Thursday, 26 September 2013

Lamb Chops with roasted garden vegetables

As you have most probably gathered I love local and seasonal produce,in fact its one of the main reasons I have a blog after all. So I was really pleased to spot a new blog challenge from Elizabeths Kitchen Diary  to become involved in, the "Shop Local" campaign is all about sharing the love of local producers. This dish couldn't be any more local, it uses Lamb chops sourced from the farm just up the lane from where I live marinated in a chutney from a great local producer FATJAX  and served with  roasted vegetables all sourced from our very own garden.

The dish is as easy of falling off a log and unlike most of the other methods for cooking lamb chops doesn't fill your kitchen with acrid fatty cooking fumes, everything is cooked in the oven so its an easy week day meal.

Whilst any North West England based readers will be able to get hold of Fatjax chutney at various outlets in the area, my local farmer doesn't sell to the public, but any good local lamb should work in this dish.

What you need
  • Lamb chops - I used Barnsley chops
  • Couple of tablespoons of Fatjax sweet onion and chilli chutney
  • Selection of peeled and roughly chopped vegetables ( I used golden beetroot, courgette, patty pan, red onion and red pepper)
  • A little olive or rapeseed oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Thyme - sprig picked over
What you do
  • Pre heat your oven to 180c
  • Whilst your heats up rub the chutney and picked thyme into the lamb chops, put to one side
  • Prepare your vegetables, toss in a little oil and season with salt and pepper and place in an oven proof dish ( I use my Pampered Chef stoneware dish)
  • Place the vegetables in the oven for 10 minutes and then pop in your lamb chops to bake for 35 minutes or so
  • When roasted until crispy and the vegetables caramelised serve to your hungry hoards.

Shop Local

Friday, 20 September 2013

Bakewell Oaty slice

There is nothing better on a decidedly autumnal day than a tray-bake, this bake is inspired by the iconic Bakewell Tart / pudding which originates from Bakewell in Derbyshire. The flavours do not disappoint and the bake has proved popular with friends. The bake stores fine for a couple of days in an airtight tin.

What you need
  • 200g rolled oats
  • 60g plain flour
  • 100g ground almonds
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 175g unsalted butter
  • Almond extract - good slug
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 3 tbsp jam (ideally strawberry or raspberry)
  • flaked almonds
  • Oil spray for greasing tin
  • 2" deep baking tray / tin about 10 inches long by 5 inch wide
What you need to do
  • Oil spray your baking tin, lightly, set to one side
  • Pre heat your oven to 170c
  • Melt the butter and syrup in a pan, gently, once melted remove from heat and add the almond extract
  • Mix in a large bowl the oats, flour and almonds and the pinch of salt
  • Stir in the melted butter mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly until all the mix is slightly moist
  • Spoon half of the mix into the tin and press firmly down into the pan with a fork, getting into all corners and producing an even layer.
  • Now tip in the jam and squish it across the base but keep away from the edges as the jam will spread as it cooks
  • Now use the rest of the oaty mixture to top off the jam, using a fork to press down firmly to create an even top, sprinkle with flaked almonds if using
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes, until lightly golden, be careful not to overcook as when dry they don't hold together well.
  • Cool in the tin fully and then chop into pieces as desired.

I am taking part in Tea Time Treats hosted this month by Lavender and Lovage , who's theme this month is Flapjacks, oats and traybakes.

Tea Time Treats

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Chocolate Damson Cake for Nigel Slater Dish of the month

A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by an old work colleague with the kind offer of plundering her damson tree's in her garden. So initially my thoughts were to store my plunder and make jam, which I have done even having enough to squirrel away for our WI winter sale later in the year, but I wanted to do something different with the small quantity I had leftover.

Well lucky me, as I spotted a tweet by same lady to Nigel Slater, mentioning his chocolate damson cake, so off I went hoping that I had the Nigel Slater recipe in my collection of  his cookery books. Fortunately I did, the recipe is in Kitchen Diaries II, his most recent publication to date.

Damsons are one of Nigel's favourite fruits and many of his book's feature recipes using this most English of stone fruits.

The resultant bake is very moist and gooey but also very delicious, ideal served as a dessert either plain or simply with cream. The damsons provide a fruity ripple to the brownie like cake and the cake went down very well with the staff at BBC Radio Lancashire as this was the bake I took into the studio. The slightly sharp damsons contrast beautifully with the rich chocolate flavours.

I am using this bake as my contribution towards Dish of the Month hosted by Farmers Girl kitchen this month.


Monday, 9 September 2013

September - Cheese Of the Month

This months Cheese of the month is 

Fiery Jack
From Kick-Ass Cheeses

Check out the the post here

Sunday, 8 September 2013

The Chocolate Rooms by Choc Amor

This week a beautiful new chocolate shop opened in a the quaint West Lancashire of Tarleton, but what it signifies to me is the amazing foodie journey that Paul and Jacqui the owners has been on. Paul decided just over 12 months ago to become a chocolatier and took the life changing gamble to become an artisan producer of amazing chocolate confections. The first time I met Paul was on a cold snowy day in Chorley at their small farmers market, his passion for great chocolate immediately shone through as we chomped on his fantastic wares.

Now an award winning chocolatier (Great Taste 2013), Paul and  the team at Choc Amor has opened The Chocolate Rooms, a venue where all can enjoy great chocolate, coffee and cake ! you can actually experience much more as the team are keen also to showcase other great local artisan food producers on their coffee shop menu too and for you to purchase and take away.

Choc Amor already have an outlet at Botany Bay in Chorley and you can find out more about this on an earlier post here, but the Chocolate Rooms are something else.

The Chocolate Rooms are in a sensitively converted old agricultural building, here you'll find easy parking and a warm chocolately welcome, their is also a viewing facility so you can watch Lancashire's own "Willy Wonka" at work, creating the delectable creations which you can purchase in the shop. You can also book parties for both adults and children, which of course feature chocolate and hands on chocolate classes are also planned too (might have to try one of those).

The cakes are all handmade on the premises and will hopefully feature the chocolate scones that I experienced on our visit (amazing when filled with black forest jam and cream !) plus other chocolately cakes alongside traditional favourites. Great teas and coffees and of course hot chocolate and a savouries menu to offset all that sweetness.

You can find The Chocolate Rooms just of the A59 in Tarleton village, just pop PR4 6UP in your sat nav. Its well worth a visit (or more in my case) to sample and purchase this handmade, small batch artisan chocolate.

The Rooms will be open Tuesday to Friday 9-5ish, Saturday 10-5 and Sunday 10-4. Closed Mondays. Tarleton is on the A59 between Southport and Preston. 

You can also find Choc Amor on Facebook and twitter too.

The French at the Midland by Simon Rogan

As a little pre birthday treat a few weeks ago I decided to book a table for lunch at The French by Simon Rogan the Midland Hotel in Manchester. We haven't experienced Simon's food before but given the number of great reviews from my fellow bloggers I thought it was about time we ventured to the big city to give this venue a try, I must admit I was somewhat nervous of what the experience would be like and would it live up to the expectations built in my mind.

The French is a beautiful restaurant which has existed in the Midland Hotel since 1903, earlier this year Simon Rogan took over the reins and sensitively brought the French up to date, with a stunning tastefully refurbished decor and an equally stunning dining menu, city centre Manchester finally has a restaurant which might just possibly become a michelin star holder . The restaurant  has been so successful that a second more informal international restaurant will be opening across the hotel reception in a couple of weeks time.


Firstly an apology as you not getting any food piccies as I just wanted to be a diner not a blogger for this lunch and enjoy the whole taste experience. The decor is a gentle muted style with more than nod to the beauty of nature, I especially like the carpeting that looked that planks of wood and the globe chandeliers are amazing ,something you can just gaze at for hours. But we are here for the food not the decor.

We were welcomed by the friendly and attentive staff, which immediately put us at our ease as we were talked through the three set menu's we could choose from. As this was lunch we plumped for the three courses, to open with were served an appetiser of crispy kale with english truffle and chives, this light as a feather taste sensation was amazing, a beautiful truffly mouthful, you tasted every flavour. This small dish already started to show me why Simon Rogan has two michelin stars to his name, magical....

Next to arrive where two amazing bread trays, one each both containing a dinky french baguette, a manchester ale roll, dark and intriguing and a hunk of some amazing looking chestnut bread, all served with whipped butter sprinkled with sea salt. We both love real bread, appreciating that bread making is an artisan craft, we were very impressed, the bread was all delicious and still a little warm from the oven. The crunchy dinky french bread was well flavoured and with a crunchy crust, the ale bread earthly dark and malty (a little reminiscent of More Artisan's Treacle bread but without the sweetness) and the deliciously chewy nutty chestnut bread. Having the butter whipped lightened the overall impact on the bread and the touch of crunchy sea salt was great. Both touches allowed the bread to sing.

First course - Grilled radish, scallops, bronze fennel, smoked roe, now I am not a real fan of radish but whatever the kitchen at the French did to these radish turned this into something amazing, the vegetables and herbs becoming the star of the show, the scallops were perfectly cooked, just simply a stunning dish. Mr LF would have licked the plate if I would have let him.

Second Course - Reg's chicken with blewits, beans and mugwort, this dish had both chicken thigh and breast in it, both melt in your mouth tender, with crispy skin, earthy mossy mushrooms, crunchy yet tender green and golden french beans, char grilled spring onions ( I never knew a spring onion could taste so good) and a delicious gravy / sauce with just a hint of mugwort to make it intensively savoury. 

Dessert - Cherries, sweet cheese, hazelnut, sorrel - flavourful soaked sliced fresh cherries with a sweet creamy soft goats cheese frozen parfait, served with a crunchy hazlenutty granola and a few leaves of wood sorrel, drizzled with a sweet sticky sauce. So simple, so fresh but a taste sensation.

A surprise course appeared, a  treat of  Sasparilla drink, sasparilla meringue, sasparilla parfait and sasaprilla gel, wonderfully aromatic, this rounded off the meal perfectly.

Overall we were blown away by the flavours, textures and the amazing combinations of essentially simple fresh ingredients but cooked perfectly and combined with precision, all we can say is the man is a genius. 


Saturday, 7 September 2013

Old fashioned fruit loaf cake

I have mentioned previously that Mr Lancashire Food has joined a walking club, so this week I had a special request for a buttery fruit cake, that would survive being in a rucksack for a couple of hours. So this is an old fashioned fruit cake, the type that your granny used to make for afternoon tea, seriously it would be great with tea or coffee though and keeps fantastically  wrapped in foil. In my humble opinion its better kept a few days before eating in fact.

What you need
  • 175g soft butter
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 3 tbsp runny honey
  • 3 eggs - beaten
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 125g - dried fruit of your choice (raisins, currants, sultanas, etc)
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 2lb loaf, lined 
What you do
  • Pre heat the oven to 180c
  • Cream the butter and sugar together, once light and fluffy slowly add the eggs, adding a little of the flour if needed to prevent curdling
  • Now mix the rest of the ingredients, adding a little more milk if needed if the mixture is very dry.
  • Spoon your mixture into the lined loaf tin and smooth level
  • Bake for approximately 50 -60 minutes, until golden, well risen and tested cooked with a skewer.
  • Cool initially in the tin and then cool on a wire rack.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

September - A Quick Bite of Lancashire Food

Paul Ainscough - Fatjax Chutneys

Paul is one of the talented chefs behind the Fatjax label chutneys and relishes, their artisan range is an essential in any local foodies store cupboard.

FATJAX bring you a selection of Cheeky Chutneys, Ravishing Relishes, Delectable Dressings and Serious Sauces for all to enjoy. FATJAX have a range of chutney's and relish's ranging from a fiery Bengali pineapple (so popular it has its won twitter handle !) to something as simple as mushroom. All their range have that little touch of class and show their love of chutney and relish in each jar. The range is made with all natural produce and no artificial colours or preservatives. 

You can purchase their fab range in most local quality deli's and food hall and also at many of the local farmers markets, where you can sample their range.

Paul has kindly agreed to answer our now familiar questions for A quick bite of Lancashire food.

  • What is your favourite cookery or food book or publication ?
I have an extensive collection of Victorian and Edwardian cook books. My favourite is a book for the cooks in large country houses from the turn of the last century. It has menu's for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, high tea, dinner and supper for every day of the year. It also tells the cook what to order and in what quantities as well. Its a bible of cooking.

  • What sentence sums up Lancashire Food to you ?
Tasty wholesome food from some of the country's top producers. 

  • If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would you like to be ?
Landscape photographer.

  • Which piece of kit could you not do without ?
My stick blender, essential kit in my kitchen.

  • Who would join you at your ultimate dinner party and why? 
As a passionate photographer, I would invite Don McCullin, Tim Page, Charlie Whaite, Joe Cornish and of course Andsell Adams.
All are amazing photographers, the first two made their name as war photographers in the Vietnam war. Don McCullin now does amazing landscapes. Charlie Whaite and Joe Cornish are both fantastic landscape photographers and of course the master himself of landscapes Andsell Adams.
All of them have produced some amazing images in both the subjects that I have a great interest in.

  •  What advice would you give to your younger self ?
Slow down and think more about big decisions.

  • Describe your style in three words
Taste first !!!!

  • What was your latest foodie gadget purchase ?
I don't do gadgets, a sharp 4 inch paring knife will do almost everything you need in the kitchen.

  • What is your greatest achievement to date ?
I have cooked for the Duke of Edinburgh and most of Margaret Thatcher's cabinet, plus a few celebrities too, including Michael Parkinson, but setting FatJax up and running takes some beating to be honest .

  • What is the worst mistake you have made ?
Leaving a 60lb turkey in the oven for a manager to take out. Very big mistake. He forgot it and we ended up with a big lump of charcoal and no turkey for a function.....!! After that I always do it myself.

  • Tell us a secret about yourself ? may be something we wouldn't expect !
I'm into military history in a big way, I grew up watching the Vietnam war on TV in the 60's and wanted to know what it was all about, the rest they say is history.

Liquorice Allsorts Cake

The theme for this month's cake club was Back to School sweetie favourites, never a great one for sweets I decided to create a cake in homage to one of my Dad's favourites, a liquorice allsort cake. I bought a pack of allsorts to decide which one to create and plumped for the round pink one with a liquorice centre.

I once again turned to what is rapidly becoming one of my baking bibles - The Birthday Cake Book by Fiona Cairns for the underlying liquorice toffee cake recipe and liquorice toffee buttercream and then came up with a simple bright pink fondant topping with a black fondant ring inset in the top of the cake and then decorated with assorted liquorice allsorts.

I normally make my cake the night before I need it so it has time to cool fully and rest and it makes for easier decoration too.

What you need to make the cake 
  • 85g butter softened
  • 100ml milk ( I used skimmed and it worked fine)
  • 30g liquorice, roughly chopped
  • 200g chopped dates
  • 175g self raising flour- sieve onto a plate
  • 1 tsp bicarb- sieve onto a plate 
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 2 eggs , lightly beaten in a mug
  • Baking parchment to line the base of your baking tins
  • Oil spray / cake release spray to grease your baking tins
What you need to make the buttercream
  • 100g demerara sugar
  • 60ml double cream
  • 1 tbsp treacle
  • 30g liquorice, chopped roughly
  • 170g butter softened
  • 200g icing sugar
What you need to do 
  • Grease and base line your cake tins (I used 2 x 20cm cake tins, deepest you have as the mixture grows quite a lot, the original recipe calls for 2 x 15cm by 7.5cm deep !, so if necessary use 3 tins or use excess mixture in muffin tins)
  • Preheat your oven to 170c (fan)
  • In a saucepan, bring the milk and chopped liquorice (cake) to the boil, once at the boil remove from the heat , squish the liquorice and then leave to infuse for about least 30  minutes or so, strain and retain the liquorice milk.
  • In a separate bowl soak the chopped dates in 175ml of boiling water, leave them to soak for at least 20 minutes, mush with a fork until you have a smoothish paste.
  • Cream the butter and sugar (from the cake ingredients) until light and fluffy, then gradually add the eggs, adding a little of the flour if in danger of curdling.
  • Fold in the rest of the flour, mushy dates and liquorice milk.
  • Spoon the mixture in to the baking tins and level
  • Bake for approx 30 minutes until golden and tested cooked with a skewer
  • Leave to cool for about 10 minutes in the tins, then remove and cool fully on a wire rack, removing the baking parchment
Now on to the buttercream and decoration
  • Firstly lets make the buttercream, cream the icing sugar and softened butter until you have a smooth no grainy fluffy buttercream, leave to one side.
  • To make the caramel, in a heavy based pan slowly dissolve the demerara sugar with 3 tbsp water, once the sugar has dissolved, bring to the boil, do not stir, allow to boil until the mixture turns a lovely caramel colour and has thickened slightly.
  • Remove from the heat and add the cream and treacle to the pan, stir well and then the chopped liquorice and bring to the boil, turn the pan down and keep stirring until thick and glossy.
  • Remove from heat and leave to cool , remove the chunks of liquorice ( this is hard work as the caramel is very sticky, I used a cocktail stick to spear the pieces)
  • Now whisk the caramel (please ensure this is cooled sufficiently as you will split your buttercream) in to the buttercream
  • Use about a third of the buttercream mixture to fill the cake, then cover the whole cake in a coat of buttercream, leave to set in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
  • Roll out cerise fondant to cover the cake. Smooth and shine.
  • Cut a suitable sized hole in the top of the cake with a round cutter and remove the cerise fondant
  • Roll out a small quantity of black fondant and place in the hole, now stick lots of liquorice allsorts around the base of the cake with edible glue.
  • Ta dah ! Liquorice allsort cake

CCC No 18 - Back to School Sweetie Favourites - South Lancashire CCC - Tootsies, Botany Bay, Chorley

Not to be confused with an Australian penal colony, South Lancashire Clandestine Cake Club paid a visit to Botany Bay near Chorley. Our August meeting was kindly hosted by Tootsies an amazing ice cream parlour in this retail mill, who serve some amazing looking ice cream sundaes and desserts, we had planned to hold the event in the garden area but as the weather had turned chilly we decided to re-locate inside to the cosy ice cream parlour instead.

The Cake selection

We were also fortunate to be joined by Lynn Hill for our event, the founder of the Clandestine Cake Club movement. Lynn was having a very cakey day by visiting Bolton cake club earlier in the afternoon but joining us for our meeting.

Lynn Hill (Founder of CCC) and myself

Our theme was a celebration of Back to School recollections and your favourite sweetie treats from the tuck shop. Members old and new arrived with some fabulous interpretations of the theme and we were pleased to welcome back chief cake taster Theon as well !

Wonderful cakes !

  • Liquorice Allsorts Cake
  • Dolly mixture cake
  • Parma Violet Cake
  • Rhubarb and custard cake
  • Sherbet Fountain Cake
  • Lemony Lemonade cake
  • Curly Wurly Cake
  • Chocoholic cake
  • Courgette and nut cake
Tootsies were great hosts catering to all our needs and the ice creams and the amazing array of cakes attracted lots of attention from the general public too.

We also had two members who got mixed up on the date but still baked some great cakes, a pick and mix cake and five centre bar cake.

Cheese of the Month - No 09

Pextenement Devils Rock Blue

This month's cheese of the month is our first blue - Devils Rock from Pextenement in Todmorden ( before you ask, yes its counts, old parish Lancashire you see like Manchester and Liverpool, traditionally the border of the two counties was the River Calder which runs through the middle of the town) and also I purchased at Sawley Farmers Market too ! 

Pextenement are a small organic artisan cheese company making a small but interesting range of cheese from milk from their own cows. 

Devils Rock Blue is a tangy blue cheese which when ripe oozes beautifully , being well flavored and the most tangy of the range of cheeses produced by the farm, a soft, delicate blue and lusciously creamy, named after a rock perched at the top of the hill behind the Farm.

I understand that the family have a mixture of breeds in their herd and they produce a high 4.4% fat milk – not quite that of a Jersey cow but much higher than the standard 3.8% fat in normal milk and they are organic too. The resulting cheeses are really creamy with a great mouth feel.

We left the cheese to get suitable oozy at room temperature so we could experience the full flavour of the cheese.
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