Posts Tagged ‘bread’

Food chat

I recently rediscovered this book on my shelf and it’s just too good not to share with you all. It’s called Kitchen Wit and it’s quotes about food from anyone and everyone. 

“Forget love, I’d rather fall in chocolate.” Anonymous

“Nothing seems to please a fly so much as to be taken for a currant, and if it can be baked in a cake and palmed off on the unwary, it dies happy.” Mark Twain

“Welcome to the Church of the Holy Cabbage.  Lettuce pray.” Anonymous

“I’m the President of the United States and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli!” George Bush

“Whosoever says ‘truffle’, utters a grand word, which awakens erotic ans gastronomic ideas…” Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

“Never work before breakfast; if you have to work before breakfast, eat your breakfast first.” Josh Billings

“Ask not what you can do for your country.  Ask what’s for lunch. ” Orson Welles

“Do not move back and forth on your chair. Doing so gives the impression of constantly breaking, or trying to break, wind.” Erasmus

“It requires a certain kind of mind to see beauty in a hamburger bun.” Ray Kroc, creator of the McDonald’s franchise

“Oil ans potatoes both grow underground so French fries may have eventually produced themselves.” A. J. Esther

“I love Thanksgiving turkey. It’s the only time in Los Angeles that you see natural breasts.” Arnold Schwarzenegger

“Never trust a man who, when left alone in a room with a tea cosy, doesn’t try it on.” Billy Connolly

“How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?” Julia Child

“I mever see any home cooking.  All I get is fancy stuff.” Prince Phillip

“Life’s too short to stuff a mushroom.” Shirley Conran

“Don’t cook steaks in the toaster, even little ones.” P. J. O’Rourke

“Having a good wife and rich cabbage soup, seek not other things. ” Russian proverb

“Presently, we were aware of an odour gradually coming towards us, something musky, fiery, savoury, mysterious, a hot drowsy smell, that lulls the senses, and yet enflames them; the truffles were coming.” William Makepeace Thackeray

Things I learned at Waltham Place (Part 2)

1. The way to cut an onion without all the tears is to first half it, then peel each half, then slice it, leaving you with the two ends. The chemicals that make you cry are released when you cut the end off which has the roots so if you cut that off first, all the chemicals will be released, hence all the sobbing while chopping.

2. Sorrel is way tasty!

3. Nettle soup is surprisingly bright green.

4. Cows will let you know if they like you or not. If you put your hand out low, they will come over and smell it, rather like a dog. If they lick, then you’re in there. If they lick your face, then you’ve really pulled. If, however, they shake their horns at you, it means they definitely do not like you.

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5. Chickens have a self programmed ‘bedtime’. Without any prompting, at the bedtime, all the chickens, on cue, will run to the coop together and go inside to bed.
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6. Commercially produced bread is full of additives, one of which is put in to delay the arrival of mould when it is getting old. Yet it will start to grow mould after just a few days. Homemade bread, however, has no additives and, so far, I have had it for five days and there isn’t even a suggestion of mould.

7. Adrian, the chef at Waltham Place, spent six months working at the Savoy. There were 65 chefs working in the kitchen there and all the cooking terms were in French. You either picked up French very quickly or you got bollocked for doing everything wrong!

P.S. Part 1 can be found here.

Sorrel soup, rye bread and bluebells (or: Back to my spiritual home)

“Every day is like a day on the farm. Every meal is a feast. That’s a day in the Marine Corps.”

Well, not the Marine Corps at all. My favourite farm.

What’s that you say? You don’t have a favourite farm? Pffft. All the cool kids have a favourite farm. And mine is Waltham Place.

I went there in March on a fruit preserving course and had been itching to get back. Since getting my groceries from Abel and Cole, I am totally on the soup scene, for using up the leftover vegetables the day before my new delivery. So when I saw the soup and bread course, I booked myself in straight away!

After my last traumatic journey to the farm, this time around was relatively easy. In fact, on the bus to the farm, I saw the exact same two ladies who had rescued me last time and went and thanked them again.

Arriving at the farm, I saw the familiar faces of Nikki and Adrian, who run the courses. You feel you are in safe hands as they gently take control, ensuring everyone has tea and biscuits and helping the group of strangers to gel.

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We got straight into some chat about what makes good or bad bread, the fact that bread has been around for thousands of years and about mixing your dough with the end of the wooden spoon.

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Apparently that’s how the Italian grandmothers in Tuscany do things!

I mixed and kneaded and shaped and then left it to prove in the warm kitchen….

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…before starting on some sorrel soup.

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I’ve not eaten – and certainly never cooked with – sorrel so I was a little nervous but Adrian ripped off a leaf tip and got munching, encouraging me to do the same. And it was surprisingly tasty – lemony but not sharp. More like a salad dressing which had been made with lemon. It was bursting with flavour. I couldn’t believe I’d never eaten it.

After making and straining the soup…

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…the bread was also finished proving and baking. Mine was a rye bread made with a sourdough starter Adrian had been brewing up for five days.

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We each then quickly threw together another loaf. I did a plaited white loaf next (which I got started on before I could photograph it, sorry!).

Then we had a fabulous lunch of our own soups and a previously baked loaf for dipping. It was so good. Sorrel soup, people! It’s the way of the future! Lemony but savoury. It didn’t need any seasoning as it has such a rich rounded flavour of its own.

Then we went for a lovely walk around the estate, which was much greener than my last visit

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The chickens!

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One of the cows! (Danda says I can have a cow, although it’s still a no on the chicken.)

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Any day now, this place will be head height with long grasses and colour!

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The Japanese garden will soon be looking lovely too.

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The lime tree lined walk.

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The blanket of bluebells starting to cover the forest floor.

We returned to the centre, oversaw the baking of our second breads (one person had decided to mark his with what can only be described as a nipple, a bread nipple, if you will….)

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…and sat down for some well earned tea and cake…

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A coffee cake on the left and a fruity tray bake on the right. Both were delicious, obviously.

A lift back to the station from a fellow course student would have finished the day off nicely, apart from the 3.5 hour journey home because of train delays. But even that couldn’t ruin the loveliness of the day 🙂

P is for…

POPULAR!

Ok, anyone who loves feeding people knows that, illogically, you feel that when people praise your food they are, by default, also praising you. I think that might be why I like feeding people so much.

Last Sunday, when I had my first day at Ham House, another volunteer who’s been there for 15 years was talking about his oven being broken. He said he would normally bring a cake in every Sunday to put in the tea room for when the volunteers have their breaks.

A ha! thought I. I see an opening for a new cake-baker and, potentially, a new most-popular volunteer.

With my sights set on one day inheriting Ham House (who wouldn’t want this as their holiday home?)…

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…and becoming the 3rd Countess of Ham (I’m sure that’s a thing), I thought I’d become temporary cake-provider.

Now, the night before, having made my fabulous plan, I went to my kitchen to bake a cake…. And found I was out of sugar. What a loser. Who lets themself run out of sugar?! So I made a loaf of bread with loads of different spices and seeds and took along one of the chutneys I made at the farm.

When I got to Ham House, I dropped the goodies in the tea room with a note before going to bake for the visitors.

I headed to the kitchen with the volunteer baker for that day, who I would be shadowing. We baked two different types of biscuits, using 17th century recipes that we didn’t change at all (apart from baking them in an electric oven, of course).

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One was a carraway and coriander biscuit. And could I stop calling it carrot and coriander when speaking to visitors? No, of course not! And they’d go, “O, carrot and coriander biscuits? Interesting!” And then I’d be like, “O no, sorry. Carraway and coriander.” And feel silly.

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The other was called a knot biscuit, because of how the dough was rolled into strips and twisted or knotted together. They had carraway, ground mace and fennel seeds in them.

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Here’s a close up of my prettiest knotting attempt.

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The baking smells brought visitors and other volunteers down to the room, following their noses. Although it was a much quieter day than the previous Sunday I had worked, we still had a decent amount of people come and linger, chatting about the history of the kitchen.

Every so often, I brushed a stray bit of flour off the beautiful elm wood table which, they think, has been there since the early 1600s and I’d think of the people who had worked at this table before me and think how interesting it would be if the table could talk.

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Once we’d finished baking, we stayed to the end to talk to people about the recipes and what 17th century food was like. It was good fun because food is a thing most people can connect with because most people cook so I ended up having some quite in-depth discussions, speculating on the occasions when the biscuits might have been eaten and what with and were they dipped into a hot drink or eaten after dinner as a digestive, etc etc.

When I popped to the tea room at the end of the day to check on the bread and chutney situation, the loaf was now a few crumbs on some napkins and the chutney was half empty. One of the gardeners was in there and she asked if I was the one who baked the bread and said the gardeners had loved it! They snaffled half of it in about ten minutes and loved the chutney! Even the lady I was shadowing on the baking said she had tasted it and enjoyed it!

So I think that means they love me too, surely? Isn’t that what that means? What to bake for next time though? Suggestions please.

Signing off, Laura Maisey, (future) 3rd Countess of Ham and Lady of the Manor at Ham House.

A day at Waltham Place (or: I want to live on a farm too!)

Yesterday, I had the most fabulous day out. Someone had got me an early birthday present, which was a place on a course about preserving fruit. The course was on a farm called Waltham Place just outside Maidenhead.

The journey there was quite eventful, after coming out of the station, seeing a bus already at the bus stop, leaping on and being what I can only describe as ‘adopted’ by two ladies on the bus. After I had asked if the bus went in the direction I needed, the ladies said it didn’t but I could get off near an airfield and take a short walk to get to the farm. I got out my purse to pay and the driver reminded me I needed the exact money. After scraping around among my change, the ladies almost got into a fight offering me the 20p that I was short of!

The journey to the farm then was smooth, after another man getting off at the same stop, pointed me down the right road. As I approached the main entrance, there didn’t seem to be any signs of where I should be…

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I was once again thrust on the mercy of the locals as I helplessly ran after a man I saw in the distance and asked where the course was being held. He pointed me up the road to the Ormandy Centre which, of course, I now remembered reading about in my notes before coming.

I found the centre eventually and was greeted by Adrian, the chef, and Nicki, his ‘gopher’ (her own words) and three of the other women on the course, for of course it was all women! The other women arrived and we started the day with chitchat, tea and biscuits.

Everything they gave us was made (and often grown too) on the farm. Adrian does all the cooking there. And that means everything. Absolutely everything. No help. He’s surprisingly calm and good-natured for a man who’s responsible for the feeding of a family and entire staff of such a big estate.

So our teas and coffees contained milk from the cows in the next door fields and the only non-farm ingredient in our macaroons and Viennese whirls was the sugar. The flour is milled on the farm, the milk from the cows is turned into cream, butter and cheese, and the eggs are harvested daily from the chickens who live in the next field to the cows. It was like taking a trip into the past, all the things we were offered to eat were homemade with produce from the surrounding fields. I started planning what my own small garden might be capable of and, so long as I don’t mind living on tomatoes, chillis and herbs, I could totally do this self-sufficient thing too. Maybe.

After tea and biscuits, we got stuck into a bit of teaching. Adrian gave us notes and talked us through the process of jam-making, the essential components and what does and doesn’t work. It wasn’t quite as ordered as that though. There were regular delightful tangents off into the obscure – long discussions about what goes into commercially produced jam, whether to keep one’s jam in the fridge, what fruits work and how long to keep jam for (a jar of Adrian’s, made in 1996, is still going strong today).

We were then given aprons and invited into the kitchen. We approached cautiously and told that this morning, the jam tasks were: raspberry jam, three fruit marmalade, lemon curd and blackcurrant jam.

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The other women piped up, excited about one of the other of the jams. They were paired up and given lemon curd, marmalade and raspberry jam. Finally there was just me and the blackcurrant, which Adrian said he’d help me with.

I was presented with a pot of blackcurrants which I went off to a corner with and put on a hob to heat.

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I heated my blackcurrants for quite a long time as they needed to reduce down by quite a lot before I could add the sugar. While the others were lemon zesting, butter melting or draining their fruit out….

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… I stood next to my blackcurrant pan and watched. I started to feel like the slow kid at the back of the class, still trying to work out times tables while the others progressed onto long division….

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It boiled for quite a while before Adrian gave me the ok to add the sugar and mash the blackcurrants a little bit. By the time I was pouring out my jam, even the slower lemon curd lot were long finished and on their second round of tea and biscuits. They do say, though, that good things come to those who wait, and my pot of blackcurrants yielded the most jars. Check out my harvest!

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We then stopped and had lunch, made by Adrian, of course. It was leek and potato soup and bread, fresh from the oven, spread with tasty yellow butter from the farm.

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After a long chat about recycling with the other ladies and me digging in to the bread, again and again, Nicki finally cleared away lunch, thank goodness, and Adrian talked us through different ways to preserve fruit.

So the afternoon tasks were ketchup, tomato chutney and bottled fruit. I ended up on the bottled fruit but had someone with me this time. We chopped and peeled the fruit and packed it into the jars to wait for our syrup, which was just a basic mixture of sugar and water. This we poured over the plums and rhubarbs. For the pears, though, we did white wine, sugar and cinnamon. Once all the fruit and syrups were in the jars, we put the lids on loosely and baked them on a very low heat for an hour.

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In this hour, we all donned wellies and coats for a walk around the farm. We saw the chickens who provide the eggs…

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…the cows who’s milk was in our tea….

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…and the gardens which are beautiful and colourful in summer…

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By the time we got back to the kitchen, our fruit was ready, the chutney was thick enough to go in jars and our day’s work was put on the table for admiring.

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By this time, there was nothing else to do but to have another round of tea, accompanied by two gorgeous homemade cakes (a tea brack and a Victoria sponge)….

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….and to chatter about what a brilliant day it had been and what other courses were they running and could we come on all of them please and how I wish I could become a lady of leisure and just spend all day homemaking everything I wanted to eat and not have any processed food in the house and o, if only! If only! Get thee behind me, Heinz, for I shall consume only homemade ketchup from this day forth!… Maybe… If I get the time to make some tomorrow after work… If I’m not busy practising piano and trying to become a world famous concert pianist.

A lovely Irish lady who was rushing off a little early to pick up her son from school had heard the story of my arrival and offered me a lift to the station. So all of sudden, in a bit of a rush, I was accepting her kind offer, grabbing my bag and running off. The journey home was fuss free and Danda looked very pleased when I arrived home with my crop from the day….

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We then spend an evening, nibbling some of each, especially the beautiful beautiful lemon curd, which is thick and spreadable and divine on bread.

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I honestly can’t think of anything about this day that I didn’t enjoy. If you are anywhere near Waltham Place Farm, I can fully recommend their day courses, for the experience itself, even if you’re not actually going to become the best jam maker the world has ever seen!

The time we found the toastie machine

While at uni, I lived in a rubbishy little flat with some friends. We had a ‘guest of honour’ friend who basically lived on the sofa. It was great fun. We spent our days lazing around, pretending to study, blabbing and ordering takeaway food from the Vietnamese restaurant down the road.

One day, the sofa-dwelling friend and I were in the front room and we happened to remember that there was a toastie machine somewhere in the kitchen. We weren’t even particularly hungry but the toastie machine promised to be a fun way to spend an hour or two.

We located the toastie machine and plugged it in. Now we just needed some bread. We raided all the cupboards and found an entire loaf in someone’s cupboard. We’ll just have two slices each, we thought, innocently, getting the loaf out. She’ll never notice.

We then raided the fridge for cheese, ham, peanut butter, bacon, bananas, anything that might respond well to being heated and squished between two pieces of bread. We made the sandwiches up, put them in the toastie machine and waited. While we waited, we came up with brilliant new concoctions that we could try in the toastie machine next. When our first lot of sandwiches were ready, we put more in and ate while we waited.

Each time one lot was ready, we thought of a great sandwich we should try next. We just went on and on. Soon, there was no bread left and we started to panic. There was a little newsagents a minute away so we went and got ourselves a new loaf. We just had a few pieces out of before putting it in the cupboard that we had earlier stolen the bread from.

Shortly after replacing the loaf, the friend who’s bread we had stolen came home and fancied a bit of toast. She went to her cupboard and was puzzled when her lovely Warburton’s thick-cut softest-ever bread had turned into a no-frills not-very-tasty bread that looked like it had been bought at the cornershop.

She turned to ask what had happened and saw….

Two girls, old enough to know better, in a mess of melted cheese and bread crusts and crumbs and banana skins and open jars of jam and peanut butter. The two girls looked guilty but unable to move due the bread-induced semi-coma they were in.

We were never allowed to play with the toastie machine again….

Laura’s top tips

A few days ago, I was reading Chat and I came across some top tips that were madness. For example, eat your kiwi fruit out of an egg cup. That was it. That was the whole tip and it won £25. So I thought to myself, “Wait a minute, I can do this too.” So now, especially for you, I present Laura’s Top Tips! Enjoy.

Got short hair and want it longer? Stand next to a horse’s tail and drape it over your shoulder. Everyone will think it is your hair!

Running out of milk and bread at home? Take £3 and go to the shop and get some more!

Hair too curly all the time? Buy straighteners and straighten it.

Jumper got a hole in it? Fill it in with paper machier. No-one will be able to tell the difference.

Feeling ill? Take some medicine! You will be better in no time.

Got floorboards on your floor and fed up of hoovering all the time? Just sweep the dirt into a pile and brush it down the gaps in between the floorboards.

Getting cold in the evenings? Keep a Downstairs Duvet next to the sofa and snuggle under it when it starts getting chilly.

Worried about what to cook for dinner? Use a cookbook!

Ever wonder why your clothes take ages to dry when they’re in a pile on the ground? Put them over a clothes horse individually and wait until dry.

Bored? Read a book!

That’s it for today. I don’t want to overload your brain with my amazing tips so I’ll do some more another day. Good luck with the tips, I hope they help you.