The wonder of the food factory

Recently I’ve seen a lot of videos floating around the internet of food being made, familiar foods that we have known for years. The story behind the fish finger, how Krispy Kreme donuts start their life, and how are frozen pizzas made to name a few.

It’s very interesting to see such giant sized business at work. It’s amazing to wonder just how much money was invested in monster machines that roll out 1000’s of pizza based a minute. It’s mind boggling to think that every one of that sea of packets of chicken nuggets has a consumer demand that drives its mass production.

But what it doesn’t do? It doesn’t make me hungry. Seeing the bandsaw cutting huge breeze blocks of frozen cod doesn’t make me fancy a fish finger. Seeing the sea of needles that pump liquid solution into chicken breast doesn’t make me fancy a chicken Kiev. Seeing a wave of uniform donut batter rings plummeting into a reservoir sized vat of oil doesn’t make me fancy a donut. It reinforces just how far removed mass production has become from a product that is created with pride. It shows me how little love and care there is that goes into the churning out process. It shows me how wasteful the ‘uniformity’ process is, when every pizza has its picture taken and any ‘defect’ detected, like uneven topping or non uniform base thickness leads to a jet of air blasting it off the production line and into a waste bin!

Seeing food made this way makes me sad, makes me feel a bit sick and ashamed for ever buying a cheap frozen pizza in the past. I like food to be real. I like it to have more well done bits, that show me the oven was hotter at the edge. I like the icing to be spread on with an experienced hand and not a pre set machine. I like vegetables that have bumps and curves and I like every batch of something tasting slightly different. I like to know my food was made by people, and they care what it tastes like and not how many can be produced in 30 seconds with a little human involvement as possible.

Thinking of this, I wondered if perhaps seeing the production process gave me a bad impression of these foods. After all, seeing something mid way through its life is probably the worst time to see it, and I could be forming an unfair perception. So I took some snaps in the bakery- mid production, with mess around me, and without tidying anything up or positioning it nicely for the picture. And…I still fancy a home made cake!

Maybe I’m a dinosaur and if it tastes good and it’s cheap then I shouldn’t read more into it? Or maybe there’s other people with me here? People that long to see things go back to days before food was made in factories, and it was made in kitchens?Maybe you make most of your food from scratch now to avoid factory foods? Let me know what you think!

Simply Delicious Dexter Burgers with Chunky Chips

I love the Dexter beef we sell. It’s delicious ¬†and it’s hung for 21 days, but you can say that for a lot of beef can’t you? Well this is also free range, grass fed and fully traceable Pedigree, and that makes it pretty special. For more information on the smallest breed native to the British isles, look up the dexter Cattle society on http://www.dextercattle.co.uk, but for now let’s talk burgers!

So I’ve mentioned before that one of my children doesn’t eat a big range of foods. I refuse to call it fussy and tar him with the ‘fussy eater’ brush. He’s just a child that like to try things under his own steam and his own control. At the moment he’s very interested in ‘hamburgers’, which is what he calls a cheese roll. So while he’s in a mood to be quite receptive to new things at the moment I thought I’d give beef burgers a go. Sausages are on his safe list, so I thought seeing the burgers made would reassure him they are similar to sausages.

The result was better than I hoped for. He tried some of everything in his plate (never happens), including several bites of hamburger which included meat and not just bread roll! And he even tried eating his leaves on his side salad…this is of course because ‘the highway rat’ steals a leaf from some ants and eats it! But that’s amazing progress in our book, and our book is apparently authored by Julia Donaldson!

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Dexter Burgers with Chunky Chips

Makes enough for 8 burgers & 8 portions of chips

Ingredients:

For the Chips:

3 medium sweet potatoes

3 medium potatoes (chip variety if possible)

1 tbsp coconut oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tsp smoked paprika

Salt and pepper

For the Burgers:

1kg Dexter minced beef

1 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1.5 tbsp tomato puree

1 large egg

2 slices bread, grated into breadcrumbs (I used crusts)

2 tbsp chopped chives

salt and pepper

1 tbsp rapeseed oil

smoked cheddar (optional)

Method:

1. Make the Chips.

Pre heat oven to 190oC. Wash all the potatoes and keep the skins on. Chop into chip shapes, all about the same thickness. In a large pan or wok heat the coconut oil and garlic until the oil is completely liquid and the garlic is starting to brown. Remove from the heat and stir through the chips (I added the chips to the pan to mix), also add in the paprika and season and mix until they are evenly coated. Tip into an oven tray and put in the oven until they are browning and crisping on the outside and soft on the inside. This will take around 45 mins and they will need turning/shaking half way.

2. Make the burgers.

While the chips cook, make the burgers. In a large mixing bowl, put all the burger ingredients (not the cheese or oil) and season well. Mix well until completely combined. Press out into 8 equal sized burgers.

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3. Cook the burgers.

Heat a large frying pan (med-high heat), with the rapeseed oil. When it’s hot, add the burgers (don’t overfill the pan, do them in batches) and cook for 2 minutes on each side until well browned and sealed. Transfer to an ovenproof dish and put in the oven with the chips. Leave in the oven until cooked through, and piping hot throughout (or to your specification). Ours took about 15 minutes.

4. If you’re having cheese, remove the burgers from the oven 2-3 minutes before they are done, top with a slice of cheese and return to the oven for the final minutes. It should look like a perfect union; the cheese and burger were meant to be together, when it’s done!

Serve with your faves. We had wholemeal rolls and mixed leaf salad. And ketchup, there’s always ketchup!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ginger Nut Granola Rhubarb Crumble with ‘Vicky’s Old Favourite’ Custard

It’s always really exciting when we get the first forced Yorkshire rhubarb in. It’s like a little glimmer of light that the spring will be next! And on a year when winter has hung around longer than it’s welcome and everything is going to be arriving late onto our shelves, we have really welcomed something sweet and new to tide us over! Although this uses the forced rhubarb this recipe can be used all through the season, with the outdoor spring and summer grown rhubarb also.

I made a nutty ginger granola to top the crumble, because I like the texture contrast of the crunchy nuts, the chewy Granola and the soft rhubarb, all drenched in creamy custard. And who doesn’t like ginger and rhubarb together. This recipe contains a bit of sour, a lot of sweet and a nice warmth from the ginger, it’s like a great big hug in a bowl!

I’m also giving away here my fresh custard recipe. This recipe has been with me for YEARS, without changing. I used to make it in our pub kitchen, and it has wowed many a dinner party ever since. And definitely pleased the husband! He’s a big fan!

Ingredients

For the crumble: (serves 4-5)

4-5 thin sticks rhubarb

2 tbsp soft brown sugar

Drop of water

1.5 cups oats

1 cup mixed roughly chopped nuts (I used pecans, walnuts and flaked almonds)

3 tsp ground ginger

1 tbsp coconut oil

2 tbsp honey

For the custard:

200ml double cream

200ml milk

2 tsp vanilla essence

60g caster sugar

3 egg yolks

1 tbsp cornflour

How to make it into an amazing dessert:

1. Stew the Rhubarb.

Firstly in a large pan place the rhubarb stalks cut into pieces around 1-2 inches long. Add a drop of water (2-3 tbsp) and the brown sugar. Put the pan to a medium heat and cover. Leave to stew, shake the pan occasionally until the rhubarb is soft and some of the stalks have just started to break up and go stringy. Set to one side.

2. Make the Granola.

Preheat the oven to 180oc. In a large bowl mix the oats, chopped nuts and ground ginger, and give it a good stir. In a saucepan over a high heat add the coconut oil and honey and heat until completely liquid. Tip over the oats and nuts and stir to combine it all together. Press the mixture into an oven tin, lined with baking paper (I use a brownie pan), and put in the oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown on top and firm to touch. Set the Granola aside to cool slightly.

3. Put it altogether.

In an oven proof dish, put the cooked rhubarb in the bottom. If a lot of liquid has cooked out, and it looks like it will make the crumble soggy, some of this juice can be reserved and used as a nice ice cream sauce for another day. If it’s not too liquid, add it all to the crumble bowl. Loosely break up the Granola and cover the rhubarb. Put back into the oven for a few minutes so it can all combine.

4. Make the custard.

While the crumble has been returned to the oven, make the custard. In a large pan, put the milk, cream and vanilla and heat (medium heat) until warm and steaming but not boiling. In a separate heat proof bowl whisk together the egg yolk, cornflour and sugar until creamy. Tip the hot milk mixture slowly over the egg yolk mixture, whisking to incorporate as you tip. When it’s all combined, tip it all back into the pan and continue to heat. Stir continuously so it doesn’t stick. The custard need to be heated until it thickens, is steaming well but take it off the heat before it starts to boil. If it boils it may curdle. When it’s steaming well and thick, tip into a cool clean bowl.

5. The art of devouring.

Remove the crumble from the oven and serve hot with lashings of fresh custard. Stumble barrel like away from the table and decide you need to sit in a comfy chair to fully get the benefit! Next decide you probably don’t need to eat again for another week.