Mid Winter (Blues) Greens!

Those of you who know me will be aware that I am not big on seasonality; by that I don’t mean that I am indifferent to the changing seasons, far from it but its more a case of believing that while the dishes we cook should be appropriate to the season and more particularly the weather I am not going to restrict what I cook and eat to what is available locally. Of course this in part reflects where I live. In West Central Scotland the growing season is all too short and limiting, perhaps I would feel differently if I lived in the south west of England or even better California but I don’t!

When I first came to live in Scotland moving from London to Edinburgh during the latter part of the 1970s little did I realise what was in store for me. Visits to the green grocer were incredibly depressing both in terms of the variety and quality of the produce on offer. This was especially true during the winter months with root vegetables predominating large dirty potatoes lurked unloved in dusty bins together with piles of carrots, swedes and parsnips if you were lucky you might also find some beetroot, though rarely raw but instead boiled as if such culinary complexities were beyond the average housewife! As well as root vegetables there was always a collection of indifferent looking greens, though in keeping with the season many of these had a blue tinge including the leeks and cabbages.

While living in London I regularly passed though rarely visited, being only a poor student at the time, Justin de Blank’s shop on Elizabeth Street in Belgravia. The shop had a dizzying variety of wonderful vegetables and fruit and after this Edinburgh was a rude shock! How things have changed! To day the supermarkets are full of the most amazing fruit and veg with near year round availability. Ironically this transformation lead to the demise of Justin de Blank’s shop and many other small independent grocers all of whom could no longer compete against the buying power of the large supermarkets. In Glasgow where I now live we still have a number of small green grocers preeminent among which is Roots and Fruits who have branches on Great Western Road as well as on Argyle Street, sadly they no longer have a store on Byres Road having been forced out of business when Waitrose opened a supermarket next  door to them. Don’t get me wrong, I shop at supermarkets, probably more than most but I also value the independent store with its more eclectic collection of fruit and vegetables and their individuality “shops with personality” perhaps describes it best. A few things still remain very seasonal the most obvious of which include forced rhubarb, gooseberries, Jerusalem artichokes, chanterelle and perhaps they taste all the better and more special for that?

Perhaps as a result of being a photographer as well as a foodie much of my food buying tends to be driven by what something looks like and its photographic potential is rather than it purely culinary merits. Of course this has lead to some interesting challenges in the kitchen after a shoot! Recently I have been seeing something in the green grocers and supermarkets which is not only a great subject to photograph but it is also seasonal, local (potentially at least) easy to cook and tastes great! By which I of course mean the king of winter vegetables; savoy cabbage!

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The sheer theatricality of this cabbage with its blistered blue green outer leaves which curl back to reveal progressively lighter coloured layers of leaves around the dense pale crown is hard to beat. Not only is it good to look at but it stores well and is easy to cook, there are many recipes for savoy cabbage including a number for stuffed cabbage but I prefer to keep things simple:

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Savoy Cabbage, Leek and Bacon

Ingredients

Serves 2 as a side dish or if you prefer not to share just add some slices of crusty bread and you have a perfect super for one.

 1 x savoy cabbage

1 x leek

4  rashers of smoked back bacon

olive oil

butter, about 15 g

freshly ground black pepper, crush a few peppercorns in a pestle and mort

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Here’s How

First, prep the ingredients:

Cut the bacon into roughly postage stamp sized pieces (approx 20mm x 20mm),

Cut the head and base off the leek and remove the first outer layer, rinse in cold water to remove any soil trapped around in the leaves at the top of the leek and then cut into discs, each disc about 5 to 7 mm thick.Depending on the size of the leek you will probably only use about half of the leek, I prefer the greener discs from the top half of the leek for their added colour.

To prepare the cabbage; fold back and snap off the largest of the rough dark coloured outer leaves and discard. Break off as many of the remaining leaves as you can and set to one side. You will then be left with a core of densely packed, almost white leaves and this can be cut into thick slices. Cut the tough central midrib from the leaves you previously set aside as well as from the slices of core and discard. Then cut the leaves into stamp sized place in a colander and rinse in thoroughly in cold water. Leave the leaves to drain but don’t make any extra effort to remove the water as you will need the leaves to be wet when they are cooked.

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Cook:

Saute the bacon in a little olive oil in a saucepan over a medium heat; as the fat in the bacon is rendered down it will supplement the olive oil in the cooking so don’t rush to add more oil until you see how much fat comes out of the bacon.

Stir the bacon bits occasionally so that both sides are cooked equally.

After 5 to 10 minutes the bacon will begin to colour, add the leek and cook for about 5 more minutes, stirring as before.

Add the still wet cut cabbage and butter: season with pepper and using a wooden spatula carefully mix all of the contents of the sauce pan until the butter has all melted and the bottom of the pan is deglazed.

Put the lid on the pan; turn the heat down to low and leave for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally so as to ensure that the cabbage doesn’t catch and burn. Unlike other cabbages savoy cabbage doesn’t smell while cooking unless you burn it!

After which, taste, adjust the seasoning if required and serve.

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 Simple comfort food perfect for a cold winter evening… enjoy

For more photos of savoy cabbage see http://www.greenshootsphotography.com/#!vegetables—savoy-cabbage/czjo

Foraging for Hazel Nuts

Many of the things that foragers present you with can, to say the least, be a little suspect at first glance. However, hazel nuts don’t fall into this camp, they are easy to find, are unlikely to be confused with anything else, require little by way of preparation and they even taste good!

Foraged hazel nuts by Keith Gooderham at Greenshoots Photography

A hand carved alder wood bowl containing hazel nuts

Going to the woods and coming back with bags, hats and pockets full of nuts brings back many childhood memories. Hazel nut are also strongly associated with Christmas in my mind, bowls of nuts being placed out on the side “just in case you fancied them,” as if the mountain of turkey with all the trimmings was likely to ever leave room for such snacks!

Hazel Nuts and nut crackers

Nut crackers and nuts

Nonetheless, armed with these fond childhood memories I have been covetously watching some hazel bushes and their slowly maturing crop of nuts along a nearby abandoned railway line.  However, after watching them throughout August and September I took my eye off the “ball” for a week and nearly missed them! The expected harvest of plenty suddenly become a very meagre one indeed! Whether I had been beaten to the nuts by squirrels or worse still other foragers, or the ripe nuts had simply fallen off and disappeared into the undergrowth I can’t say, however, if I am honest there were ample nuts remaining and so, after an all too long a gap I have succeeded in collecting nuts once more and next year I will be more vigilant!

Foraged hazel nuts

A hand carved alder wood bowl containing hazel nuts

hazel nuts photgraphed by food and drink photographer Keith Gooderham

Freshly foraged hazel nuts

How about you? Have you been out foraging? What did you find?

VEGETABLES & THE COLOR PURPLE

Alien Invasion?
Have you noticed? Purple vegetables are taking over; purple kale, purple carrots, purple French beans, purple cauliflower and now purple kohlrabi. Conspiracy theorists, ideas please, before it is too late!

Food and drink photography by Greenshoots Photography

Purple Kohlrabi making an exhibition of themselves!

But of course there is a much more prosaic answer. The purple colour in the leaves, stems and “fruits” of many plants is due to the presence of a powerful anti-oxidising agent, anthocyanin which can act as a natural sun screen for the plant, something which is especially important for young seedlings and new leaves but in something like the purple cauliflower below there can be little if any advantage to the plant. Although anti-oxidants in food a widely regarded as “good” their nutritional value must be also limited in that cooking will destroy the purple colour in most vegetables (purple cauliflower is said to be an exception to this loss of colour).

Food and drink photography by Greenshoots Photography

Brain Section or Purple Cauliflower

Food and drink photography by Greenshoots Photography

French Beans

Food and drink photography by Greenshoots Photography

Purple Russian Kale

Food and drink photography by Greenshoots Photography

Purple Radish Sprouts

Have you tried any purple vegetables? Did you manage to keep their colour when you cooked them?

The Colours of Summer

Last year around this time David Craig and his team at Clyde Valley Tomatoes were making a great splash as they entered the market (http://www.greenshootsphotography.com/#!clyde-valley-tomatoes/c21si). Since then the company has gone from strength to strength with the tomatoes not only being a regular and much appreciated feature of the farmers markets both here in Glasgow as well as those in Edinburgh but you will now find their tomatoes in a lot of shops and delis ranging from Waitrose and the Whole Food Supermarket through to Roots and Fruits and the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar at Cairndow as well as many other places I am sure.

I am a great fan of tomatoes and it is one of the hardships of winter that even with the year round availability of fruit and vegetables coming as they do from right around the world tomatoes always taste and smell their very best when they are at their freshest and local.

The following pictures give a little taste of all that summer goodness; each of these tomatoes is as packed with flavour as it is with colour!

 Market Fresh

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Summer JewelsMixed Varieties of Tomatoes

Summer Sunshine

A simple snack: slice fresh tomato, a slice of grilled ham or bacon, a slice of toasted Ciabatta ad  a sprinkle of sea salt together with a little basil and you are close to heaven!KG140525029bWeb1

Copyright: All photographs and text in the blog “Brunch at Goodies” are subject to copyright. © Keith Gooderham 2011-2014. All rights reserved. Do NOT copy material without requesting permission to do so. If you would like permission simply contact me.

Schwarzwälder Schinken & Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict is, by far, my favourite breakfast dish but I am so often disappointed when I order it in a restaurant. Restaurants seem to specialise in making this most tasty of meals as sterile and as unattractive as possible. Traditionally the dish consists of an English Muffin (despite its name an essentially American concoction!) cut in two and each half is then topped with a round of ham, followed by a poached egg and finally a spoon or two of Hollandaise sauce. The result, while potentially tasty, is often bland and visually sterile – don’t believe me, do a Google image search, there are notable exceptions of course but the majority of the pictures can hardly be called appetizing!

So how to improve on this sorry state of affairs? First, ditch the muffin! A couple of slices of toasted Ciabatta make a far superior foundation for the dish while ensuring that there is enough bread to mop up the egg yolk and sauce without totally dominating it.

Next comes the ham and please, not slices of bland, watery processed ham, Iberian ham is perfect but expensive, back bacon works well but increasingly I find myself using smoked Black Forest ham (Lidl, for more details see the earlier post  https://brunchatgoodies.wordpress.com/2014/03/29/schwarzwalder-schinken-and-shopping-at-lidl/). This ham is amazingly versatile and after baking on a good quality (i.e. heavy and non-stick) metal tray together with a drizzle of olive oil at 190 oC for 8 -10 minutes or so you will have wonderfully thin crisp slices of intensely flavoured ham, (any spare slices should be kept in the fridge in a sealed box for several days until required).

Schwarzwälder Schinken

Slices of crisp oven baked ham make a perfect accompaniment for eggs benedict

 

 

Schwarzwälder Schinken

Slices of crisp oven baked ham make a perfect accompaniment for eggs benedict.

Tomatoes drizzled with a little olive oil are roasted in the oven, again at 190 oC, for around about 20 minutes; its worth preparing the tomatoes some 10 or so minutes before the eggs are ready to allow them to cool down, it is impossible to appreciate the flavour of a tomato no matter how good it is if it is scalding hot!

As for the eggs I have for long been a fan of both Burford Brown and Cotswold Legbar eggs from Clarence Court® (frustratingly these eggs are becoming increasingly hard to find in and around Glasgow and are no longer stocked at my local Morrisons, instead I have to trek right across the city to go to Waitrose or in the opposite direction to the Whole Food supermarket (who, for some as yet unfathomed reason sell Cotswold Legbar eggs lose). Both of these eggs have incredibly rich golden yolks and while the colour probably doesn’t add directly to the taste the difference between these eggs and so many others which are in comparison only pale imitations make me feel that these eggs do indeed taste better!

For the Hollandaise sauce I always “cheat” and buy mine ready-made from Maille which has the advantage of both convenience, being able to use just the amount you need while keeping the rest in the fridge for as long as 4 weeks. The Hollandaise is carefully warmed in a bowl over a pan of freshly boiled water which is then kept on a very low heat; be careful not to let the sauce get too hot or it will split.

Assemble the dish on a warm plate building up from the Ciabatta, followed by the Black Forest ham and Hollandaise sauce and roast tomatoes. Finish of with fresh basil leaves and a drizzle of oil from the bowl the tomatoes were cooked in.

Schwarzwälder Schinken

Schwarzwälder Schinken

Rich runny yolks are a must!

Schwarzwälder Schinken

Rich runny yolks are a must!

Enjoy!

A more detailed recipe can be found at: https://brunchatgoodies.wordpress.com/2012/07/06/eggs-benedict/

Copyright: All photographs and text in the blog “Brunch at Goodies” are subject to copyright. © Keith Gooderham 2011-2013 All rights reserved. Do NOT copy material without requesting permission to do so. If you would like permission simply contact me.

Schwarzwälder Schinken and Shopping at Lidl

The discount supermarket chains Lidl and Aldi are attracting increasing amounts of media attention and more importantly a rapidly growing share of the weekly food shop here in the UK. Fuelled by the recession we have all had to become increasingly “canny” shoppers, often sacrificing decades of brand loyalty for new and different sounding makes, only to discover that they taste surprisingly similar and all that has really changed is the price. That said I am probably far from typical in the way that I shop, not only do I do a weekly shop but there are daily forays and in extreme case several each day, to all of the surrounding supermarkets as I go in search of that vital something for the latest recipe and / or photo shoot. Apart from offering very competitive prices for a whole variety of things both Aldi and Lidl stock a small number of special and quite exotic items. Many of these special products appear around Christmas while others are available throughout the year and are simply very hard if not impossible to find anywhere else; for example which other British supermarket sells a whole Serrano ham; Lidl does (Jamon Serrano Reserva, 6.5-7.5 kg) and for only £39.99, mind you without some serious help you might be eating ham sandwiches every day for the next 2 to 3 months!. Apart from that the only problem with some of these promotions is that the stock can be quite limited and once it has gone there is no more to replace it until the next promotion. However, on a less grand scale Lidl routinely stock packs of sliced Black Forest Smoked ham (Schwarzwälder Schinken – protected geographical indication, sold in 200g packs (approximately 18 slices) costing £1.99). The ham can be eaten as is or it can be used in a variety of different recipes and it makes a wonderful and versatile addition to a large number of different dishes including the one described below.

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White Asparagus, Schwarzwälder Schinken and Boiled Potatoes with a Hollandaise and Chive Sauce

I have long considered white asparagus inferior to green asparagus with its vivid green colour and distinctively tangy taste. However, while I think that the green stuff has it by a short head I have become a convert to white asparagus and can only assume that my previous dislike of the vegetable was the result of too many business trips to Germany where every spring the restaurants would proudly serve white asparagus which had been boiled and then boiled some more and as a result had lost much of its taste and texture. White asparagus of course owes its colour or rather lack of it from being grown in the dark, as you drive through the asparagus growing regions you will see rows of earthed up asparagus beds the sides and tops of which are kept smooth with a plaster’s float trowel and as soon as an asparagus spear breaks through the walls of the bed the stem is harvested using a long screwdriver like tool – to get a better idea as to how asparagus is grown see the following link. Served together with black forest smoked ham, boiled potatoes and hollandaise sauce you have a simple but tasty dish with a variety of different flavours and textures which can be prepared in under 30 minutes.

White asparagus

This dish scarcely merits a recipe it is so simple all the more so because I use ready-made Hollandaise Sauce ( the one sold by Maille is my favourite and once open it keeps in the fridge for up to 6 weeks which, if you are cooking just for one or two people, is a great convenience and saving.

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1. Peel 2 or 3 medium-sized potatoes per person, cut in half if necessary, place in a pan of boiling water, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

2. Using a “Y” handled vegetable scraper peel the spears so as to remove their rather tough and bitter outer layer. The individual spears tend to vary al lot in diameter depending upon the age of the plant that they came from but you are  likely to need around 6 to 8  spears per person. Once peeled cut-off the lower 2 cms  and discard. If the spears are dirty briefly rinse and then place in a saucepan of lightly salted boiling water and leave to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes (you can even get a special asparagus saucepan for the purpose but I find a regular pan quite good enough and my kitchen is already crowded enough!)

3. Carefully warm the Hollandaise sauce in a bowl on top of a saucepan of simmering water, be careful not to let the sauce get too hot or it will split.

4. Wash some freshly cut chives and “slice into small rounds, set the table, pour the drinks and the dish should be ready to plate up: potatoes, then asparagus, sauce and a sprinkling of chives, followed by 3 or 4 slices of ham, finally season with some freshly ground black pepper (the ham is quite salty so your doctor at least would advise no further seasoning with salt!).

Enjoy!

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