Netherton Foundry Shropshire

Netherton Foundry Shropshire
Classic cookware, made in England

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Food; fads, fetishes and fascism

New year, new you; it used to be just ads for the gym and soon to be abandoned personal resolutions to somehow or other be "better", to lose a bit of weight, to give up smoking, chocolate, biting your nails.

But we are now faced with the Instagram onslaught of Veganuary and dry January.

What you eat is up to you, what we eat is our choice.  If I choose to eat jam and cauliflower, I don't expect you to follow suit (I don't by the way) a teenager my brother put Marmite on custard creams, it was just a phase which I put down to a lack of psychotropic drugs in rural Yorkshire.
I like to think my choice is well informed, balancing pleasure, nutritional needs, budget and a respect for the environment.  But researching this piece made me realise how hard this can be, how contradictory and confusing.

I do not take issue with meat free Monday, if you are already following a vegetarian or vegan diet, you are doing it any way and omnivores get to exercise a little imagination once a week.  But the on-line pressures to swap, whole-heartedly and without guidance, to a vegan diet present issues, as I see it.
Obesity, alcoholism, drug addiction, food banks, eating disorders, food allergies and a general lack of knowledge about basic nutrition and cooking skills are headline grabbing topics. Yet all of these are deeply complex and need to be explored from all angles.  There is no "one size fits all" solution, no magic bullet.  Knee jerk reactions, TV campaigns and sound bites are not enough.  
There are choices to be made and actions to be taken at individual, national and international levels, but the right choices and the right actions are hard to delineate.  Cooking from scratch and using cheap cuts of meat sound like a panacea to all our food issues, but if you haven't got the money to feed the electricity meter, a cheap takeaway may be your only option.  
As I started reading material relating to the things I was trying to get clear in my own mind, I felt like I was being sucked, like Alice on her trip to Wonderland, down a rabbit hole, only to end up on the dark side of the moon.  The sheer volume of material on all sides of the debate was overwhelming.  Some was carefully researched and scientifically beyond my comprehension, some bordered on dangerous lunacy.
If you then throw global famine, war, nuclear and chemical weapons, rising sea levels, plastic pollution, climate change, religious intolerance, refugee crises, modern slavery and terrorism into the mix, I feel like I have catapulted on to Ultima Thule, whose very existence was unknown to us until recently.

A quick scan of food trends for 2019 shows vegetarianism and veganism are on the rise. And fast food outlets and food processors and retailers are joining in.  The launch of Gregg's vegan sausage roll, the uproar it created and their magnificent PR handling of the entire event were as enjoyable as the product itself.  Try one, you never know, you may actually enjoy it.

No bad thing, but there are arguments on both sides.  It is generally agreed that we should reduce the levels of intensive animal breeding to reduce their impact on the environment and on the factors influencing climate change. 
Whether you eat meat or not, there can be no justification for intensive farming, poor animal husbandry and inhumane methods of slaughter.
But remember when you campaign to save an endangered species, that many rare British breeds have survived to fill their place on our biodiversity, only because they have been bred for the table.   

These 2 articles demonstrate why we need to address a global uptake of veganism more carefully and not see it as a simple answer to an increasingly complicated question.
The first discusses how intensive dairy and meat farming is damaging, but so too are farms producing purely arable crops. A balance, well tended and managed creates a richer biodiversity. 

The second addresses non dairy milks, hailed as healthier, more natural and more environmentally responsible than the dairy equivalents.  Like many vegan food products, the problem lies not in the ingredients, but the processes. 

And finally, this article touches on the concerns for the individual in swapping their diet for the promise of a "better" self. 
This is what causes me anxiety about the Veganuary campaign, the power of social media is a potent force and not everyone has the strength to resist its allure. A lot of people lead very healthy, active and happy lives on a vegan diet, but any and all diets need to be balanced, to give you everything your body needs and, in this writer's opinion, should also give you pleasure in your food.  
So, if you are well informed and sure that you are getting what you need, throw yourself in to Veganuary and don't be surprised that it is tastier than you think, but please make sure you know what you are doing.
And if you type vegan or vegetarian into the search box at the top of the screen, you will find some recipes to try out!  We are all for a more plant based diet, but please do not ask us to give up cheese!

Netherton Foundry Shropshire 2019 ©

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Mushroom and walnut sausage rolls

These are a great party food, when cut into dainty(ish) slices but also hold their own as a vegetarian dinner dish, when served with either a robust salad or chips, peas and mushroom gravy.

Half a pack of ready rolled puff pastry - use the good stuff made with butter if you can. Put the rest in the freezer for an day.
If you are feeling virtuous, you can make your own.
250g chestnut mushrooms
100g mixed nuts
Several sprigs of fresh tarragon or thyme
Freshly ground white pepper
2 eggs

Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC with the griddle plate or baking sheet inside!

Roll out the pastry into a long strip approx 10cm wide and overall about 20% bigger than it came out of the pack 
Chop the mushrooms finely - a food processor is ideal for this, but make sure you don't turn them to mush.
Then do the same with the nuts, don't make nut butter!
Mix the mushrooms and nuts together in a large mixing bowl and add the herbs, pepper and one of the eggs.
Combine thoroughly. Place in a long sausage shape along the centre of the pastry strip.  Beat the second egg lightly and use to moisten one long edge of the pastry.  Carefully roll the other edge over the mushroom sausage and stick it gently to the eggy edge. Cut it in half - yes, across the short bit, not the long bit, just in case anyone was wondering.  I have a half soaked teenager to thank for the adding this piece of advice, and it wasn't one of my own!
Take the griddle plate or baking sheet out of the oven (please put it on a trivet or heat proof surface) and taking due care to personal safety, transfer the sausage to the heated surface, with the sealed edge underneath and then brush the pastry lavishly with the rest of the beaten egg.  If you feel so inclined, sprinkle the top with seeds of some description - black or white sesame, poppy for example -and return the baking tray to the oven.  Cook for 20 minutes until the top is golden and the pastry is flaky.
Slice into small portions and serve warm.

Netherton Foundry Shropshire 2019 ©

Saturday, 5 January 2019

The Urban Spice man cometh

It was an exciting day when the postman dropped off this parcel.
We have been entrusted with a selection of the Urban Spice Man's range of spice blends for pre-launch testing and honoured with the task of coming up with some recipe ideas.

Intriguing and enticing titles and a full menu of contents - I couldn't wait to get started.  But life has been hectic of late, so simplicity was the key consideration.  These spice blends are well thought out, beautifully balanced and absolutely zinging with flavour, so simple is anything but boring.
On a #MeatFreeMonday in dreary December, this zipadeedoodah green tomato and black bean curry was as bright and cheerful as a Spring day.

1 tblsp rapeseed oil, we always use our local favourite from Bennett and Dunn
1 onion, sliced
20g butter
2 cloves garlic, sliced
200g green tomatoes, chopped into large chunks - the last of the season, the plants withered by the first frost, the fruit clinging on, but with no hope of ripening.  You could also use any under-ripe tomatoes for this recipe, the astringency bringing another flavour dimension to the dish.
200g cooked black beans (or kidney beans)
2 teaspoons Wor Toon Curry Pooda (adjust the quantity to taste) 
50g creamed coconut
250ml water
4 generous handfuls spinach
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp salt

Put the oil and butter in a large frying pan or prospector pan and warm over a medium heat.
When the butter foams, add the onion and garlic and fry until translucent. Tip in the spice mix and cook for 5 minutes.  if the mixture starts to catch on the bottom of the pan add a little water (you don't need any more oil).

Put the tomatoes, beans, coconut in the pan and stir in the water.

Simmer for 30 minutes, adding more water if the sauce looks too thick.
Taste, add the lemon juice and season with salt.
Add the spinach, a handful at a time and when it has just wilted, the dish is ready to serve.
A handful of chopped coriander and some lemon wedges would not go amiss, but are not essential.

Serve with rice or naan.
Serves 4

Keep checking the website and our social media for more news from the Spiceman and more recipes.

Netherton Foundry Shropshire 2018 ©

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Spiced lentil and sweet potato soup

A recipes for those in-between days - simple fodder after the Christmas lunch and before the New Year's Eve party.
There are so many recipes for lentil soup and now that the soup dragon has taken up residence within the internet, you are only ever a few clicks away from a bottomless cauldron of recipes.
Soup is a staple at Netherton Towers. When the offspring were small there was generally a pot of botbot (BitOfThisBitOfThat) soup on the go to feed them and any after school hangers on they may have picked up along the way. Leftover or limp veg, stock, rice and tins of tomatoes, the contents of the fridge - anything could be chucked together in an instant and I just love the power of the blender to hide things that kids claim not to like, but don't notice if they can't see them.

This one, on the other hand, was made in a more leisurely and considered manner, with the ingredients weighed out, so that I could share it.
It is a thick, warming soup, with a warm undercurrent and a little bite added to the  - long pause while I search for a less clichéd word than velvety; nope, brain has ceased up, the texture will remained adjectiveless - smoothness of blended lentil and potato.

1 onion, chopped
2 tblsp oil -  I used some garlic and chilli oil for an extra kick, but rapeseed or olive will work equally well
1 tsp ras el hanout
100g red lentils
450g sweet potato (or squash), peeled and diced
1 litre stock, vegetable or chicken (vegetable stock will make this a vegan/vegetarian dish)
1 red pepper, finely chopped

Put half of the oil into a large pan or casserole and warm over a moderate heat.
Sweat onion until soft and translucent.  Be gentle, you don't want brown or crispy bits, but you do want to coax the sweetness out of the onions.
Add the spice and stir well, cook for 2 -3 minutes.
Add the sweet potato, lentils and stock.
Simmer for around 30 minutes until the lentils are thoroughly cooked and the potato is soft.
Blend with a stick mixer or in a blender.

Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan
Add peppers, cook for 5 minutes

Stir into soup.

Netherton Foundry Shropshire 2018 ©

Friday, 14 December 2018

Pies, a paean to pastry

Pies and tarts by Annie Rigg
Pie dish by us

The newest product on our website and in some of our retail outlets is a terrific pie dish.  It came into being when food writer Annie Rigg contacted us, asking if such a thing were possible to produce.
Now as you know, our creative genius likes nothing better than a design challenge, and a slice of pie, so he set to work.
Annie's verdict - "gamechanger" - she likes it!!

Pies are, without a doubt, this year's cupcakes; the humble pastry offering has grown wings, sported controversy  and been turned into an art form.  Take a look at the Instagram posts of @lokokitchen and @julie_jonesuk to see what I mean.  These are no ordinary pies and I certainly wouldn't attempt anything like those here at Netherton Towers.

But we do love pies and were eager to read Annie's book, although I confess here, as I did to Annie herself, to an initial degree of scepticism.
What more is there to say about pies? Single topic cookbooks, so often found languishing in charity shops with their dull covers and formulaic writing are too often uninspiring and predictable.

But this one is different, the cover alone is enough to make you want to buy it - beautiful deep blue with that bronze embossing, gorgeous.
And the inside...... so many new ideas, so much well, clearly written information on pastry techniques, even new pastry recipes - tahini pastry is a new one on us and a real treat.
Take, for example, the classic custard tart.  Made properly, it is divine (the least said about my late mother's pallid pastry and soggy bottom the better) and there is a recipe for a buttermilk version in this book.
But, in popular culinary parlance, bordering on overused cliché, the recipe for malted custard tartlets with bourbon soaked raisins, elevates this to another level.  In fact it takes the lift up several floors and gives this tart a view across the skyline.  Absolutely, lipsmackingly, plate-licking delicious.

We love the book, we love our new pie dish and are grateful to Annie for suggesting it. 

Have a look at our full range of bakeware over on the website.
Collaboration is a cracking way to do business.

Netherton Foundry Shropshire 2018 ©

Monday, 3 December 2018


We have been diligently working our way through the recipes in Annie Rigg's glorious book, Pies and Tarts, of which more another day.
But like all good cookery books, this inspires as well as instructs.  Discussions between Annie and our resident creative genius inspired the design and production of our new pie dish and cooking from the book inspired me to create a new tart of my own.

Start by making either a standard shortcrust pastry with 150g plain flour and 75 g butter or follow my lead and use 75g plain flour and 75g ground hazelnuts with 75g butter.
Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs and then add just enough water to bring it together into a firm dough.

Grease a 10" pie dish and roll out the pastry to fit.  If you have used the hazelnut version, it will be quite friable, so just use off cuts to patch up any gaps where the pastry has fallen apart.
Chill for half an hour and while it is in the fridge, pre-heat the oven to 170ºC.

Pop the pie dish into the warm oven and cook for 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and set aside while you make the filling.

100g milk chocolate
50g black treacle
250g Mascarpone cheese
50g icing sugar
3 eggs

Place the chocolate and treacle in a bowl suspended over warm water and allow to melt.
Tip the Mascarpone into a mixing bowl with the icing sugar and beat well.  Mix in the melted chocolate mix and then the eggs and beat thoroughly.
Pour into the pastry case and return tot he oven for a further 30 minutes.

Serve at room temperature with clotted cream or creme fraiche.

Netherton Foundry Shropshire 2018 ©

Saturday, 24 November 2018

The smell of baking

You cannot beat the smell of baking.  There is something so comforting about the aroma of bread and cakes wafting from a warm oven.  And the fug of condensation on the windows on a cold November baking day instantly transports me back to my childhood.  I remember baking with the children when they were small, and then not so small - they have inherited my love of the mixing bowl and wooden spoon.

There is always a cake in our house, rarely elaborate, but a welcome addition to a cup of tea and always, but always a key part of packed lunches.

The thinking behind this one was triggered by the unexpected treat of Jaffa cakes in the workshops, brought in by Carl, and Neil's sudden whim for toast and marmalade late one evening.
Apparently marmalade sales are on the decline, but there seems to be an ever growing band of marmalade makers, so it would appear that news of its demise is greatly exaggerated.  We are very partial to home made marmalade here, tangy and not over sweet, and definitely containing peel!

Not only have slices of this been wrapped in beeswax wrap for packed lunches, it has also been dressed up with poached quince and Greek yogurt as a dessert.

120g butter
120g orange marmalade, something robust and dark is best
2 nubbles of preserved ginger, chopped
1 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
2 eggs
120g self raising flour

Pre-heat the  oven to 165ºC 
Cream the butter and marmalade with the chopped ginger.  Beat in the eggs and then fold in the flour and fennel seeds.

Spoon the mixture into a greased 1lb loaf tin and place in the oven.
Cook for around 30 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Turn out on to a cooling rack.

Netherton Foundry Shropshire 2018 ©