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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 . . .

Do you use instant mashed potato?

I really rate this product for when you want to prepare a meal in a hurry. Microwaveable mashed potato tastes almost as good as the mash you make yourself and it can be a whole lot quicker to prepare.

The Aunt Bessies web site describes the product:

"I’ve selected only the simplest and finest ingredients to create my delicious homestyle mash and now it’s over to you! Microwave in just 3 1/2 minutes for a perfect rich and creamy texture without the mess. Irresistible!"

When you open the bag you will find large tablets of potatoes - 5 are suggested per portion but I have found 7 gives a more generous serving. But don't be misled by the microwave times. A single portion can be done quickly but if you are doing 2 portions (14 tablets) it takes approximately 8 minutes in the microwave . . . and 4 portions takes longer. However it is still quicker and less mess than making you own when you need a meal in a hurry. Makes great sausage & mash with onion gravy!

A touch of Sea Salt

I gave into my addiction to chocolate during all that bad weather last winter - one way to get rid of the winter blues! Ever since I have enjoyed sampling the different chocolates on offer or being promoted in the supermarket.

Three weeks ago Morrison's were promoting Lindt's Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt. My initial reaction was that it might be a bit "Yuk" but always ready to give something a go I popped half a square in my mouth. A true revelation! If you like chocolate you just have to try this one.

In typical Morrison's style there was none in stock to buy.

I had to wait a further week to buy a bar. Mind you I haven't looked back since, buying two or three bars a week.


What is Iberico Ham? (part 1)

The confusion that surrounds Iberico ham seems to be becoming an even more complex issue than it already is but why is this? Surely a Spanish ham is Spanish ham right?

Iberico pigsIberico hams account for only 8% of cured ham production in Spain, the other 92% is the more common but still very good “Serrano” ham. What really counts in this equation is the pig… Iberico pigs are relatives of the native wild boar, usually black in appearance with black hooves (but not always) by law Iberico hams must come from a hog that is no less than 75% pure Iberian, in other words they can and usually are a mixture of breed with the likes of the Large White or Landrace pigs. With me so far?

The good news is that for the Spanish ham enthusiast this is not a problem as the industry is heavily regulated. The confusion however comes with some recently banned terminology – the main contender being “Pata Negra”. This literally means “Black foot” and has in the past been commonly used to describe Iberico ham. There are however different grades of Iberico ham, you can indeed buy an Iberian ham described as a pata negra quite cheaply but do not assume that the pig it came from has been fed on acorns . . . after all, you get what you pay for.

For the serious ham buyer knowledge is power so make sure you know what and who you are buying from, a simple description like pata negra nowadays is too broad a term to describe a premium ham. There are different ham grades and the terms to look out for are, in the main, Bellota, Recebo, Cebo and Puro – all are Iberico, all come from predominantly black pigs with black feet but feeding regimes, husbandry and breeding are very different.

In the next issue we will discover the differences, how each choice will affect your wallet and your taste buds.



Do you have trouble making a nice meat pie? Soggy pastry? My wife is really fussy when it comes to her pastry so I use a little trick used in the catering trade . . . and here's a recipe to go with your pastry!

There will be no messing about. Buy ready made pastry and if you are in a real hurry buy the ready rolled stuff.

Steak and Ale Pie


1 kg braising steak
500 ml dark beer
500 ml water (approximately)
3 beef stock cubes
2 1/2 heaped tbsp plain flour
2 large onions
Cooking oil or beef dripping
2 heaped tsp Dijon mustard
Ready made puff pastry (ready rolled preferably, for less work)

How to make:

  • Peel and chop the onions. Cut up the braising steak into small cubes.

  • Heat some oil in a large and deep saucepan. Add the onions and sauté gently for about five minutes until soft.

  • Add the meat and cook to seal.

  • Add the flour and stir in to meat juices.

  • Continue to cook to cook out the flour, adding the beer gradually to prevent sticking to the pan until all the beer has been added.

  • Add beef stock cubes and stir until dissolved.

  • Add water to thin down the gravy. The amount will vary according to how much juice has come out of the meat so add gradually until the right consistency is achieved.

  • Add Dijon mustard (English mustard can be used if preferred).

  • Once boiling reduce the heat, cover and simmer very gently for at least two hours.

  • Once cooked, cut your pre-prepared pastry into rounds or squares (the shape and decoration is down to your imagination) and bake for approximately 10 minutes on a tray.

  • To serve your Steak and Ale Pie ladle the meat and gravy on to each plate and top with pastry.


You can prepare and part cook your Steak and Ale Pie on the one day and then complete the cooking on the following day which will allow the flavours to come out even more.

Serves 4


Broccoli and Stilton Soup


2 oz / 50g butter
2 large onions
1lb 5oz / 600 g broccoli, trimmed
1/2 tsp each of salt, sugar and nutmeg
2 pts / 1.2 litres weak vegetable stock or chicken stock
3 tbsp double cream
5oz / 150g blue Stilton, crumbled

How to make:

  • Melt the butter in a large saucepan.

  • Add onions, broccoli, salt, sugar and nutmeg.

  • Cover and steam gently on a low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  • Add the stock to the pan and bring to the boil.

  • Reduce the heat immediately and simmer for 10 minutes.

  • Blend until smooth.

  • Return to the pan and stir in the cream and Stilton.

  • Stir over a low heat until the cheese is well combined giving a lovely smooth soup.

This soup freezes well.

Serves 6

1st-7th British Sausage Week

British Sausage Week is now in its 13th fabulous year. This year the celebrity judge for British Sausage Week 2010 is Strictly Come Dancing's Craig Revel Horwood! From 1st November, everyone's favourite Dancing judge will be fox trotting his way around the country in search of Britain's Star Sausage.

For everyone else there will be events and special offers at independent butchers and supermarkets from mid-October. Also look out for sausage themed menus in your local pubs and restaurants.

Click for more

  6th-20th National Taste of Game Fortnight National Taste of Game Week in 2009 was so successful that this year The British Association for Shooting and Conservation [BASC] are extending the promotion by a week and renaming it National Taste of Game Fortnight Click for more
12th-14th MasterChef Live MasterChef Live is a three day food extravaganza with celebrity chef demonstrations, expert advice, the chance to master new skills and techniques, and your chance to see MasterChef Judges John Torode, Gregg Wallace, Michel Roux Jr and Monica Galetti. And that's not all - we have superb shopping with 100s of exceptional producers, delicious and unusual ingredients and the latest gadgets.

Click for more

21st-27th National Curry Week National Curry Week was started in 1998 to promote the cuisine and to raise funds for charities concentrating on hunger, malnourishment and poverty. During the week, curry lovers can get out and visit their local curry houses, some of which will be staging special events and fun challenges. Click for more
24th-28th BBC Good Food Show
The Producers’ Village, Celebrity Chefs, Shopping, MasterChef Experience and much more.

Click for more


This recipe comes form a little cookery book entitled The "AL" County Cookery Book compiled by a County Education Secretary and Domestic Subjects Staff. The book was actually my wife's grandmother's from when she left school in 1913.

Scotch Collops


1/2 lb minced raw meat
2 ozs bread-crumbs
1/2 lemon rind
1/2 onion (chopped)
1/2 pt stock
1 oz flour
1 dried egg
Grated nutmeg
1 oz fat
2 ozs bacon (chopped)
A little ketchup


  • Mix the minced meat, bacon, onion, seasoning and nutmeg together.
  • Moisten the mixture with the egg and roll it into balls.
  • Coat these with egg and crumb and fry them in hot fat; then drain them well.
  • Make a brown gravy with the fat, flour and stock.
  • Boil this up and add the lemon rind, ketchup and seasonings.
  • Put the balls in the gravy.
  • Stew them for from half an hour to three-quarters.
  • Then dish the balls up and pour gravy over them, also adding a little lemon juice, if desired.

Cleaning a wooden cutting board

Most health inspectors will not allow wooden cutting boards in commercial kitchens any more, but if you have one in your home and it gets mold and / or mildew on it . . . scrub it with salt and lemon juice.

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