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.

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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

tiger nut image

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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Ras El Hanout

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Ras El Hanout spice mix with rose petals

My store cupboard is packed with spices from food cultures all over the world. None of them lift my mood quite like the complex notes of a good quality Ras El Hanout.

Use in a dry rub, as part of a marinade or simply stir into a tomato based stew for warming depth of flavour

July In Focus – Summer herbs

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British summer herbs from left to right – Mint, Flat leaf parsley, Easy Cook Mixed Grains, Dill and Watercress

In addition to an abundance of soft fruit, July also heralds the verdant arrival of fresh herbs. A far cry from the dry, sawdust filled jars of my childhood, modern home cooks can now add a plethora of bright flavours to their dishes.

Beyond the ubiquitous basil of an Italian pasta or spicy coriander in a handmade curry, many cooks still report a lack of confidence when utilising herbs in their repertoire. On top of adding depth and complexity to an otherwise simple dish, herbs are often packed with numerous vitamins and minerals required for a healthy diet. This month’s ‘In Focus’ thread concentrates on how to get the best out of this powerhouse ingredient.

Herby Mixed Grain Salad

The mixed grains give a nuttier texture to this salad and many combinations are available in supermarkets or health food stores. Mine contained emmer, barley, durum wheat and buckwheat as well as red and black rice. You can replace the mixed grains with extra 85g of couscous if feels easier. Delicious served warm with steamed fish or cool to room temperature and add the watercress and radish for a satisfying vegetarian lunch.

Serves 4

  • 90g quick cook mixed grains
  • Half a chicken stock cube
  • Small handful of green beans
  • A good handful each of flat leaf parsley, mint and dill
  • One small courgette
  • 100g couscous
  • Peel and juice of 1 lemon
  • Slug of cold pressed rapeseed oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 80 – 100g bunch of watercress (optional)
  • 8 – 12 chopped radishes (optional)

Method

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  • Put the quick cook mixed grains and half a stock cube in a pan and cover with boiling water. Cook according to pack instructions.
  • Top and the tail the green beans. Add to the pan around 7-8 minutes before the grains are due to be cooked.
  • Finely chop the herbs and dice the raw courgette. Put to one side. Pour your couscous into a heat proof dish and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add the zest of half a lemon and a good slug of the rapeseed oil. Combine well.
  • Once the grains are cooked and the green beans al dente, drain and keep the cooking water.
  • Take your heatproof bowl and just cover the couscous with the reserved water from earlier. Top up with hot water from your kettle if required. Leave until the water is fully absorbed and you can fluff the couscous up with a fork.
  • Prepare to assemble the salad. In a large dish combine the grains, green beans, couscous, herbs and diced courgette. If serving at room temperature toss with the watercress and scatter on the crunchy radishes before serving.

Tips for buying and using herbs

  1. Buy what you need and no more if you can. Most summer herbs don’t keep well in the fridge. If you use a particular herb on a regular basis then you can find a great selection of healthy plants at your local garden centre.
  2. Look to other cultures for herb based inspiration. Dill can be found running through Ukrainian and Norwegian recipes, whilst the combination of parsley, mint, garlic and lemon is the linchpin of Middle Eastern salads.
  3. Don’t be scared of big flavours. Experiment. What’s the worse that can happen?

A spicy British breakfast

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I recently purchased a chilli plant for my window ledge. It is absolutely covered in fruits, I only hope that I can keep it alive long enough to take full advantage. (House plants and I don’t have a great history of success.)

This constant supply of fresh and fairly hot chillies has triggered a craving for one of my favourite breakfast options. Simple but rewarding this dish deserves only the best of ingredients so I popped out to buy Yorkshire free range eggs and outdoor bred, British bacon from my local butchers and grabbed the frying pan.

Middle bacon with spicy eggs and tomatoes.

Serves One

Fry two slice of middle bacon and set aside to drain. Throw 6 or 7 cherry tomatoes into the pan and cook over a low heat whilst preparing the eggs.

For the spicy eggs

wpid-wp-1435050381462.jpegBeat three eggs, salt and pepper in a large cup. Finely chop one small, hot chilli pepper. Roughly chop a handful of fresh coriander.

When the tomatoes are just cooked, remove from the pan and set aside. Fry the chilli pepper for 1-2 minutes then pour in the beaten and seasoned eggs. Stir as for scrambled eggs. Fold in the coriander just before they reach your chosen consistency and remove from the heat. wpid-wp-1435050691962.jpeg

Plate up the eggs, bacon and tomatoes and enjoy with a big mug of coffee.