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COOKING NEWSLETTER - MAY 2012

Welcome to the Hub-UK Newsletter. If you have ideas that you think might work we would love to hear from you and by the same token if you think something is rubbish let us know . . . but do it nicely! newsletter@hub-uk.com

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AROUND THE SUPERMARKET  

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 . . .

Spanish goat's cheese

Just eaten a midnight snack. It was 1.00 am when I started so I suppose technically I can't call it a midnight snack. Very enjoyable! I do not make a habit of having late night snacks but just this once I thought why not. There was a whole round of Spanish goat's cheese in the fridge and a packet of savoury biscuits in the cupboard just making the temptation too great.

What has this got to do with supermarkets? Nothing directly but I wanted to cover the subject of enjoying good food and bad attitudes.

I have always had a bad attitude towards food. I shudder to think of the trouble my mother had feeding me. If I did not like something, I did not like it . . . even if I had never tried it. As a child, and even into my teenage years, I was very reluctant to try any new foods. The usual reaction on coming to the table would be “Yuk, I'm not eating that”. To make it worse my mother would pander to my fussiness and often cook me something different to what everyone else was having.

Spanish Goat's Cheese with Garlic
Spanish Goat's Cheese with Garlic

These days I like to think I am a lot more adventurous with food, and will try anything once. But there lies the problem. I will often try something once and then dismiss that particular food just on the basis of one tasting or one example. I am probably not alone in having this attitude to food and it makes you wonder how many of us miss out on some really great foods just because we are too narrow minded.

It was the recent arrival by courier of a Spanish goat's cheese that set this train of thought in motion. Can you imagine my reaction if my mother had tried putting goat's cheese on the table - if it was not Cheddar or Cheshire cheese it was not cheese!

Before saying anything about this particular cheese I should give you some idea of my attitude towards goats cheese.

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I blame Raymond Blanc! It seems like a long time ago now - I worked as a kitchen assistant for Raymond Blanc when his brasserie, le petit Blanc, opened in Cheltenham. One of the most popular starters was Goat's Cheese in Filo Pastry deep fried. (I think it had tapenade on the cheese as well.). It was never something I would have ordered when eating there bur as I often got to cook it I did get the opportunity to taste when one went wrong. As I said they were one of the most popular starters but they really put me off eating goats cheese ever again . . . until last year.

"Very nice
served simply"

Last year I came across Blue Goat's cheese when visiting La Hogue Farm shop near Newmarket. Now that is something really special, the cheese that is, although La Hogue is impressive too. The texture is far firmer and the taste . . . well, you try it and see. It is a really classy cheese. I do not remember the name but I have tried other blue goats cheese and they are all good if you cannot make it to La Hogue Farm shop.

Suddenly blue goat's cheese made me more receptive to the idea that perhaps all goats cheese was not the same. So when the opportunity to try a wheel of Goats Cheese with Garlic came along I jumped at the chance . . . and I am really glad I did. This was a real class act all the way from Spain. Totally different from anything I have tried before. It is a hard cheese and what a lovely flavour. I am not good at putting into words how something tastes so will not even try, but this is something you should try for yourself.

The Goats Cheese with Garlic came from Orce Serrano Hams and this is how it is described on their web site:

For lovers of goats cheese and stronger cheeses this combination is well suited to bossy red wines or to compliment mature reserva hams. A delicious goats cheese with strong yet balanced hints of garlic resulting in a unique Spanish flavour. A cheese for the adventurous and connoisseurs alike.”

Does this make me a connoisseur? You certainly feel like one when eating it. My wife tried it whilst I was out and she had it with some of the new Bon Maman lemon marmalade and said it tasted really good. (Going to sneak off and try that myself in a minute!)

The moral of this story is not to have tunnel vision when it comes to food and try everything you get the chance to try. You will not like everything but imagine how many good things you might be missing out on.

If you would like to try this particular cheese you will find it on the Spanish Tapas page of the Orce Serrano Hams web site. (Plenty more to choose from as well.)

Editorial note: This site is not paid to promote any of the products or places featured in this newsletter.

LIVING THE GOOD LIFE IN SPAIN  

SPANISH BARBECUE COOKING

Spanish barbecue cooking is enjoyed almost all year round in Spain due to the long summers and dry winters. In fact, cooking on the barbecue is preferred even during the cooler months, in the summer you will see the locals taking cover under the shade while various members of the family bustle around the outdoor barbecue usually with the head of house taking control over the entire proceedings! The Spanish barbecue is a joy to behold and a world away from undercooked sausages and drizzly weather. It is fair to say that the Spanish, like most Mediterraneans are experts at cooking outdoors.

Cooking Over Flame

One of the more common Spanish meals cooked over the barbecue is the paella or dishes such as ‘sam feina’, a vegetable based dish also requiring a flat based pan like the ‘paellera’ or paella pan. These typically Spanish dishes can be cooked over a barbecue grill but by far the best way is to use a metal tripod which the pan sits on. The most important factor in cooking dishes such as paella outdoors over naked flame is the flame itself. This is in fact when the barbecue never actually becomes a barbecue at all – more of a fire. The reason is that unlike a typical barbecue bed of hot coals, flame can be controlled which is ideal for rice based dishes, considering the paella (no matter which version you choose) is a fairly simple dish to make it allows the chef more time to regulate the flames. Remembering that nothing in Spain requires any immediate rush the paella can be cooked normally or slower depending on the cook’s preference to the meat they are using in the dish.

The best way to prepare for your outdoor paella is establish how much wood you will need for the fire, a good bucket full of sticks will certainly do, it is surprising how little wood is required to cook such a dish but small thin sticks produce big fat flames... Retain a couple of thicker pieces to place around the edge of the fire as these will smoulder helping to give the dish that lovely outdoor smoky flavour. Light your fire in the normal way with either fire lighters, newspaper and kindling, from this point on carefully manoeuvre the sticks under the pan so that the flames gently lick around the edges. Twenty-five minutes later . . . Paella done.

Cooking Over Coals (Brasa)

Cooking over ‘brasa’ is very different and takes more time, many Spanish dishes are named ‘a la brasa’ which means cooked over hot coals. It is worth mentioning at this point that the majority of Spanish barbecues are fired with wood, charcoal is available but the preferred method is wood such as pine which is collected from nearby woodland or even harder wood such as almond, olive or dried oak all of which create a lengthy and intense heat.

There are various dishes that can be cooked over brasa and the main one is meat, whether it be pork, beef, chicken or lamb. Fish are also welcome on the Spanish barbecue, sardines and gilthead bream being a favourite and not forgetting ‘gambas’ or prawns which are usually cooked in a clay cazuela with garlic and chilli. Preparing for brasa may take a while but is certainly worth it, the process from lighting to cooking can take as long as three hours but considering the nature of the event itself, food being the focal point of friends and family get togethers a mere three hours is just enough time to enjoy a few tapas, aperitivos and some conversation.

Brasa needs to begin as a normal fire, gently adding larger and thicker pieces of hard wood as and when required. The main trick with brasa is to pile up the wood once the fire is fully established and leave it - do not stoke the fire until you are ready to cook, what you will have will resemble white, charred, broken logs on the fire which when stoked will disintegrate into burning hot coals - this is perfect brasa. Leave the coals for a good ten minutes before cooking as they will in fact be ‘too hot’. Barbecue your chosen meats and enjoy some real Mediterranean flavour and al fresco dining.

Clay barbecue equipment >>>

EASY TO MAKE RECIPES . . . CUTTING CORNERS  

Beans wrapped in PancettaThis recipe from Natoora for Extra Fine Beans wrapped in Pancetta is very simple to do but adds a real tasty twist to a well known vegetable.

EXTRA FINE BEANS WRAPPED IN PANCETTA

Ingredients:

250g extra fine beans
4 slices of pancetta
50g butter
1 tsp salt
1 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp soy sauce

How to make:

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C.

  • Top, tail and wash the beans.

  • Blanch in lightly salted boiling water for around 4 minutes so that they are still crisp.

  • While they blanch, melt the butter and mix it with the sugar, salt and soy sauce.

  • Drain the beans well and place around 10 on each pancetta slice, then wrap the pancetta around them.

  • Cover the base of a baking tray with baking paper.

  • Place the beans wrapped in pancetta on the baking tray.

  • Brush with the soy sauce and butter mixture.

  • Bake for about 10 minutes or until the pancetta is crisp and golden.

Serves 4

www.natoora.co.uk

SOUP OF THE MONTH  

FRESH PEA AND MINT SOUP

Fresh Pea and Mint SoupThis refreshing spring soup is so quick and easy to make . . . a wonderful way to enjoy fresh peas.

Ingredients

500g fresh peas (1kg unpodded)
200g creme fraiche or double cream
sprig of mint
fried crispy pancetta (optional)

Method

  • Bring a pan of water to the boil (sufficent water to cover the peas).

  • Add the mint to the water to infuse before adding the peas.

  • Pod the peas and blanch for around 2 to 3 minutes. Make sure they are cooked but retain their lucious green colour or your soup will look dull.

  • Once cooked, drain the liquid into a seperate bowl as you will need some of it in a minute.

  • Pop the peas into a blender and add the cooking liquid so that it just covers the peas.
  • Blend into a puree and season to taste.

  • Add nearly all of the creme fraiche or cream, approximately 150g , then pulse with the blended peas.

  • Finally, serve into warm bowls, add a dollop of cream, and sprinkle over crispy pancetta if you fancy an extra crunch and taste.

Serves 6

www.natoora.co.uk

WHEN SCHOOLS TAUGHT DOMESTIC SCIENCE  

Quaker oatsFLAP JACKS

Ingredients 

8 ozs Quaker oats (or similar)
5 ozs butter
5ozs sugar
Juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp golden syrup

Method

  • Preheat oven to 180°C / Gas mark 4

  • Melt the butter, sugar and syrup in a saucepan but do not let these ingredients boil.

  • Stir in the oats and lemon juice until everything is combined.

  • Press the misture into a sandwich tin so that it is evenly spread out.

  • Bake for 30 minutes.

  • Remove from oven and allow to cool.

  • When cool cut into fingers.

  • Store in an airtight container.
THE MIXING BOWL . . . RANDOM BITS AND PIECES  

Tips on pastry making

The secret to good pastry making is five fold and the tips given here can be transferred to most pastry and bread recipes:

  • Ensure that ingredients are measured exactly, the smaller the amount made the greater the disaster for smaller mistakes made.

  • Always sieve the flour at least three times, this is not to remove any lumps as commonly thought, but to evenly distribute the gluten content. If it is not evenly distributed then the pastry can shrink when cooked in the areas where there is concentrated gluten content.

  • Add a little lemon juice - this encourages the gluten strands to relax and shorten.

  • Work / handle the pastry as lightly as possible. When rubbing in the butter in short pastries use your fingertips only and lift them into the air, this allows air to get into the pastry and make it lighter, more delicate.

  • Each and every time the pastry is handled allow it to rest for at least an hour - after making, after rolling, etc. This allows the gluten strands to relax again, as each time you handle the pastry you stretch them out.

Tallyrand

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