Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Memories of Gascony - Pierre Koffmann

Memories of Gascony  is the life recollections of  Pierre Koffmann, uber chef  who  holds  three michelin stars. Originally published over 10 years ago this new addition by Octopus Books has a lovely vintage feel with parchment style paper, page ribbon and sumptuous food photography.

The book is so much more than your average cookery book, Pierre recalls his childhood experiences in Gascony in South West France where he gained his passion for simple French food,  the book is divided in to the seasons and details the recipes being cooked according to the season and the ever changing landscapes from which the food is produced. 

The Bear (as he is know in the chef world) seems a very humble quiet man and his childhood memories with her Grand parents in rural France evoke simpler times.

Whilst this not being my particular style of cooking I enjoyed the book immensely  given it style and the gentle amble through Pierre's early life and the intense connection he feels with this area of France and its cuisine. I have never eaten in any of his restaurants but understand that after a brief retirement his is back cooking as Head Chef at Koffmanns at the Berkeley Hotel in London, where his pared down simple provincial cooking can be experienced.

Makes a very nice addition to the cookery book collection, I was lucky enough to receive my copy from Octopus Books for review, the book is available direct from them, via Amazon and other normal channels, RRP is £30.

If you would like to win a copy of this book why not take part in my rafflecopter giveaway, unfortunately due to postage costs the book can only be mailed to mainland UK addresses.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

CCC No 10 - Haunted graveyard cake at POND

Finally cake club has managed to make it to POND, we've literally had to compete with hell and high water, but  we finally made it. POND is a fabulous bar/deli/tapas/restaurant/cafe situated just of Winckley Square on Cross St in Preston, run by the very talented Andrea Mellon who has been inspired by her world travels to create a fabulous local food venue, where you can experience their freshly prepared menu in a comfortable setting.

Our theme for this meeting was Dulce oi Truco, (Trick or Treat in Spanish) for Halloween and we warmly welcomed including having complimentary teas, chocolate chilli, jasmine and very berry. Our cakes included a Pumpkin patch cake, Coffin cake, bleeding chocolate raspberry cake, soggy moggy, Pumpkin Cake, Batty Cake, Graveyard cake, Red Velvet Cake, Chocolate Beetroot Cake and Spooky spider cake, our membership (old and new) are certainly very talented bakers and decorators.

My cake for this gathering was a Haunted Graveyard cake, based on easy all in one chocolate cake base (Fiona Cairns recipe from The Birthday Cake book) and then decorated to the theme. I just coated the cake with chocolate buttercream, surrounded with unevenly cut chocolate sticks, I then embedded so square tombstone biscuits piped with black and red icing in the cake and pile crumbled chocolate biscuit crumbs as soil and mixed with skull and bone sweeties and little jelly ghosts strategically placed , this was then surrounded by some little glowing pumpkin lights I picked up from the pound shop. Hope you like it.

POND is a great location and a few of the members stayed on after the meeting to enjoy a fabulous selection of tapas from the menu, we can also recommend the teas , coffees and other refreshments too. Please pay this great local venue a visit if you are in Preston city centre, a warm friendly welcome awaits you.

DUK and Pond

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Apple Butter - windfalls for the store cupboard

In the garden the apple season is in full swing, our trees are old and knarled and are the remnants of a much larger orchard for a nearby ancient farmhouse. All the gardens in the local areas have fruit trees, mainly apple or perry pear, but the fields just down the lane also have crab apples and damsons as well.
Given that this year has been the wettest on record (interesting term that as records have only been kept for a few hundred years, I digress) the fruit harvest is very variable and many trees haven't fruited well , that combined with the trees being old, codling moth and fungal diseases means that the fruit is mostly ignored locally.

I like to embrace this harvest and every year when we have fruit in the garden, we make cider (variable quality), chutney, sauce, apple butter and freeze large quantities for pies and crumbles in the winter. We are also lucky that the fallen fruit particularly in cold winters attracts flocks of redwings and fieldfares into the garden to feast on the slowly rotting piles of apples and pears.

This apple butter recipe is based on a Women's Institute recipe and one from River Cottage preserves, its a easy preserve to make and is delicious on toasted crumpets or as a filling for cakes. The proportion of sugar is lower than a jam so its keeping qualities aren't quite as good as jam and it must be stored in a cool place and eaten promptly once opened. Its smells heavenly when cooking as the spices give it a deliciously aromatic scent, which when combined the cider notes is wonderful.

  • About 1.5kg apples, cut up into chunks , only discard really manky bits !
  • Sugar - Granulated about 800g
  • 600ml Cider ( local if you can get it )
  • 600ml Water
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves ( you can use other spices it up to you)
  • Lots of recycled jars - sterilised (small one's are better so you can eat it all quickly once open)
  • Place your cut up apples, cider and water in a very large pan
  • Bring to boil and simmer until all the fruit is soft and pulpy
  • Pass through a mouli or rub through a sieve to remove the cores, pips and skins
  • Add the strained pulp back to your cleaned pan, adding approx 350g sugar for each 600ml of pulp
  • Add the spices (whichever you are using)
  • Stir and heat slowly to dissolve the sugar
  • Once the sugar has dissolved bring to a good rolling boil until the mixture is reduced and spluttering and creamy in texture
  • Pot immediately into your warmed sterilised jars
  • Cool and then store in cool location until use
National Apple Day was started by Common Ground

Apple Day

 This is also an entry for A little bit of Heaven on a plates Homemade and Well Preserved challenge 

STOP PRESS - I won best in show, amazed and such a lovely lovely prize a signed preserves book from Vivien Lloyd expert chutney and preserves maker and also a WI Judge

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Leek, Potato and thyme Soup

This is my standby soup recipe, deliciously warming and comforting and a great anecdote to when you need the equivalent of a hug in a bowl. Outside its been bashing down with rain and even when it stops raining its raining leaves as autumn is well and truly well under way. Leeks are fairly easy to grow in the garden and even if your yield is disappointing you normally can rescue enough leeks for soup.

  • 3 large potatoes - peeled and chopped in to chunky cubes
  • 3 leeks, cleaned and chopped into rings
  • Vegetable stock about 500ml
  • Thyme - dried or fresh
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Butter
  • Melt the butter in a large saucepan
  • Add the leeks and chopped potato and cook gently until slightly softened
  • Add the thyme and enough vegetable stock to cover
  • Bring to a gentle simmer, cover and cook until the vegetables are tender
  • Now liquidise half the soup ( I use a stick blender), by doing it this way you still retain texture
  • Add more water / stock if too thick and bring back to a simmer
  • Taste and season
  • Delicious served with homemade bread
I am entering this into the Simple and Seasonal challenge hosted this month by franglaiskitchen for Fabulicious Food

And also in Herbs on Saturday October hosted over at Lavender and Lovage 

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Chocolate vinegar cake

National Chocolate week, how come I managed to nearly miss this ? obviously as someone who loves chocolate I would have thought that it would have been on my radar for weeks but some how it almost passed me by. (Hence the lateness of this post)
In celebration I have reworked a vinegar cake using a stunning Ellseys fruit vinegar and cocoa powder. Vinegar cakes are fairly allergy friendly as they don't feature eggs and use alternative measures to raise and set the cake.
After a busy day at blog camp on Saturday, where I learned loads, my baking needed to be the fairly fast and dirty kind, as the cake only takes about 40 minutes to cook it fitted the bill perfectly.Apologies to anyone who doesn't like recipes in cups but I love them and my original vinegar recipe is an american one, so cups it is.

  • 3 cups of plain flour
  • 2 cups of granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cup warm water
  • 1tbsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp vinegar ( any type but malt, I used a fruit vinegar)
  • Prepare a baking tin of approx 13 by 9 inches - grease and line
  • Pre heat oven to 180c / 350F
  • Mix all ingredients together tin a bowl, sieve all the dry ingredients in first, then add the wet ingredients last
  • Ensure mixed throughly and then pour into your prepared tin
  • Bake for approx 40 minutes until tested cooked with a skewer
  • Allow to cool in tin
If you fancy ringing the changes why not add spices too ! this is a lovely easy bake , nicely squidgy after only 24 hours and well flavoured and no hint of vinegar at all. You could ice it if you so wished.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Fiddlers Lancashire Crisps

"Lovely and local" they  most certainly are, Fiddlers Lancashire Crisps are grown and produced by a family concern on the famous Lancashire mosslands near Ormskirk, THE centre of fine potato growing in Lancashire.

The rich black soil is famous for producing superb potatoes and the Fiddler family have simply taken this great local  product and enhanced it, by taking it back to their farm and washing,peeling, slicing and frying them by hand to produce a crisp to be proud of. 

They then use the best of local flavourings to enhance their product such as Ellseys Vinegar, Lancashire Cheese(proper) and Lancashire Sauce, all great local products too. The bag even tells you who cooked your crisps for you in my case Robert, Judith, John and Big Bob as I had a selection of flavours to try, the crisps themselves are delicious, thickly sliced, crispy , fresh tasting and not all greasy , the selection of flavours is inspired, just a fabulous local product.

My favourite is the salt and Ellseys malt vinegar, closely followed by Lancashire Cheese and onion, but each to your own as there is something for everyone in the range.

Fiddlers Lancashire Crisps are available from quality outlets across the county and Fiddlers also do mail order for those of you who don't live that locally. You can find their facebook page

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Absolutely Foolproof Food for Family and Friends - Rosemary Shrager

If there every was a book that lived up to its title then this is it, the books aim is to provide you with good basic techniques which means that you can tackle any of the dishes with confidence. The book provides foolproof recipes and step by step instructions for over 200 recipes. 

I particularly liked the photo tutorials for key techniques such as 
  • how to prepare an artichoke
  • chopping and slicing techniques
  • Dry curing fish for gravadlax
  • Confit of duck
and many others. Most of the recipes are illustrated and the ones that are are beautifully photographed in this well illustrated book. For many of the recipes twists, ingredient alternatives and variations are suggested for the recipes and the methods are clear and easy to follow.
The book also has a handy section on equipment which gives some great advise on how  to equipt your kitchen, ready to work your way through the different sections in the book. A lot of the recipes are more classical in style so this book would make a good addition to most cooks library, the only major ommision is that desserts aren't covered.

Apparently the book accompanies a TV series, but its not one I watched so I can't comment on whether its a good representation of the show.
Rosemary Shrager has been cooking since was 6 and has worked alongside many top chefs over the years, she runs a popular cookery school in Yorkshire and this is her fourth book.

I received my copy for review from Octopus Books , the book is available through normal channels.

Flapjacks - homely baking at it's best

I love flapjacks, but they have to be chewy for me. I don't enjoy the teeth and jaw testing crunchy one's but each to their own. I am going to tell you my secret (please eat the evidence afterwards) to getting them to be chewy, but you must promise not to tell anyone, no-one ........
I sometimes add dried fruit, seeds and choc chips if the mood takes me
  • 150g butter
  • 100g soft brown sugar
  • 4tbsp golden syrup
  • 350g rolled oats
Grease your tin, I use a non stick swiss roll tin.
Melt your butter and syrup in a pan over a low heat, mix the oats and sugar in a separate bowl (that's the secret don't melt the sugar). Add the melted mixture to the bowl and mix well, then turn into your tin and press down firmly.
Bake in the oven at 180c for about 20 mins, until lightly golden and firm. Cool slightly in the tin, before marking in to pieces, cool fully and cut pieces and remove carefully from tin.
Flapjacks store well but never last that long in my house !
For the artistic or if you are in search of a chocolate hit, either drizzle with melted chocolate or dip one corner in melted chocolate.

I am republishing this post to take part in the Flapjack challenge hosted by Homemade by Fleur

Monday, 8 October 2012

Pepper Cake - autumnal warmer

Autumn has arrived and there is definitely a nip in the air in the morning and the leaves have also started to turn into the burnished colours of autumn. I love autumn or fall as our American  cousins call it, in celebration of the season my baking changes at this time of year away from light fruity bakes to warming spicy cakes, often featuring dried fruit or spices. Most bakes which include dried fruit and spices improve with keeping for a couple of days and this cake is no exception, the black pepper in the mix adds a warm note to the cake, ideal for your treat after finishing an autumn walk in the mist or rain.


  • 75g sultanas
  • 75g currants or raisins
  • 100g sugar
  • 75g butter
  • 225g self raising flour -sieved
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger - sieved
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper (you can scale back to 1/2tsp) - sieved
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves (optional) - sieved
  • 60ml milk
  • 1 egg free range 
  • Grease and base line approximately 7 inch round cake tin
  • Pre heat your oven to 170C fan/ 180c normal
  • Place the dried fruits, butter and 150ml water in a saucepan and bring to boil
  • Simmer for about 5 minutes until the fruit is plumped
  • Allow to cool slightly
  • Now add all the other ingredients and mix thoroughly
  • Scrape into your prepared tin, bake for 45 minutes or so until firm, golden and cooked through.
  • Cool on a wire rack
  • This cake improves with keeping for a day or so wrapped in foil or grease proof paper.

Ellseys 80th Birthday !

As you all know I love all things Lancashire, especially if it involves food, so Lancashire Food was delighted to receive an invitation  to a born and bred  Lancashire company's 80th birthday celebration. Now I know you are all thinking whats glamorous about vinegar ? well vinegar is a very versatile thing and is a very ancient product. The other great thing about Ellsey's vinegar is that this particular vinegar is used in loads of amazing local products too, so that they are true Lancashire produce.

A True Lancashire Lunch 

Ellseys is based in Wigan and is still a family owned company, started by a Mr Walter Ellsey initially to brew malt vinegar in 1932 , the company now focuses on supplying a wide variety of vinegars to wholesalers and producers around the world.

I have only recently discovered that my late maternal Grand-dads favourite pickles aand picalilli are produced by Ellsey's oldest customer, what's funny is that the company is Bartons pickles from St Helens (where my Grand-dad was from) yet the vinegar that goes into all their products is from Wigan, the rivalry between Wigan and St Helens is legendary ! mainly due to the local rugby teams I think but may be just a little from the pickles too.

In celebration of their birthday, Ellsey's had contacted a local artisan brewery to brew up a celebration beer, Prospect brewery ( as featured in several tv shows with Oz Clark, et al ) based  the beer on their already famous "big john" dark stout , the addition of vinegar has lightened the brew and provides a fruity end to the glass.

The party at the brewery also featured nibbles from some great local producers, many who use Ellseys vinegar in their products, and vinegar shrub cocktails (alcoholic and non alcoholic)  were also served. Lancashire Food enjoyed having some very interesting food and also vinegar chats with some of the staff from Ellseys and was excited to hear their ideas for the future and their passion for all things vinegar.

We also met Luke Marsden ( ex big brother housemate and radio presenter) and proud Wiganer at the time I didn't know who he was, just that he was on Rock Fm (local radio station) , we had some great discussions about food, vinegar and cake. We also managed to get him addicted to Lancashire cheese and Lancashire crisps in the process whilst sampling the cocktails.

In celebration of Ellsey's birthday I will be re-working my vinegar cake posting and having a go at vinegar pie too ! So watch out for these forthcoming posts.

Our goodie bag featured samples of
Ellseys birthday brew from Prospect Brewery
Ellseys fruit vinegars in various flavours
Bartons pickles in various varieties
Dewlay Lancashire Cheese
Lancashire crisps -salt and Ellseys vinegar flavour

Elleseys also supply
Wing Yip
and Del Monte too.

The amazing food photography on this post is by the very talented Mr Lancashire Food aka as Synergy Monochrome , he has also posted on his blog of what he has been upto with regard to post

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Nakd bars

Natural Balance Foods Logo

Yowzer, todays post has brought a box of NAKD bars for review, these vegan, gluten free , diary free snack bars are packed with natural ingredients and are a great way to eat healthy, nutritious food on the go without compromising on taste. They have no added sugar or any nasty bits too ! My ceoliac mates are going to love these gluten free snacks .

They come in loads of flavours, take a look at their website and facebook page for inspiration, but the best bit is that they are made in England ! Yeah. They are a young company devoted to increasing world happiness with yummy healthy snacks and being different in their approach to business. Refreshingly conscious of their social and environmental impact and what good they can do with their product they have developed a unique product. The bars are available in a myriad of flavours, some of which are listed below, the snack bars aren't the most beautiful to look at but they are very tasty in the main, we particularly enjoyed the fruit , coffee and cocoa flavoured bars.

Pecan Pie - Dates, pecans, almonds
Cocoa Mint- Dates, cashews, raisins, cocoa and mint 
Cocoa Delight - Dates, cashews, raisins and cocoa
Ginger Bread - dates, almonds, pecans, ginger, cloves and cinnamon
Cocoa Orange - dates, cashews, raisins, cocoa and orange
Caffe Mocha - dates, cashews, raisins, cocoa and natural flavours
Rhubarb and Custard - dates, cashews, raisins and natural flavours
Cashew Cookie- cashews and dates 
Berry Delight - Dates, cashews, raisins and raspberry

Nakd bars are available in most health food shops, larger supermarkets and also direct from Nakd themselves. I received my NAKD bars for review free of charge.

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