Category Archives: British foods

Christmas Trifle

When life gives you lemons make lemonade, when life gives you leftover eggnog and Christmas pudding make trifle. This decadent concoction of Christmas leftovers was inspired by my mother when I mentioned that we had a lot of leftover Christmas pudding. Not much was eaten on Christmas Day because everyone was too full to eat much, and it is incredibly rich. I couldn’t find a recipe I liked so I made my own.

Christmas pudding is the traditional dessert for many English families. Our family has a recipe that is generations old and this is the first year I have been entrusted with it. We made the Christmas pudding over Thanksgiving when my parents were visiting. It steamed for 8 hours then, and another 4 before we served it at Christmas. The end result is almost black and heavy with alcohol and spices.

Trifle is another English tradition, a dessert with layers of cake, fruit, custard and cream. This is an improvisation on the theme with Christmas pudding substituting for the booze soaked cake. The glass trifle bowl really shows off the layers which were  from bottom to top:

Crumbled leftover Christmas pudding mixed with candied orange and rum.

Crumbled amaretti biscuits (from Carfagna’s Market)

Custard made with eggnog, milk, cream, eggs, sugar, vanilla and a little cornstarch.

Another layer of crumbled amaretti biscuits.

Whipped Snowville heavy cream with a touch of sugar and rum.

Toasted slivered almonds.

I am glad no one did a calorie analysis on it, I can’t imagine, especially as I made enough to feed 15 people – needless to say, it’s not something to be consumed on a regular basis. The custard layer really complimented the Christmas pudding, moderating the strong boozy flavor, the biscuit crumbs and toasted almonds added some texture and the hint of rum in the cream tied the dessert together.

Another use of leftover eggnog is to make a bread and butter pudding.

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Filed under British foods, dinners with friends, recipes

Mince pies

Mince pies are an English Christmas tradition and if you visit anyone in England over Christmas, chances are you will be offered a mince pie. Often they are store bought, sometimes the pastry is homemade but the filling has been purchased. This year was the first time I have made my own mincemeat filling. I didn’t follow a recipe exactly because I was mainly using up ingredients from making christmas pudding.

My mincemeat contains:

Suet (available from Blues Creek at the North Market) grated
Raisins
Golden raisins
Currants
Slivered almonds
Orange zest and juice
Whisky
Rum
Candied orange peel
Apple – peeled, cored and finely chopped
Pumpkin pie spices

Mincemeat recipes vary and some suggest that you cook the mixture before you store it so that the apple does not ferment. I was only making a small amount and was happy to keep it in the fridge so I did not bake it. Here is Delia’s recipe. I haven’t checked whether you can get vegetarian suet in the US but if you wanted to make a vegetarian  mincemeat you could probably freeze some vegetable shortening and grate it frozen.

I mixed the pastry by hand, rubbing the fat into the flour as I was taught in school. The whole mince pie process made me think a lot about our home economics classes at school and what a good grounding our teacher Mrs Elliot gave us in basic techniques. We had a class where we were all assigned a different fat, or combination of fats to make pastry with and then had to evaluate all of the results. Pastry made with oil is horrible! The winner was half lard, half butter. For these mince pies I tried Michael Rulhman’s 3-2-1 pie dough (the sweet version). The first few months after I bought the Ratio book it sat unused on the shelf but recently I seem to be using it for everything from stock, to pancakes, to pastry. It is extremely useful and has clear instructions and explanations as to why you should do something in a certain way. I couldn’t resist the iphone app either – just incase I need a ratio away from home.

The pastry worked very well and I improvised cookie cutters with two different sized drinking glasses. The only problem was that my muffin tins were deeper than I would have liked and it made it hard to get them out of the pan without loosening the lids. I also did some on a flat baking sheet and they worked fine too.

Whatever your festive food traditions are, Happy Christmas and Best Wishes for 2010.

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Ham and Cheese Scones

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I’m usually a purist about scones. My British upbringing is deeply ingrained and we learned how to make scones in our home economics class in school. I like English style scones – pronounced to rhyme with gone – and not too sweet. The only acceptable versions are plain or sultana (golden raisin), ideally served with clotted cream and jam, or occasionally cheese scones for picnics. These scones are small and circular. I cringe at the sugary frosted creations that pass as scones at Starbucks and copycat coffee shops. They aren’t even the right shape! Scones can be wonderfully light and flaky but badly made they can be leaden and heavy. They do not keep well and can therefore be a huge disappointment if you get one that is stale and dry . Unknown scones are risky.

I have been swayed from my purist notions by the ham and cheese scone at Northstar, which luckily, or dangerously depending on how you look at it, can be found only blocks from my house. Warm from the oven they have a siren’s call with the enticing and comforting smell of grilled cheese. My polling station is next door to Northstar which is an added incentive to vote and so this morning I exercised my right to vote and rewarded myself with a scone. I was in luck and scored the last of the batch. My scone (which came out of the oven at 8.45am) was crusty with caramelized cheese, buttery, moist and filled with chunks of ham that were particularly scrumptious where roasted at the edges. It is the crust that I love and I would be quite happy just to eat the crusts off and leave the rest, except that I would probably be tempted to pick out all the ham, and then there really wouldn’t be much left.

If you want a recipe for traditional English style scones you probably can’t go far wrong with Delia Smith. Less purist but even more British, how about some marmite and cheese scones?

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Filed under Breakfast, British foods, Columbus

Too Many Food Events

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September has been a month jam packed with food events and it shows no sign of abating. I don’t want you to think that I am complaining, I’m not, I’ve been having a great time and lots of wonderful experiences. The title is a homage to the first event I want to mention, a panel of Columbus Food Bloggers at Wild Goose Creative. This post is going to be an overview of a lot of fantastic food events that could all have been posts in their own right, if I wasn’t so busy going to food events that I don’t have enough time to write.

Back to Wild Goose. The Food Bloggers on the panel were Columbus Foodie, Dave from Weber Cam, CMH Gourmand, Rosie from Bitchin’ in the Kitchen, Zach from Columbus Foodcast, myself and Nick from Breakfast with Nick, a selection of the active food bloggers in Columbus. I was pleasantly surprised at how many people came to listen to a group of food bloggers. Each blogger introduced themselves and explained why they started blogging and the focus of their blog. It was interesting to share stories and it didn’t take long before we were sharing recommendations for new places to eat. There were some thought provoking questions including how blogging interplays with traditional media and it was a shame that time prevented a more in-depth discussion of the issue.

Each of us brought some food to share that related to our blog. Marmite seemed the obvious choice as it appears in my Hungrywoolf logo, is British and is one of my favorite foods. I remembered a recipe for Marmite cheese straws from the last issue of BBC Good Food magazine but unfortunately being a voracious recycler, the magazine was already gone. Internet research provided some ideas but of course, I am not sensible enough to do a practice run and thus on the afternoon of the event I was still hoping that they would all turn out alright. I tried hearts, pinwheels and eventually found that twisted sticks worked the best. The recipe was simple: frozen puff pastry, mature cheddar cheese, butter, marmite, a hot oven and a prayer that people would like them.

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I didn’t see too many left on plates, so it seemed that they were well received and I think I may have converted some people to the joy of Marmite.

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Labor Day was spent laboring. Not a food ‘event’ but certainly food related, we spent the day helping to pick and wash pumpkins at AD’s parents Farm. His Father grows over 50 varieties of pumpkins and squash, so I was in squash heaven and came back with a huge bag full. Some of the varieties I wasn’t familiar with and I was excited to discover that one of them, Green-striped Cushaw, is an Ark of Taste Food.

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I hadn’t thought much about squash and pumpkins needing to be washed before they are sold, although it seems obvious now. I grew up in a city, so this was a novel experience for me. My fingers were like prunes all day, but I found washing the squash meditative and enjoyed chatting to the family members who had also been enlisted.

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Back to Columbus and Dine Originals Restaurant Week was in full swing. I attended a Columbus Metropolitan Club Restaurant Week event featuring a panel of Dine Originals restaurant owners and chefs. Restaurants represented were Barcelona, The Refectory, Alana’s, Katzinger’s and Trattoria Roma. The speakers were all effusive about the benefits of being part of the Dine Originals group. Kamal Boulos the owner of The Refectory and the new President of Dine Originals had some great insights into the development of the Columbus restaurant scene. There were a lot of questions from the audience, of which ‘what do you wish you had known when you started out?’ elicited the most interesting and humorous responses.

I didn’t have a chance to experience any of the Restaurant Week dinner menus, but I did have lunch at two of the participating restaurants, Deepwood and Cafe Corner. My Restaurant Week highlight was tea for two at Pistacia Vera. Their Restaurant Week tasting plate made a perfect birthday treat for a friend. As usual it was all divine, but the lemon tart was so perfect that I am in need of an excuse (however transparent) to return.

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Wednesday was the monthly Slow Wine event at the Twisted Vine in Grandview. It is an intimate gathering, always thoughtfully put together and a pleasant way to spend an evening sipping wine and chatting to old friends and new acquaintances. The Twisted Vine offers a couple of wine flights, some complimentary food and wines by the glass or bottle. This month’s food offering was a real treat with a selection of meats, fish and cheese from Thurn’s.

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I think that AD and I have worked our way through almost half of Thurn’s extensive menu. The selection at the Twisted Vine included a few favorites as well as some things we had not tried. The tongue was so tender and buttery that the taste could convert people to offal but my new *favorite* thing is the 5 year old smoked cheddar. I went to buy some the next day but they were sold out. Hmpf.

The North Market have revamped their Dispatch Kitchen Cooking Classes with Robin Davis, the Dispatch Food Editor now manning the helm. There is a great range of classes taught by Robin herself and other Columbus Chefs. There is even a timely Thanksgiving boot camp designed for people cooking a holiday dinner for the first time. I am particularly tempted by the class with Spencer Boudros of Pistacia Vera on September 30th and I believe that there are spaces left in some of the classes. They make a fun evening out or a great Christmas or birthday gift. I was a volunteer assistant at one of Robin Davis’s classes last week, on making sushi rolls at home. Robin is an informative and sympathetic teacher and it was a lot of fun. I wish I had remembered to take some photos.

Friday night was a fundraiser dinner for 500 people at the Frankin Park Conservatory, part of their weekend long Field to Table Festival. Somehow I had agreed to volunteer, little realizing what that would entail, and never imagining that AD would score an invitation to the dinner. Jealous – moi?! I ended up as a sous chef to Richard Rosendale, preparing salads and plating food for 200 of the guests. Having never worked in a professional kitchen I was somewhat out of my depth, but at the same time right in my element. It was a real adrenalin rush working in a very MacGuyver-ish tent-kitchen.

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It was a stunning event, as befits the $300 a ticket price, with tables set out around the sculpture and the back-drop of the Conservatory illuminations. Guests arrived at the new Community Garden Campus for drinks and hors d’oeuvres which included pizza, lamb kebabs, sliders, an Ohio cheese board and Jeni’s ice cream. If they weren’t already full they walked over towards the Conservatory for a lavish 7 course dinner, including tomato and cucumber salad, ratatouille, roasted chicken, pork ribs, polenta, succotash, roasted pork loin and pork belly and for dessert apple crisp and ice wine sabayon from Pistacia Vera.

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Sunday we were back at Franklin Park to volunteer at the Slow Food table, promoting food that is good, clean and fair and handing out samples of paw paws and ground cherries. I hope that you will have a chance to visit the Community Garden Campus at Franklin Park if you have not already. I know that they are planning a lot of programming. It is beautifully done.

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One of the highlights of the Community Garden Campus is the live fire cooking theatre which includes a fire place, a hearth and the only green roofed pizza oven that I have ever seen. I was lucky enough to get a slice (or two) or Jim Budros’s amazing wood fired pizza topped with spinach and goat cheese. The crust was made using Peter Reinhart’s dough recipe and I can attest to the results. I am sure it helps when you have a 600º wood fired oven!

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As if it wasn’t a busy enough weekend, we had to find time for some taco trucking. Night of 1000 Tacos is coming up this Friday, September 18th and we had to forewarn the trucks, and drive the route so we could produce a turn by turn sheet for cyclists. We will be hitting four trucks in the Cleveland Avenue, Morse Road area and it should be a lot of fun.

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Last night was Taste the Future, the annual culinary showcase of Columbus State Community College. It is a huge event with around 50 Columbus chefs showing off their wares. Some of Columbus’s finest restaurants were there along with a number of hotels and catering companies. The event was held in a large courtyard area over looked by the towering statue of Christopher Columbus. There was music and wine and throngs of people.

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There was a lot of food and it was fun seeing what everyone had to offer. Some of the restaurants did a good job of projecting their identity and giving you a sense of their menu. With so many offerings, things started to blur but there were some interesting trends. Popular ingredients included: mushrooms, truffle oil, scallops and shrimp. There were several variations on chocolate tarts and a number of plays on gazpacho and chilled soups. Two of my favorite dishes fell into this category, a white gazpacho from the Brewers Yard Bistro at Kroger and a local tomato gazpacho with crab and corn salad from Aramark at the Columbus Convention Center. I also really liked the Scallop Pomponnette from The Refectory.

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It was a prefect evening for an outdoor event and great for taking photos. For those wanting more, there are a lot more photos on flickr and with several bloggers and photographers floating around, I am sure there will be a lot more online too.

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And so that brings us up to date. Next on the agenda is the Night of 1000 Tacos, closely followed by the Ohio Paw Paw Festival. I will be heading down to Lake Powell near Athens on Saturday for a celebration of all things paw paw. I am honored to have been invited to judge the paw paw cook off contest and I can’t wait to see what the competitors have come up with.

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For those of you wondering what a paw paw is – it is the largest native fruit in the United States and the official native fruit of Ohio. It is like a cross between a custard apple, mango and banana and surprisingly tropical for something grown in Ohio. I am sure that I will be writing a lot more about Paw Paws next week.

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Filed under blogging, British foods, North Market, restaurants, slow food, special events, Taco trucks, wild goose creative

Tunbridge Wells

Bakewell and Treacle Tarts
Bakewell and Treacle Tarts

I think I have finally caught up from our trip to England and France, more than a month after we got back.  There are a few final things I wanted to mention. We spent a fun weekend in Tunbridge Wells in Kent with some of my best friends and unsurprisingly food featured heavily on the itinerary.

Trevor Mottram is the most amazing kitchen shop I have ever been into. It is truly an emporium, stuffed to the gills with all manner of kitchen gadgets, utensils and paraphenalia. A dangerous place for a kitchen geek with a credit card.

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Farmers Markets are as popular in the UK as they are here and we caught one of the two Tunbridge Wells markets. This one has a range of meats, vegetables, preserves and baked goods and even a stall dedicated to Scandinavian foods.

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We enjoyed looking at the wares of this local butcher, who as well as their handsome bike had a tuk-tuk for deliveries.

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It was also in Tunbridge Wells that AD had his first taste of real English fish and chips and mushy peas.

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We never worked out what these people were doing. They seemed to just be promenading around town.

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Incanto

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One restaurant I wanted to write about is Incanto. It is joyously across the street from my parents house in Harrow on the Hill and we had dinner there on our last night. Had I remembered how good it was, I might have asked to go more than once.

Incanto has a deli and coffee shop in the front from which you can step through into a stylish modern dining room, made light and airy by the long skylights.

Incanto is a wonderful example of what a neighborhood restaurant can be, with good value set menus (2 or 3 courses, available for lunch or dinner) and an a la carte menu packed with well sourced and seasonal ingredients.

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Our amuse bouche was a flavor packed expresso cup of butternut squash soup.

IMG_3471Lincolnshire smoked eel with foie gras and spiced apple (because we hadn’t had enough on our trip!)

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A spelt risotto with nettles and apple wood smoked bacon that was so delicious that I could eat once a week.

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Wine poached pear and crunchy, salty samphire salad with gorgonzola dressing.

It seems that I only have photos of the appetizers. Whether I was distracted by the music (there was a party with a band the night we were there), the conversation or just caught up in eating I can’t recall. I have hazy recollections of having had venison for my main course.

I do know that the cheese board was excellent (what do you expect when they have a deli) and the days selection of cheeses was accompanied by a wild carrot honey.

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Langmans Restaurant, Callington

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Langmans is a small restaurant in the Cornish town of Callington, run by husband and wife team Anton and Gail Buttery. Langmans is open three nights a week offering a six course tasting menu based on local and seasonal ingredients. Anton does all of the cooking, including breads and petit fours and Gail presides over the front of house.

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Given their size Langmans are able to offer a personal touch that many restaurants only aspire to. As you arrive you are seated in the bar /lounge area, offered drinks and delicious nibbles and given time to peruse the menu, specify how you would like your beef and deal with any other requests.

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Langmans have a strong commitment to local produce and the menu features a list of their suppliers. The pride in Cornish food is evident. Our tasting menu featured a lot of local foods, only really slipping when it came to the dessert course, which did not seem as seasonal or Cornwall inspired as the other courses.

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Our first course was a tasty terrine of guinea fowl, ham hock and duck, topped with foie gras, micro greens and accompanied with a pickled walnut and a sweet quince sauce. The pickled walnut was an excellent foil to the rich creamy foie gras and the terrine was excellent.

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Course two was a pea soup with a seared scallop island. The scallops were plump and well cooked, the soup light and fresh tasting, but I think a pea puree would have been better. I loved the flavors but it seemed a little awkward to eat the scallop with a knife and fork and then to switch to a spoon for a soup.

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My photo of the monkfish with ratatouille risotto really does not do it justice. Another delicious course beautifully presented. I thought my monkfish was a slightly over cooked, but others in our party (of nine) proclaimed theirs to be perfectly done.

Our meat course was a Cornish fillet of beef, with an assortment of vegetables, rosti potatoes and a beguiling madeira sauce. It was a very generous serving, especially on top of the three previous courses. I loved the presentation of the asparagus which looked like a pair of crossed legs.

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Next came the cheese course, possibly my favorite and one of the most impressive cheese selections I have been offered in a restaurant. There were 12 cheeses offered, with four each from Cornwall, Devon and Somerset. Each diner was given a copy of the cheese menu and a pen and marked the cheeses you would like to try. Portions were generous and choices were only limited by how many notches you could loosen your belt. I tried to choose primarily Cornish cheeses and ones that I was less familiar with. I chose Gevrik (a brie style, Cornish goat’s cheese), St Endellion (a triple cream soft cheese from Newquay), Cornish Blue (a creamy blue from Upton Cross) and Curworthy (a buttery cheese made to a 17th century recipe from Devon).

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The desserts were stunning and playful and one of the sugar garnishes encrusted with pop rocks. From left to right they are baileys mousse with caramel ice cream, a trio of mango desserts (ice cream, mousse and jelly) and chocolate cake with pistacio ice cream. The desserts provoked a lot of conversation with everyone arguing in support of their personal preference. My favorite was the mango which was tangy and refreshing after a large rich dinner. When one of our group offered their plate to the masses, it was amazing that people found room for another forkful of their favorite. Even more amazing that we found room for petit fours, but I am glad we did. The madeleines were the best I have ever had. Tiny, light as air, yet moist and almondy.

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Madeleines, hazelnuts in chocolate and cape gooseberries rounding off an extremely satisfying meal.

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Filed under British foods, dinners with friends, special events, Travel