Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Farmers' Markets: The Unsung Heroes

Praises are regularly sung about all the fantastic ingredients you can get from farmers' markets. Fruit, vegetables, meat, cheese are all wonderful artisan ingredients that are picked up and turned into a glorious meal at home. What about those things which you don't use in another meal; the ones that are ready to eat? 
Here are some of my farmers' market heroes, the stalls and people you turn to to cheer up your stomach and put a big smile on your face.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Sloe and Hedgerow Gin: The Taste Test

Some of you may know that I made my own sloe gin this year. It all started on a warm September afternoon with a kilo of sloes, a sprinkling of sugar and a litre of fine gin. It's something I've never even attempted before but I thought how hard can it be?
Turns out it's extremely simple. Put it all together and leave the flavours and juices to mingle and infuse for as long as you can wait.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Onion Squash and Blue Cheese Risotto

What is it about a squash that makes you warm from the inside out as you enjoy its beautiful sweet flesh. It could be the bright orange colour, a welcome sight amidst all the greens and browns of autumn. It could be the way it goes with pretty much everything: it can be soup, stew, curry, pudding; the list is endless, although I've not heard of anyone making squash gin or squash vodka. I had heard that the onion squash was the nicest of all the squashes as it has the most flavour. For me I think it is the sweetest and brightest of the lot.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Restaurants - how many visits does it take?

How many times should you have to visit a restaurant to work out what it's actually like? Perhaps I should rephrase this. How much money should you have to spend in a restaurant to work out the quality of the food and service?
Let's take the first question. If the chef is having a bad day, they're short on staff and really busy it might not necessarily be the most incredible olfactory experience you've ever had. Take the opposite scenario where everything is perfect, how come you can still leave hideously disappointed? There are so many factors involved but despite any issues the establishment is having, we the customer, should be the priority.
When I first ate in Forbury's in Reading the food was good but the waiter ruined our experience. I went back recently and it is one of the best places I have eaten in a very long time. The atmosphere was different, the waiter wasn't snarling like a disgruntled goat and the food was incredible. If I had based my opinion solely on my first experience I probably wouldn't have gone back. I would have never known what I was missing.
There are only so many times you will keep trying and keep spending money in the same place before you get fed up. If the food is amazing but the service is awful do they cancel each other out and vice versa; I know I'm guilty of returning somewhere with impeccable service but average food.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Delicate Carrot Soup

Sometimes carrots can be taken for granted. The base of a soup or stew, added to stock or shoved on the side of the plate. What a shame. They are such glorious things in their own right and there is no carrot sweeter than a home grown carrot. I planted these little beauties a few months back expecting them to be riddled with carrot fly and a complete disaster. The results have been quite the opposite. I am now inundated.