Our Blog Has Moved

21 June 2011

Our Approval


Those of you who are regular visitors to our website will have noticed that some of our artisan food producers display our Artisan Food Trail Approved badge. This badge is our little award that we give to those producers whose products we've properly tried.
We may be biased but we can highly recommend all our producers' products on our website and that's why they are there.

So you're a an artisan food producer and you want to become
'Artisan Food Trail Approved'?
If you're already on the food trail all you need to do is send some samples for us to try and test in our kitchen. Just drop us an email and we'll give you details of where to send them to. Any recipes we create or any of yours we try, we'll publish on the blog.

If you're not on the trail, you might want to consider joining. For a reasonable subscription fee you'll get your own page on our website, plus we'll promote you via our newsletter, social media and this blog of course.
Simple but very effective.

17 June 2011

Fathers Day Chilli Fiesta


Things will be hotting up in Bedfordshire for Fathers Day (19 June) as all things chilli will be celebrated in the grounds of The Mansion House, Old Warden.
The event is being run by Edible Ornamentals, growers of chillies and makers of tantalising sauces and preserves.

The Chilli Fiesta will have whole host of entertainment including chilli plants, chilli ice cream, chilli beers, chilli eating competitions as well as a variety of cooking and gardening demonstrations.
Chillies aren't all about blistering heat, of course, they are all about taste too, so what better time to explore all the flavour sensations.

For those who do not like chilli there will still be lots to see and do including a fun fair, food traders and unique activities.


The fiesta will open at 10.30am and close at 4pm.
Free admission for all ‘Dads’ and free parking.

Call on 01767 626262 for tickets or purchase online here.

Ticket Prices
Pre-booked         On the gate
Adult £5.00         Adult £7.00
Child £2.50         Child £3.50
Chilli photo: ©childsdesign 2010

10 June 2011

Oil Essential


Most foodies will no doubt have a selection of never to-be-without items in their kitchen store cupboards, a variety of condiments that add essential flavours to their cooking that have the ability to take a dish to another level. We have now added another item to those core essentials, smoked olive oil from The Artisan Smokehouse.

Being willing testers and guinea pigs for unusual or new products, we gratefully accepted a bottle of this smoked olive oil that is fast becoming an ubiquitous ingredient in our kitchen. Although The Artisan Smokehouse have been making it for some time it was new to us.
The light olive oil is infused with real maple wood smoke, not just ersatz flavourings, so it is a very nice addition to many foods. The aroma is pleasantly smokey and the flavour subtle enough to compliment most things.

We've roasted, sauteed, drizzled and dressed with it giving various dishes a nice smoky background that doesn't drown out any of the subtleties of the food we put it on.
Potatoes are simply gorgeous when fried in it as are croutons for salad and also on the salad itself. Added to a marinade for meat such as chicken, it gently suffuses the flesh with its flavour as well as adding moisture.
Salad dressings are a whole new experience whether mixed with cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar or even lemon juice. We're still contemplating making mayonnaise with it too... just imagine...

The smoked olive oil has become such an intrinsic part in the kitchen, lately, that it now has permanent residence on the worktop rather than being tucked away in the pantry.
Photo: ©childsdesign 2011

9 June 2011

Chicken or Pork with Red Mole Sauce (Coloradito)

This recipe is from one of our latest additions to The Artisan Food Trail, Capsicana Chilli Co and uses two types of their dried chillies, Ancho Poblano and Guajillo. Ben gave us his whole range to photograph for his website and kindly let us keep them to test out in our kitchen.

The chillies are sun-dried so are a little wrinkly in appearance, but what they lack in looks, they certainly make up for in flavour. Grown in their native habitat they have absorbed every ray of Mexican sunshine and no doubt the soil has imparted its individual characteristics too (terroir is what they call it, we believe).
Drop them into a bowl and pour over a little hot water and leave to soak for 20 minutes and they're ready to use. We reserved the seeds too and might have a go at growing them in our kitchen garden.

Capsicana's website says: Mole sauce is a rich chocolate sauce flavoured with chillies and spices and a whole host of other ingredients. This particular recipe is a famous traditional recipe from the Martinez family of Oaxaca City and is served every day at their wonderful restaurant Casa de la Abuela. It uses Ancho Poblano and Guajillo chillies. Mole is traditionally served with turkey but can be used with Chicken or Pork. Mole sauces are thought to originate from the state of Puebla east of Mexico City. The exact origin of Mole Poblano is disputed but one of the more interesting stories is that it was served to Cortez and the invading Conquistadors by the Aztec King Moctezuma.

Our verdict? We loved it.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

For the meat

  • 500g chicken breast or pork tenderloin,
  • ¼ piece of 1 small onion
  • pinch of salt and pepper

For the mole

  • 1½ tbsp sesame seeds
  • 25g Ancho Poblano chillies, tops and seeds removed (keep seeds)
  • 17g Guajillo Chillies, tops and seeds removed (keep seeds)
  • 22g of dark chocolate (70-75% cacao)
  • ½ thick slice of day old brioche bread
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick or ¼ tsp ground
  • 2 black peppercorns
  • 3 cloves
  • 2 tbsp of vegetable oil
  • ½ small onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves (pressed)
  • 2 small sized ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 2 inch chunk of plantain or very ripe banana
  • 5g of fresh thyme
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • 15g of raisins
  • 37g of blanched almonds
  • 750ml of chicken or pork stock
  • ½ tsp of salt, or to taste

Method
Place a large pan of water on high heat, add the ¼ piece of onion and bring to boil. Add meat and boil until cooked through. Remove from boiling pan, allow to cool for 10 minutes. Using a fork, shred the meat, cover and place in fridge until required

Place the sesame seeds in a small heavy bottomed frying pan over a medium heat. Stir constantly shaking pan until they start to turn golden. Scrape seeds into bowl and put to one side

Grate the chocolate coarsely or break into small pieces and put to one side

Crush the bread into fine crumbs or grind in food processor and put to one side

Wash and dry roast the chillies a couple at a time for 30-60 seconds in the a heavy bottomed frying pan. Do this on a medium heat and shake the pan as you do this to make sure they do not burn. Then place them in a bowl and cover generously with boiling water. Soak for 20 minutes

Grind the cinnamon, cloves and peppercorns together with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder
Drain the chillies and put the water to one side

Heat 15ml of oil in a medium sized skillet over medium heat, add the ground spices and cook for 1-2 minutes stirring constantly. Add the onion, garlic, tomatoes, plantain (or banana), thyme, oregano, sesame seeds, raisins and almonds. Cook uncovered stirring frequently for about 15 minutes

Allow this to cool for about 10 minutes and then place half in a blender with about 250ml of the chicken or pork stock and half of the drained chillies. Blend for 3 minutes or until very smooth. Repeat with remainder of sauce and chillies

In a large non stick saucepan heat the rest of the oil over a medium high heat. Add the blended mixture stirring constantly. Stir in the remaining stock a little at a time. Cover and cook for about 20 minutes. Stir in the bread crumbs and cook stirring constantly for about 10 minutes or until the sauce is lightly thickened. Stir in the chocolate and cook stirring constantly until well dissolved. Add salt

Stir in the shredded meat; cook, partly covered for 7-10 minutes stirring occasionally until heated through. Taste and season further if desired
Serve with rice or in tortilla wraps

Courtesy of Zarela Martinez. This recipe comes from her popular Mexican cookery book Food and Life of Oaxaca. Other titles by Zarela include Food From my Heart and Zarela's Veracruz. To read more about Zarela please see her profile on the Capsicana website friends page here.

Photo: ©childsdesign 2011

5 June 2011

Offley Hoo opens its gates for Open Farm Sunday on 12th June

The opportunity to experience what life is like on a real working farm is within reach for all of us on 12 June. Each year British farms open their gates as they take part in the event known as Open Farm Sunday organised by LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) and this year over 450 farms across the country are involved, including Offley Hoo (Pilkington Farms) in Hertfordshire.

As well as being educationally valuable in a time where many children seem to have no idea where their food comes from, it is also a day of fun and entertainment for all the family.
With just a week to go before
Offley Hoo opens its doors to all (from 11am – 4pm), they are busy putting the final touches together and you can keep up to date by following their blog where there’ll be daily updates giving you an idea of what’s in store.
So get out into the countryside, reconnect with nature, learn
and have fun.

For more information about Open Farm Sunday and to see all the farms participating, visit the website: www.farmsunday.org
Photo: ©childsdesign 2010