Raspberry Roulade

Lesley Holdship - Home Economist, Food Stylist & Recipe Writer

strawberry fields

Fri, Jun 25 2010
I have had the real pleasure of looking after my friend's strawberry patch this week. It is about 4 metres by 2 metres and is packed with fruiting plants. I would dearly love a patch of land to grow some produce on and keep a few chickens. I have had my name down on the list for about 3 years for an allotment but I think I need to pop into the council offices and check what's going on! The possible community aspect of a piece of land alongside many others for the same purpose is really appealing. Maybe I am looking at it through rose tinted spectacles but the idea of pottering around an allotment, maybe a few chickens scratching around and an abundance of the freshest produce you could wish for.
My friend has her allotment in a neighbour's garden. It seems a real sin to me as the garden in question lays vacant, unused and overgrown. In my small row of houses we struggle for garden space and just behind us is this unwanted gem of space crying out for a goat or two! Fruit trees live unattended and what it bears lays rotting in the grass. It's about time we sorted ourselves out and appreciated what we have around us and used it. But values change and shopping in a supermarket has brought about a need for produce to look perfect, unblemished and there when we want it. All shame to those with rotting apples in their garden.
But, the sun is shining and I have a fridge full of strawberries and rhubarb too. So tomorrow I am going to put all the strawberries in a pan, crush them with a potato masher and cook them gently for 5 minutes. I will then add the equivalent weight in pectin enriched sugar, letting it dissolve and then simmer for about 10 minutes until the syrupy mixture is at setting point. Test by placing a little on a saucer and letting it sit for a few minutes. Push with your finger and hope it wrinkles. Pouring into clean warm jars and sealing your creation is a strangely satisfying feeling and to then see the jars lined up on your kitchen counter gives immense pleasure. All shapes and sizes, labeled and ready to go. Preserving is fab.
Keep as presents or spread liberally on hot brown toast!
If this is not your thing try making some meringues or shortbread and serve with plenty of strawberries fresh whipped cream! Mmmmmm............
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lettuces!

Sun, Jun 13 2010

My lovely friend Jackie, gave me a fantastic Christmas present. Christmas I hear you cry! Well it has taken me this long to get myself together to sort it out. It was a voucher for a box of plants delivered to your door when you are ready. All supplied by a company called Rocket Gardens who seemingly sell plants, kitchen garden stylee. Mine was a window box selection suited to a tiny garden with a scratch of room for some pots. When the box came it was really exciting to open it up and find -nestled in amongst a wodge of hay - a glut of tiny plugs laid in neat rows. Mustard, mixed lettuce, spinach, chard, beetroot, mizuna, some herbs and spring onions too. Not only did I have all of these plants but I was sent a promotional pack of freebies too. More lettuce and mustard that I knew what to do with. And of course, all these salad leaves are cut and come again and are easy to grow and offer delicious leaves for much of the year.
Last night then, being as creative and inventive as possible, I have planted these little beauties in amongst anything and everything where I could find a gap. now I will just need to be inventive with using the end results.
Last year, I won a competition with the National Trust with this recipe using lettuce. Lettuce is one of those things that most think is used only in salads. But it is lovely to cook with too. Braise solid substantial lettuce, or shred into petit pois a la francaise. Use it to make soups and to wrap shredded meats with a delicious savoury sauce.

Mr Mcgregor’s summer garden tart with roasted tomato salad.

Serves 8-10

250g Doves Farm plain flour

150g butter

6-7 tbsp cold water

10 tomatoes, halved

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 tbsp olive oil

300g peas, fresh or frozen

1 little gem lettuce, shredded

200g Ceri’s Brinkworth blue cheese, crumbled

3 eggs

175ml milk

175ml single cream

3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

sea salt and black pepper

seasonal salad leaves

Preheat the oven to 180˚C/gas mark 4

Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in enough of the water to form a dough. Knead for a moment to smooth ball and chill for 30 minutes.

Place the tomatoes on a baking sheet, top each half with a little garlic, drizzle with the oil and season well. Place in the oven and roast for about 45 minutes.

Line a 23cm spring form cake tin with the pastry, prick the base, line with baking parchment, fill with ceramic baking beans - or a raw pulse works well – and bake blind for 20 minutes until the pastry is crisp. Fill with the peas, lettuce and crumbled cheese.

Whisk together the eggs, milk and cream and fill the pastry case. Bake for about 30 minutes until the filling is set. Cool for 10 minutes before cutting.

Transfer the roasted tomatoes onto a bed of salad leaves and dress with the vinegar. Slice the tart into 8 and serve with the tomatoes.

Comments

Meringue mysteries

Sat, Jun 5 2010


We don't, as a rule, eat puddings in our house. I keep yoghurt, fruit and perhaps some ice-cream most of the time I suppose. But when I have to test some recipes or we have friends over, puddings will have a cameo role. Harley used to really hate meringues but I recently did a recipe for some-one of meringues with Maltesers in them and he now can't get enough. I think that at this time of the year a meringuey pudding is a prudent one with such hot weather upon us we can justify one or two scoops of ice-cream and some seasonal fruits.
Meringues have a bit of a reputation, I think, in that they are often thought of as difficult. All you need is a clean bowl, a whisk - an electric one is best! - an oven, some eggs and sugar. whisk egg whites until stiff. Gradually add sugar - 50g per white - until the mix is glossy. At this point add what you like. A handful of chopped nuts, be it pistachio, hazelnut or walnut. Fold in a couple of spoons of good cocoa, swirling it into the mix. Or some chopped chocolate bars. Just have an experiment. Place the mix in large tablespoons on a tray lined with parchment then bake for an hour at 130 degrees. Leave to cool in the oven. There are many people who have different opinions on meringue making. A very well known chef once put me down in front of an audience for not putting salt in the meringue. Then in the next dem, I did it before he could ask and he then shot me down for that! Some cook for longer, some are piped. Who can tell, it's all down to personal preference- like plenty of food!
Whatever the case, serve with lashings of cream and fresh fruit. They will keep for ages in a tin but if, for any reason, they don't get eaten, put them on the bird table for the local wildlife!
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Barbecue bonanza!

Mon, May 24 2010
Now the weather has turned from pretty chilly to so hot, as a family, we don't know what to do with ourselves! Our house is pretty small so being able to spill out into the garden is fabulous. Most evenings we will endeavor to light the barbecue. Harley loves it and I hope that it gives him some good memories when he gets older. It does not have to be a complicated affair, does it? Good ingredients cooked with thought are the items required. Then some family time around the table in the fresh air completes the picture perfectly. We adore tomatoes cooked on the barbie. And the marriage of a vine tomato and some good grilled meat, be it beef, chicken or fish, just cannot be beaten. Plump for some large vine tomatoes, cut in half then season with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper and grill for about ten minutes. But if you want to savour the flavour of these little summer gems try this too…

Cut tomatoes in half and lay on a baking tray. Season each tomato with sea salt, pepper and crushed garlic. Drizzle with a little olive oil then scatter with some herbs like basil, oregano or thyme. Bake at 180°C for 40 minutes or so until the tomatoes are shrunken somewhat but still juicy. Some balsamic vinegar will finish them off nicely then devour with a green salad. And lastly, make sure you have some crusty bread to mop up the tomatoey juices.

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Passion for food!

Sat, May 8 2010



I had a great day of work on Wednesday. I was booked for a day of food styling near Bicester, Oxon, in a unit in the middle of no-where for someone who had a business - called Passion for Food - creating beautiful food for weddings, events and parties. I went with trepidation as he was to cook the food and I was on hand to help out with the styling for the shots. The cooking, as a rule, is an integral part of the day and I did not want to tread on anyones toes.
When I arrived, I immediately saw 3 people. And as I drew closer I knew one of them. Completely by chance, I was going to be working with Phil Baker with whom I had worked many moons previously.
In my mid twenties, I owned a shop. This shop was way before it's time and a bit misunderstood. Hence I had no customers and to sustain any sort of life I had 2 part time jobs as well. One was in a pub in an outlying village from Oxford. I used to commis with Phil as the head chef. It was a good time and even though I dreaded having to prep for hundreds of people the atmosphere was always good. I feel sorry, now, for our fellow workers last Wednesday. How interminably boring is it hearing people reminisce, but it was great for us!
I saw some great food being produced that day. Tried some delicious things and had a smashing time with some good people. One of my most favourite new age foods are pea tops. Instead of being in a bag sprayed with all sorts of chemicals, a case arrived of them in a format much like cress. they were intense and sweet. The ingredient that stood out for me was the most fabulous venison. Really well cooked with a venison sausage and a tiny venison suet pudding. Yum!
Phil has got some great shots for his new website. The picture, above, made myself and Chris - from Voyage the design company - really smile as in fact, it is just a few left overs that I had transferred onto the one plate. When we looked, it seemed pretty enough for a photo. But this is often my sentiment on food styling. The food should be natural. Place the food on the plate.Plant bomb and leave as they say. A possible tweek but not much else will give you a beautiful, natural picture.
We dragged up a few great memories too that day. Good luck Phil. Your food tastes great.


Comments

picnic shmicnic

Sun, Mar 28 2010
My husband works some of the time at a local activity farm, Roves farm. I cheer Harley on at rugby on a Sunday and venture over to the farm for us to have lunch with John and for Harley to have a play. Cool bag in hand, I just pack up the contents of our fridge which is quick, easy and much more exciting than a sarnie. They have large picnic tables and I always take a cloth and make the table look nice. I believe people think because it is a packed lunch it doesn't matter. A bit of clingfilm and a soggy sandwich will do. Today we had a selection of cheeses, pate, salad, french bread, chutney, parma ham and some good butter. A couple of plastic plates, knives and forks and you are away. Lots of comments were there for the taking as people pass by. But it does not take any invention or imagination just a little thought away from the ordinary. But even if it is a piece of good cheddar and some crackers and chutney or a pasta salad, going for a packed lunch or picnic does not have to be boring.
Cheesecake played a role in our picnic today. Really simple and in fact, Harley loves making it.
Crush 6 or 7 biscuits, like hobnobs or digestives then mix with 3 tsp cocoa powder and 35-40 g melted butter. Press into a plastic tub - or bowl if you are having it at home. Mix together a 200g tub cream cheese, 250g plain yoghurt, 2tbsp icing sugar and the juice and zest of half a lemon. If the mix is a little runny, never fear as the chemical reaction with the acid of the lemon and the cream cheese will thicken it nicely. Spread over the top of the biscuit base then top with some fruit like satsuma, plum or berries - frozen or fresh! If you feel like going astray, crumble a flake over the top. Take some spoons and devour straight from the tub!
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Birmingham nights!

Thu, Mar 18 2010


Birmingham is somewhere I have never ventured, sadly. I am a bit of a bumpkin when it comes to the big city - I quite like the country air!
Last week I worked at the NEC which is huge in itself! It splits itself into little sections with a different show going on in each. But the complex is phenomenal. And the hotel we stayed in was just ginormous. It took at least 5 minutes to get to your room. Phew!
A colleague had planned a couple of places to eat and if I am totally honest, this really made me not want to go. But I am ever so glad I did.
The first evening we ended up in a vegetarian Indian restaurant called Jyoti.
It was kind of like a deli with a few tables seating about 25 people in the back. Brightly lit, it really stood out in the parade of shops near to the centre of Birmingham.
We chose a set menu at the princely sum of £12 per head. Unlicenced meant we could also take in our own wine so all in all this meant we had a fantastically cheap meal.
I don't think I can begin to remember what everything was, but my favourite were these interesting little dooberries that we had to start. Rather like a poppadum texture, it was a little outer casing with a hole in the top, filled with odds and ends like onion and little gram flour strands, you put a couple of spoons of the sauce inside and popped it straight into your mouth hole. Wowsers!! Other starters were the obligatory samosa which were exceedingly tasty and some bhajee of sorts which were jolly hot for my english rose temperament. 6 chef's curries for mains with rice and then a choice of a little sweetmeat. Absolutely brilliant.
It's not often a bargain presents itself, and Jyoti most certainly is the sale of the century.

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to chop or not to chop? that is the question.

Wed, Mar 17 2010
Time is most certainly moving on fast. I cannot believe it to be mid March already. It becomes a bit of a boring subject, doesn't it, as so many of us bring it up in conversation. But it is most definitely a fact of our ever evolving world.
Much like the subject of a piece on the BBC website today, food is an ever evolving commodity. I was really excited to be called today by the BBC -I think down to some consulting I did for them on a new show airing soon - and was interviewed for an article on lazy food. Cut up bits of carrot or onion, fruits or frozen roast potatoes, our society is geared up for convenience, convenience and more convenience.
Laziness is a reality in many walks of life and none more so than food. Not only can we buy ready meals by the dozen or ready chopped vegetables, but we have so much choice that we have no seasonal instinct and don't have to think that we may not be able to get an ingredient. This thinking surely creates an ease about what to cook because everything is available all the time and ease often breeds laziness. Adults attitude to food and fast food, say, is being passed on to the children and children learn by example. So many of our young people have no respect for food and have never made anything in their own kitchen.
It is going to be a tough job to re-educate our society that food is something to be mindful about. It has to be planned, grown, transported, packaged and stacked. It does not just appear on the shop shelf like something out of Harry Potter.
So if you know someone who buys these devils of the food world, buy them a descent sharp knife and get chopping!!

Comments

Meme's chicken

Thu, Feb 11 2010

I think it is lovely to have recipes handed down to you by a granny or mum. And I always look enviously on a friend who has a recipe book that was his mums with all of her recipes and tips hand written in her swirly writing. So I need to make sure I do something like that for Harley as he is a very natural cook and enjoys it too! I have never had any written recipes handed down except for a christmas pudding from my Nan. I now have the job of cooking them for the family each year from a scrap of paper in her hand, ticked off where she has made it herself. But this recipe is one my French grandmother used to make and I loved beyond compare as a little girl. I have tried to recreate it and I think this is it. I know it looks quite long but it is not so bad and well worth it. picture of it back in my gallery!


Meme’s chicken

Serves 6-8

1 large chicken – about 2kg

1 large onion

2 cloves

2 leeks cut into 4

3 large carrots cut into 1/4s

6-8 sticks of celery cut into 4

2 cloves of garlic peeled and crushed

1 turnip – about 300g cut into large cubes

2 lemons

3 bay leaves

1 small onion, peeled and chopped

200g long grain rice

50g butter

50g plain flour

2 egg yolks

Place the chicken into a large saucepan with enough room for the vegetables. Chop the onion into a quarters. Stick with the cloves and add to the pan along with the leek, carrot, celery, garlic and turnip. Cut one of the lemons in half and place in amongst the vegetables with the bay. Season well and cover with cold water. Cover, bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 11/2 hours.

Ten minutes before the end of the chickens cooking time gently soften the onion in a little goose fat or olive oil. Add the rice and coat in the fat in the pan. Ladle on enough stock from the chicken pan to cover the rice and simmer until the rice is tender.

Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour to make a roux. Cook for a minute or so until bubbling and then add 600ml of the hot chicken stock. Bring back to the boil – whisking all the time – and cook for 5 minutes. Season really well. Remove from the heat and add the juice of the remaining lemon and the 2 yolks.

Joint the chicken and place it on a large charger with the vegetables. Serve with the rice and lemon sauce and a glass of fruity cider.

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Easter Spirit.

Fri, Feb 5 2010

When I think of Easter, a Sinmel cake comes to mind but never into reality! Marzipan, fruits and the very traditions of it are what give me the desire to bake it, then many factors contribute to me never making it at all. As Easter is early next month, I thought I would get you ready in advance!

This delicious cake is thought to have originated in the medieval times and has also had ties with Mothering Sunday. Young girls in service took the cake home for their mothers on their day off. You can’t imagine this now can you? There are no girls in service and there are not many who can cook either. But these days a Simnel cake has all the symbolism of Easter. Laden with marzipan and fruits - like a Christmas cake - it then has 11 balls of marzipan on the top representing the 11 true disciples. Sometimes a ball in the middle will be representative of Christ.

Last year, in desperation, I decided to devise a recipe with all of the elements of the original, but a little less time consuming. I am not a lover of a twist on a classic so we perhaps can dub this a Highworth Easter Cake?

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Beat together 150g soft butter and 175g grated marzipan. then add 2 large eggs, beat well then stir through 150g self raising flour, a teaspoon of mixed spice and a teaspoon of baking powder. Next mix in 100g dried berries like cranberries and cherries. Pour the batter into a 2lb loaf tin and scatter over the surface another 175g marzipan, but cubed this time. Bake for just over an hour until the cake is springy to the touch and coming away a little from the sides of the tin. Remember to infuse a touch of Easter spirit whilst mixing or double up on the mix and give some of your spirit away to your friends.


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