• Twice Cooked Belly of Pork with Kumquats

    Yunnan_Cookbookcontest 2
    Below you will find details on how you can enter this competition, but first here is a sample recipe from the book.
    twice cooked pork belly with kumquats
    This recipe is a sample from the cookbook The Yunnan Cookbook I have just reviewed and is reprinted here with kind permission from Blacksmith Books and the authours Annabel Jackson and Linda Chia.

    Twice Cooked Belly of Pork with Kumquats by Annabel Jackson and Linda Chia

    This dish works best with top quality organic pork. Browning locks in the juices and flavour of the pork.
    Prepare the dish at least 4 hours in advance-or even the night before.


    1 kg (2lb 4oz pork belly, cleaned (any whiskers removed)
    3 cloves of garlic,crushed
    2 slices ginger
    4 shallots chopped
    4 dried chillies
    2 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns crushed
    6 fresh kumquats
    2Tbsp soya bean paste
    110ml dry white wine
    1 tsp black pepper
    sea salt 
    Vegetable oil for frying

    1. Heat some oil and fry the pork skin down, pressing down in order for the fat to render.
    This can take up to 15 minutes. Repeat to brown the four sides, which take about 20 minutes in total.
    Finally, turn down the heat and gently brown the bottom.
    2. Add garlic,ginger,shallots and chillies with a sprinkling of salt.  Cover and allow to sit for 1 hour (or cool down)
    and store in fridge overnight.
    3. Over a medium heat, add peppercorns, kumquats, soya bean paste, half the wine and honey to the pan.
    Bring to the boil. Place meat skin side down and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the rest of the wine to keep the sauce half way up the meat.
    4. Turn the meat over and simmer for a further 30 minutes.
    5. Remove the meat from the pan and allow to rest before carving.
    6. Remove the kumquats mash and reserve.
    7. Stain the sauce into a small saucepan and stir in a little of the kumquats.  The rest of the kumquats use to garnish the plates.

    WIN a copy of The Yunnan Cookbook 

    Competition Details and rules
    1.)To enter the contest just read a post from my blog (any post).
    2.) Leave a comment (or question) in the comment section.
    3.) Sent me an email just to confirm you want to be entered into the contest to

    The competition with close on March 31st and the the winner will be notified by April 2nd via email.
    The cookbook will be mailed to you directly from the publishers Blacksmith Books.

    You make as many comments as you want but only one entry per person will put into the Draw.
    * Please note I delete all email addresses at the end of the contest because just like you I value my privacy.
    I wish you all good luck and thank you for your continued support.

    If you haven't read my review of The Yunnan Cookbook yet just click this link

  • The Yunnan Cookbook-Review

    I used to think that the food of China was broken into eight cuisines (kitchens), Sichuan and Cantonese being the best know. The eight cuisines represent the characteristic food of eight of China's 22 provinces. The food of the other 14 provinces (not to mention autonomous regions and municipalities) was not deemed sufficiently distinguished or desirable to be included in the official government list. But I suspect it's more about the remaining provinces having too many culinary influences and thus harder to distil into a short description.

    Yunnan province is a shining example of this conundrum, because it is home for 51 of the 56 ethnic minorities recognised in China. This diverse south-western province is bordered by Myanmar (Burma) to the west, Laos and Vietnam to the south and Tibet to the north.

    The customs and traditions of some of these minorities are under threat, as modernization and tourism creep in and the aim of The Yunnan Cookbook is to help preserve their culinary traditions and diversity.

    This collaborative cookbook by Annabel Jackson and Linda Chia, mixes recipes with insightful vignettes giving the reader a real flavour of the many ethnic minorities and styles of cooking that make up the province of Yunnan.

    As always when I review a cookbook I try at least two recipes to help make my review more practical and useful to potential buyers.
    And following this review I will the republish a recipe from the book with the kind permission of the publishers Blacksmith Books so you can "try before you buy"

    Despite the difficulty in defining it, Yunnan food is becoming more well known as dozens of chic Yunnan restaurants have sprung up throughout various Chinese cities including Beijing and Shanghai. Even many U.S. cities, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, now boast Yunnan restaurants.   Indeed there is even one called A.Wong in London close to the Victoria railway station.

    Even so the availability of ingredients usually comes after people discover the dishes at a restaurant or TV show and thus create a demand. Therefore you may need to be creative and look for substitutes when you can't find what the recipe calls for, at least in the short term.

    But if you're like me and like the journey almost as much as the destination then this book is well worth purchasing. Yes, the hunt for some ingredients may prove challenging, but just like a good "whodunnit" novel there is something about this book that keeps you turning the page.
    The great thing about cooking is there is always something new to learn, as was the case when I found out that this province actually produces several types of cheese or that there is a potato and rice dish. Or that a much prized mushroom of both Italian and French cuisine the Porcini or Cèpe as the French call it is also treasured and used in Yunnan dishes.
    Or finding out that Australians call butternut squash Butternut Pumpkin.

    The vibrant colours chosen for the outer sleeve continue inside the book reflecting the vibrant human story that is told. About the rags to riches story of the Naxi restaurant owner or the story that explains the dish called Toasted Duck. This isn't like other cookbooks, destined to sit with all the others, it deserves to be left on the coffee table to invite more people in.

    WIN a copy of The Yunnan Cookbook

    In my next post I will be holding a competition to win a free hard back copy of this great cookbook.  For more information and that promised sample recipe, watch this space!!

    The Yunnan Cookbook
    published by Blacksmith Books
    ISBN 9789881613974

  • Tip Of The Week--How to use garlic

    Garlic plattFacts

    One of the oldest medicinal plants, garlic has been used in many cultures as a healing plant for its antibiotic and antifungal properties and ability to ward off colds and flu.

    The compound allicin that gives garlic its strong taste and smell is thought to also give it its therapeutic power. Studies have suggested it can lower blood pressure, improves cardiovascular health and reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. 

    Scientist Eric Block also discovered a compound in garlic called Ajoene, a natural blood thinner, which helps to prevent the formation of blood clots.  Plus, a recent study found that it was more effective at treating food poisoning than standard drugs.  Research has also shown that garlic compounds stimulate the formation of glutathione (an amino acid) that detoxifies foreign materials and is a potent antioxidant.

    How I Use Garlic

    It is very easy to burn garlic which will leave a bitter aftertaste in your food so how I use garlic depends on the dish.

    In stir fry's I will chop it finely before use because stir fry cookery requires you to move the food quickly around the wok making it less likely to burn.  If I'm making a stir fry dish for large numbers I will chop the garlic ahead of time, place in a small container like a ramekin and cover with a small amount of vegetable oil to stop it oxidising.

    In sauces, stews and bolognaise I put the clove(s) in whole and unpeeled and then remove when I have a sufficient garlic flavour (the garlic should be soft).  This is not something I was taught, rather it has come from cooking and learning for 40 years. 

    After fishing out the cooked and soft whole garlic cloves I sometimes squash them on my chopping board (if fully cooked the garlic is the consistency of a paste so it squashes easily) and then put the paste minus the skin back into the sauce or stew.  So throw away your fiddly garlic presses and get better results.

    Garlic Mash

    When I want garlic mashed potatoes I add a couple of whole unpeeled cloves to the pot when cooking and then fish them out before mashing.  Of course you can also squash the soft garlic (removing the skin) and mash into the potatoes if you wish.

    Roasted Garlic

    Roasting whole heads of garlic with a little olive oil salt and pepper can produce a wonderful spreadable form of garlic which milder in taste and slightly sweet.

    Black Garlic

    Black Garlic
    Photo used with permission of Adam Kapela
    Black garlic
    is made by slowly heating whole bulbs of garlic over the course of several weeks, a process that results in black cloves. The taste is sweet and syrupy with hints of balsamic vinegar.

    Black garlic originates from Asian and in Korea, black garlic was developed as a health product and it is still perceived as health supplementary food. Black Garlic is prized as a food rich in antioxidants and added to energy drinks, and in Thailand is claimed to increase the consumer's longevity.  It is also used to make black garlic chocolate.

    Added Benefits

    Lots of people find as they get older that garlic repeats on them or gives them indigestion and thus give up using garlic in their diet, or even use a garlic powder in its place.  

    My method of using garlic cloves whole greatly reduces this and thus makes it possible to continue using fresh garlic and thus enjoy all of the health benefits.

    Buying Garlic

    The quality of garlic in supermarkets has greatly improved but here are some tips.

    Look for dry garlic bulbs that are firm and unbroken.   Buy a sensible quantity....No point buying more than 3 heads of garlic at a time if you live on your own.

    Storing Garlic

    Store your garlic in a cupboard that is cool and dry (not the fridge).   Ideally in a ventilated jar, here is an example of what I am talking about.


    Garlic, cutting boards and knives

    Yes, fresh garlic will get into your cutting boards be they plastic or wooden so change your knife and board after chopping or squashing your garlic. Scrub your cutting boards before you put them into a dishwasher to remove the smell and taste.  But since garlic is indeed a natural antibiotic it certainly isn't bad for your cutting boards quite the opposite.


    Please don't use any powdered garlic, frozen garlic or a readymade garlic paste.
    Often these products have chemical additives to extend shelf life. 
    *Powdered garlic is often used when trying to research the truth behind the health claims.   I presume this is done because powdered garlic is easily measurable and always consistent, whereas fresh garlic's pungency can vary dependant on many factors.
    Garlic is tricky to use in lab testing because it is highly unstable-its chemistry changes depending on how it is used.

    However for cooking purposes you don't need to be a chef to know that fresh is better than dried and fresh doesn't have any hidden chemicals.


    Mindell, Earl R.PH; Ph. D; Food as Medicine. New York: Fireside, Simon & Schuster, 1994

    Internet references:

    The chemistry of garlic and onions by Eric Block



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  • Braised Beef with Porcini mushrooms

    Serving any kind of Beef joint these days is more of a luxury than a regular thing. People try to keep costs down by braising or slow roasting a cheaper cut of beef such as Brisket.  At the moment in 2015 if you shop around you can buy Brisket for £8.00 a kilo and a 1.5 kilo piece should serve 6 people for a £12.  

    1.5 kilo (2.5 lb Beef Brisket 
    225ml Beef Stock
    1 medium onion-chopped 
    2 roughly chopped carrots
    2 cloves garlic
    125ml (4floz) red wine
    2 dessertspoon Olive oil
    50 grams Butter
    25 grams plain flour
    1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    15grams (1/2oz) Dried porcini mushrooms
    2 large flat mushrooms sliced

    *You will need a 4 pint ovenproof casserole dish with lid.
    Preheat the oven 140 C gas mark 1 (275 F).

    1. Heat a large 28cm-30cm frying pan, add one dessertspoon of Olive oil and when the pan is very hot  brown the beef off on all sides.
    2. Remove the beef and place into the casserole dish then add the vegetables and garlic to the hot frying pan, cooking on a high heat and
        stirring occasionally.
    3. When the vegetables are brown add them to the casserole dish and deglaze the frying with the beef stock to ensure you get every last
        little bit of flavour left from browning the beef.
    4. Pour the hot stock over the beef and vegetables and add the red wine.
    5. Place the lid on the casserole dish and cook in the oven for 3 hours.
    6. Meanwhile soak the dried mushrooms in 75ml of boiling water.
    7. Using the same frying pan you browned the meat fry off the sliced flat mushrooms in 1 dessertspoon of olive oil and 25gram of butter
        until they are brown then reserve.
    8. Melt the remaining 25g butter in the frying pan and add the flour to make a roux, stirring to prevent it from burning.
    9. Turn the heat down and continue to stir and cook for a further 4-5 minutes then remove from the heat.
    10. When the beef is cooked removed from the stock a cover with foil to keep warm and rest.
    11. Place the  frying pan with the roux back on a moderate heat and gradually strain the beef stock a little at a time (to begin with)  
         whilst stirring briskly to avoid lumps.
    12. When the stock is full incorporated, turn the heat down and add the now soft porcini and the soaking liquor.
    13 . Add the flat mushrooms you reserved and the Dijon mustard and season with salt and pepper.
    14. Simmer until you have a nice sauce consistency and turn off the heat.

    To Serve
    Slice the Beef thinly and serve on warm plates with mashed potatoes and spinach.

    Chef's Tips
    Cooking the brisket on a lower temperature helps to makes the meat more tender and cuts down on shrinkage.
    Browning the beef beforehand not only gives a pleasing appearance but also seals in the juices.

    © 2002-- © 2015 Kevin Ashton All rights reserved. No content of his website including, but not limited to, text and photography may not be reproduced without prior explicit written consent.
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  • Easy Almond and Orange Cake

    Easy Almond and Orange Cake2
    f you are like me and you have marzipan left in your fridge from Christmas, don't throw it away turn it into a delicious easy to make cake.

    6 large free range eggs
    100g castor sugar
    250 grams unsalted butter diced
    250 grams Natural marzipan diced
    50g ground almonds
    1/2 teaspoon Almond essence
    150 grams sifted self-raising flour
    Zest of 1 large or 2 medium oranges
    Icing sugar for dusking
    125g Fresh raspberries
    250ml creme fraiche (optional)
    1/2 vanilla pod (optional)
    I used a silcone flexipan daisy shaped pan aproximately 210mm diameter and about 55mm deep.
    I had this pan for a while but only just started using it.  For plain unfrosted cakes I like the sharp
    attractive pattern and it's so easy to turn out.
    If you don't have one don't worry you can use a bunt shaped pan or a 9inch springform pan will also do.


    1.) Place your diced marzipan and buter and chop in your food processor for 5 minutes until well mixed and soft.
    2.) Preheat your fan assisted oven to 170 C gas mark 3 or 325F.
    3.) Add the almond essence, castor sugar and orange zest then continue to mix on a high speed until the mixture has                turned pale.
    4.) Transfer the mix to your food mixer and then add the ground almonds and beat in one egg at a time, allowing each
         egg to be thoroughly mixed in before adding the next.
    5.) Gently fold in the sifted flour with a rubber spatula so as to keep the mix light.
    6.) Butter and then flour your flexipan or cake tin, making sure you shake off any excess flour.
    7.) Pour your mix gently into your cake pan/tin and smooth the top to make it even.
    8.) Bake your cake in the middle of your oven for 40 minutes then when golden brown check with a long tooth pick.
         When the pick comes out clean it is done.
    9.) Allow the cake to begin cooling down still in the cake pan (on a wire rack if you have one).
    10) Use a sharp knife to remove the skin from the orange and cut into segments and save for the decoration.
    11) Now gently turn out your cake onto a large 12-13inch plate and lightly dust with icing sugar through a fine strainer.
    12) Make a circle on the top of the cake with the raspberries, the then gently fill the centre with the orange segments.

    Optional Creme Fraiche
    Scrap the vanilla seeds from your 1/2 vanilla pod and stir into the creme fraiche.
    Offer this on the side yo your guests.
    Serving when it is still slightly warm is best
    If you do have the Daisy flexipan it makes portioning very easily because the pattern has 16 "petals" so if you give
    2 petals per person you get eight decent sized portions out of the cake.

    As always please feel free to ask questions and leave comments.

    © 2002-- © 2015 Kevin Ashton All rights reserved

  • Andrew James-A Year in the mixer

    Andrew James-A Year in the mixer

    I've been test driving Andrew James' Large 7 Litre Automatic Food Stand Mixer for well over a year.
    My first impression was wow, a lot of mixer for £130, but during the year I have been using my mixer the price has now dropped to just £99!! That is a lot of mixer for that kind of money.

    Andrew James have continued to shake up the small kitchen appliance market offering very good quality and a very good price.

    As food mixers go 7 litres is the biggest capacity a domestic kitchen is ever likely to need unless you are thinking of starting your own catering company.  But to give some idea of what other 7litre mixers would cost a consumer to buy check this out Pantheon TM7 7 Litre Tabletop for £456.  Or perhaps this Kenwood KM631 with a slightly smaller bowl capacity of 6.7 litres for the current sale price of £219.       Don't just take my word go and look at what other users say on Amazon and other sites.


    TIP OF THE WEEK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Right now on top the very good price of £99.99 for this 7litre mixer, Andrew James is offering for a limited time an extra 20% discount taking the price to £79.99

    I've broken my review down into seven criteria for easy reading:
    Value for money, design, build quality, wattage, noise level, keeping clean and warranty.

    Value for money: Nowhere on the internet  will you find more mixer for your money. 10 out of 10

    Design: Thoughtfully designed to be very functional and yet add a touch of class to any kitchen counter.   My one very minor complaint is perhaps unavoidable given its 7 litre capacity.  This is to do with the height of the machine and being able to lift the mixing head.  The  countertop in my apartment has a standard clearance of 43cm from counter to the underside of the wall mounted units.  So I have to pull the mixer out from under the wall cabinets before I can release the mixer head and access the bowl.  Now there are two other spots in my kitchen where clearance isn't a problem so I just rearranged my kitchen and the problem was solved.       9 out of 10

    Build Quality:  At its original price of £130 it felt like you were getting very high build quality so at the current even lower  price you must take a serious look at this mixer.  A solid 304 grade stainless steel bowl. Unlike many wire whisks that aren't sturdy enough to really do the job, this one is similar quality to the whisks you get with a Kitchen Aid.  The dough hook and beater blade are the sturdiest I have seen on a domestic  model at any price.   10 out of 10

    Wattage:  At 1000 watts of power you are getting plenty of power to do the job. Indeed many more expensive mixers have 900 watts or less.          10 out of 10

    Noise Level: Before I started using this mixer I had heard a few grumblings about the noise level.

    So I took my Andrew James  7 litre mixer to a friend of mine's kitchen to compare with his Pantheon TM7  7 Litre Tabletop mixer .  My Andrew James was slightly noisier but there was not much in it. But the Pantheon mixer costs around £420-£450 compared to £79.00         9 out of 10                                                                                              

    Keeping Clean: Again this is another thumbs up for the design team that have made this mixer easy to clean, and keep clean.        
    10 out of 10

    Warranty: Andrew James mixers all come with a 2 year guarantee compared to one year offered by other mixers. 10 out of 10


    Overall Rating  94.33% out of 100%

    In Conclusion:   

    If you are looking for the biggest, sturdiest mixer for a low price the Andrew James 7 litre model has be your choice.  Having had my mixer for more than a year to make bread dough, cake mix, pastry, soufflé, ice cream, batters, mousses and more...... I feel very confident to speak in glowing terms about this machine.  It is a very stable (which you need in a big mixer), it comes with a cast aluminium dough hook, a sturdy flexible beater blade and a solid stainless steel whisk and a splash guard that is designed to be practical.

    Unlike other reviewers who only get the equipment for a few weeks, I have put this mixer through its paces for more 16 months and I'm still impressed.

  • French Lemon Tart © Kevin Ashton 2003

       Lemon Tart

    Today I put this photo onto my instagram account (November 22nd,2014),
    I realised that I had never posted on my blog.
    Published first in the Sunday Mercury November 9th, 2003 and can be found on the internet if you type in Kevin Ashton Lemon Tart.
    This is because all newspapers sell old copy to several archival services on the web.

    French Lemon Tarte (serves 8-10) © Kevin Ashton 2003

    When I used to live in Bermuda I was lucky enough to be able to pad barefooted to the bottom of the garden overlooking the ocean and pick oranges, lemons & grapefruits for breakfast. The strong citrus fragrance hung in the air despite the gentle sea breeze. That kind of fresh zesty-ness is what I seek to create when making lemon tart.

    Pastry: yield = 1 x 10 inch flan

    1lb Plain Flour

    8 oz Butter

    4 oz Icing sugar

    finely diced zest of 2 lemons

    1 large egg beaten


    1.) Rub butter with flour then add icing sugar & lemon zest, until you achieve a sandy texture.

    2.) Fold in beaten egg and lightly bring pastry together, let the pastry rest in a cool place for 30 minutes before using.

    3.) Roll pastry evenly but as thin as possible. Don't trim edges.

    4.) Make a paper circle from baking parchment paper (slightly bigger than the flan dish/quiche dish)

    5.) Place circle onto pastry then weigh the paper down with 4 oz (120 grams) uncooked rice,

    this is called "blind baking”.

    6.) Blind bake the pastry for 15 minutes at gas mark 7 (200 C in a fan assisted oven) until a light straw colour is achieved.

    7.) Remove paper circle & rice carefully not to spill rice onto pastry then put pastry back

    into the oven for a further 5 minutes but turn the oven down to gas mark 4 (170 C in a fan assisted oven).

    Lemon custard:

    4 whole large eggs

    5 oz double cream (lightly whipped)

    zest & juice of 3 lemons

    5 oz castor sugar


    1.) Whisk eggs, sugar & lemon zest (not juice) until very pale in colour.

    2.) Gently stir in lemon juice ,then fold in the whipped cream lightly.

    3.) Pour the custard mix carefully into the pastry case then bake in a low oven for at least 45 min

    at gas mark 4 until it is set and lightly browned. * Place the lemon tart on the lowest shelf so it

    does not brown too fast.

    4.) When set & lightly brown remove from oven and lightly dust with icing sugar, standing dish on

    a wire rack if you have one.

    5.) Serve with creme Fraiche & fresh raspberries.

    Chef's Tips

    Letting the pastry rest before rolling it out to prevents it from shrinking.

    Try rolling the pastry between two sheets of cling film so you can roll it thinner

     (you may have to overlap several pieces of cling film to make it large enough to do this).

    For best results use a ceramic flan dish if possible.

  • Join Me on Instagram

    Instagram link
    I thought it was about time I made my recipes more visible on smart phones and mobile devices. So, with my girlfriend Sophie's help I joined Instagram.

    I'm still learning the in's and out's of Instagram so helpful comments would be appreciated.   So far I have posted 155 or so photos, a mixture of photos of my recipes, famous people I have met, cooked for or with plus photos I taken on press trips.    I have also posted a few newspaper articles either written about me or by me.
    You must go and see the official photos from the Pastry World Cup (like this one by the Japanese team at the 2013 final in Lyon).

    I'm not sure whether I should keep Instagram purely to promote my blog or put more personal photos up as well?     If you would like to follow me on Instagram here is the link.

  • Yellow Plum and Vanilla Jam

    photo by kind permission ©Alison Brierley

    Jam is easier to make than most people think and definately a thrifty thing to do if your sister has a garden full of fruit trees.

    English yellow plums are also know as Pershore plum or egg plums, can sometimes be a little pappy if you choose to eat them as a fruit but they make a truly wonderful jam.  The Harvest time can vary depending on location and weather patterns but usually runs from mid August until mid September.   When British yellow plums are out of season you can still find them in your supermarkets from warmer climates like Italy.

    Jam Notes:

    If you've ever tried to make jam and failed there are usually 3 main reasons:

    The number  one thing you need for successful  jam making is an accurate thermometer.

    Forget Grandma's set in a saucer method because it is too hit and miss,

    Accurate temperature is the number one way to increase your chances of a jam that sets.

    That does not necessarily mean an expensive one in fact I prefer the "pen" type that you can clip to your pocket just like a pen.  The thermometer in this photo I have had for years.


    If you live in the UK you can buy one here just for £4.80 + P&P

    Or perhaps this one that has a useful clip on it so you can clip it to the side of your saucepan.

    The second most important thing is sugar content, too little and it doesn't set, too much and it's too sweet.  When I was putting together this recipe I originally tried using 2kilo of sugar for 1.5kilo of fruit and it set fantastically but was just too sweet.  So my second attempt I cut the sugar in half down to the 1 kilo of sugar you see in my finished recipe.  But my point is when you are trying a new recipe stick to it exactly!!  before you start tinkering.

    The third reason a jam can fail is low pectin content and to make it more complicated, different fruits have different levels of pectin.   If you're lucky enough to have fruit trees in your garden you can presume that when the fruit is at its peak then the pectin level is at its highest.    You can add extra pectin by using fresh squeezed lemon juice and skin*.

    Yellow Plum and Vanilla Jam © Kevin Ashton 2014

    1.5 kilos of yellow plum (destoned)

    1 kilo of granulated sugar

    1 lemon *(peel and juice)

    28grams of unsalted butter

    1 l vanilla pod

    100ml cold water


    1. Wash and dry your plums and then cut them in half and remove the  stone.  The easiest way I find to do this is to cut down from the top of the plum either side of the stone to give yourself 2 halves (as I have done in photo A).  Then cut as much of the flesh off the stone (see photo B) so you don't waste any.

    plums A + B 

    2. Use a sharp peeler and peel the skin from the lemon without any white pith, try to keep the lemon peel in big pieces. Reserve the peel and squeeze the juice and reserve that to.

    3. Place the plum flesh (remember my recipe calls for 1.5lkilo destoned weight) into a heavy bottomed stainless steel saucepan together with the cold water.    Cover with a lid and heat  the fruit with a medium heat.  Remove the lid and stir the fruit every couple minutes to make sure it isn't sticking to the pan.  Cook until the fruit is just tender and remove the lid and then add the sugar, lemon juice and lemon peel.  Stir well until the sugar has completely dissolved.

    4. Cut the vanilla pod lengthwise, scrap out the vanilla seeds and add to the jam, stirring them in well.   Now add the unsalted butter and again stir in (the butter adds richness and also lessens the amount of foaming the jam produces.  For the more experienced cooks you can also skim off any scum that floats to the top.  The trick is to throw away the scum without throwing away half the jam.   Removing the scum will help give you a clearer and shinier finished jam.

    5. Continue monitoring the jam stirring occasionally until the jam reaches setting point 220F / 104C for at least 3 minutes. Once ready remove from the heat and remove the lemon peel, carefully pour the jam into clean, warm sterilised jam jars. If you see any air bubbles remove them. Seal and label the jars while they are still warm. Allow them to cool completely then store.

    Chef's tips:

    The empty vanilla pods can be chopped up and stored in caster sugar which over time infuses the sugar with vanilla flavour.
    Before you start your jam, make sure all of your jars are still airtight, then wash them and set to dry.   
    An easy way to sterilise your jam jars is wash them in your dishwasher, so they come out sterilised, hot and dry and ready to use.

    © 2002-- © 2014 Kevin Ashton All rights reserved. No content of his website including, but not limited to, text and photography may not be reproduced without prior explicit written consent.

  • Tip Of the Week-Piccolo Parsnips

    Tip Of the Week-Piccolo Parsnips

    In the last couple of years they have begun to appear in the produce section of your supermarkets.
    Piccolo parsnips are a baby version of one of Britain's favourite vegetables and I want to share with my readers a few different ideas of how to use them. Don't just think of using them for your Sunday roast, they are great in salads, starters and even breads.  These baby versions will still need blanching (in boiling salted water) if you intend to cook them, but for salads and coleslaws just treat them as you would raw carrots.

    Winter parnsip and root vegetable slaw with festive ham (5)ParsnipsLogo
    Winter Piccolo Parsnip and Root Vegetable Slaw with Apple

    ½ small red cabbage
    ½ small Savoy cabbage
    1 Pink Lady apple, cored and cut into quarters
    2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
    4 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped
    150g Piccolo parsnips, washed, trimmed and cut into julienne strips
    Sea salt and black pepper

    Parsnip Coleslaw:

    Shred the cabbage on a mandolin or chop finely with a knife. Slice the apple very finely and mix together with the parsley, cabbage, spring onion and Piccolo parsnips. Season with sea salt and black pepper and add the dressing to the coleslaw, mix well.

    Mustard Dressing:

    1 tbsp grain mustard
    1 tbsp Dijon mustard
    2 tbsp honey
    1 tbsp lemon juice
    1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
    1 tbsp red wine vinegar
    4 tbsp olive oil or rapeseed oil
    Sea salt and black pepper

    Mix all of the dressing ingredients together.

    Chef's Tip: I sometimes add yoghurt or crème fraiche to this to make a creamy version ? delicious. You can also use chopped walnuts or toasted pine nuts as well if you wish.

    Serve with Festive Ham (recipe below)

    Festive Ham

    1 un-smoked boneless gammon, weighing about 5kg cooked
    1/2 tbsp each coriander and fennel seeds
    30 cloves, approximately
    1 small star anise
    3 juniper berries
    300g Demerara sugar
    250g pot Dijon mustard
    Preheat oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas 7


    Toast the spices apart from the cloves in a dry frying pan until they release their fragrance. Grind in a pestle and mortar, then tip into a food processer with the sugar and blitz everything to make a spice mix.

    Score the fat of the ham in a criss-cross and brush with the spice mix and push a clove into each square of fat. Roast for 30-35 minute until the glaze has completely caramelized and becomes sticky. Allow the ham to rest for at least 10 minutes before carving

    Chef's Tip: To boil the ham, cover the ham in cold water in a large pan and add 1 onion peeled and cut in half, 8 peppercorns 1 tbsp cider vinegar and 1 tbsp brown soft sugar.   Bring to the boil and skim any deposits off the water and simmer very gently until cooked, 25-30 minutes per 500g of ham or gammon.

    For this next recipe think of cool autumn lunches where you need something more substantial than a sandwich.  Here the combination of poached egg, smoky taste of Haddock with a creamy sauce to bring all the flavours together.

     Smoked Haddock & Piccolo Parsnip Hash (3)

     Smoked Haddock and Piccolo Parsnip Hash, Poached Eggs and Cream sauce 

    1 pint of milk
    1 onion, peeled and halved
    1 fresh bay leaf
    400g naturally smoked haddock fillet*
    A sprig of thyme
    2 large potatoes peeled, cut into chunks
    1 tbsp rapeseed oil 
    50g butter
    150g Piccolo parsnips, washed, trimmed and blanched
    1 leek, trimmed, cut in small rings
    100g bacon lardons
    2 tbsp chopped parsley
    Sea salt and black pepper 
    4 large very fresh eggs
    Cream sauce:
    290ml cream

    1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
    Juice of ½ lemon
    zest of 1 lemon
    Sea salt and black pepper

    For the cream sauce; heat the cream until boiling, then boil for 3 minutes to reduce.  Add the mustard, lemon juice and zest then sea salt and black pepper. The sauce will thicken. Season to taste and set aside.

    To cook the Piccolo Parsnip Hash; place the milk in a saucepan with the onion and bay leaf and bring to just below boiling point, then remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 15 minutes. Return the pan back to the heat and add the smoked haddock fillet. Bring to a simmer and cook for 6-8 minutes. Remove the fish and set aside, strain the cooking liquid and reserve.

    Place the cooking milk back in a clean pan, add a sprig of thyme and add the potatoes and cook them until just tender, about 10 minutes drain well and discard the milk.

    Flake the fish, discarding any bones or skin and set aside.

    Heat the oil and butter in a large frying pan and then add the bacon lardons and fry until slightly brown then add the potatoes and parsnips, and fry for a further 4-5 minutes or until they are cooked and slightly coloured.

    Turn down the heat and add the leeks cooking until they are soft.    Remove from the heat and stir in the flaked haddock and chopped parsley then season with sea salt and black pepper.

    Next, poach the eggs in simmering water, seasoned with salt pepper a 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar for every litre of water. Crack a very fresh egg into a coffee cup and stir the water and slide the egg in to the centre of the pan after 2-3 minutes of cooking. Lift the eggs out with a slotted spoon and lower them into iced water to stop the cooking process.

    To Serve:

    Divide the Smoked Haddock and Parsnip Hash between 4 warm pasta bowls.
    Reheat poached eggs by gently dropping them into the boiling poaching water for 30 seconds. 
    Drain with a slotted spoon a place an egg on each portion of hash and the drizzle over the warm cream sauce and serve.

    Chef's Tip:
    *When ever possible buy naturally smoked Haddock rather the bright yellow/orange stuff.

    For this final recipe, I wanted to show how truely versatile parsnips can be.

    Parsnip and Rosemary Bread (1)
    Piccolo Parsnip and Rosemary Bread
     (Serves 4-6)

    25g butter
    1 small onion, peeled and finely diced
    250g self-raising flour
    A good pinch of mustard powder
    1 tsp sea salt and black pepper
    175g Piccolo parsnips, washed and trimmed
    75g Parmesan or mature cheddar, finely grated
    1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary leaves
    2 large eggs, beaten
    1 tbsp milk
    Rosemary sprigs, to decorate the top
    A little rapeseed oil

    Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas 5
    Heat a small frying pan over a gentle heat, add the butter and sweat the onion in the butter until soft, but not coloured and leave to cool.

    Sift the flour, mustard powder and salt into a large bowl; grate the Piccolo parsnips, skin as well into the flour. Add 50g of the parmesan or cheddar cheese, along with chopped rosemary and onion. Season with a little black pepper. Now lightly beat the eggs and milk together, add a little at a time to the flour mixture, mixing with a palette knife until you have rough, loose sticky dough. Place the dough on a greased baking sheet and with floured hands shape it into a 15cm/6inch rough round, then make a cross with the back of the knife. Scatter with the extra 25g of cheese and sprinkle with a little flour. Dip some rosemary sprigs into a little rapeseed oil and place on top of the bread. Bake at the top of the oven for 40-45 minutes until golden and the bread sounds hollow when you tap it on the bottom. Cool on a wire rack. Serve it warm with lashings of butter.

    Chef's Tip: You can blitz the Piccolo parsnips to a fine chop in the food processor, it's quicker and easier) also with the piccolo you do not have to peel them, that's so good.

    A big thanks to the good people of for the photos and for the samples they gave me to play with.

    Food Facts
    Two little known facts about parsnips are that that they taste really good raw and they make great ice cream!
    In Tudor times, in England, parsnips were a common ingredient in bread.   Indeed in Elizabethan times parsnips were often used to sweeten recipes because they were so much cheaper than using sugar.
    In Scotland parsnips are still known as White Carrots.
    In Roman times parsnips were believed to have been an aphrodisiac.  
    Parsnips can be made into wine or a parsnip fizz and Irish beer is often made from the roots of parsnips boiled in water and hops. Parsnips are commonly served fried, roasted, boiled or steamed and can be used as a thickener in certain types of soup.
    Parsnips are a root vegetable related to the carrot family.



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