Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Willesborough Windmill Bread Flour

At the weekend my fiancé and I were visiting my family down in Kent. We had a bit of a lazy Saturday and trundled along to a local farm shop, Perry Court, late morning.

Perry Court is set on an apple & pear orchard and we got some great stuff including their own apple juice, a bag of their dried apple crisps (an interesting snack!), some homemade rolls and a bag of Willesborough Windmill Strong Wholemeal Flour, pictured on the left.

I had to buy some, obviously, and it isn't too pricey at £1.99 for a 1.5kg bag. 

I grew up near Willesborough Windmill, and it is a striking part of the landscape in that area and something I very much associate with my childhood. I am very excited that it is now producing flour - if I still lived there this would have been a very local product, but I supposed now I have hauled it all the way to Coventry, it kind of ceases to be 'local'! But nevermind, we were making the trip anyway, so it was a bonus to come back with something so reminiscent of my childhood, yet so useful too!
I remember when the windmill used to look like this, which is partly why I find it so amazing that it now has the capacity to produce flour. In fact, this is a great webpage showing how the windmill has changed over the years.

If I were really to do this flour justice, I suppose I ought to have handmade the bread, but you wouldn't catch me having the energy to do that on a school night! So, I let my breadmaker do the work. It has made a really nice loaf - in fact, I would go so far as to say it is one of the best wholemeal loaves I've ever had: flavourful, not too dry and fairly light in texture for a wholemeal loaf. But my tastebuds are more than likely coloured by fond childhood memories - it is quite stunning how taste can be influenced by so many other factors.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Roast Partridge with Blackberries

I love Autumn. Not only is it filled with an amazing abundance of fruit and vegetables, but it is also game season. I'm always on the look for things I haven't eaten or cooked before, and a trip to Berryfields Farm Shop meant taking home a couple of partridges.

I decided to use a recipe from Nigel Slater's Tender Vol. II - a book I am absolutely loving at the moment. I've now cooked two recipes from it: this partridge and blackberries dish and a weekday supper of pork and pears (the latter scoffed before I could get a picture). Both have been absolutely amazingly delicious. Both use fruit and meat and then alcohol to deglaze the pan. I'm totalling getting into this deglazing lark. Also pairing fruit with meat.

The one thing I regret about this dish, is that we tried (and failed) to forage our own blackberries - we did find some blackberry bushes, but no salvageable fruit - it was all shrivelled up and pathetic. Have I completely missed blackberry season? I just thought it was generally during Autumn.

I ended up buying blackberries from the supermarket, which were from Mexico of all places. The dish held up well enough with the massively jet-lagged fruit, but I'd love to try it with some freshly-picked blackberries one day.

And partridge meat is a very tasty meat. I just couldn't help wishing there was slightly more of it...

And, yes, I did serve it with chips. And roast carrots and fennel. It went surprisingly well!

Friday, 15 October 2010

Stuffat tal-Fenek (Maltese Rabbit Stew)

Cottontail is not impressed by this blog post

One evening we were walking along Spon Street and I noticed a sign in a butcher's window advertising, amongst other things, wild rabbit. I vowed that soon I would purchase some of this rabbit and make a stew. Last weekend that's exactly what I did.

I purchased some diced rabbit from T J Rowland Butchers on Spon Street. It is possibly the tiniest butcher's shop I have ever set foot in and the displays are rather haphazard, but it has a certain charm and the guys in there are very knowledgeable and extremely helpful.

The Maltese like rabbit a lot. My grandparents used to breed them for eating. Unfortunately, several attempts at trying to feed me rabbit when I was a child failed because I couldn't stand the thought of eating cute ickle fluffy bunnies. And I was smart enough to know it wasn't chicken - nice try, parents.

However, my views on the subject have changed somewhat over the years. Ok, well, I've watched a lot of River Cottage, basically, and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is very persuasive. So, I'd much rather eat something which has been happily bunnying about in complete freedom and then killed humanely, than something intensively farmed which has been waddling around in its own excrement for months on end. In short, I now have no problem with eating bunnies, particularly wild bunnies, and am probably more comfortable with the idea of eating rabbit than chicken. How things change.

I decided to recover those opportunities I'd missed as a child to have some authentic Maltese rabbit-based grub, and plumped for cooking Stuffat tal-Fenek (Maltese Rabbit Stew). I looked at quite a few different recipes, all slightly different in various ways - I suspect every Maltese family has their own version of all the classic recipes, but this is one I've never learnt - and in the end, I think I mostly followed one on this page (you'll have to scroll down a bit, but it's there). Fellow food-blogger Mer also has a recipe on her blog which looks like an interesting variation using venison.

Anyway, my first attempt at cooking rabbit, and my first taste of it since the sordid attempts at deception during childhood, went rather well.

There is some rabbit in there, I promise you.

Conclusion: I like rabbit. A lot.

Sunday, 10 October 2010


After I'd badgered Jen of In the Kitchen etc. for her recipe for meatloaf, I kind of had to go ahead and make it. I normally avoid any recipe which uses cup measures because it is just weird and wrong, but I sucked it up and dusted off my cup measures for this one. You can find Jen's recipe which I followed here.


And after:

My fiancé enjoyed this dish very much and is already nagging me to make it again. He likes it because it is essentially a giant burger. I have to admit I wasn't such a massive fan, which is neither the recipe nor Jen's fault, but probably me doing it wrong. For a start I used 50% pork and 50% beef, because I happened to have that, so I don't know if that affected the flavour. I was probably also a little haphazard with my measurements, and I found the meatloaf itself a little dry and a little bland, and the glaze was far too sweet for me. I blame the Americans and their incomprehensible measuring system.

Having said that, I enjoyed making this. And there is plenty left over which I plan to serve in baps for lunch. And my fiancé is happy. :)

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Restaurant review: Thai Dusit, Coventry

We went to visit the Thai Dusit last night for a romantic meal. It had been a long time since we'd been, as I'd gone through a period of suspecting I had a shellfish allergy, but it now looks as if I probably don't. It is perhaps more worrying that this means that a restaurant I used to really like most likely gave me food poisoning - it still makes me wary of eating shellfish in restaurants now, as the memory of that incident is still potent! It's a shame because I love seafood of all varieties.

However, we figured the Thai Dusit was a safe bet, as we have had good experiences there in the past and you'd hope a restaurant of their kind of calibre would be using nice, fresh ingredients! And we weren't disappointed.

For our starter we had the mixed shared platter, which is a little pricey at £6 a head, but utterly worth it.

This photo doesn't do justice to the presentation. The starter includes prawns, which I ate, and I wasn't sick, hurrah!

For my main, I had Moo Priew-Warn, which was battered pork in a sweet and sour sauce. It was delicious and the stir fried egg noodles I had with it complemented it nicely - a heavenly combination of sweet, sour and savoury. The pork was delicately battered and the sauce was rich and warming, like an electric blanket on a cold winter's evening. But an edible one. My fiancé had Ped Pad Khing, a duck dish with ginger and stir fried vegetables. On the side he had coconut rice, which I hadn't tried before and now I'm not sure why. The creamy coconut with the rice was an amazing background to the spices in our meat dishes.Wow.

Wine was the house red, which seems to be a good complement to the spices in most of the dishes.

I skipped pudding, but my fiancé had the Chocolate Trofito. He kindly let me share some. Nothing spectacular, but tasty as frozen desserts go. But we don't go to the Thai Dusit for the desserts!

Service wasn't as good as it has been in the past on this occasion (it is usually very good - very attentive and polite waiting staff). At first they brought us the wrong dishes, but this was quickly rectified. I had booked the table earlier in the day, but when we arrived they couldn't seem to find our booking - fortunately they were able to seat us anyway.

 If you like Thai food, it would definitely be worth your while checking out the Thai Dusit. They do takeaway too. You can have a look at the menu at their website.

Writing this review has already made me want to go again!

Sunday, 3 October 2010

A simple soup

Yesterday evening it was just myself for dinner. That doesn't happen often and when it does, I usually can't be bothered to cook properly just for myself. I'd planned to have something on toast, but I hadn't got the breadmaker on early enough and it was still whirring away when my tummy started rumbling.

I needed food and fairly quickly. I had no meat or fish readily available and popping out to the shop was out of the question in the dark, damp and cold. So, I would have to make do with what I'd got somehow... I decided soup might be a good idea: I was feeling cold and I could make enough so that I would have some for lunch the next day too.

But what to make? If you didn't realise already, I was feeling lazy and rather tired - I didn't fancy anything that needed blending or an excessive number of ingredients. The BBC Good Food website always comes up trumps in situations such as these, and this recipe for hearty pasta soup seemed ideal. I didn't have all the ingredients - I didn't have any vegetable stock cubes, nor all the ingredients (or energy) to make my own and I didn't even have any chicken stock cubes and the homemade stock I had in the freezer would take forever to thaw. I also didn't have any fresh tortellini, or frozen beans, or fresh basil. A few substitutions and additions and this is what I ended up with.

1tbsp rapeseed oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1l beef stock (from a cube)
400g can plum tomatoes
250g dried pasta spirals
100g fresh runner beans, sliced into chunks
50g frozen peas
handful of curly leaf parsley, chopped

1. Heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat. Fry the garlic, onions and carrots for about 5 minutes until starting to soften.
2. Add the tinned tomato and stock, bring to the boil and then simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring.
3. Add the pasta and simmer according to packet instructions (usually about 10 minutes). Add the runner beans as well.
4. A few minutes before the pasta is done, add the frozen peas.
5. Once pasta is cooked through, stir in the parsley.

A versatile, easy (and tasty!) recipe, one that is ideal I think for cooking on a budget or when you don't have much food in the house!

Saturday, 2 October 2010

The growing season's not over yet!

My tomato plants had started to go a bit rancid, so last weekend I chopped them up, uprooted them and disposed of them. (Incidentally, I still haven't mastered doing things like this without hurting my back - I only have to so much as look at a spade and my back muscles start twingeing.) So, things are looking a little bare on the balcony now, save for a slightly withered pot of parsley, which I have now brought inside.

I wasn't organised in sowing anything over the Summer and my tomato plants took up too much room, so once the tomatoes were gone, I had nothing growing on the balcony. But I still want to grow things. After a little research, I decided that I would definitely grow garlic. And according to one of my gardening books, you can still sow rocket and salad leaves at this time of year; according to the seed packets you can't, but I figured it couldn't hurt to try.

I was a bit worried about my compost. As I'm growing in pots, would I need brand new compost for all my pots? After consultation with some folk on Urban Gardeners, I decided I would definitely need new compost for the pots I'd grown tomatoes in. However, one of my pots, I'd only grown a handful of radishes and carrots in, so I've experimented by removing some of the old compost and mixing in some new stuff, in the hope that this will contain enough nutrients for my garlic. I read somewhere that garlic can cope in poor soil, but I have to hope that I don't lose any to fungal problems, as I hear this can be an issue when compost is no longer sterile.

I ordered my garlic bulbs for growing from Garden Organic and they arrived yesterday.

So, garlic, rocket and mixed salad leaves sown. Things are still barren at the moment, obviously, but I will update on my progess, as ever.