Wednesday, 27 June 2018

A couple of Cherry Recipes

A huge thank you to everyone who joined in with our Kickstarter! We did it! We hit our target and raised all of the money, more infact! So I am very excited to get on with work at the new place and welcome you there as soon as we can! We have a planning application in and the builders will be starting soon, I will keep you up to date as it progresses.

Back to food! It's cherry season! I love cherries, being particularly partial to a black cherry ice-cream, or a maraschino cherry at the bottom of a strong cocktail in Nite Hawks, in a bakewell, or morello cherry jam on toast... There are big boxes of cherries for sale in the Grainger Market for £2 at the moment, it really would be rude not to... So I thought I'd share two simple recipes...

The cake is my take on a bakewell, all the flavours, but in a simple cake. The pickled cherries are a slight twist on a Diana Henry recipe, they go very well with a plate of cheese and are also good with things like chicken liver pate, terrines and cured meats. Enjoy cherry season while it lasts! 

cherry and almond cake, the grazer, cook house

Cherry and Almond Cake 

First a simple but delicious cake recipe! Heat the oven to 160˚C. Then melt 150g of butter in a pan, once melted set it aside to cool slightly. Combine 225g of self raising flour, 225g of caster sugar and a teaspoon of baking powder in a bowl. Then beat 2 eggs and 1/4 teaspoon of almond essence together in another small bowl.

Prepare the cherries, for this I used 2 handfuls cut in half and de-stoned. Line a regular cake tin with greaseproof paper, I cut mine into a circle and tuck it in rather than faffing on with different pieces, it also makes it easy to lift out at the end.

Finally combine the flour mix, butter and egg mix. Bring it together with a spatula, it is quite a thick batter like mix when it's done, mix it until it is smooth. Then add 3/4 of the mix to the cake tin and spread it out. You will think it seems like not very much but don't worry. Then lay the cherries over the mix in an even layer. Add the final 1/4 of the mix to the centre of the cake on top of the rhubarb. Quickly pop it in the oven and bake for 50 minutes. 

pickled cherries, cook house, the grazer

Pickled Cherries - For a 1 litre jar 

Leave the cherries stone in and stalk on, this avoids a lot of faffing about but also makes them easy to eat and pretty I think, you need about 500g. Then heat 350ml of white wine vinegar with 400g of caster sugar, 4 cloves, a cinnamon stick, a pinch of chilli flakes, 10 black peppercorns; stir so the sugar doesn't stick to the bottom. Bring to the boil and then add the cherries for 2 minutes.

Scoop them out into a 1 litre sterilised jar. Then continue to boil the liquid until it is a bit more syrupy, just for 5 minutes or so, then pour over the cherries. They should sit for a week or so before you eat them and will still be good after a year, getting more and more wrinkly and intense.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Cook House is moving! And we need your help!

Cook House has been open for 3 and a half years and the place has gone from strength to strength, winning awards and gaining national recognition. We found out last year that our street was going to be redeveloped so have been looking for our next home ever since.

Cook House is tiny and unique, housed in two black shipping containers, with small gardens front and back, a wood burner and a lovely atmosphere. It's important to us that the next place keeps the feel and ethos of what we have created, but at the same time allows us to grow.

We have raised half of the money we need to set up our new home, and we are launching a crowd funding project for one month to raise the other half. 

Launching on Thursday 10th May you will have 28 days to buy a series of food related rewards to help get the new project off the ground. You will be able to book and pay for things now as 'rewards' and come and enjoy them when we open towards the end of summer, these include:

- cookery classes
- supperclubs
- a day in the kitchen
- cheese making classes
- tickets to our summer BBQ
- tables for lunch and dinner
- gift vouchers
- christmas parties
- tickets to our private launch party

cook house is moving and launching a kickstarter

We have found the perfect spot right in the heart of the beautiful Ouseburn. It is full circle for me as it is taking on the building where I used to work as an architect before I entered the world of food! An unusual building with loads of space and potential.

The expansion is really exciting as we as we are looking to add many new aspects to what we already do. We will have our own grocery store, where you can buy many of the amazing local produce we use in the kitchen, cheese, vegetables, milk, eggs, local meats will all be on offer, as well as a range of our own Cook House products.

We will have loads more space so will be able to offer coffee, breakfast, brunch, lunch... and dinner! Which is very exciting! We will be fully licenced and will still host supperclubs and interesting food events in line with what we have developed over the past few years, also introducing more food demonstrations, chef collaborations and classes.

cook house is moving and launching a kickstarter

There will be a beautiful herb gardens with outdoor seating and room for a bbq and an ice cream cart in summer. Inside on the lower level we will house our shop, a space for cookery classes and a casual cafe and bar area.

Upstairs will be home to our light, bright kitchen and dining room and an amazing outdoor dining terrace. You can sit out on our terrace right at the centre of the Ouseburn, in amongst our plants and strings of lights looking out at the dramatic buildings and bridges of the valley. We're going to introduce a bit of fire cooking up here as well!

It is quite a big new project. We have raised half of the money ourselves but still need to raise £28,000. Things don't come cheap these days and we are keen to move beyond using second hand kitchen equipment out of my parents garage!

cook house is moving and launching a kickstarter

It has been a great 3 years at our current site. We have fed an awful lot of people, we've travelled the region hosting dinners in beautiful locations. We have gained a loyal following of lovely customers who we hope will be really excited about this next step.

We appeared on the Radio 4 Food Programme last year, and on Channel 4's 'Hidden Restaurants' series, cooking and filming with Michel Roux Junior at Cook House, this was an unbelievable boost to business. We were named as one of the Top 25 New Entries in the 2017 Good Food Guide and one of the Top 25 Coolest Restaurants by The Times in 2016, Top 5 Restaurants in Britain by Olive Magazine in 2015 and one of the Ten Best Budget Eats in Newcastle by The Guardian.

cook house is moving and launching a kickstarter

We recently won an Observer Food Monthly Award for Best Cheap Eats in the North 2017 and re-entered the Good Food Guide for 2018. We very much hope to continue and build upon this success in our new home.

I hope this new home for us, will not only be one of the most unique and brilliant spots within the Ouseburn, it will be also that within the whole of the city. The concept of coffee, breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, drinks, classes, demonstrations and shop, all combined in a unique and interesting building with outdoor gardens and terraces is one I would be pretty keen on hanging out at. All adding to the rich and talented independent food scene in Newcastle, that I'm very proud to be part of.

cook house is moving and launching a kickstarter

Monday, 23 April 2018

I'm going to publish a cookery book!!

I am very excited to announce that my first book will be published next year! I have been keeping it under my hat for far too long! ‘COOK HOUSE’ will be a collection of recipes and the story of following my passion for food, published with the brilliant Head of Zeus in September 2019.

I have been working on my proposal since last summer, with the help of my agent Daisy at Lutyens and Rubinstein. The proposal described the concept of the book, which is a recipe book, but also the story of Cook House, of leaving one career to follow a true passion, I hope it will inspire other people to do the same, or at least dream. It also included a full recipe list and examples of my writing, example chapters and other little snippets I would like to include in the book, it was pretty lengthy by the end.

cook house recipe book by the grazer

We sent it out to a list of chosen publishers in February and then waited nervously. I was delighted when Head of Zeus made an approach to buy the rights. I went down to meet the team in London a few weeks ago and am really looking forward to working with them. I will be working hard to put the whole thing together by the end of the year, you can follow the journey on social media and here on The Grazer.

I can't wait to hold my own book, it is hugely exciting. It is so surreal to think I will be able to go into Waterstone's and pick it up, with my name on it. I still can't quite believe it!

Monday, 9 April 2018

Pickled Rhubarb with Ginger, Orange & Clove

My god it's been a long winter, not that we are even out of it yet, but at least there are some signs. Today I felt the warm sun on me as I walked outside and I began to feel hopeful. Tomorrow it is forecast to rain all day, continuing for the rest of the week; but at least there are glimmers of hope...

We really felt this winter at Cook House. I lost track of how many times they tried to fix the roof, each time it seemed to have stopped leaking there would be another big freeze, a thaw, a shift, and subsequently a new leak. From November to February there was an issue almost every day and I shed some frustrated tears on occasion. Then the snow storms came, and there were no leaks as we were enveloped in a layer of snow and ice inside and out, totally frozen solid.

pickled rhubarb recipe

I can talk about it now that the other side is in sight, now that the daffodils are coming out and the sticks of rhubarb are beginning to appear at the allotment. People often ask me what to do with lots of rhubarb, it is a common allotment affliction, I only have a small plant and it produces more than enough for all my rhubarb requirements. Pickling is one of the answers I think; this pickle is really pretty damn good. It's lovely on it's own, great with cheese, rich liver pate or on top of a salad, and its super easy to make.

pickled rhubarb recipe the grazer

Fill a large, sterilised, 2 litre kilner jar with rhubarb cut down into 1- 2cm diagonal batons. I have seen recipes that ask you to put the rhubarb into the hot pickling liquid, but I find this generally makes it fall apart, so prefer to add the hot pickling liquid to it, as it softens, but keeps its shape.

pickled rhubarb recipe the grazer

For the pickling liquid combine 750ml water, 500ml white wine vinegar, 350g caster suger, 15g maldon sea salt and heat to dissolve everything. Then you can add your flavours, I used thick slices of fresh ginger, a few large peels of orange zest, a cinnamon stick, 2 cloves, a pinch of chilli flakes and a few black pepper corns. They all bring something to the party, heat and a kick from the ginger, warming chilli, fragrant orange... I don't usually love cloves, but here they really work and the musky flavour is mild but pleasant. Feel free to experiment with other flavours such as juniper, mace, cinnamon, coriander seed, fresh herbs...

Simmer the mix for 5 minutes to bring out all the flavours, then pour the hot liquid over the rhubarb and seal the jar, it will all bob up to the top to begin with and you may need to push it back down a few times over the course of first few days. It is delicious after a couple of days, really delicious after a couple of weeks and will keep well for months if you can manage not to eat it all...

pickled rhubarb recipe - the grazer

pickled rhubarb recipe - the grazer

Monday, 26 February 2018

Whipped Feta on Toast with Smoked Leeks and Black Sesame

Sat round the little pot bellied stove on a winter lunch time, chatting with a couple of very talented chefs who wanted to come and do a guest chef night at Cook House, one of them suddenly looked at the fire and said, 'you could cook aubergines in there, or leeks...' and just as fast I was kicking myself that I had never thought to do just that. I love cooking on fire, I have a fire... it took someone else to join the dots that day, but I haven't looked back... Sticking a bunch of leeks into the flames before you could say... burnt...
This is now a staple item on the Cook House menu. The whipped feta is a good vehicle for any number of toppings, salty cheese whipped up with thick creamy yoghurt and bitter good quality olive oil. It works well with fruit or slow cooked veg, the salty bitterness of the cheese and oil balancing well with sweetness in the toppings.
Whipped Feta on Toast with Smoked Leeks - The Grazer

I've had it on and off the menu in a huge number or different guises; Grilled peach and mint, fresh pear and rocket, blood orange and toasted walnuts, pickled grapes and mint, roast tomatoes and lovage, roast red peppers with rosemary... But this was one of the first variations I came up with and is still a favourite.
Crumble 200g of feta into a bowl and add 50g of good quality, live, full fat yoghurt and 25g of extra virgin olive oil, either put it into a stand mixer and whisk on high for 5 minutes, or use a hand whisk to do the same. There will still be some tiny lumps of feta, but in general the mix should become lighter, smoother and more aerated. Now chill for an hour or so before using and it will set a bit and retain the air.

Smoked Leeks - The Grazer

Shove a couple of large leeks into the flames of your fire, so the whole of the white end and most of the green is engulfed by heat and flame, leaving the leafy end poking out so you can get hold of it to turn. You can do this in a woodburner, an open fire or if you're having a bbq shove them into the coals. They will take about 15 minutes, turning occasionally; the whole of the outside with go black and charred. You will know that they are done as when you pick them up, using long heat proof tongs, they will collapse and bend as the inside is cooked and super soft, juices sizzling into the fire.
Take them out and put them into a baking tray and cover with cling film, leave them to cool so you can handle them, this also allows the smoky flavours to sink in. When they are cool enough to handle remove the black outer layers, it's a messy job... You will be left with the soft cooked inner part of the leek that is lightly smoked and sweet in flavour. Shred this all up into a tangle and dress with a little olive oil and salt, it doesn't matter of you get the odd black bit here and there, I think its unavoidable really.

To assemble, toast some nice sour dough, spread with the feta mix, a good centimetre thick, then top with a tangled pile of smoked leeks and a scatter of toasted black sesame seeds. It's delicious; salty, smoky, sweet and nutty, a really good balance.

Cook House - The Grazer

Monday, 15 January 2018

Kombucha Tea Recipe

Happy New Year! Gut health isn't exactly a glamorous subject but one that has hugely interested me since reading Cooked by Michel Pollen and more recently since meeting Professor Tim Spector at the School of Artisan Food. He gave a fascinating hour long talk about understanding the microbes in our own gut, keeping them well looked after and in turn improving our health, weight and mental well being.

The gut is the largest organ in our body and keeping the microbes it contains alive and flourishing affects all aspects of our well being. It helps us digest things easily, controls calories absorbed, provides vitamins and keeps our immune systems strong. Modern diets that are full of processed supermarket ready meals, factory farmed meat full of antibiotics and fatty fast foods is destroying our gut health and preventing us from feeling fit and protecting ourselves against illness and diseases.

How to make Kombucha Tea - The Grazer

I've learnt that a diverse range of real foods, cooked yourself; and especially live foods are all things our gut loves. It's all good really as live foods covers wine and cheese; as well as live yoghurts, fermented foods such as kimchi, pickled fruit and vegetables, olives, miso soup, aged cheeses, live beer, sauerkraut, keffir and kombucha. These things used to be much more prevalent in people's diets when fridges were none existent or a luxury, as people were frequently preserving fruit, veg, milk, grapes etc as a regular part of life.

This led to my interest in keffir, which is a fermented milky yoghurt drink, and also kombucha which is a fermented sweet tea drink that tastes a bit like apple juice. I would highly recommend giving either a go at home if you are interested, we have both on the go, and also recently added a big vat of kimchi to our fermented house pals. Small bottles of keffir or kombucha are pretty expensive in the shops, but you can produce litres at home for pence.

Kombucha is such a tasty, refreshing, beneficial drink. I've also been looking at using it in our menus; whilst in London I had a salad of kombucha plums, beetroot and goats curd at Brunswick House. It was totally delicious. Simply by adding fruit to your kombucha for a week, you can flavour the drink and also get tangy delicious fruit to use in salads or puddings as you wish.

Kombucha Tea Recipe - The Grazer

This Kombucha tea recipe is pretty simple. I ordered my 'scoby' online, this is the live element which looks a bit like the contents of a petri dish, it's a bit weird! It was in a pouch with a little bit of kombucha liquid, already fermented, which gets your batch going. You simply brew a big batch of strong sugary tea, I used 2 litres of water, 7 tea bags and 170g of caster sugar. I've been using breakfast tea but am going to try out other types next, green and early grey I think. Leave the tea to brew for 30 minutes then remove the tea bags.

Kombucha doesn't like metal, so you now need to transfer the tea to something glass preferably, and stir with a plastic spoon if you need to. Once the tea is cold, combine the scoby and the tea in a big glass jar and then leave it to ferment, I cover the top of mine with some kitchen roll and an elastic band so it can get some air. It is ready when it no longer tastes of tea, the fermentation process feeds on the sugar so it is no longer sweet, almost like a tart apple juice, slightly cider like taste. Strain off the kombucha leaving behind the scoby and a cup of kombucha, then start the process again, brewing a new batch of tea.

At this stage you can flavour the kombucha you have removed. I like it as it comes, but you can add fruit, apples, oranges, plums, pears, ginger, herbs... for a week, the strain again and drink. You can use the fruit in salads or puddings too. My first batch took a month to ferment, but has since sped up to a couple of weeks as the scoby has settled in and grown a bit. It's a strange yet fascinating process! Feel free to get in touch with any tips or questions!

I love it, I'm also drinking as much as possible of it and my keffir at the moment, everyone around me has flu and I'm determined not to succumb. I'm armed with fermented fluids and a big bag of clementines!