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29 July 2014

Lavender, Chilli & Rosemary Focaccia

Photo: © childsdesign
Focaccia originates from Italy and is enriched with olive oil, which gives the bread a soft texture. It can be topped with a variety of things, but rosemary and sea salt is the most common. We’ve gone a step further and used chilli flakes and some dried lavender flowers taking the flavour into another dimension.

Focaccia is the perfect bread to be enjoyed with charcuterie, cheeses or even just simply dipped into a rich balsamic or fruit vinegar.

View recipe

Enjoy the scent of lavender in the kitchen

Photo: © childsdesign
Right now the air is buzzing with the sound of bees bobbing about on the lavender and the sun is releasing the wonderful soothing scent which makes the garden a lovely place to relax.
Even when the lavender has finally finished flowering it can still be enjoyed until next summer. As long as you remember to dry some bunches and then crumble the flower heads into jars, the aroma packed blooms can be used around the home and in the kitchen.

The mediterranean plant has long been utilised for its health and wellbeing qualities and is the essential oil is used by aromatherapists to promote relaxation. It is an antiseptic and also has anti-inflammatory properties and was even used to disinfect hospital floors during the First World War. A little of the oil applied to your temples will soothe a headache and we can certainly vouch for its ability to aid sleep and relieve anxiety.

Photo: © childsdesign
Historically, lavender can be traced as far back as ancient Egypt where it was used for embalming and cosmetics. The ancient Greeks greatly appreciated its scent and the Romans made full use of its healing attributes. In fact it has been used throughout history to the present day from medicine through to insect repellent to perfume.

When we’re out in my garden tending to the fruit bushes, vegetable plants, and herbs, we often ponder how flowers could be used in our cooking, lavender being no exception. It is a strong flavour and should be used sparingly but lends itself to both sweet and savoury dishes.

A couple of sprigs of the flowers tucked into a jar full of caster sugar gently infuses to give a wonderful ingredient for baking, the subtle fragrance is good in cakes and biscuits. It is also an unusual but interesting addition to rubs and marinades, perfectly complementing lamb or even chicken. A few of the dried flower buds can be dropped into milk or cream, gently warmed and left to allow their flavours to permeate to make a base for custard or ice cream.

Photo: © Womersley Foods
There are some producers on The Artisan Food Trail that use lavender in their products to the greatest of effect. Try the infused vinegars from Scrubby Oak Fine Foods or Womersley Foods.

Although there a few people who don’t like the smell of lavender as they associated it with elderly aunts’ handbags, we would urge them to try it in cooking as it really is a different story. Just take care not to use too much and it can transform a dish in a subtle yet surprising way.

We made a deliciously fragrant focaccia bread with just a sprinkling of lavender and you can have a go at making it yourself using our recipe.

Left: Womersley Foods' Lime, Black Pepper & Lavender Vinegar goes great with fish.

28 July 2014

What's baking at The Linseed Farm?

Photo: © The Linseed Farm
A new bakery section at The Linseed Farm has been set up to make additional products to maximise the use of their crop and to produce healthy snacks and treats.
At the time of writing the farm’s bakery is currently producing flapjacks and Crisplins which are being tested at various food shows and events around the country and it won’t be long before they are more widely available.

Photo: © childsdesign
Flaplins (Flapjacks)
The Linseed Farm’s flaplins are a little different to the normal flapjack, not only do they include a healthy dose of linseed meal but they also contain dark brown sugar which gives them a deeper colour. The flavour has that gorgeous almost treacly quality, you can really taste the butter too and the fresh and nutty linseed taste comes through at the end.
The texture is surprisingly quite light and crumbly, this could be something to do with the gluten free oats, but we like flapjacks that way.

Photo: © childsdesign
Savoury Crisplins
These are little shards of the most savoury snack we’ve ever tasted.
Piles of golden linseeds are cleverly held together in a mixture made with
red bell peppers, onion, garlic, lemon juice Italian seasoning herbs and
sun-dried tomatoes.
These are a raw dehydrated food and made perfectly for a crunchy, delectably thin finish. They're very moreish too. Nibble them on their own or with a drink and if you have any left, crush some over your salad.

We are pleased to award The Linseed Farm our 'Artisan Food Trail Approved' status for their Flaplins and Savoury Crisplins.

To find out more about The Linseed Farm visit their page on The Artisan Food Trail here where you'll find links to their website for more in-depth information.

21 July 2014

Gluten free baking that can be loved by all

Photo: © childsdesign

Living gluten free needn't be dull. We're constantly discovering quality
free-from products and it is a real pleasure to introduce more and more producers making these goods, to The Artisan Food Trail.

Just because cakes need to be made in a different way to make sure they
are gluten free, doesn't mean they need to compromise on taste, texture
and appearance.

Love at First Bake make a range of cakes, muffins, cookies and pastries that look and taste so delicious that anyone can enjoy them.
After experimenting with various recipes, Teri-Ann Winslow launched her gluten free brand in September 2013.

Teri-Ann says, "I'm a foodie, so when I decided to remove gluten from my diet because of wheat intolerance I didn't realise how difficult it was going to be to find a good choice of tasty, affordable products."

Everything made at Love at First Bake is handmade which lends a little more character to the finished product. Each cake or muffin will look slightly different to the last but that is by no means detracting – it says, 'I'm not mass produced', something we're very much in favour of.
An emphasis is placed on using locally sourced ingredients where possible and all eggs used are free range.

Shortly after becoming a member of The Artisan Food Trail, Love at First Bake sent us some of their cakes to try, one of these was a Coconut & Lemon layer cake.
Although only six inches in diameter it makes up for its width, in height, with two substantially thick cakes sandwiched together with lemon curd and a cream cheese frosting.

The cake is moist with a good crumb texture and infused with lemon zest and the softest coconut. Sometimes desiccated coconut can be dry and has a tendency to have a 'bitty' texture, but not so with this cake.
In the middle is a good amount of gorgeous rich and tangy lemon curd
and the lightest of coconut cream cheese frosting. Cream cheese frosting
also decorates the top and shreds of lemon zest and toasted coconut complete the cake.
We love this cake and you'd never know it was gluten free. Evidently, a lot of care and attention went into baking it.

We have some more Love at First Bake's cakes to tell you about so look out for another article soon.

We are pleased to award Love at First Bake our 'Artisan Food Trail Approved' status for their Coconut & Lemon Layer Cake.

To find out more about Love at First Bake visit their page on The Artisan Food Trail here.

7 July 2014

Feta, Spinach & Mint Tart in Linseed Meal Pastry

Photo: childsdesign
This savoury tart is creamy and delicious, with a lovely salty tang from feta cheese. Spinach is an ideal partner for the cheese but the addition of fresh mint really lifts and brightens the flavour.
The pastry is quite special too as we’ve added some linseed meal
(from The Linseed Farm) giving an extra fresh nutty flavour.
The tart can be served warm or cold with a salad of tomatoes, cucumber,
red onion and black olives. It would also be ideal to take on a picnic too.

View recipe

4 July 2014

Number one seed

Linseed Meal                                                                                                 Photo: © childsdesign

The Linseed Farm is exactly that, a Sussex farm that grows linseed (or flax as it is sometimes known) and that means that its products always arrive at their freshest when you order them.
The Linseed Farm’s oil is ‘farm fresh’ meaning that the linseeds are pressed
on demand and only ever in small batches to ensure the oil is at its freshest – a small silver label on each bottle confirms that the seeds were cold pressed within the last 10 days.

The cold pressing and filtering method is completely natural and does not require the use of heat and solvents. This is important because linseed oil
is an unsaturated oil and if subjected to high temperatures its health-giving properties are destroyed. This is worth noting when using it in the kitchen –
do not use it to fry or roast food but use in things like dressings instead.

Not only does linseed taste great but it also very healthy too being one of the richest sources of omega 3 poly-unsaturated fatty acids and alpha linolenic acid and is particularly useful for those following a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Omega 3 has many benefits in the body including helping to support a healthy nervous and cardiovascular system as well as supporting healthy joints, skin, hair and nails.

Linseed meal is a great source of soluble fibre so is good for the digestive system and not only that, it is also a great source of protein too. Try it sprinkled over your breakfast muesli or porridge or adding to your baking. The oil is also an ideal addition to soups and smoothies.

AFT Kitchen Notes
The Linseed Farm sent us some of their products to try and although we regularly use whole linseeds, we’ve never used the oil. Some time ago
we had some linseed meal but we can say it did not compare to that from
The Linseed Farm.

Linseed Meal
We were very impressed by the quality and freshness of the linseed meal which smells wonderful with its almost cucumber/melon-like aroma.
The meal comes in a generous-sized 500g pack so we’ll have plenty with which to experiment.
We like the light and soft texture makes it ideal for baking lending a clean and slightly nutty taste and if you don’t mind the brown specks it is wonderful incorporated into shortcrust pastry.
Mixed into our morning muesli it is adding a whole new flavour as well as boosting the health benefits.

Photo: © childsdesign
Linseed Culinary Oil
We like to use a variety of oils in the AFT Kitchen, all with their own unique flavour and properties so it was nice to try something new for a change.
Ours came in a brown plastic bottle and although it looks very much like a receptacle for cough medicine don’t let that put you off. The practicalities of the container need to be taken into account – it is lighter for transportation and the dark colour protects the oil inside. However the culinary linseed oil is available in a tall glass bottle too.

The oil is a rich golden colour with a smooth light consistency with that wonderful smell reminiscent of grass, new mown hay mixed with a nutty background aroma.
The flavour is light too and a welcome change from olive oil and we’ve
been drizzling it over our salads and pasta and making some pretty
amazing dressings.

Even if you’re not into the health aspect that linseed products offer we’d definitely suggest adding them to your kitchen for the flavour alone and let the healthy part be an added bonus.

Over the coming weeks we will be posting some recipes using linseed oil and meal, so look out for some delicious ideas that not only taste good but have a little something extra that’s good for you too.

We are pleased to award The Linseed Farm our 'Artisan Food Trail Approved' status for their Culinary Linseed Oil and Linseed Meal.

To find out more about The Linseed Farm visit their page on The Artisan Food Trail here where you'll find links to their website for more in-depth information.