Product review – A cleaner, better world?

Please note: I never accept payment for reviews given on The Greedy Wordsmith blog, allowing me to provide you with an honest and unbiased opinion.

wpid-imag1009.jpgOccasionally I receive an invitation to carry out a review on behalf of a local business. These are usually for cafes or festivals and I always insist they be done without financial incentive so that I can maintain the integrity of any given opinion. Last week I was approached by Gideon Innovations to write a review of their latest cleaning product, bravely named One Off. Armed with the knowledge that I can’t be paid for a positive critique they handed me a bottle and instructed me to do my worst.

Now, as a food writer my kitchen requires regular cleaning. I often wing my way through an emerging recipe with feverish passion and little practical thought; leaving a chaotic scene behind me. Once the creative moment has passed reality sets in and I am left with the grinding task of tidying up. On top of this I have a real bee in my hair net about the ridiculous marketing tactics used by many companies in this field. I hate the way we are made to feel that our houses and, in fact we, are dirty and dangerous without the latest bacteria killing formula.

There are no such claims on the bottle of One Off – in my opinion – a good start. One Off is normally provided in concentrated form, allowing the user to dilute according to the task in hand. The website advises that I can use it on everything from carpets to the car bonnet with kitchen surfaces and the bathroom suite in between. My sample comes in ready diluted form, to what strength I am unsure.

I choose to begin in the bathroom. Most bathroom cleaners offer a comforting foamy consistency and a bright, ‘cleaning product’ scent. The One Off is clear in colour with no lather which is initially disconcerting. This lack of body is not representative of its abilities however and I quickly run through the usual tasks of bath, sink and floor. I also noted that it seemed particularly effective on the taps and shower head.

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Rosehips ready for boiling, straining and mixing with honey. A typically messy job.

With no emergency stains on the carpet to attack, I move to the kitchen hob and recently stained sink. After a weekend of jam and chutney making the area is definitely in need of a good scrub. I spray the hob top in anticipation of a mammoth task before turning my attention to the fruit stained sink. It quickly removed the stains and once again I am impressed with the shine on the taps. One Off also makes short work of the baked on detritus on the hob top with only a little scrubbing, leaving a kitchen friendly scent that is not overpowering.

So how does all of this help you save the world? The development of One Off is motivated by more than simply introducing yet another cleaning product onto the market. Gideon Innovations hope to persuade you that this is the only product you require. By designing a solution that comes in concentrated form – to be diluted according to requirements – they aim to prevent the number of plastic bottles in circulation and change the way we think about cleaning our homes. The website claims that using One Off will “help the end user to retrain or reset the concept of domestic chemical use” in its multi purpose application.

In summary, this is a product that I would recommend, not only because of its performance but because of the care and consideration demonstrated in the company message.

Rating out of ****

  • Value for money ***
  • Performance ****
  • Smell/Appearance ****
  • Overall****

Unchained – A quick lunch with the man

Looking forward to the chance to cook and relax this weekend, the man and I popped by Bishopthorpe road and the excellent M and K butchers. The quest for game complete (partridge and rabbit to be exact) we decided to drop in for a cup of tea at the much celebrated Puddin & Pie.

Despite hearing a lot about this Bishy road stalwart I had not yet taken the opportunity to sample from their menu. We had hardly stepped through the door when the man realised the meaning behind the name. Pie. Mash. Gravy.

wpid-imag0900.jpgWe didn’t really need persuading to stay for more than a pot of Yorkshire builders. I opted for the tempting lamb, chickpea and chorizo whilst the man plumped for the more traditional chicken and leek. There is a choice of mash, peas and gravy in all it’s combinations and two vegetarian options for committed herbivores.

Our waitress told us that the pies were all sourced from Toms Pies in Devon. The menu informs diners that additional ingredients are sourced nearby and the whole cafe has a comfortable feel of a place catering to a local community. Our meal was tasty, satisfying and just the right size for a day time meal; leaving you full but not overwhelmed. With prices around the £5.00 to £7.00 mark Puddin & Pie offer an excellent value lunch that will not dissapoint.

Gingerbread spice and all things nice….

In the last of this trinity of York Food and Drink festival updates I share my favourite spice mix for adding a touch of the medieval to your baking. Whilst it is fantastic applied to a modern gingerbread biscuit like the one mentioned in my Christmas 2014 History Girls blog, feel free to throw it into a traditional shortbread, apple pie or even rub all over your favourite roasting joint before popping it in the oven.wpid-wp-1437388669949.jpeg

1 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 tablepoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground mace or nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves

A fricassee of rabots – a modern take on a 17th century recipe.

This second rapid installment for ‘The new black’ grew from a current archive project at North Yorkshire County Council records office. Norton Conyers, near Ripon kindly donated their family documents, including a handwritten manuscript of household management and recipes dated around 1669.

demo picThe original receipt contains an elaborate dish of rabbit, veal, oysters and sweetbreads layered with pieces of bread and slow cooked in white wine and light ale. When invited to join Rachel Greenwood in presenting said recipe at York Food Festival, I decided to deconstruct it’s more accessible components and present these in a more manageable format. I have also included the instructions for frying the oysters and sweetbreads as we did at the demonstration.

Rabbit Fricassee
Serves 4 -6 with sides

Ingredients

450g – 500g diced rabbit off the bone.
Butter/lard
4 – 5 shallots or 1 large onion, peeled and sliced
4 – 5 preserved anchovies
Splash of dry white wine
Small glass of brown beer
One tablespoon Marigold vegetable bouillon powder
Small bunch of fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, sage, rosemary, oregano)
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg or mace
Salt and pepper
One loaf of day old bread, preferably sourdough

Method
Place a spoonful of fat in a large saucepan. Don’t automatically dismiss the use of lard; it is around 20% lower in saturated fat and in my opinion lends a lighter note when frying. Brown the rabbit in small batches and set aside.bay leaves

In the same pan sweat your sliced onion until translucent before adding the anchovies, nutmeg and bouillon. Return the rabbit and top with 200ml of water, the white wine and glass of brown beer. Tuck in your selection of herbs, bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer.

Simmer gently for around 30 – 40 minutes until the rabbit is cooked through. Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste.

The final dish results in tender rabbit and a light, flavourful broth that matches wonderfully with wet polenta and a bitter green salad. To serve in a traditional way place a slice of your slightly stale sourdough in each soup bowl and top with a generous spoonful of the meat and sauce. Provide a large green salad for guests to help themselves.

Garnish of oysters and sweetbreads

Two oysters/sweetbreads per person
Spelt flour
Pinch of mace or nutmeg
Eggs
Milk

Buy your oysters and sweetbreads on the day required so that they are as fresh as possible. Sweetbreads usually need to be ordered ahead of time but many local butchers can get you them with a little notice.

Method
Beat two eggs with 300ml of milk. Add enough spelt flour to make a thick batter and season with the nutmeg.

Place a spoonful of lard in a frying pan and heat until red hot. Dip the oysters/sweetbreads into the batter and drop into your frying pan a few at a time. It will only takes 30 seconds or so until for them to cook through and reach golden brown on the outside.

Serve alongside the rabbit and green salad.

The New Black – A breakfast to go a-viking.

Nothing is new except that which is forgotten

Marie Antoinette

After sharing my 9th century inspired stoup in the York Food and Drink Festival cookbook; a Viking inspired, mixed grain porridge seemed an appropriate ‘New Black’ post for early October.

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From top clockwise. Darker grains of the rye; pale white barley flakes and cream coloured rolled oats.

The inclusion of barley and rye flakes offers a deliciously nutty texture and fits with the typical diet of the time. Buttermilk gives a creamy texture with a sharp aftertaste that balances wonderfully with the natural sweetness of the topping.In addition to the honey, I have finished my porridge with nuts available to Vikings foraging in the 9th century. Dates and figs also work extremely well; as does a sprinkle of cinnamon, ground ginger or cardamom.

Barley, rye and oats each contain their own set of micronutrients along with heart healthy beta-glucen; making this a healthy and filling breakfast alternative for the winter months. The addition of native elderberries adds a boost of vitamin C and a dash of black blue colour. If you can’t find wild elder in your local hedgerow there is still time to replace them with the last of the picked over blackberries.

Ingredientswpid-imag0899.jpg

Serves 4

For the porridge

  • 1 cooking apple
  • Small handful of elderberries
  • 2 cups of barley flakes/rye flakes/oat flakes combined
  • 3 cups of water
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5 tablespoons of buttermilk

The topping

  • Combination of hazelnuts and walnuts
  • Honey

Peel and chop the apple. Rinse the elderberries to remove dirt and insects before pulling from the stalks with a fork. Any excess berries can then be frozen until required. Place the fruit and a drizzle of water in a small pan. Cook until the apple is soft but still whole and the elderberries have broken down.

wpid-imag0897_1.jpgRoughly chop the nuts and toast carefully in a dry, non-stick frying pan. Place on the table alongside a pot of honey and extra buttermilk.

Choose a pan with plenty of room. Combine your mixed grains and water before bringing to the boil.. Stir well, reduce the heat and simmer gently until cooked through. Stir regularly to create a thick, creamy texture. If the porridge is too solid for your liking add more water. Season with a pinch of salt.

Remove your porridge from the heat. First stir in the buttermilk and then the cooked fruit. Return to a gentle heat to ensure your porridge is piping hot. I like taking the steaming hot pan to the table so that guests can take ladlefuls of porridge before adding their own nuts and honey.

‘Unchained’ – A touch of vegan glamour on York Shambles market

A glance into York’s independent food scene

York’s daily market has undergone a lot of changes in the last twelve months. As the dust settles on the new market space I stopped by Melrose Organics to ask Jodie Barber why she had decided to join the newly christened York Shambles Market.

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Originally from Sheffield, Jodie moved to Los Angeles to study Visual Communications with the intention of pursuing a career in fashion. During her time in California she became caught up with the trend for organic and ‘clean eating’ sweeping across the West Coast .

“Soon after changing my diet I noticed a big improvement in the condition of my skin and hair. And I generally felt a lot healthier too. That was seven years ago now.”

In 2013 she relocated back to Britain and found herself working as a stylist for Marks and Spencers in York. Frustrated with the lack of organic and vegan food on offer in the city Jodie took action and Melrose Organics was born. Coming from a family of entrepreneurs she is not remotely fazed by the idea of setting out on her own and feels sure that there is a generation of stylish, fashion conscious customers looking for healthy food options to fit into their busy lifestyle.

“I want to show that vegan and organic food is about more than brown rice and eating beans,” urges Jodie. “It has moved on a lot since then. I try to provide plenty of options for people with different allergies and dietary requirements too.”

wpid-imag0444.jpgThe stall has a range of whole wheat  wraps and boxed salads that are inspiring to even the most committed of carnivores. Jodie complements these with a choice of seasonal juices and guilt free sweet treats. I can safely vouch for the delicious sweet potato, mustard and hummus salad and have regularly dropped by just to pick up a bottle of her excellent chocolate almond milk.

Jodie aims to one day find Melrose Organics a permanent home on our high street but is enjoying being part of the York Shambles Market in the meantime. You can’t fail to see the enthusiasm she holds for ‘clean’ eating, and I agree that whether a committed vegan, or simply looking for a healthy lunch alternative, there is plenty to make a hungry foodie like myself very happy.

Jodie can be found Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday on York Shambles Market.

Melrose Organics can also be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram  as @Melrose_Organic or contacted at info@melrose-organic.com. Check out the website for information on products and keep up to date with changes.

Pared down suppers

As a cookery writer it is easy to get caught up in the avalanche of food trends, exotic ingredients and new gadgets rushing at me from me via social media. Whilst I am normally complicit with the wonder that is our digital world; there are times when I look to step back and bask in the warmth of simplicity. Tonight was such a time.

A heathens arrabiatta

Crush two cloves of garlic. Chop fresh chilli, chorizo and any spare courgette/aubergine/mushrooms knocking about in the fridge. Fry in good quality olive oil.
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Tip over a tin of chopped tomatoes, a sprinkling of sugar and whichever herbs you wish. I had wild oregano and bay to hand. Simmer until thick and unctuous. Boil your pasta.

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When the pasta is almost ready take a few spoonfuls of the cooking water and use it to slacken your sauce to the desired consistency. Toss with the pasta and enjoy in the last of the days sunshine.

The New Black – Healthy Energy Snacks

There is nothing new except that which is forgotten

Marie Antoinette

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I have chosen a History Girls favourite to launch this series combining modern food trends with historical recipes. The demand for reduced sugar, healthy snacks continues to rise; as does the use of dried fruits, nuts and seeds within the diet and exercise industry. In the vein that nothing is new, let me introduce you to the original energy snack.

Ancient Egyptian Tiger Nuts

Tiger nut illustration

Consisting of a mix of dried fruits, almonds, honey and sometimes sesame seeds, Tiger Nuts date back to 1400 BC. They are named after the edible tuber of Cyperus grass, a commonly used plant native to ancient Egypt. The ingredients can be found engraved into stone tablets of the era and are referenced in the Old Testament story of Joseph and his eleven brothers. Many components of this simple recipe were expensive food stuffs at the time; with honey revered as a food of the Gods and only available to the extremely wealthy.

A few food facts

  • Dates are high in dietary fibre, iron, potassium and contain good levels of vitamin A.
  • Figs contain soluble fibre, potassium, magnesium, iron and are excellent sources of vitamins A, E and K.
  • Almonds are rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids – which can be helpful in lowering bad cholesterol levels – and supply you with healthy Vitamin E and B-Complex vitamins.

tiger nuts image 3The Recipe

The secret of these goodness packed little mouthfuls is their simplicity. The ingredients are not cheap but you can make quite a lot in one batch and store them almost indefinitely in an air tight container. They never last long in our house though!

  1. 250g dried dates
  2. 100g ready to eat figs
  3. 75g sliced or chopped almonds
  4. Honey to bind
  5. Toasted sesame seeds to coat (optional)

tiger nut image 2Rough chop the dates and figs and combine with the almonds in a large bowl. Squeeze in a small amount of honey and use your hands to bring all of the ingredients together. Add more honey as you need to but try not to make the mixture overly sticky. Form small amounts into balls about the size of a walnut, pressing together with your fingers and rolling between the palms of your hands as you go.

Lay out onto a baking tray and leave to air dry overnight. Pack away and store in a cool, dry place.

Cinnamon, cumin, coriander or aniseed can be added by those who wish to spice things up and they are also quite delicious rolled in toasted sesame seeds.

Rememberance of Things Past

This week I have been developing a lemon and cardamom recipe for madeleines.

First melt the butter…

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then whisk the eggs and sugar…

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Flour, baking powder, lemon zest and the beautiful ground cardamom….

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Combine, apply heat and…..
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