Sunday, 18 October 2015

Apple Tasitng Notes 2015

 Part 1 - July/August

These are notes from apples acquired early in the season, July/August, so mostly from windfall apples that weren't quite ready yet, apart from the George Cave apples.

George Cave:  Bright red skin.

Lady Henniker:  Very waxy skin.

Maldon Wonder:

Duchess of Oldenburg:  Slightly tart.

Emneth Early:

Pronounced ridges. Waxy skin.  Soft, dense flesh.  Slightly juicy.  Slightly sour, but I think it's supposed to be a cooker. Emneth is in Cambridgeshire.

Part 2 - October

James Grieve:

Bright red and yellow skin, red stripes on yellow background. Skin is quite waxy. Flesh is cream to white with yellow-green veins. Flesh is soft, very juicy, tastes a bit bitter, overall taste is just like apple juice. Perhaps these were riper than ones we've tasted in previous years, I seem to remember them being rather more tart. Skin is thin, a bit chewy. Bought at a farmer's market. These are early apples and so don't keep for very long.

Princess Russet:

Yellow to pinkish-beige colour under the brown russetting. Yellow flesh. Quite sweet.

Crisp, crunchy, dense flesh, not very juicy. Some herbal notes - maybe like fennel - in the rough skin.

Herefordshire Russet:

Skin is yellow-green with a flush of orange under the russetting.  Rough skin, due to the russetting.  Creamy to yellow flesh. Very sweet. Soft, moderately dense flesh,  moderately juicy. Mellow apple juice flavour. Very nice. Really like this one. I am beginning to really appreciate russet apples.

The second one we tasted had some spicy, herbal notes.

Ashmead's Kernel:

Skin is green with pale red flush and red stripes under the russetting. Not quite ripe yet, probably better later in the season. Skin is rougher than Herefordshire Russet, lots of russetting, flesh is white to creamy, and more juicy. A bit sharp, probably because it's not ready yet, but also sweet. When we tasted some properly ripe ones last year, they had a lovely balance of flavours.

Pitmaston Pineapple:

Yellow skin. Skin is a bit rough and chewy. The apples we got this year are very small. Yellow flesh, crisp, coarse textured, quite juicy, mellow flavour with a hint of pineapple.

Part 3 - November

John Standish:

Small apples with bright red skin. Thin skin. White flesh with red veins. The first one we tasted had a rather dry mealy texture. May be past its best. Tastes like it might have a nice balance of flavours though, a little bit sweet, a little bit acid.

Newton Wonder:

Waxy skin. Hard, dense flesh. Moderately juicy. A little bit tart. I think these are supposed to be dual purpose dessert/cookers.

Adam's Pearmain:

Very pronounced pear shape.  Hard, moderately juicy flesh, slightly sweet,  nice flavour.

Our previous tastings led to quite different conclusions. The year before last we tasted them for the first time, perhaps they were past their best, we didn't think much of the flavour, so we thought maybe it was the distinctive shape that made them interesting.

But then the ones we tasted last year, we thought, that's quite a nice apple.

Saturday, 17 October 2015


It's October, which means it's time for Apple Festivals, and also Chocolate Week.

Chocolate Week is this week in the UK, 12 - 18 October, 2015, and it's not too late to catch The Chocolate Show at Olympia, whch runs from 16 - 18 October, 2015.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Five Recipes from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

I haven't called this post Five Favourite Recipes as I've only recently started cooking from this book, so I've only tried about five recipes so far.

What I loved about the book when I first got it out from the public library was that it uses ingredients which I have bought and stockpiled in my pantry, and then never got around to using because I didn't have that many recipes that used them. Ingredients like dried Iranian limes, freekeh (Egyptian smoked green wheat), soba noodles, large Israeli couscous/Sardinian fregola, and pomegranate molasses.

There are a few recipes using quinoa, an ingredient that hasn't yet made it into my already overstocked pantry, and barley. While I had previously bookmarked a few recipes for barlotto ('risotto' made with barley) from various sources, I have yet to cook any of them.

I also noticed a recipe that uses verjuice, and a bean recipe that uses lovage, a herb that I have been growing in my garden for several years, but have only used the occasional few leaves (the taste is quite strong) for pea and lovage soup, a River Cottage recipe.

Many of the recipes include at least a sprinkling of fresh herbs.

So here are 5 of the recipes I have tried so far.

1. Soba Noodles with Aubergine and Mango.
soba noodles, aubergine, mango, lime, rice vinegar, fresh herbs.

Seems like an unusual combination, but it was really good, the only thing was that it seemed very acid, perhaps next time I would reduce the amount of vinegar.

The price sticker on my packet of soba noodles said 89p, the price when I looked recently in a Korean/Japanese food shop was more like £4.89, an indication of how long the noodles had been in my pantry (and of high inflation - I can't remember when I had bought the noodles, but probably not longer ago than 2010).

2. Itamar's Bulghar Pilaf.
bulgur, onions, red peppers, currants, spices.

Very colorful and tasty, the only problem with this was that the whole coriander seeds were a bit of a nuisance  when trying to eat it, I think next time I will substitute them with ground coriander.

3. Freekeh Pilaf.
 freekeh, onions, stock, spices, fresh herbs, pine nuts, yogurt.

This tasted lovely, similar to a mushroom risotto. The wheat grains had a slightly chewy texture. I made it with some chicken stock that I happened to have in the fridge. This was the first time that I had cooked or eaten  freekeh.

4. Burnt Aubergine with Tahini.
 aubergines, tahini, pomegranate molasses, lemon, garlic, parsley, pomegranate.

I love aubergines, and this will be one more recipe to add to my repertoire of aubergine dips.

I skipped the tomatoes and cucumbers, and didn' t have any pomegranate seeds on hand to scatter over the top as decoration.

In the photo in the book, this dish looks very white, as if it had yogurt on top, as well as the pomegranate seeds, but no yogurt is called for in the recipe. My version turned out looking more dark grey, like mud, but was very delicious nevertheless.

5. Black Pepper Tofu.
tofu, chilies, garlic, black pepper, spring onions, soy sauce.

I had bookmarked a very similar recipe from Spice Trip, by Stevie Parle and Emma Grazette, but for some reason we opted to make the Ottolenghi version. Not sure if we used the full amount of black peppercorns.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Bradwell - The Ultimate Rip-Off

This was never meant to be a political blog, but I just could not believe my ears when I heard the news earlier today.

Not only is China, still a totalitarian country, going to build a nuclear power station at Bradwell, we - through our taxes - are going to guarantee them a huge amount of money to build it, and then guarantee them twice the going rate for any energy they produce, for many years to come.

What kind of Third World country has Britain become that we have to invite a foreign power to be in control of our nuclear energy?

You would never know that Britain was the home of the Industrial Revolution, and that there are still plenty of British universities producing engineering graduates year after year.

Why have we elected a government that is going to sell us down the river like this?

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Five Favourite Recipes from Sicilian Food by Mary Taylor Simeti

I just heard on BBC Radio 4's Food Programme (Sundays at 12:30 pm, Mondays at 3:30 pm),  that next week's edition, part of the Food Heroes series, will feature Mary Taylor Simeti, so I decided that this should be my next list.

1. Caponata - Sweet and Sour Eggplant.
aubergines/eggplants, celery, green olives, capers, tomato sauce, vinegar, cocoa powder.

I love aubergines, and Mary Taylor Simeti's version includes the optional use of cocoa powder, a baroque touch, which I always add.


2. Pesto Trapanese.
garlic, basil, almonds, tomatoes, olive oil.

This Sicilian pesto uses ground almonds instead of Parmesan cheese, and is a hit with me because mature cheeses give me headaches.

3. Pasta Capricciosa - Pasta with Capers and Mint.
tomato sauce, garlic, capers, mint, cream.

4. Fegato ai Sette Cannoli - Sette Cannoli's Liver.
winter squash, garlic, mint, wine vinegar (actually a vegan recipe).

The author explains that Sette Cannoli was a poor neighborhood in Palermo.

5. Cuddureddi - Christmas Cookies.
filled with figs, walnuts, almonds, raisins, citrus peel, chocolate, honey, vino cotto, spices.

D decided that they were not unlike mince pies.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Five Favourite Recipes from An Invitation to Italian Cooking by Antonio Carluccio

My top 5 of the recipes I've tried from An Invitation to Italian Cooking.

1. Pollo al Forno con Patate -  Roast Chicken with Potatoes.
chicken, potatoes, onion, unpeeled garlic cloves,  rosemary.

2. Peperoni Fritti con Aglio, Capperi e Aceto - Fried Peppers with Garlic, Capers and Vinegar.

3. Pasticcio di Polenta - Timbale of Polenta.
polenta, tomato sauce, cheese (fontina, Gorgonzola, Parmesan).

4. Patate Fritte con Aglio e Rosmarino - Fried Potatoes with Garlic and Rosemary.
potatoes, olive oil, unpeeled garlic cloves, rosemary.
a fried meatless version of 1.

5. Stewed Quinces.
serve with mascarpone.

I discovered after I'd had it for some time, that my paperback edition of the book is slightly abridged, and this last recipe was one that was missing from it.

Stewed quinces in bowl.
Stewed Quinces

Stewed Quinces

Harvest 2015, Peas

Harvested a grand total of 9 peas from 3 pea plants. Peas are green and wrinkled.

I grew a variety of old-fashioned peas called Nec Plus Ultra, in containers. They were supposed to be tall peas, up to 6 ft, and indeed, even in the relatively small containers they got to a good 4-5 ft. They had white flowers, but only set 1 or 2 pods per plant. So I had one plant with a single pod and 3 peas, one plant with 2 small pods each with 1 pea, and the third plant had 2 pods with 2 peas each.

I sowed another 3 plants a while after the first 3, and those did not fare very well. One got munched by something at a very early stage, the second one had the tip munched by something, but survived, only to die off after getting maybe 18 inches high, and the third one seems also about to die off.

Peas, beans and broad beans seem to have been attacked by all colours of aphids - black, green, yellow, this year, and have not done very well.

I grew some black beans, which did not grow more than maybe 4 inches tall,  got attacked by some very small insects at a very early stage, and gradually died off. I had given up on them, when one of the plants produced pale violet flowers, and set one small bean pod which, at a couple of inches long, is quite large compared to the size of the plant.

But our raspberry canes and morello cherry tree have had good crops, so it's not been all bad.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Five Favourite Recipes from The Complete Spanish Cookbook by Jacki Passmore

This is not a vegetarian cookbook, but most of the recipes I have cooked from it involve medleys of Mediterranean vegetables, although if you want to split hairs, courgettes, tomatoes and peppers came originally from the New World.

My top 5 recipes:

1. Samfaina - Catalan Braised Vegetable Sauce.
red peppers, onions, aubergines, zucchini, tomatoes.


2. Tumbret - Mallorca Vegetable Flan.
aubergines, potatoes, green peppers, onion, tomatoes.

3. Pisto Castellano - Braised Peppers and Aubergine.
red peppers, green peppers, aubergines, onion, tomatoes.

4. Pisto de Calabacin - Braised Zucchini.
red peppers, zucchini, onions, tomatoes.

Pisto de Calabacin

5. Pimientos a la Chilindron - Pepper Casserole.
red peppers, onion, tomatoes, bacon or jamon serrano.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Five Favourite Ethnic Cookbooks

Since I'm not managing to post much, I thought I would try to kick-start something by posting lists. And to start things off, a list of favourite cookery books that I have cooked international dishes from.

1. Chinese
Lucille Liang - Chinese Regional Cooking

2. North African
Time-Life Foods of the World - A Quintet of Cuisines

3. Indian
Madhur Jaffrey - Flavours of India

4. Spanish
Jacki Passmore - The Complete Spanish Cookbook

5. Jewish
Claudia Roden -  The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey From Samarkand to New York

I think I'm going to extend the list though, as I soon realised that there were some favorites missing.

6. Sicilian
Mary Taylor Simeti - Sicilian Food

7. Mexican
Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz - The New Complete Book of Mexican Cooking

8. Middle Eastern
Arto der Haroutunian - Vegetarian Dishes from the Middle East 

9. French
The Roux Brothers - French Country Cooking

10. Indonesian
Sri Owen - The Home Book of Indonesian Cooking

Tuesday, 30 June 2015


Blue, blue sky today, without a cloud in sight,
looks like a postcard for somewhere tropical,
except that the green are mainly deciduous broadleaf
trees rather than palm trees. Intending to enjoy
the mini-heat wave while it lasts.