Star Q&A: Raymond Blanc

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Liz Nicholls asks star chef Raymond Blanc about feeding the soul in isolation, finding your calling & his surprising favourite foodstuff…

Q. Many of us parents have been home schooling, or stressing about home schooling over the last few months… Being self-taught, do you have any encouraging words about how youngsters can find their calling, school or no school? “The key is to find your passion and follow it. I am self-taught in the sense that I didn’t ‘study’ my craft but I did ‘learn’ my craft from the best. This includes my maman who taught me so much as a child about taking the best local, seasonal ingredients and turning them into wonderful, hearty, family dishes. I learnt from great chefs who I worked under – I paid attention, I practised, I pushed forward and made my own way into a world that inspired me so much.”

Q. Your childhood sounds idyllic. What’s one thing parents can do to nurture their children’s love of food? “There is nothing that will inspire children more or make them want to try new tastes and textures than to have been part of the creative process of preparing and cooking the dishes. To this day certain dishes like a simple and delicious apple tart evoke such strong and joyous childhood memories of being in the French country kitchen, cooking with my mother.”

Q. Is there anything you don’t eat or drink? “I do all I can to avoid processed food. I once bought a processed loaf and could not believe that after two weeks there was no mould on it! In France, every little village has a boulangerie and the French buy fresh bread sometimes three times a day. Today there are a wealth of wonderful artisan food producers in the UK and they must be supported.”

Q. What’s the one food or drink that you just couldn’t do without? “Not a food I can’t do without but one I have only recently discovered – brown sauce! Yes, who would imagine a Frenchman loving the humble brown sauce. I had been Living in England for almost 40 years when one day a friend offered me a bacon butty with brown sauce. I can tell you now, it was a revelation. I cannot believe I waited so long!

Q. What’s the most useful kitchen gadget or kit no kitchen should be without? “I think most chefs would agree when I say a great set of kitchen knives. Having the correct sharp knife for each and every task in the kitchen will make everything so much easier and so much more enjoyable. Good knives are easy to handle, they are well balanced and, looked after properly, can last you a lifetime.. Another piece of kit I love is my Kenwood Chef kitchen mixer. I’ve used these machines for over 30 years, in my kitchens and cookery school, and the precision and durability is fantastic.”

Q. We’re supporting our hospitality heroes – how important it is this industry? And do you have any words of solidarity for your fellow hospitality heroes? “The UK hospitality industry employs over 3 million people, many of them just starting out on the career ladder – young, eager and full of high hopes and expectation. For them, and for the whole of the hospitality sector I say try and stay strong. It has been such a hard year but we are all in this together and we know that once this if over our restaurants, pubs, hotels will be the first places people will want to visit to reclaim some normality and joy. We live to deliver those special moments of magic and will be back to doing what we do best very soon.”

Q. What one piece of advice would you give to anyone wanting to start out as a chef? “One route is via apprenticeships. There are very many excellent apprenticeships that will give you a superb introduction to commercial kitchens. We run them at both Le Manoir and at Brasserie Blanc and can take someone with basic skills, give them the best training they could hope for and set them up for a successful career with no limits. Some of the best known chefs in the UK started this way, including Michael Caines and Ollie Dabbous who were both apprentices at my Le Manor!”

Q. How have you coped throughout the last year & what have been your go-to sanity savers? “I was at home, and isolated from most of my family – as well as my team of chefs at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and Brasserie Blanc. My way of keeping sane was to cook and cook! I chose simple dishes that evoked happy memories and provided the connection to those who I missed so much. I used ingredients that were easily-available and needed only basic kitchen equipment and out of this came the inspiration for my new television series and book Simply Raymond.”

Q. Who would be your five dream dinner party guests, living or dead, real or fictional? “Other than friends or family, of course, what could be better, I think it would be amazing to have one big table with all the great chefs I have been lucky enough to train over the years. What great things they could teach me now.”

Q. Like me, you eat regularly at Brasserie Blanc… What are your favourite dishes on the menu? “Yes, I live very close to our Brasserie Blanc in Oxford so I am in there at least once a week. I help to create the seasonally changing menu with our Executive Chef Clive Fretwell who learned his craft under me at Le Manoir – we have worked together for over 30 years now – amazing! I know all of the dishes very well, every season I have a new favourite but some dishes are classics and stay on the menu throughout, including our very special cheese soufflé. I enjoy this as a starter but also on its own for a light lunch – it is so incredibly light in texture that you can almost imagine it is calorie-free!”

Q. What other exciting plans do you have on the horizon? “I currently have the new television series Simply Raymond Blanc running on ITV on Saturdays mornings. This will be repeated over the summer on weekday evenings so if you have missed any of them don’t worry! My new recipe book is also coming out any day now – Simply Raymond. Like the television series the book is a collection of my favourite, simple home-cooked recipes – nothing fussy or over-complicated. These dishes are the ones that mean the most to me; the ones that connect me to my dearest family and friends.”

March recipes: Spice of life

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Mandira Sarkar of Mandira’s Kitchen serves up a wonderful suggestion for Mother’s Day: spiced biscuits & masala chai to deliver to your mum’s doorstep if you live close enough to her…

Nankathai cookies & masala chai (hearty spiced tea)

Ingredients:

• 100g ghee (clarified butter)
• ½ cup powdered sugar
• 1 cup plain flour
• ½ cup semolina
• ½tsp powdered cardamom
• ½ tsp baking powder
• 1/4 tsp baking soda
• Nuts for garnishing

For the masala chai:
• 1/4 cup milk
• One green cardamom
• ½ tsp grated ginger
• Two crushed peppercorns
• Two cloves
• 1 tsp loose leaf tea

Mother’s Day is on Sunday, 14th March. But, even if you can’t be with your mum, we thought this was a good excuse for tea & biccies.

Mandira, who can’t be with her mum as she is in Calcutta, tells us: “My earliest memories of tea time remain interspersed with the sounds of the Jeep arriving at the porch signalling Dad coming home at the end of his ‘kaamjari’, excited barking of the dogs and my sister and I running across the long verandah to greet him.

“Signalling the close of a working day, the world seemed at peace with itself… the setting sun casting its beautiful glow over the emerald green tea bushes and the blazing bougainvilleas looking as though someone had set off a light within…

“A very heavily laden three-tiered trolley would shortly make its way from the kitchen wheeled in to the verandah where we would all sit for tea… everything was arranged in some sort of predetermined order – the plump tea pot covered with a hand embroidered tea cosy filled with fresh brew straight from the factory and glasses of steaming milk from the cows (all children usually had their personal cows!) sat on the top tier with accompanying plates, starched napkins and cutlery… The second tier had savouries whilst the bottom tier cakes and biscuits. I still find it amazing how we had high tea every single day of the year with at least four things but no two days did the menu look or taste remotely similar. There were seasonal specialities like samosas made with a delicate homegrown potato and cauliflower filling – a sign that winter was nigh… Hot roasted ‘bhutta’ or corn on the cob picked straight from the ‘maalibari’, served with butter and slivers of lime in midsummer.

“These were melt-in-the-mouth nankathais that would put a Parisian bakery to shame and sandwiches with the most exciting of fillings from ‘chutney’ to ‘sausage’… Every different Memsaheb and cook had their own specialities. Given that there was no equipment like electric beaters, piping bags or even a temperature controlled oven, it is astounding the standard and quality of what came out of those huge wood-fired Agas and cool tile-lined kitchen counters…

“Those days are long gone… Most cooks like Monglu, our cook have passed on and the Memsahebs now live very different, albeit social, lives in bustling metros… However I cannot help thinking those tea times live on in their own way in the homes of the numerous ‘chai ka baby and babas’ scattered all over the globe … Through recipes… Embroidered linen, little silver bells… In my house it is my mum’s tattered Duliajaan cookbook handed down to me, those amazing chutney sandwiches, white fluffy nankathais or even the light of the early evening sun on a summer evening falling on my freshly mowed lawn…

Here is Mandira’s recipe for Nankathai cookies & masala chai (hearty spiced tea)

Method:

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Beat the ghee and sugar until light and fluffy. To this add the flour, semolina, baking powder and baking soda, after they’ve been sieved. Mix to form a soft dough. Make small balls (the size of marbles) and put on a greased baking tray – they will spread so make sure there is adequate space in between.

Put a cashew nut or almond as garnish and bake the cookies for 15 minutes making sure they cook but do not brown.

Gently remove from the tray whilst hot and put on a baking rack .
These melt-in-the-mouth crumbly cookies are best served with masala chai.

To make this, boil one cup water with 1/4 cup milk and add the green cardamom, grated ginger, crushed peppercorns and cloves until the flavours are infused – which should take about eight minutes. Add one tsp of loose tea leaves and then strain and serve.

Order a special Indian inspired afternoon tea from mandiraskitchen.com/product/mothers-day-afternoon-tea & use the code AboutMum for free chilli chocolates

Slow-cooked duck with duck gravy

Ingredients:

• 2 large Aylesbury ducks, about 2kg each
• 3 tsp ground mace

For the duck gravy:

• 500g duck bones and wings, chopped A little vegetable oil for cooking
• 4 carrots, peeled and chopped into 3cm pieces
• 4 celery sticks, cut into 3cm pieces 1 onion, peeled and diced into 3cm pieces
• 1 garlic bulb, cut across in half, through the equator
• 150g runny honey
• 4 cloves
• 2 litres chicken stock
• 50ml soy sauce
• About 500g unsalted butter
• Lemon juice, to taste (optional)
• Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

PREP: 20 minutes

COOKING: 90 minutes

SERVES: 4

Some dishes end up defining you, chef and restaurant. This is one of them. I cooked it at the Great British Menu banquet for Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall in 2010. That raised our profile into the stratosphere: everybody suddenly wanted to book a table at The Hand & Flowers and order duck and chips!

Method:

Remove the legs and wings from the ducks and take out the wishbone (reserve for the faggots, gravy etc., see right and overleaf). Remove the excess fat and skin, placing it all in a frying pan. Now carefully cut away the backbone; you should be left with the crown.

Place the pan of fat and skin over a low heat to render the fat out. Set aside for later use.

Score the skin on the duck crowns and rub in the mace. Heat a heavy-based frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the duck crowns and sear on all sides for 5–10 minutes to render the fat and give the skin a good golden colour. Remove the duck crowns from the pan and allow to cool.

Put each duck crown into a large vacuum-pack bag and vacuum-seal on full pressure. Immerse in a water-bath at 62°C and cook for
1½ hours.

Lift out the vacuum-pack bags and remove the ducks. Carefully cut the breasts from the crowns. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.

Duck gravy:

Preheat the oven to 205°C/Fan 185°C/Gas 6–7. Put the chopped duck bones and wings into a roasting tray and roast in the oven for about 25–30 minutes until golden brown and caramelised.

Heat a little oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add the chopped carrots and colour until darkly caramelised. Add the celery, onion and garlic and similarly colour until well browned.
Remove the duck bones and wings from the roasting tray and add them to the saucepan. Drain off the excess fat from the roasting tray, then add the honey and cloves to the tray. Place over a medium heat and take the honey to a dark golden caramel.

Add a splash of the chicken stock and the soy sauce to deglaze the tray, stirring to scrape up the sediment. Add the liquor to the duck bones and vegetables. Pour in the rest of the chicken stock and reduce down by half, to 1 litre.

Pass the liquor through a muslin-lined sieve into a clean pan and skim off any excess fat from the surface. Add 250g butter to every 500ml duck liquor and reduce down until it has emulsified into the sauce.
Season with salt and pepper and add a little lemon juice if required. Set aside for serving.

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Keep memories alive with Fusions Craft

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Discover millions of creative and crafty ways to share your life stories for future generations

In the time of the most advanced technology on record, the most money humankind has ever had, and more ways to get entertained you could possibly wish for, the strange truth is that the levels of stress, depression, and anxiety are also the highest they’ve ever been.

According to studies, children doing GCSEs today experience the same levels of stress as veterans in the times of the Vietnam war. How did it happen exactly that as we’re moving faster and faster toward the next thing exclusively designed to make us happy, we often feel like the most important thing is missing?

How does today’s lifestyle affect our mental health and what psychological benefits can art provide? Is it true that art cleanses your soul? And if it does, could it make you feel so much better you’ll actually feel the difference?

According to the world-renowned scientist Mikhailo Csikszentmihalyi, the feeling of flow created by intensely crafting (for example, writing, scrapbooking, working with clay) can cardinally change your life, infusing it with never before seen clarity, passion, purpose, and quantifiable changes in happiness. Don’t take our word for it though!

Although it can feel like modern technologies have taken over our lives to the point where our phones are controlling how we feel, how much time we spend with our family, and who watches our every move, you’ll find that there is one simple solution that includes a surprisingly old technology.

Have you ever felt that visceral emotion brought back by music or perfume or place when you remember your loved ones? Memories could very well be the most important thing in our lives, and it would be a great shame for them to fade with time.

As a family business, we know there’s nothing more important than family. With Fusions Craft, you can discover a panacea to stress, frustration, and a way of stopping the frenetic rat race and slowing downtime to a halt so you can spend it in a truly Buddhist fashion, inspecting scrapbooks you created.

In the days to come, the next generations will cherish these and learn about you with tender wonder. It’s one thing to hear about your grandma’s life story, but it’s entirely different to see the photos and feel the smell of the ink.

Fusions Craft specializes in the almost lost art of keeping your memories alive. Starting off as a small hobby, the craft unfolded and grew like a flower leaning toward the sun; soon it became a family business that specializes in scrapbooking supplies: if you need
• Paper & Card,
• Scrapbooking paper,
• Stencils,
• Embossing powder and Moulds
• and tons of other supplies you can possibly think of, you’re in the right place.

Why Fusions Craft?

Fusions craft is about so much more than photo albums. We provide you with every tool you can think of so you can produce nothing less than works of art to tell the most amazing stories, like so:

With stencils, moulds, flowers, embellishments, stamps, sprays, and much, much more, you can discover the magic of artistry that can be taken with you anywhere.

Learn of a million different ways of decorating the pages of your love stories, family sagas, photos of children and travels, adventures, tales of forest fires and heroic doctors, life wisdom learned from the darkest nights, indescribable beauty and courage and faith – with items that best reflect the emotions that will now, thanks to your contribution, will never be lost to the world.

2020 may have been called the most difficult year in history, but it also saw humans at undoubtedly their best: we saved animals in burning forests, spent more time with our family and loved ones, cried together, got saved by governments we criticized so much, stoically battled the virus and died like heroes, gave each other masks, and helped strangers.

Fusions Craft is your chance to let those who will come after know how we stood together even though we were forced to be apart. Create postcards, panels, decorate boxes, build mesmerizing scrapbooks with photos of your loved ones, adventures, your stories, unique moments caught on camera, and all those things you’d be heart-broken to forget. Now you never will.

It’s up to you what you want to remember. You could choose to remember this year as the toughest on record. Or you can keep documentary proof that along with everything that happened in 2020, it actually didn’t make us less human but instead much more. How will you remember this year?

Fusions Craft isn’t just a shop. It’s a place where you will write history.

Our Website: fusionscraft.com

Read our tips on creating a locldown time capsule

Pancake recipes: From Bonne Maman

Liz Nicholls

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Today is Pancake Day/Shrove Tuesday. We’ve teamed up with Bonne Maman UK to offer you some great recipe ideas.

Vegan Apricot Crêpes with Toasted Nuts & Seeds

Ingredients:

For the crêpes

• 150g plain flour
• pinch of salt
• 1 tbsp caster sugar, optional
• 250ml oat milk
• 1 tbsp melted sunflower spread or coconut oil, plus extra for the pan
• splash of vegan beer, about 2tbsp

For the filling

• 60-100g mixed nuts and seeds such as hazelnuts, almonds, sesame, sunflower and pumpkin
• pinch ground cinnamon or mixed spice
• 400g tub Greek-style, vanilla, non-dairy yoghurt
• 335g jar Bonne Maman Intense Apricot

METHOD:

1. Spread the nuts and seeds for the filling on a foil-covered baking sheet and sprinkle over the cinnamon. Toast in a hot oven or under the grill until golden brown. This will only take a minute so keep an eye on them. Set aside.

2. To make the crêpes, sift the flour into a large mixing bowl with a good pinch of salt and the sugar, if using. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking gently as you go, then whisk in the melted spread or oil. Set the batter aside for about half an hour if time allows, then finally whisk in the beer.

3. Heat an 18-20cm crêpe pan and wipe over the base lightly with butter or oil. Stir the batter – it should be the thickness of single cream – and pour a small ladle of batter into the pan. Working quickly, tilt the pan so that the batter runs all over the surface then hold the pan over the bowl of batter and let the excess tip out. Trim the lip of cooked batter away from the edge and return the pan to the heat. The base should be covered in batter but not quite thin enough to see through.

4. Let the crêpe cook for a minute or so until the underside is golden and comes easily away from the pan. Lift one edge up with a palette knife and carefully flip it over. Cook for a further 1-2 minutes. The flip side will only cook in spotted brown patches, not as evenly as the first side. Tip the crêpe carefully on to a plate. Wipe the pan with a little more oil and continue until you have used up all the batter. Keep the crêpes warm, covered with foil in a low oven.

5. When ready to serve, spread the warm crêpes generously with the vanilla yoghurt, add large spoonsful of Intense Apricot and finally sprinkle with the toasted nuts and seeds. Enjoy!

Lemon Curd & Raspberry Crêpes

Ingredients:

Crêpes

• 6 Large French Crêpes

For the filling

• 12 tbsp Bonne Maman Lemon Curd
• 300g fresh raspberries
• Icing sugar to dust
• 6 tbsp crème fraiche or vanilla ice-cream
• zest of 1 lemon
• 25g toasted shredded almonds
• a few sprigs of fresh lemon thyme

METHOD:

1. If the crêpes are not freshly made, wrap in foil and warm in a low oven for 10 minutes.

2. Spread each warm crêpe generously with about 2 tbsp lemon curd.

3. Add a small handful of raspberries into the centre and a spoonful of crème fraiche. Fold the crepe in half.

4. Dust lightly with icing sugar and top with lemon shreds, almonds and lemon thyme. Add a few more berries and enjoy straight away

TIP:

If fresh raspberries are out of season use thawed frozen berries.

Add a splash of Crème de Framboise or Crème de Cassis to the berries before using.

For extra flavour and crunch, stir a tablespoon of toasted almonds into the crepe batter before cooking.

Find more Bonne Maman recipes here bonnemaman.co.uk and see our other recipes here

Billy Ocean & the Young Voices

Liz Nicholls

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Billy wishes you a Lovely Day with charity single to help children’s mental health

Pop icon & beacon of positivity Billy Ocean, who lives in Berkshire, has teamed up with the Young Voices Choir to release a new and uplifting recording of the Bill Withers’ classic, Lovely Day.

Also featured on the track are award-winning broadcaster and musician YolanDa Brown (saxophone) and The Voice UK 2018 winner (and former Young Voices singer) Ruti Olajugbagbe. Released on January 26th by Magic Star (the home of children’s and family entertainment at Sony Music UK), all UK profits will go to children’s mental health charity Place2Be.

“We have all been affected in different ways over this difficult last year,” says Billy MBE, “and many children have really struggled. I’m so happy to be able to join with Young Voices to help make a difference and to raise funds for children’s mental health with this wonderful and hopeful song.”

Profits from the single Lovely Day will go to the Place2Be charity which launched the first ever Children’s Mental Health Week in 2015. Place2Be’s school-based teams estimate that 85% of the young people they support have been negatively affected by the pandemic, and have seen an increase in referrals around self-harm and suicidal thoughts in secondary schools. 1 in 6 children and young people have a probable mental health condition (Source: NHS Digital)

Ben Lewis, CEO of Young Voices, says: “With school life currently disrupted, this highlights the need, more than ever, to support children’s mental health.”

Young Voices is an all-inclusive educational programme designed to use music to develop 21st-century skills such as communication, collaboration, creativity, mindfulness, and innovation. Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year Young Voices have staged the largest children’s choir concerts in the world. In 2020 alone, Young Voices headlined 24 arenas across the UK, including a record breaking concert at Manchester Arena, overtaking Take That’s previous record of 46 shows.

This summer Young Voices will attempt to break their own Guinness World Record for ‘Largest Simultaneous Sing-Along’, currently standing at 293,978 – a record set when the ‘Big Sing 2005’ was broadcast live from the Royal Albert Hall. Streamed live from The O2 arena, Bily Ocean, Yolanda Brown and Ruti and Young Voices will join children, their teachers and families throughout the UK to sing ‘Lovely Day’. Involvement can be registered at: youngvoices.co.uk/biggest-sing/

Show your support and buy the single and share with us if Place2Be have helped you or someone you know

Build a lockdown family time capsule

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Kirsty Prankerd, from photo keepsake retailer Write From The Heart, explains how to build a time capsule with the kids.

If you’re currently looking for an educational family activity that will keep the kids busy during lockdown (and who isn’t at the moment?) then why not try building a time capsule?

Not only is this great fun, but it can help encourage the kids to learn more about the past, and to imagine their futures. Here, I’ll share my tips for creating a capsule as a family.

Make it educational

Before you set out to build your time capsule, you’ll need to decide how long you want to wait until you re-open it. Then, ask a few questions and get your children to use their imaginations.

For example, how old will they be when it’s re-opened? What might they be doing? What will the world be like in the future?

Find a sturdy box

Of course, before you can assemble your time capsule, you’ll need to find a strong box that will keep everything safe for a long time — preferably one that’s water- and air-tight. If you’ll be burying your capsule, it may help to double up and use multiple boxes to help provide an added layer of protection. Placing photos, letters, and newspaper cuttings in plastic wallets will also help to keep them safe.

Decide what to include

You can include any objects that you think might be interesting to revisit years into the future.

All of the following items are perfect for a time capsule:

Money. A few coins and notes will show future generations how money has changed over time.

A list of prices for everyday items, e.g. a pint of milk. This is a great opportunity to teach slightly older children about how the value of currency changes

Newspaper cuttings.

A few handwritten diary entries describing what an average day in lockdown is like — perfect for getting the kids to practice their writing skills!

A family photograph.

A note or letter to your future selves.

Find a spot to stash or bury it

Finally, you’ll need to find a place to buy or stash your time capsule. Remember, you don’t necessarily need to bury it in the ground if you don’t have access to a suitable location. Instead, you can always stow it in an out-of-the way place like an attic or storage space.

Once you’ve buried or stashed your time capsule, remember to make a note of its location so you don’t lose track of where it is!

 

Let us know how you get on and send any photos of your time-capsule in the making to

Patrick Ebbs: Ciceri e Tria recipe

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Try the traditional dish of Ciceri e Tria (Chickpeas and Pasta) as recommended by Godalming author Patrick Ebbs in his book about all things to do with Puglia, Reale Italian Cooking – Italian recipes from Reale Italians.

This is a very traditional and popular Salento dish. Tria is Salento dialect and originates from the Arab word ‘triya’ meaning pasta. Its name is probably a legacy of the Arabs who once invaded southern Italy. With this recipe, most of the pasta is boiled as per normal, but about a quarter of it is fried until it is golden brown, giving the dish a lovely, crispy texture. The recipe is included below.

Ciceri e Tria (Chickpeas and Pasta)

Ingredients:

• 400g chickpeas
• 1 potato, peeled and chopped
• 1 celery stalk, chopped
• 5 tomatoes, chopped
• parsley, a handful
• water
• 1 garlic clove, peeled & chopped
• salt and pepper
• 1 bay leaf
• 400g fresh pasta, tagliatelle
• 1 onion, chopped

Note: you can use tinned chickpeas if you wish (1 tin)

SERVES: 4

Method:

If not using tinned chickpeas, soak the chickpeas overnight in lukewarm water.

Next day, thoroughly wash the chickpeas, drain and rinse. Put them in a pan and cover completely with water.

Bring to boil and simmer for about 2-3 hours until cooked.

Skim the excess foam from the top – ensure that the chickpeas are always covered in water whilst cooking.

In another pot, heat some olive oil. When hot, add the celery, parsley, garlic, bay leaf, onion, potato and tomatoes.

Fry for 2-3 minutes, then add a litre of water and cook for about 2½ hours over a medium heat. Then drain and just keep the liquid, discarding the vegetables.

Drain the chickpeas when cooked and take 5 tablespoons of them and blend with a little of the stock. Add this back to the stock.

Combine the stock and the chickpeas together. Season with salt and pepper.

Take a quarter of the pasta and cut it into 10cm strips and fry in olive oil.

Meanwhile, cook the remainder of the pasta and when cooked combine with the fried pasta.

Then add to a large warmed serving bowl with the chickpeas.

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February recipes: Blooming lovely

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Star chef & hospitality champion Tom Kerridge’s new Hand & Flowers cookbook is helping us find reasons to be cheerful. We’ve teamed up to share recipes for you to cook at home.

Chocolate ale sponge with salted caramel

Ingredients:

• 350g plain flour
• ½ tsp baking powder
• 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
• 400ml dark ale
• 100g cocoa powder
• 220g unsalted butter, softened
• 550g soft dark brown sugar
• 4 large free-range eggs

Salted caramel

• 100g caster sugar
• 40ml water
• 3.5g sea salt

PREP: 10 minutes

COOKING: 20 minutes

SERVES: 12

The Hand & Flowers is a pub. Pubs serve ale. We always needed an ale cake! So that’s the idea behind this particular recipe, which grew out of my first book and TV series, Proper Pub Food, where I taught people how to cook the simpler pub classics at home.

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C/Gas 6. Line a 33 x 26cm deep baking tin with baking parchment.

Sift the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda together; set aside. In a small bowl, slowly mix the dark ale into the cocoa powder to form a paste.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar until smoothly blended, then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Fold in the cocoa paste and flour mixture alternately, a little at a time.

Spread the mixture in the prepared baking tin and bake for 20 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove the sponge from the tin and place on a wire rack to cool.

Once cooled, cut the chocolate sponge into 2cm cubes and put
to one side.

Salted caramel:

Melt the sugar in a heavy-based saucepan over a low heat, then bring to the boil and continue to cook the sugar syrup until it forms a golden caramel. Add the chopped sablé paste and cook, stirring, for a minute.

Pour the sablé caramel onto a silicone mat and leave to cool slightly.

When it is cool enough, roll out to a thin sheet. While still warm, press a 4cm cutter into the sheet make sablé discs. Leave until cooled and set then lift the sablé tuiles off the mat.

Slow-cooked duck with duck gravy

Ingredients:

• 2 large Aylesbury ducks, about 2kg each
• 3 tsp ground mace

For the duck gravy:

• 500g duck bones and wings, chopped A little vegetable oil for cooking
• 4 carrots, peeled and chopped into 3cm pieces
• 4 celery sticks, cut into 3cm pieces 1 onion, peeled and diced into 3cm pieces
• 1 garlic bulb, cut across in half, through the equator
• 150g runny honey
• 4 cloves
• 2 litres chicken stock
• 50ml soy sauce
• About 500g unsalted butter
• Lemon juice, to taste (optional)
• Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

PREP: 20 minutes

COOKING: 90 minutes

SERVES: 4

Some dishes end up defining you, chef and restaurant. This is one of them. I cooked it at the Great British Menu banquet for Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall in 2010. That raised our profile into the stratosphere: everybody suddenly wanted to book a table at The Hand & Flowers and order duck and chips!

Method:

Remove the legs and wings from the ducks and take out the wishbone (reserve for the faggots, gravy etc., see right and overleaf). Remove the excess fat and skin, placing it all in a frying pan. Now carefully cut away the backbone; you should be left with the crown.

Place the pan of fat and skin over a low heat to render the fat out. Set aside for later use.

Score the skin on the duck crowns and rub in the mace. Heat a heavy-based frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the duck crowns and sear on all sides for 5–10 minutes to render the fat and give the skin a good golden colour. Remove the duck crowns from the pan and allow to cool.

Put each duck crown into a large vacuum-pack bag and vacuum-seal on full pressure. Immerse in a water-bath at 62°C and cook for
1½ hours.

Lift out the vacuum-pack bags and remove the ducks. Carefully cut the breasts from the crowns. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.

Duck gravy:

Preheat the oven to 205°C/Fan 185°C/Gas 6–7. Put the chopped duck bones and wings into a roasting tray and roast in the oven for about 25–30 minutes until golden brown and caramelised.

Heat a little oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add the chopped carrots and colour until darkly caramelised. Add the celery, onion and garlic and similarly colour until well browned.
Remove the duck bones and wings from the roasting tray and add them to the saucepan. Drain off the excess fat from the roasting tray, then add the honey and cloves to the tray. Place over a medium heat and take the honey to a dark golden caramel.

Add a splash of the chicken stock and the soy sauce to deglaze the tray, stirring to scrape up the sediment. Add the liquor to the duck bones and vegetables. Pour in the rest of the chicken stock and reduce down by half, to 1 litre.

Pass the liquor through a muslin-lined sieve into a clean pan and skim off any excess fat from the surface. Add 250g butter to every 500ml duck liquor and reduce down until it has emulsified into the sauce.
Season with salt and pepper and add a little lemon juice if required. Set aside for serving.

Smoked haddock omelette

Ingredients:

• 12 medium free-range eggs
• 4 tbsp unsalted butter
• 100g aged Parmesan, finely grated
• Sea salt & ground pepper

Poached smoked haddock:

• 1 side of smoked haddock, 600g, skin and pin bones removed
• 600ml whole milk

Smoked fish béchamel:

• 250ml smoked haddock poaching liquor (see left)
• 15g unsalted butter
• 15g plain flour
• Sea salt & ground pepper

Omelette glaze:

• 4 tbsp warm smoked haddock béchamel (see left)
• 4 tbsp hollandaise sauce
• 4 medium egg yolks
• Sea salt & ground pepper

PREP: 10 minutes

COOKING: 20 minutes

SERVES: 4

A delicate, beautiful omelette is one of those pure dishes that makes you realise great food does not have to be about hundreds of ingredients on a plate. It’s about allowing a simple product to sing.

Method:

Check the smoked haddock for any tiny pin bones. Bring the milk to the boil in a wide-based saucepan. Carefully lay the smoked haddock in the pan, ensuring it is covered by the milk. Place a lid on the pan, turn off the heat and leave the fish to poach in the residual heat for about 10 minutes.

Once the haddock is cooked, remove it from the milk and gently flake the fish into a tray lined with greaseproof paper. Cover the tray with cling film and place in the fridge until ready to serve.
Pass the milk through a fine chinois into a clean saucepan and keep to one side.

Smoked fish béchamel:

Bring the smoked haddock poaching liquor to a gentle simmer.

In a separate pan over a medium-low heat, melt the butter. Stir in the flour to make a roux and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Gradually ladle in the warm poaching liquor, stirring as you do so to keep the sauce smooth. Cook gently over a very low heat for 20 minutes.

Pass the sauce through a fine chinois and cover the surface with a piece of baking parchment or cling film to prevent a skin forming. Set aside until needed. (You won’t need all of the fish béchamel but you can freeze the rest.)

Omelette glaz:

Gently warm the béchamel in a saucepan then pour into a bowl and whisk in the hollandaise and egg yolks. Season with salt and pepper to taste and pass through a chinois into a warm jug or bowl. Keep warm to stop the glaze from splitting.

To assemble & cook the omelette:

Crack the eggs into a jug blender and blend briefly to combine. Pass through a chinois into a measuring jug. Place 4 individual omelette pans (we use Staub) over a low heat.

Take the smoked haddock from the fridge, remove the cling film and lay on a grill tray. Warm under the salamander or grill.

To each omelette pan, add 1 tbsp butter and heat until melted and foaming. Pour the blended egg into the pans, dividing it equally. Using a spatula, gently move the egg around in the pans until they start to firm up. Remove from the heat; you want the eggs to be slightly loose, as they will continue to cook off the heat.

Season the omelettes with salt and pepper and sprinkle the grated Parmesan over their surfaces. Divide the flaked smoked haddock between the omelettes, then spoon on the glaze to cover the fish and extend to the edge of the pans. If the glaze spills over the side of the pan, wipe it away, as this will burn on the side when blowtorching.

To finish, wave a cook’s blowtorch over the surface of the omelettes to caramelise the glaze. Allow the glaze to become quite dark, as
the bitterness will balance out the richness of all the other ingredients.

See our other recipes

Star Q&A: Andy Triggs Hodge

Round & About

Featured

Three times Olympic rowing gold medallist Andy Triggs Hodge started rowing because he thought it would be fun, now he is sharing that sense of fun through Race The Thames 2021, we chatted to him about his career, the importance of sport and the event taking place in March

How did you get involved in rowing in the first place and why, what was it that attracted you to it?

I started rowing at Staffordshire Uni – not a typical rowing uni – because a friend suggested it would be fun. I had no idea what that innocent moment would lead to. From there I found something that sparked my imagination, passion and vitality in life as a whole, and I found myself getting better grades, improving my outlook in life, everything seemed to get better when I took up the oar. It really does conform to the saying, ‘the more you put in the more you’ll get out’.

Were you sporty generally?

I was always last to be picked for school sports, football, running, etc. I used to play a bit of rugby in the second row, but I never scored a try or flourished. I challenge everyone who thinks themselves as unathletic, I believe they just haven’t found ‘their’ sport. It’s why giving young people a chance to try all forms of sport through school is key to their development as well-rounded individuals. Sport plays such a big part in life, everyone will be good at one sport, they just have to find it. This also applies to adults.

Lewis Hamilton said winning the seventh F1 world title was beyond his wildest dreams, but that he had ‘secretly dreamt as high as this’, when you got into rowing was that your ‘secret dream’ to get to the top, winning Olympic and World titles?

I started rowing because I enjoyed it, and I’m lucky enough to say that I finished rowing enjoying it. Winning was always and only a by product of the elements I held dearest – self-improvement; enjoyment and being with friends in a common goal, the sacrifice; achieving one’s potential in anything is directly proportional to the sacrifices made.

Do you miss that competitiveness now you’ve retired or are you someone who has to win at everything you do?

Winning has never been a driver for me, since I retired, I replaced my passion to achieve something (which only started when I found rowing) with two things: First, trying to be a good husband, to make up for the time my wife had to put me first despite the hardships in her life, and to my sons who saw a dad who was reduced to the knackered shell of a man each day as I returned from a training programme designed to keep the human body on the red line seven days a week. Secondly, to find a way to create something for the sport I love. Rowing needs new avenues and opportunities as the sport risks becoming obsolete. Now my focus is on Race the Thames – an event for London Youth Rowing. I’m very excited and can’t wait to see how it lands in March!

Tell us about Race the Thames 2021, how can people get involved?

The event is trying to be as open and inclusive as possible, primarily an indoor rowing event, but you can also contribute to the challenge on any indoor machine. There are two challenges for the teams of eight (male, female or mixed) to choose from; the Race the Tidal Thames, 72km completed in a week or a day, and the Race the River Thames, 342km completed in a week. The ‘field of play’ is an amazing online map that we’re going to bring to life in an exciting way. We’re looking for teams of rowers and non rowers alike: friends, families and colleagues, schools and places of work, across gyms, home machines, anywhere people can access a machine, and any time in the week of 19th to 26th March.

And it’s in aid of London Youth Rowing, what’s that all about and who does it help?

Teams choose their own charity to support, as well as LYR with proceeds split 50:50 – I’m really proud to be able to support many charities through this event. LYR supports young people from backgrounds and communities that would make it very difficult for them to find rowing. I had a comfortable up bringing and I discovered rowing through luck and my ‘privilege’, and it still had such an impact on me it’s hard to comprehend. So many young people who are trapped in the hardest walks of life won’t have that chance without LYR, and knowing the benefits it could have on those individuals, not necessarily to achieve Olympic success, but simply to improvements to life by just participating like I had at uni, is motivation enough for me to live through LYR.

The LYR website says one of the aims is to ‘help young people recover their physical and mental health in 2021’ – with the events of 2020 just how important is this for everyone and how can exercise play its part in this?

Sport is so important at many levels, lockdown has decreased sport across the board. Rebuilding that is essential to getting back on track to increase activity in young people and adults alike, but also to recover our sense of wellness and vitality in our communities. I hope Race the Thames is the motivation to our participants to keep our spirits up and the inspiration to those who LYR help to keep striving and pushing forward.

To find out more and get involved visit www.londonyouthrowing.com/event/racethethames2021

The Three Daggers in Edington

Grace Tracey

Featured

A stay at the dog-friendly The Three Daggers certainly made my tail wag, not to mention that of terrier Roger

Anyone who knows me knows I love dogs. Another thing I love is staying in beautiful B&Bs in the gorgeous countryside (who doesn’t!). So a stay in The Three Daggers, a dog-friendly inn in the middle of Wiltshire’s valleys, was perfect for me!

Unfortunately, I don’t have a dog (yet) – so I borrowed my mum’s rescue terrier mix, Roger, for the trip. I‘d seen the pictures online but the whole property had such charm it simply can’t be captured in an image.

The self-proclaimed “quintessentially British” accommodation certainly lived up to the title. Our room was spacious and luxurious with a massive comfy bed and bathroom fit for a king. There was also a Roger-sized armchair which he soon settled into with his favourite blanket and one of my mum’s shoes.

We were shown Edington Farm Shop, full of local produce and much from their own Priory Farm inclduing their special Three Dagger ales from their micro-brewery. They also had fresh fruit & veg, pies, sausages, some rather lovely dog treats and even local artists’ work.

In the micro-brewery we were told by Jackie the Accommodation Manager, who was very kindly showing us around, they hold small weddings and with this year’s restrictions they have had a lot of interest from couples in using this stunning location for their big day, holding the reception in the upstairs of the restaurant which doubles as a quaint events room.

Just in case a pub, accommodation, brewery and farm shop were not enough for you – they also have a Spa Barn onsite which has an extensive treatment list and also includes a sauna, steam room, outdoor hot tub and a plunge pool! What more could you ask for!

Roger was in need of exercise by now, so we took a walk around the quiet roads and fields surrounding The Three Daggers as the sun began to descend. The hills and valleys made for a fantastic sunset, and the pinky-purple sky guided us back to the inn.

I’m envious this isn’t my local as it had a lovely warm and welcoming atmosphere – the staff could not have been nicer to Roger (and us of course). We ordered starters and mains and ‘cheers’ed a delightful house red to having a great time so far.

I’m not just saying this because we’ve not been out much since the lockdown, it genuinely was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. I enjoyed a creamy baked camembert to start, a delicious veggie pie while my partner (often disappointed by small portion sizes) was pleasantly surprised with his pig terrine starter, steak and chips main. We both opted for the salted caramel cheesecake for pudding as we’d seen it pass on the way to another table earlier and decided sharing one wasn’t an option.

After a heavenly sleep, we were greeted by a basket of warm pastries and other breakfast treats outside our door – I loved the pain au chocolat. A brief walk with Roger in the morning sun and it was time to head back to reality.
If you’re a lover of the countryside and looking to treat yourself – and your pooch – this is an ideal destination!

If you fancy booking a visit for yourself or to find out more about the beautiful venue visit www.threedaggers.co.uk