Tipsy Brit cheddar and Branston Pickle

Nothing says British like strong cheddar with a side of pickle. The Tipsy Brit with mustard and ale from Ford Farms is a West Country Cheddar, meaning it is produced from local milk within 4 counties of South West England. Apparently this designation is protected and enforced.

By pickle I mean something like Branston Pickle, a brand that is basically crunchy vegetable bits like carrot soaked in vinegar. It is slightly sweet and sour, and a perfect partner for cheese, cold meat pies, etc.

I sometimes wonder if pickle was invented to hide ‘footy’ cheese (you know, when it smells like feet), but in this case there’s really no need. The cheddar is surprisingly smooth and creamy tasting, with a tang of ale and tiny sharp bites of mustard seed. No crackers required.

Chocolate Review! Mahalo bar and peanut butter patties

Another trip down the chocolate aisle has produced two new contenders. I’ll jump right in, starting with the Mahalo bar made by Go Max Go. This is like a vegan almond joy, with smooth milk chocolate coating the sweet, dense coconut interspersed with almonds.

The Mahalo is a definite success, with the chocolate tasting milky and the whole thing not being too sweet but still giving you that candy bar high. A tasty and satisfying find for $3.

Next up are the Golden Smackers peanut butter patties, I had high hopes for these. They taste okay at first. The chocolate is not bad, the peanut flavor is fairly low but then there’s this odd bitter aftertaste. I’m not sure if I got a bad batch, sometimes sesame can taste that way. I would probably not get these again but I’d be willing to give it another try if they were sampling them.

PS: While we’re on the topic, these homemade almond joy bites from tasty-yummies look delicious if you’re in the mood to make some.

Chocolate review! Maison Bouche and Coconut Nectar

 

If you and I have anything in common, then I think it might be my love of wandering through grocery stores. And when it comes to gourmet chocolates, I always wonder if they are as delicious behind their beautiful wrappings? Please, I think each time, let this be amazing.

Maison Bouche is a very lovely looking chocolate, clearly French inspired, that comes in gold foil and fancy paper. It comes at a steep price of $8 a bar in stores like Whole Foods. Is it worth it?

It was not my favorite chocolate, being rather sweet, which is not something most Americans mind. It tasted very sweet and slightly silky, with tiny pieces of crunchy toffee. It is milky but not as much as Cadbury’s from the UK (not the fake Cadbury’s here in the US). It would make a great gift for a sweet tooth, being so pretty.

Next up we go to the opposite end of the spectrum, a vegan chocolate made with coconut milk. Does it taste like chocolate or more ‘earthy’? It is a mere $3.25 by comparison and comes in a slim container with lovely dark green foil.

I’m happy to report that this was a bit more to my liking, with a complex dark flavor and bright flakes of coconut. It is not too sweet and would probably not satisfy a typical chocolate lover, but would be great for vegetarians, vegans or people who like more complex desserts.

Roast pork and leek sliders with garlic parsley butter beans

Leftover roast pork is delicious in many dishes, like my lunch of make-your-own-tacos, and of course, mini sliders. Serve with a side dish of beans sauteed with parsley and garlic for a robust meal in winter, or with a side salad in the summer.

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 leeks, washed and with the roots trimmed about 1/2 inch
  • Roast pork or another cooked meat, chopped into smallish pieces
  • Bread rolls
  • 8 oz. pre-cooked beans (we used a tin of butter beans after our lima beans failed to soften in time)
  • Chopped garlic or garlic powder
  • 2-3 sprigs of parsley, leaves chopped roughly
  • Butter, duck fat or oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350-400 degrees and put the bread rolls in (they’ll only need 5-10 minutes)
  2. Cut the leeks into small pieces
  3. Heat 1 1/1 tablespoons of butter/fat/oil in a pan over medium heat
  4. Saute the leeks for 4-5 minutes, moving constantly to prevent burning
  5. Meanwhile, heat more butter in a small pan and warm the garlic (2-3 minutes if using raw, 1 minute if using powdered/dried)
  6. Put the beans into the pan and heat
  7. Add the pork or cooked meat to the first pan with leeks, lower the heat
  8. After a few minutes when the beans are hot, add the parsley, remove and serve
  9. The leek and meat mix should be done, cut the rolls and serve

Strawberry trifle with rose pound cake and violet whipped cream

An English trifle is comprised of delicious layers; cake, fruit, cake, fruit and lavish helpings of whipped cream. It usually has custard somewhere in there too. After we ended up with quite a crop of rose geranium plants, we decided to try the pound cake described by the Herb Farm Cookbook.

It’s quite simple – just make your favorite pound cake recipe. Place the leaves of a rose geranium in a buttered baking tin and cook the pound cake in it. This leaves a delicate rose scent and flavor, especially on the outside.

We layered with strawberries and lemon curd, topping our homemade whipped cream with candied violets from my favorite Parisian store, Hediard. For the whipped cream, add 1-2 tablespoons of confectioner’s sugar or really fine sugar (we’ve cheated and used normal sugar, it’s passable) and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

           

Homemade pizza party

Pizza parties are usually for kids, involving enough grease to power a fleet of bio-diesel trucks. How about a grown-up version you make at home?

We made two pizzas. The first was a taste explosion with goat cheese, garlic-herb olives, spinach, pine nuts and squash. The second was an elegant and simple affair with Beecher’s sharp cheddar.

Ingredients:

  • Frozen or fresh pizza dough (we’ve made our own too, but tonight was low key)
  • Tomato sauce or pesto sauce
  • Oil, olive or some such
  • Few tablespoons of corn flour
  • Choice of toppings (squash and other large toppings should be pre-cooked)

Directions:

  1. Follow the directions and defrost the dough, usually putting in the fridge for a few hours or overnight
  2. Roll the dough out on a flat surface, we used cookie trays
  3. Pick up the dough and move it in circles with your fingers, and alternate holding it by edges – you really have to do this awhile if you want thin crust
  4. Spread a table spoon of oil over the pizza and it, then take a tablespoon of pesto or tomato sauce and spread until you have enough – don’t do too much or it’ll be soggy
  5. Spread your toppings over the pizza, starting with cheese
  6. If you have fresh toppings like spinach, these should be put on after it is done, but frozen should go before
  7. Cook for 15-20 minutes, watching the crust as an indicator

 

 

 

Roast cracklin’ pork, sweet potatoes and corn

Tonight we had roast pork – a real leg from a butcher who gets them from a nearby farm. The taste is so clearly superior that I find it hard to eat pork at restaurants. Juicy, clean and delicious. And of course, crunchy rind!

Paired with corn and sweet potatoes, this was a fairly sweet and tender-tasting meal.

To cook a pork leg is pretty simple, you need to criss-cross cut the leg so that the fat can drain and then salt evenly. Place in the pan leg or rind side up.

We pre-heat the oven to 450 or 500 degrees for the first 30 minutes, then drop the temperature to 200 for the remaining time. It should be 25-30 minutes per pound.