Netherton Foundry Shropshire

Netherton Foundry Shropshire
Classic cookware, made in England

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Lavender and Lovage, a book review

There was an invitation posted on Instagram to review Karen Burns-Booth's book, based on her blog Lavender and Lovage, before its scheduled publication date later this month.
Tentatively I put my name forward, expecting to be rejected like a first novel doing the publishers' rounds.
But they agreed to send me a copy, so it is my privilege to be able to share my thoughts on Lavender and Lovage; a culinary notebook of memories and recipes from home and abroad.
Read on, I did!

As you can see it is already full of bookmarks, like signposts on a journey, a journey in Karen's well travelled footsteps. Each chapter reads like a carelessly put together travel itinerary, taking you where the fancy leads you rather than a meticulously planned voyage.  The "snippets" are like snacks, to be eaten between meals and inevitably sharpening the appetite for more.
I have been dipping in and out of the book since it arrived, as Karen dips in and out of the phases of her life.  I can imagine her moving from destination to destination with a suitcase full, not of belongings, but bulging with recollections and recipes, memories and menus.
Turning each page is like rounding the bend to a new vista, each chapter feels like you are stepping on a plane or a train, either heading or somewhere new and exciting or the bittersweet journey, bringing you back to home comforts and familiarity..  Familiarity may be the essence of what you remember, but the reality has been updated, is fresher, as though every room in the house has been redecorated in brighter, more vibrant colours.
Her "recipe" for a bacon sandwich is a case in point; the addition of Worcester sauce consigning the humdrum debate between tomato ketchup and brown sauce to the recycling bin.
For what it's worth, my father always has a smear of bramble jelly on his bacon sandwiches - don't knock it til you've tried it, it's no weirder than having apple sauce with your roast pork.

The recipes themselves are evocative of time and place, the Gregg's inspired cheese savoury sandwich filling instantly takes me back to Durham in the 1980s, the Auberge marinaded goat's cheese has me muttering to myself in French and longing for a trip to France and the recipes from South Africa bring rays of sunshine into the kitchen on a dull and grey day.

This is not only a cook book, it combines history, geography, science and literature.  It is the ultimate text book!

Sentence openers like "Once upon a time.......I ran a restaurant in Cyprus" not openly makes me wonder what I have been doing with my life, but draws you in to pensive penning about conflict and reconciliation.

This book is an education, a revelation and an unadulterated joy. 
Published on 13th November 2018 by Passageway Press

Netherton Foundry Shropshire 2018 ©

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Bonfires and bangers, a musing on Hallowe'en

Spiced pumpkin latte - what on earth? I mean, seriously?  If you like them, fine, but I prefer my coffee straight, no added vegetables
I have written about current day coffee culture before, so I won't bore you with that again.  Hallowe'en is in my sights today.
Autumn throws up enough images to keep an advertising agency occupied til the first snowdrops appear; spectacular sunsets, golden leaves, misty landscapes, squirrels and nuts, harvest festivals and, of course, the pumpkin.

And what have they done with these seasonal representations of cooling days and bountiful produce to increase the sum of human happiness - they "invented", or rather re-imagined Hallowe'en.
All Hallow's Eve, may the saints preserve us from this over-commercialisation. coffee.

I have written and re-written this piece as, quite honestly, I didn't know where to start.  Bear with me, the rant is quickly dealt with and a delicious recipe follow.

But first a little history.  You may think that the Hallowe'en craze came here from America, but it seems we may have been to blame for sending it there in the first place.
Long ago and far away, well my childhood in Yorkshire, to be more prosaic, it was the 4th of November, Mischief Night, not Hallowe'en which was the pretext for pranks.  We made Jack o'lanterns from turnips (cue jokes about Baldrick and ey up, it were 'ard in those days).  However, as this article by Xanthe Clay infers, pumpkins did not become "big business" until the early 1990s.   We didn't knock on people's doors (with the odd exception, when we would immediately run away and hide behind gate posts to see the look of annoyance on the face of the grumpiest of neighbours) and the worst offence ever committed was to smear the door handle of the local telephone box with treacle.
It was also the night before Bonfire night and this prompted the deliberately ambiguous title referring, on the one hand, to the small, loud, but boring fireworks of that name remembered from years ago and also to sausages that we would devour around the back garden bonfire.

The idea was exported, expanded and re-imported, bigger and uglier than ever.
I am now in full Grinch mood, so please feel free to skip to the bottom!


Stop to consider, if you will, the production of cheap witch’s hats, lurid orange pumpkin suits and set of devil's horns?  How come they are all so cheap? Where were they produced, by whom, and how will they be disposed of?   The Netherton offspring have long outgrown the notion of dressing up for Hallowe’en, but we do still worry about the combination of polyester and pumpkin lanterns – the story of Claudia Winkelman’s daughter still haunts us. 
Plastic pumpkins.
And what of the plastic buckets used for collecting all the treats?  Everyone on the planet must, by now, have watched Blue Planet.  We don't need any more single use plastic and let's face it, there aren't many uses for a plastic pumpkin bucket with a broken handle.  (Answers on a postcard, there may be a prize).   These will be discarded, end up in landfill, slowly degrade, leak into our water systems and out into the ocean.
Yes, pumpkin carving is fun. Yes, we admire the fantasmagorical creations all over social media. Yes, we will be making our own.
But what about the carved out pumpkin flesh - eat it, folks.  What's the point of wasting it?  Pumpkin soup is delicious, spike it with chilli, savour it with sage or bring a little warmth with cumin and coriander.


You can all come back now, I have calmed down.
The point I really want to make goes back to those childhood memories of baked potatoes and sausages around the fire on Bonfire Night.  By November, the nights are longer, colder and often damper, but somehow this make eating outdoors more appealing than a stiflingly hot day replete with wasps and wilting salads.
Eating outdoors can be as simple or as fancy as you want, but it shouldn't be limited to a summer barbecue. 
It can be as simple as throwing a couple of potatoes into the embers of the bonfire, but if you want to be more adventurous, we have a range of kit and some tasty recipe ideas for you!   Nothing beats the sheer pleasure of combating the cold air with hot food, eaten around a fire and perhaps accompanied with some mulled wine.

Our outdoor cooking range is getting ever more extensive, so check out all the options and pick something to suit you.  Here are a few examples.

This is an indoor griddle and oven bake plate, but add the legs and you have an Argentinian chapa - all you have to do is light a fire beneath it.  You can make it even more useful by adding the iron cloche, used indoors for baking your sourdough bread,  and you can cook bigger pieces, imbued with a delicious smoky flavour.
It's as simple as 1-2-3  screw on the legs, light a fire, cook.
Cooking can be as simple as burgers, as delicious as pancakes or as impressive as a roast chicken with smoky veg and pigs in blankets.

Black treacle and raisin pancakes
2 dessertspoons of black treacle
50g butter
2 eggs
200g self raising flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
200ml milk
50g raisins

Put the treacle and butter into a milk pan and heat gently until the butter has melted.
Tip the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl and add the eggs and milk.  Whisk together then pour in the treacle and butter.  Whisk thoroughly then stir in the raisins.
Drop spoonfuls on to the greased surface of your hot chapa and flip over when bubbles start to rise to the surface.  Slather with butter, maple syrup is an optional extra and scoff.
Of course, these can also be made indoors using either the griddle plate or a large frying pan

Outdoor hob and slow cooker
Both a barbecue and an outdoor slow cooker, our favourite dish for this time of year is a big dish of home made baked beans.  And of course, if you are having beans, there must be bangers.  Cook them directly on the outdoor hob grid or as I did here, in a frying pan so that I can glaze them in home made marmalade.

Barbecue basket
This is a handy accessory for your barbecue for all those little bits and bobs that normally fall through on to the coals.  
You can also buy this with a tray and oak chips to use as a hot smoker. 

Here are a few pictures to whet your appetite for year round outdoor cooking.

If you are lucky enough to have a wood fired oven in your garden, then we would urge you to buy Genevieve Taylor's book which "tells you everything you need to know about your oven, from initial setting up to choice of woods, plus tips and tricks for perfecting cooking times, and of course, over 70 amazing recipes." 

Or turn to DJ BBQ's book for further inspiration

Netherton Foundry Shropshire 2018 ©

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Mushroom and goat's cheese risotto

Funny stuff, fungus; not an animal, nor a vegetable, almost other worldly, alien.
And a bundle of contradictions too, the prettiest are often poisonous, such as fly agaric,  whilst the ugly or unprepossessing are delicious, bordering, in some cases, on divine - think ugly shaggy ink caps and unprepossessing truffle, neither would win prizes for their looks.
There are also very much of the moment, a true reckoning of the changing seasons, brought to life by the damp of early autumn, as seasonal as pumpkins and quince.  There are wood blewits to be found in the Wyre Forest, well worth a detour on the way home and a bank of shaggy ink caps just outside the workshops, their briefest of peaks to be watched for between shy emergence and ebony liquefaction. Fascinating fungus indeed.
Instagram has been full of envy evoking baskets of foraged ceps and chanterelles this year.  Sadly we have found neither and have had to resort to handing over our hard earned cash for a little mushroom magic.
Fortunately a small amount of mushrooms can be transformed into a delicious dinner and this is what i did with our humble haul from the farm shop.

For 2 of us
130g Arborio rice
Approx 300ml of chicken or vegetable stock
1 onion, finely chopped
80g butter
4 - 5 sprigs of tarragon
Grated rind of 2 lemons
Juice of 1 lemon
75g soft goat's cheese
A handful of wild mushrooms (use chestnut mushrooms if there is nothing more exotic available)

Keep the stock simmering (not boiling fiercely) in a saucepan
Melt 50g of the butter in a frying pan or prospector pan  over a low heat.
Add the onion and cook gently until translucent.  Add the rice and cook until it turns white and opaque.  
Gradually add the stock, one ladle full at a time, stirring all the time.  
When almost all the stock has been added, stir in the chopped tarragon, lemon rind and goat's cheese.  
Adjust the seasoning to taste. 
Stir in the final stock and then cover with a lid and set aside while you cook the mushrooms.
Heat the remaining butter in a frying pan and when it foams, throw in the mushrooms.  
Cook until the mushrooms are golden and there is no liquid in the pan. Season with white pepper and add the lemon juice.
Place the mushrooms on top of the risotto and serve immediately, ideally with a glass of chilled white wine.
Netherton Foundry Shropshire © 2018

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Apple and almond pie

There is nothing to beat an apple pie and with Autumn well established, this is the best time of year for getting your hands on some apples, be they from friends' gluts, scrumped from the wild or overhanging branches or from your local farm shop.
Regular visitors to this blog will already know that we have 3 ancient and prolific apple trees and an annual challenge to use our harvest, ahem, fruitfully.

This is a special apple pie - elevated, to coin a much overused and current culinary adjective, above the ordinary.

This will make 6 - 8 portions.

Short crust pastry
250g plain flour
125g cold butter
1 egg yolk
Cold water

Pie filling
2lb apples
2 tablespoons jam
50g ground almonds
1 egg white
70g sugar

Chop the apples into 8 - 10 chunks and put them in a saucepan with 200ml water.
There is no need to peel or core them.
Cook gently until the apples have completely collapsed.  Push the apples through a sieve and then place the pulp in a muslin bag (use a J cloth or an old pair of clean tights if you haven't got a muslin bag.)
Leave to drain.  Pour off the juice, sweeten to taste, dilute with water to suit your palate and drink!

Pre-heat the oven to 170ºC
Grease a 10" prospector pan or your favourite pie dish.

Make the shortcrust pastry; rub the butter into the flour then add the egg yolk and enough water to bind.
Roll out just over half the pastry and line your pan/pie dish.
Spread the jam over the pastry, I used home made damson but any other tart jam would work, such as a good quality raspberry.  Avoid the sweeter jams like strawberry.
Sprinkle over the ground almonds.
Whisk the egg white until stiff, then whisk in the sugar until glossy.
Fold into the apple purée and then spread this over the pie base.
Top with rest of the pastry and put 3 small cuts into the top.
Place in the hot oven for 30 minutes.
Serve at room temperature with clotted cream.
Netherton Foundry Shropshire 2018 ©

Sunday, 30 September 2018

German cooking, heavenly and earthy

Strudel, Noodles and Dumplings, by Anja Dunk

I have an eclectic mix of cookery books, which includes Dr Oetker's German Baking Today, today being about 25 years ago and German Cooking by Robin Howe, a 1971 edition of a book first published in 1953 by the Andre Deutsch publishing company.
This is what it says on the fly leaf of the latter:
"The connoisseur of regional cooking will give this book full marks.  The recipes are all typically German (sic) and they come from all parts of Germany.  This gives it a double value: first as a contribution to what might be called culinary scholarship and second, as an eyeopener to English cooks."

The Robin Howe book includes a recipe for beaver's tail (Biberschwanz), which is apparently eaten as an accompaniment to steamed beaver meat............. first catch your beaver.

This is not a recipe that features in the latest addition to my international cookery book collection, although both books would be incomplete without a recipe for Himmel and Erde; Sky, represented by apples and Earth, embodied in the humble potato are brought together in a sublime dish which is greater by far than the sum of its parts.

Anja Dunk has just published her first cookery book, Strudel, Noodles and Dumplings and having read it from cover to cover, I can assure that there no beavers were harmed in the publication of this book.
The introduction to this lovely book concludes with these words:
"This book is about Germany's varied cultural heritage seen through the recipes from our family table.  it is simple home cooking, inspired by the seasons and by my children, who have brought new life and ideas to many classic recipes"

Drawing on memories and the culinary traditions and knowledge of her German mother and foremothers, Anja introduces us to some wonderful recipes that we can all achieve and share around our own family tables.

German food has a reputation for being "hearty".  In this lovely book, Anja lifts the biscuit tin lid on where this reputation came from and introduces us to her version of German food.
This is hearty in an entirely different way; it is full of the heart of the kitchen and the heart of the family which is where her inspiration derives.
This book was a true labour of love and this extends beyond the research, the writing, the recipe testing, the lyrical description and autobiographical notes - Anja took all of the photographs herself, using her own table, pans, crockery, cutlery and family.  Everything about this book is Anja's, through and through.
It is a joy to own and we are privileged to have photos our loaf tin and prospector pan featured in this treasure of a book.
Netherton Foundry Shropshire 2018 ©

Thursday, 30 August 2018

A hint of Autumn

There is a hint of Autumn in the air; gathering clouds, stiffening wind and a chill we have not experienced for longer than we can recall.  It has been a glorious summer, one we will speak of in years to come. It may be that we speak of it with fond nostalgia or it may be that we count it as year one of the long, hot summers and their consequences, which are an annual occurrence, arising from the impact of climate change.  We shall see.
Long though it may have been, the days are shortening and the summer is drawing to a close.  We haven't given up on the idea of more warm days and dazzling sunsets, but the laundry went on the line today more in hope than expectation
But Autumn is a bountiful season, the schools will re-open soon and there will be Harvest Festivals to celebrate what has been gathered in.
Our apple trees are laden and the first blowy blasts of autumn have littered the lawn with windfalls.
And the kitchen beckons.
There may yet be some salads, though I am erring towards the warm salads, but thoughts are turning to soups, stews and crumbles.

This is a frying pan full of buttery apples, fragrant with chopped sage and sweetened with maple syrup.  They are going to form the bottom layer of some sausage rolls, cooked on a heavy duty baking sheet to be eaten with roast potatoes, carrots and puddles of onion gravy.

A taste of the season, a taste of things to come..............

Netherton Foundry Shropshire 2018 ©

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Chocolate and cashew cookies

Some would call it heresy, but I have to admit to not liking Nutella.  I know that puts me in a minority and there are those who would suggest therapy, but it's just not my thing.  It makes me popular in the Netherton houselhold, as I can be relied on not to raid the offsprings' stash.
However, I recently discovered Tiptree chocolate spread and that's a whole new ballgame; richer, darker, less sweet.  For my money it knocks Nutella out of the park.
Last week, I mixed it with ultra strong espresso to sandwich a chocolate and coffee sponge and this week it has been added to a crumbly cookie mix.

120g butter
50g tiptree chocolate spread
30g tahini paste
70g sugar
1 egg
175g self raising flour
70g salted cashews, roughly chopped

Pre-heat the oven to 175ºC and leave a heavy duty baking sheet or griddle plate in the oven while you prepare the mixture.
If you have a range style cooker, use our specially designed baking sheet.
Cream together the butter, chocolate spread, tahini paste and sugar.
Beat in the egg.
Stir in the flour and cashews to create a stiff dough.
Carefully remove your baking sheet from the oven and place it on am heatproof surface.
Put walnut sized pieces of the dough on to the tray and replace in the oven.
bake for 15 minutes, until nicely browned.
Remove from the oven and slide onto a baking sheet to cool.

Netherton Foundry Shropshire 2018 ©