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british food

Cooking

How to make yoghurt at home in 5 easy steps

10th January 2018

Yoghurt starts with yoghurt. Just a spoon of it. Then all you need are a couple of pints of milk, a thermos flask and eight hours of no work whatsoever, to get you a whole big lot of it. Thick, tangy, creamy yoghurt. No effort, less plastic and a few quid saved. Here’s our guide to help you.

How to make yoghurt at home from scratch in 5 easy steps

You’ll need….

Starter yoghurt

It might seem counterproductive to buy yoghurt to make yoghurt, but this is only necessary the first time. You can use the remaining yoghurt from your next batch to make the following one, and so on and so on. Most importantly, look for yoghurt that has the words ‘live’ or ‘active cultures’ on the packaging. This refers to the living organisms or ‘good’ bacterias which will convert your milk into yoghurt. One other thing to remember is to make sure it’s plain yoghurt – anything that’s flavoured will taste odd in your homemade batch.

Milk

You can use either raw or pasteurised milk, and semi-skimmed or whole milk. Whole milk will give you a thicker, creamier yoghurt.

Equipment

You’ll need a thermos flask to keep your milk nice and cosy while the bacteria does its job turning it into yoghurt. A wide-mouthed flask is best. If you don’t have a thermos, use a heavy pot with a lid, and keeping it somewhere insulated and warm – an oven set at a very low temperature would work. You’ll also need a pan to heat the milk, a spoon or fork and some jars to store your finished batch.

5 easy steps to homemade yoghurt

Step 1

How to make yoghurt at home from scratch in 5 easy steps

Add 2 tablespoons of live yoghurt to a thermos flask.

Step 2

Heat 2 pints (1.1 litres) of full-fat milk over a medium-low heat until almost bubbling (85ºC), stirring often so it doesn’t catch on the bottom. Leave it to cool so you can stick your finger in it but it’s still pretty hot (46ºC). If you want to get specific with this, use a thermometer.

Step 3

How to make homemade yoghurt from scratch in 5 easy steps

Pour a good splash of the milk into the thermos and stir well to combine with the yoghurt, then pour in all of the remaining milk, stirring gently.

Step 4

How to make homemade yoghurt from scratch in 5 easy steps

Put the lid on immediately, then set aside for at least 8 hours. It’s important it is not moved at all during this time, so keep it well out of the way.

Step 5

How to make homemade yoghurt from scratch in 5 easy steps

And there you have it. Tangy, delicious, creamy yoghurt. Store in jars in the fridge. It’ll keep for as long as the regular store-bought stuff.

Enjoy with fresh fruit and yoghurt, or try it in this banana bread or on top of your favourite pancakes.

Caught the DIY pantry bug? Learn how to make a stunning apple cider vinegar, an incredibly easy mayonnaise at home or a go-to paneer cheese at home. Or head to the larder for more store cupboard essentials.

Living

8 farm stay holidays guaranteed to beat winter blues

9th January 2018

The farm stay encapsulates the holiday many of us crave: an unfettered getaway, remote from the mundanity of office life, that narrows the divide between food and plate. Question is, what most takes your fancy?

Brushing elbows with a farming family in the Italian countryside, or getting lost (but not, hopefully, too lost) in 4,200 acres of lush Tennessee wilderness? Here are a few picks of the best farm stays around the world to get you started.

1. Coombeshed Farm, Cornwall, UK

Tom Adam’s Pitt Cue has been a huge part of London’s charcoal-fuelled barbecue and grilled meat movement since he started with a trailer pitch on South Bank. So it was with great intrigue when Adams and British export and New York restaurateur April Bloomfield joined forces to open a B&B farm stay in a rather remote part of Cornwall. A large portion of ingredients used in the restaurant kitchen are grown and reared on site, including the Mangalitza pigs that made Pitt Cue famous.

coombesheadfarm.co.uk

2. Ca ‘de Memi, Veneto, Italy

Ca ‘de Memi, a 40-minute train journey from Venice, is a family-run operation: Ottorino, who helped establish the farm in its modern incarnation, works the land, while Michela, with her daughters, works the breakfast table. The family’s 14-hectare plot is run on the principles of slow food, growing vegetables and herbs and rearing Paduan hens, Muscovy ducks, and rabbits.

cadememi.com

3. Serenbe, Georgia, USA

Here’s one for the sustainable-minded adventurer. A 900-acre farm ­– one that’s part of an environmentally conscious community, no less ­– with 15 miles of footpaths among untouched forests, wildflower meadows, waterfalls, and all the wildlife that comes with it. There’s plenty of opportunity for exploration, while tours of its working farm are available for those more comfortable with someone who knows where they’re going.

serenbeinn.com

4. O’Vineyards, Carcassonne, France

Somewhere between Toulouse and Montpellier is the town of Carcassonne with an imposing 13th-century citadel, complete with watchtowers, battlements and all. O’Vineyards and it’s working winery is found just north of here and guests are free to wander the Syrah and Sauvignon vineyards before taking full advantage of the produce made on site. Five-course dinners and an ample supply of wine provide the main draws.

ovineyards.com

5. Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld, Australia

Views of Grampians National Park, close encounters with endangered animals, and tucked-away colonial lodges are abound in and around Royal Mail’s estate. As extraordinary a location as this is, most of the focus at this farm stay is on food and drink. Chefs lead tours of the kitchen’s organic garden, picked clean by resident ducks (rather than maintained with industrial pesticides), the restaurant is headed up by Robin Wickens (regarded as one of Australia’s best chefs), and the cellar, decades in the making, houses around 26,000 bottles.

royalmail.com.au

6. Blackberry Farm, Tennessee, USA

Given its 4,200-acre estate, Blackberry Farm is a farm stay with more than enough variety and intrigue in its natural bounty with which to furnish the bellies and curiosity of its guests. The farm has become a favourite for visiting chefs and producers, not just for the raw materials grown here, but for what’s for lunch too. To top things off, the farm has an on-site World Beer Cup award-winning brewery concocting saisons, pilsners, and pale ales for its guests and the wider market.

blackberryfarm.com

7. Asara Wine Estate, Western Cape, South Africa

Stellenbosch. Arguably one of the prettiest wine regions in the world. Asura Wine Estate, along with its hotel, bumps up against Stellenbosch with some vineyards of its own ­– 104 hectares of mostly red grape varieties are grown here, from Malbec to Petit Verdot. The whole mise en place means it’s a wine lover’s dream with wine tasting, wine tours, and bike rides through local vineyards.

asara.co.za

8. Brown’s Field, Chiba, Japan

Embedding yourself in the Japanese countryside among rice fields, traditional bathhouses, and Ewok-style treehouses sounds almost subversive to Japan’s affinity for the high tech. But there lies pleasure in the simple things. At Brown’s Field, a small farm run by an American ex-journalist and his Japanese wife on the east Chiba coast, everyone from local volunteers to hotel guests are invited to muck in with daily life at the farm. Sound a bit feudal? When rewards of a day’s work are shared at the communal dinner table, you’ll realise maybe Japanese peasant life wasn’t so bad.

brownsfield-jp.com

Bitten by the travel bug? Visit these great food markets of the world on your way.

Prefer closer to home? Don’t miss these six deliciously idyllic UK farm breaks.

Cooking Farming

What are ancient grains and why should we eat them?

1st January 2018

Ancient grains are back in popular favour. A trend that we reckon will only continue to rise. But what even is an ancient grain? And why should we care? Here’s our guide to why we’ve gone crazy for them, their benefits and how to cook them.

What are ancient grains and why should we eat them?

Grains make up more than half of the world’s daily calorific intake. Not to mention the vast amount that also goes to feed livestock – which, in turn, we eat too. It goes without saying that without grain we’d have very different eating habits. And if the world’s grain supply were to suddenly stop tomorrow? We’d be in big trouble.

What are ancient grains and why should we eat them?

“We eat wheat that is dead”

Wheat, corn and rice are the main players – the ones we humans eat the most of. These are crops that have been selectively bred for thousands of years, developed for their resistance to disease and ability to produce high yields. The problem lies with how intensively these main crops are grown, designed to rely heavily on fertilisers and herbicides to grow – damaging not just for our health, but our soils, water and environment as a whole – and to last longer on our shelves. Rather than breeding these crops for their flavour or nutrition, our main source of energy has been bred simply for the quantity it yields, and the economic return it provides big agro-business.

“The problem is we don’t eat true wholewheat. We eat wheat that is dead and denuded so it’s shelf-stable. We lost the taste of wheat and all its health benefits. And for something we eat so much of, it really is a true disaster. If we’re going to change the food system, we have to change how we grow and consume wheat.”

– Dan Barber

What are ancient grains?

And that’s where these so-called ancient grains come in. These refer to grains – like, spelt, barley and millet – and pseudo-cereals – like, quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth – that have been little changed by selective breeding. Meaning, they are genetically very similar, both in terms of flavour, nutrition and yield, to the grains our ancestors would have eaten centuries ago.

Forget superfoods, it’s all about diversity

What are ancient grains and why should we eat them?

Naked Barley growing at Wakelyns Agroforestry – a research farm run by Professor Martin Wolfe a couple of miles away from Hodmedod’s HQ in Suffolk, it’s the perfect place for organic trial plots. This enables the team to try out new and ancient grain varieties on a very small scale and to look at how existing crops might work in different systems.

It’s not because they’re ancient that they’re better – if anything that tag is meaningless – it’s their diversity and what this can bring to our diets and farming systems that’s the key”, stresses Josiah Meldrum, co-founder of Hodmedod’s, the pioneering British suppliers of unusual and underused grains.

“More genetically diverse farm systems, that include a range of cereals in a long rotation, tend to be more resilient to disease and pests. These older varieties also have deeper roots and are better able to draw more of their water and nutrients from the soil than the input-hungry short rotation monocultures we’ve come to rely on”.

What are ancient grains and why should we eat them?

After a global search for seed, a couple of years of trials and several months working out how to flake and mill it, Hodmedod’s have welcomed organic naked barley into their range.

These ancient grains are often more nutritious (a little more exciting) too. A good example is naked barley. Named so because unlike normal barley, the grain falls from the ear without the need for polishing. This also means that, unlike polished or pearled barley, when you eat naked barley you’re eating a whole grain.

Naked barley was a popular crop among Bronze and Iron Age farmers because it’s easy to prepare for milling and eating immediately after harvest, but by the mid 20th-century it had practically disappeared, with wheat taking its place. However, naked barley is a crop that requires half as much water per tonne as wheat and needs far less fertiliser. It’s high in complex carbohydrates, especially beta-glucan – a soluble fibre that has been shown to reduce blood cholesterol. Also when compared to wheat, it’s higher in protein – around 15 or 16% as compared to 10 or 12% for wheat.

“It might have been forgotten by modern farmers and millers, but it can really fit into today’s farming systems, and while it doesn’t produce as high a yield as many other cereals, what you do get from it is far more beneficial to both our health and the environment”, says Josiah.

Enter the UK’s first home-grown crop of quinoa

What are ancient grains and why should we eat them?

Sandoval quinoa crops being grown in East Anglia for Hodmedod’s.

The trick is in getting people to buy it. In the UK, farmers legally have to rotate their crops. Meaning, they alternate between crops that exhaust the supply of soil nutrients with those that replenish them. But they do so on the assumption that anything that isn’t wheat will make a financial loss. There simply isn’t a big enough market for selling alternative grains at a profit.

Thanks to Hodmedod’s and a handful of other pioneering farmers and chefs, change is happening to promote the benefits of unusual and under-used grains, encouraging people to use their purchasing power and incentivising farmers to diversify the grains they sell. Hodmedod’s are selling the UK’s first-ever crop of quinoa, Gilchesters Organics grow and mill grains from einkorn to rye, and Sharpham Park’s organic spelt is sold as flour, porridge and grain.

As consumers, the key is in varying what we eat and supporting the farming systems that enable us to do that – farming systems that are moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach, and rethinking what they grow so it’s more in tune with agro-ecological principles, precisely by introducing a diversity of plants to the land. Helping them to do that could start, simply, with the grains we eat.

Here are a few to start.

5 ancient grains (and a pseudo-cereal) to try in 2018

Spelt

What are ancient grains and why should we eat them?

Spelt is an ancient member of the wheat family and a hybrid of emmer wheat and goat grass. It grows five-feet high whereas modern wheat has been bred down to a more machine-friendly waist height. Nutty in taste, it’s full of fibre and a tasty addition to stews and soups. Pearled spelt is made by bouncing it over five rotating stones which remove the outer bran so it can absorb water and flavour when making risotto. Try Sharpham Park’s organic whole or pearled varieties, grown in Somerset.

Einkorn

What are ancient grains and why should we eat them?

Einkorn is the earliest type of wheat that humans grew and ate. Einkorn production completely disappeared in the UK until 2008, when Doves Farm started working with a small group of organic farmers to re-establish the production of einkorn. Higher in protein than commercial wheats, einkorn flour has a nutty flavour and makes great rustic style breads and pizza bases.   

Quinoa

What are ancient grains and why should we eat them?

Quinoa is actually a seed, not a grain, but it’s used in much the same way. Grown in Peru, Chile and Bolivia for thousands of years, quinoa formed the staple diet of the Incas. It’s a complete protein, which means it contains all nine essential amino acids, and it’s gluten-free. Try its black, red or white varieties in salads, use it to bulk out casseroles or as an alternative to rice or couscous. Try Hodmedod’s pioneering British quinoa.

Millet

What are ancient grains and why should we eat them?

Millet has a mild, sweet, nut-like flavour. A staple for a third of the world’s population, it’s most commonly eaten in India, China and Africa. It’s another gluten-free seed, a good source of protein and is high in fibre and B vitamins. Use it in place of oats to make porridge!

Amaranth

What are ancient grains and why should we eat them?

These tiny seeds are yet another great protein source and are also naturally gluten-free. You can use it much like quinoa, or in place of other grains in salads and soups, or try toasting them in a dry frying pan for added crunch to salads or breakfast bowls.

Intrigued? Here’s everything you need to know about amaranth.

Discover Hodmedod’s and Sharpham Park at farmdrop.com.

Thinking

7 reasons why 2017 was a good year for ethical food innovation in Britain

28th December 2017

Meet the ethical food innovators who took it upon themselves to change how we eat, drink and shop in 2017.

#SquareMileChallenge is one solution to the mass misconception that disposable coffee cups are recyclable. Image: Hubbub.

2017 sent us some worrying signals. Cheap, chlorinated chicken could find its way to the UK. Large scale poultry plants were exposed for their fibs and deceit. Much-loved chocolate manufacturers ditched Fairtrade status. Supermarkets showed disappointing responses to the growingly dangerous use of antibiotics on livestock.

You get the point: headline news in the world of food elicited little more than doom and gloom. To spare us complete despair, here are a few stories that will have you feeling a little more optimistic as we head into 2018.

UK’s first ultra-sustainable cocktail bar lands in London

ethical food innovators 2017

Doug McMaster and Ryan Chetiyawardana of Cub. Image: Xavier D. Buendia.

Cub, a new restaurant-bar in Hoxton, is the birthchild of mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana and zero-waste pioneer Doug McAllister. The table tops are made from recycled yoghurt pots and the lights from paper mulch and cork. However, the main focus is the food and drink.

Cub employs a closed-loop system to produce as little waste as possible, while nothing but sustainable ingredients are bought into the kitchen and bar. It’s kind of a big deal ­– when someone as with as much international fame as Mr Chetiyawardana opens a bar hinged on sustainability, you can expect the rest of the world to take note.

More people buying into ethicality

ethical food innovators 2017

Native breed West Country Wessex Saddleback crossed with a Welsh Boar pigs at Pipers Farm in Devon

According to a report carried out by Triodos Bank and Ethical Consumer, sales in organic and ethical food and drink flourished in the past year, while conventional food stagnated. It’s good news for ethical food in general, as that side of the market saw a growth of 9.7%, and the fourteenth year straight in which interest in ethical goods has increased.

‘It appears that demand for locally produced artisan food is driving a revival of local shopping,’ said Ethical Consumer co-editor Rob Harrison. ‘Shoppers increasingly want to know where their food comes from, and that it’s come from somewhere as local as possible to reduce its carbon footprint.’

Sustainable cod is back on the menu

ethical food innovators 2017

Stocks of North Sea cod fell to 36,000 ten years ago. So it was remarkable news when the Marine Stewardship Council said reserves had recovered enough in 2017 for them to be sustainably sourced again.

Mark Pike, chairman of the Scottish Fisheries Sustainable Accreditation Group, called this a ‘massive development’ where, finally, shoppers could buy one of the nation’s favourite fish with a clear conscience. We hope the fishing industry collaborates to make sure things stay that way.

Brewers take ethicality to heart

ethical food innovators 2017

The team at Long Arm Brewery, owned by brothers Ed (left) and Tom Martin.

Craft beer still makes up for a comparatively small portion of the brewing industry, but given the total figure of breweries reached the 2,000 milestone in 2017, you have to wonder – for how much longer? As the number continues to rise, so too does those with a sustainable philosophy.

Unlike big breweries, these small guys are more mindful. A more nimble bunch, they can adopt waste-saving initiatives such as repurposing spent grain otherwise destined for the bin, drastically cutting down on water used, rolling out more environmentally friendly packaging (such as cans), and turning surplus or waste products into beer. Some like the Long Arm pub in Shoreditch are even embracing aquaponics to feed fish their spent grain, waste from which is used to fertilise their urban farm.

Coffee drinkers snub high-street chains in favour of small batch roasters

ethical food innovators 2017

Will Corby, Head of Coffee at Pact with Colombian grower Faiber Vega and his family. Faiber describes how the opportunity to sell his best beans has revolutionised farm life.

Three years ago, Costa’s sales were on a high. August 2017, however, saw them at a new low. The reason? Partly down to rising costs, and the rise of internet shopping, but even Whitbread’s chief executive (Whitbread being the conglomerate who own Costa) had to admit Britain is caught up on a new appetite for higher quality, extra-ordinary coffee from independent roasters. And as we’ve seen with the likes of Pact, these setups generally favour the farmer’s welfare more than they do their own profits.

‘War on the straw’ takes hold among popular bars and restaurants

Millions of plastic straws, which end up in our oceans, are fatal hazards to marine life and sea birds. In the wake of a distressing video depicting a bloody sea turtle with a straw wedged up its nose, pub chain Oakman Inns stopped stocking plastic straws from their sites and opted for an eco alternative instead. The move triggered other chains to swiftly follow suit ­– JD Wetherspoon, Be At One, The Alchemist, Laine Pub Company and Liberation Group, Hawksmoor, and Redcob Pubs to name just a few. More are expected to join them.

Councils and organisations address the deplorability of disposability

The #SquareMileChallenge in the city of London. Image: Hubbub.

Innovation in the world of straws is just the start – it’s estimated there’s five trillion pieces of plastic floating in the world’s oceans. So does the war on the straw really align with the actions of cutting out plastic as a whole? Well, quite possibly.

This year, London’s first plastic-free shop opened in Hackney; Borough Market introduced water fountains as their first action in phasing out single-use plastic bottles; and City of London launched a Square Mile Challenge which succeeded in their goal of recycling half a million coffee cups in April, with the aim of recycling five million by the end of the year. However small these victories, they’re concrete signs that we’re not just open to the idea of harmony among animals, one another, and the planet – we’re actually championing it too.

Any other good news to come out of 2017? Shout it out in the comments below.

Discover 10 food and farming heroes to watch in 2018 and the food trends that’ll shape your plate.

Cooking

Cook once, eat all week: 4 slow cooked beef recipes

28th December 2017

We’ve teamed up with one of Bristol’s best chefs, Freddy Bird of the Bristol Lido, to bring you a soothing slow cooked beef recipe (plus three leftover ideas) to warm up the wintry weeks ahead.

slow cooked beef batch cooking recipe

Cooking in the wild with critically acclaimed Bristol based chef, Freddy Bird.

Few people set out to eat badly. But during the week, after a busy day at work, it can be hard to muster up the energy to buy ingredients and cook yourself a nice dinner. As a result, takeaways and ready meals become the default option.

Which is why we’ve chosen batch cooking as the theme for our new recipe series, Cook Once, Eat All Week. Each instalment will feature a signature recipe from a guest contributor, plus three resourceful ideas for using up leftovers. The idea being that you can prepare the main dish over a languid Sunday afternoon and then freeze or refrigerate the leftovers to whip up save-the-day dishes throughout the week.

Our first recipe comes from Bristol-born chef Freddy Bird, who is Executive Head Chef at the city’s award-winning Lido restaurant as well as nearby sister eateries, The Glassboat and Three Brothers Burgers.

Having appeared on Saturday Kitchen, The Hairy Bikers and Michel Roux Jr’s Hidden Restaurants as a co-presenter, Freddy is well-known for his relaxed, outdoorsy style of cooking that brings together British, Mediterranean and Moorish influences, as befits a chef that grew up on a farm and worked a formative stint at London’s Moro restaurant.

But for a true indication of his style, look no further than this tempting beef shin recipe, which slow-cooks the meat in an unusual Pedro Ximenez sherry sauce and serves with mash and greens of your choosing. Hearty, unctuous and deeply satisfying, it’s a glorious dish that you will be happy to enjoy more than once.

slow cooked beef batch cooking recipe

Slow cooked beef shin in Pedro Ximenez by Freddy Bird

Serves 4 | 1 hour, plus slow-cooking time

Ingredients

1.2kg beef shin (gnarly, fatty bits of shin)

2 litres fresh chicken stock (ideally homemade with a pig’s trotter or two)

300ml Pedro Ximenez sherry

2 carrots, roughly diced

1 stick celery, roughly diced

1 large onion, roughly diced

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 sprig rosemary

handful of chives

salt

pepper

Maris Piper potatoes, roughly 4-5, peeled and chopped

butter

cream

Method

1. Place a large ovenproof casserole dish over a medium-high heat and add enough oil to coat the bottom. Once hot, lightly season the beef shin, add to the pan and fry until evenly coloured. Set aside.

2. Using the same pan, add a little more oil, turn down the heat slightly and add the carrots, celery and onion. Cook until caramelised and softened slightly.

3. Add the garlic and rosemary, cook for a further 2-3 minutes and then add all the Pedro Ximenez. Do not add any salt at this point as you will be reducing the stock later. Make sure nothing is caught on the bottom of the pan, if so you will need to change the dish.

4. Reduce the Pedro Ximenez (or PX for short) by about three quarters and then add the stock and allow to reduce over a medium heat until it is about a third of its original quantity. Check the seasoning and remove from the heat.

5. Pass through a sieve, discarding the vegetables but reserving the liquor. Return the shin to the pan and cover with the sauce. Slow-cook in the oven (or in a slow-cooker) set to 150-160C for 2 1/2-3 hours.

6. Depending on the dice of the shin, in 100-120 minutes the shin should be tender and starting to fall apart and the sauce beautifully glossy. If it isn’t, very carefully remove the shin, reduce the sauce to a glossy consistency on the hob and then return the shin to the pan.

7. For the mash, boil Maris Piper potatoes until soft, strain and allow to steam dry. Pass through a potato ricer (the only way to make mash by the way!) and finish with butter and cream to taste.

8. Serve the shin on top of the mash with some greens (spinach or kale would work) and a giant pool of sauce. Sprinkle with finely chopped chives to finish.

Freddys Three Leftover Ideas

The juicy snack: Pedro Ximenez soaked raisin Argentinian empanadas

Soak some raisins in the PX to make them more juicy, then add to the leftover beef shin. Use the mix as a stuffing for empanadas, an Argentinian pastry snack that resembles a small Cornish pasty, and serve with a salad.

The hearty lunch: Shin stuffed bubble and squeak potato cakes

Mix any leftover mash with chopped kale to form bubble and squeak-style patties, stuff with leftover shin and the sticky sauce. Fry the potato cakes and add a fried egg on top for added decadence.

The warming supper: Slow cooked beef shin pie

Using the same mix, divide the shin and sauce into pie dishes and top with shortcrust pastry, you can either use pre-bought pastry or make it yourself. Freddy often creates a mustard and bone marrow crust which would work really nicely with the PX and shin mix.

lidobristol.com

Craving more winter warmers? Discover 6 slow cooker-perfect recipes by some of Britain’s top chefs.

Cooking

An alternative Christmas dinner menu by Heirloom

19th December 2017

Want to impress with effortless seasonal stunners? Look no further than these alternative Christmas dinner ideas by Ian Macintosh, Chef Owner of Heirloom – a thoroughly modern British restaurant in Crouch End.

alternative Christmas recipes

Take a seat at the bar at Heirloom.

Talk to most chefs and restaurateurs and they’ll tell you that Christmas is something they get to enjoy between the menu planning, chaotic services, and never-ending kitchen prep. Rarely, in other words.

But despite the seasonal stresses, Ian Macintosh, Chef Owner of Crouch End’s much-loved Heirloom restaurant, retains a childlike enthusiasm for the festive period. He looks forward to putting together his Christmas menus and starts planning dishes as soon as summer departs, favouring those that blend tradition with modernity; British flavours with Continental touches.

alternative Christmas recipes

Ian Macintosh, Chef Owner of Heirloom.

This year, for the first time in a few, Ian, who has run Heirloom with his brother, David, since 2014, is opening the restaurant on Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and for lunch on the last two Fridays before the big day; as well as the usual Tuesday to Sunday opening hours.

It promises to be quite a spread. But if you can’t make the jaunt to North London, then don’t despair as the Yorkshire-born has devised a special alternative Christmas menu just for Farmdrop, comprising some of his favourite recipes from Heirloom’s 2017 vintage.

Ian’s alternative Christmas menu showcases British cooking as it is today; seasonal, forward-thinking and delicious. Starters are provided in the form of tandoori trout rillettes and a sprightly kohlrabi, clementine and fennel salad. For mains, Ian flips the bird to turkey in favour of pheasant, which he pot-roasts on a bed of barley, and a vegetarian-friendly salt-baked carrots with labneh dish. Brussels with chestnut and pancetta makes a lovely versatile side, while treacle loaf rounds things off with some much-needed decadence.

Cook any or all of these on the 25th and your guests are sure to go to bed happy. (As for Ian, well he’ll still probably be working.)

To start:

Kohlrabi, clementine and fennel salad

Serves 6 | 50 minutes

Slightly smoky, citrusy and aniseed-y, this simple salad packs a real punch. A lovely light starter to precede the traditional festive gluttony.

1 kohlrabi
4 clementines, 1 saved for dressing
1 fennel bulb
Lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
80ml rapeseed oil
A handful of chives
150g flaked almonds, lightly toasted

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Roast the kohlrabi for 30 minutes or until slightly blackened on the outside.

2. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Once cool, remove the skin with a paring knife, chop the flesh into neat chunks or slices and set aside.

3. For the clementines, cut each in half and sprinkle with sugar. Place a pan over a medium heat and, once hot, add the clementines flesh-side down. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until golden brown and caramelised. Allow to cool and then remove the skin.

4. For the fennel, slice on a mandolin or use a sharp knife to cut into thin slices. Store in water with the lemon juice to avoid it oxidising.

5. For the dressing, mix together in a bowl the juice from the remaining clementine, Dijon mustard and chives. Slowly whisk in the rapeseed oil until combined.

6. Combine the kohlrabi, clementine and fennel and toss in the dressing. Scatter with the flaked almonds and serve in bowls or on one big sharing platter.

Tandoori trout rillettes

Serves 6 | 25 minutes plus pickling time

We tend to serve this on blinis over the festive season, but it is equally good on toast or flatbreads. The tandoori spices add a warming twist, while the tartness of the cucumber cuts through the fattiness of the trout belly.

Ingredients

Pickled cucumber

1 cucumber
50ml cider vinegar
50g caster sugar
50ml water
5g mustard seeds
5g cumin seeds

Trout

1 trout belly
Tandoori powder
100ml duck fat
50g chervil, chopped

Method

1. First, prepare the pickled cucumber. Add the vinegar, sugar, water and spices to a pot and place over a medium heat. Heat for 15 minutes, then pass the liquid through a strainer or sieve and allow to cool slightly

2. Cut the cucumber into rounds and place into the pickling liquor for 2 hours. Preheat the oven to 220°C

3. Leaving the belly whole, cover it in salt and roast in the oven for 6 minutes. Then, remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.

4. Place a plan over a low heat. Once hot, add the tandoori powder and heat to release the oils in the spices. After 5 minutes, add the duck fat and cook until combined.

5. Meanwhile, pick the meat from the belly, discarding any bones or skin, and add to a large bowl. Add the mixture from the pan in stages, using a spoon to bring the rillettes together. Allow to cool.

6. Once cool, add the chopped chervil to the mix, check the seasoning and serve on toast, flatbreads or blinis with the cucumber.

For the main event:

Roast pheasant with barley and cranberry sauce

Serves 6 | 1 hour

Pheasant are abundant at this time of year and not as costly as some other birds. Here we pot-roast the legs on a bed of barley and serve with the pan-roasted breasts and a side-serving of cranberry sauce to produce a tasty festive main.

Ingredients

Pheasants

3 pheasants, legs removed
1 carrot
1 stick celery
1 brown onion
3 cloves garlic
1/2 a leek
300g pearl barley
Splash of white wine
300g pearl barley
250ml chicken stock
oil

Cranberry Sauce

300g frozen cranberries
250ml water
bunch of thyme
sugar

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

2. To make the mirepoix, a traditional base for many winter dishes, finely chop carrot, celery, onion, garlic and leek and add to a large ovenproof casserole dish with a little oil. Place over a low-medium heat for 10 minutes.

3. Add the barley, a splash of wine and 200ml of chicken stock. Place the pheasant legs on top of the barley, leave the lid off and cook in the oven for 40 minutes, topping up the stock as necessary.

4. Towards the end of the cooking time, place a heavy-based pan over a medium-high heat and add a few drops of oil. Once hot, add the pheasant crowns and pan-roast until nicely coloured.

5. Turn the oven up to 185°C and place the crowns in there to cook through for 8 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, prepare the cranberry sauce. Add the cranberries to a pan along with chopped thyme, water and sugar to taste. Heat until the cranberries start to lose their shape, roughly 5 minutes.

7. Remove the casserole dish from the oven along with the crowns. Using a sharp knife, fillet the breasts from the crowns and place on top of the legs. Serve up a sharing dish with the cranberry sauce on the side.

Salt-baked carrots with labneh, hazelnut and chard

alternative Christmas recipes

Serves 6 | 50 minutes, plus resting time

Salt-baking draws out moisture and concentrates flavour, and we find the method works particularly well with carrots. At the restaurant we use Sandy carrots, which have been grown on loam soil in Brittany and have a high sugar content to counter the salt, but good-quality medium-sized carrots will work nicely, too. If you’re feeling extra generous, add some pan-roasted cauliflower to the plate.

Ingredients

1kg sandy carrots, or 6 medium carrots
1kg white flour
350g salt
50g ground cinnamon
700ml of water

500g natural yogurt
500g brown onions, thinly sliced
50g ras el hanout
knob of butter

500g swiss chard
150g hazelnut

Method

1. Mix the flour, salt and cinnamon in a food mixer with the bread attachment and add roughly 700ml of water to form a dough. Use your hand to finish the dough, then wrap in clingfilm and leave in the fridge for 1 hour.

2. Remove the dough from the fridge, roll out and place the carrots on top. Wrap back up to conceal the carrots inside. Place on a tray and bake in an oven set to 180°C for 30 minutes, then set aside.

3. To make the labneh, line a sieve with a J-cloth, then tip in the yoghurt and allow the whey to drip through until you are left with a thick set yoghurt.

4. Meanwhile, add the sliced onions to a pan over a low-medium heat with a knob of butter. Cook until slightly brown, then add the ras el hanout seasoning and cook for a further 15 minutes. You can add some water if the mixture looks too dry. Allow to cool then mix with the thick yoghurt.

5. Boil a pan of salted water and blanch the chard for 2 minutes.

6. In a separate pan, toast the hazelnuts then crush up using the side of a knife.

7. Remove the carrots from salt-bake and divide onto plates with the labneh, chard and hazelnuts.

A festive side:

Brussels sprouts with pancetta and chestnuts

Serves 6 | 15 mins

Say no to boiled-into-submission sprouts! They do nothing for the reputation of this deliciously versatile vegetable. Instead, do as we do at Heirloom and pan-fry them with salty pancetta and sweet, earthy chestnuts.

Ingredients

1kg sprouts, scored and halved
250g pancetta, diced
250g vacuum-packed chestnuts, grated or chopped into small chunks
50ml white wine vinegar, Cabernet Sauvignon if possible

butter
rapeseed oil

Method

Place a heavy-based pan over a medium-high heat. Add the halved sprouts, diced pancetta and a splash of water to the pan along with a few knobs of butter and rapeseed oil

Once the water has evaporated, add the vinegar to the pan and cook for a further minute, or until the sprouts are nice and tender.

Add the chestnuts, stir to combine and serve as a festive side.

To finish:

Treacle loaf

alternative Christmas recipes

Serves 6 | 45 minutes

A great way to use up brown bread, we serve this treacle loaf at the restaurant throughout autumn and winter. Sticky, sweet and comforting, it’s a real crowdpleaser and makes a wonderful winter pud.

Ingredients

1 small brown bread loaf, chopped and crusts removed
250g unsalted butter
65g caster sugar
210g golden syrup
150g black treacle
3 eggs

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Melt the butter, sugar and syrups in a pan over a low heat, then add the bread and coat in the mixture. Set aside to cool.

2. Once cool, add the eggs and transfer to a food mixer. Blend until smooth.

3. Line a terrine or loaf tin with baking parchment and pour in the mix. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

4. Once baked, remove from the oven and allow to cool. Slice and serve with a dollop of clotted cream or ice cream.

Heirloom, 35 Park Road, N8, 020 8348 3565

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