Lesser known Food Combinations

While some people seem to know every trick in the book when it comes to cooking, it’s still surprising to find s few new or little known ways to bring out the best flavours in food – Here are just a couple to try next time your using these basic ingredients.

1. Strawberries and Pepper

Stawberries and Black PepperStrawberries are usually served with a fresh cream or sugar but next time you have fresh strawberries, cut them in half and sprinkle with ground black pepper. Strange as it may seem, the pepper actually heightens and enhances the flavour of the strawberry.

2. Chilli and Chocolate

Now more popular than once was, this is a trick well known in the South where Chilli bake-offs are common.

3. Chocolate and Coffee

When baking with chocolate, add a little coffee – it strengthens the chocolate flavour without adding a strong coffee flavour.

4. Meat and Aniseed

When stewing meat, throw in a star anise – you can’t taste the aniseed but the flavour adds a deep richness to the meat. This is a trick used in all meat dishes by Heston Blumenthal the owner of the 3 Michelin star Fat Duck – voted the world’s best restaurant for three years in a row.

5. Potatoes and Nutmegpotatoes-and-nutmeg

Add a little nutmeg to potatoes- Strange as it may seem, it adds a depth to the potatoes that people won’t recognize.  This is true of virtually every potato dish so go ahead, give it a try.

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Winter Garden Food Highlights

Garden furniture is being put under cover or stored away, the lawn mower has just a few more cuts before that too goes in to hibernation for the approaching winter months.

So is the garden now out of bounds until next spring? Not if you already have or want to start a vegetable patch. Keeping your garden going through the winter months gets you outside in the fresh air, provides some additional exercise and can provide you with some brilliant home-grown produce.

There are a good range of crops that can be sown to supplement the winter leeks, parsnips and sprouts that should already be settled in. Except for garlic, onion sets, asparagus and cabbages, it’s a good idea to sow seeds in cold frame or greenhouse for the plants to gain some size and strength before planting out a few weeks later.

Here are some of our favourite winter crops

1 ONIONS, SPRING ONIONS AND SHALLOTSOver-Wintering Onions
Onion sets are by far the easiest way to grow onions. Electric is a good red set, Radar a good yellow and Shakespeare is a highly reliable white. Sow some spring onions now. Some varieties of Shallots are available for planting now; many however are best planted in December or after Christmas.

2 ASPARAGUS
A fantastic seasonal crop with several varieties to choose from. You do wait for two years before you can cut them, but it is a small price to pay for a gourmet extravaganza.

3 SPINACH
Useful varieties that will tolerate being sown now until the end of October are Riccio d’Asti and Merlo Nero. The big advantage of autumn sowing is that there is no tendency to bolt.

4 PEAS AND PEA SHOOTS
For a late spring crop, it’s worth trying sowing seeds now, especially in mild areas. If you sow direct into the ground, plant them one inch deep and relatively closely at about one inch apart, to make up for a higher loss rate.

Meteor is a first early variety and overwinters well. To speed up germination, put seeds on a wet kitchen towel on a plate and sow (in modules) when the root starts to develop.

5 SPRING CABBAGE
Spring CabbagesIf you’re lucky, you might well find some spring cabbage plants left at local garden centers. Plant 12in apart each way and earth up the soil around their stems after they have got going to help them against the cold. If it gets icy in colder areas, fleece or  cloches can help. You can thin early plants for spring greens and leave the rest to heart up.

6 GARLIC
This is without doubt one of the easiest and most versatile crops to grow. Plant the cloves individually to a depth of 2.5in deep on light soils and a lot less deep on heavy soils, but always a minimum of one inch below the surface.

7 WINTER LETTUCE
Lettuces more often than not are associated with spring and summer. Cut-and-come again varieties, such as Meraviglia d’Inverno San Martino can be planted out under fleece or a perforated polythene sheet. Winter Gem is a good variety from and can be sown right through the winter till January in a cold frame.

8 LAMBS LETTUCE
Undemanding, easy to grow and useful for bulking out the salad bowl. Lambs Lettuce  does not need high light levels and tolerates low temperatures well, and so can be sown up until the end of October outside.

9 SUGARSNAP PEAS
Although not usually known for sowing now, if you choose a variety such as Snow Pea Gigante Svizzero you can get slow growth (as with all the peas) over winter to produce a crop of smallish, edible pods earlier next year.

10 BROAD BEANS Broad Beans

Good autumn varieties of Broad Beans include Aquadulce Claudia and Super Aquadulce.

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Killer Carrots from Outer Space

Some say that they’re just naturally occurring growth variances.  Some say it’s due to strange soil conditions or soil contaminates.  Some say…that they are aliens, hell bent on world domination, secretly building an army in the gardens of the country.  Some have gone as far as to say that these strange findings are actually – Killer Carrots from outer space.

Killer Carrots - Food Fun

One found hiding in the garden

We’ve pulled together just some of the images found of these strange and twisted veget….. ahum, ‘creatures’.  Have a look, have a really good look, and let us know what you think!

Baby Carrot from outer space

Baby Carrot from outer space relaxing on the sofa

If you have any evidence of this strange phenomenon, let us know; send some pictures and we’ll be happy to post them online for the world to see, and let them know that we know they are here.

Our advice to you is to put all carrots you have to good use.  Don’t use them as nothing more than a flash of colour on the side of your dinner plate.  These highly versatile vegetables can be incorporated and used in hundreds of ways.

Carrot foot

One that left a foof behind in its bid to escape : Photo by Larry Krause

Watch this space and we’ll bring you some carrot ideas over the coming weeks.

carrot - food fun

One of the mean looking ones : Picture by Solent News and Photo Agency

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The Joys of Home Grown Food

When talking about home grown food, many people assume that a home vegetable patch involves turning over dozens of square meters of garden space and continual back breaking work throughout the year come rain or shine.

In reality, a home vegetable garden can be as big or small as you like – I personally know someone who has a 4 foot square patch that is divided into four 2 x 2 foot squares and manages to grow a reasonable amount of home grown produce each year.

Home Grown Food - Fruit Vegetables and More

You don't need a farm sized garden to grow your own

Nothing can beat the satisfaction of pulling your own carrots, onions and potatoes from the ground, ready for cleaning, peeling and cooking in just minutes. In addition to the sheer convenience and satisfaction, you’re very unlikely to experience the kind of smells and tastes from the supermarket equivalents.

Even if you’re not privileged to own your own garden space with soil, a whole host of fruit, vegetables, salad crops and herbs can be easily grown in window boxes, patio areas and plant pots. Even potatoes can be grown in a large plant pot, bucket or even a strong bin liner filled with compost.

So why not give it a go, start small scale and be amazed – Before long, you’ll be looking at every available space to see what can be grown where and eagerly planning ahead for an even more varied and versatile harvest next year.

In the words of one of my favourite tracks by Eric Clapton – ‘Let it Grow’.

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Trying New Variations of an Old Favourite

lemon, rosemary, tyme and garlic roasted new potatoes

A New Twist to an Old Favorite

You often you hear the term, ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it’. This is probably good advice in many things but in cooking, some of the best tasting recipes have come from variation and experimentation of well established dishes.

Take the humble roast potato, loved by almost everyone and yet hundreds of cooking tips on how to achieve the perfect roast spud.

An interesting variation that I read about and tried just this week can be found in the new River Cottage Everyday cook book. As quick and easy to prepare for a roast dinner as any other, this simple recipe requires nothing more than new potatoes, roughly the size of golf balls or there abouts, a couple of sprigs of thyme and rosemary, 1 lemon, 6 or 7 cloves of garlic and olive oil.

Simply boil the potatoes with skins for around 5 minutes in a pan of salted water. Transfer the potatoes to a roasting dish, sprinkle over several sprigs of fresh Rosemary and thyme. Add 6 or 7 crushed garlic cloves, cut the lemon into thick slices and add to the roasting dish then give the whole thing a good covering of olive oil.

Now it’s time to get your hands dirty. Swish the potatoes around the roasting dish by hand to ensure that they are well covered by the herbs, lemon, garlic and oil. Pop in a hot oven for around 40 to 50 minutes, occasionally removing to stir and ensure that all the potatoes are covered with the olive oil and its infused flavours.

When cooked, season to taste with salt, pepper and if required, a squeeze of lemon juice. Serve and enjoy – Perfect.

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Welcome To The Art Of Food

This is only the start of something beautiful…

Be sure to bookmark us, as we’ll be expanding constantly and will ask for you…yes, you…to contribute!

Welcome!

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