ginger pig & beetroot tops with anchovies – a book review

It seems ironic that one of the first things I cooked from this very meat biased cookbook was beetroot tops with anchovies. And perhaps odd that someone who was a non-meat eater for 30 years is reviewing The Ginger Pig Farmhouse Cookbook, which has some excellent recipes for home-made cooking chorizo, pancetta and making your own pastrami.

Ginger Pig Book

Yet if you read this lovely book, which is packed full of gutsy, full-flavoured dishes from the farmhouse kitchen table (making use of meat from well-reared, naturally fed animals) and realise that I was a fish-eating sort of vegetarian who reared pigs last year, it starts to make sense. Well, in my mind anyway!

Tim Wilson, owner of The Ginger Pig chain of butchers (“There is no great secret to what we do: we simply raise the best animals in the happiest of circumstances, on the finest stretch of the Yorkshire Moors we could find.”) co-wrote this book with Fran Warde, cook and best-selling food writer. Fran states:

“As a food writer it is my passion to search out provenance ingredients. When it comes to meat this means it must have been looked after well, naturally fed, considerately slaughtered, dry aged and purchased from a reputable butcher in order for me to truly enjoy my work in the kitchen.”

There are some interesting recipes for cured meats, preserves, pies, pates and terrines, casseroles and stews, and a great personal story behind The Ginger Pig too. As an antique-dealing property renovator in the 1990s, Tim Wilson bought an eighteenth century farmhouse, with a view to doing it up and selling on as an idyllic country home. But he soon found the pond without ducks splashing about, the pigless sties and the empty fields a bit lifeless.

To cheer himself up he installed a few pigs; before he knew it Tim was breeding Tamworths and experimenting with curing and charcuterie. The son of an antiques dealer (but grandson of a butcher and a grocer) took on a monthly stall at Borough market and found that his tasty pork products from pigs that had led a happy life sold out. He ended up buying a bigger farm in Yorkshire with grazing rights across beautiful moorland, farming rare-breed cattle, sheep and pigs and becoming a popular part of the London food scene. There are currently five Ginger Pig shops. Chutneys, pickles and preserves are still made for them using fruits and vegetables from the farmhouse garden and from locally sourced produce.

As someone who has been converted to eating meat by having pigs to clear the back garden, I’m enthusiastic about the many Ginger Pig recipes that make the most of the animals who have added life and vibrancy to the farm – whether that’s from making Risotto Milanese from home-made chicken stock, Spent hen or yard cockerel casserole or Lardo from pork back fat.

Some of my friends think it’s bizarre that keeping pigs led me to eating meat again. Yet I’d put the effort into feeding them organically, filling up their water when they turned it over and generally getting stuck in mud while looking after them. Later I prepared meat for the freezer, made chorizo, liver pate and air-dried ham, salted some pork for 5 days for ‘pancetta’ and even changed my mind about the health benefits of home-produced lard while rendering fat on the wood-burner.

Not only did I want to sample the results of my work, I knew that these pigs had lived a good life – they had plenty of space, grew slowly over a long period of time, had trees to rub against and natural food. If I was going to eat any meat, this was the sort I felt comfortable with. And as my 5 year old daughter says, “They’re tasty pigs!”

I still feel that I haven’t quite perfected home-brined and cooked ham though and there are some interesting recipes to try here.

Roast Glazed Ham

The slow-cooked Chinese spiced belly of pork and pulled spicy pork look fabulous too.

Now I enjoy the sort of balance of meat, fish and vegetarian meals that Trine Hahnemann recommends in her Nordic diet and that I feel is good both for my family and our environment. Roasting a traditional breed of chicken that has been reared slowly can seem expensive but provide so many tasty meals if supplemented with lots of home-grown/local veg. And rearing pigs shocked me initially in how much it cost (the price of feed has risen so much) but then there is so much flavour from slivers of the air-dried ham or cubes of pancetta from our Berkshire pigs that it goes a long way in so many meals. We wouldn’t waste a morsel of it, which is surely as it should be.

If you are planning on buying or rearing the best meat (often welfare for the animals happily goes hand in hand with flavour) you can afford but want to be frugal in not wasting any food, the Ginger Pig cookbook is good for inspiration. There are recipes for making stock from bones and classic British recipes for broths and pies that our grandmothers would be proud of.

Steak and Kidney Pie

There are also some great recipes for pates, terrines, dry curing and preserves such as mustard fruits that French, Italian and Spanish grandmothers would be proud of. While the recipes for bread salad, preserves, making use of fruit from the garden in old-fashioned puds and the ‘beetroot tops with anchovies’ make sure that nothing is wasted. Whether it’s leftover bread, fruit gluts or even parts of vegetables that often go straight or morsels of meat from a roast. There’s an interesting small chapter on ‘Food from the Wild’ too.

I have to admit that ‘A week in the farm kitchen’ describes a week of eating that is far too full of meat, butter and animal fat for my liking with roast beef, roast chicken and a meaty casserole all included in the menu. But then as an ex-vegetarian, eating a few pulse/veggie based meals a week comes easily to me. And I’m not labouring on a working farm all week.

My only other reservation would be that although this book gives great detailed instructions for curing hams and making confits, some of the recipes I’ve tried take for granted that the reader is aware of certain techniques. The walnut and salted caramel tart, for example, is delicious but does seem to assume that you know how to caramelize sugar. It doesn’t give precise instructions for the inexperienced caramelizer. This could just be my excuse as my first attempt ending up a tad on the crunchy side (it was a lovely ice-cream topping though!)

If you’re inexperienced in talking to a butcher however about different cuts of meat, the section on meat cuts at the end is excellent. Many of the cuts mentioned won’t be seen neatly packaged in the supermarket, but are a great, affordable way of eating good meat that has been reared well.

Which brings me to my beetroot tops with anchovies – at last!  The beets that have been providing me with salad leaves while this year’s salad crops grow, are finally ready to pull up. The last leaves went into this dish, along with leftover bread made into crumbs, anchovies and chilli.

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It’s equally tasty with seared tuna (line caught, sliced into thick chunks) and seared skirt steak. The ‘British beef cuts’ section informs that skirt is also known as ‘thin flank’ or ‘Bavette’ and “either needs long, slow cooking or marinating and flash cooking and slicing into thin, tasty ribbons with a good texture.” Our skirt steak came from a local smallholder who I know well; they’re not soil association registered but feed their livestock organically and rear them on organic principles. Marinated in olive oil having been bashed to tenderness with a rolling pin, the steak offers great taste and is very affordable for well-reared meat. Great served on the spicy, wilted beet leaves.

I felt that this meal fitted in with Tim Wilson’s principles:

“Nothing gives me greater satisfaction than rearing the best animals on one of the finest stretches of North Yorkshire, and using each and every ingredient to its full potential. I hope this book will help you to buy wisely, learn some new skills and produce fantastic dishes to add to your repertoire.”

Having tried the ‘Excellent roast chicken’ with plenty of garlic and white wine adding flavour to this succulent chicken (it’s partly cooked in a foil tent) it will definitely be added to my repertoire.  I’m looking forward to trying out more of the recipes from this book, including the gooseberry meringue pie, glazed ham and Wensleydale and onion tart.

wensleydale and onion tart

Will report more over the next few months on my trials – and errors!

With many thanks to Octopus Publishing Group for my review copy of The Ginger Pig Farmhouse Cookbook by Tim Wilson & Fran Warde.

The lovely photos of the steak and kidney pie, glazed ham and wensleydale tart are from the book, photography by Kristin Perers.

june in my kitchen

in my kitchen this June…

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…there are lots of flowers. Chocolate mousse decorated with violets, flowers from my lovely Mum brightening up the kitchen and jam jars filled with random selections.  ‘Flower competitions’ which seem to be based on who can cram the most flowers into an old jar, appear to be competing with perfume making for pole position in my daughter’s world. And yes, these do include Jack-by-the-hedge and yellow flowers from the purple sprouting broccoli that is sadly finally going to seed. I’m very relaxed about this sort of flower picking but I have been trying to persuade Ruby and friends to keep her scissors away from my purple sensation alliums.

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in my kitchen…

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….the view is slowly changing. From one side the field of cow parsley is still frothy, the gooseberries are growing fast and the lovage is becoming gigantic behind the purple alliums. To the back, it looks as if a group of inept campers have attempted to set up a very rustic tepee site. This is actually due to my attempts to make stick wigwams for my beans and sweet peas to climb up. The new beds are made and planted and I’m hoping runner beans will make a sort of tunnel for children to run through. I’ve realised already though, that putting bean teepees in the middle of what still looks like bare earth (it is sown with seeds, honestly) is an invitation to toddlers to set up camp amongst my purple beans and emerging calendula. Oh well…

in my kitchen….

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….I’m still cooking the last of May’s gluts – rhubarb, chard and asparagus are featuring lots – while willing the broad beans and gooseberries to hurry up. Even the last spindly bits of PSB are still tasty, enjoyed in frittatas with lots of parmesan, with pasta, in frittatas and in thai style noodles with venison. I still can’t believe my luck that the air-dried ham actually worked and it’s proving very tasty shaved onto asparagus risotto, in salads and adding flavour to frittatas.

in my kitchen….

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….I’m preparing for very simple outdoor food with a glorious sunny weekend ahead (fingers crossed!). I made these very healthy biscuits to sandwich ice-cream between from the Little Leons Brownies, Bars & Muffins book and think they should provide a perfect easy desert after a BBQ.  They’re made with almonds, hemp seeds, dates, vanilla seeds and a pinch of sea salt, all pulverised in a food processor. I found them tricky to handle when rolling out and cutting, crumbly after baking but absolutely delicious – obviously I had to test one!

Having read Mad Dog’s post about tapas, I can’t get salted caramel choc-ices out of my head. To satisfy my craving for that sweet, salty, crunchy taste and texture with ice-cream I’m going to make my very easy Toffee Sauce:

180g dark brown sugar

120g butter

120ml double cream

Simply heat in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves then pour warm over fruit and ice-cream for an easy treat pud. The quantities of butter, sugar and cream sound very unhealthy I know, but this sauce goes a long way – either to feed a lot of people or leftovers keep well in the fridge.

This weekend I’m forgetting the fruit and planning to sandwich together vanilla ice-cream between the very virtuous Little Leon biscuits. These healthy biscuits will, in my mind, balance out the decadence of pouring over the ice-cream some of this toffee sauce and adding chopped salted roast almonds.

In the Little Leon book, after the recipe for an ice-cream sandwich, we’re instructed to “Hand to small child. Be prepared to load washing machine.” I would like to add that this is a pudding best eaten outside. But I’m feeling greedy just thinking about that salty, sweet, creamy combination; how much is handed over to the small children is debatable.

I’d like to join other bloggers from around the world in adding this to Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial’s monthly In My Kitchen gathering.

 

 

 

Little Leons – book review

It was the ‘Bar of Good Things’ that first caught my attention. The list of ingredients includes cashew nuts, sesame seeds, dried figs and sesame seeds and seems to be a great combination of the tempting and the healthy. As the name suggests, yummy yet perfect for a guilt-free mid-morning snack or for a child’s after-school treat.

Immediately wanting to bake such a life-affirming bar, it made me realise that this is one of the things I like so much about the Leon books; they’re packed full of recipes that manage to be both nutritious (but not in a hair shirt, depriving yourself sort of way) and delicious.

Little Leon landscape2 (1)

I found my first Leon Naturally Fast Food book (Book 2) in a second-hand bookshop and couldn’t resist buying it as it had a recipe for home-made salami with copious amounts of red wine and garlic, and I was busy making chorizo at the time.  It’s since become one of the very well-thumbed books on my kitchen shelves, full of those tell-tale food marks that I like to feel is a positive (not slovenly!) thing in my favourite cookbooks. I love the great ideas for family meals – some are so simple they’re more ideas, but ideas for inspiring pairings of good, healthy ingredients that are great for adding interest when you get stuck in a rut of tried and tested mid-week meals.

So I was excited to receive review copies of the Little Leons, a new series of lovely, compact little hardbacks. Each little book covers a different food subject: Breakfast & Brunch, Brownies, Bars & Muffins, Smoothies, Juices & Cocktails and Soups, Salads & Snacks.

The Soups, Salads & Snacks book has a lovely Chicken Noodle soup recipe that looks like a great quick and easy supper dish, while I definitely want to try the Persian Onion Soup – obviously you can see that the temperature had dropped when I first looked at this book as it was the warming dishes rather than tasty dips and salads that appealed. The current sunshine has me turning to the 3 Sisters Superfood Salad though, packed with purple potatoes, corn, pumpkin, and sprouted beans.

And while the Breakfast and Brunch book has some healthy but simple to prepare ways to start the day, and the Smoothies, Juices & Cocktails book has some enticing drinks, I have to admit it’s the Brownies, Bars & Muffins book that has me eager to try out the recipes asap. This has a lot to do with the fact that we’ve just had a cold, rainy half term week and baking is one of my favourite ways to keep children (and myself!) amused.

But there are also so many healthy treats that I really want to eat – an amazingly moist looking More-Fruit-Than-Cake-Cake that combines red wine and figs, ice-cream wafers made from almonds, hemp seeds and dates and some ‘Good Scones’ whose gluten-free ingredients would go down well with my mother-in-law. Lots of recipes that will enable me to bake a sweet treat for my vegan friends too.

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When Henry Dimbleby, John Vincent and Allegra McEvedy opened their first restaurant, on London’s Carnaby Street in July 2004, their aim was to change the face of fast food. These little books, with recipes selected from the full-sized Leon cookbooks, definitely let you have your cake and eat it.

15 Tommis Fruit Cake

At £6.99 each they’d make great little gifts, and are easy to pop in your bag, or to pack for a holiday. Apparently the Leon vision is “to have Leon’s all over the world, making it easy for everyone everywhere to eat good food.” Being lucky enough to live in a rural area, I don’t have easy access to a range of fast food outlets, let alone healthy ones. So I’m always a fan of books like these that make healthy fast food such a joy to produce at home.

With thanks to Octopus publishing for my review copy of the Little Leons, published by Conran Octopus April 2013.

All photos used in this post are from:

Leon Minis: Breakfast and Brunch, published by Conran, £6.99

Leon Minis: Brownies, Bars & Muffins, published by Conran, £6.99

(www.octopusbooks.co.uk)

 

 

 

 

The Urban Rajah’s Curry Memoirs – book review

In chilly weather, curry is often exactly the sort of comfort food I need. Yet the fabulously sunny bank holiday weekend we’ve just enjoyed had me craving some heat in my food too. So this book of fabulous curry recipes, with lots of wonderfully spiced dished that are simple to prepare, was very welcome.

Dishes such as Kachumbar, a refreshing looking Asian version of salsa, looks like perfect summery food:

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The energising Dudh Badam (Almond Milkshake) made by the Urban Rajah’s grandmother to “breathe life into my father’s nutrition-starved body on his return from his Catholic boarding school,” looks perfect for sunny weather too.

And I’m looking forward to making the Cricket Chicken, where frugal chicken thighs or drumsticks (I’ll use the very flavoursome ones from Great Farm in the Cotswold’s very free-ranging birds) add taste and nutrition to a spiced stock that you then cook basmati rice in, before reuniting the succulent chicken pieces with fragrant rice.

There are some beautifully spiced versions of familiar classics that I’m keen to try too, such as Aloo Ghobi, Comfort Daal and Mama Peters’ Jhalfrezi.

Rajah_AlooGhobi

But thanks to the self-styled Urban Rajah’s (aka Ivor Peters) wordsmithery and entertaining storytelling ability, lots of gorgeous pictures ranging from family snaps to street food in Karachi and descriptions of food ranging from wedding feasts to Bazaar snacks, this is far from just a cookbook. It’s the sort of lovely book that’s perfect for reading in bed or in the bath. But be warned, it’ll transport you to colourful Indian streets where chefs with manicured silver moustaches conjure up earthy meals with notes of musk and bursts of fresh chilli and ginger. You’ll be ransacking your cupboards for spices in the morning.

Ivor Peters grew up in 1970s Britain and so his memories of falling in love with curry as a young boy in Slough mingle with ones of hot summers, street cricket, fishfingers and a pair of orange curtains. His Curry Memoirs offer great recipes for home-cooked spiced food that are influenced by the East and married with Western cuisine. These are introduced to us through fascinating, often amusing stories that have obviously been as lovingly passed through the generations as some of the recipes.

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The Urban Rajah had a spell as a pirate radio DJ, is a food writer with a great blog full of travel, style and food, and has a highly acclaimed pop-up restaurant, Cash n Curry. A social enterprise dedicated to raising funds for projects helping India’s street children, profits from Cash n Curry also help to liberate trafficked children and those in bonded labour. Some of the author royalties from this book will also be donated by the Urban Rajah to support these organisations.

SocialEnterprise

One of the things that makes his Curry Memoirs such an enjoyable read is the way that the Urban Rajah’s zest for adventure, as well as food, is evident from every page.

It reminds us of the comforting warmth of a family kitchen as well as tempting us with some far-flung escapism. We begin with the chapatti shuffle in the Peter’s kitchen, are led past Asian camp food high atop cliffs of Big Sur, and are taken via a Siberian Duck Curry on a trip to a lake fringed with man-sized rushes near Karachi.

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I also like the way that a lot of the dishes seem to be a lot healthier than the dumbed down ghee-laden dishes that often pass for ‘Indian’ food in this country. I’ve only travelled to India once, to Kerala, where I stayed at a fantastic homestay and enjoyed the beautifully spiced home-cooking of our hosts. It included lots of fresh fish and vegetables, plenty of fresh-tasting home-made chutneys and I couldn’t resist wrangling an invite into the family kitchen to see how these dishes were made. Curry leaves, black mustard seeds, fresh ginger and chillis were used a lot, all adding flavour to great local produce. Much of it growing within sight of the table where we ate.

Many of the dishes in this book remind me a lot of the fragrant southern Indian food I enjoyed on this trip; I was glad to see a Kingfish curry included as well as a Keralan Fish Stew. There are lots of dishes that are new to me that I’m eager to cook too. In fact I have a feeling that this is going to be one of those books on my kitchen shelf full of tell-tale food spattered pages. It’ll also be a book that I’ll reach for when in need of a feel-good read. As the Urban Rajah proclaims:

“This book isn’t just about nutrition, it’s about nourishment at every level. It’s about food to fill your senses and bellies and spark a lust for adventure.”

Curry Memoirs

 With many thanks to Headline publishing for my review copy of The Urban Rajah’s Curry Memoirs by Ivor Peters. Published in hardback and ebook by Headline on 9th May 2013.

All photos used in this post are from The Urban Rajah’s Curry Memoirs by Ivor Peters. See www.urbanrajah.com.

 

glorious british grub – the fabulous baker brothers

It was the custard creams with ‘Eat me’ stamped into them that appealed when I first looked at the new book by the Fabulous Baker Brothers. They immediately made me want to start creaming butter and sugar, put the oven on and make a nice pot of tea to go with them.

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Maybe it’s the chilly, damp, in fact properly British weather we’ve been having that drew me to the cheery comfort of the afternoon tea section. But recipes for gloriously buttery home-made Custard Creams and Bourbon biscuits, and Jammies (very generous sized Jammie Dodgers that look as if they’d be wonderful with raspberry jam in the middle) would surely be tempting at any time. There’s something about the mix of nostalgia, sweet chocolate fillings and home-made jam that makes a traditional teatime such an irresistible institution.

Kate Glover of Lahloo Tea gives a great insight into the ‘Magic of Tea’ in this chapter, touching on the “terroir” of tea. She declares that:

“Tea is just what you need on a cold rainy day when you are sitting by the fire with hot buttered crumpets and a good book.”

Of course this book isn’t all about teatime; Tom and Henry Herbert take you through a day of glorious grub, from breakfast to brunch, lunch, picnics, barbecues, dinner and pudding. Finally, there are ideas for midnight snacks, for when as Tom says:

“..the people you are with are just too good to let go, these kinds of snacks will keep the party alive.”

Even here, alongside the Fiery Fish Balls (made to fuel Blackpool revelry) and Popping Candy Truffles there’s a nostalgic, comforting element with Anchovy Soldiers made with  sourdough suggested as a salty treat to go with a Scotch.

The Food in ‘Glorious British Grub’ strikes me as a combination of lashings of homely and old-fashioned food (which has a great appeal to me) and ideas with a more innovative, contemporary twist. Perhaps something to do with the fact that Tom and Henry Herbert are young foodies with a strong family food heritage.

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Hobbs House Bakery, the Cotswolds based family business that they’re part of goes back five generations. Henry runs the traditional butcher’s shop which shares a front door with Hobbs House Bakery in Chipping Sodbury, so has some great ideas for cooking and buying meat from pie-fillings to pulled pork. I particularly like his section on buying and cooking steak, which highlights some of the cheaper cuts that we’ve forgotten what to do with. Cheaper cuts that are often minced are highlighted by Henry in his ‘New Steaks on the Block’ section where he suggests cooking as steaks, cuts like False Filet, Skirt and Hanger Steak:

“Often cheaper and more flavoursome, these steaks are making a big noise. As long as they are cooked and carved right, they can be mind-blowing for a fraction of the price of the Big Flour.”

Like their current TV series, this book is based on the baker brothers travels around the country over the last year; they visited six popular sightseeing hotspots, meeting great food producers (a passion for good ingredients is evident throughout their recipes), getting inspiration for some glorious british grub and encouraging cafe and restaurant owners to get back to proper cooking with proper local ingredients. This may include cooking dishes with mackerel and beef when visiting Exmouth or taking part in a scone-off in Bourton-on-the-Water.

I have to admit that the more gimmicky recipes developed to be eye-catching on the TV series such as ‘Shakespeare’s Codpiece’ (pulled pork with a spiced filling and filo pastry) or the Blackpool inspired Pleasure Cake (a big cake with smashed rock and popping candy, topped with candy floss and LED lights) didn’t immediately appeal. Not that I’m a kill-joy when faced with a fabulously decadent dish – the rhubarb knickerbocker glory with pistachios is on my list to try very soon.

And I obviously like the fact that the pulled pork (I love the recipe for this alone without adding the fussiness of the filo pastry) is spiced up with Elizabethan inspired ingredients. It’s a good point that although some of the seasonings in tempting dishes like roast beetroot with puy lentils or goats curd and mint salad sound both exotic and to add a contemporary twist, British cooks have actually been adept in using spices since the Crusades.

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It’s just that when I read about the grandpa Wells inspired Bacon Porridge,  ‘Overnight Porridge’, home-cured bacon with juniper berries and coriander or even how to make a proper Cornish pasty, I decided that I prefer the simple dishes that show that this butcher and baker duo may be very charismatic on telly but they also really know their stuff food-wise. In fact, back to their bakery background again, some of the bread recipes are the ones that I’m keen to make first. They’re perfectly chosen to go with the dishes they accompany, from the wheaten bed with hot-smoked trout pate to rotis to go with lamb. And they may even make an appearance in my kitchen before the custard creams.

THE FABULOUS BAKER BROTHERS GLORIOUS BRITISH GRUB IS PUBLISHED BY HEADLINE PRICED £20.

The Fabulous Baker Brothers - Glorious British Grub - Cover Image (1)

 I received a review copy of this book from Headline. All photos in this piece are by Chris Terry.

shower buns and wild nordic food

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Always a fan of home-baking, being surrounded by snowy fields has added to my enthusiasm for the joy of bread. The fantastic homely aroma and knowing exactly what’s gone into my loaves are factors. Then there’s the fact that we’re snowbound, with no shops in walking distance.

So on reviewing ‘the nordic diet’ by Trine Hahnemann, I was delighted to read of the emphasis on “home-cooking with fresh ingredients, including home-baked bread.” Home-baked bread that appears both healthy and enticing too, using interesting, nutritious flour such as spelt and rye.

I’m also quite partial to easy bread recipes, ones that are nutitious and tasty but fit easily into everyday life. Flatbread is a favourite of mine, and I make a Norwegian mountain bread from Nigella’s ‘How to be a Domestic Goddess’ regularly, one that feels healthy including lots of oats, wheatgerm and seeds but requires no kneading and ‘proves’ in the oven. But now I’m very excited about trying some of Trine’s nordic recipes. Crispbread, with rye flour and crushed caraway seeds look easy to make and should store well too, while the “sweet and nutty” blueberry buns look delicious and very realistic for a weekend morning. I’ve already made the spelt baguettes to go with supper one evening; they were tasty, wholesome and described by Ruby as “the most wonderful bread in the world!” Playing in the snow beforehand may have had something to do with it, but still quite a compliment!

Shower buns though, are the ones that I’m most eager to try. The idea is that you make the dough on an evening and leave it to prove slowly in the fridge overnight. So that the next morning you can pop your rolls in the oven to bake while you’re in the shower. Freshly baked rolls for breakfast and all those reassuring smells wafting around the house without too much trouble sounds very tempting to me.

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One of the other things that immediately appealed to me about ‘the nordic diet’ is the way that Trine has so many interesting recipes that I can make with home-grown and foraged produce. There’s brussels sprouts with apples and walnut oil, potato and kale salad, and recipes with nettles, ramsons (wild garlic), elderberries, rosehips (some great cordials) and lots of herbs. Her explanation of a Nordic diet and its benefits is also very appealing:

“It is based on the produce available in the Northern hemisphere, where many grain and vegetable crops grow naturally or have ideal conditions…”

Describing the balance that we need in our diet for a healthy and happy life, Trine continues:

“The Nordic diet offers such a balance, with its focus on lots of different whole grains, root and green vegetables, locally caught fish and game, grass-fed lamb and free-range poultry. It comes allied with a growing organic, eco-conscious movement and a focus on seasonality, so that during the year we dine more or less according to what nature has to offer.”

She describes how it’s possible to lose weight by eating less, following a Nordic diet and combining this with regular exercise, but I also like the fact that this isn’t a book about depriving yourself. It’s full of good, home-cooked food that’s full of flavour, and Trine writes a lot about enjoying meals with family and friends. With its emphasis on an outdoor lifestyle too (whether growing, foraging or eating outdoors) this is a book that celebrates the simple pleasures of life as well as food.

There are some lovely ideas for fish and shellfish. Fried herring with beetroot and horseradish (another wild ingredient) sauce looks simple but delicious and nicely frugal too. I also want to try Trine’s fishcakes very soon; they use healthy English ingredients including salmon, porridge oats, grated carrot and squash and look delicious. I like the addition of lemon thyme to these healthy fishcakes too, especially as it’s something that still grows like crazy here in the winter. I think it is, anyway, will have to wait until the snow’s gone to see quite how hardy it is.

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The Nordic diet includes plenty of great vegetable dishes too and Trine is keen to point out that dishes such as rye pasta with kale and garlic and brown rice risotto with mushrooms can be satisfying main meals. She says that the fundamentals of the Nordic diet includes eating fish twice a week at least, eating vegetarian meals twice a week and eating game, chicken or meat only 3 times a week at most. The meat recipes in this book mainly make good use of either free-range chicken or wild meat, from leg of wild boar, to venison meatballs or tarragon chicken with jerusalem artichokes.

This is a very attractive approach to me – I would far rather rear or buy the best meat I can afford and use it sparingly or for fewer meals, than try to feed my family with cheap, intensively farmed meat for most meals. Surely this is better for us as well as our environment. And I definitely plan to cook more venison this year. It’s plentiful, as organic and free-range as you can get, healthy and affordable. I like Trine’s take on game/wild meat:

“Growing in the wild, game meat is healthier, leaner and more digestible. If cutting down on meat intake, it makes sense to cut down on farmed meat and poultry and switch to wild game when it is in season.”

Trine also points out that the nordic diet is comparable in terms of nutrition and health to the sun-ripened mediterranean diet. It includes so many ingredients that we can easily grow, forage for or buy locally in our northern climes. Root vegetables, brassicas, herbs and berries are key components. All very attractive reasons for me to incorporate it into my way of cooking. Especially as there still seems to be room for homemade cakes.

Will definitely be trying to remember Trine’s advice:

“Getting back into the kitchen, cooking healthy food from fresh ingredients, regularly setting a table nicely and sitting down to share a meal: these are among the keys to healthy and happy living.”

The Nordic Diet_9781844007967

 

THE NORDIC DIET by TRINE HAHNEMANN, published by Quadrille

Photos ©LARS RANEK

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