Blue Gammon

Blue? It simply means that the pork has been cured, but not smoked. In the UK, bacon is often often sold in either a red (smoked) or blue (unsmoked) packaging. The difference between bacon and gammon then? Different cuts from the pig.

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This isn’t something that I’ve eaten very often, but I now have an entirely new appreciation for how wonderful it can be. Mr Jamie Oliver demonstrated a terribly appealing plate on his family Christmas show with unctuous poached eggs, miniature baked potatoes and a watercress and apple salad. It certainly inspired my wife.

Step one: buy the best quality gammon you can possibly find.

Dust the gammon steaks in English mustard powder, season and fry them for a few minutes on each side. You can keep them flat whilst they cook by popping another pan on top.

The combination of flavours and textures puts it squarely in the comfort food zone.

Gammon, Egg and watercress salad

At about half the price of a beef steak, gammon’s satisfyingly cheap.

We actually chose to cook this as we were looking for a gluten free recipe for a guest; it opens up lots of new options as there’s plenty of combinations that will work as accompaniments.

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Can’t wait for Christmas!

 

 

 

Sprouting

Intrigued? I was.

So… what are we actually talking about here, and why would you want to bother with it?

Basically, it’s just germinating seeds so that they become tiny plants. It really is that straight forward.

And you’d want to do this because…..?

Nutritional value.

I want to explain this in the most basic of terms if I can, rather than bore you with the science:

Seeds, grains and legumes are packed with nutrients and are fantastically good to eat. Some of the nutritional value is locked away inside, but the sprouting process increases vitamin content and releases all that goodness for you to digest.

#science (It’s all about neutralising enzyme inhibitors and anti-nutrients such as Phytic acid which binds to the minerals). Google it.

Not sure about it? Have you ever eaten Cress? Delicious isn’t it! Bean Sprouts; they’re just sprouted Mung beans. Growing food indoors without the need for soil – genius. 

Most importantly for me, it’s lots of fun for the kids and teaches them about where food comes from. There’s a certain magic about watching a tiny seed develop and grow. It seems almost unbelievable how much energy is stored in each little seed, just waiting, dormant until the right conditions come along and rekindle life.

Sprouting couldn’t be easier; pop them in a jar, soak them overnight and then rinse them twice a day. Specialist kit makes life even easier and is very reasonably priced. I used a three-tiered system that allows me to rotate ‘planting’ and guarantee a constant supply with minimal effort.

3-tier sprouting system

3-tier watering system

Just pour water into the top and it irrigates every layer.

I even sprouted fenugreek that had been sat in my spice rack for, well, who knows how long. Amazing! All they need is a good soaking to kick-start them back into action. Nature truly is remarkable.


sprouting seeds

A. Vogel are a leading name in the world of sprouting. They grow their seeds organically and don’t irradiate them. Their global support for Jamie’s Food Foundation and the Food Revolution has been truly wonderful, and we’ve been lucky enough in the UK to have recently received donations of sprouting jars and seeds for many of our Ambassadors to take into schools. I can’t wait for term to start again so that I can hear all about the great work that’s going on around the country.

A.Vogel Biosnacky seeds

I’ve tried all sorts and my personal favourite is Alfalfa. It has wonderfully clean, delicate and delicious taste and works with so many dishes.

sprouting alfalfa

To me, there’s nothing like in a simple cheese and sprouted seed sandwich. Heaven.

classic cheese sandwich

ploughman's with sprouted seeds

Pep up your Ploughman’s lunch

salad with sprouted seeds

Jazz up your salad

pasta with sprouted seeds

Sprouted seeds work with so many dishes

seeds ready to sprout     sprouted alfalfa

Have fun!

N is for Noodles

Cutting it fine on the November challenges…  Jamie Oliver Food Revolution challenge number two:

“N is for November, and nectarines, and nutmeg… we want to see your recipes for dishes beginning with the letter N or using ingredients with the letter N.”

N for Noodles

Noodles are such a great store-cupboard staple.  This dish is a classic example of how you can make beautiful meals by raiding the freezer (broad beans, chillies, chicken breast, broccoli) and cupboards (udon noodles, miso, togarashi and/or furikake, garlic). There’s almost always enough there to make a similar dish.

Whether fresh or dried, egg or vermicelli, gluten free or even acorn, they’re as versatile as pasta and worth exploring.

I think I need to make some from scratch; new year’s resolution perhaps…

Faith Restored

The hunt for real food is top of my agenda every time I visit the USA on a work trip.

It never fails to shock me just how difficult it is to get hold of food and drink that isn’t highly processed and loaded with corn syrup.  Obviously America is a big place and I shouldn’t make such sweeping statements, but I’m usually confined to the big cities.

How do the locals manage it…?  Generally, they don’t.  Enough said.

The lack of healthy options is insane – hotel fruit bowls are too often ‘just for show’, and breakfast contains enough calories for an entire day.  Whole Foods is usually my saviour; we’ll make a beeline there to pick up supplies shortly after landing.

The standard diet in America hits me hard.  My teeth actually ache from all the sugar, and after a few days of Eggs Benedict and enough beef to march an army across the globe, the desire for anything even slightly green becomes insatiable. Maybe my metabolism would adjust after a few weeks/months.  I’m certainly not willing to test the hypothesis.

And then there’s the exception to my dietary principles…  Adventure.  Anything that’s both local and new is simply irresistible. So, after the misfortune of experiencing Chick n’ Ruth’s of Man v’s Food fame, all was looking fairly bleak until Cantler’s Riverside Inn stepped into the ring…

This place is a veritable oasis.  Reassuringly understated and refreshingly unpretentious, Cantler’s of Annapolis is exactly what it is: A Crab House.  In my eyes, the simple things tend to be the best.  No fuss.

Simple dining American Style

American Rustic

Given there were a few of us sharing a bench in the casual family atmosphere, we made the most of it and sampled an array of dishes, accompanied of course by cold local beers.

Oysters Riverside at Cantlers

Of all the oysters I’ve ever eaten, I can’t believe that I’ve never had them baked before.  These little bad boys were baked with horseradish, bacon, jalapeno and cheddar.  I should have ordered more.

Side salad and Drunk’n Mussels?  Go on then.

side salad

drunk'n mussles

And now for the main event.  I probably didn’t need to order both the King Crab and the Snow Crab whilst sampling the local Blue Maryland crabs, but hey, adventure!

Snow Crab and King Crab

Steamed to perfection and served with some rather large onion rings, coleslaw, Old Bay and fried green tomatoes (we are in America after all).

The Old Bay seasoning is a local Maryland delight traditionally made with paprika, celery salt, mustard, bay leaf, crushed red pepper flakes, black pepper, cloves, allspice, mace, nutmeg, ginger and cardamom.

blue swimmer crabs

It’s all fairly healthy if you can resist the drawn butter with its nutty allure.

Now here’s a new one on me that I’ll be replicating this Christmas; ketchup laced with horseradish… stunning.

 horseradish ketchup

This place even has free docking for customers arriving by boat!  Well worth a visit if you’re ever in Annapolis, hell, if you’re ever in Maryland.  Top marks.

Have a look at http://www.cantlers.com for more info.  458 Forest Beach Road, Annapolis, Maryland 21409.

Comforting Corn Chowder

From simple things comes greatness.  This is a wonderful example of how a few humble ingredients can be transformed into delicious comfort food with relative ease.  In the last of this month’s Food Revolution challenges, the Ambassadors were asked to make a hearty corn chowder (recipe provided).  The idea is to propagate the recipe, putting our own spin on it and showcasing the concept with friends, family and colleagues.

We had a perfect opportunity with a dinner party already scheduled in the calendar, and I’m glad to say it was easy to adapt the recipe to make it wheat, gluten and dairy free for our guests.  Using soya milk did effect the balance and warranted additional seasoning to counter the sweetness.

Ingredients for Jamie Oliver's Corn Chowder

Ingredients

  • 2 cups frozen sweetcorn (approximately 4 ears)
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • A few celery leaves, chopped
  • 1 potato, cubed
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 3 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tbsp gluten free flour
  • 750ml soya milk
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh chives and parsley

Method

Fry the diced onion, celery and thyme in butter until they soften and start to brown.

Sprinkle in the flour and stir for a few minutes to cook it out.

Add the potato and milk and bring it to the boil, stirring all the time so that it doesn’t stick and burn.

Once the potatoes are tender (about 10 minutes), stir in the corn, spring onions and celery leaves.

Bring it back to boil and serve.

Corn Chowder for the JOFR Ambassador challengep.s. I love the idea of smashing up a few crackers to sprinkle over the top.