Ingredients Main dish Philosophy Recipe Uncategorized: Crispy Shredded Beef
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Now that I’ve come clean about my red wine habit, I feel ready to share with you, dear reader of Simple Eating in Suffolk, another vice of mine. Actually, I suppose this is yet another vice, since a week or so ago I gave details of how I genuinely drink catering quantities of coffee.
Cripsy Shredded Beef. The sort you get from a Chinese takeaway. I daydream about it, obsess about it when I should be getting on with something useful, and it generally drives me to distraction. I particularly enjoy leftovers of it cold for breakfast after a good skinful. While I routinely become fixated on it after a couple of drinks, the urge can strike at any time. I was once driving back to Suffolk via the M25 when the I felt its irresistible draw, and I pulled off the motorway in the direction of Chorleywood. To put it into perspective, I think I had spent the weekend on some course or other with vegan catering.
It is a very unfortunate myth among some elements of the ecological farming type circles that I move in that veganism is good for the planet, as well as good for human health. It isn’t. If you doubt me read Simon Fairlie’s excellent book “Meat”:
followed by Sally Fallon’s equally excellent “Nourishing Traditions”:
and if you still disagree I will then discuss this topic with you, but not before.
So there I was, recovering from an unexpected weekend of no wine, acorn coffee and a strict vegan diet feeling pretty damned hungry, so I was delighted to discover that Chorleywood did indeed have a Chinese takaway. Fortunately I have a baby campervan complete with table, plates and cutlery so this was a pretty civilised experience. And that crispy beef was very, very good.
But Chinese takeaways are not cheap. Particularly when we get one delivered, which is my preferred option, due to the minimum charge. And if we do have an occasional takeaway, Mr Ermine prefers a curry or fish and chips, which I am also pretty fond of, so we tend to opt for one of those.
So I had been on the lookout for a good value alternative to going to the takeaway for my crispy beef. I tried a supermarket “ready meal” crispy beef and it was truly nasty. Really not good at all.
So onto the internet to hunt for a recipe. When I see a recipe with more than a couple of ingredients not already in my store cupboard I tend to reject it out of hand as too extravagant. Cooking should be the art of making use of what you have, not buying a long list of ingredients to match a particular recipe. But my crispy beef cravings continued, so with a little more searching I found this recipe which, with a few adjustments, would only require four additional purchases.
First of all: the adjustments:
- If you use sugar in a recipe where it will be mixed with a water based liquid it is pointless using caster sugar as granulated sugar is cheaper, and given a moment or two longer it will dissolve fine.
- I have never noticed a major difference in flavour between the white bits of spring onions, and ordinary cooking onions (which are cheaper) so I used the latter.
- Mr Ermine doesn’t like garlic, and if I eat garlic he doesn’t like me. I like Mr Ermine more than I like garlic, so I don’t eat it.
- I never use vegetable oil for cooking, except olive oil for low temperature cooking, so I used beef dripping which has the added advantage of being cheap.
Mrs Ermine’s adjusted recipe ingredients
For the beef
- A couple of blocks of beef dripping
- 1 Oak Tree egg, beaten
- 2.5 tbsp cornflour
- Proper sea salt
- A small slice of “sandwich” steak
- 2 carrots
For the sauce
- 1 normal cooking onion, finely chopped
- A bit of ginger chopped up.
- Some chilli flakes
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- 25ml rice vinegar
- 25ml normal soy sauce
- I just used a small saucepan to heat the beef dripping, and learned the hard way to only half fill it. Fat can and does “boil over” when you put something containing water (such as beef covered with batter) into it.
- Mix the sugar, vinegar and soy sauce. Mix well so sugar dissolves.
- Chop the beef into strips as thin as you can. I used kitchen scissors.
- Slice the carrot into thin strips. A veg peeler works well.
- Make a batter with the eggs, cornflour & salt. Beat until smooth.
- Heat the fat to 180 deg C. Keep a close eye on it – hot fat can be dangerous.
- Put the sliced beef into the batter & drain into a bowl.
- Put the slices into the hot fat, keeping them seperate as much as possible.
- Deep fry until they go a light brown colour, then remove with a metal slotted spoon onto kitchen roll.
- Do exactly the same with the carrot sliced, including dipping them in batter.
- Stirfry the chilli, onion and ginger for a minute or so.
- Add the soy sauce, vinegar & sugar mix and stir round for a bit.
- Add the beef and carrot, mix until well combined.
Someone sensible would then put it on a bed of rice, but in all the excitement I had forgotten to cook any, so I had it on its own. It wasn’t quite like takeaway stuff, it was different and very good. I didn’t realise quite how good until I caught myself licking the bowl clean <blush>.
Pour the fat into clean dry jars when still liquid, leaving the bits of burn debris behind. I’m planning to store mine in the fridge, so the whole thing will cost very little more than the beef itself. Fortunately making this is enough work that I won’t be doing it daily if I plan to do anything else with my life. I guess even though I’m not bothered about the fat, I know that even a little sugar is bad for you.
Drinks Fermented Philosophy Uncategorized
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If, like me, you consider wine to be a staple without which life wouldn’t really be worth living, then you’ll probably buy a reasonable quantity at a time.
Every so often I open a bottle of wine, turn my phone & computer off and enjoy an evening with Mr Ermine. We explore life, the state of the world, our hopes and fears, our joys and sadness, and goodness knows what else.
One or more friends joins us from time to time. Rarely, we go to the pub and drink beer (it is pricey), and we drink beer at home occasionally.
So this lady farmer needs a regular supply of decent red wine, on a budget. I could save an awful lot of money by giving up red wine, but I’m not going to. Here is my advice on where to get your wine from if you are in a similar situation. I used to spend hours in a large supermarket trying to remember whether the latest “half price” deal wine was any good. As often as not, it was pretty average, or even nasty, so I got fed up with not having a reliable supply of wine for about £5 – £6. Then I switched allegiance to Aldi. Yes, dear reader of Simple Eating in Suffolk, despite running a local community food enterprise, I do shop at Aldi sometimes. Not for much, just some stuff. What can I say? They are cheap. And pretty good. That is where the farm digestive biscuits come from – we get through an awful lot and they cost 30p a packet. Value ones from other outlets are generally horrible. But Aldi’s wine was erratic in quality, even the same line of wine went though phases, including a nearly undrinkable period when we had to just mull it (a fail-safe option with ropey red wine, though you’ll almost certainly have a sore head afterwards).
A friend mentioned a local shop, Wines of Interest, and I went along to a tasting session that they hold at the local football ground. Not only was it great fun, I was also impressed by the wines. Most of them were outside my budget, but not all. After a few deliveries of consistently great value wine that was far, far better than big supermarket wines of a similar price, Mr Ermine and I settled on their Nero d’Avola at £6.19 a bottle, with a discount for cases, and free delivery in the local area if you drink enough (which we do). They delivery nationally if you are a “foreigner” (Suffolk expression for anyone who lives outside the county border ) But try others from them – wine is a very personal thing!
After the pigs escaped their electrically fenced pen on Christmas Eve, scattering to the four corners of the farm (though, fortunately, not beyond) I woke many loyal and wonderful farm members in the early morning to come and help round them up (I needed brandy, not just wine, after that incident…).
I wanted to say “thank you” with some half decent wine and beer for them all. Suffolk brewer and wine merchant Adnams came to the rescue, and in the process I discovered a particularly good Romanian red wine from them which costs in at £5 a bottle if you buy it by the case. I suspect they will put the price up soon: Mr Ermine and I have been to their shop in Southwold a couple of times to buy a large quantity… curiously they don’t do it by the case by mail order.
So there you have it. Avoid the supermarkets, all of them, is my advice. Find a local wine merchant you get on with, or try the ones I use, they deliver across the UK. It is less sweat particularly now I hardly ever visit a big supermarket and better value.
Ingredients Uncategorized: eggs eggy bread
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I’m doing a lot of physical work at The Oak Tree Low Carbon Farm at the moment, which means that once Mr Ermine and I have finished our evening meal, I usually want to eat the same amount again. We are approaching the Spring Equinox in the UK, and the rapidly increasing day length here in our Northern location is causing the farm chickens to lay lots and lots of eggs. One of the perks of working at the farm is taking home the shitty eggs that we don’t put into farm members’ egg shares.
So we have plenty of eggs, I have already prepared one meal and I really can’t be bothered to cook anything else particularly fancy.
Enter… eggy bread. It is cheap, good for you, filling and utterly delicious! Some sourpusses might say that the eggs and butter are bad for you, but if truth be known the dodgiest bit might be the bread, even if it is wholemeal, according to my new favourite food blog.
Ah well, often the Ermine Household makes do with what we have rather than seeking completely optimal nutrition. And eggs we have aplenty.
Eggy Bread Ingredients
- Sliced bread (I used wholemeal)
- Butter for frying
Eggy bread method (it’s hardly difficult…)
- Put a generous quantity of butter in a frying pan, and put on a medium heat.
- Mix the eggs with a about half their volume of milk.
- Beat the milk and eggs together thoroughly
- Soak the slices of bread in the mix until saturated: it doesn’t take long.
- Lift soggy bread out with some sort of flatish implement with holes in.
- Let it drain for a moment, then put is into the gently sizzling butter.
- Turn it like you would a pancake.
- Serve immediately, with a blob of jam on if you have it to hand. Yes, I know that sugar is very bad for you, but you won’t want a lot if you’re not in the habit of eating sugar regularly. And it would be rude not to enjoy a particularly appealing Christmas gift…
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I like good, freshly-ground coffee, and I like it a lot. I realised a couple or three years ago (as we say here in Suffolk) that my coffee habit had reached something of a crisis point when I cleared the supermarket of all my favourite coffee beans out in one go.
Not that I think I should drink less coffee. I did try giving up coffee a few years back having read that I would feel far more alive and well once I had gotten over the terrible addiction. Sure enough I felt exhausted without it for the first couple of weeks, and then I just felt bland. All the time. I did not feel full of energy, I simply felt just about the same all the time, as if I hadn’t had any coffee. Now I drink just as much as I like, and it can make me feel great, or just plain good. The rest of the time I feel just like I did when I had given it up. No doubt there are some adverse long term health effects due to my coffee habit, but as far as I am concerned, they are worth it. Just like those due to my beer and red wine habits. Life just isn’t anything like as good without them. Give me coffee to help me with things I can do something about, and wine for the things I can do nothing about, as strangers on Facebook have been telling me for the past few months. So true.
So, supermarkets simply aren’t capable of providing sufficient quantities of coffee to feed my habit given my trips to a big supermarket are increasingly few and far between. So it was onto the web to find an alternative source. Garraways came up trumps. Just so as you know, I have no financial interest in them. The only “advertising”, or “monitising” as they call it in blogging, on this website are links to relevant books, and other bits and pieces of useful stuff such as sausage casings, from Amazon. To date I have made £3.90 from this so it isn’t exactly a money spinner. I tried google ads for a bit but they were so infuriating (“reduce that belly fat” etc) that I removed them to save you, dear reader of Simple Eating in Suffolk, from revolting flashing images and hassle to buy ridiculous products. So, the link to Garraways above is just that. A simple web link. So I hope they will forgive me using a couple of images from their website in exchange.
I buy six 1kg bags of “Caffe Prima Nicaraguan Coffee Beans” which costs me about £55 including delivery. Your typical bag of half decent supermarket coffee beans comes in a packet of 227g and costs about £3, which gives and equivalent price of very nearly £80. That is a significant saving, and far less hassle. And the coffee is really very good.
As for a grinder, this is capital equipment, so worth spending something on. I bought a Krups burr grinder (don’t get a blade grinder, they aren’t as good) like this one:
several years ago and it is still going strong.
I have just started to buy my coffee filters in batches of 800 a time from ebay, they work out at about half the price of the ridiculously small packets of 40 from a supermarket. The buggers (ebay) won’t give me an affiliate’s account so I am going to be grumpy and not add a link, but they are easy enough to find on there
All in all this is a whole lot less hassle and expense than lining the pockets of the big supermarkets. OK, it won’t help Mr Ermine’s shares, but it keeps us both in decent coffee for a reasonable price.
offal Philosophy: sugar
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All this is my personal opinion. You need to do your own research and decide what you think before you take decisions about what you choose to eat. Just saying…
Way back when, in my teenage years, I read two books that really influenced my attitude to health and diet. The first was “Dieting makes you Fat”. The link below is to an updated edition, which I confess I haven’t read.
This book probably saved me from eating disorders as a teenager in the 1980s. I was a pretty obsessive kid (I prefer to say “single-minded”) and aerobics and fad diets were all the rage. But “Dieting makes you Fat” transmitted one simple idea: it is what you do eat that matters more than what you cut out. You need enough of the vital nutrients to stay healthy, and if you eat crap your body will keep craving more food until you get the nutrients you need, and you’ll simply get fat.
I also red “Pure, White and Deadly” which seems to be enjoying something of a revival right now.
Refined sugar is very bad news for all sorts of reasons. It is exactly the sort of crap that makes you fat while your body continues to make you hungry for the nutrients you actually need. I was glad to read that the author wasn’t draconian, his family enjoyed ice-cream etc as a treat like any other family at the time. Less good news was the virtual persecution he suffered for having incurred the wrath of the food processing industry which was starting to get rich on “low fat” products.
Despite the long years since I read “Pure, White and Deadly” it obviously sank in that sugar is bad for me. I do eat sugar, regularly indeed, but I always avoid it in “everyday” food. I never fell for the “healthy” wholegrain snacks and breakfast cereals that claim to be nutritious because they are low fat, as they only taste acceptable because they contain loads of sugar. I also avoid ketchup and chutney etc, despite absolutely loving them, as they are loaded with sugar and it is just too easy to get into the habit of eating them all the time. I do like chocolate but I don’t have any in the house so I have to out and buy some if I want it, which means I have to really want it, which doesn’t happen that often.
Getting enough nutrients is a different matter. The vitamin and mineral content of most veg has plummeted in recent decades, and nutrient-dense foods such a organ meats and fish roe are distinctly out of fashion. Fortunately, however, this makes them cheap. Sally Fallon explained to me where to get the nutrients I need to combat feeling hungry in her amazing book Nourishing Traditions:
Animal fats are an important part of this, thank goodness. It explains why the French as so skinny & healthy-looking despite cooking in goose fat and eating cheese regularly. The don’t eat that much of eather and they also eat salad a lot. They don’t eat sugary snacks between meals as a general rule, either. France is a source of proper sea salt, however.
I’m not claiming to be skinny, and this is about as revealing a picture of my figure shape as I am prepared to display.
But I never worry about my weight, not even a bit. If I sincerely wanted to lose weight the quickest way would be to give up my beer and red wine habits, and I have no intention of forsaking either. My weight changes a bit over time, both up and down, though I never weigh myself, but these changes are more or less dictated by how much work I am doing on the farm. That was the other message of “Dieting Makes you Fat”: basic background exercise that lifts your metabolism and keeps you healthy. It doesn’t have to be an organised class or going to the gym, it can be walking, cycling or gardening, but whatever it is regular sustained exercise is essential for good health and maintaning a sensible weight.
Today I have eating one hell of a lot of food: a full English breakfast with sausage, home made hash browns, bacon and poached egg followed with bone-stock based vegetable soup followed up by home made wholemeal sour dough pizza. And I’ve not finished for the day: Mr Ermine will be doing a roast dinner spectacular as is the tradition chez Ermine every Sunday evening.
But I won’t have eaten any refined sugar, or even refined carbohydrate for that matter, all day. There won’t be a British pudding after the roast dinner, and there was no marmalade with my breakfast. Avoiding refined carbohydrates is a habit rather than a definite plan: I always avoid both, but not obsessively. It is what you do regularly that matters, which is why I don’t worry about scoffing a second piece of cake at a friend’s house (if invited to do so!)
Ingredients Philosophy: essentials supermarkets
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Like many people, I did a big shop at large supermarket last week. Mr Ermine has a store loyalty credit card, and they were offering him £7 off a £50 shop. This is the time to go and stock up on the few “essentials” that I actually buy from a large supermarket, but to be honest it was a struggle to get to £50s worth. The problem is that supermarkets simply aren’t very good value, especially if you have enough spare cash to buy things in bulk. Little by little, item by item, my big supermarket shopping list has shrunk to a fraction of what it was. So what did I buy with my £50?
So, despite said retailer offering £5 off of £50 a couple more times in the near future, I shan’t be back. There is only so much of this stuff I can store.
I used to buy far more from supermarkets, but, one thing at a time, I have found better quality and/or value elsewhere for other Ermine Towers essentials.
So I am now launching my “Better value elsewhere” series on essentials ranging from wine, to rice, through deodorant & intensive hair conditioner, flour, coffee, meat, tea, veg…. you name it, I buy it elsewhere. I should say, for the sake of fairness, that it is probably more convenient to buy stuff from a big supermarket, particularly if you get it delivered. But then you need to spend time earning the money to pay the extra for it. And if you buy stuff in bulk, event from several outlets, you don’t spend that much time on shopping. And I suppose Mr Ermine has to earn his dividends on certain supermarket shares somehow.
Fermented Hungry Gap Ingredients Techniques: green tomatoes sour pickles
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I really like the Danny Boyle sci-fi Film “Sunshine”. Now, Cillian Murphy’s ever-delightful blue eyes may have something to do with it, but my enthusiasm is a down to a little more than just idle drooling over the male lead. I particularly liked the bit when they approach the “Dead Zone” where contact with the earth becomes impossible. This point in the growing year feels a bit like the approach to the dead zone , it gets harder and harder to have a decent quantity and variety of veg grown locally.
Tom and I use all the tricks we know at The Oak Tree Low Carbon Farm to string the season out, and this week’s box, IMHO looks pretty respectable, and all being well our veg shares will continue to do well into the dreaded “hungry gap” of April/May! The farm preserving group did a fine job last year making all sorts of exciting preserves which will soon go into our vegetable shares, and I have been doing a little experimentation of my own in the hope of offering some useful low energy veg preserving techniques to farm members next year.
The thing with lots of chutneys and jams and so on is they need lots of sugar, and cooking, not to mention heat treatment to preserve them, all of which is energy intensive, so not very low carbon. Sugar is very much a product of energy intensive industrial agriculture, so I have always been keen to find ways of preserving fruit and veg that doesn’t use it. One of the most sucessful techniques I have found is lactic acid fermentation, which is used to produce German Sauerkraut and Korean Kimchi, both of which I love. The book I use to guide me on all this is Sandor Ellix Katz’s “Wild Fermentation”, but he has written other books on the same topic more recently too.
The basic idea is to take fresh veg and weigh it down in a brine of the appropriate strength, then just leave it. There are a few subtleties beyond that, but not many. You really must use decent salt if you want it to be any good, and if it has been dried in the wind and salt like the French stuff I use, it is low energy. The Victorians used to import this stuff to the UK, calling it “Bay Salt”, so it can’t have needed that much energy to transport.
Let’s start with something simple. It tickled me recently to get a request from an old school friend living in New York for advice on how to make live femented foods. She lives in a city which is famed for its “sour pickles”, which, when made properly, are very much a live, lactic acid fermented food. So let’s start with a sour pickle, and I’ll send the link to this post to Natalie. My ingredients are based on gluts from the farm, not what I fancied in the supermarket. Small pickling cucumbers are the traditional ingredient for sour pickles, but I didn’t have any of those. What I did have was I lots of green tomatoes. So that is what I used. Sorry this post isn’t very timely – there aren’t too many fresh green tomatoes out there at the moment. But make a mental note for next year!
Sour Pickled Green Tomatoes: Ingredients
- Water – if tap water leave overnight in a wide necked container to air any chlorine
- Decent sea salt
- Firm green tomatoes
- Vine leaves (to keep the pickle crunchy)
- Herbs and spices of your choice (I used chilli)
Sour Pickled Green Tomatoes: Method
- Make up a brine with 48g salt to each litre of water.
- Fill a wide necked jar, preferably a preserving/canning jar with the tomatoes with spices and vine leaves in the gaps.
- Pour over the brine so they are well covered.
- Use a boiled stone from the garden, or a glass paperweight, or a glass candleholder, or something like that, to weight the tomatoes down – they must be under the surface of the brine.
- Seal the jar up and leave at room temperature for a few weeks. Open the jar from time to time, it will be under pressure.
- If any mould appears, peel it off, remove any tomatoes that touched it and weight the rest down again.
- If they smell and look good, try one!
I served some of these at the farm Christmas party and they proved very popular!
So what on earth is going on? Well, there are microbes around that cause the lactic acid fermentation in brine: they thrive in these conditions, while other putrefying microbes don’t. Those nasty ones can survive on the surface of the brine (hence the mould hazard) but not in the brine. As these useful microbes do their stuff they produce lactic acid – fizzing all the while (hence the build up of pressure). Lactic acid is like a milder cousin to vinegar (acetic acid), and it really has a very pleasant flavour which can, to my mind, make vinegar pickles taste harsh.
This is a live food, complete with microbes when eaten uncooked that, in small amounts, are reputed to be very good for the gut microflora, which seems to be terribly important for our general health.
So this is a preserving technique that is cheap, low energy, good for you and the end results are great. No great suprise that naturally fermented vegetables are an important part of many traditional diets around the world…
I use them like green peppers in cooking (they are good in chillis and curries) and uncooked, chopped finely, in winter salads.
I hope you have the common sense to work this out for yourself, but I will say it anyway, just in case. These are live foods that contain microbes. If all goes well these could significantly help to enhance your gut microflora which have probably taken a bashing over the years from antibiotics etc. But don’t eat too much to begin with, you may need to adjust. And don’t blame me if they don’t agree with you. And if it doesn’t smell/taste good, for goodness sakes don’t eat it. You have been warned.
Ingredients Pulses Uncategorized: British Fava beans Hodmedods
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Yesterday I cooked lunch for a vegetarian friend, Sue. I find cooking dishes with only a little meat in, even just bone stock, far, far easier than genuinely vegetarian food. A single rasher of bacon, or maybe even two, transforms my what’s left in the fridge quiche and hedge garlic soup from rather bland fare into something a great deal better.
But Sue is a strict vegetarian, so it was time to do a little thinking. Earlier this week I received an exciting parcel, inspired by Nick Saltmarsh of Hodmedod’s Great British Peas and Beans talk at The Aldeburgh Food and Drink Conference the other week. They are planning to put audio files of the talks, along with copies of the slides, on the website soon, including Mrs Ermine talking (or was it ranting <blush>?) about The Oak Tree Low Carbon Farm. I’ll keep you posted here when that happens as there was lots of interesting stuff that day.
But back to the beans. Nick is a thoroughly nice chap, down to earth and genuinely passionate about local food.
First of all, hats off to Nick Saltmarsh and team for an absolutely beautiful design for the packaging. It appears that dried pulses have an image problem in the UK. Nick explains that when he first approached exporters to buy a tonne of British fava beans they almost wet themselves laughing. I think he put it a lottle more delicately than that, but you get the gist. Nick and co persisted, and Hodmedods was born.
You see, the vast majority of British grown fava beans are exported, notably to Egypt, where they are very popular. Yet they are a very traditional food in the UK, eaten as far back as the iron age. But they became the food of the poor, and in recent times fell out of fashion as a result. I bought a 20 kg sack from a farmer friend a couple of years ago. They were stunningly cheap, in truth, unrealistically cheap given the work it took Glenn to bag them up and get them to me. And I’m afraid my weakness as a vegetarian cook was exposed in full. I tried burgers: Mr Ermine all but turned up his snout. I tried a bean casserole: he wouldn’t even touch it. Glenn’s lovely wife Jeanie did cook up some delicious dishes from them, and I really should have just asked her for a recipe or two, but I’m afraid my courage failed me and I sold my beans on to the local Ripple Food Coop. I heard that people there were making delicious things from them…
So when I heard Nick speak about his British pulses at Aldeburgh I vowed to try again. Especially when I heard that his products come with recipe leaflets! One of the problems with my orignal fava bean exploits concerned their very tough skins, which would remain tough after the bean flesh had turned to mush. The burgers were rendered almost acceptable by putting the cooked beans in a blender before frying in plenty of fatty breadcrumbs, and adding…. you guessed it… bacon.
So enter the split, skinned fava beans from Hodmedods. Skinning the dried beans is an inspired idea, and I decided that my British Bean experimentation would begin there. I made a soup, shamelessly inspired by the Hodmedod team’s parsnip and split fava bean soup.
Now, every wise reader of Simple Living in Suffolk knows that you don’t eat parsnips before the first frost, which makes them sweeter, and that time has yet to arrive in Suffolk. So I cooked leek and fava bean soup. Mr Ermine deemed it good, which is high praise indeed for vegetarian food from my committed omnivore mustelid husband.
Before I give you the recipe, let’s look at the price. The multipack of five mixed packs of pulses shown above costs £12.50 at time of writing, including postage and packaging. At £4.17/kilo this is clearly considerably more expensive than (for example) my recent purchase of haricot beans from my local Indian grocers: £2.29 for 2 kilos (£1.15/kilo). But you get variety, and most of all, instructions in adorable little recipe booklets, and it all comes in encouragingly cute little packets.
But Hodmedods have catered for the Mrs Ermines of this world. They offer a catering pack of 12.5 kilos of split dried fava beans for £19.50, again including free postage and packing. This works out as a very reasonable £1.62/kilo. I am impressed. No only do you save yourself the trouble of going to the shop and lugging the beans home, you also have the satisfaction of knowing that they are, if not strictly local, at least not shipped in from some remote corner of the world. And if you wish to choose organic, you can, at £22.50 for 12.5 kilos, working out at a perfectly acceptable £1.80/kilo. Other pulses come down to an even more reasonable £1.2/kilo (whole dried yellow peas), and the whole range suggest a host of cooking adventures to be reported here in weeks to come.
Split Fava Bean and Leek Soup: Ingredients
- A couple of onions (from your local Indian Grocers)
- 250g Hodmedods split dried fava beans.
- Proper sea salt.
- Freshly ground black pepper.
- A good sized leek.
- A couple of sprigs of rosemary.
- Some dried sage.
- A couple of bay leaves.
- Cold water.
- Butter for frying.
- Soured cream/creme fraiche (optional).
- Roughly chop the onion and leek, and gently fry in a large saucepan in a generous amount of butter for ten minutes or so.
- Add the dried beans and cook for a couple of minutes while stiring.
- Add all the other ingredients except the sour cream. Add plenty of water as the beans will absorb lots of it.
- Bring to the boil and simmer until the beans are soft. This doesn’t seem to take long, and if you are in a rush you can use a pressure cooker.
- Once it is all cooked blend it with a stick blender, and adjust the salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve with a swirl of creme fraiche/soured cream if you feel like it (I did).
If you grow your own leeks & herbs, buy your onions in bulk and buy catering packs of the dried split fava beans this is a very cheap meal indeed.
Drinks Ingredients Philosophy Suffolk Coast: calf at foot dairy raw milk
It has been a busy week. Not only the usual work of working on, and organising The Oak Tree Farm, but also preparing for the annual farm tour, not not mention preparing my talk about the farm for the Aldeburgh Food and Drink Conference. All in all, one of those weeks when I had more enthusiasm than time, and my weakness for Chinese Takeaways was pushed to the limit. How can anyone resist crispy shredded beef for breakfast (I usually keep it overnight it as I prefer it cold early morning)?
But, Dear Reader of Simple Eating in Suffolk, I resisted. And this is really thanks only to one woman: Fiona Provan of the Calf at Foot Dairy.
I’d been drinking Fiona’s grass fed cows’ milk, unpasturised, unhomogonised and absolutely delicious, for a few weeks when I was fortunate enough to go and see her about buying a couple of beef cattle. Fiona is, in short, a force of nature. This lady got a group of interested, Bank-Holiday-Monday chilled group of tourists visiting the Suffolk Punch Centre where her herd is based in for a milking demo. She sat them down comfortably, and proceeded to give a monologue about the current state of the food system. I was gobsmacked, and impressed.
It was one of the most coherent and passionate rants about the blooming mess we have all gotten ourselves into that I have ever heard, with the (new to me) insight that the milk most of us drink is from depressed cows that have had their calves taken away. I gave a round of applause at the end and started hawking her milk to the punters on her behalf. I hadn’t met her before – I hope she’ll have me back!
Please do not in any way let this put you off going to see a milking demo at the Calf at Foot Dairy. Go, and enjoy the ride… then buy a whole load of this lady’s milk and rose veal. You won’t regret it.
Which brings me back to my busy week. So what did save me from that Chinese Takeaway, which, with all due respect to the local purveyors of such delicacies, would have left me bloated, flatulent (lucky Mr Ermine!) and lacking in energy? Not to mention twenty quid lighter. It was raw, un-messed-about-with milk from Fiona’s ladies. A pint of her milk leaves me feeling full of energy, no longer hungry and a great deal less poor than the alternative. I am a well known caffeine addict, and I woke early this morning after a bad night’s sleep. Straight onto a glass of milk, I feel full of beans and I haven’t touched the coffee yet. This is unheard of for me in the mornings!
Uncategorized: Interview Radio Suffolk
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I’ve just added a link to my interview with Lesley Dolphin on Radio Suffolk last Friday to this page about our upcoming “Nose to Tail” Cookery Course on Sat 14th September. There are still a few place left so do book your place now, it would be lovely to do some cooking with you!