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Foodie Penpals the Third

31 May

So this was my third month of being a Foodie Penpal. I send a box. I receive a box. Said box is full of delicious things. Everyone is a winner. If you want to win like that too, then go and have a shufty at RockSalt’s Sign Up Page.

This month I was paired with Jess to send to and Rhian to receive from. You will be able to read all about what I sent Jess here. (I won’t give any secrets away, oh no!)

Rhian sent me a fantastic package that was pretty generous. So spoiled am I! Her internet presences can be found here, but really you should follow her twitter @rhiandaniel – there’s a lot of good goings-on there.

So Ta-DA:

Here you can see my lovely card with macaroons on at the top left, then clockwise: a packet of Zoo pasta (actually amazing – I can’t wait to eat through the jungle), some handmade cinnamon and coconut macaroons (more later), TWO BARS OF WELSH CHOCOLATE (one dark, one caramel), a recipe book all about iced things (more later toooooo) and finally a packet of Rooibos tea (just because I’d said I like the loose leaf stuff, fancy pants that I am). What a haul. I can’t think of a better advert for foodie penpals than this.

The pasta, I’m waiting to eat because I really want to share it with my partner’s 6 year old son – we’ll going to make a well amazing cheesey sauce to go with it. Lions love cheese. Just like Shaggy loves haslet.

The chocoalte was very delicious. I took the caramel one away with me to my course at Dilston Physic Garden and nommed it to keep my brain cells going on a massively busy couple of days. The dark is delicious, but I’m saving it to make some delicious something with – maybe dark chocolate fudge? Really nice chocolate deserves to be shown off.

The Rooibos tea, I will confess, had my heart fall a bit. Not because it wasn’t a really thoughtful and kind thing to send, but because I forgot to say I don’t really like the stuff on the times I’ve tried it. However, I’m not going to let my pre-conceptions rule my life like that. In fact this rooibos is pretty nice and has very little of that metallic aftertaste I associate with the tea. I think it’ll make a really nice iced tea (maybe the weather will hold enough for a nice jubilee/commonwealth iced tea).

The macaroons turned out to have several lives in them. A flagrant rebel, I put the tea and the macaroons in separate houses (consolidating at the moment) so couldn’t follow Rhian’s suggestion of having them together. Instead I put the macaroons in my handbag *intending* to eat them very soon. By the time they swam to the top of my handbag again, I thought “uh oh I am an ungrateful selfishperson”. Yet, the miracle of Rhian’s baking meant they were still pretty moist and flavorsome. So I apologise, but also thank you Rhian. I’ve enjoyed them in some different ways. One was to crunch one up and add it to my post-netball smoothie:I also crumbled another one on the top of my fudge flavoured ice-cream. Cinnamon and coconut both go well with fudge and ice-cream, so a macaroon of both was bound to be awesome. It was. I felt a bit of a culinary genius. You don’t need to be Nigella and make hot chocolate sauce on a whim. Just crumble a biscuit. (Though these macaroons were a lot more than biscuits.)

Then to the recipe book. I love books. I really love recipe books*. I really love cold things. I under-use my ice-cream maker. What a perfect choice. I’d said to Rhian that I’d enjoyed getting a recipe in my previous packages, so would like one if it was possible from her. A book full of them is indeed inspirational. Lots of ideas for fruity lollies, sorbets, granitas and a host of other iced things. The recipe that caught my eye the most was ‘Watermelon Granita’. It caught my eye because I’d just bought a watermelon from the market and when I got it home and cut it open, well, it had lost it’s bite, but wasn’t manky. Spongy watermelon isn’t what you want.

So I took inspiration from the recipe (I say that because I’ve left the recipe book at my other house and can’t remember it all).

What I did was use my juicer to juice the flesh of the watermelon. If you’re familiar with juicers, you have a pulp compartment and the jug comes out a spout into a jug. After the juicing of my medium sized watermelon, I noticed that the pulp part clearly had a lot of juice in it too. I scooped the pulp into the middle of a clean tea towel and squeezed the rest of the juice out. I think I probably had close to 2 pints of juice.

Then I heated 200ml of water with 150g caster sugar until the sugar was all dissolved. I let this cool down while I grated the zest of a lime to the watermelon and then added the juice of that same lime. The sugar syrup was cool by now, so I swished it in with my watermelon/lime juice. Then I plugged my ice cream maker in and churned it til it was like a slushy that you get at the cinema.

Here my watermelon syrup is churning silkily. I am aware that it sounds like I have all of the kitchen kit. To be fair I do. If you don’t, you can I am sure get the same result by mashing the watermelon and squeezing it all through a tea-towel. The to freeze, put it in a tupperware and keep taking it out and stirring it with a fork. Granita is I think meant to be a bit chunky, a bit crystalline.

I had to try some and it was GOOD. Much more limey than I had anticipated. I don’t think I need to buy a brightly coloured Slush Puppy again. I even caught the last of the sun in the garden. And inspiration struck once more:

I hope growing watermelon seeds inside a watermelon isn’t some sort of fruitarian cannibalism. I do think its a natural plant pot. Maybe even looks a bit stylish? Eat your heart out Chelsea, Beeston is where the cutting-edge gardening is happening. Just you wait til you see my entirely imagainary rockery.

With my muses flowing, I began to make another iced thing. This time a ‘Chilli and Lime Sorbet’, but I had to go to work, so the syrup is growing some muscles in our fridge to be churned tomorrow:

That is some sugar, some lime, some chilli and some honey, waiting to be churned with more lime juice. Tingly tastebud ahoy!

To close, thank you very much for my package Rhian. Little did I know when I opened it that I would be led to ruminations over cannibal watermelons. I did know (pretty much as soon as I saw Rhian’s name on the list) that she’d send a lovely thoughtful parcel, and she totally came up trumps.

Thanks Rhian, Thanks RockSalt.

Keep offalling!

*If you’d like to participate in a cookbook swap – go to SoupTuesday!

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Rendering your own lard (and my Lardy Oatcakes)

21 May

Really this should have been part of all my nosetotailings, but for reasons of space and time, I didn’t manage to use the lard until it was over. Yes, the suspense is lifted, I did manage to render some of my own lard. Nigella, eat your pancreas out!

The principle behind rendering your own animal fat into usuable storable fat is quite simply. The thing that makes natural fat go off is the cell tissue and membranes, if you melt it enough the fat will spearate from them and you can size them away. However it is a slow process, and I would do a couple of things differently. Also I’m not sure I’d have done it if I hadn’t had a slow cooker. (You must be converted to my slow cooker by now.)

There are two types of rendering of lard: wet and dry. Dry rendering you very gently over a long time heat the fat on its own until the cells and tissue break down which then forms a crusty surface. Wet rendering you again heat it long and slow, but with the addition of water, which stops the fat from burning. As we all know, fat and water don’t mix so well, so you can just pour the water off.

WARNING. I have no idea about weights and measurements as I used the fat I got off the head of Arthur after we’d feasted on him. There will be a lot of ‘some’s. If you google ‘Rendering your own lard’ there are a lot more precise recipes than mine (for example here and here).

So basically:

  1. Chop you fat very small.
  2. Add it to a slow cooker.
  3. Cover this with water (fat floats, make sure it’s all floating).
  4. Put the lid on.
  5. Switch the low and cook for 4 days. (I forgot to tell my boyfriend to turn it off whilst I was away for a night.) Keep it topped up with water.

When you top it up with water, it will bubble in an alarming fashion. Watch this if you don’t believe me:

When you think it’s melted enough, strain it all through a tea towel (or muslin) into a bowl. Let it cool, then tip the water that will have gathered underneath away. You will now have some lard in a bowl. It’s that simple.

What would I do differently next time? Two things. First I would freeze the fat and then use a grater to make the pieces really small, thus cutting the rendering time. Second, I’m not sure I needed to heat it for 4 days. I think that was excessive, so I would monitor that more carefully next time.

So what do you do with the lard that you have rendered? Well, there’s lots of things – you can use instead of butter or oil in anything. It’s meant to make amazing pastry. It’s a mono-saturated fat, apparently, which is the same as avocado oil, so it’s healthier than the term LARD now suggests. As you may have guessed, what I did do was make my own oatcakes with it. One, I bloody love oatcakes. Two, I thought they’d be a good vehicle for ‘tasting the lard’. (I was also quite proud and wanted the send my foodie penpal something lardy, but wasn’t sure if a jar of lard would be a welcome gift in the post.)

So. Lucy’s Oatcakes. Oatcakes a la Lucy. Das Lutzykuchen!

You need:

150ml water, 8oz medium oatmeal, quarter tsp baking powder, quarter tsp salt, 1 generous tbsp of lard (or butter, or oil), 1 tsp fennel seeds, 1 tsp chilli flakes, 1 tsp black mustard seeds.

What you do:

Put the water in a small pan and add the lard to it, heat until lard is melted.

Put the oatmeal and seasonings in a bowl, mix them together.

Add the water/lard mixture and mix it all up til you have a firm ball.

Roll this out with a rolling pin on a floured surface, then cut it into bits, or for little mouth-sized morsels, use a cookie cutter.

Put on a greased baking sheet and bake at Gas Mark 4 for twenty minutes, turning them over half way through.

Cool and feast yourself on the Lutzykuchen!

Magen Sie Lutzykuchen? Moechten Sie Lutzykuchen essen? Lutzykuchen schmecht mir gut!*

This introduces something *almost* not offal to the blog – is that a good idea?

(I lost the photos I took, so stole this one off my lovely foodie penpal. It is much better than any I could have taken.)

*I apologise to anyone German, sincerely. Mein Deutsch ist gefahrlich!

Foodie Penpals the Second!

30 Apr

Foodie Penpals is a great project run by Rocksalt where you get paired with two different people – one of those sends you a box and you send your box to the other one. This is the second month’s results. If you fancy getting involved then drop Carol Anne an email.

The lucky recipient of mine was Monique at What I am Up to! Monique lives in Germany, so full in the knowledge that the postage would probably cost me some, I did cheat a little and raided my own cupboard for some of her prizes. I hope they were enjoyed! If you are wondering what I sent, do check over to her blog.

My partner was Hannah. I think I’m right in saying much of her food action happens upon the Twitter, so give her a follow @hansyquirk. I am very lucky foodiepenpaller as for the second month running I got an amazing package! But first, my reveal:

Ah, so dramatic! To be honest, I was pretty excited. I’d already had a good feel of the envelope and really couldn’t feel what was in there. So carefully I extracted my goodies and read my card and recipe!

Here’s what this lucky blogger was sent:

And what do we have here? Most excitingly there was a Morcilla which is a type of Spanish black pudding that also has rice in it. Meat in the post! Most excellent! I’d mentioned that I was quite into loose leaf tea so Hannah sent me some cherry flavoured green tea. They come in those teapig shaped teabags! Posh green tea. It was also nice as this time two years ago I was in Japan enjoying all the cherry blossom –  Hannah must be a mind-reader. Further to that assertion, I also got sent some rose and violet dark chocolate. Flower chocolates are my absolute favourite thing, so I was a bit ‘Golly, how did she know?’ My last treats were two packets of Green Pea Garlic Snacks. They are well delicious. I am also rubbish at going to the Chinese supermarket so I would have never got these for myself and they are well tasty. Look out for them.

The following day me and Dogsnooks Daz had the morcilla fried with some of his friends eggs for breakfast:

You can see the grains of coooked rice quite clearly. From the Leeds City Centre Farmers Market a couple of months ago I got some Spanish black pudding (made here) and that was fiery, so I was expecting the same. Instead it’s almost a sweet blood pudding, packed full of flavour. When I eventually make my own blac pudding I’m going to try and channel some of this verve into it.

Perhaps the best thing that I got was a recipe. A very pertinent recipe. A very offally recipe. TRIPE!

Or Trippa alla Romana, as it actually says on the recipe I was very kindly sent.

I’d been meaning to put my toes into the world of tripe for quite a long time. I’ve only knowlingly had it once, on a hotdate at a Chinese restaurant where my date was trying to Jackass me by ordering tripe and expecting me to go EW! Good job it was a first date, as I soon put him right. As I ate all the tripe. Stealing from his chopstick. Surprised that One fizzled out? No, me neither, put on the path to this One, who really is the One!

Since I started offalling, I began to feel the burden of the tripe quite a lot. I want to eat it. I like it. But where to start? Do I begin traditionally with tripe and onions? Do I return to the oriental? Well Hannah’s recipe came to the rescue. An Italian tripe recipe. Italian food is practially English food anyway, and by force of going to the shop, but not actually buying all the ingredients on the recipe, it got made a little Blightier. (Btw, I do NOT read the Daily Mail; I DO own a pair of leggings covered in Union Jacks – make of that what you will.)

I understand that in some places tripe is quite hard to come by. In Leeds we’re very lucky to have one of the last dedicated Tripe Shops open in the market. *whispers subliminally* “don’t muck up the market, Leeds Council”. Naturally I went there for my lovely tripe! Look out for a saucy dietary tip-off from their web-page!

That is the tripe shop counter. I also discovered they sell pig windpipes (you have them with salt and vinegar) and pig stomachs (you have them with salt and vinegar). There is also dripping, white pudding, black pudding and some other things … sounds like my kind of place! Lunch anyone?

I’m sure Hannah can give you her original recipe, but here is my interpretation!

I needed 400g of pre-cooked tripe. Luckily the Tripe Shop only sells cooked and bleached tripe. YOU DON’T WANT GREEN TRIPE. That’s uncleaned tripe. So it’s still covered in half-digested grass.

Here’s my nice big piece of tripe. Tripe-alicious! To the bottom-left corner you can see the THICK SEAM. I was asked the question of whether I like it? I didn’t know, so I was given a little bit. I also got a bit of honeycomb (that’s on the right in the middle). Different tripes, for differents stripes?

440g cooked tripe cut into strips, 2 sticks finely chopped celery, 2 medium carrots diced, 2 cloves smoked garlic crushed, 3 juniper berries, 200ml stock, 1 can chopped tomatoes, 2 tsp tomato puree, several dashes of Maggi seasoning, parmesan

Heat some oil in a pan, add the garlic, celery and carrots until they soften down a little. Add the juniper berries and cook for fifteen minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and the puree.

Stir in the tripe, the stock and the Maggi.

Season. Simmer it all together for 45 minutes. The sauce will thicken. When cooked down, grate parmesan on top and serve!

And there you go! It was very tasty and delicious. Tripe is more a texture than a taste we decided. Bearing that in mind I’d quite like to run with that and make some Japanese style tripe. I think tripe tacos would also be good. I’m pretty converted to the tripe. So thank you Hannah, for giving me a push towards to the tripe!

Foodie penpals is a great thing to be involved with! So get on board! Again, if you want to sign up, go here!

Foodie Penpals!

30 Mar

My friend Rocksalt is hosting the European part of Foodie Penpals. Foodie Penpals is where you get matched up with two people – one gives you a box and you give the other one a box – in a big circle of food love. That’s nice isn’t it?

The box I received came from Jennie who is a co-host of the Sharing Supper Club and you can follow her twitterings @jen_dub.

I really enjoyed making mine and putting together some tasty (?) treats. Fingers crossed I got mine right – my own preview of it is here on my other blog.

Anyway, Jennie sent me a lovely box full of Nigerian treats as she had recently been on holiday there.

It is pretty timely as I’ve just fallen in love with the African butcher in the market in Leeds – I can thoroughly recommend their chicken and thyme sausages (not sure how African they are though!). And some recipes were included, which Jen had kindly made offal-appropriate!

You can see that I was a very lucky recipient!

Clockwise from top: lemongrass, Cameroon pepper, pepper soup spice, BBQ peanuts, Chin Chin (sweet goodnes), green tomato chutney, Suya spice (hot), Hot chilli pepper, Suya spice, my lovely card!

Some things are for the experimentation with, some were specified to eat now, so since it was a lovely Spring day, my boyfriend and I took a picnic! The barbecue peanuts and the chin chin are snack for now, so we made some cheese and tomato chutney rolls and took them all off for a jolly. A jolly that would end in being gobbled up. Nom.

Here is Kirkstall Abbey grounds where we took our picnic to. By walking along the canal. Oh, the Romance!

And here is my Romantic Cheese and Green Tomato Chutney Roll. You can’t get better than that.

The following day I used the lemongrass to make some herbal tea to drink while I was working on job applications and suchlike. Literally I put three stalks in the teapot and poured over water that was just off boiling. What a lovely treat. I’m a massive herbal tea fan, and have used fresh lemongrass before, but this dried stuff was the bees knees. I was surprised that it gave the tea so much colour too. Aside, I love lemongrass essential oil and use it a lot when I’m making potions for friends and myself, so it was lovely to handle the real thing.

One of the nicest things Jennie did was put a couple of recipes in with the stuff so I’ve got a starting point to work from. One of which was for Pepper Soup.

Me being me, and this blog being what it is, I did end end up asking for “a pound of mixed offal please” at the butcher in the market. In the same transaction I’d asked for chicken necks (watch this space), but they’d SOLD OUT. So whoever bought all the chicken necks in Leeds a) what were you making and b) that’s very greedy of you. The butchers, who seem to do a fairly brisk offal trade, were confused and asked me if necks and other offal had been on television, because there’d been a run on it. Clearly signs of Spring mean we want our meat to be extra-perishable!

The following recipe is pretty much the one Jennie sent, but I changed some things because I was trying to do about fifty million things at once, but none of those fifty million things were to read the recipe properly. Ooopses …

1 lb mixed offal cut into chunks, some oil, 2 onions finely chopped, 2 medium potatoes peeled and chopped in bite size chunks, 3 peeled and chopped carrots, 2 tbsp pepper soup spice, 1 tsp chilli, 1 heaped tsp mixed herbs, handful fresh mint leaves.

  1. Tackle the tongue first. Boil it for about twenty minutes and then remove the outer skin. Cut into chunks.
  2. Boil chunks of meat in water to cover them for a couple of hours. Put the heart and tongue in first, then liver, then kidneys. When cooked through, drain, reserve water (offal stock?), and finely chop the meat.
  3. Add oil and onions to pan, cook til soft, add offal, carrots, potatoes, herbs and spices. Fry all together about twenty minutes.
  4. Add offal stock and any extra water you might need so all ingredients are covered with liquid. Simmer another twenty minutes. 
  5. Add chopped mint just before serving!

The soup was very delicious, but very spicy. Possibly heavy-handed with the chilli and the pepper soup spice? I’m not sure. However it definitely blew away the beginnings of a cold that I had. The mint is an amazing addition by the way. It seems to at the same time cool your mouth, but also make the spices seem hotter. (I guess that’s to do with the way mint essential oil works on the skin, so it cools down hot skin and warms up cold skin.) It was beautiful!

Even though I’m an offaltarian, I had been a bit sceptical of a soup with chunks of offal in – but it was great. I’m not sure it would be to the taste of a first time offal-eater, but at the medium to advanced level I would say it was pretty good. I enjoyed the mix of species in the offal mix too. I don’t think people should be afraid to mix species with their cooking.

All in all I really enjoyed my first foodie penpal. Jennie was very generous with what she sent, considerate and I’m sure whoever gets her next box will be very lucky. I’ve definitely enjoyed learning a little more about African cookery, and am going to invest in an African cookery book at the first oppurtunity! Any suggestions?