Category Archives: Regional

Local meat producers and Waterloo Cottage Farm

British Saddleback

Before the Shire Book of the Month, currently Pigs, changes, I want to tell you about a local meat producer called Waterloo Cottage Farm and the important role that small producers have in selling good meat from happy animals.

Meat is expensive and so it should be.  To produce good meat takes time, through slow fattening on the right kind of food, fresh air and exercise for the animals, slaughter in the least stressful way possible followed by a decent period of hanging before it finally arrives in your kitchen.

With this in mind, I visited local producer Waterloo Cottage Farm in Great Oxenden, Northamptonshire and was given a tour of the farm by owner, Kirsty Clarke.  We met in the light, cool shop, where a mouth-watering array of meat and produce was displayed.  After a brief chat about what I wanted to see, I was taken out through the back door to the business end of the enterprise.

Glorious Pig

I was confronted by lots of open pens, with several different types of pigs enjoying the sunshine.  I was wearing a long skirt and strappy sandals, so I tucked my skirt into my knickers and prepared to meet the pigs and what a gorgeous crew they were.  I have a big soft spot for pigs at the best of times, but being able to climb into the pens and actually scratch them and talk to them was a treat indeed.

Happy Pig

Saddleback Piglets

And Kirsty did indeed talk to her pigs and her care and enthusiasm for the creatures came across loud and clear.  The farm has a herd of British Saddlebacks which are allowed to mature fully in the fields and woods which surround Waterloo Farm, as well as Petrans and Ginger Durocs.  I became extremely soppy when she introduced me to the piglets who were running and rolling with their mother in the straw.

The Clarkes also have lamb and hogget, chickens, ducks and geese and they select beef and veal from local farms who also use traditional breeds.  All the animals have something in common.  They are all reared using traditional, sustainable farming methods which work with nature, not against it.  The animals are free to lead full, natural lives on healthy soil and fed on natural, local feed and the pigs are slow grown until they are 9-10 months which is a significantly longer life than an intensively bred animal. The barley comes from the farmer next door and the slaughterhouse is only nine miles away, the animals being accompanied there in a quiet and unstressed way which is better for the animal and better for the resulting meat.

Looking at the meat in the shop is a very different experience to browsing the chiller aisles in the supermarket.  The meat is darker in colour and more wholesome-looking than perhaps we’re used to and the bacon and sausages sit in great piles, pleading with you to take them home.  The bacon and hams are cured on the premises and their master butcher produces fresh piles of traditional and artisan varieties of sausages every day.

I bought some bacon and something I haven’t eaten for over thirty years – veal.  I have deliberately avoided veal because of the unspeakable practice of veal crating, but with the sure knowledge that the animal that provided this had been happy, healthy and natural, I took a chop home and had it for my supper.

My veal in the shop

I can honestly say that I’ve never tasted meat like it; it was tender, sweet and juicy and so flavourful I could have wept.  I also had some of their dry cured bacon for my breakfast the following morning and, apart from the taste, the most obvious difference was visual.  No white scum stickily coating the bottom of your frying pan here, and two rashers and a couple of fried eggs was distinctly more filling that the abominable mid-range stuff you buy at the supermarket.

Local producers do an incredible job of farming.  Not only do they help to preserve the rare breeds but they also help to preserve the very land on which they’re reared because of the sustainable ways in which they farm.  The meat hasn’t travelled huge distances and is therefore beneficial to the environment in a wider sense.  They are also firm protagonists of old skills such as proper butchery and artisan methods of preparation and, because of the renewed interest in this kind of food, many farms  are taking on apprentices.  Waterloo Cottage Farm also runs meat craft courses to encourage you to get the best out of their meat.

We must support these local producers in their endeavours by shopping with them whenever we can.  I have said it before and I will keep saying it until you do as you’re told; eat less, eat better.  Learn how to use to meat to get the best out of it and, I am convinced that properly reared, slow grown meat actually fills you up more so you don’t need as much of it.  Eat less, eat better.  It’s better for all of us.

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Filed under Animals, Ethics, Food, Livestock, Nutrition & Sensible Eating, Regional, Slider

Chicken Fritters

Tonight I needed to cook dinner, I really couldn’t be bothered and I had next to nothing in the cupboard.
But I did have half a cooked chicken and some dry goods.

I thunk and thunk and wondered what the outcome would be of making a crispy batter and shallow frying the chicken.
This is what I did and jolly nice it was too with a nice spicy aftertaste.
This serves 4 as usual.

CHICKEN FRITTERS

Dinner from bugger all

Utensils:
1 x medium mixing bowl
1 x whisk
1 x large frying pan
1 x fish slice
1 x slotted spoon
Kitchen roll / paper towel

Ingredients:
4 small chicken breasts or the equivalent cooked chicken
If using raw chicken – ¼ pint chicken stock
4oz self raising flour
½ teaspoon parsley
¼ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon garam masala
¼ teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder
¼ pint milk
vegetable oil for shallow frying

Method:
If using raw chicken, poach lightly in the chicken stock until cooked through and drain
Cut the chicken into chunks or strips
Put all the dry ingredients together into the bowl and blend well
Gradually whisk in the milk until it forms a thick paste
Put the chicken into the paste
Heat the oil in the frying pan until it is very hot
Fish the chicken bits out of the batter with a slotted spoon
Fry quickly in batches in the hot oil turning until the chicken is golden brown on both sides
Drain on the kitchen paper and blot to get rid of any excess oil
Serve immediately

4 Comments

Filed under Food, Leftovers, Regional, Storecupboard

Paella

As soon as the air warms up I start craving Paella.  The great thing about this sort of dish is that you can chuck in anything you have to hand – cod, haddock, salmon, trout, prawns, mussels, crayfish – whatever’s in the fridge or on special offer in the shops.  I could eat this every day.

PAELLA

Utensils:
1 x large frying pan or paella pan if you have one
1 x measuring jug
possibly a slotted spoon

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 good knob butter
½lb / 240g chicken (cooked or raw)
½ onion – sliced finely
4 garlic cloves – sliced finely
½ red pepper – diced
½ green pepper – diced
½lb / 240g rice
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon paprika
⅓ pint / 175ml white wine
¼ pint / 150ml boiling water
¾ pint / 450ml stock (preferably fish, if not, chicken)
½lb salmon or some firm white fish
½lb / 240g prawns
2oz / 60g peas
Salt and pepper to season

Method:
Heat oil and butter in a large pan
Cook the chicken until tender, remove using a slotted spoon, leaving the butter in the pan
(If you are using cooked chicken add this later and go straight to the onions and garlic)
Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook until soft
Stir in the peppers and rice and cook for 2 minutes.
Stir in the herbs, spices, wine and boiling water
Simmer until all the liquid has been absorbed
Add the chicken and half the stock
Then add the fish and peas and season to taste
Add the rest of the stock and simmer until all the liquid has been absorbed.

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Filed under Food, Leftovers, Regional

Tyneside Floddies all mine, all mine…

Bacon Floddies, a sort of potato cake, are a tradition part of a Tyneside breakfast and would be served with eggs and sausages.  Apparently they originated on the canals where the navvies would cook them on their shovels over the fire.

TYNESIDE FLODDIES

Utensils:
1 x potato peeler
1 x grater
1 x tea towel – clean!
1 x mixing bowl
1 x large frying pan
Kitchen roll (paper towel) to drain

Ingredients:
10oz / 300g potatoes – peeled
1 large onion – finely chopped
6oz / 180g bacon – rinds off and finely chopped
2oz / 60g self raising flour
2 eggs
oil for frying

Method:
Grate the potatoes onto the tea towel
Gather it up and squeeze the liquid out of the potatoes
Put the chopped onion into a bowl and add the potatoes, bacon and flour
Season to taste
Beat the eggs into the potato mixture
Heat the oil in the frying pan to a medium heat
Put ample tablespoonfuls of the potato mixture into the frying pan and flatten them out to form round cakes
Cook on each side until golden brown and cooked all the way through – about 4 minutes each side
Lift out of the pan and drain the oil off on the kitchen paper
Serve immediately with fried eggs and good sausages and shovel it down!

7 Comments

Filed under Food, Recipes, Regional, Slider

Welsh Rabbit or is it a Rarebit?

Welsh Rarebit is one of those recipes that people mistake for cheese on toast but it is so much more than that.  Aldin’s cafe in Market Harborough makes a Welsh Rarebit that will have you weeping with joy and scraping furiously at your arteries with a teaspoon, but by Jove it’s worth it.

The dish seems to have originated in the 18th century as a tasty supper or tavern dish.  The origin of the name seems a bit hazy and ‘rarebit’ could have been a version of the word ‘rabbit’.  It may have alluded to the fact that many Welsh people were poor and rarely had meat, and rabbit was considered poor man’s meat.  It all sounds a bit tenuous to me – we always called it Welsh Rabbit at home.  And frankly, I’m so posh that when I say ‘rabbit’ it sounds like ‘rarebit’ anyway.  I also read a children’s story on The Light Programme.

WELSH RABBIT

So much more than cheese on toast

Utensils:
1 x grater
1 x heavy saucepan

Ingredients:
2oz / 60g butter
8oz / 240g Cheddar cheese – grated
½ teaspoon English mustard powder
1-2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons beer
4 slices of tasty bread – toasted

Method:
Melt the butter in the saucepan over a low heat
Stir in the cheese and mustard until melted– season to taste
If it starts to separate, add the egg yolks one at a time
Stir in the beer
Spread the mixture on the toast and pop under the grill until starting to brown nicely
Alternatively, put the toast on a plate, spread the cheese on top and brown with a kitchen blow torch

Today’s blog is dedicated to Phyllis Browning

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Filed under Food, Recipes, Regional, Storecupboard

Unfashionable Cauliflower – a retrospective (plus a recipe for Aloo Gobi)

Yet again, the subject of the poor, ganged-up-on, unpopular cauliflower has reared its curly head on the telly.  It always makes me really cross when people talk about unpopular foodstuffs.  Would the average shopper be happier if it had ‘Louis Vuitton’ stamped on every floret?  Or perhaps the Nike Turnip would prove to be a hit?  Fendi Fennel… stop me now – I’m only pretending that I know some designers.

Cauliflower is lovely and I shall prove it.  Read this article wot I wrote in May last year.

Now go and buy a cauliflower.

Than, if you want to be exotic, try this quick and delicious recipe for Aloo Gobi, a North Indian/Pakistani dish  made with cauliflower, potatoes and Indian spices.  My friend Ila also puts a handful of frozen peas in it at the potato stage.

ALOO GOBI

Utensils:
1 x large saucepan
1 x vegetable peeler

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons oil
1 medium onion – finely chopped
1 clove garlic – chopped
1 green chilli – chopped
1 inch / 2.5cm ginger peeled and finely chopped
2 medium potatoes – peeled and cut into smallish chunks
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp turmeric
1 medium cauliflower cut into florets
a dash of lemon juice
a little salt
½ tsp garam masala

Method:
Heat the oil and fry the onion, garlic, chillis and ginger until just tender.
Add the potatoes and fry for another 2-3 minutes
Add the spices except for the garam masala, and mix well
Add a tablespoon of water, cover the pot and cook
When the potatoes are al dente add in the cauliflower.
Replace the lid and cook until the cauliflower is just soft
Add a sprinkle of lemon juice, salt and garam masala and stir well
Serve with naan or parathas

9 Comments

Filed under Food, Recipes, Regional

Win Free Beer with The Dabbler and Bath Ales!

Golden Hare, Ginger Hare, Wild Hare, Rare Hare, Gem… 

Four pints of heaven

… this may sound like The Wartime Housewife’s shopping list but it is, in fact, a few of the wonderful names given to Bath Ales of Bristol. 

I’m a regular reader of The Dabbler, a cultural magazine blog.  It covers a broad range of subjects, is often humorous and always readable.  I contributed myself only a few weeks ago in their ‘6Clicks’ feature, so they are clearly people of discernment.  If you’re even vaguely interested in art, literature, music and the wider world, give it a go.

At the moment, The Dabbler is running an exclusive competition to win some Bath Ale.  I have only recently converted to drinking beer on a regular basis and I have to admit that I would buy these based on their labels alone.  Apparently, Bath Ales produce the best beer in the known universe – as Brit explained here – and The Dabbler has been in touch with these lovely people to wangle one of you a free case.

Bath Ales use traditional brewing techniques blended with cutting-edge technology.  They are an independent micro-brewery established in Bristol in 1995. Their founders all come from a brewing background and have combined a complementary range of skills with a shared passion for real ale. They have also just opened a new bottling plant and brewery shop.

It’s so heart-warming to see these micro-breweries springing up all over the place and we should be supporting local breweries wherever they appear.  There is so much revolting alcoholic crap being touted around in pubs and clubs these days, that it is sheer joy to experience properly brewed, well-kept beers, made from real ingredients and that taste divine.  Wild Hare at 5%?  Give me three pints at once.

Read The Dabbler and go in for their Bath Ales competition.   You won’t regret it.

11 Comments

Filed under Community and shopping, Food, Poetry, Literature, Music and Art, Regional