Sunday, 26 June 2011

Serious Pig

I receive lots of requests from PR companies wanting me to review various food (and non-food) products for them, and I have to admit many of these aren’t suitable for inclusion in my blog. But this time I was asked to consider some Snacking Salami from Serious Pig. I had already sampled a tiny nibble when at the Real Food Festival recently and was impressed enough to take Ceres PR up on their offer, after which, they duly sent some in the post.

Serious Pig is a new British company that started out as most good ideas do, down the pub over a pint or two. George Rice and his friends were feeling peckish, but the bar they were at offered very few inspiring snacks to nibble. George being passionate about pigs and all things packed with porky goodness hit upon the idea of a wholly British Snacking Salmi.

After much legwork and research to find the most excellent British free-range pork and track down the best charcuterie experts, George finally developed the ultimate recipe.

Well, what did I think? It ain’t half bad, smokey, chewy, meaty with just the right amount of saltiness and packed full of flavour, enough to satisfy any ravenous carnivore.
There are two types to choose from, Classic which is lightly smoked and made with cracked black peppercorns and then there’s the Spiced, made with smoked paprika and a pinch of chilli flakes.
I liked both of them in equal measure, the Spiced isn’t too hot, but gives a nice savoury warmth. The Classic is spicy but in a different way with the peppercorns giving little bursts of fragrant bite.

Perhaps some of you are thinking that a Snacking Salmi is not a new idea and I’m more than aware that there is already something on the market that claims to be ‘a bit of an animal’, but Serious Pig is different. It is wholly British and made with free-range pork, a provenance I’d prefer over the other brand.

Because the salami doesn’t need to be refrigerated and has a long shelf life it is great for taking on trips, picnics and anywhere you care to eat it. The stripy packaging, echoing a butcher’s apron, is minimal and easy to open too, therefore lightweight with the minimum amount of fuss – no stray sausages shooting through the air as you try to rip open the packet!
A great grab ‘n’ go snack food with quality to boot.

Currently available in Selfridges, pubs, delis and farms shops across the country.
It is also availble online from: www.seriouspig.co.uk
Photo: ©childsdesign 2011

Monday, 20 June 2011

On a Stick!

I'm not sure I find the title of the book very appealing, but I suppose it does perfectly describe what lies within. Going beyond insipid party food that invariably clings to a short but sharp cocktail stick jabbed into a foil-covered grapefruit half, the recipes are are far more appetising. Drawing on cuisines from around the world and inspired by some of the most delicious street food, the 80 recipes for things on sticks are inspiring and dare I say, a little more sophisticated than a cube of cheese bedecked with a meagre piece of pineapple.

Savouries are good enough for the best of parties and many would add interest to a barbecue. The Bacon-wrapped Shrimp with a Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce looks particularly mouthwatering as does the Bó Lá Lôt, betel leaves stuffed with ground beef, spiced with lemongrass, ginger, chilli and five-spice.
Not only are there meaty mouthfuls but several vegetarian based options too. There are several takes on traditional foods which have been given a new twist for your amusement with Fish and Chips, Pizza Skewers and Spaghetti and Meatballs being no exception.

Of course the stick itself plays a very important part in the presentation of the food, as the page near the front of the book demonstrates. Laid out in an almost surgical fashion, there is everything from your usual bamboo or metal skewer to a rosemary stalk or a stick of sugar cane.
Dipping sauces get their own section too as they play an integral part in spicing up, adding zing or mellowing the various impaled delights.

If you want to take your sticks to the next course, you'll find recipes for desserts too, from the simple yet scrumptious Mango and Chilli Powder to the downright daftly named Frozen Elvis – don't ask!

On A Stick! by Matt Armendariz is published by Quirk Books in paperback.
Order yours now

Book kindly supplied by Mat Archer from PGUK

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Ripe for Picking

Summer has truly arrived when English strawberries are ripe and ready for picking and although they are now available all year round – with foreign countries supplying our needs – you really can’t beat the fruit from our own soil. For me, reserving them as a seasonal treat makes them so much more special.

I grow a few strawberry plants in my garden and there’s nothing more exciting when lifting up the leaves to find the stems swathed in red juicy jewels. If you’re not much of a gardener or simply lack the space, you can still experience the thrill of the strawberry hunt by visiting one of the many pick your own farms in the area.
When the sun is warm the sweet fragrant smell wafts into the air tempting even the most restrained of individuals to sneak a strawberry into their mouths whilst foraging.

The first berries are not often the sweetest though, I think they lack the depth of flavour that the prolonged spells of sun can give them, that said, I do still love to eat then unadorned. No sugar, no cream, just pure fruit bliss. Plucked straight from the plant whether homegrown or ‘stolen’ they just seem to taste better.
However, dairy produce does create a natural harmony, whether it’s cream, yogurt, creme fraiche or marscapone, you can’t go wrong, but I would never cook a strawberry unless it was in a jam of course.

Strawberries and Cream Sponge Cake
This is the sort of thing I like to make for a summer Sunday treat, just perfect for all the family to enjoy or for when you have friends over.
A light buttery sponge filled with the sweetest of English strawberries and billowing clouds of cream is hard to resist.

200g unsalted butter, softened
200g caster sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
200g self raising flour
half teaspoon baking powder
1-2 tablespoons milk
strawberries, hulled and halved lengthways, reserve some whole for decorating the top of the cake
6 tbsp good quality strawberry jam
300ml double cream, lightly whipped
icing sugar to dust

Preheat the oven to 180C / Gas 4.

Grease two 18cm sandwich tins and place a circle of baking parchment in the bottom of each one.

With an electric food mixer beat together the softened butter and sugar until it becomes pale and creamy.

Whisk the eggs and vanilla extract in a jug until slightly frothy.

With the mixer still running, add the eggs by pouring very slowly in a thin stream into the butter and sugar mix. When the mixture is pale, and increased in volume, stop the mixer.

Sieve in a tablespoon of the flour and using a metal spoon carefully fold in to avoid knocking out any air.
Repeat, adding a spoonful at a time until all the flour and baking powder is incorporated.
The mixture should be of a soft dropping consistency. If it seems too stiff, gently fold in some milk.

Divide the mixture between the two cake tins and spread out evenly, smoothing off the tops.

Place in the centre of the oven for 25-30 minutes.
The cakes are ready when they're risen, golden brown and their edges are pulling away slightly from the sides of the tin.

Turn them out on to a cooling rack and carefully remove the baking paper. Leave until completely cool before filling.
Spread one half of the cake with strawberry jam and arrange the strawberry halves over it. Spread over the whipped cream and carefully place the other cake half on top. Arrange some whole strawberries on the top and dust lightly with sieved icing sugar.

Strawberry Facts
There are about 200 seeds in every strawberry.
A 100g serving contains just 50 calories.
In medieval times they were considered an aphrodisiac.
They can help to whiten your teeth.
They are full of a substance called ellagic acid which can help fight cancer.
Eight of them contain more vitamin C than an orange.
They are a member of the rose family.
They were cultivated by the Romans as early as 200 BC.
They can also be white or yellow and some even taste like pineapples.
Food photos: ©childsdesign 2011

My article previously published in Letchworth Living magazine. (June 2011 edition) www.letchworthliving.co.uk
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