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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

The other day, I asked a couple of Facebook groups if anyone had a Robin Cake recipe.  I wasn’t disappointed with the results and recorded over half a dozen different methods/processes.  Today, I set to and baked two cakes, following two of the many recipes offered.

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But, first of all: What is Robin Cake?

Sadly, I cannot find a definitive answer, other than it seems to be fairly local to me, in and around Huddersfield.  My mum used to cook it all the time.  There was always some robin cake in one of her cake tins.  Other tins might have had iced buns in them, made from a similar recipe.  The robin cake itself however, was never iced or decorated in any way.  It would be made one day and then kept for what seemed like ages (perhaps a week), towards the end of which time a bit of butter on your slice wouldn’t go amiss. 

Mum is beyond telling me how to make it now, but it seems that she gave Sharon a recipe some time ago.  This was the first of the two I have made today.

I make no apologies for the use of lard, or for employing imperial weights – these are old, traditional (family?) recipes, so they are what they are. Some of the other recipes, not cooked today, use all butter or all margarine, so – it’s your choice.

Recipe 1 (Mum’s/Sharon’s)

12oz self-raising flour,
10oz sugar,
3oz lard, 3oz margarine,
4 eggs,
2 t’sp BiCarb,
pinch salt,
‘some’ milk.

The METHOD for this cake used the creaming method. I creamed the sugar and fat together and then add the eggs one at a time, beating well each time. I then added the dry ingredients (which had been sifted together). I added enough milk during this process to leave a fairly sloppy but not too runny mix.  It was baked at 170oc (fan oven) for almost an hour – which might have been a tad too long. It was still sloppy after half an hour and sank soon after I prodded it – so the final ten minutes I gave it might have been unnecessary.

cake-1

 

Recipe 2 (From Mandy Haigh, her Gran’s recipe Facebook)

12oz self-raising flour,
7oz sugar,
3½oz lard, 3½oz margarine,
2 eggs
pinch salt,
‘some’ milk.

The METHOD for this was to rub the fat and flour together and then to add the sugar.  I added the sugar early because it helped to more easily distribute the higher fat to flour ratio. Then I added the beaten eggs.  At this point it became obvious that the mix would be too stiff – so I added about the same volume of milk (as egg). The mix was slightly stiffer than recipe 1, but it soon sorted itself out in the oven.  This cake was also baked at 170oc (fan oven) for about 40 minutes. It was a much more confident bake than recipe 1.

Cake-2

Of the two cakes I have cooked today, the second recipe has worked the best.  They both taste ok, but recipe 2 was closest to what I remember (still not ‘quite’ right though – so I will have to try another recipe next time).

 

Also see:
https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Look,+learn,+taste+and+buy+at+museum+bake-in%3B+Buns+and+biscuits+great…-a0264153390

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I can’t say that we were over impressed with Jerez.  Sadly, because I had built up a fairly high impression of what it would be like, I was quite disappointed. I expected a gentility that simply wasn’t there (imho).

Jerez de la Frontera is:

  1. Home to the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art, which, according to Wikipedia, is one of the four greatest schools of horsemanship in the world.
  2. Host to an International Grand Prix circuit, used for MotoGP, F1, F2 and World Superbike championships.
  3. Home for most of the world’s sherry producers and the spiritual home to one of the biggest producers, Gonzalez Byass.

 Yet, despite all this, it appeared to me to be run down and dirty.

I accept that Jerez is a very old city, with a rich and varied history, but, despite the prestige and money those international events/producers bring into the city, along with tourists, it wears an air of neglect.  We have visited several old cities in Spain with equally rich and varied histories but they have been cleaner and their buildings have, to a large extent, been or are being maintained. I’m thinking here of Salamanca, Avila, Toledo, Cordoba and Segovia – none have the aforementioned air of neglect and yet, all have similarly long and unique histories.

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unpleasant tapas

The old town’s main square and streets off it, house the restaurants and bars that provide food and drink for tourists and locals alike.  Certainly, the town comes alive at night with tables popping up where none were to be seen at lunchtime.  We chose badly at lunchtime; presented with what were probably the worst tapas we’ve ever eaten: Over vinegared Ensalada Rusa (why vinegar? Why?), Queso that began to sweat in the heat, tab-end sized Croquetas (with soggy fries for garnish) and a fairly tasty piece of ‘Lomo’ in sherry sauce – covered with soggy fries again.

Our evening meal was better.IMG_1823 copy

Sharon had spent a bit of time on Trip Advisor and had come up with a number of options for us to dine at.  I put the first one (top of the list) into MapsDotMe and off we went.  Sharon saw something on the menu that she liked and I knew I would find something, so we stopped there – there was no point dragging ourselves around the town. Bar Juanito looked to be a nice place, and it was – see my review on Trip Advisor.

Before eating lunch, we’d decided to take the tourist bus-trip (City Sightseeing Jerez) which for €17 also includes a tour of the Bodegas Tio Pepe, the home of Gonzalez Byass in Jerez.  The bus trip itself was interesting enough, and explained much of Jerez’s history.  One fact that stuck with me was that many years ago (perhaps hundreds?) the city fathers allowed people to erect buildings alongside the more ancient city walls.  The idea being that this would help to preserve and protect those walls.  However, as we were driven past, I noticed that the buildings that had been erected are also falling into disrepair.  It’s sad that a city of this note and with this heritage cannot be better looked after.

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Our trip around Bodegas Tio Pepe was interesting and by far the more entertaining time of our trip. It is followed by a tasting of Tio Pepe itself and of Croft Original.

Our hotel had been chosen for its position, its price and its description on Booking dotcom.  Although we’d booked and paid to visit the Jeys Catedral Jerez, the hotel seemed to be called Hotel Belles Artes (as well?) – see my review on Trip Advisor.

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Tomato_jeWhenever I am in Spain, I always take advantage of the local produce.  There’s no point going there and stewing cabbage or boiling turnips (not that you see much of those on the Costa del Sol), when the soft Mediterranean, often very local, (fruit) vegetables are in great abundance.

The aubergines, courgettes, peppers and tomatoes all have a fabulous depth of flavour – even the knobbly, small cucumbers actually have taste, unlike the long, smooth, hot-house grown phalluses available here. Therefore, invariably, the first dish made is ratatouille.

s-l640One problem with my ratatouille in Spain is that I have less access to chopped tinned tomatoes or passata. Over there they have more tomato frito, which, although a similar consistency to passata, is quite sweet and can overpower the finished flavour.

I decided therefore, to make my own tomato sauce and to use that for all of the dishes that require such a thing.

28492528636_d730e0ea97_zThe Spanish grow some fabulously tasty tomatoes. 

Even when served under-ripe, with a little salt, oil, parsley and crushed garlic, they make a meal; accompanied by some local ‘Spanish’ bread.

For the tomato sauce, I simply chopped up a kilo of tomatoes and brought them to the boil along with a small, chopped onion, 4 peeled cloves garlic and about a tablespoon each of olive oil and tomato puree. Then, I let that lot simmer for a couple of hours, topping up with tiny bits of water now and again. I then seasoned it, blitzed it all with a hand blender and used as required (sauce for pasta, added flavour for paella, to loosen up ratatouille, slackened off as soup etc.).

I sometimes add (fresh) basil or oregano towards the end of cooking, for added flavour.

I made the same last week, with Aldi tomatoes and had to add a jar of Lloyd Grossman sauce to give it any flavour at all.

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What has happened to table knives? 

When did they begin to lose their function?

blades

Function

The purpose of a knife is to cut, slice and chop – surely?  Yet, I’m not sure that table knives are designed to do that anymore.

Several times recently, especially in restaurants, I have been frustrated by having to use the knife provided, to ‘tear’ at the meat (etc.) on my plate, instead of actually cutting it.  I occasionally have had to retrieve a more robust vegetable, such as new potato, from wherever it has landed on the table after trying to cut it with my knife.

2knivesI’d be better off using a spoon!  

And, don’t even try to cut the nicely cooked almost al dente broccoli stem! Even Yorkshire Puddings fight back.

Design

Modern tableware is blunt.

It no longer serves its purpose and it’s probably down to some caring soul somewhere, thinking that we might cut ourselves. I do have sharp knives and the ones I use at the table, whilst not AS sharp, can at least cut whatever is placed in front of them.  However, not everyone has such knives anymore.

Some folks also (however), have ‘handed’ knives.

These are designed to make cutting easier for right-handed people.  Because there is a chamfer on one side of the blade, it allows the knife to have a sharper edge, but not one (apparently) that will allow the right-handed person to cut themselves.  However, unless this type of knife is specially designed for left-handed folks – they become impossible to use when in the hands of such southpaws.

See also Fish Knives why?.

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Sadly, I forgot to take photographs of all the ‘free’ food we were presented with in Spain this year.  Furthermore, I only remembered to photograph some of the food we ‘paid’ for.

However, all of the food was delicious.

picture of tuna steak - a la plancha

Sharon’s tuna steak

Whilst holidaying on the Costa Tropical, in the Granada region of Andalucía, we encountered much in the way of free food; we’d buy a drink … and we’d get a free tapa! This doesn’t happen everywhere in Spain, but where it does happen, you feel welcomed and that your custom is valued.

We’ve had such tapas before further inland, and there the price of drinks compares well (often cheaper) with those prices charged on the big ‘no-tapas’ Costas.  In Salobreña and thereabouts, the prices for beer and wine were ever so slightly dearer (perhaps €1.70 – €2.00 each as opposed to €1.40 – €1.70), but every drink came with food.

Your first drink would come along and be accompanied by a particular tapa, e.g. Spanish cheese and olives. Then the subsequent order(s) would each be accompanied by different tapa, e.g. Croquetta with salad leaves or a small plate of jamón.  Even when we went somewhere for a meal, some small thing would be presented to us with our first drink.

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There are a couple of places too in Los Boliches (near Fuengirola), where such treats can be had – the difference here being that the drink doesn’t always come with a tapa. But, there are deals to be had.  A caña (small beer 15cl, 20cl, 25cl) can be had without food, but you can also order a tapa (of your own choice, not just presented to you) to accompany the drink for a combined price of (e.g.) €1.40 or €1.60. 

Often, this will be for the smaller beer, but not always.

Other cafes locally (Los Boliches) sell tapa separately for anything from €2.00 (these are usually slightly larger portions and – for me – often big enough to be called lunch) and in the main they are home-cooked and delicious. So far, our favourite is Bar Pepe in the Plaza Carmen.

We’re learning to avoid the places where cheap frozen ‘stuff’ is served.

I guess that all of this illustrates some of the differences between the Spanish and UK drinking cultures. In Spain, food and drink are inextricably bound together, whereas we see them as two different entities. In Spain, a workman will finish his day (or begin his midday break) with a beer and a tapa, whereas here in the UK I see all the local bars full of workmen finishing their day by quaffing pints and eating nothing more than a packet of crisps.

picture of tomatoes cut and placed on a plate

A simple ‘starter’ of tomato, oil and garlic.

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What is it about a cup of tea that separates the ‘Englishman/English woman’ from the rest of the world?

[Beware – there are some extreme personal tastes and opinions below.]

Nice_Cup_of_Tea

Sharon and I have spent some time in the past, driving around the U.S.A. 

We would end each day desperate for a cup of tea, after driving for hours on end. Or, having woken in the morning needing our ‘morning cuppa’, we would find the only thing available to us was coffee. For those of you who have not travelled there, what I mean is ‘there is no kettle!’, only a coffee machine of some kind or another is provided, along with coffee creamer (yuk).

640px-Mug_of_TeaHere in Spain, it is a similar situation, as hotels do not provide cups or mugs, or indeed any means of making water hot at all.  At least in France you can boil water.  It’s of no use either, trying a nearby restaurant or café as there is nowhere else in the world that knows how make a ‘decent cup of tea’.

So, the trick in those places where hot water can be had, is to take your own teabags.  The ones available locally might say ‘English Breakfast’ or some similar untruth, but they will not have the strength or depth of colour I (we) expect.

There is nothing like a good cup of tea. (I hear both sisters in law suggesting the opposite however.)

Having said all of that, when I am out drinking coffee, I’d rather be in any other place than the U.K. because the coffee we serve at home is nasty.  Nuff said.

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Food Cans

I dislike ring-pull (or easy open, EO) food cans with a real passion.

Yet, it would appear that I am in a minority (see end).

I recently asked my Facebook ‘friends’ to vote on the following question:

Ring pulls on tinned goods (e.g. soups, tomatoes etc.)
Like?
No like?

To clarify the question; I meant ring-pull lids on food stuffs – not drinks such as pop, soda or beer. Ring-pulls on drinks are fine, as they have been (over a period of evolution), perfectly designed to replace the old church-key can openers.

Food tin lids however, are a different thing.

They used to be quite dangerous and I was always afraid of cutting myself as the lid came free of the tin. These days however, they are very much safer than they once were – but oftentimes the lid refuses to break free of the tin, making it difficult to remove the contents and more difficult to wash out before recycling.

cans_background_lids_packaging_durability_tin_tins-1152902.jpg!d

I know that once the contents have been removed the lid can be pushed inwards quite safely and that that makes it easier to wash out, but even that cannot turn me into a ring-pull (EO) friend.

Why?

Well, it seems impossible to remove the lid completely (to more easily empty out the – usually gloopy – contents without covering myself in the residue that sticks to the lid upon release.

I simply find it impossible to open tomatoes, beans, soups (or most recently, sweetcorn) without blathering myself in some food-based mess!

What am I doing wrong?

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Resources

http://www.canmakers.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/v2-History-of-the-Can.pdf

“In the UK, the proportion of food cans with EO ends currently stands at 22% (including petfood) ”
https://www.theguardian.com/notesandqueries/query/0,5753,-2096,00.html

Church-key Image:
By Caltrop (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Ring top tins image
https://pxhere.com/en/photo/1152902

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