NEWSLETTER - MARCH 2012
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There is always something happening in supermarkets -
new products, product demonstrations, shelves reorganised
so you can't find anything. Not always interesting, quite
often boring and sometimes a chore but just occasionally something
catches your eye, something is interesting . . .
am very partial to a drop of gravy. I think gravy is a very
British thing (correct me if I am wrong) and one of the things
that goes to make great comfort food. Good tasty gravy transforms
a meal by adding flavour and moisture to what otherwise might
be a tasteless piece of meat or some rather dry potatoes.
Gravy was just made to compliment Yorkshire Puddings and
if you ever wanted something to cheer you up, on a dark and
cold winter evening, then you need to try a plate sized Yorkshire
Pudding filled with some beef sausages, a veg of your choice
and mashed potatoes . . . and then fill the Yorkshire Pudding
with a beef or onion gravy. Makes me want to drool just writing
Of course, you can have gravy all the year round, and it
works well with all sorts of roast dishes and also with something
Gravy is fairly easy to make too but in this busy day and
age most of us either do not have the time or just simply
cannot be bothered. It is only a matter of making a roux by
using fat from the roast, or just some dripping, and bringing
it to the boil whilst stirring. It takes time though, and
it makes a mess of another saucepan!
If it is a special occasion then making the gravy is probably
worthwhile but in a hectic life taking a shortcut by using
instant gravy is certainly permitted, especially if it means
a healthy tasty meal instead of something fried or done in
the chip pan.
Instant gravy mixes have been around for a long time now
but have been a poor substitute for the real thing. (You can
always tell a good gravy by whether people sneakily use their
knives to scrape up the last of it from their plate.) In recent
years however food manufacturing has got better and better,
with the result that some very good products are now appearing
on the supermarket shelves.
My own kitchen cupboard always contains the range of Bisto
instant gravies, not the ordinary stuff but the Bisto Best
gravy range, which is granules.
Now another range of quality instant gravies is available,
Colman's Instant Gravy. Both Bisto and Colman's state on the
packaging with real meat juices. Presumably
that is supposed to reassure us as to how good the product
is? I have tried the Colman range at a supermarket demonstartion,
not at home yet, but was sufficiently impressed to buy two
of them to try out. I think there are only three in the range
- chicken, onion and beef - whereas Bisto has those three
flavours as well as pork and vegetable (never tried the
vegetable one as not sure what I would eat it with
presumably for vegetarians).
The Colman's instant gravies are in a paste form which does
suggest a concentrate and seems more natural than granules.
But granules are probably easier to handle and less messy.
It is also easier to measure a spoonful of granules than it
is a spoonful of paste but that is just nit-picking.
A handy product to keep in the kitchen cupboard and I am
sure it could work well as a stock for adding to other dishes
you are cooking . Will have to give it a go.
This is the chicken gravy instructions from the Colman's
INSTANT CHICKEN GRAVY PASTE
Just add boiling water, stir and pour! Our new and easy
way to make proper homemade gravy in an instant. It's made
using real meat juices for a delicious, authentic taste.
Perfect served with roast chicken and grilled meats.
Serves: 5 (of 250ml)
How to cook:
- Squeeze 2 heaped teaspoons of paste (26g) into jug.
- Add 250ml boiling water, stir continuously and thoroughly
with a hand whisk for at least 30 seconds allowing to
- Add more paste for a thicker gravy!
Why not try:
Alternatively use the method above and add to the meat
juices from your roast, blend and bring back to the boil.
I think the Bisto jars make slightly more gravy but I have
not compared prices.
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THE GOOD LIFE IN SPAIN
to drink with Spanish ham
ham and beer
Spanish are crazy about their ham, indeed walk into any reputable
tapas bar in Spain and you are likely to be served a plate
of cured ham which is usually accompanied by fresh bread and
the all important extra virgin olive oil...
to Spanish vary from fresh vine tomatoes, salted almonds,
the famous Manchego cheese from La Mancha and fruit to name
but a few but what about a tipple? What goes best with Spanish
ham? Here is a rough guide to enhancing the flavour of those
wafer thin ham slices.
Imagine that hot summers day or Spanish holiday when a cold
draught beer is just the thing! Spanish ham slices accompany
the beer (and vice versa) very well indeed. In, fact Serrano
ham tapas are some of the most frequently served and with
beer being the most popular drink during the summer its
a perfect match and can be seen being enjoyed at all times
of day both inside and outside Spanish tapas bars.
A good red wine without doubt is a perfect partner for Spanish
ham. Red wine compliments thinly sliced Serrano ham very
well indeed. As with cheese a good red helps conjure a treat
for the senses. Rioja or Ribera is popular but for this
pairing any good red wine will do, no matter which region
it is from or age. This combination also opens the door
to invite olives and cheese into the equation, even a little
olive oil. For those who enjoy stronger flavours try a deep
bossy red with well cured Serrano ham, for Iberian acorn
ham try and keep the wine fairly light to let the ham do
White wine is a less obvious drink to be enjoyed with Serrano
ham. In summer though a cool glass of white wine goes down
well with slices of ham. Serrano ham salads for example
are popular in the summer with white wine for a light lunch.
The pair together do compliment each other; with the addition
of some olives a real summer flavour can be produced. Young
white Riojas work best.
We found these two Spanish specialities to be by far the
most popular choice. Ice cold fino or manzanilla
sherry wine goes with sliced Serrano ham like nothing else.
The combination of flavours work so well that even after
a good red wine it should be an easy decision for the future!
Fino and manzanilla work well with the majority of Spanish
cured meats, why not indulge and serve up some cured lomo
tenderloin along side your Serrano ham with a drizzle of
olive oil . . . perfection.
are of course no hard and fast rules with what to drink with
your Spanish ham, in Spain cured ham is so popular it would
not really matter what your preferred tipple is, when the
tapas arrive, well, they arrive! For the ham connoisseur and
where flavour balance is important there are a host of red
wines out there (not necessarily Spanish) which will
add plenty of depth and for the purists . . . it simply has
to be a good Fino sherry.
Hams DIRECT from Spain >>>
TO MAKE RECIPES . . . CUTTING
This recipe from Natoora
for Spring Salad with Marinated Lamb Cutlets is a really tasty
way to serve lamb, especially on one of those warmer Spring
SALAD WITH MARINATED LAMB CUTLETS
800g fresh broad beans (youll need approx 1.5kg
in the pod)
200g fresh peas (youll need approx. 350g in the
100g feta cheese
1 bunch mint, sliced thinly
1 bunch rosemary
2 cloves fresh garlic, finely chopped
extra virgin olive oil
12 lamb cutlets
pinch of salt and pepper
How to make:
together 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, rosemary,
a pinch of sea salt and some pepper and one of the chopped
Rub over the lamb cutlets and leave to marinate whilst
you prepare the salad.
the beans and peas from their pods and simmer in boiling
water for 2 minutes, then drain and shell the beans.
lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil to make the dressing.
with the beans, peas, the remaining garlic and mint. Stir
and check the seasoning.
heat a griddle pan over a high heat and grill the lamb
for about 3 minutes each side.
with the bean and pea mixture and crumble feta on top.
CREAMY MUSSEL SOUP WITH SAFFRON AND WHITE WINE
is the perfect first-course soup to get the taste buds going.
The saffron adds not only its subtle flavour but also gives
the dish a beautiful colour.
3 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded
1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons butter
1 large leek (white and tender green), well rinsed and
1 medium celery rib, finely chopped
2 1/2 cups fidh stock or clam juice
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
12 black peppercoms
12 parsley stems
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
a large pot, combine mussels and wine. Bring to theboil
over medium-high heat, cover, and cook until mussels have
opened, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Remove mussels from shells, reserving 6 large mussels
and 6 half-shells for garnish. Discard any mussels that
do not open.
Strain cooking liquid through a fine sieve into a large
In same soup pot, melt butter over a medium heat. Add
the leek and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until
softened, about 5 minutes.
Add fish stock, thyme, bay leaf, peppercorns, parsley,
saffron, remaining cooked mussels, and reserved mussel
liquid. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer
for 20 minutes.
Remove and discard the bay leaf.
In a food processor or blender, purée the soup
in batches until smooth and return to the soup pot. Bring
back to the boil.
In a small bowl, blend cornstarch with cream and then
stir into the soup to thicken it. Add salt and pepper
and simmer, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened,
about 2 to 3 minutes.
Strain the soup through a sieve into a large saucepan
and simmer over medium heat until heated through, about
3 to 5 minutes.
Divide soup among 6 soup plates and garnish each serving
with a mussel on the half-shell.
SCHOOLS TAUGHT DOMESTIC SCIENCE
10 oz plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 oz sugar
3 oz lard and margarine mixed
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 gill milk (about 105ml)
3 - 4 ounces cream butter
1 lb strawberries
1/4 pint of mock cream (these days we would use whipped
together the dry ingredients and rub in the fat.
with egg and milk to form a soft dough.
out half the dough on a greased 8 inch sandwich tin, and
spread with creamed butter.
remaining dough on top.
at 400°F / 200°C / Gas Mark 5 for half an hour.
cake while hot.
with crushed strawberries and cover with mock cream (these
days we would use whipped cream) or whole berries and
dust with icing sugar.
MIXING BOWL . . . RANDOM BITS AND PIECES
your own cream?
Imitation creams or mock creams as they were called
seem to have become something you no longer see on
the shelves of the supermarkets. They were rather
sickly so it is no surprise that they have gone out
However, you can make your own very simply by beating
6 ounces of unsalted butter with half a pint of milk,
and then leaving for several hours in a cold place
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