Keeping it Local

Many of you will know that my blog started life as a directory of local food producers in my home county, Leicestershire. Although I no longer maintain the directory, I'm still keen on 'keeping it local' whenever possible. To me, it's nothing to do with the environmental issues, it's because the quality of the food is so much better. There is a dividend because food miles are low is great, but that's not the main issue for me. I'm no food saint, if there's a great deal at the supermarket, I feel no guilt and buy in bulk. However, I usually check that it's at least British.

This is just my long-winded way of getting around to telling you that I've put a piece of ham in to cure in local cider and honey. The cider was kindly donated by Mark Shirley at Rockingham Forest Cider. Mark's in Middleton, some 30 odd miles away, but given that he visited his in-laws who live in the next village to me when he delivered it, I'm only counting it as 3 miles! The honey's from Englands Farm which is on the edge of the village where I live - maybe 300 yards away from my home; it's superb. To these I added some apple juice made with fruits from a neighbour's tree along with the normal dry ingredients and spices.

Rather than use all the cider on this test piece, I choose to use the injection method of curing so as to save some cider for another piece of meat. I'll publish the results and recipe in due course

On the subject of injecting meat, I bought a new syringe; it's so much better than my last one as it doesn't leak all over the place:

Thurlaston Honey and flavour injector

They're available from sellers on the Amazon Website.

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My Lovely Daughters

Both my girls are great, I couldn't ask for better. Emma still lives at home: Hannah in a nearby village.

I didn't realise at the time, but one of the hidden bonuses of her moving out is that when she visits for a meal she behaves like a 'proper guest' and brings her half-starved 18 stone dad a pressy!

On Saturday it was these:

Macarons in a tin

Given that she'd never made them before, and is new to baking, she's done a great job.


I believe that she used this recipe from Delicious Magazine.

Now, I've just got to train her to brew beer!

Takeaways and Moans

Well, the "one of those weeks" that I was having has decided to extend itself into two! I've got absolutely nothing done. It's not only me that's a bit broken down though, the hot water side of the boiler's gone kaput! I understand that there's a rare and elusive species called a plumber that lives locally and can be tempted out of his lair by feeding him large denomination paper money; hopefully he'll turn up soon!

Anyway, enough of my problems, but whilst I'm having a moan: what is it with all our local chip-shops nowadays? The batter has a spongy layer underneath it and they never cook the chips enough. One of our local ones seems to cook everything in sump oil and the other turns buying a simple meal into an epic. You get in there and firstly they'll tell you they're waiting for fish, so you stand to one side and wait; when your fish is cooked they then tell you that they're waiting for chips! I kid you not. I'm sure that it takes less time to cook the bloomin' things at home than to go to there. Damn it, they've really only got to get two things right: the fish and the chips. They can't even do that properly. Given that they cook the flamin' things all-day everyday you'd think that they would get it right occasionally, if only by accident!

Pauline's only ever cooked fish in batter twice in her life, but she can get it right. The haddock she cooked on Thursday was superb, albeit we had it with chips and mushy peas from the freezer for convenience. The batter was just simply self-raising flour, water and salt; it was still crisp over twenty minutes after frying. It ain't rocket science.

Fish and chips

Now the Chinese Takeaway in the next village is a different kettle of fish! I swear that you could order dinner for 300 and it would still be ready in twenty minutes! They're great, deliver to your door, and the portions are so generous that a 'set meal for two' will feed four of us easily.

And so to the Indian sub-continent. It seems like every pub that closes in the local area reopens as an Indian restaurant. There's a lot of competition and very reasonable prices; because of this the local Indian takeaways appear comparatively expensive. You may as well eat in the restaurants; the cost will be similar but the food will be so much better.

"Moan, moan, moan, that's all you do. None of them are that expensive. In fact for a bloke that spends £100 - £200 each time at the butchers, they're cheap!" OK, I agree, and that's fine if you're only paying for one or two. I'm usually buying for four or more, so it can get a bit expensive. "Where's all this gobbledygook taking us?" Well, really it's just a way of me working around to telling you that I did crawl out of my pit on Saturday to cook an Indian meal for myself and my daughters, and their partners. Pauline can't stand the stuff, so had an omelette instead! I was going to buy it from the local takeaway 'cos I wasn't feeling great, but when I thought of the price I got a funny pain in my wallet so decided to cook it myself. I forgot to take pictures but Hannah plated up the leftovers so that I had something to show for it. Pretty, it ain't!

My Indian meal

There's a lamb roghan josh, chicken tikki in sauce, spiced basmati rice, chappati, and for me the star of the show: The Lake Palace Hotel's aubergine cooked in pickling style. I cut back on the oil and garlic and it was superb.

You can tell how long it takes me to write things: the plumber's just arrived!

Well, what can I say? The plumber's fixed the sticky valve that was causing the problem with the boiler and only charged me £40. I take back all I said about plumbers; he's now my hero of the day!

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One of Those Weeks!

It's been one of those weeks! An infection that's been lingering since mid August reared it's ugly head necessitating yet another course of antibiotics. Needless to say, the tablets had 'a debilitating affect on my digestive system'; well that's a nice way of putting it! To cap it all, today for some reason, my body decided that it was time to take a closer look at the bathroom floor. Not only did I find out that it's as hard as I remember from last time, but also that the toilet cistern's harder than my head!

So apologies to those people who have been awaiting my Garlic and Ham Luncheon Meat recipe; a trip to the butchers has been out of the question.

I've spent much of the week just thinking over other future projects: two of will become current as soon as I get the meat. One's a modernised version of a local beef cure that I'm going to write about for The Midland's Food Bloggers. The other's a ham cure using local cider. Mark Shirley kindly brought me earlier it this week; Mark's the guy behind Rockingham Forest Cider and writes a great blog about his exploits. Thanks Mark.

I'll keep the details of the beef recipe under my hat for the moment, but for the cider cured ham, I'm thinking along the lines of marrying the cider with a local honey and using, what I like to call, warm spices: allspice, cinnamon, cloves etc. However, knowing me, that'll all change before the final version. Calculating the actual cure will only take a few minutes; it's the thinking time beforehand that takes me weeks!

Garlic and Ham Luncheon Meat

Luncheon meat is one of the best illustrations of the British relationship with food; call something Luncheon Meat and it's sold as a product in the supermarket's budget range at £3 a kilo; call it Jagdwurst, Stuttgarter, Schinkenwurst or Mortadella and it costs five times as much! We just don't value our own British products. Admittedly, the budget Luncheon Meat has a little less meat than it's fancy named counterparts, but this doesn't have to be so. If it was held in higher esteem and commanded a higher price like it's continental counterparts, this could be changed.

Fortunately, attitudes are gradually changing, and with that in mind this is my first 'prototype' of a Ham and Garlic Sausage, a clone of one that Pauline likes to buy. It's a work in progress, so although it's received favourable comments from the people that have tried it, I want to tweak the recipe before I put in online; maybe a bit more garlic and a 'paste' with more bite.

Ham and Garlic Sausage

The small air holes annoy me, but are difficult to avoid when recreating an industrial process with domestic equipment.

4th Quorn Bacon Roll Day

From the organisers of the 4th Quorn bacon Roll Day:

The time of year is fast approaching when the challenge is made to villagers to create the best Quorn Bacon Roll.

The 4th Quorn Bacon Roll Day will be held at the Quorn Exchange Restaurant, High Street, Quorn on Wednesday, October 5th .

The judges this year will be Lucy Harling of the Quorn Exchange Restaurant; the Mayor of Charnwood, Cllr. Bernard Burr and Anne Davies, presenter of East Midlands Today on BBC TV.

The event starts at 11am with judging at 11.30am and the results at noon or thereabouts.

Full details of how to enter, or to come and watch and taste, contact:
Terry Stirling tel.01509-414287 or e.mail

Ok, "So what the heck is a Quorn bacon Roll?"
For details and a recipe see my previous Quorn Bacon Roll post.

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