Great British Pie Week Day 1 – North Country Fidget Pie

North Country Fidget Pie (G. R. Moore)

Generally fidget pie includes apples and bacon or ham so this North Country version is quite unusual. Fidget Pie is a traditional English recipe for a pie served in the fields to the workers busy bringing in the harvest. I can see why.  The name fidget (or fidgety) pie, originates around Derbyshire andShropshire, in the middle of the country. The origins of the odd sounding name seem to have come from the fact that it originally was fitched, which means five sided in Anglo-Saxon. 

Pastry

250g plain flour

Pinch salt

175g margarine

1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon of cold water

Filling

1 finely chopped onion

250g sausage meat

Pepper and salt

1 egg

250g raw potatoes

150g peas

Method

Make the pastry by popping the flour, salt and margarine in a processor, whizz until the mix is like breadcrumbs then add the egg then the water, to make a firm dough. Wrap in clingfilm and allow to rest in the fridge for half an hour or more. Mix the chopped onion with the sausage meat, seasoning and bind with the beaten egg.  If you are using frozen peas defrost and drain well, if you are using fresh- cook gently then drain.

Roll out the pastry and use 2/3 to line the base of a pie dish. Put in a layer of the sausage meat mix, then a layer of potatoes thinly sliced, season well then add the peas. Lightly beat the egg and pour over the filling. Use the remaining 1/3 of the pastry to form the lid, glaze using beaten egg. Heat the oven to 190oc/375of/gas5. Bake it in hot oven for 30 minutes reduce heat to moderate – 180oc/350of/gas4 and cook for further 15 minutes. Can be eaten hot or cold.

From Recipes From an Unknown Kitchen 

Zero waste for a 100 years

As I rambled about in my last blog, I have been working on a project about food and food availability locally during WW1. As part of the research we looked through lots of cookery books and magazines of the time, just the job for me I loved it.

At the outset of the war the main issue was reducing waste and being frugal. Although they never expected the war to last for over four years they did expect a tight winter. Books, government posters and magazines promoted the reduction of waste and came up with some canny ideas. As the war continued these recipes became part of everyday life.

Once again Sam Bilton who runs the Repast Supper Club came to our rescue and translated some of these old recipes in a cooking demonstration. Here is one which will stand up to the needs of  Zero Waste Week. I make this all the time now.

Stock Made from Vegetable Trimmings

Mrs C. S. Peel The Daily Mail Cookery Book (1918)

Ingredients: The well washed peelings of potatoes, carrots, turnips; the green tops and outside leaves of celery, cauliflowers, cabbage, lettuces (if not decayed), apple or pear peelings and cores; parsley stalks.

Method: Add water, or the water in which macaroni, rice, haricots, potatoes etc have been boiled. Bring all to the boil then simmer for 30-40 mins. Strain and use as a base for thick soups, sauces etc.

Cooks Comments: This is a very economical way to make what is actually a tasty stock. I kept a largish bowl in the fridge in which I put various vegetable peelings and onion skins as described above over a few days until I had accumulated around 500g or so of trimmings (although an exact weight is not really an issue). When I was ready to make the stock I also saved the water I had used to cook some potatoes and topped it up to around 2.5 litres. If you decide to include onion skins they will give the stock a brown hue, which is something to consider if you are planning to use the stock in a white sauce or summery soup 

A Taste of the Home Front

I have been missing from the shop for much of the summer, partly due to a natural need to get out in the sunshine in the garden or on the allotment but also  working on the last part of the Taste of the Home Front project that I have been working on with Arundel Museum.

With a team of eight volunteers we researched the availability of food locally during the wartime and how that impacted on the townspeople, farmers and shopkeepers of Arundel, how the town and castle answered the call for food and coped during shortages. We searched through local records, including the archives of Arundel Castle and local newspaper archives, and the stories we found showed how the town came together to win the war on the Home Front, from gardeners and allotment holders to the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk, farmers, fishermen, shopkeepers and housewives.

I had a whale of a time and found some fascinating stories which have drawn a picture of how the people of Arundel fed themselves during the conflict. With the help of Sam Bilton who runs the Repast Supper Club we reproduced some of the recipes from the time. Sam ran a day of cooking demonstrations and produced some great recipes translated for modern day use.

We are now putting these and the stories into a booklet, so here is a taster.

Potato Pastry   Mrs C. S. Peel The Daily Mail Cookery Book (1918) Ingredients 

  • 225g cold mashed potatoes
  • 110g plain flour (you could use wholemeal flour to be truly authentic)
  • 45g dripping or margarine (if using the former make sure it is at room temperature)
  • 1 tsp baking powder 

Method

  1. Following Mrs Peel’s method to make the pastry, mix the flour, salt and baking powder; rub in the dripping. Add the potatoes and mix well and lightly. Make a stiff paste with cold water. Flour a board and roll out to ¼ inch thick.
  2. She doesn’t instruct the cook to leave the pastry to rest but you could make it in advance and leave it in the fridge until it is required.
  3. The pastry has a different consistency to regular short crust but is quite pleasant. It also has a naturally sweet flavour to it.

Cook’s Comments: This pastry is as useful for sweet pies as savoury, especially a nice apple pie – Sam

 From the outset of the war people were encouraged to eat alternatives to wheat flour and potatoes were popular as they were a good source of carbohydrates and easy to grow.  Potatoes were used to bulk out so many recipes – from bread through to pastry, (see above) and they even found their way into puddings and cakes.

Learning from the Past

They say you should never stop learning and I agree. Sadly I have the memory or a goldfish so I have to put in serious work to make things stick, however I am always attracted by learning new things. I am just going through ‘A History of Royal Food and Feasting’ course, one of the Freelearn, on-line courses from Reading University. Interesting, I thought when I saw it, but it is much more, these courses are a great resource and really well put together in small bite size chunks that build up week by week, with videos transcripts, cooking practical exercises and downloads.

I will be trying out some of the recipes and will put these up on the blog to give you a taster.

To catch this one you will have to be quick as it is running now. for more info go to:

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/royal-food

Totally Tomatoes!

It’s February, the time of year I start getting my tomato seeds on the go. As readers of my blog will know I am a bit obsessive about tomato growing and the hardest part of it is deciding which varieties I am going to go for each year.

Figures vary on how many varieties of tomato there are, but a conservative estimate is 7,500. So you can see my problem, I have only got room for about 10 varieties, that is if I want to grow anything else and I try to grow a mixture of outdoor and greenhouse, beef, plum, cherry,and of various colours, so the calculations are complicated. Add to that the fact that I have a shoe box full of tomato seeds and I to rotate them so that the seeds don’t get too old. 

The seeds I have come from a variety of sources, some bought from seeds suppliers, some I save myself or from friends’ saved seeds but mostly I get them from seed swaps. Over the years I have found some really interesting tomato varieties at seed swaps, at the Arundel seed swap we used to get a visitor whom we called Mr Tomato because he grew vast numbers and always brought along interesting varieties. It was from him that I first found Ivory Egg, Livingstone’s Favourite and Bloody Butcher. 

So what am I going for this year? On the large side I’m going for Cherokee Purple, a delicious sweet tomato great with a bit of olive oil and pepper and for small Piccolo, a sweet red variety I grew from seeds saved from a tomato that originally came from a ‘well known’ supermarket. One year the piccolo plant came through as an orange tomato that lasted on the plant until late November and stored in a basket until January. Replanted these seeds have stayed true and I call them Golden Piccolo, they will be in the greenhouse again this year as it is lovely to have fresh tomatoes in winter.

So where am I? Oh yes, the next is Jazz Fever, from Mr Tomato, a red fruit which I haven’t tried before. I always have to grow Black Cherry, my favourite large cherry, so sweet and juicy it is very hardy and prolific. Then Green Zebra and Ivory Egg both for the taste and colour variation. Then two from seed that I actually bought – Pomodoro Costoluto Fiorento from Franchi seeds and Crimson Crush from Dobies. The Crimson Crush I grew from plants last year, these are sold as blight resistant and whether that is true or not they were delicious and grew outdoor with no problems.

Then there is ‘Big Plum’ I don’t know if this is the right name but it certainly is a big plum and great for cooking and last but not least Sungold, whose little golden fruits brighten up a salad.

I think that’s eleven but who’s counting?

I’ll let you know how I get on and if I can restrict my self just to these. Meanwhile do visit your local seed swap and try new varieties. Here’s some options or look in your local press for one near you.

Seedy Sunday 

Garden Organic Seedy Sunday

 

The Staff of Life at Christmas

While we are planning our Christmas food the basics sometimes get forgotten. Don’t get me wrong I am planning my midwinter feast now, but while I was making the bread yesterday I realised that I hadn’t put bread on the Christmas food list.

Somewhere between Delia’s Mulled Wine Sorbet and Nigella’s Clementine cake I hadn’t given a thought to what I was going to make in the way of loaves and rolls.

This was mainly prompted by a review of a great video of Andrew Whitley’s DO Lecture on Bread – Why Bread needs Time. It was this lecture that started me down the bread-making road and I am so grateful, I love making bread and eating your own home made bread beats shop bought by a mile, unless you are lucky enough to have a good local real bakery.

I don’t want to sound holier than thou, I am definitely not a domestic goddess. Making my own bread doesn’t make me a better person but it does make me happy when I eat it. I like to make it by hand, the kneeding time with a bit of music in the background gives me time to think and gaze vacantly out of the window. My brother in-law on the other hand has  been converted to make his own bread by a bread machine, he made a lovely nutty, seedy loaf last time we stayed, great stuff. 

Bread really is the staff of life and by making it yourself you know what the ingredients are and where they come from, you can give the bread time to rise, you can be sure it has taste (something sadly missing from supermarket bread) and you can be sure that it will be digestable. Take back this staple and make it yours! Let’s be  nation of home bread makers rather than soft pappy bread eaters.

So back to Christmas, this year why not give someone (or yourself) a bread making book, or a bread machine or a course on bread making? You’ll reap the rewards next year.

 

 

and don’t forget to watch the video http://www.breadmatters.com/andrew-whitleys-do-lecture 

Oh and we will be having cinnamon rolls for breakfast and sourdough spelt loaf for sandwiches on Christmas day.

want some good baking books? click here

Post halloween pumpkin feasts

However you spent halloween, at a fancy dress party, shepherding little ghosts and ghouls round on the trick or treat circuit or staying up to scare yourself to death on fright films, now that it is over let’s get down to the serious stuff – cooking with pumpkins.

I did a quick run through the books on my shelves and pumpkin recipes on line and came to the conclusion that there is no excuse for not using the flesh from the pumpkins used to decorate the porch for the ghostly evening. I try not to get on my high horse in these blogs but the waste of food in the form of pumpkins really upsets me.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1.91 billion pounds of pumpkins grown in the U.S. in 2014 were only used for lanterns before being trashed and in the UK we are no better. The UK buys over one million pumpkins during October – around 90% of annual pumpkin sales. Once carved, the majority are thrown away with around 18,000 tonnes ending up in landfill according to the North London Waste Authority (NLWA).

Don’t give me the stories about nobody in the house liking pumpkin – would they be able to identify it in a lovely vegetable stew? or not knowing what to do – I found 20 pages of recipes from all over the world in my Ecosia search. Let’s aim to reduce that figure by next halloween.

So how about it?  Send me your favourite pumpkin recipes. The three best will win a copy of Recipes from an Unknown Kitchen and I’ll publish them in future blogs.

For more information on what you can do with scooped out pumpkins this Halloween, a selection of handy recipes can be found on the Love Food Hate Waste website 

One of my favourites is Pumpkin Bread from Flavoured Breads by Linda Collister

Ingredients

700g pumpkin or winter squash, 1 tablespoon virgin olive oil, 2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt (don’t be tempted to reduce this), 2 teaspoons of golden caster sugar, 15g fresh yeast*, 350g strong white bread flour, extra flour for dusting, 1 egg beaten with a pinch of salt to glaze.

* or use 7g sachet of dried yeast, mix with the flour before adding the pumpkin puree.

Method

Peel, remove seeds and dice the pumpkin into 1cm cubes, you need 400g. Cook this without water, either roast or steam. Put in a processor with the oil and puree until smooth. Then allow to cool until just luke warm add the salt and sugar.

If you are using freash yeast mix in a small bowl with 1 tablespoon of warm water. Mix the paste into the puree.

Measure the flour into a bowl and make a well in the middle. Spoon in the puree then mix in the flour to make a soft dough. Turn our onto a floured work surface and knead thoroughly for 5 – 10 mins (or 5mins in a mixer on a dough hook.

Shape into a round loaf and put on a baking sheet covered to rise until doubled – about 1 1/2 hours.

Press your thumb into the middle to make small hollow and brush with the egg glaze. Score into segments with a sharp knife then bake in a preheated oven at 200c, 400F or gas 6 for 30 mins, until it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool on a rack if you can without eating it before it cools (very difficult). It makes a lovely bright orange loaf that looks and taste great.

 

 

Apples Galore – Apple Snow

What to do with all the apples? I have a few favourite recipes that I haul out every year and then I’m looking for new ideas. This is a lovely recipe I found while I was writing Recipes for an Unknown Kitchen and is now on the regular apple recipe list, it is instant comfort food.

Apple Snow (G. R. Moores)

This recipe came from a time when people weren’t worried about eating raw egg white as the topping isn’t cooked. If you are concerned about this you can either make Italian meringue or used cooked meringue to top the dish. As with most home dishes there are a lot of versions of Apple Snow most of which add the meringue to the apple pulp. This is rather like an apple trifle.

Ingredients

Base

3 – 4 trifle sponges or left over cake, 200g cooking apples cored and peeled, Juice of a lemon, 30 g sugar, 100ml water

Custard

2 egg yolks, 30g sugar, 300ml milk

Meringue

2 egg whites, 1 tablespoon sugar

Method

The amount of sponge will depend on the size and shape of the dish you use. Put the sponge in the bottom as for a trifle. Cook the apple with the sugar, lemon juice and water until pulpy. This needs to be fairly liquid to soak the sponge. Cover the sponge with the cooked apple. Make the custard by mixing the egg yolks and sugar, heat the milk and add to the mix. Return to the pan and heat stirring constantly until thickened. Do not boil as the mix might curdle. Pour the custard over the apple. Cool in the fridge for 15 – 30mins. Whisk the egg whites, adding the sugar when the mix has thickened. Continue whisking until it forms small peaks.

Store in the fridge to cool

Alternatively, you can use the easy cook version by using tinned custard and crumble bought meringue over the top, much quicker.

Want a copy of the book? click here

This weekend is Apple Affair at West Dean Gardens a great weekend don’t miss it.

Swapping is a Growing Habit

It’s that time of year when all of us gardeners are stuck with our noses in the seed catalogues making lists of all those things that are going to grow so successfully this year. The garden or plot is so full of promise.

But before you send off that order check that there isn’t a better and cheaper way to get your seeds.

Seed swapping is really popular, and for a good reason (or several).

Because you have a plant you love and want to grow again. - It could be the perfect blue campanula, the best tasting tomato or a champion pumpkin. You never know when a seed company will discontinue your favourite seed to make way for new varieties. Saving your own seed is the only guarantee.

To help safeguard our genetic heritage. - In the past 100 years we have lost over 90% of our vegetable varieties in the UK. Nowadays, just three corporations control a quarter of the world’s seed market, vying for power over the world’s food production and hybrid seeds (which cannot be seed-saved) are becoming commonplace in seed catalogues.

To save money - Seed from catalogues can be expensive. Saving your seeds means that you get more for less.

To help preserve our right to save seeds. - The industry continues to place more and more restrictions on farmers’ and gardeners’ right to save seeds. Variety patenting, licensing agreements, and restricted lists such as that maintained by the European Union, are industry tools to wrest control of the seed from the commons and keep it for themselves. Thankfully last month MEPs voted against a proposed seed regulation that would further reduce the seed market but we do need to vote with our purses.

To find some thing different – There are lots of seeds that you only find through seed swap. I have found some of my favourites at seed swaps especially tomatoes and my favourite pea, that you can’t buy on the market. So I will be taking my list to the Worthing Transition Town Seed Swap on the 14th Feb to see what exciting things I can find. click here for details

Can’t find a seed swap near you? Don’t worry, you can find seed swap sites on the internet. Here are a couple in the UK but it is a worldwide phenomenon.

http://www.gardenswapshop.co.uk/index.php and http://www.seedswappers.co.uk/

Remember – If you like what you eat, save the seeds.

Don’t know how to save seed?  Back Garden Seed Saving by Sue Strickland is the book for you Click here

Seeds of inspiration

My visit to the Garden Museum to see the Gardens at War exhibition inspired me on the subject of the real benefits of growing and how enthusiastic gardeners have made gardens in whatever conditions they find themselves. Prisoners of war in WWI not only created gardens but held flower shows and produced food under the most dreadful circumstances and gardens in today’s conflicts in Gaza, Israel, Afghanistan and Ukraine provide an escape.

Do visit the exhibition it is on until 05/01/2015 for more info go to Garden Museum