It’s been one of those months. One of those endless months where every cupboard is ransacked for pulses and grains to eke out. One of those never ending months where unlabelled plastic boxes are hopefully defrosted and root vegetables are repeatedly experimented with. And one of those long, long months where we squint at the shopping receipts again and again and wonder if we dare stick the heating on.
We rarely argue, but all of a sudden, our differences in priorities over the food shop slip from teeny fissures into yawning, great chasms. Like most people that just aren’t that fussed about what canters down the cakehole, my OH is content to blithely lob Cathedral City and caged eggs into the basket, whereas I will forego new threads and lather up with budget shampoo in order to eat well. And so we bicker and then we compromise and what we’re left with is a schizo fridge where organic whole milk rubs shoulders with basics Mozarella next to locally grown kale next to a jar of ready made pasta sauce next to a pan full of the stuff I’ve made myself from scratch. We’re both convinced the other has got it completely wrong and we’re enjoying a particularly heated conversation to this effect, when the doorbell goes and it’s like all my religious festivals have come at once.
When Farmison asked if I wanted to review some of their stuff, I wasn’t expecting an entire fortnight’s worth of gourmet delights. But hallelujah here they are, the magnificent fruit and veg box (red skinned potatoes-check, properly sweet oranges-check), the meat box brimming with Dexter veal and salt marsh lamb and the most amazing cheese box we’ve ever had. Even better than our wedding cake.
Farmison deliver seasonal, local produce that they’ve lovingly sourced from the farm to your doorstep within 48 hours. If ever I win the lottery I am going to order my food from them all the time and exile crappy Cheddar from my fridge forever. Until then I’ve got the memory of this incredible lot to feast off.
The veal and lamb go straight in the freezer and I joint up the chicken. The breast goes into Fuchsia Dunlop’s celestial gong bau chicken and the legs and thighs make a killer tikka masala, padded out with plenty of vegetables. The carcass forms the base of a chicken and vegetable soup with parsley dumplings, so that chook alone keeps us going for a good 3 days. And the cheeses, oh the cheeses! The cheeses are a revelation.We spend a couple of days just looking at them, calculating in which order to demolish. We tussle over the Bluemin White and inhale the whole thing with crackers in front of the iplayer. The only duff note is the Caboc, which is almost aggressively cloying, it’s basically a cylinder of double cream rolled in oats. The Harrogate blue is one of the most exciting examples of immortalised milk I’ve ever sampled. My new happy place consists of buttercup golden saltiness shot through with the tangiest of moulds. I single-handedly pick at the entire wedge one exhausted evening.
The Monk’s Folly is sliced into a potato, caramelised shallot and sundried tomato tart. The Yorkshire Blue is crumbled into a sharp dressing which we fork through the remnants of the cabbage. The Dexter veal is languorously pot roasted for hours with sage,oregano, parsley, garlic, wine and cream. We watch the snow fall and have it sliced thickly with creamed turnips and potatoes. The salt marsh lamb is baked to tenderness in a salt dough crust. The apples go into a sticky toffee date and apple pudding. The Marie Flower goes into some decadently oozing little feuilletés . We make it through to payday. Just.
Marie Flower and balsamic spinach feuilletés
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 shallots, finely chopped
3 nuggets of frozen spinach
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp. sour cream
2 tbsp. finely grated decent cheddar
1 block of Marie flower (or other soft sheep’s cheese) rind removed and cut into 1cm cubes
Freshly grated nutmeg, salt and pepper
1 sheet ready rolled all butter puff pastry
1 beaten egg mixed with a little milk to glaze
- Heat the oil in a saucepan and gently soften the garlic and shallot. Add the spinach nuggets and the balsamic vinegar and cook until defrosted. Remove from the heat, cool and stir in the cubes of Marie Flower, sour cream and cheddar. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
- Flour your surface and roll out the pastry. Cut into 8 squares. Heap the contents of the pan equally in the centre of each square, leaving a thick margin all around. Brush the edges of each square with the eggy-milk wash and bring the corners in to the centre and crimp together to form a sort of envelope. Try not to leave any gaps or the filling will ooze out during baking. Brush liberally with the remaining egg-milk wash.
- Place each feuilleté on a greased baking sheet and bake at 200C for 20 minutes or until golden and puffy.
Chicken and vegetable tikka masala
2 tbsp. lime juice
2 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. chilli powder
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. curry powder, toasted
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 carrots, peeled and diced
¼ savoy cabbage, shredded
750g skinless chicken thighs and drumsticks
125ml thick Greek yoghurt
125ml double cream
For the masala sauce
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 tbsp. fresh ginger, julienned
Half a bulb of garlic, crushed
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. coriander powder
½ tsp. turmeric powder
½ tsp. chilli powder
1 fresh green chilli, finely chopped
200g chopped tinned tomatoes
3 tbsp. tomato puree
½ tsp. garam masala
300ml chicken stock
2 tbsp. freshly chopped coriander
1 ½ tsp. salt
- Mix the lime, ginger, garlic, cumin, chilli powder, paprika and curry powder with the yoghurt and cream. Mix the chicken pieces in this coating well and leave in the fridge from anywhere between a couple of hours to overnight.
- Brush the the chicken pieces with a little oil and grill until slightly charred in places.
- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion, garlic and ginger. Add the potatoes and carrots and sprinkle over the coriander, turmeric and chilli powder. Stir in the carrot and fresh green chilli. Cook for about 5 minutes and then add the tinned tomatoes, salt and tomato puree. Add the chicken stock and garam masala and reduce until you’re left with a thick sauce. Add the cabbage and cook until just tender. Fold in the grilled chicken pieces and eat with a stack of fresh parathas.
So the book’s been officially on sale for a week now, and amazingly has sold out not once, but twice already on Amazon, which has been pretty surreal to say the least.
If you’re interested, here’s what the Metro had to say about it, and even the Mail online voted it their food book of the week which was unexpected. I had a chat with Robert Elms about it on BBC LDN, and to my enormous surprise made the ‘British Bangladeshi Power 100‘ list which left me completely gobsmacked and very happy indeed.
Anyway here’s a nice recipe for some soup.
roasted carrot, red lentil and blood orange soup
750g carrots, peeled and chopped into big hunks
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. cumin seeds
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
150g red lentils
500ml chicken or vegetable stock
cheese rind (optional)
the juice and zest of 3 blood oranges,
a big fistful of chopped parsley
- in a roasting dish, toss the carrots in half the shallots, 1 tsp salt and 1 tbsp of the olive oil. Roast for 30 minutes at 160C.
- Heat the remaining olive oil in a saucepan and sprinkle in the cumin seeds. Once they release their fragrance add the second shallot, garlic and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes.
- Tip in the red lentils and stir well for a couple of minutes. Pour in the stock and cheese rind if using.
- After about 30 minutes or when the lentils are tender add the roasted carrots and cook for a further 10 minutes.
- Add the blood orange zest and juice and more salt if necessary. Remove the cheese rind an blend until smooth and stir in the parsley.