Saturday, August 14, 2010

Making Devonshire Cream from Raw Milk

One of my favorite rituals when I go to England is to have tea. "Tea" in England means an entire spread of cakes, sandwiches and other assorted goodies to go along with the tea. Devon cream spread on scones is one of the most sinful and scrumptious parts of high tea.

Traditional English High Tea Staple Can Be Made at Home

If you have ever had High Tea (or cream tea) in England, you have experienced the amazing abundance of scones, fresh jams and jellies, and other treats. One item that is never left out at teatime is Devon cream, also called- less appetizingly- clotted cream.

Devonshire cream is a thick, simmered cream that ends up thicker than whipping cream and with a naturally sweeter taste. It often tops scones and baps along with berry jam.


Saturday, July 31, 2010

Hounslow-Style Indian Butter Chicken (Murg Makhani)

Many of the recipes we think of as being traditional Indian were really developed by Indian immigrants in Britain, especially in west London. If you go to India and ask for a "curry", they will look at you with either bewilderment or with disdain. This recipe for Butter Chicken is adapted from the Hounslow area restaurants I frequented when I lived in London. It's a great Indian-style recipe for children or for guests when you aren't sure how much "ethnic" food they enjoy. The curry is soft and warm and the tomato sauce is a recognizable and comforting element.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What Traditional Ethnic Foods Do You Love?

My background is English- VERY English. My grandmother was the cook in our family. She made the foods that her mother and grandmother taught her to make. My grandmother never thought of them as "traditional" or "ethnic". She didn't know that the bread pudding she made was distinctly from the south of England or that her Yorkshire puddings came from a very authentic recipe. She never once questioned why we eat potatoes and squash at Thanksgiving (because that was all of the fresh food available to early North American settlers) or that our family always ate ham at Easter because that was when the curing process was completed.

I think about these things frequently. Each of us has our own traditional foodways that may be buried deeply under two generations of convenience food and drive-throughs but are still there, waiting to be shared with our children and grandchildren.

What do you know about your family's food history? Do you have recipes scribbled down by your grandmother that are in danger of being lost? Was there something special about the way your mother formed pirogies or layered baklava? Be sure to write these snippets of history down so that they are not lost forever. The more we understand and embrace our food history, the less likely it will be that our children eat nothing but frozen pizzas and McDonald's.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Baked Chicken and Spinach Samosas

A Traditional Indian Dish Gets a Healthy Facelift

Samosas are popular hand pies, or stuffed pastries, eaten in many countries around the world, especially in the areas of the Southeast Asia, North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Popular fillings in samosas are lentils, potatoes, peas, and chickpeas. Meat-filled samosas are also popular in some areas, and chicken and spinach is a common combination. 

How and Why to Brine a Chicken

Roast chicken has been a family staple on the Sunday dinner table for two hundred years. Chicken lends itself to long slow roasting in the oven or over a spit. However, if cooked too high or too long, chicken can easily dry out and produce a tough, flavorless product that needs to be smothered in gravy to be palatable. 

The secret to a moist, tender roast chicken is brining. Brining, at its most basic, is simply covering the chicken with a solution of salt and sugar and water and letting it sit. 

How to Store Eggs Without Refrigeration

It has only been for the past fifty years that refrigerators have been a staple in kitchens across America. Prior to that, fresh foods were stored without refrigeration in a variety of different ways. Households had to store seasonal produce, meats and other homestead products like milk and cheese to tide them over through the winter.

Storing fresh eggs without refrigeration was a very important task as hens lay more when days are long and begin to shut down production in the winter. Because eggs were a staple not only as a breakfast item but also as an ingredient in many homestead staples, spreading them out throughout the year was a critical skill.

How to Create Your Own Signature Curry Powder Blend

Personalize Your Curry Dishes with Your Own Combinations of Spices

My kitchen would not be complete without curry powder. As my cooking preferences frequently turn to Asian and African traditions, the heat of curry plays a central role in our everyday fare. I prefer to make my own curry powder rather than buy the stale and boring blends offered in my local grocery store. The difference in taste is immense and once you taste your own curry powder blend, you will never go back to buying it. 

Traditional Black Country Foods

The Hearty and Delicious Cuisine of the Black Country Lives On

The Black Country is an area in England loosely defined as the northwest sector of the Midlands. Most Black Country residents vehemently deny Birmingham as part of the area and, depending on the resident and often the time spent in the pub that day and how well the Wolves are playing, Wolverhampton sometimes does not make the cut either.


Laverbread: A Centuries Old Tradition from Wales

Laverbread is as ingrained on the collective Welsh gastronomical palate as is roast lamb and the two are often served together. Laverbread, surprisingly, is not a bread at all but a cooked puree of a local seaweed called laver. Laver (porphyra umbilicalis) has been harvested on coastal rocks on the western shores of Wales and on the English Devon coast for centuries. As with many rustic foods, laver was free for the harvesting and therefore an important component of the working class diet. 

How to Make Devonshire Hedgerow Jelly

A Traditional Jelly Made from Seasonal Fruits

Although having called Canada home for six generations, my family, almost without exception, is from England and has been there for at least five hundred years. One side of the family is from Yorkshire to the north, while the other is from the balmy Devonshire coast. Each region has its own traditional dishes and food ways and I always revel in the opportunity to discover what my ancestors likely put on their tables and in their pantries. 

Cooking with Cardamom

An Exotic Spice that Should Be in Everyone's Pantry

In all of my cooking adventures up until this year, I have always left cardamom out of any recipe that called for it. Part of the reason was that I didn't know much about this exotic spice or what it would do to my cooking efforts. Part was its expense. Cardamom is the second most expensive spice in the world next to saffron and I couldn't justify paying close to thirty dollars a pound. The pre-ground cardamom was cheaper but I knew that it would turn out to be like any other spice- inferior and bland in comparison to its whole form. 

Gardening with Kids: How to Grow a Native American Three Sisters Garden

For thousands of years, native Americans used simple and effective agricultural techniques to grow their food. One of these techniques was translated as "Three Sisters" planting: growing corn, beans, and squash together as these three crops are mutually beneficial and nutritionally complimentary. Planting a Three Sisters garden with your kids teaches them not only gardening but also an important part of American history.

Guide to Growing Paw Paws

A Historic American Fruit Making a Comeback

Paw paws have grown wild throughout North America for hundreds of years. They are the largest native fruit on the continent. Eventually, paw paws fell out of favor with growers as the fruit didn't last long and was therefore hard to ship. Interest in growing paw paws is increasing once again as the tree is sturdy and isn't subject to considerable pest infestations. Growing paw paws is fairly easy and will provide you with fresh paw paw fruit for decades. I have four paw paw trees that will produce their first crop next year here in coastal Georgia. 

Make Your Own Herbal Vinegars: Do-It-Yourself Gifts for the Kitchen

Gourmet chefs have used herb-infused vinegars for decades to give dishes a deep, rich note or a bright finishing touch. The price of store-bought herbal vinegars is steadily increasing as it is considered a "gourmet" item. Luckily, it's easy to make your own herbal vinegar at home. Herbal vinegars make wonderful hostess and holiday gifts but are also indispensable in your own kitchen. 

How to Make Your Own Marinated Olives

Marinated olives are a particularly welcome treat on an appetizer platter. There are as many kinds of olives as there are palates. Both green (unripe) and black (ripe) olives come from Italy, Spain, Morocco and California. Marinated olives in the deli section of your local grocery store can cost upwards of $12 per pint. The good news is that it is easy to make your own gourmet, marinated olives from a can of 99-cent olives and a few simple ingredients.