I've been cooking on my tiny little barbecue in my tiny little back yard while I wait to move house. All my belongings are in storage. I have one frying pan, a handful of cooking tools and the smallest fridge you have ever seen, with a bloody stupid shelf at the bottom, where all the salad stuff is stored underneath meaning I have to move everything, everyday to get at a friggin' leaf of lettuce. I realise how spoilt I've been in the past in my beautiful kitchen BUT it hasn't stopped me! My local farm shop butchery has been providing me with the best ever flank steak and at about £7 a slab it's an economical steak meal for the three of us here in lockdown. So I've been making fajita's because my friend Nic Miller (follow her on Twitter @nicmillerstale or Insta @millerstale) shared her recipe for wheat tortillas and I wanted to make them. Mine came out square, I'm blaming the lack of a rolling pin. You'll find the recipe and instruction for my fajita seasoned flank steak here. Flank steak is often seen on a menu described as a bavette steak. This is not the cut to use if you don't 'do' rare. The flank has long muscle fibres and can be tough if overcooked, it's also very lean and best sliced thinly across the grain for optimum tenderness. Cook it on a very high heat for 2 or 3 minutes a side and then cover with foil and rest for 10 mins. I generally put mine in the oven after it has been turned off, so no heat, just warm surroundings. Slice and serve rolled in the tortilla with fried onions, peppers, tomato salsa, guacomole, grated cheese, sour cream and slobber your way through.
- Two lovely pieces of flank
- Seasoned and herbed up
- Freeze in bags for later
- Cook over a very high heat and only for a couple of minutes a side
- Slice across the grain once it has rested
- Add your own salsa, avocado and cheese
- they call me square
Now's the time to make your delicious fragrant Elderflower Cordial, capturing the taste of summer. You must pick the elderflowers on a dry, warm and sunny day, when the flower heads are fully open. They must be perfect, with no trace of brown blossoms or squatters. Do not wash them so make sure that you pick them from an area where they are unikely to have been contaminated by wildlife or passing vehicles.The cordial will keep for several weeks in a cool pantry, several months in the fridge or alternatively freeze in plastic containers and it will keep for a year. Citric acid is available from chemists and DIY wine making suppliers, also worth looking in Middle Eastern shops.
It's going to be hot this weekend so prepare for some al fresco fire cooking. Make yourselves a jar of dry rub ready for your beef. Spice blends, or dry rubs are rubbed into meat before cooking. Some say that salt should not be included in a rub as meat should be dry brined by rubbing in salt a day in advance, in order for the salt to penetrate the meat. The spices in a rub do not tend to penetrate the meat but will help form the delicious spicy crust (or bark). However as we are all so short of time in our busy lives, I make an all in one rub, mixing the salt into the rub and leaving it on the meat overnight in the fridge. Sugar is a matter of taste and needed to help caramelise the crust. I use just a little on beef. Experiment with your own spice blends and store in an airtight jar. Use on a whole joint of rib eye or sirloin for a real treat.
- Cooked on a high heat over the fire creates a good bark but still pink in the middle
- I had a joint of very lean sirloin which I rubbed and left for 24hrs
- Making the rub in a mini blender is easy
The effects of lockdown have torn through the food industry like a tornado. Food businesses forced to close, with many restaurants staying open for takeaway and every day another business re-opening to dip it's toe into the online-delivery-takeaway market. Suppliers normally serving the trade have had to diversify and react swiftly, some offering online orders and deliveries to the public. Pubs have become community shops. Corner shops have kept us supplied with the store cupboard basics. Store cupboards have determined the dishes we can cook to nourish ourselves and our families. While chefs live stream cookery demo's from their kitchens, the niche social media experts have had to guard their territory as the stay at home population bombard us with their own sourdough, banana bread and brownie recipes. Farm shops providing deliveries, micro breweries and wineries setting up drive thru's there never has been a more challenging time to source food. The crisis has provided an opportunity to drive innovation and now is the time for us to support the independent producers who are working so hard to stay afloat. However, it's also the time for the service industries to keep in touch with their clientele, monitor consumer behaviour and continue to innovate, so that when the race back to reality begins, they're revved up and in pole position. Here's a photo gallery of some of East Anglia's innovative businesses and suppliers that I have used and that are providing top quality service and produce . You'll find plenty more if you check the many social media streams regularly. For Bury St Edmunds folk David Stapleton has created a simple and free web app directory of businesses open.
- Brays Cottage pork pie. Send a pie for a pressie.
- Jolly Asparagus has found outlets for a crop which would generally go to the restaurant industry. Snap it up at Hillcrest Nursery Stanton and Woosters Bakery (main picture)
- Watch Justin from Pea Porridge Restaurant in Bury via Instagram. Masterclasses and the weekly 'clash' with a local Chef
- Slate provisions and deli can send you a selection of cheese in the post. My British selection which arrived last week.
- Flour a problem? I got a sack from Thomas Ridley at Rougham. No account required, log in on their website as a guest.
- Woosters Bakery. Online ordering and collection from Bardwell, Bury, Wyken market.
- Brewshed Brewery pop up at The Cadogan. Ingham. Order a mini keg or take your own container for filling.
- Baron Bigod to order online from Fen Farm Dairy. Bungay
- Beerhouse pop up. Social distancing and well organised.
- Brays Cottage Pork Pie - big family size to order online.
- Order a pizza from Lucy's at Fornham St Martin. Must be pre-ordered and a time slot will be allocated. Book early - it's popular
There's a baking frenzy at the moment and many people are making their own sourdough bread. I'm a fan of traditional yeasted breads and always use fresh yeast for my bread. I generally pick some up from the bakery department at the supermarket (just ask, they'll always give you a piece.) Lot's of people have been asking me about the different types of yeast available; how to know what and how much to use in recipes. There are three main types but you bet your life that you will have a different type than specified in the recipe
Fresh yeast which must be kept chilled, will store for a couple of weeks in the fridge and also freezes nicely. Fresh yeast needs to be activated in liquid with a little sugar in order to start the fermentation. If a recipe asks for active dried yeast and you only have fresh yeast then you must double the quantity. See below.
Active dried yeast is a dried form of fresh yeast and will also need activating in the same way as fresh yeast. Active dried yeast does not need to be refrigerated.
Instant or Quick dried yeast can be added directly to the dry ingredients in a recipe and does not need activating. It is best to check the manufacturers instructions if using this.
Amount to use - 20g of fresh yeast = 10g of active dried = 5g of instant dried.
1 tsp of Active dried yeast is 3.5g.
As the weather is getting warmer and the nights are drawing out I start to get excited about summer, having fresh garden produce and forgetting about cooking warming winter soups and stews. Discover the difference that a few fresh herbs can make to your spring salads by either adding them into the salad, providing a nice contrast to the crunchy leaves of lettuce, or blitzing them into a simple vinaigrette dressing. As herbs begin to shoot in spring, or I’m lucky enough to find some that have over-wintered well, I spruce up even the plainest of salads with a few sprigs of fresh herbs. Be brave and experiment with different herbs adding vitality, texture and flavour to your meals. Make the bulk of the salad with mild flavour leaves such as Cos, Romaine, Little Gem or Lollo Rosso. Lovage – use the leaves sparingly as they add a very strong savoury flavour when raw. The first stems of spring provide the most delicate flavour. Try rubbing the salad bowl with bruised leaves to impart a milder flavour. Chives – the snipped stalks add a delicate onion (or garlicky if using Chinese chives) flavour. Hard boiled eggs, crumbled crisp bacon, watercress, steamed Jersey Royals, raw or steamed freshly podded peas all contrast well with chives and will liven up a leaf salad. Chickweed – or hip weed as I call it, now grown commercially for the restaurant trade and used in both salads and garnishes. Full of vitamin C and tastes slightly grassy, throw this in in abundance as it’s delicate, mild flavoured and if from your garden, free! Winter purslane – sometimes called Miners lettuce and grows rapidly in the spring. Add the narrow early leaves or the curious stem-wrapping leaves for a cool, mild flavour also providing a succulent and juicy texture into a leaf salad. It’s also very nice wilted as in the spinach recipe. Chervil – use the stem and leaf chopped into salads to add a subtle aniseed flavour. It complements eggs, fish and cucumber particularly well. Crab, goats curd and chervil is a favourite combination of mine.
The lockdown and subsequent closure of restaurants has proved a big problem for suppliers to the industry. Creedy Carver duck is just one that has found itself with a surplus stock and limited outlets. It's a superb free range product that generally only the Chefs get their hands on. I got mine from Field and Flower and ate duck breast with my spiced plum sauce made with plums from the freezer.
Oh let's stock up on toilet rolls, ibuprofen, hand sanitiser and pasta shall we? Mrs Madumbi, my favourite sister-in-law (yes I can have a favourite) would no doubt have amadumbe's and mulberry gin in her Zimbabwean pantry. I'm having Lindt Lindor chocolates and Cavalier rum in mine. The UK is not going to run out of food so COVID-19 panic buyers, stop punching each other in the toilet roll isle and consider giving a couple of your stockpiled cans to your local food bank.
All packed up and ready to leave for the airport and the flight cancellation crash lands into the inbox. So instead of staring miserably at the packed suitcases Mr SuffolkFoodie and I decided that a full English breakfast (£7.25 each) was the answer. Luckily the very well run cafe at Hillcrest Nursery is open on a Sunday and serves breakfast from 9am. Half English is also available.
- we may have been first in!
- a simple menu, very good scones from the counter too
- the breakfast was served with granary toast and butter
My worst nightmare on Valentine's Day is a meal out in a restaurant, crammed full of tables for two, with couples who have nothing to say to each other. So instead, if I'm in the mood, I'll cook something for Mr SuffolkFoodie from my repetoire of heart shaped meals.
- couer a la creme, a delicous cream cheese dessert (recipe on the blog)
- jammy heart biscuits (recipe on the blog)
- apple cobbler, with heart shaped cobbles, before it goes in the oven
- delicious hot baked apple cobbler, how to melt your Valentine's heart
- Butterflied rib eye steak for the carnivore
- tarted up couer a la creme, yes it can look like this
I'm pretending to be packing as I'm moving house, but lost interest after box number 8 of tat that I've hauled from charity shops and I'm now returning. So instead I'm telling you about Suffolk's latest cookery school, Mrs Portly's Kitchen. Mrs Portly is the alter ego of food writer and recipe developer Linda Duffin. Linda is an expert cook and has teamed up with some of Suffolk's finest producers who will be joining Linda in teaching the cookery classes. A fabulous Tudor house setting awaits you and the chance to explore the kitchen gardens and orchard to glean produce for the classes. If it's too far to travel in one day then you can stay the night! Be quick and sign up for the next class on January 17th - Game, where Linda is joined by field to fork expert Steve Tricker from Truly Traceable. Learn about game prep and butchery, cook dishes to take home and ... drum roll ... there's the legendary Truly Traceable game pies for lunch.