everyone.

Monsieur Boulestin offers advice on a post-party meal and advises Cabbage Soup, Mixed Cold Meats, Salad and Dessert Coffee.  (Beats a kebab, I guess.)  He says:

'This is more suitable for Chelsea than for Bayswater - unless the inhabitants of this "highly desirable district" happen to feel, for once, "delightfully bohemian."'

Again, lots and lots of egg recipes.

It's easy to be flippant about these books, and their descriptions of how to cook a steak, or how to dress a salad, but this book was hugely influential in bringing the French style of cooking to the English speaking world, so as a historic (and ironic) document, I love it.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Retro Trailers from Cornwall - Stylish Alternative to Caravans

About a month ago we were at Ruan Minor Vintage Rally and spotted two of these silver teardrop shaped handmade trailers on display:

I chatted to the maker, an innovative and personable chap, based in West Cornwall.  He custom makes each trailer to customers’ specifications.  They are roughly £4000 for the smaller one and £6000 for the larger one.  If it wasn’t for my two kids, lack of funds and no driveway to store the thing, I would definitely be a punter.

There was something incredibly appealing about these mini caravans.  The whole of the inside of the main compartment is taken up by a snug double bed with storage space and somewhere for a stereo, but no standing room.  Romping room only.

The back opened outwards in the style of an Italian street coffee cart, and inside was a diminutive kitchen, done up in a lovely black and white checks with red accessories; space for a cool box and a gas burner.  As the lady from Retro Trailers told me, it’s really a fair weather kitchen, but if the sun was shining, what fun.

They look so dinky when being towed (what?! could I consider a towbar? Yes, if I had an E Type, I damn well could.)


Monday, 5 September 2011

Two 11 Year Olds Play with the Hummingbird Cafe Cookbook

My 11 year old daughter and her friend wanted to make something from the Hummingbird Cafe Cookbook.  We had all the ingredients for the raspberry cheesecake brownies.  Including wonderful local, Devon raspberries from our local farm, Shute Fruit.  I was getting our house ready for some guests who were coming to stay, so just let them get on with it in the kitchen.  I was rather impressed when two hours later (including a bit of refrigeration time), they presented me with the finished product:

The recipe is fairly simple, but does involve three layers so I was impressed.  The chocolate brownie and vanilla cheesecake layers are baked together in the oven and then when cool, smothered with pink creamy muck muck.

I made it again today as a treat for my daughter as she started Secondary School today.  It's simple and very fattening, but delicious.  I recommend halving the quantities if you just want to feed 4-6 people.  The original version is enormous and serves 12.  Also, where the recipe says to beat the cream, sugar and raspberries together for the wonderful pink shaving foam topping, it's best to whip the cream lightly, then add the sugar and raspberries, otherwise the mixture won't thicken.

I've never been lucky enough to visit the actual Hummingbird Cafe in London, but we've made a couple of things from the cookbook - other notable favourites are: the vanilla cupcakes, and the double chocolate chip cookies

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