August, 2013


22
Aug 13

A day on the farm

On the farm in Gloucestershire

On the farm in Gloucestershire

How important is the quality and provenance of the meat you eat to you? I must admit it extremely important to me, not only from a welfare point of view, but taste, too. Eating cheap, poorly produced meat is really not a pleasant experience. I’m not alone in this respect, with celebrity supporters of high-welfare meat including Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Elizabeth Hurley.

This is all well and good, but how do you know your meat has been produced according to the standards you expect? This is something I was keen to learn more about, so I recently spent the day on Paul and Kirsty Westaway’s farm in Gloucestershire to find out more about how good meat is produced and where you can buy it.

Gamage Hall Farm, home to Paul and Kirsty, is situated on the Gloucestershire/Herefordshire borders, surrounded by rolling hills and lush green fields. As soon as we arrived, we donned our wellington boots and headed out to meet their cattle. The farm is spread over 170 acres which provides plenty of space for the cattle to graze and for them to grow their own feed, which is a mix of maize and Red Clover, which is crucial in terms of giving the meat the best flavour possible. Paul’s cattle are a mix of Aberdeen Angus, Holstein and Hereford breeds, all of which have different qualities, but the aim in rearing the cattle is to produce the best quality meat possible. First up, we met Gareth, their Aberdeen Angus bull, who is ranked as the best bull in Europe. A mighty and powerful creature, he is the father of much of the cattle on the farm. It was great to walk around the farm and see the cattle. They were genuinely well cared for and seemed contented. Look at these gorgeous bulls being fed!

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Walking around the farm really got me thinking that this is exactly where I expect my meat to come from. I want my meat to have been reared on a farm which gives the animal a lovely life. Here, every animal has its own passport. Every time it is moved, it has to be logged in the passport, meaning every move it makes can be fully traced. The experience at the abbatoir for the animal is as pleasant as it can possibly be, and the meat is hung long enough and prepared well enough for the best results.

Delicious steaks as the end product

Delicious steaks as the end product

The beef and lamb reared on farms like Paul and Kirsty’s is sold in supermarkets and butchers, and is marked with the Quality Standard Mark and Red Tractor symbol on the packaging, which guarantee that the meat you’re buying, be it from the supermarket or butchers has been reared and slaughtered to the highest of standards. It means the welfare of the animals is paramount and they have been well looked after. There is full provenance and traceability for the meat, and that it will be delicious to eat. That’s exactly the kind of meat I want to enjoy.

For more information and recipes, please see www.simplybeefandlamb.co.uk.


18
Aug 13

My book launch!

Book Launch

Last Thursday was a bit of a crazy day for me. It was my book launch day, and book launch party in London. What a day it was. Like no other really. I spent most of the day bombarded with lovely messages, calls and flowers, which was so touching, and then I dashed over to Goat Chelsea, the launch venue, to help set up.

It was the most beautiful sunny day and rumoured to be the hottest August day in 10 years. It certainly felt like it as I trekked across town with my bags! My lovely team from the publishers came to meet me at the venue, which was a great opportunity to catch up face to face – there are surprisingly few opportunities to see your publishers in the flesh, despite almost daily email contact in the book writing process.

I was really touched that so many people came along: it’s always scary when organising an event – you hope people will actually turn up! The venue, Goat, was absolutely fantastic and really went out of their way to make every aspect of the event just right. They organised some special cocktails for us on the night; pineapple margaritas and a run and ginger cocktail. Both of which were really fantastic and very popular indeed.

Attending your own book launch is a strange experience. It was so much fun and absolutely wonderful to see my colleagues, friends and family all in one place. The evening seemed to go by in a blur as I tried to speak to everyone. It was so much fun – I’m already looking forward to the next one!

For more detail on the night, please see this report by HELLO! Online.


12
Aug 13

Pescheria Mattiucci

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I had a bit of a tourist moment on my way to Pescheria Mattiucci. It’s actually situated on one of the most recognizable roads in North London and is slap bang opposite the travel bookshop, made famous by the film, Notting Hill. It’s also next door but one or two from the foodie heaven: Books for Cooks.

Stepping into Pescheria Mattiucci is like being welcomed into a cosy vintage-filled home. It is a family business owned by Luigi Mattiucci, with branches in Naples and Milan, it’s certainly a very unique restaurant in London – unlike no other I’ve visited.

The menu changes daily according to the catch of the day, and all dishes are cooked to authentic recipes mastered by the fisherman’s wives in Southern Italy. All fish used is wild and sustainable, with some caught in Italy, and some from the British Isles.

To start, we tried the Crudo Mediterraneo – otherwise known as the raw fish platter. It simply was a plate of thinly sliced raw fish, all beautifully fresh, serves with olive oil, fresh lemon and orange juice and a little salad. We tried tuna, ricciola, swordfish and prawns. It was really unusual but absolutely delicious and superbly fresh fish, making a really light start to the meal.

We then moved on to try the razor clams with garlic and chilli which were extremely tasty, and I found myself mopping up the delicious juices from my plate.  We also tried the Blue Scottish lobster served grilled with mashed potato. The lobster was absolutely stunning – meltingly soft and tender and fragrant with lemon and orange zest on top, and was served with some great garlicky mash.

Dining at Pescheria Mattiucci is a unique experience set in the heart of Notting Hill and well worth a visit and is an absolute must if you are a fish lover, like me. Dinner for two is around £60-75 including wine.


11
Aug 13

Guilty Pleasures

Guilty Pleasures

Guilty Pleasures is the latest book published by Matt Tebbutt, Welsh TV Chef.

This book is really quite different. It celebrates fun, enjoyment and playfulness with food with the purpose of the book being to celebrate those foods (and drinks) we all love, but often feel a bit naughty about enjoying. It wholeheartedly embraces the idea of enjoying a bit of what you fancy, and that, in turn, does you good. The chapters are broken down into ingredients and include: peanut butter, Marmite, white bread, coffee and tea and booze.

This is a very characterful book, with gorgeous photos and lovely retro images and fonts. As I first flicked through the book, I instantly found several recipes I wanted to cook straight away. Soy and honey tea-smoked chicken, Slow-cooked pulled pork, Vodka cured salmon and Marmite potatoes instantly stood out. Although the recipes sound rather different and intriguing, they are all straightforward to make and do not require any specialist ingredients or equipment. After all, ingredients like ketchup and peanut butter are commonly found both at home and in professional kitchens.

The first recipe I tried was the Wide Awake Black bean chilli, which looked absolutely gorgeous and, as I was cooking for a vegan, very simple and suitable. I managed to pick up all the ingredients to make this in a small local supermarket and threw this chilli together one evening in around 20 minutes from start to finish. The spices used in the chilli give the sauce a wonderful richness, which is often found in slow cooked dishes.

This book is really fun and ideal for anyone who fancies something a bit different. It is a genuinely refreshing book, full of some really interesting and unusual ideas which I’m dying to make for friends soon. Highly recommended.

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