22 December 2015

Stay food safe this Christmas

Christmas is a time when a lot of food is bought and consumed, sometimes rather too much of it too. We're often faced with the prospect of cooking unfamiliar things, after all it's not everyday we cook a huge turkey or rib of beef. And then there's the issue of all the surplus - what to do with all the leftovers.

Ultimately there is pressure on us to become the ultimate domestic goddess or even god – but what food safety issues do we need to think about?

Sarah Daniels of The Red Cat Partnership has given us a few simple tips to follow to ensure your Christmas is a merry one.

Buying and storing food
Firstly do not buy or prepare food too far in advance.
When buying food you must consider the use by date – this is the date the manufacturer/ producer can guarantee that if we have stored it correctly
(in the fridge) that it is safe to eat.

Do not buy food that you cannot eat before the end of this use by period.
You will also need to be mindful of the ‘once open consume within’ guidance given – this will over ride the shelf life and may only be 2 days.
So do not buy your perishable foods too far in advance. If you need to buy early then freeze as soon as you can after purchasing – more on defrosting later.

Best before dates are just that. The food tastes best before that date – it won’t harm you afterwards, though it may not taste as good as it should.

Keep perishable foods in the fridge and do not overload the fridge.
I know we want a chilled beer or glass of wine, but the foodstuffs that support nasty bacteria growing need to be kept refrigerated to ensure the food is safe to eat.

Also we should not overload our fridges – if air cannot circulate this can cause a rise in temperature which can cause a dangerous growth of bacteria.

Also we need to keep raw and ready-to-eat foods apart.
Keep raw meats/ fish/ eggs and veg, particularly soily veg at the bottom of the fridge.

Preparing food
When preparing foods, this too, must not be done too far in advance.
If you're still eating the turkey on New Year’s day it is pushing it from a food safety perspective – prepare what you can eat within 2 –3 days.

If you are not going to eat it, portion it up and freeze as soon after cooking as you can.
Do cool foods quickly by portioning them, or taking them out of their cooking container as this will prevent nasty poisons / toxins developing.

Preparing the festive bird
There is no need to wash the bird – this can cause bacteria to be splashed and therefore spread around the kitchen. Those stomach upsetting bugs will be killed if the bird is cooked thoroughly.

Cooking and defrosting
If you need to defrost foods, do it in the fridge. This will take longer but it is safer. If there is no room in the fridge do it overnight whilst the central heating is off.
Ensure that all foods are thoroughly defrosted before cooking, otherwise the oven temperature will just defrost the meat and not cook it thoroughly.

Allow enough time for the cooking process.
Be mindful of how much food you need to cook at once and the order it needs to be cooked in. Most shops and magazines have countdown guides.
I would rather have a delayed festive meal than food poisoning, or a hard potato rather than an undercooked pink turkey!

Always check that poultry is cooked thoroughly – you do not need a probe – but pierce the bird/dish at the thickest point and ensure that juices are clear and the food is piping hot.

And lastly enjoy without the fear of a festive food poisoning!

Sarah Daniels is director of  The Red Cat Partnership a health and safety consultancy based in Norwich.
Courses are available covering food safety with a team of chartered environmental health practitioners.
www.redcat.gb.com

21 December 2015

How to carve a turkey

So you've bought the best turkey and cooked it to perfection, so what's the best way to carve it?
This step-by-step guide should put you on the right track to getting those lovely slices of meat off the bird that you'll be proud to serve to your family and guests.



Step 1
With a sharp knife, cut the skin between leg and breast.
Bend leg outwards and cut straight through the joint, removing the whole leg. Repeat on the other side. If the turkey is properly cooked, the legs will fall away easily. Do the same with each wing, leaving the breast meat intact.

Step 2
With the legs removed, slice horizontally at the base of the breast until your knife reaches the carcass. Do this on both sides. Then, slice downwards in neat, even slices.




Step 3
Slice the dark meat off the legs (hold the drumstick with a piece of kitchen paper if this makes it easier). Arrange round the edge of the serving platter. Pile the slices of white meat in the centre and carry into the dining room.



Step-by-step, photos and illustrations reproduced
with kind permission of British Turkey

20 December 2015

How to make perfect roast potatoes

Photo: © childsdesign
***
To be served a roast dinner without roast potatoes would be a serious misdemeanour. The meal would not be complete without these heavenly golden crunchy caskets encasing the fluffy potato within.

You can never make too many either as we don't know anyone who doesn't love a roast potato, so they're bound to want second helpings!

For the best results you will need floury potatoes such as Maris Piper, King Edward or Desiree.

How to make perfect roast potatoes
Peel your potatoes, removing any eyes or blemishes and cut the potatoes into halves. Put into a pan of cold water and bring to the boil.

Add about half a teaspoon of salt. Don't skip this part as the salt the allows the potato's cells to crumble which will give a crunchier texture.

Parboil the potatoes for 7 minutes if the chunks are large or 5 minutes if they are small. Drain into a colander and leave to allow the steam to evaporate off and dry out.

Give your potatoes a good shake in the colander to break up their surfaces, but be careful that you don't smash them completely to bits. The fluffy surface you have created will crisp up when roasted.

There are various approaches to the next stage – adding the fat.
You can choose from a variety of fats and oils – it's up to you. Some people swear by goose or duck fat, pork lard or even beef dripping for that traditional old fashioned flavour but you could you use olive oil, but we like to use cold pressed rapeseed oil for ours (see below for producers).
Many cooks heat the fat in the tray before adding the potatoes, but we've found that by coating the potatoes in the cold oil first then tipping them into a very hot tray produces a good thick crunchy crust.

You'll need to get your oven good and hot, 220C / Gas 7, to heat the tray. Once you place the tray of potatoes into the oven turn down the heat to
190C / Gas 5. This works best as some fats are prone to spoiling at very high heats. Put your potatoes on the top shelf and roast for about an hour. Sprinkle them with a little flaked sea salt, and if you like, add some sprigs of rosemary or thyme. Turn the potatoes twice throughout their cooking time. You should get nice evenly roasted potatoes with a golden colour and thick crust.

Once cooked remove the potatoes using a slotted spoon and keep warm in a serving dish. Don't leave the potatoes sitting in the cooking fat. They should stay crisp for at least 20 minutes, but the sooner you get them on the plate
the better.

Cold pressed rapeseed oil producers:
Yare Valley Oils
Filbert's Fine Foods
The Artisan Smokehouse – produce a smoked version

18 December 2015

Tips and recipes for great Christmas stuffing


You can make your turkey even more special with some tasty stuffing by stuffing the neck end of the bird right before cooking and seal by tucking in the skin. Make sure you weigh the turkey after stuffing to calculate the correct cooking time. Alternatively spoon into a dish and cook separately.

Here are some tips and recipes for great homemade stuffing:
  1. You can prepare the stuffing a few weeks beforehand and freeze, and then allow to thaw completely before using. Or prepare on Christmas Eve, allow to cool and store covered in the fridge. Always allow the stuffing to come back to room temperature before using to ensure the cooking times are not affected. 
  2. Turkeys should be stuffed just before cooking. Do not stuff the night before as this can be a breeding ground for bacteria. 
  3. Only stuff the neck cavity – never the body cavity – the body cavity can have sliced onion or lemon or orange and fresh herbs placed inside to infuse the meat with additional flavours. 
  4. Spoon stuffing into the neck cavity and seal the end by tucking in the skin and securing with cocktail sticks or darning needle and thread. Bread based stuffings tend to swell up slightly so do not pack in too tightly. Generally 350g will be enough for a 4.5-5kg bird. 
  5. Weigh the turkey after stuffing to calculate cooking time. If the bird is under 4kg allow 20 minutes per kg + 70 minutes. If the bird is over 4kg allow 20 minutes per kg + 90 minutes. 
  6. If you do not want to stuff the bird or have leftover stuffing mixture simply roll into little balls (use wet hands to make this easier). Brush with oil and bake for 20-30 minutes at the end of the turkey cooking time. Alternatively, spread stuffing mixture in a baking dish, bake for 30 minutes and serve cut into squares.

Green Herb, Lemon & Onion Stuffing

Ingredients
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 250g fresh white or brown breadcrumbs
  • 125g shredded suet
  • 2 lemons, grated rind of one and juice of two
  • 4 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped marjoram, or 1 tbsp dried
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped dill, or 1 tsp dried
  • 75g chopped walnuts, optional
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • stock or white wine to mix
  • salt and ground black pepper

Method
Boil the onions in a little stock or water for 5 minutes, then chop, reserving the liquid for use later.
Mix with all the other ingredients until you have a firm, moist mixture, using the reserved liquid or wine to moisten if necessary. Season well and chill until required.


Fruit & Roasted Nut Stuffing

Ingredients
  • 125g dried, stoned prunes
  • 75g dried apricots
  • 1 stick of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion finely chopped
  • 1 medium cooking apple, peeled and grated
  • 50g butter
  • liver of turkey, finely chopped
  • 125g fresh white or brown breadcrumbs
  • 50g roasted chopped hazelnuts or almonds
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • salt and ground black pepper

Method
Chop prunes and apricots finely and soak for at least an hour in hot water, then drain, reserving some of the liquid. Fry celery, onion and apple in the butter for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally then add liver and fry for a further 3 minutes until firm and cooked.
Put crumbs and nuts in large bowl and stir in fried mixture together with fruit, egg and seasoning, moistening with some reserved liquid, if necessary. Allow to cool before using.


Mushroom & Bacon Stuffing

Ingredients
  • 175g mushrooms, wiped and chopped
  • 175g streaky bacon, de-rinded and chopped
  • 175g fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 small onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tsp mixed dried herbs
  • 1 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 50-75g butter or margarine, melted
  • 2 medium eggs

Method
Mix the mushrooms, bacon, breadcrumbs, onions, herbs and seasoning together in a bowl
Stir in the melted butter or margarine and sufficient egg to bind the mixture together.
Use to stuff the neck cavity only. Cook any remaining stuffing separately.


Oatey Apple & Cranberry Stuffing

Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 rashers smoked streaky bacon, diced
  • 450g Bramley apples, peeled, cored and grated
  • zest and juice 1 lemon
  • 1 medium egg, beaten
  • 175g fine oatmeal
  • 175g fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh sage
  • 75g dried cranberries
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method
Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the onion and bacon and sauté for 5 mins until pale golden. Transfer to a bowl and cool slightly.
Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Season with a little salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper.
You can make this stuffing the day before required if liked. Simply cover the bowl with clear film and refrigerate until required.
Use the stuffing to fill the neck of turkey. Roll the remainder into balls and roast in the oven alongside the turkey for 20 mins or until golden.
Makes enough to fill the neck cavity of a 2.2kg (10lb) turkey.


Sausage, Chestnut & Bacon Stuffing

Ingredients
  • 50g streaky bacon, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp dry sherry
  • 250g good sausagemeat
  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped sage or 1 tsp dried
  • 75g fresh white or brown breadcrumbs
  • 125g canned chestnuts, drained and chopped
  • grated rind 1 lemon
  • salt and ground black pepper

Method
Dry fry bacon in a small frying pan until the fat runs, then fry the onion in the juices for about 3 minutes.
Add sherry and cook until evaporated. Remove, tip into a big bowl and allow to cool. Mix in sausagemeat, sage, breadcrumbs, chestnuts, lemon rind and seasoning.
Chill and stuff before roasting.

Tips, photos and recipes reproduced
with kind permission of British Turkey

16 December 2015

A very important customer for Norfolk pork pies

We like to share good news especially when it comes to members of
The Artisan Food Trail, so when pork pie maker, Sarah Pettegree of
Bray’s Cottage Pork Pies dropped us an email telling us about her little
(yet no less significant) triumph, of course we were happy to broadcast it…

North Norfolk based, award winning, Bray’s Cottage Pork Pies had a most unexpected and exciting customer recently (5th December 2015) at the bustling Creake Abbey Farmers’ Market. Legendary celebrity chef, Albert Roux OBE, father of Masterchef’s Michel Roux Jnr, tasted some of the pork pies and liked them so much he promptly bought four.

Sarah Pettegree, who runs the business from Bayfield Brecks near Holt in North Norfolk said:
“I was amazed to see him standing in front of my stall and just delighted 
that someone so hugely important in the food world, and a real hero 
of mine, wanted to buy our pies. It took me quite a while to compose 
myself afterwards”

“It’s a real triumph for Norfolk’s great food producers that he came to the farmers market on a shopping expedition.”

French born, multi Michelin star restaurateur, Albert Roux also bought a jar of chutney and a bottle of cider from other local producers at the market.

Sarah, who has previously served her pork pies to a glittering array of famous names including Heston Blumenthal said:
“It sounded like a perfect Norfolk lunch in the making! Curiously, we have developed a core of French fans of our pork pies. I think it’s because they are very different to supermarket pork pies and have a complex seasoning that people compare to the classic French delicatessen specialty, pâté en croûte”

Bray’s Cottage Pork Pies are sold in independent farm shops, pubs and delicatessens around the UK and every month (except January) at Creake Abbey Farmer’s Market in North Norfolk and at The Norfolk Diet Farmers’ Market at The Forum Norwich.

To find out more about Bray’s Cottage Pork Pies visit their page on 
The Artisan Food Trail here