Sunday, 19 October 2014

Homemade Ricotta

Faced with a small crowd of people waiting patiently for me to show them how to make cheese I suddenly felt a little nervous. At the beginning of the year Simon, who organises EAT! Festival, asked me if I would teach a few food classes at the Festival of Thift in September. I said yes of course, and agreed to show people how to make butter, mayonnaise, salami and fresh cheese, without thinking about it much further.


I know how to make these things and have done so on many occasions, but usually only with myself for company and here I was faced with real people, who had actual questions, and were watching everything I did... Cheese made me the most nervous, because it is still a bit new to me, and the world of cheese making is vast and so far I only know about a very tiny proportion of it, namely ricotta...

But the excitement I got from making my first batch of ricotta, seeing the process happen so quickly before my eyes is worth telling others about, you should all have a go really, your own cheese feels like quite an achievement! In simple terms you heat milk, add lemon juice and you get ricotta...


I used a litre of whole milk, from this you will get about 300g of ricotta. Heat the milk in a heavy based saucepan slowly. There is little point in using skimmed or semi skimmed milk, it doesn't result in anything healthier or less fatty, the process is separating the fat out of the milk to make cheese, so you just end up with less cheese. A lady in one of my classes said she once tried it with skimmed milk and got a tablespoon of cheese from two litres of milk...

You will need a thermometer, I use my meat probe. Stir the milk gently with a wooden spoon to stop it sticking to the bottom, keep it on a medium heat and you need to bring it up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, which is just below boiling point, when the milk is beginning to steam and froth a little. Remove it from the heat immediately as you don't want it to boil, and add the juice of a lemon, you need about 40ml, give the milk a stir to distribute the lemon juice and watch as the milk instantly separates into curds and whey, it's quite exciting...


You can add a teaspoon of salt at this point if you want too, I have found that I prefer it without, it also means you can use it for sweet or savoury dishes too. Leave the pan to sit for ten minutes, then drain the cheese through some muslin or a clean jay cloth. I tie mine to the tap and let it drip for about ten minutes, you can leave it up to an hour to get a drier cheese, but I like it with a bit of liquid in it still.


So now you have ricotta! Taste it while it is hot, it is much cheesier than the stuff you buy in the shops. Then cool it in the fridge, it will keep for about a week, it is delicious and creamy, your very own cheese! You can also keep the liquid whey from the process and use it for baking, just to make you feel even more virtuous than you already do with homemade cheese in the fridge... Spread it on toast with pesto, crumble it into salads, top your spicy tomato pasta, use it to fill a lemon curd cake...


Sunday, 12 October 2014

Hawthorn Berry Chutney

I'm full of cold today, I've just taken a 'night-time' cold and flu tablet, I don't need much encouragement to sleep at the best of time, so I'm fully expecting to be comatose within about 20 minutes, I'll type fast... So autumn brings colds and flu, but also the best of the seasonal food in my view...


In my kitchen at the moment I have a mix of amazing looking squashes, bags of hawthorn berries, pickles in jars of all shades and colours dotted around, it really feels like a bounty compared to any other time of year. It is a pleasure having the time at Cook House to pickle, pot and preserve as the autumn sun streams in the windows. The nooks and crannies of the Ouseburn are also filled with blackberries, rosehips and elderberries, massive spiders and thorns, but I have still managed to fill up punnets with various hedgerow bounties... add to that the start of the shooting season and I couldn’t be happier to be back in the throes of autumnal dining... 


I'm pretty pleased with this chutney, I have always imagined hawthorn to be poisonous, but it turns out you can eat all of it, leaves, blossom and berries... The trees in the Lake District last weekend were heavy with hawthorn berries, I filled a bag full. The little hawthorn berries are plentiful at this time of year and they make a delicious chutney, good with cold meats, game and cheese, a tasty sweet-spicy sauce... 


  
 
Snip the berries from their stalks, about 1kg of them, wash them then simmer in 500ml of cider vinegar and a teaspoon of salt. Simmer for an hour then press through a sieve into a clean saucepan, keeping the syrup you extract. Add to it, 125g of raisins and 300g of brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of ground ginger, 1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon of ground cloves, ¼ teaspoon of ground allspice and a grind of black pepper. Then simmer uncovered for 15 minutes until quite thick and pour into clean jars and seal. It is delicious with a slice of game terrine, rich spicy and quite different from any chutney I've ever had...



Monday, 29 September 2014

Blackberry Jam Crumble Tart

You might have to be quick to catch the last of the blackberries this year, but there are still some around. I think they came early this year, but while it is still 18 degrees outside I kind of forgot it was meant to be autumn...

I've been climbing around in bushes in the Ouseburn to gather what I can. I've made a little stock of jam, which is delicious with some toast in Cook House of a morning, but I also discovered a blackberry jam tart with a crumble topping...


It came about by accident as I needed something sweet for the menu at Cook House but had run out of eggs, cakes without eggs wasn't filling me with ideas or inspiration. A simple jam tart seemed the answer, then came the thought of crumble... it's so good... Unfortunately it uses a whole jar of jam each time I make one, so I'll have to get back out and find some more blackberries...

For the jam I started with a small batch, so you can scale up if you have more. These amounts made one large jar of jam. Take 300g of blackberries and wash them thoroughly, I came across some of the biggest spiders I've ever seen picking these guys... Put them in a pan with 20ml of water, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and a piece of lemon rind and simmer very gently for 15 minutes until the fruit is really soft. Then add 300g of caster sugar, dissolve it slowly, then turn up the heat and boil for about 10 minutes, until it reaches 105°C. Turn off the heat and let it sit for 10 minutes, then fill sterilised jars and label.



For the tart I made a small batch of shortcrust pastry, 125g of plain flour, 55g of cold butter cubed, blitzed in the food processor to a fine crumb, then drizzle in a tiny amount of very cold water until it comes together. It often turns out better if you make double this amount however, then you get two tarts for your money, or you can freeze or refridgerate the other half...

Roll the pastry out and line a shallow tart tin, then spread a thin layer of the jam over the base of the pastry. To make the crumble topping melt 60g of butter in a pan, then add 5 tablespoons of oats, 4 tablespoons of caster sugar, 5 tablespoons of self raising flour and 2 tablespoons of ground almonds. Mix with a fork until you get a crumbly mix then sprinkle over the top of the jam.


 

Finally bake the lovely tart at 200°C for 15-20 minutes. It is a delicious autumnal jam tart that has me constantly making more jam so I can eat it again at the moment...

Monday, 15 September 2014

Charlotte's Butchery at Cook House Food School

Last week I held the first installment of 'Food School' at Cook House. I aim to get interesting food folk in every month or so to tell you about what they do, demonstrate, cook, chat; an informal fun way to learn more about other people's skills and talents. To start we welcomed Charlotte from Charlotte's Butchery in Gosforth.



Charlotte arrived with a whole lamb over her shoulder, and over the course of the evening she talked us all through how to break it down into its various cuts. The audience loved it, full of questions and interest for Charlotte and her profession, I genuinely learnt a lot. Charlotte is a very entertaining guest, especially when weilding a saw and the bloodied carcass of a lamb... she can come round any time...




There will definitely be more, from Charlotte again, perhaps with a pig next time... but before then there will be some wine tasting, bread baking and coffee education... dates will be available soon.


Monday, 8 September 2014

Roast Carrot and Cumin Seed Salad with Feta, Mint and Honey

People wander down from offices and studios around the Ouseburn for their lunch, friends and family visit, people staying at Hotel du Vin pop in, tourists and curious visitors to the Victoria Tunnel tour ask what I’m up to. Someone new and interesting seems to pop their head in everyday to ask what exactly is going on in this little shipping container.

There have been so many lovely customers in a very short space of time; I have only been open a month... long may it continue. I’ve met lots of new faces and taken on some new and exciting projects as a result. I can honestly say that I’m thoroughly enjoying the whole Cook House experience, albeit whilst totally exhausted...


I’ve been trying to plan my menus a week ahead, but I’m still getting used to the nuances of running my own ‘caff’... How much people will eat, how many people will come, what days are busy; it is all a learning curve that I’m trying to map out with tasty food... I think everything I have put on the menu has gone down pretty well so far. Most days are a balance of hearty meaty sandwiches or tarts with interesting tasty salads, which have been very well received. Today was Cauliflower Cake with mint salad, Pancetta and Gruyere Tart, Green Herb Couscous, Roast New Potato Salad with Dill and Orange and this... Roast Carrot and Cumin Seed Salad with Mint, Feta and Honey, a tasty new addition to the menu...

Chop 500g of carrots on the diagonal, cutting them down again if your carrots are particularly large, think bite size pieces... Then toss them in olive oil in a large roasting dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper and lots of cumin seeds. Roast them for 25 minutes at 200°C, until they have started to turn golden brown in places but still have a slight bite to them.


Turn them out into a large bowl and toss with a tablespoon of honey and a tablespoon of lemon juice. Keep giving them a stir as they cool to room temperature so the dressing can sink in. When they have cooled stir through a large handful of lambs leaf lettuce and a large handful of chopped mint. To serve crumble over about 100g of feta cheese... I’ve added toasted walnuts before if you fancy that too, and you can use caraway seeds as an alternative too... The carrots are sweet and spiced, delicious with fresh mint and creamy cheese, a tasty lunch...


Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Cook House Launch

It all looked so beautiful.... It was lovely to see Cook House finally finished, with happy people, laughing, eating, drinking and generally having a good time last Thursday.

Hannah and Beth, some talented friends of mine are in the process of launching themselves as 'Blume' and they came along to 'dress' Cook House ready for her guests. It was lovely setting up with talented creative friends, bringing everything together, with Garrod on hand to take beautiful photos for us...

The supperclub marked the start of a range of events at Cook House, there will be monthly supperclubs and food school events, private dinners, guest chef take overs and much more. You can check the Cook House website and book in to any you fancy, or just pop in...














Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Cook House Supperclub - 28th August

Thursday 28th August 2014, 7.30pm - sold out


Cook House has been up and running for a grand total of two weeks now! It has been so busy and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. From now on I will be running regular Supperclubs from Cook House with changing seasonal feast menus. To kick this off we are hosting a special launch night Supperclub in the beautiful newly decorated space, a feast of summer, full of soused silver darlings, pickles and pates; sea trout, Scandi salads and summer puddings.

I have joined forces with Beth and Hannah of ‘Wildflower in Blume’ for this special launch evening, they are all about the styling… ‘We love flowers. We also love the finer details. We style weddings and events that create an atmosphere and tell your story. Our talents are broad, our enthusiasm endless.’ It promises to be a beautiful and tasty evening.

Tickets are available now, priced at £30, we will be serving a special welcome drink, a three course generous sharing feast and coffee, please byo other boozy drinks. You will be sent the final menu before you arrive so you can decide on your chosen tipple. As ever tickets go pretty quickly, please email annahedworth@hotmail.com to book your place and bring cash on the evening. You will be emailed asap if you have got a place…

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Cook House is opening...

The sun hits the front deck of Cook House as soon as it comes up over the river, it’s a lovely peaceful spot first thing in the morning,  sitting on the bench with a cup of  fresh pour over coffee.

This is my new kitchen in the Ouseburn that will be ready to welcoming visitors from 8.30am Wednesday 6th August. I have used the place previously for events, but have now taken on the space full time. Two converted shipping containers; a new oven, dishwasher, a lick of paint, some new furniture and a spot of dressing with bits I have been collecting and shoving in cupboards at home for years.



The doors will be open for breakfast and lunch, weekdays from 8.30am until 3.30pm, come and have a bite to eat. I will be there cooking away for supperclubs and events, testing recipes and writing menus.  A daily changing small menu of seasonal food that is local and tasty. The breakfast offering will include poached fruits, yoghurts and granolas, the occasional bacon sandwich and toast with honey from the Ouseburn bees.

A new garden is growing rapidly out the back, with a lovely deck which is dappled with sunshine as you sit and have lunch. There are French beans, spring onions, a selection of squashes, radishes, broad beans, courgettes, salad and herbs all making themselves ready for people’s plates.



The lunch menu at Cook House the through the summer months will be full of big salads, herbs, toasted nuts, crumbled cheeses, tasty dressings; as well as delicious homemade bagels and sandwiches, ham hocks with soft pease pudding, roast lemony chicken with homemade mayo, soft salt beef with sweet cucumber pickle.

We have some pop ups lined up with some really exciting regional chefs in the next few months, and we will also be running a food school programme, with interesting local folk showing you what they do so well. We have wine tasting, butchery and coffee skills lined up and available to book soon...

Have a look at the new website to find out more... cookhouse.org



Monday, 28 July 2014

Lindisfarne Summer Dining

We were back up at Lindisfarne Castle at the weekend for the summer supperclubs. I love being on Holy Island at any time of year, it's such a beautiful part of the world whatever the weather. We had a mixed bag this time with glorious sunshine, a bit of a haar, torrential rain and various levels of wind...


Cooking in the castle kitchen seems to bring the place back to life, with tasty smells drifting down the corridors, visitors popping their head in and I pass time imagining who cooked in the kitchen before me. I bet there were some characters... I think that is one of my favourite things about working with the National Trust in these special locations, using places as they once were, rather than just feeling like you are in a museum. Welcoming our guests, drinks before dinner on the battlements, sitting down to dine, then relaxing in the Ship Room at the end of the night. I have begun to feel very at home there!







Tickets are still available for the Farnes Islands Summer Supperlcub on Saturday 9th August. Click here for full details...