Saturday, 22 August 2009

Honey and Seed Bread

Lets talk about Bread. Recently I have just got the bug for home baked bread. Don't know where it has come from. But I have it. I'll tell you more about it in a later post, along with my dead simple, really easy basic white bread recipe, which you can then adapt to whatever you fancy.

So way before I got the need to bake bread, I had visited a butchers that sold a range of flour that came from local farms. I found myself driving past the butchers last week and suddenly remembered this flour they sold, and made an immediate diversion. They had a selection of different varieties, and I thought I would try something different........Honey and Seed Bread Flour.

I'm going to tell you a bit about where this flour comes from. It comes from Wessex Flour Mill in Wantage, Oxfordshire. The flour is milled using wheat that is locally grown around the mill. In fact, on the back of the bag of flour, they list the farms that provided the wheat for the bag. There were four farms that provided the wheat that was milled for the bag I had. They were:

  • Woodway Farm, Watlington, Oxon
  • Sleight Farm, Pottern, Wilts
  • Zouch Farm, Abingdon, Oxon
  • Swannybrook Farm, Abingdon, Oxon

It is used by over 150 craft bakers, and sold to the public though over 500 farm shops, specialist shops and independent food shops. You can check your nearest stockist by clicking here, or go here to order direct.

It was a pure pleasure running your hands the the super soft and fine flour, coming across little nuggets of honey, linseed, poppyseed, millet seed, sunflower seeds, cracked wheat and sesame seeds. Every now and then the luxury aroma of honey hit you. You could tell by the touch, that this flour was something special. Opening the over door when the bread is ready, you just can't beat that smell of home baked bread.......and with this you also get the hint of honey.

I like my bread to be nice and crusty, so that when you cut through it you hear that crispy crust. The taste always seems to be better as well I think. This bread was good for a cheese and pickle sandwich for lunch, and was wonderful toasted with a spreading of butter for breakfast the following morning. It wasn't a sweet bread as I was expecting with the honey, but it had a lovely background smoothness of honey. The bread inside was soft, with little seeds of taste dotted around.

Honey & Seed Bread

Makes 2 loaves

710g Wessex Mill Honey & Seed Flour
2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Golden Granulated Sugar
1 7g sachet of Fast Action Yeast
16g soft Butter
400ml warm water

1. Preheat your oven to Gas Mark 6/230C.
2. Put the flour and salt into a bowl . Rub the butter into the flour.
3. Mix the sugar and yeast with the water, and leave for 2 minutes.
4. Make a well in the centre of the flour. Gradually pour in the water mix, while mixing with a fork, bring in flour from the outside. When it becomes stiff, add some more water. Continue until you have ball of dough formed.
5. Place onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, until a soft dough has formed. Place back into the bowl, cover with a clean damp tea towel and put in a warm place until it has doubled in size.
6. Once doubled in size, knock back the dough. Do this by placing your fist into the centre of the dough, and fold into the edge. Put onto a floured work surface and knead for 2 minutes. Cut the dough in half, and shape each half into a circle loaf. Cut a cross in the top of each loaf, place on a warmed greased baking sheet and leave for 30 minutes in a warm place.
8. Sprinkle the tops with plain flour if you like, and place in the oven for 10 minutes. Then turn down the oven to Gas Mark 6/200C and leave for another 20 minutes. Check the bread is cooked by tapping the bottom. If you have a 'hollow' sound it is ready, if not leave for a few more minutes. Place a wired rack to cool.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Piri Piri Chicken - How HOT do you like it?

I was very excited. So excited that I could bite myself. Why? Well let me tell you. Before I started BTTCB, I spent a lot of time looking at and reading many food blogs. What kept jumping out at me was the various different food blogging events that go on. But there was one that really, really make me want to get involved with one. That was 'In the Bag' hosted by Julia over at A Slice of Cherry Pie. Which is fantastic, as it is all about using seasonal food - something I am trying to do more and more. For the month of August the ingredients that you had to use were Chilli, Garlic and Chicken. So this is it, my first entry and attempt at In the Bag........ Piri Piri Chicken.

The name Piri-Piri comes from the chilli that is used, which is more commonly known as the African Birds-Eye Chilli. Although Piri-Piri is Portuguese, it actually first came from Africa. It originates from Angola and Mozambique - which were colonies of Portugal. It is a hot sauce made from dried and soaked piri-piri chillies. I have memories of the first time I had Piri-Piri Chicken. It was in Portugal when I had just turned 18, off the beaten track in a tiny little village, in a little restaurant over-looking the hills. It was a beautiful setting. When I was making this I wanted to recreate that hot, but fragrant taste that I can remember.

Doing some research on Piri-Piri Sauce, I was amazed at the sheer number of variations and recipes. The most basic, which was probably the original, was just oil, minced piri-piri chillies and salt. But I wanted to have a bit more flavour to mine, to remind me of when I was back in Portugal. So I set about creating my version of Piri-Piri Chicken. Let me just interrupt at this point and say pop yourselves a few beers in the fridge to drink while eating this. You'll love the reason why. In chillies there is a substance called Capsaicin. This is the substance in a chilli that creates the burning sensation. When people eat something that is too hot, many people turn to water to try and cool their mouth down. It's not worth it. It's ineffective. You see Capsaicin is not water-soluble, so it doesn't do anything. The good news is, it's alcohol-soluble. That's why a cold beer goes well with a curry.

You can make this as hot or as mild as you like, it's down to you how much heat you can handle. Personally I like hot food, and when I made this I used 6 birds eye chillies. When I make this again, I will increase this to 8 or 9 as for me it could be hotter. But I will say with 6 chillies you still get a good kick and a wonderful flavour. You can also use prawns instead of chicken, use the sauce brushed onto corn on the cob, or toss potato wedges in the marinade before cooking.

Piri-Piri Chicken

Serves 2

6 - 12 red Birds Eye Chillies (depending on taste)
2 cloves Garlic, chopped
1 tsp Malden Sea Salt
1/2 tsp dried Oregano
1/2 tsp dried Thyme
1/4 tsp ground Cumin
100ml Olive Oil
50 ml Red Wine Vinegar
Juice of 1 Lime
4 free range chicken pieces (drumsticks/thighs - skin on)

1. Preheat your oven to Gas Mark 4/180C. Place your chillies in the oven for 10 minutes. Leave to cool and chop.
2. Place the chilli in a saucepan with the garlic, salt, oregano, thyme, cumin, olive oil, vinegar and lime. Bring to a simmer for 2-3 minutes and then leave to cool. Place in a jam jar and keep at room temperature.
3. Make several slashes into the chicken, which will help the marinade penetrate the meat. Place the chicken in a sealable plastic bag and give the jar of Piri-Piri Sauce a really good shake. Pour half the marinade into the bag, and mix well with the chicken. Seal the bag and place in the fridge overnight (if unable to do overnight, just 1 hour will still be fine).
4. Preheat your oven to Gas Mark 6/200C. Get your griddle pan nice and hot, and griddle your chicken for a few minutes on each side to colour. Once you have some colour and lines from the griddle on your chicken, place in the oven for 20 minutes or until cooked. Baste at least once with some of the remaining Piri-Piri Sauce. Alternatively, as I did in this time, you can barbecue.
5. Serve with Corn on the Cob, covered in butter with cracked black pepper and salad.

Eden Food Festival

Back last year High Wycombe got a sparkling new shopping centre, 675,000 sqf which cost £140 million. Personally I think it is a great addition to the town - however there are some people that don't like it and will knock it at any turn. To be truthful though, these small minded people knock anything positive in the town. They have many events throughout the year for the people visiting the shopping centre - and this weekend was the first Eden Food Festival.

We got down there nice and early, as they had a Farmers Market and the restaurants in the centre giving out free tastings - yum! In total they had over 35 stalls packed with the highest quality, locally sourced produce. They also had a live cookery theatre. The two 'celebrity chefs' that would be cooking through the day was Sophie Grigson (one of the UK's best known, best selling food writers and broadcasters) and Russell Clement (winner of BBC2's 'The Restaurant'). They also had chefs from various different restaurants in Eden demonstrating throughout the day.

Unfortunately, we didn't have the time to spend the whole day down in Eden, but we did manage to watch Sophie's first appearance in the cooking theatre. This was all about breakfast. The first was a healthy kick start to your morning - Bircher Muesli with Nuts and Apple Juice. This was dead simple and easy to make. Rolled oats soaked in apple juice, with grated apple, Greek style yogurt, Honey, chopped Macadamia Nuts and topped with a selection of fresh fruit (Strawberries, Blueberries and Apricots).

One of the things that Sophie is known for, is for her passion on healthy food for children. She interacted with the audience as she shared her passion. She is a big believer in not cooking separate meals for children, and to cook one meal for the whole family. Why not? Too many times you hear nowadays about people not sitting down and eating the same meal together. I believe in what she says. This way children will learn more about food and have a wider knowledge of food. As Sophie says, the only thing you may need to do when cooking one meal for the family is to reduce the amout of chilli you may be using.

Talking of chillies... there was a stall being occupied by Chillies2U. They are a small farm in Oxfordshire that organically grows a range of chillies. They also make a range of chillis sauces - which along with the actual chillies are available mail order. This is one of the products that Sophie spotted as she walked around the farmers market and decided to add in an extra recipe to her demonstration. The other product that Sophie spotted was Chiltern Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Rapeseed Oil (the same that I picked up at the Farm Shop when I went fruit picking).

I'm not sure what the name of this particular recipe was, so I'm going to call it Mexican Breakfast Eggs. This was a super quick breakfast to make - and probably perfect if you are little worse for wear from the night before. She fried two eggs in the rapeseed oil. When they were almost done she added into the pan some chopped chilli (she used Joes Long from Chillies2U) and two chopped cloves of garlic. She then basted the eggs with the oil, chilli and garlic and squirted in the juice of a lime. The eggs were then plated up, sprinkled with chopped coriander and seasoned with salt and pepper.

For her final demonstration - it was something special. I had been waiting for her to do this all morning. She was making one of my favourite indulgences - Peanut Butter. But this was not just any ordinary Peanut Butter. Oh no. It was Honey Cinnamon Cashew Nut Butter mmmm. This is something that I HAVE to make and soon. Again this was another simple and quick recipe. It was just roasted cashew nuts whizzed in a food processor along with honey cinnamon and a touch of salt. Then just gradually poured in rapeseed oil until the mixture is thick and creamy. You can then just put this into a jar and use. I was lucky enough to be able to taste some of it, and wow, its was creamy, thick, stuck to the roof of your mouth the the taste of honey and cinnamon exploding in your mouth. I know this may sound wrong with it being August - but it tasted of Christmas (note to self - remember to make for presents this Christmas). I will let you know how I get on when I make it.

I have to give it to Sophie, she was great. Her enthusiasm and passion is infectious when you watch and listen to her. She tells many stories, and gives lots of tips and advise out while she is cooking.

It was then on to do a bit of shopping. The first stall we came to was Flour Power, must have had the biggest range of breads I have ever seen. We purchased a great Rustic Rye loaf, which we had for dinner in the evening with a Ploughman's. As we went up to the stall for Hare Hatch Sheeplands, my Mum something she hadn't had for a very long time. Lardy Cake. I've never had this before, so quickly took a free sample to try. It was sweet, sticky, gooey and delicious. So that was it, we had one of them. I was told it tasted much better and was more sticky and gooey if it is warmed in the oven. OMG they were right, I must find a recipe for Lardy Cake. It's definitely not for the health conscious - so be warned.

We then came across The Complete Pig. They hand make pork products from a herd of free ranging Duroc Pigs. They are based in Watlington, Oxfordshire. So went for some of there sausage rolls. When I got home and tried them, they must be the best tasting sausage rolls that I have eaten for a long time. There was no horrible paste in the middle of them, but proper coarse pork meat, seasoned very well and tasted totally different, but way better, than your normal sausage roll. We also picked up some of their dry cure streaky bacon, which I had for breakfast this morning. I have to say when it was cooked, the bacon did look a little unappetising. It was a more grey/brown colour, and I wasn't too optimistic. As the saying goes - don't judge a book by its cover. The taste was (this may sound strange) very meaty and tender. I have to say it was some very good bacon, one I will be happily buying again.

We then went to the stall of Manor Farm Game. I had some of their sausages brought back for me from this years Game Fair. They were Duck & Orange, Venison & Red Wine and Wild Boar and Apple. I haven't tried these yet, but I have some good ideas how I am going to use them. While at the stall I had a taste of their Pheasant & Pear Sausages. They were meaty, juicy and very moreish. So I had to grab a pack of them as well. The final place that we purchased something from was Give Me Cake. It was such a delightful stall with delightful looking cakes. From dainty looking cupcakes, to loaf cakes and various treats. We picked up a couple of slices of Yorkshire Parkin. I'll have that a little later with a slice of cheese and cup of tea.

Overall I think it was a fantastic event, and looking forward to next years. Not everyone has the opportunity or possibility to go out and purchase food from local farmers, growers and producers. So to bring these producers into the town centre for everyone to have access to is great. Not only does it educate and share seasonal produce with the public so they can eat healthier and better produce, but in these current economic times, we should be doing everything we can to help the smaller farmers and producers. After all not so long ago, we didn't go to these gigantic supermarkets to buy everything in one place - we went to individual retailers. I also think they the food festival proves one thing - at Farmer's Markets you are buying much better quality produce. It looks better. It smells better. It tastes better. That's because these people really care for what they create, and that comes through their food. One thing that did surprise me, was the price of everything. I was expecting some of the products to be 'over-priced', but I was pleasantly surprised. No some of the things that you could purchase were not as cheap as a supermarket. But for the quality of the produce there, the prices I thought were reasonable. At the end of the day, you get what you pay for.

Now I am really looking forward to 19th September. It's the first official Farmers Market, which will be on the 3rd Saturday of every month. It is a being organised by The Thames Valley Farmers Market Co-operative, and will be great to see more local produce. I'll blog then to let you know what it is like.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Rich Pickings

Phew! What a busy week. I had the week off looking after my niece and nephew - and had a great time. Although I think I could do with another week off to recover. For one of the days out, I decided to take them to a Pick Your Own Farm. Not just because I wanted to go, but I knew they would enjoy it too. I also think it is so important for children to understand where food comes from, and how it gets to their plate. My niece and nephew are lucky in this regard already, as they have a fantastic vegetable plot at the very end of their garden. We have a great Pick Your Own Farm nearby (in fact they own two - one in Iver and the other in Cookham) - Copas Farms.

They grow a HUGE selection of fruit and vegetables for you to pick from May to September. The cropping seasons starts in May with you being able to pick your own asparagus, and ends in September with Raspberries, Plums, Apples, Runner Beans and Sweetcorn. They have a great website ( that has a chart showing what they are cropping in each month, as well as an updated list of what they are currently picking. They even have a 24hr telephone number that has a recorded message giving you up to the moment information on what is available.

They allow you to have a taste of the food that you are picking, but not to blatantly just eat as you go round, and they have many signs up telling you that nothing is free and not to eat anything. My nephew has taken note of these signs. So as we were picking the peas in the pod, I opened a pod to try to see what they were like - much to the disgust of my nephew, who thought we were going to get into trouble. I tried to get him to taste a single pea - but he wouldn't have it as he thought we would get kicked out or not be allowed to leave.

If you want to go and get the freshest produced bang in season, then you should get yourself down to your nearest pick your own farm. Not only is it great fun (we had a gloriously hot sunny day, and took a picnic along), but you are also getting produce as fresh as you can giving you the taste you do not get if you buy it from a supermarket.

We came away with a bounty of Victoria Plums, Beetroot, Runner Beans, Peas in the Pod, Bramley Apples, Discovery Apples, Strawberries and Raspberries.

They also have a farm shop selling various other local products. I picked up a bottle of something that I had never used before - Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Rapeseed Oil. It comes from a farm in Tring called P.E Mead & Sons. I look forward to using that soon. I've already set my reminder to go back in May and pick my own asparagus......

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Barbecue, Sea Bream and firing the Chiminea

When I saw the weather forecast for this weekend, without a shadow of a doubt the barbecue would have to make an appearance. I love my barbecue. I don't think I could do without it. When the British weather gives us the opportunity to get the barbecue going, it should be a crime if you don't. The weather also gave my Dad the chance to light his Chiminea for the first time. It was a birthday present from my Mum earlier this year, but he hadn't had the chance to use it.
Apparently you have to 'cure' the Chiminea first, by lining it with sand, using small amount of newspaper and kindling and not letting the fire get too intense. This is to stop any damage or cracks to it when you first light it.

Recently my Uncle gave us a couple of beautiful sea bream that he caught when he went fishing. Now I'm not a big fish eater. Cod, Tuna, Sea Bass and Salmon is about as far as I go. However, I want to try more fish and 'make' myself like seafood. So this was the perfect opportunity.

I wanted to give the sea bream some extra flavours that would compliment the sunny weather we were enjoying. So I went for a Thai/Asian influenced marinade. It was just simply garlic, ginger, lemongrass, chilli, coriander and lime zest. I didn't want this to be a heavy marinade or flavouring, just something light. That when you eat it, you can taste each individual aspect and not one of them being overpowering.

I'm not one for gas barbecues, for me it has to be the real deal if you want the authentic taste from barbecuing your food. You just can't get that taste from gas. Yes they maybe quick to light, and you don't have to wait until the coals are glowing white. But if you going to do it, do it properly with a real barbecue.

When the fish was laid onto the grill, you hear that wonderful sizzle. Then the aroma of ginger hits you, then garlic and then the lemongrass. You can actually hear the skin crispen up. Turning the fish over was a bit of a pain, as I had the fear that it might stick - and it did. Well one of them did.

I had a dilemma of thinking what to serve with it. I wanted something soothing in case the chilli had a little too much of a kick. So I had the idea of a mint raita potato salad. I don't know why - its not as if you have mint raita with Thai/Asian food. I'll be honest with you - that idea was a bit of a disaster. One I wont repeat again, it just didn't work or taste nice. I also served a simple salad of thinly sliced red onion and tomato, with coriander leaves.

The fish tasted wonderful, it had lovely soft white flesh, and had taken on the flavours from the marinade perfectly. Each time you took a mouthful, you could taste each of the different aromatics individually. Woohoo!! That's another type of fish I will now eat. Considering I have never cooked fish on the barbecue before, I have to say to was cooked to perfection - yep beginners luck!

Barbecued Sea Bream with Ginger, Garlic, Chilli, Lemongrass and Lime

Serves 2

2 Sea Bream, gutted and scaled
1 clove of Garlic, finely chopped
1 large Red Chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
2 limes
2 sticks Lemongrass, finely chopped
1 thumbsized piece of Ginger, finely chopped
1 bunch Coriander

1. Finely grate the zest of 1 lime, and place in a bowl with the garlic, chilli, lemongrass and ginger. Finely chop some of the coriander and add to the bowl. Pour in enough oil just to loosely bring them all together.

2. Slash the sea bream down to the bone on both side, to allow the flavours to penetrate into the fish. Slice the lime that you zested, and place in the cavity of the fish with some of the coriander. Smear the fish with the marinade on both side, and ensure to work into the slashes on the side. Leave for 30mins for the flavours to mingle.

3. Once the coals are glowing white on your barbecue, place your rack over the coals to warm up. Lightly brush the rack with oil (be careful as this may cause the barbecue to flair up). The place the fish on the rack. Cook for 8-10 minutes on each side, or until the fish is cooked depending on the heat of your barbecue.

4. Cut the remaining lime into wedges, squeeze some over the bream and serve the others with the fish.

Hello There!

Welcome to my blog - of which this is my first post - how exciting!! My name is James, and for a long time now I have had an obsession with food. If its not cooking, eating or buying food its reading about it, watching about it and now writing and photographing it. When I left school I was given the opportunity to work for a well known chef. I decided against it due to the long hours, being away from home and being paid very little. Looking back now, if I had any regrets that may be one of them.

So why did I start my own blog? Several reasons really. One of them is I wanted a place to record all of my experiences with food and recipes I try out. Somewhere I could look back on them. But also after reading food blogs online for sometime, I thought it would be fun to give it a go. I have to give credit to one food blog that gave me the inspiration to actually give it a go, and that is Julia Parsons 'A Slice of Cherry Pie'. Seriously, if there is any food blog you should read - Julia's is one of them. Now I'm not promising to be any good at this, but I am looking forward to the journey to see how this develops.

Where did the name come from? You see if I have a recipe from a book, I would usually follow it the first time. But the next time, I usually make a few little amendments to it. I also like to come up with my own recipes. But they don't always work the first time. So I hence having to go 'Back to the Chopping Board' to amend and improve it.

Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog. Hope to see you back here again soon.