Tapas for bake-off

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We are clearly not the only family in the country for whom the Great British Bake-off is a key date in the weekly diary. Unless I’m very organized we usually end up eating supper in front of the telly on Wednesday evenings and this makes for a pleasurable hour.

For last week’s Bake-off we had a delightful combination of leftovers from my niece Grace’s wedding (who had got married from our house the weekend before) and continued harvest from the garden. That all served as the basis for 3 delicious plates of tapas.

The leftovers were:

  • Alex Gooch’s remarkable sourdough, beginning to go a little stale
  • A large quantity of slow-roast pork from the hog roast at Grace’s wedding
  • A beautiful piece of Cashel Blue from ‘Liz the Cheese’ a guest at Grace’s wedding who runs Scotland’s busiest cheese shop (She had also brought the first of the season’s Vacherin Mont D’Or which we finished off on a subsequent evening baked in ready-made all-butter puff pastry with home-made blackcurrant jam)
  • Montgomery Cheddar – it’s become a very welcome tradition that my cousin Greta brings a massive chunk of this, the king of cheddars, whenever she comes to stay, as she did for the wedding.
  • A bag of superb mixed leaves from Lane Cottage Produce, with extra flowers added especially for the wedding
  • A nearly-empty bottle of white wine

The produce from the garden was fresh figs (they’re doing pretty well this year), runner beans, cucumbers and Gardeners’ Delight cherry tomatoes.

Out of this cornucopia I made:

Baked figs and cashel blue on toast

img_6495I sliced about 5 fresh figs and tossed them with a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and a good teaspoon of sugar and then baked them in a medium oven for about 20 minutes. I then put the warm figs and their sticky juices on slices of toasted sourdough and crumbled a little Cashel Blue over each one and returned the whole thing to the oven for 5 minutes until the cheese was just beginning to melt. We had a few of Lane Cottage’s delicious leaves with this.

Pork and beans with fennel, garlic and white wine

img_6497For our next nibble I pulled apart a good handful of the leftover pork and fried it in a little of the leftover pork fat on a high heat. After a minute I added a crushed large clove of garlic, some salt and a teaspoon of fennel seeds. After a couple more minutes I added a generous splash of white wine and a couple of handfuls of finely sliced runner beans, stirred well, put on the lid and reduced the heat  and simmered for about 4 more minutes until the beans were just tender before serving.

Tomato confit and Montgomery cheddar on toast

img_6501I roughly chopped a couple of couple of dozen Gardeners’ Delight tomatoes and fried them in a generous slug of olive oil with some salt, turning occasionally until they had become a rough and deeply flavoursome pulp. This was then spread on more sourdough toast and topped with plenty of shavings of Montgomery cheddar (Montgomery is so fully flavoured that I want to eat it in shavings rather than chunks – like parmesan). The whole thing was then baked in the oven for about 5 minutes. I then added a few torn basil leaves to each slice before serving. Montgomery doesn’t melt like most cheddar but it wilts in a rather satisfactory way. This is cheese on toast for royalty.

And just in case you’re wondering, we don’t normally run to 3 course tapas meals for supper in front of the telly!

A new book – conception and planned birth

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Last Friday was an exciting day. I went to Oxford for a first meeting about my new cookbook. It’s been in my head for several years and now it looks like becoming a reality. We met in a rather fancy meeting room in one of those ‘virtual offices’ in the middle of Oxford – me, Michael Phillips (and his son Jack) of Archetype who will design it and the hugely experienced Marianne Ryan who will edit it. We started talking about a title, the design, the layout and how we would work. It’s a delight working with people who have produced countless books between them and have both a love of food and a keen sense of what will make a beautiful book.

The other key member of the team is Tom Foxall, the photographer, who I originally worked with when I wrote a serious of pieces for the excellent late lamented Herefordshire Life magazine. Tom takes beautiful food pictures. We’ve already booked in a series of photo shoots of which the first is at home tomorrow. So this evening I’ll be roasting butternut squash, poaching ham hock in cider, and making a sun-dried tomato dressing in preparation for the main lot of cooking which will start at 6am tomorrow morning. The plan is to make sure that there’s plenty of food ready by the time Tom arrives in the late morning.

As well as the process of writing, photographing and designing the book, the other thing I’m excited about is way I’m going to publish it. First of all it’s going to be self-published. This means that I and the editorial/design team are in complete control of the process. We can decide on length, size and quality of paper, design, number of illustrations etc without a publisher saying ‘that’s not how we do things here’. And one of the advantages of having two busy cafes and a loyal readership of the previous books is that I’ve got really good ways of selling the books even if Waterstones don’t choose to stock it (which of course I hope they will!).

The other exciting thing about the publishing process is that it’s going to be a Kickstarter project. So prospective purchasers of the book (that’s you dear reader!) will have the chance back the project in return for some fantastic rewards. As well as signed copies of the book delivered to you at home there will be other delicious food- and café-related rewards. I’ll be telling you more about he Kickstarter project over the coming months. The current plan is that the Kickstarter project will run for just 30 days in May 2017 with a view to having the book ready printed and delivered from the printers by 1st October 2017. Just in time for Christmas!

I published my last book 17 years ago and since then there’s so much new both in the food we cook at the cafes and the food I cook at home. So the recipes are all there but it’s a massive (and exciting) job in prospect to re-test and photograph them all and then to write the text. I’m very excited!