The Perfect Steak

Cooking Perfect Steak

There is not a lot out there that beats cooking perfect steak, local, grass-fed, well aged.  All sounds very easy and when you look at the basics it is.  Unfortunately over the last few decades meat has become the realm of supermarket and so many local butchers have gone by the way side.  The meat in supermarkets does not compare to the meat you buy from a good butcher, supermarket meat on the whole is grain fed, fed growth hormones, steroids and antibiotics and never sees a blade of grass.

When your butcher tells you not only where your meat is from but how it is raised and how it has been treated after slaughter then you know the meat is good, for many knowing the provenance of the food they eat is becoming more important all the time.  There is simply no way that the mass factory farming of meat is sustainable going forward.  Eating locally sourced, grass fed and free range is the only way we can carry on eating meat, and to eat good meat well sourced less.  I will happily pay more for good quality and eat less of it.  I am very fortunate to live where I do and to know the people I do be they farmers, butchers or producers.

Recently and old school friend who has now been a butcher for 30 years offered me some T-Bone steaks, Mark is the owner of Palfreys butchers in Newport. Mark has many awards to his name and has carried on the excellent tradition of traditional butchery at Palfreys.

I visited Mark and collected some fantastic 55 day aged Longhorn cross Hereford T-Bone steaks.  As you can see in the image below the colouring and marbling of the meat is fantastic and as it should be not the bright red you see at the supermarket.

 

T-Bone Steak

T-Bone Steak

When it comes to cooking perfect steak of this quality there is no messing about.  The steak is removed from the fridge and all packaging removed to allow the meat to bloom and get to room temperature, never ever place a steak straight from the fridge on to a hot griddle or grill.  Around twenty minutes will  have the meat ready for cooking.  Seasoning is purely salt, i never season with pepper as the heat i cook at purely burns the pepper leaving an acrid taste, season with pepper after cooking.  Preheat your griddle or pan, I use a cast iron griddle and use this whether cooking in the house or when using the wood oven.

Cooking Perfect Steak

T-Bone Steak

I use what has now become known as the Heston method for cooking perfect steak, with the griddle smoking hot place the steak down away from you, the heat will sear the meat instantly and seal it. if the pan or griddle is not hot enough when you go to lift the steak to turn it it will stick to the pan, I do not use oil when cooking steak of this quality the natural fat in and on the steak does the basting for me.  After 20 seconds turn the steak and continue turning every 20 seconds, I use a meat thermometer for all my meat cooking and for a medium rare steak I remove the steak when it reaches an internal temperature of 50c and place on a grill rack next to the cooker and rest for at least the time I have cooked the meat for.  If you do not have a meat thermometer I highly suggest that you get one.  If you like your steak rare the internal temperature to remove the meat at should be 47c for medium aim for 55c, I will not give temperatures for well done as to me that is ruining good meat. After the meat is rested serve with triple cooked chips and a good béarnaise sauce, you can of course have a sauce of your choice be it Diane, mushroom or peppercorn I like to keep it simple and classic.

Cooking Perfect Steak and triple cooked chips

T-Bone Steak and triple cooked chips

As I say cooking is not difficult and when you have fantastic produce you do not need twenty processes and 30  ingredients to get the best from it, keep it simple.  Support your local butchers and farmers and eat meat of a far higher quality than mass-produced supermarket produce.

Any questions please do not hesitate to leave a comment and I will get back to you.  Enjoy your meat and live happy.

 

Fungi, weeds, flowers and wild cocktails.

Fungi-weeds-flowers-and-wild-cocktails

A weekend of exploring fungi, weeds, flowers and wild cocktails on the Welsh borders in stunning countryside with amazingly knowledgeable people.  I along with many other people have always picked wild free food since being a kid, generally the easy win stuff like blackberries, elderflower, sloe, nettles and dandelions etc.  Like a lot of people mushrooms are a fascinating yet scary prospect on the wild food front.  This years birthday present was a weekends foraging with Liz Knight and Mark Williams of Forage fine foods and Galloway Wild Foods respectively.  I have known Liz for a number of years and have enjoyed her wild produce for a long time, I have met Mark previously and read his website posts on various aspects of foraging and fungi.

hosts

The place for the first days foraging which would be predominantly focusing on mushrooms was Nant y Bedd a 6.5 acre organic garden and woodland located at 1200 feet up in the Black Mountains in the Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales.

After tea and coffee Mark and Liz gave a run down of how the weekend would run and Mark handed out a small enamel cup to everyone, we would use these over the next two days for various tastings of the many and varied drinks that were in Marks large bag in various bottles, from cordials, to tinctures, to very sloe gin, to whisky sour.  The first of these drinks we sampled was Elderflower and Sea Buckthorn champagne, I have tasted many variations on this drink and this I have to say was possibly the best I have had, you can find the recipe on Marks website.

Various sources state there are anywhere from 7,000 to 15,000 species of fungi in the UK.  This is about 6 times the number of species flowering plants. About 3000 of these are species of larger fungi i.e. those with fruit bodies easily visible to the naked eye.  The table below gives a brief introduction to the fungus families.

Sub-division Characteristics and remarks
Basidiomycota Contains the familiar mushrooms and toadstools. Divided into a number of classes including the Gasteromycetes (includes the puffballs and stinkhorns) and theTeliomycetes (includes rusts and smuts). The familiar gilled and pored fungi belong to the Hymenomycetes. All members of the Basidiomycota produce their spores on a characteristic cell called a basidium (plural basidia)
Ascomycota The largest number of species occur in this section. Includes the class Discomycetes (the cup fungi) and the Pyrenomycetes (flask fungi). Members of the Ascomycota produce spores in a sack like structure called an ascus (plural asci).
Zygomycota Mostly microscopic species includes the pin moulds that attack fruit in your refrigerator.
Oomycota Not now considered to be related to the above three sub-divisions. The Oomycota includes the water moulds and some important pathogens such as potato blight. Many have produce motile spores during their life cycle which can swim.
Deuteromycota An artificial sub-division containing those species for which no sexual state has been identified and therefore cannot be placed in any of the above sub-divisions. Most are thought to be derived from the Ascomycota. Includes many so called moulds such asPenicillium
Myxomycota The slime moulds. Very different from any of the above although spores are produced which look like the spores of the higher fungi. Many species  include an amoeba-like stage in their life cycle.

 

Mark told us of a survey he carried out with one of the UK’s leading mycologists, during the survey Mark said that he could positively identify around 50% of what they found and the mycologist around 70% and saying that many could only be identified under a microscope.  So when he gets a picture on twitter of a fuzzy mushroom cap and no other information asking “can I eat this” you understand his frustration.  An important part of the identification is the habitat it grows in.  Mycelium of the mushroom works with other plants, trees, soils.  The word mycelium literally means “more than one”. It is actually a plural form of the word Mycelia.  The word has New Latin and Greek origins and was first coined in text in the early 1800’s, and refers to the thread-like body of a fungus.  The main part of the fungus is the mycelia, which lives inside the substrate (wood, straw, grain, etc). The mushrooms that we eat are actually just a small visible part of the organism. In nature mushrooms “bloom” much like flowers do.  Like flowers, mushrooms bloom during certain times of the year when the conditions are just right.  So when you ask for a mushroom to be identified you need to give as much information as possible, size (put a coin etc next to the cap), habitat (trees it’s under, grass, other fungi present), gills, spore colours, always use a guide-book, never trust just one source be it a book or website.  For a far more in-depth guide to mushroom foraging visit Marks guide An introduction to fungi foraging.

At the start of the walk Mark said that often on a forage the first mushroom that is found he can not positively identify and that identification of mushrooms is down to probability and that you never munch on a hunch.  This year has not been the best for fungi, the conditions have not been ideal for a bumper crop and we were a few weeks past the best time, the walk through the forest under a canopy of various deciduous and evergreen trees, from birch to Douglas fir both of these trees are great foraging sources in their own right, birch trees: tea from the twigs; a tea, spice, and flour from the inner bark; syrup from the sap.  The needles of the douglas fir can be used for many things from teas, to adding to marinades and rubs for meat and fish, they have an amazing citrus note to them and can be used to replace lemon and lime in many things.   During spring time, pine, fir, and other evergreen trees grow by producing new tips at the end of each branch. The new growth is a lighter, vibrant green, and you can (and should) eat it. The tips have a wonderful citrus-y, woodsy flavor that tastes awesome in all kinds of sautes, seafood, and roasted dishes. But the easiest way to preserve their flavor is steep them gently in a syrup, which will last in your fridge for weeks.

On the walk we came across various fungi from puff-ball to shaggy ink cap both edible.  The puff-ball has another name that is far more amusing and when I told Ffion she laughed and will not forget its name of Wolf Farts, on the picture of the ink cap you can just see the tips starting to blacken, again please use a guide-book when identifying, both are edible when young.

puffball1shaggy

 

 

 

 

Another fungi we found whilst on the forage is the honey fungus, one honey fungus living in the Blue Mountains of Oregon occupies almost 2,400 acres (965 hectares) of soil, covering an area as big as 1,665 football fields.

honey-fungus1

honey-fungus

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also found brittle gill and parasol mushrooms, there are edible and inedible varieties in both families of so identification again is important, use your guide books, look at habitat, cap, stem, gills and spores and remember identification is probability not definitive.

parasol brittle-gill

 

Throughout the walk it highlighted that there are very few easy wins in mushroom foraging, it is imperative that you use guide books and never trust one resource, some fungi will not just give you a dodgy belly but have the potential to kill.

We ended the day with Mark making us a feast of fungi that he had brought with him, there was also breads, fermented wild garlic, wild mushroom pâté, wild garlic pesto, baked apples with wild spices and wild cocktails made by Lottie Muir author of Wild Cocktails from the midnight apothecary

wild-mushrooms

pond

We finished the day eating amazing wild food around a fire next to the wild pool in the garden at Nant y Bedd, to say I was jealous of this feature is an understatement, I told Sue about my jealousy on day two of the foraging and was told I am welcome to visit and have a swim.  The first day of the weekends foraging was amazing and I learnt so much from both Mark and Liz.

Day Two

The second day of the foraging course was to take place at the home of Liz at Forage fine foods, on a hillside just outside Abergavenny looking across the valley to the Cats Back and Offa’s Dyke.  Again the day started with a small cup off the fantastic elderflower and sea buckthorn champagne.

Welsh Border, Offas Dyke

To say that both locations for the weekends foraging are stunning is an understatement and I feel blessed that they are on my doorstep literally.  The countryside that surrounds where I live be it the black mountains to the Brecon Beacons and the many hidden treasures between them is truly some of the finest in the UK and far further afield.  Many take it for granted and do not pay any attention to what surrounds them.

Liz found her home 10 years ago in what was then a ramshackle drovers barn.  The allure was not the barn or the area but on walking down the lane that would be the start of our days foraging the scent of wild pineapple weed, at the time Liz did not know what the “weed” was.

wild_pineapple

We all remember this from childhood and it has both culinary and medicinal uses, you can add the flower heads to salads, infuse in a syrup to make cordials, it is an excellent insect repellent and was used by Native Americans to line their children’s beds for that very reason.  This was the first step of our days foraging and Liz had a cordial she had made and shared around among us in our tin cups from the day before, the cordial was made using various wild ingredients that she uses for flu and cold treatment wild pineapple weed can help to lower temperatures.

The format of the forage was to treat going down the drovers lane and hill as a walk and use coming back up the steep hillside as the forage and have stops looking at various things as an excuse to catch our breath.  Not long after entering the field we came across a patch of mushrooms and stopped to look, they were growing close to an oak tree and Mark talked about the fungi could be working with the oak and the mycelium be spreading out from that, they could not be definitively identified and were placed in a basket to be checked off in a book later.

A little further down the field I came across a very small mushroom that I was pretty sure on the identity of, my disclaimer here is that I have seen on TV etc etc.

shrrom

Shrooms, Philosopher’s Stone, Mushies, Magics, Liberty Cap, Liberties are just a few of the names of this mushroom, section 21 of the Drugs Act 2005 made fresh psychedelic mushrooms(“fungi containing psilocybin”), a Class A drug. Prior to these laws being passed, possession and use of psilocybin and psilocin is prohibited. There is research into the use of psilocybin in the treatment of mental health issues but that is another post on my other blog.

Though day two of the course was to predominantly focusing on  the hedgerow and plant side of foraging we had found various fungi the next to be found was a large specimen of bracket fungi growing on a gate post, The Chicken of the Wood.

chicken of the wood

Another edible fungi but not in this late condition.  The young Chicken of the Woods is “succulent” and has a mild flavor. Older specimens tend to change color as they develop, as well as become brittle. The young mushrooms have bright yellows and oranges; in age they dull to yellow and then pure white.

We all tend to walk along looking straight ahead and not observing our surroundings, it is only 10,000 years since our ancestors became growers and not hunter gatherers, they would not have stayed long in a place and would have gathered as they migrated from place to place, we import and store so many herbs and spices when with just a little effort we could be collecting native alternatives, common hogweed seeds are an amazing spice, we had parkin with the seeds in the seeds have a ginger, cinnamon back note to them, the green seed pods have a real kick to them and Mark collected some that we would use later in the day with supper.  Picking hogweed should be done with caution as chemicals in the sap can cause phytophotodermititus – especially in strong sunlight.  And never mix it up with its big brother Giant Hogweed which is inedible.

At the bottom of one field which was to be the end of the “walk” we stopped and gathered around what looked like just any other  part of the field, nettles and dock two plants that everyone knows grew to one side, on a fallen tree hairy bittercress grew at the base.  We played nettle roulette, the secret is to pick the top young leaves with confidence, take a piece of dock fold this and the nettle and place between the molars and chew, contrary to popular belief the dock leaf is not the best remedy for nettle stings, plantain which was also growing nearby is far better and a poultice made from nettles themselves is a lot better than the dock.

Stinging nettle has shown promise in reducing sneezing and itching as results from hay fever. This use as an herbal remedy for hay fever is successful due to the nettles ability to reduce the body’s production of histamines in relation to the allergen.

Used as a medicinal herb to treat respiratory issues such as asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis and allergies. Stinging nettle is thought to be an effective histamine blocker as well as an inflammation reducer, and it has been used to treat allergic rhinitis without the side effects of popular allergy medications.  If you have access to fresh plants, you can simply dry nettle leaves in the sun for your cup of nettle tea. Each cup of nettle tea contains vitamins A, B, and K, riboflavin, niacin, folate, carbohydrates (71.33%), fat (2.36%) and proteins (25.8%). It is also rich in minerals like calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc, copper and magnesium.

As we started the journey back up Merlin’s hill and upper brooks we started making stops along the way to look at and learn about various things we had passed on the walk down.

upper brooks

On the banks of the gully were 2 different fungi growing on the bank, one a coral fungi the other surprised Mark with its habitat choice as it was a meadow wax cap.

coral fungi

meadow wax cap

 

 

 

 

 

Quite why a meadow wax cap was growing in a shaded gully was a bit confusing.

Along side the brook was one of the foragers most common choices an elderflower tree.  Elder has many uses for the wild food gatherer one of which has been mentioned several times already and that is elderflower champagne.  The recipe below is from Marks website where there are many more fantastic wild food recipes.

Ingredients

4 Elderflower heads in full bloom – if you can pick them on a sunny morning, so much the better. Shake them free of insects or other bits but don’t wash them.

  • 4.5 litres (1 gallon) cold water
  • 1 Lemon – it’s juice plus it’s skin quartered. A really nice variation is to add 5 tablespoons of sea buckthorn juice instead. It gives a slightly tropical tang to the affair.
  • 650g (1.5lb) white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Dissolve the sugar in a little of the water – it will help if you warm it then allow it to cool. Then simply mix it with all the other ingredients in a large jug or basin. Leave covered for 4 days (preferably somewhere cool or you run the risk of the lemon going mouldy). Strain and pour into clean screw-top bottles – plastic fizzy drink bottles are ideal. Leave at an ambient temperature for 4-10 days, testing after 6 to make sure it doesn’t get too fizzy. Its quite important to check the bottles regularly as they will explode if you you forget about them. Gently unscrew the lid every few days to decompress. In cooler places it may need another week or so to get going, so be patient – the natural yeast in the flowers is doing the work and can take a wee while to get going. he longer you leave it fermenting, the stronger it will be in alcohol. Once you are happy with it, keep it in the fridge to slow down fermentation.

Another fantastic elder recipe is elderberry vinegar, take 500 ml of white vinegar and 350 g of elderberries( stripped from stalks ) Add the berries to the vinegar and leave for 5 days, shaking or stirring occasionally.  After 5 days strain the liquid and add 350 g of sugar to every 260 ml of liquid, bring to boil to dissolve the sugar simmer for ten minutes, then leave to cool before bottling, this makes a great alternative to balsamic and at a fraction of the cost.

Eldberry has a substance that in recent studies has been shown to more effective in the treatment of flu than tamiflu.  The substance in question is Sambucol, extensive trials have taken place in Norway and Israel where the symptoms of two strains of flu were cured in two days where as tamiflu took four days.

On a warm sunny day pick a few kilos of elder berries, take home and place in a large pan and just cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer until the berries are soft ( around 30 mins ), strain through a sieve to remove the seeds though harmless they have a bitter taste. For each 600 ml of liquid add 450 g of sugar the juice of a lemon and 10 cloves, return to heat and add a 2cm piece of ginger, simmer until the sugar has dissolved, boli hard for ten minutes, once cool take out the ginger and cloves.  An excellent way to store is in ice cube trays, a few ice cubes melted in hot water make an excellent hot toddy.  I am going to investigate alternatives to the ginger and lemon, maybe fir needles for the citrus and hogweed seeds for the ginger.

As we moved further up the hill and admired the stunning views across the valley the sun broke through the clouds and lit the valley.

merlins hill

The next stop on the journey was along side the humble hawthorn a favourite of the birds at this time of year, when the Hawthorn, Ash and Oak grow close to it is said to be steeped in fairy lore and since we are on Merlin’s Hill who am I to argue.  The young leaves can be used in salads and from the book the Hedgerow Handbook they are said to be exceptional in a new potato salad with a vinaigrette dressing, the leaves can also lower cholesterol.  The berries are a great source of vitamin C and Haw syrup is a great way to use the berries, take 1 kg of haws and mash in a pestle and mortar do not use a metal tool as this will lower the vitamin C and this is what we are looking to extract, place the mashed haws in a large fireproof pot, earthenware if you have one, cover with 3 litres of boiling water, simmer for 20 minutes, strain the liquid and discard the haws. Pour the liquid back into the pot and add 450 g of sugar bring to boil until the sugar has dissolved and the liquid is a syrupy consistency.  Pour into sterilised jars or bottles.  If you have a cold dilute 1 part syrup with one part hot water add a squeeze of lemon ( douglas fir tip syrup could be an alternative ) add a tot of brandy for a great hot toddy.  In the book hedgerow handbook there is a hawberry brandy recipe.  Another fantastic hawberry recipe is hawberry ketchup and Liz makes an amazing version of this, I will definitely be having a go at making some this autumn.

Talking of alcoholic drinks without doubt the most famous foragers drink is sloe gin.  Of the people on the days foraging over half had made sloe gin in the past.

sloe

I will point you to another post by Mark for all things sloe gin related as his sample I had on the weekend was simply sublime.  This brought the actual foraging to a great conclusion, a short walk back up the field to Liz’s home where a feast was awaiting us and where Mark would create the drink of the walk, during the walk mark had collected berries, seeds and many edible plants that he would infuse to make our own bespoke drink of the day, mark added the various edibles into a cream whipper topped with gin  and infused, our very own wild cocktail to toast what had been a fantastic weekend.  While we had been out on Merlin’s Hill collecting various magical wild things Liz’s husband had cooked us muntjac deer, served with this was a fantastic dhal cooked by Liz’s friend Emily, to which we would add various wild things we had collected during the forage, to mine I added nettle leaves, fermented wild garlic, and green hogweed seeds, the main was followed by a pear and acorn crumble that was stunning.

Well that brings to a close what I had intended on being a quick post on my foraging weekend.  We as people in general have the majority of our food in packets from the supermarket and have lost touch with the abundance that surrounds us, we can not possibly continue to live and eat as we are, factory farming and gmo food is not in any way sustainable or ethical.  I have posted, tweeted ranted and raved that we must change and getting back to nature is the first step, we are surrounded by our own native herbs and spices, fruits and seeds, the sooner we make use of these resources the better.  When foraging there are some basics to take in mind there are various laws that you need to keep in mind and you should check with the landowner where you are foraging.

Guidelines for responsible foraging (taken from www.woodlandtrust.org.uk)

Seek permission from the landowner

We allow foraging for personal use on in our woods, but there are areas where foraging is not permitted, particularly on Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) or nature reserves. Always check before setting out.

Find a wood to explore

Know what you’re picking

Never consume a wild plant unless you are absolutely certain of its identification and that’s its safe to consume. Use reference books to identify. Fungi can be notoriously difficult to identify, so if you’re unsure it’s best to leave alone.

Only collect from plentiful populations

Only collect flowers, leaves, fruits and seeds where they are in abundance. For fungi, only take mushrooms that have opened their caps (so are likely to have dropped their spores). Do not collect small ‘button’ mushrooms.

Leave plenty behind for others and for wildlife

Wild food is vital for the survival of the UK’s wildlife and it is important to forage sustainably to ensure there is enough left for birds and others, and to allow the plant or fungus itself to produce seeds and spores that grow into the next generation.

Beware poisonous species

Make sure you know what you are collecting before setting out.

Do not collect rare species

Only take plants and fungi where you are certain you know what they are. Take a good field guide to confirm species in the field and avoid confusion. Some species are protected by law, so know what not to collect. Ancient woodlands in particular can contain many rare species so take special care.

Minimise damage to the nearby habitat and species

Do not just collect everything you see and sort it out later, and take care not to trample down areas you are collecting from.

Take no more than those you plan to eat

Uprooting plants is harmful so pick leaves or berries with care and moderation and avoid damaging the plant’s roots.

Wild plants and the law

All wild plants are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981). It is illegal to dig up or remove a plant (including algae, lichens and fungi) from the land on which it is growing without permission from the landowner or occupier. Some species are specially protected against picking, uprooting, damage and sale. A list of these can be found on Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981).

BBQ for Charity

Meat Fire and Beer

 

Well not being one to do things by half I though I know an easy way to raise a few quid for charity I will have a BBQ and have a few mates over.

What was planned as a”BBQ” turned in to a cooking marathon with 16 hour smoked beef brisket, 18 hour pulled pork shoulder, 16 hour smoked rolled beef brisket that was turned in to pulled beef. add to that lot frankfurters, pickles, coleslaw a mixed bean BBQ chilli, pastrami and wood fired Pizza and you can see that it was not your run of the mill BBQ

 

All the food that was cooked on the night was donated and it has to be said that you do not get better than the produce we had from

Native Breeds  Native Breeds are a small Charcuterie based on the Lydney Park Estate in Gloucestershire.

Trealy Farm  Local award winning charcuterie based in Penperlleni Monmouthshire.

Quiet Waters Farm    We are a small, family run, mixed farm in Atherington, in the heart of North Devon.

Alex Gooch  Local artisan baker using only the finest ingredients.

Raglan Farm shop

The Preservation Society The Preservation Society produces award winning chutneys, sirops and preserves

Pork, Beef, Charcuterie, Bread and Pickles that are amongst the best that you can get anywhere.

With such great produce you have to pay it respect and create what is simply stunning food.

Along with the food we had a raffle to raise a few extra quid for our chosen charities Pilgrim Bandits, Talking2Minds and Hope GB.

All in all we raised over £500 and fed people what in their own words was some of the best food they have ever had, to hear people praise your food is all you wish for and to hear people say I never thought it would be this good makes me happy.

Raffle prizes from

Ioshen KnivesIan Mckend Mac’s BBQBev ReedLiz KnightOne Mile BakeryTrish MaccurrachIlltud Llyr DunsfordCwrtau Bach FarmVivien LloydRoadiiSmokewood ShackLuke Bawdon Polymath ProductsAlan Low ETI, Lee Milward, Michaela Weaver, Vivify Imagery

 

Four Chillies Chilli

Having a large amount of the shin of beef left from yesterdays Sunday dinner there was an easy decision made for me I adore chilli and chillies in general, it is said that they have an addictive property, chillies are addictive. peppers contain capsaicin, a natural chemical that sends a burning sensation from the nerve endings in the mouth to the brain. the body defends itself against this pain sensation by secreting endorphins, natural painkillers that cause a physical “rush” – a high that keeps us coming back for more. so indulge your pepper cravings, and rest assured that you will soon build a tolerance.

I love to use left over beef in chilli, I also use cuts like shin when I do a slow cooked chilli along with the minced beef.  The difference in textures just adds that something extra.

Four Chilis Chilli
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
My take on chilli
Ingredients
  • 500g minced beef
  • 500g of either left over beef or stewing beef
  • 2 Large onions
  • 1 tbs Olive oil
  • 1 dry ancho chilli
  • 2 dry chipotle
  • 4 Jalapenos
  • 1 tsp smoked hot paprika
  • Beef stock
  • 1 tin tomatoes
  • Salt & Pepper for seasoning
Instructions
  1. Place the dried chillies in hot water to re constitute. finely chop the onions, in a heavy based pan heat the oil and add the onions, saute until soft but not coloured. Chop the chillies including the ones that have been soaking(retain the juice), add to the softened onions. Remove the onions and chillies and place to one side in the same pan brown off the minced beef then remove to one side, if using stewing beef add this to the pan and brown off add the retained mince, onions and chillies.
  2. Add the tin of tomatoes and the smoked hot paprika and stir together, add enough stock to cover, transfer to a casserole and place in the oven at 140c and cook for 3-4 hrs check the level of sauce during cooking though at these low temperatures the sauce should only reduce and thicken slightly.

As I am doing whole 30 and not eating wheat, rice etc this was served with cauliflower rice which is so simple to make and so versatile.

Take 1 cauliflower cut into florets and blitz lightly in a food processor not to fine or you will get a puree you want it to look like grains of rice.

Heat a heavy frying pan and add a glug of olive oil, you can season the oil with garlic or spices and herbs, add the blitzed cauliflower and fry off for 3 minutes it will still have a bite to it and takes on flavours really well, also makes great egg fried “rice”

Coasteering Wales and Kayaking

Coasteering Wales and Kayaking in Pembrokeshire National Park

 

This post is a bit of a break from my normal posts but something I will be doing more of showing a bit of the other side of me away from my passion of cooking.  I love to be in or around the water and swim in the sea around West Wales and the local rivers year round generally in just shorts whatever the time of year or water temp the feeling is so exhilarating after a swim in water between 7 and 12c most people give you strange looks when you are walking towards the sea in December in just shorts as they are wrapped up in all the winter gear drinking hot chocolate from the beach side cafe.

When I opened my birthday cards this year the one from my girlfriend and daughter had a message “enjoy your coasteering Wales and kayaking in St David’s”, coasteering is something i have wanted to do for quite a while now but have never managed to get around to it, I have done kayaking in the past and really enjoy the views it gives you as you explore areas of the coast seldom seen.

Pembrokeshire national park coastline

Pembrokeshire national park coastline

 

The backdrop to the days activities, the company that I was entrusting life and limb with to guide me along cliff faces and jumping from varying heights of cliffs was TYF Adventure, they were the innovators of coasteering and have an amazing ethos they are members of  1% For The Planet last year donating over 12k to rainforest protection saving an area the size of Wales this year the funds are going to EDUcat, Helping to transform young people into sustainable innovation change-makers. The challenges that eduCAT presents to pupils are real issues that organisations are experiencing in adapting to the immediate and long term impacts of sustainability, climate change, resource availability and food security.

They are also carbon neutral the first outdoor adventure company in the world to do this, all this shows that they not only take people on life changing, adrenalin filled adventures but they care for and protect the environment in which they do it, making sure that the generations to follow can enjoy these activities in the real world rather than via a video game console.

My guide for the days activities was John Byrom, after the formalities of form filling for emergency contacts etc John talked us through the morning plan and got us kitted out for the coasteering, wetsuit, buoyancy aid, helmets after all some of the jumps were around the 7m mark so safety is of paramount importance.  After getting ready there was a 15 minute walk to where we would enter the water for the fun to begin, on the walk to St Nons we were told of the history of the area, St Nons is the birth place of St David the patron saint of Wales it is said that Non took shelter in a chapel during a particularly violent storm and gave birth to Dewi later to become Dewi Sant patron saint of Wales.

Our group for the day was 5 plus John, after the short walk along the coastal path we came to a grassy area and were informed this would be our entrance to the start point for the coasteering, to me and the group it looked like a rather large cliff face without John’s knowledge we would not have even known that you could reach the sea there, following his lead we made our way down to the waters edge well i say edge it was a couple of meters above the water and we were informed this would be a good start point, after my telling the group i generally swam in the sea year round san wetsuit it seemed I was to be the first in so in I went, what many people do not realise is that the sea temperature around this time of year is at its peak not the summer months that many think, the water was around 15c and with a wetsuit and wetsuit socks under my trainers the water was in my view perfect.

At our entry point is a very famous coasteering point known as the toilet, no not due to it being full of nasty things but due to the action the water takes it rises up a small gully then flushes back down, you are carried up by the surf then pulled back down my coming down was rather undignified I was thrown upside down and came down face first, this was a hell of a baptism to coasteering but an amazing adrenalin rush.  We swam a short distance from this toilet and climbed along the cliff face coming to a jump of around 3m to cross to a small island with what we would discover was a jump that in fact was to be a belly flop to avoid shallow rocks to get back across to the main cliff face, the lower cliffs are covered in barnacles that make for amazing foot grips but not the kindest to hands.  A few more jumps and we came to a cove that was called the under water challenge, the challenge being to dive and swim under water to the opposite side, swimming under water in just a wetsuit is a challenge itself due to buoyancy add in a buoyancy aid and it gets very difficult other than John the guide who I know believe is part fish due to him swimming there and part way back only 2 others made it all the way me not being one of them.  Along the way John pointed out various wildlife including a number of sea anemone, birds and shellfish all adding to the experience.

We came to what was to be the pinnacle of the morning activity a cove with a cliff face that to all intents and purpose could have been carved out for coasteering jumps starting at around 4m it looked as if there were actual steps leading up to the highest jump we would do which was around 7m.  After doing several jumps building up to the final jump I stood on the edge looking down, I am not afraid of heights but standing on a cliff edge 7m above the water was still a bit daunting but I took the plunge and threw myself off the cliff into the amazingly clear blue water, the adrenalin was running and the feeling was amazing, this is something people should add to there bucket lists of things to do.

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After a swim back across the cove we climbed the rocks back to the coastal path John pointing out Samphire and sorrel along the way of course this was of interest to me being so much of a foodie.  A walk back to the centre changing facilities before a break for lunch and then just myself and John doing an afternoon of kayaking.

sea kayaking

Kayaking start point

 

 

 

 

sea kayaking

Harbour entrance for kayaking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 The afternoons activity was sea kayaking I was the only person doing this so after a short drive to the harbour at Porth Clais  on the River Allun and a short walk along the coastal path to the harbour wall and the racks of TYF Adventure  kayaks it was time to start exploring the stunning coastal national park from a view point many people never see, I was on a sit on kayak and john a traditional sit in, the weather had taken a turn for the worse from the morning sun and had started to rain this failed to put a damper on things and we set off.

Sea Kayaking

Sea Kayaking

 

We stayed close to the coast and explored a number of small channels some I had doubts the kayak would go through but with the surf it carried you through, being this close to the cliffs you see far more that you ever would whilst walking the coastal path or even on a tour boat as you could never get as close or access the places you can on a kayak.  After a while we came to a channel that lead to Cathedral cave this was awe-inspiring and something very few people actually get to see the only way being by kayak.

Cathedral cave entrance

Cathedral cave entrance

 

Cathedral cave

Cathedral cave

 

Despite the rain this was an amazing journey along our only coastal national park seeing wildlife up so close is always a pleasure being so in touch with their environment added to this. 

Sea Kayaking

Sea Kayaking

 

After around two and a half hours and only due to my hips aching we made our way back to the harbour where we had started our journey.

This was without doubt one of the best days I have had in many a year and was an amazing birthday present.

I would like to thank John Byrom and all the staff at TYF Adventure for an adrenalin filled fantastic day, I can not think of many better ways to spend a day than exploring what is a national treasure in the coastal national park with people who care for it and enjoy showing others what it truly holds for us all to enjoy, if you get the chance do the coasteering it is a definite to add to any bucket list and will excite even the hardened adrenalin junkies out there.

I will be adding further pictures of the coasteering once the film is developed, yes film.  So check back for them and without doubt further exploits of this nature, I fancy a bit of winter coasteering the chill adding to the rush.

 

 

 

 

Chicken Saag

Chicken Saag

 

With a glut of spinach from my weekly veg box from riverford organics and having not made a curry for a few weeks I decided to make this.  The spinach gives the curry a deep and rich background with the irony flavour carrying through.  The basics of the sauce are used with lamb and paneer in India it goes equally well with cauliflower or butternut squash for a vegetarian alternative.

 

Chicken Saag

Chicken Saag


Chicken Saag
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Indian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Chicken and spinach curry
Ingredients
  • 3 medium onions
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1" ginger
  • 5 Large peeled tomatoes or tin of chopped
  • 5 chicken breasts or 8 thighs
  • 1 green chilli
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • half tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 large bunches of spinach or half a large bag
  • salt
  • pepper
Instructions
  1. Slice one of the onions and in around 4 tbl spoons of ghee or oil fry the onions off until brown but not burnt, if burnt they will give the curry an acrid taste, remove and place on kitchen roll.
  2. Roughly chop the remaining onion and place in a food processor along with the ginger and garlic with two table spoons of water and blitz to a paste.
  3. In the same oil or ghee previously used add the paste and fry for 3-5 minutes until translucent and soft.
  4. Add all the dry spices and fry for a further 5 minutes if it catches add some water to stop it sticking.
  5. Add the diced chicken breasts and fry until the chicken is coloured and coated in all the paste.
  6. Add the roughly chopped tomatoes and a cup of water and lower heat to a simmer.
  7. In a pan add the spinach and a cup of water and allow the spinach to wilt, remove from the heat and drain, you can squeeze out the excess water then blitz to a paste in the food processor.
  8. Once the chicken is cooked through and the sauce reduced add the spinach and stir through.

To add a bit of spice if required add a chopped fresh green chilli, sprinkle over chopped fresh coriander and serve with rice.