Family of creators.

There are Melville-Browns making all sorts:  painting and sculpture (Chris), handmade dovecots (Peter), photography (Martin), plays and drama (Jonathan), car design(Guy), sodabread enterprise (Laura), lighting for international hotels (Jessica), architectural and other illustration (Toby), theatrical stage management (Emily) and even one of the youngest is moving in to metalwork.

Emily’s latest venture is close to our interests and links to the bees: cotton food wraps impregnated with beeswax so that they are food-safe, durable and washable.  The perfect alternative to clingfilm if you want to reduce your use of plastics https://www.numonday.com/shop/m-bee/

For my part, let me introduce the humble but wildly successful sock-dryer.  Fiddling around with individual pegs to hang up socks was just too irritating – put it down to being blind rather than innate impatience.

1 large ice-cream box lid (other pieces of plastic are available).

2 plastic coat hangers.

Gaffer tape.

1 one inch pastry cutter.

1 pen.

1 Stanley or similar sharp knife.

 

Mark two rows of 4 or 5 circles down the two sides of the lid – going lengthwise – marking the circles by running the pen around the pastry cutter.

Cut a cross inside each circle with the knife: cutting from edge to edge like a hot cross bun.

Attach each side of the lid along the length of a coat hanger with the tape.

Tape the two coat hanger hooks together.

Voila: one perfect sock-dryer.

(For good finish, make sure the circles are in a straight line and cut the crosses all in the same direction.  I confess I just did the design and master craftsman Steve did the making.)

At first, you need to watch your fingers when pushing socks through the crosses but these soon soften.  Simply load and hang up in a good drying location.  Those with tidy minds can even pair their socks in the dryer (too sad).

 

 

Terrine de campagne.

One of my long-term ambitions has been to make the sort of terrines, pâtés and cooked meats in storage jars that you can buy in France.  With the Covid situation continuing and Brexit looming on the horizon with all the possibilities of food shortages and power cuts, I have the excuse to try some preserving that doesn’t rely on a freezer.  And having a great local butcher who will select and mince exactly the right meat makes a huge difference.

I used the type of glass jars that have a rubber seal and metal clips.  This recipe is my adaptation of the Le Parfait terrine that you can find on-line https://leparfait.co.uk  (they make the jars):

5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped.

1 glass of white wine.

500g pork meat (100% lean, minced

500g pork meat (50% lean, 50% fat), minced

500g chicken livers, chopped.

2 large onions, peeled and finely chopped.

1 egg

3 teaspoons ground black pepper

1 teaspoon mace

1 teaspoon salt

A good slug of brandy.

 

Place the garlic and wine in a pan and gently heat to soften the garlic (or microwave in a bowl).

Get a very large bowl and add all the ingredients – I used my hands so had a bowl of hot soapy water ready.

When thoroughly mixed, fill the jars to the neck, fit the seal to the lid and clamp shut.

Place in a large pan and cover with at least an inch of water.

Bring to a simmer (100°C) for three hours.

Allow to cool in the pan.

When the jars are cool enough to handle, release the clip and try to lift the lid.  If it is not possible, you have a good vacuum seal so replace the clip and store.

I also filled a silicone loaf mould with the terrine mix, on top of three bay leaves, vacuum packed it and cooked it in the sous-vide for 6 hours at 70°C.

Alternatively, you could cover loosely with foil and place in a roasting tray filled with water.  Cook in a moderate oven (Gas 4) and cook for a couple of hours – until a cooking thermometer shows 70°C.

Served with the damson and apple, date and walnut chutneys, homemade bread rolls and salad garnish.  Excellent.

 

 

 

Tamarillo or not Tamarillo?

 

That’s the question.  We have just discovered a plant in the garden: long soft ovate leaves and elongated yellow fruits with the feel and structure of apples – even the same taste as I threw caution to the wind and ate one.  The plant finder App pronounced tamarillo (also known as the tree tomato).    But great friend and gardening researcher Elaine re-posted that they are the fruits of the passion flower: cause stomach upsets if eaten when still yellow rather than the golden peachy colour they should achieve when ripe.  I have no idea where the well-established shrub sprang from and why it has chosen to fruit this year or what it really is.  Any suggestions very welcome please.

This week I was finding a use for last year’s crop of chilli peppers.  They have been drying for many months so, once topped and tailed and de-seeded, I ground them with dried rosemary from the garden, dried thyme and powdered garlic.

A simple potato recipe for the mix:

Slice potatoes into thick slices (about 0.5 cm thick).

Throw the slices in to a bowl with a good grinding of black pepper, half a teaspoonful or so of salt, a teaspoon of the chilli/herb mix plus a good tablespoonful or two of olive oil.

Mix with your hands so that every surface of potato is covered.

Lay out on parchment paper and cook for about 45 minutes at Gas 4, turning the slices over after about 30 minutes.

Utterly delicious!

The potatoes were dished up with a roast chicken cooked the Heston way: soaked overnight in a litre of water plus 60g salt, slices of lemon and herbs.  Next day, drain, put the lemon slices inside the chicken and put into a roasting tin in the oven at the lowest heat.  The key piece of equipment is a thermometer (mine talks) and, after three or so hours, check that the temperature of the thickest piece of thigh has reached 70C (put it back in the oven if not hot enough).  When you are satisfied with the temperature, remove the chicken from the oven and cover with foil and a kitchen towel (the cotton sort).  Let it rest for about 45 minutes (while you cook the potatoes).

Turn the oven up to the highest temperature and remove all the coverings from the chicken – cook it for 10 minutes to produce a crisp, brown skin.

Serve everything with vegetables: easy roast chicken lunch.

And, while I was making this, I also cooked apple, date and walnut chutney using the same proportions and method as the damson version (posted a few weeks ago) – excellent.

(Plus, an apple crumble and a rhubarb and ginger (crystallised) crumble – a busy morning in the kitchen.  My crumble mix uses oats, brown sugar, crushed hazelnuts and butter – I prefer it to the flour version.

 

.

 

 

 

 

 

Highly Dangerous Comestible

                                                      Highly dangerous comestible.

To whom it may concern,

I wish to raise a formal complaint.

At Christmas 2019 I was the recipient of many magnificent gifts from my long-term and much esteemed friend, Maggie.  Amongst this treasure trove of delicacies was a container of Gentlemen’s Relish (one of my favourite comestibles).
I had investigated this precious gift on frequent previous occasions but could not discover any method of opening the receptacle.  Last night, in the midst of the Corona Crisis and without any other possible sustenance, I once again endeavoured to lay siege  to the container.
I commenced with a sharp knife and only managed to chip the exterior so desisted from fear of damage and injury to my person.  Despite its construction in very heavy duty plastic, I next tried a tin opener (several times) with no better success.  Eventually I resorted to a pair of sturdy kitchen shears.  The result was more heartening with plastic fragmentation  possible at each determined cut.  Although I’m blind and so could not see the progress, I could hear it as the pieces of plastic rebounded around the kitchen with considerable velocity.
I was eventually able to partially open the indestructible container and excavate some of the contents.  These proved satisfyingly delicious but dissatisfyingly insufficient in offsetting the considerable energy expended in gaining access and subsequently vacuuming the kitchen to recover the plastic shards.
I appreciate that this may all be part of a calorie controlled diet: namely, it takes more energy to access the food than it provides when digested.  Notwithstanding which, I raise this complaint as there were no markings on the culpable container to designate it as inaccessible for a disabled consumer or any other person of right mind!
I attach an image which may be used in evidence.
The safer alternative is to drain a tin of anchovies, add a knob of butter and the juice of half a lemon plus a good grind of black pepper.  Whiz the mix to a paste and spread on hot toast – delicious!

 

Omissions and improvisations

 

Clearing out the freezer and store cupboards brings surprises and challenges.  This week, a pack of Spanish dried ham emerged blinking into the daylight from a Christmas past.

I confess to using de-frosted bought shortcrust pastry to make the tart.  Don’t bother with the palaver of baking paper and beans when baking blind.  Simply fit the pastry to the tin, prick the bottom with a fork and cover all the pastry (edges included) with a sheet of cooking foil.  Press down firmly to both shape the pastry to the tin and provide masking from the heat.  Cook for 10-12 minutes at Gas 6/200C before removing the foil.  My tip for avoiding a soggy bottom is to paint the inside of the tart pastry with beaten egg and then return to the oven for about three minutes.  Then leave the pastry case to rest for an hour or so.  The residue of the original egg plus three others were beaten with cream to add to the tart.

That ancient ham was finely shredded to cover the pastry.  Meanwhile, six younger leeks were very finely sliced and separated into individual rings before being sweated in a little water in the microwave.  Par cooked and cooled, they topped the ham and the tart went in to the oven for half an hour, minus the eggs and cream which this over-enthusiastic blind cook had completely forgotten.  But the end product was still delicious and so much better for one’s waistline.  The languishing egg and cream mix is in the freezer in the hope it will survive for another day – no net gain on freezer space,

Peppers were charred over the gas before cooling in a plastic bag to make removing their blistered skin easier.    De-seeded and very finely sliced, the peppers were doused with vinaigrette ready to serve with the tart.  I wanted to pep up the flavour and searched for mustard seeds amongst the Indian spices.  Even though I tasted the different little round seeds, I managed to use whole coriander by mistake – and the result was even better.

The left-over peppers went into small jars, clamped with rubber seals: covered with water in a pan and gently simmered for 30 minutes.  I’m attempting bottling them for freezer-free storage in case the power goes off!  They will either be a taste of summer or pent-up botulism!  Wish me luck!