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Posts Tagged ‘slow food’

Hibernation

Criminy it’s been a long while.  I can barely remember what it is to celebrate been so busy shivering.  And as for getting up in the morning – grrr fuggedaboudit if you can.  All that’s left for a sensitive soul trapped inside a chilly body is to cook, and cook good, food to warm the cockles without spending a fortune: between Christmas and the Credit Crunch it’s a blessed relief to put on a decent lunch.  To that end, I dug out my ancient french semi-glazed earthenware bean pot from the darkest recess of the attic.  I was always too timid to place it over direct heat, but since crossing that Rubicon I’ve been simply bowled over by the fabulous job it does on dried pulses: it just can’t be beat, nothing else has ever come close in achieving the perfectly cooked, mealy yet tender texture, even and especially with the hitherto-notoriously-impossible-to-get-right butter beans and chick peas.   Here’s a small selection of what’s been emerging from my kitchen, no tinned pulses here:

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I’m particularly proud of the fishcake/fishbomb, inspired by the tasty depth-charge served at Fishworks on Swallow Street and coated with panko breadcrumbs – waiting patiently in the pantry wings since last summer’s Wing Yip spree – but what should these friable morsels adorn next?  Hmm…just before Christmas Mr T’s starter chez Brasserie Blanc was the most delectable pair of Gruyere croquettes so I might have a go at replicating those … I foresee a bit of enjoyable research on my horizon!

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Another confirmation of the wisdom of a locavore lifestyle arrives with the news in The Independent that MRSA may have entered the food chain in Europe.  If that doesn’t get us buying British bacon I don’t know what will, as if I wasn’t sufficiently peeved with my fellow consumers over porky products.

Save Our BaconThis might be a good opportunity to repeat the point that the UK has the highest welfare standards in pig rearing of all Europe and yes, that does make our pork products a little pricier than Dutch and Danish, but surely folks, you can taste the difference!  If you doubt, give it a taste test: buy a pack each of Danish and British streaky rashers.  Start them sizzling (separately) and breathe in through your nose; you’ll get a good idea of the relative qualities of piggy diet and environment from that alone.  Don’t know about you, but I’d rather eat bacon that smells and tastes of pork than of garbage and latrines – literally.

I see the June 2008 Waitrose Illustrated magazine carries a feature on the Save Our Bacon (i.e. save our pork farms) campaign with top chefs Fergus Henderson, Angela Hartnett, Tom Aikens and a couple of hairy bikers plus Jamie Oliver’s pig farmer friend Jimmy Doherty lending their clout:

It’s a crisis but it’s not too late.  Consumers need to demand British pork.  If it doesn’t say British on the label, don’t buy it.

Well, Jimmy would say that, wouldn’t he?  But he’s absolutely right: this Save Our Bacon idea is great, only last time I checked, Waitrose packs of dry-cured smoked streaky hailed from Denmark.  Perhaps Waitrose buyers share my own quibble with our pork industry: the prevalence of the wet cure in processing.  Just like the wretched Chorleywood Process for bread, the wet cure for bacon accelerates processing time and turns a hitherto quality product into a damp squib, but with a bigger-better-faster profit for the manufacturer, natch.

Worst of all wet cures is the saline injection: you can tell if the label states more than 100% pork.   What? this is when saline solution is injected into the meat (so prior to processing, there was more pork per 100g of product than there is afterwards) to cure it from within.  And that’s the vile white salty stuff bubbling up from your bacon.  Conversely, with the dry cure, salt surrounds the piece of meat, drawing moisture out, concentrating the meat fibres and flavours, making for densely crisp and tasty bacon.  And bacon needs to be crisp and tasty or it’s not really bacon, is it?

So, Waitrose, I add my wholehearted support to your campaign with this one proviso: insist your sources stop shooting the saline: quality pork requires quality processing.

Here is a short and far from comprehensive list of respectable online UK bacon suppliers:

 You can read about the issues involved and sign the pledge here or here and if nothing else, avoid imported pork; it’s no bargain.

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Nothing so good as pure old-style, old-school pesto.  Particularly when made in the old-fashioned way, with a mortar and pestle and while sitting outdoors with basil’s best friend – summer sunshine – for company.

Because the basil leaves are not cut as they would be in a food processor they preserve so much more of their aromatic oils; similarly the garlic eludes its usual sulphurous fate and the pine nuts retain their delightful savoury mealiness.

And as if that weren’t good enough news, considering the time and hassle it takes to assemble, dissemble, scoop-out-without-wasting, clean and finally put away a food processor, a mortar and pestle is downright quicker, greener, altogether simpler … and infinitely more satisfying.

I ♥ my mortar & pestle!

pesto recipe

  • a fistful of pine nuts
  • 3 or 4 or 5 small cloves of wet (young) garlic
  • a large bunch of fresh basil
  • about 50g fresh parmesan (or pecorino romano if you have it)
  • a few slugs of extra virgin olive oil

Pound the pine nuts and garlic together in your mortar until they form a paste, then strip the basil leaves from their stalks (chop or tie these together and use in a tomato sauce) and add them in small handfuls. Keep pounding and grinding, adding more leaves as they pulverize down.  When all the leaves are used and you have a rough paste, grate in the parmesan and then let down (thin) this now thick compound with olive oil, glug by glug and stirring the while, to your desired consistency.


Satisfying stirred into linguine or spaghetti: the coarse texture clings to the pasta, providing substance and savour

Delectable atop a slice of artisan bread – lovely rough consistency
Decant into a jar and keep in the fridge for a taste of summer, whatever the weather does

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