Seven brand new courses: Kitchen Essentials

2013 should be a fab year for Loaf, and we’ve decided to kick it off with a great new series of short workshops called Kitchen Essentials. Taught by our talented baker and chef Dom Clarke, these workshops are aimed at improving your basic cooking skills and helping you to be confident and efficient around the kitchen. Priced at just £30 each (except for cooking meat which is £40) they’ll make a great Christmas gift for a loved one, we’ll even print you a voucher with a personal message on if you wish. You can find the full details of the workshops in the shop along with online booking, but see our brief outline of the courses below:



Kitchen Essentials One: Knife SkillsTuesday 22nd January 7-9pm
Don’t know your julienne from your chiffonade or your paring knife from your boning knife? This is the course for you!  From the basics of choosing the right knife for the right task, to keeping your knives in tip-top condition, and chopping our way to some delicious dishes along the way!

Kitchen Essentials Two: Stocks and SaucesTuesday 29th January, 7-9pm
There are as many sauces in the world as there are chefs, but this Stocks and Sauces workshop will give you an introduction to the building blocks of some of the classics. We’ll explore both Asian and Western sauces and share some delicious treats throughout the evening.

Kitchen Essentials Three: Eggs – Tuesday 12th February, 7-9pm
Eggs are one of natures most simple yet beautiful foods, incredibly versatile but surprisingly difficult to cook right. On this two-hour workshop we’ll whisk, scramble, omelette, poach two ways, turn into delicious sweet tarts and a classic egg-based sauce.

Kitchen Essentials Four: Cooking VegetablesTuesday 26th February, 7-9pm
Vegetables are the delicious encapsulation of sunshine. For too many years they have played second fiddle to meat, but no more!! On this fantastic Kitchen Essentials: Cooking Vegetables workshop you’ll learn how to bring out those fantastic flavours locked up inside veg, and put them out front on a pedestal, where they belong.

Kitchen Essentials Five: Flavour Geography – Tuesday 12th March, 7-9pm
Lamb and rosemary, tomato and basil, peas and ham, ginger and spring onion, duck and orange. There’s a reason why some flavour combinations have stood the test of time and are now considered classic. On this educational two hour workshop you’ll learn the origins of some favourite combinations, cook some fantastic dishes from around the world, and gain the confidence to improvise with flavours in your own kitchen.

Kitchen Essentials Six: Beans, Pulses & Grains – Tuesday 19th March, 7-9pm.
So versatile but so often overlooked, this Kitchen Essentials workshop will teach you how to make the best of beans, pulses and grains. Perfect for these austere times, beans and pulses are cheap, nutritious, and if you cook them well, absolutely delicious.

Kitchen Essentials Seven: Cooking Meat – Tuesday 26th March, 7-9pm
Meat is an increasingly precious foodstuff in todays world, it’s becoming even more important to eat less but better meat, and cook well with it, wasting as little as possible. But what to do with it? Roast, braise, griddle, fry, steam, barbecue, or grill? Low and slow or hot and fast? On the bone or off the bone? Our fantastic two-hour Kitchen Essentials: Cooking Meat workshop will answer all of these questions and more.

Christmas Meat

Steve RossiterI was chatting to Steve Rossiter (who runs Birmingham’s only registered organic butchery) last night at our joint poultry butchery workshop, and amidst general chit chat, he quietly mentioned that he’s throwing a charity hog roast outside his shop for Christmas. Brilliant!! If you’ve ever been to Rossiters for meat in the week running up to Christmas, you’ll know there’s always a queue going out the door, with Paul Leverton from the deli opposite often running across the road with hot teas and coffees for the crowds. Steve says the 23rd December is normally the busiest day for order pick-ups (you really must pre-order if you want any joints of meat or turkeys/geese that week!), so this year he’s asked one of his farmers, Adrian to come up from his farm in Stroud with a pig and a hog roasting oven, and feed the hungry hordes outside the shop. Steve’s throwing in the pig, and Adrian’s coming out of his own good will, all to raise a bit of cash for Acorns Children’s Hospice. So if you’re ordering meat from Rossiters this Christmas, come and pick up on the 23rd December, have a hot pork roll, and give generously to Acorns!

You can pre-order your meat by popping into the shop at 247 Mary Vale Road, Bournville, or by calling 0121 458 1598. I’ve ordered a rib roast this year and will definitely be picking up on the 23rd!

A Butchers Apprentice

I just spent an enjoyable hour with Steve Rossiter at his butchers shop in Bournville. Steve showed me around his meat hanging cold rooms, we chatted about the business a bit, and then he proceeded to demonstrate how to take apart a side of lamb. It’s fascinating to watch a craftsman at work, and even though he slowed down for me, he still did it bloomin’ quick! I’m getting really excited about our next collaboration, a Lamb Butchery workshop on the 20th October. I really like working with Steve, and love having the opportunity to put on courses like this for people, mainly because I just want to learn it all myself too! I’ll be writing the course description for the workshop up in the next few days, so stay peeled to the cookery school pages for that. In the meantime, here’s a pic of Steve at work with his meat cleaver splitting a lamb in half:

Steve Rossiter

A Tale of Two Roasts

I don’t know about you but I associate family weddings with many things – quaint village churches, posh marquees, champagne, trying to remember the names of your cousins, tipsy uncles, and oddly, the smell of pork fat dripping into an open fire. I think I was about 6 when I first saw a whole dead pig, and it was not in a happy state, a pole inserted all the way painfully through it’s body, gently turning as flames licked it’s glistening skin. A strange sight for a young city boy like me, but one I was going to have to get used to. Over the years I’ve seen many a pig roast (mainly orchestrated by my uncle Graham, a proper man of the countryside), at weddings, birthdays, anniversary’s and the like. Until now I’ve been merely a spectator (though I ‘commissioned’ one for my own wedding), but over the last two weeks I’ve got a bit more hands-on, to say the least.

IMG_0959Last weekend was my cousins 25th wedding anniversary , and they threw a spectacular weekend long country garden party, with the centerpiece being, you guessed it, a pig roast. This was no small roast thought, it was an epic 45kg, 10 hour long, 3.30am starting pig roast. As we relaxed around the fire on the Friday night with beer, sheesha, a digeridoo that no-one knew how to play, and anticipating tomorrow’s epic feast, I quizzed my cousin David and uncle Graham about the finer details of how they had affixed the poor swine to the spit, how long it would take, what kind of wood they were burning, and exactly how many spit-roasts they had done.  These questions weren’t just polite chitter-chatter though, I was secretly petrified about the following weekend – I had agreed to roast a whole lamb on a spit for my brothers 30th birthday, and wanted to know every last detail.

IMG_0971My cousin David had volunteered to do the early shift and got the pig on at 3.30am. As campers awoke from slumber, the pig turning duty was passed around the party-goers. I eventually got my shift at about 10.30am. After 10 hours on the spit, the pig was finally removed at 1.30pm. Together with David and Graham, I dived in to the carving enthusiastically, taking Grahams lead of course. The pork was served with heaps of salads, homemade apple sauce and bread rolls, and easily fed the 60 or so people in attendance, with heaps of leftovers.


Onto this weekend then and my first start-to-finish, nose-to-tail spit-roast. My brother and I picked up our ‘beyond organic’ devonshire lamb from the Real Meat Company at 7.30am, and headed straight out to rural Berkshire to get our fire started. IMG_1065Sadly it wasn’t quite nose-to-tail as they apparently remove the head as standard. When the fire was roaring, brother and I set about affixing the 20kg beast onto an ash pole. The spit went through the abdominal cavity and out through the anus – the pelvic bone gripping the pole nice and tight (so tight in fact, we needed a club hammer to force the pole through!). IMG_1073We then forced the hind legs under some battening that was fixed to the spit, and nailed each leg to the battening, followed by binding round some metal wire as extra security. The same was done with the fore legs, and the neck was screwed onto the spit. Finally we inserted a metal pipe through the rib cage on either side and wired this to the spit, and wired the back of the lamb to the pipe to keep it nice and close to the pole throughout, avoiding as much movement as possible as the spit turns.IMG_1082 I scored the lamb all over and then massaged it with olive oil, rosemary, and loads of Maldon sea salt. At 10.10 it finally went on the spit, slightly to the side of the fire, it’s belly covered in foil to prevent over-cooking. And there it stayed, turning slowly by hand (mainly mine, but also my mum’s, wife’s and my brother’s father-in-law), until 5.30pm when it was due to be served up. We’d taken off the foil around the belly at about 3.30 to colour up it’s middle and by the end it was looking proper tasty. My brother and I got stuck in with our carving knives and it easily fed the 40 or so guests, accompanying the new potatoes, abundant salad, and homemade mint sauce. It’s a great experience to have done it from start to finish, and I can’t wait for the next big family event so I can do it all over again!

The lamb soon after putting over the fire

Me (right) and my brother with the cooked lamb.

Lovely succulent lamb being carved

Ragley Pork and Pure UBU Sausages – the verdict

IMG_5452Running a food website has it’s perks, as I found out this week after a call from a PR company representing Purity Brewing Co and Ragley Estate Meats, inviting me to sample a brand new sausage made by Ragley Estate Meats, using Purity’s Pure UBU ale. Now, I’m not one to refuse free food so I was excited to try this exclusive Warwickshire collaboration. I’m also though, not one to have my food messed around with too much – I don’t like sun dried tomatoes in my bread, herbs in my tinned tomatoes, or chilli in my cheese (and definitely not my chocolate), so would I approve of beer in my sausages? Maybe more importantly, how the heck do they get beer into sausages? I was informed that the beer is heated, and the steam from the beer infuses the meat. Phew, that’s that question sorted then.

So, what to cook to allow me to properly test these sausages? It had to be simple to allow the sausages to be the main event – bangers and mash seemed the obvious choice. However when you’ve got posh sausages, I think it’s worth poshing it up a bit, so I put an Italian twist on bangers and mash and went for potato gnocchi with sausages and a Pure UBU gravy. Here’s the recipe (serves 2):

For the gnocchi

400g cooked and thoroughly mashed or riced potatoes (waxy varieties are good, I used Balfour and added a bay leaf and salt to the cooking water)
100g ’00’ pasta flour (plain flour will do)
1 egg – whisked

IMG_5462Ensuring the potatoes have cooled from cooking, combine all the ingredients and knead lightly for a minute. Divide into three and roll each out with your hands on a heavily floured work surface into a long sausage that is about 12mm thick. Then, using a knife divide into half inch chunks, and put aside on a floured plate until you need them.

For the sausages

I used 3 sausages for 2 people, but feel free to have more or less. Fry them in a little oil on a low heat for 15-20 minutes until just cooked through.

For the gravy and assembly

30g unsalted butter
60g Pure UBU ale
1 small handful of good grated parmesan (I used 22-month aged)
Salt and Pepper
Ground elder – 1 tablespoon, finely chopped (replace for chives or parsley if you like)
Edible wildflowers to garnish (I used dandelion and lesser celandine)

When the sausages are cooked, remove to a board to rest for a couple of minutes, then slice diagonally into nice chunks. Heat a large pan of water to a rolling boil for the gnocchi. Warm up the beer to just below boiling point in a pan. Prepare to get a bit manic, the next few things need to all happen within about 3 minutes flat! Scrape the frying pan used for the sausages clean and add to it the unsalted butter on a medium heat until it’s foaming. Add to this the warmed beer, and allow the bubbling to emulsify it. Quickly add the gnocchi to the boiling water. Return to the sauce and add the parmesan and stir to distribute throughout the gravy, and season with salt, pepper, and chopped ground elder. Turn down to a low heat. After the gnocchi has had about 2 minutes, it will float to the surface – it is done, drain the water off through a sieve. Now divide the gnocchi and the sausage chunks between two plates, spoon over the sauce and garnish with wildflowers or more chopped herbs, and freshly ground black pepper. Bon Appetit!


The Verdict

The dish was fabulous, the gnocchi was perfectly tender and tasty and the gravy was malty with a hint of bitterness, offset by the freshness of the ground elder. As for the sausages, they were very good – clearly a high pork content (66% according to the packet), very well seasoned, and a deep, rich character from the malt and hops of the beer. Had I not known there was ale in there, I’m not sure I would have been able to detect it, but I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. Overall, it’s a good product, and if you can buy it locally, it’s a good choice for a rich, tasty pork sausage to put centre stage in a posh sausage dish. If you’d like to try for yourself, they’re being formerly launched tomorrow, Saturday 24th April, at Alcester Food Festival. Sadly I can’t be there, although I was asked to do a stall, but if you’re in the neighbourhood, check it out, it should be a great day.