Project Food Blog

A North African Vibe

There's a definite North African vibe going on in our place at the moment. The eldest is off to Tunisia in a few days with a friend to enjoy some 5 star luxury. Close friends of ours have just got back from an Activity Holiday in Morocco (It was so hot though that  it was more of an Inactivity holiday..) And our lodger has just moved in.... not the Italian girl that we had been expecting,  but a lovely girl from Algeria.... which is great as the kids are both learning French and also great as Sabrina loves cooking! Last night we spent a geeky evening with our mobiles looking at photos of dishes we had prepared, comparing notes on favourite foods, and swapping recipes. Saturday has already been reserved as Baking Day!

The main difference I guess between Sabrina and myself is that while we both like good honest local produce, and ethically reared meat, Sabrina is of course a Muslim, and will only eat Halal meat. I researched Halal on the internet, and came across many different and conflicting perspectives.... It's cruel, the meat is intensively farmed, it's not organic.... it isn't cruel, it is ethical... I became increasingly confused until I came across an article in The Times Online  which summed up all my  mixed feelings. I want us all to eat as a family, I don't want to go down the route of separate shelves in the fridge and separate meals,  I don't want to eat meat that has not been ethically raised or slaughtered.
I followed the link to Abraham Natural Produce and found the answer to all my culinary prayers. While not cheap, I know that there will be no conflict of interest from any of us when eating any of the meat originating from Muhammad-Ridha and Nicola Payne. The meat they produce on their farm is pure, natural, organic, slaughtered correctly and above all from animals that have been treated with compassion.

The company ethos is very simple.

They are against: cheap tasteless meat, inorganic feeds, the use of steroids and hormones, battery farming, unnatural farming methods, intensive farming, profit driven exploitation of animals and questionable "halal" meat.
They are for: quality British meat, organic and naturally reared animals, free-range farming, compassionate suppliers, small scale/local produce, a personalised service and real halal meat.

I will let you know how we get on! Cooking North African Spiced Shoulder of lamb for 10 this Friday!

Easy Fresh Mint Choc Chip Ice Cream

We seem to have a lot of eggs at the moment, despite using them at a rate of knotts (American Potato Salad, Meringue for Eton Mess, Breakfast...) those little darlings keep on popping them out! So finally today, despite the heat, I got myself together enough to make Fresh Mint Choc Chip Ice Cream to eat whilst watching the football.
It is so easy to do even if you don't have an Ice Cream Maker, so there is no excuse! And I love the fact that sometimes, even when you know you cooked it yourself, you still get as much pleasure as everyone else from eating it.

Secret Recipes

I bumped into my next door neighbour a couple of days ago, who was walking up the road carrying a large plastic bag, looking very pleased with himself! We got chatting, and as I am an inquisitive sort, I boldly asked him what was in the bag. He showed me the contents, several large heads of freshly picked elderflower, and then shared with me a closely guarded secret, that he had access to the sacred tome, Home Made Wines, Syrups and Cordials, from none other than The National Federation of  Women's Institutes. In exchange for a few eggs, John did later provide me with a quick look at said publication, and gave  me a hastily copied recipe for the Elderflower Champagne, which I had to commit quickly to memory as it was written in disappearing ink, and would self destruct in a matter of moments. So there we have it, the previously undiscovered truth that up and down the country, there is an underground movement where normally law abiding folk will stop at nothing to procure the culinary secrets of the WI.  Now John, about that jam.....

PS if you don't live near a hedge, Abel and Cole were supplying Elderflower in their veg boxes on a first come first served basis. Read their blog here.

Easy Tasty Magic

On way to Birmingham to check out Selfridges Food Hall. I get all excited as soon as those silver orbs on the exterior of the building appear into view.

On my shopping list is Laura Santini’s Easy Tasty Magic… one of our favourite ranges. I will be stocking up on Taste No 5, as I have run out, together with her International Jerk rub for wings, breasts and thighs, and her Carnal Sin tenderising rub for red flesh, fish, sea food and vegetables.

With so many in the offing, we're going to be perfecting the ultimate BBQ menu, watch this space!

Sex and Drugs and Sausage Rolls

On Sunday, me and the kids were lucky enough to be given last minute VIP tickets to Cornbury Festival. The weekend had not gone at all according to plan as we were meant to be in Yorkshire at a reunion, but the girl who was giving us a lift had to work unexpectedly (Damn those PA's with their broken ankles!) so we were not able to go. Having just had a back operation, I'm also not ready to drive any distance further than about 5 miles! SO.... we were consigned to a weekend of local amusement, and as Cornbury is just down the road, we couldn't have had planned it better.... especially as visiting friends from Spain were already going, AND had space for us in their jeep. Armed with suncream, a purse full of pennies and camera at the ready, we all set off for the leisurely drive to Charlbury. The festival has been dubbed "Poshstock" for the amenities on offer and for its clientele, who this year  included locals such as Alex James, Jeremy Clarkson and David Cameron.... (I'm just saying!) On offer to the 20,000 people attending throughout the weekend were luxurious camping options, a fairground, tombola and plush food and drinks stalls – Waitrose cocktail bars, a Pimms bus, Jamie Oliver's food, and tea and cake. Looking out towards the main stage, the grass was a sea of deck chairs and picnic rugs. Sunday kicked off with The Blockheads and ended with The Feeling, but the highlights for me were of course sampling the delights of the food stalls. Lunch was a Chicken and Chorizo Paella from Paellaria, with lemon, fresh parsley and roasted red peppers, washed down with home made lemonade. The kids then had a crepe each from La Creperie... one chocolate, one lemon and sugar... later on there was Pimms (Come on, it is Cornbury!) and Paninis. Despite the slightly chilly afternoon, and the drizzle which began at about 6 pm, we had a great time... There is no better way to spend the day than with good friends, good music and good food. Roll on the rest of the Summer.

Born on the 4th of July

My friend is not only married to an American but has also had the foresight to be born on her husband's most celebrated National Holiday, American Independence Day. What better excuse than that do you need for a party? Also, there was an additional surprise, as the guest of  honour was another friend, celebrating her return from Jamaica after nearly a year there. And after all the recent unrest, I think secretly she was glad to be back on home turf. The mix of people is always eclectic at Gill and Brian's... there were South Africans, Croatians, Americans and Jamaicans as well as us locals. Carmen supplied a gorgeous Croatian pickled cucumber dish which was perfect with the home made burgers. Vince slightly disappointed me as he didn't bring his Spicy Jerk Chicken Wings, but I did manage to get his secret jerk paste recipe! As well as that, there was also Gill's amazing All American Potato Salad. Now I'm not a great potato fan, but this potato salad is so delicious, I'm ashamed to say I had 3 helpings...not good when you are cutting the carbs to get into a bikini in a few short weeks..... enough said! We had a great time, and I'm sure the celebrations continued well into the night! I left at sensible o'clock as we'd been given VIP tickets to Cornbury Festival for the following day.... and I just love that festival food!

Family Friendly BBQ for 20

To welcome our friends back from Spain for a month, we had a small BBQ at our place. Karen and Rich have 4 kids between them, we invited another family who also have 4 kids, then there was a couple of  other mutual friends and before we knew it we had a houseful! As I'm still recovering from my back operation, I did the bare minimum, and left everyone else to it. One of the boys, James, is in his final year of Primary School, and also a competent Scout, so he did all the barbecuing!  I bunged my Special BBQ Chicken in the Remoska, as the oven was playing up... mixed up some red currant and mint jelly to glaze the lamb chops, made a load of salads, and Voila! A few hours later everyone left well fed and watered!