Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Pease Pudding

The 23rd April brings what should be the English day of celebration in St George's Day. I often wonder how many of us English people will actually raise a glass to our patron saint as well as get stuck into a good old English meal. Not many I reckon.

Whilst we don comedy 'Guinness' hats for St Patrick's Day and have a 'wee dram' of the single malt stuff for St Andrew's Day, we all seem to forget our heritage when it comes to our special day.

Can we please bring it back oh folk of England? Can we please just retain some heritage and tradition and remember where we come from for one day of the year? I don't mean rampage down the street with faces painted destroying all in your way - we have enough of that around International footy day. I mean have some food and drink with your loved ones, feel positive about your heritage and be proud to be English for a change. I'm all for a multi-culturist society, love it in fact. But we should not be afraid to be proud to be English. Perhaps a bit of pride and a positive outlook is the key to this damned recession eh?

I'll be celebrating with some local food, pease pudding to be precise. I'm getting into making large batches of our most famed Geordie split pea concoction and freezing it for rainy days. I'll be simmering a load of split peas in a muslin bag along with a ham hock before toasting some stottie cakes, another one of our traditional foods, smearing liberally in English mustard and making the best ham and pease pudding butties in town. All washed down with a bottle of Jarrow Brewery Rivet Catcher.

You will have a load of local traditional dishes where you come from. As we don't seem to have one dish that describes our wonderfully diverse food in England, it's time to look local and knock one up for you and your family this Thursday. Enjoy it and tell the world that it's okay to be English.

Pease Pudding

250g yellow split peas
1 ham hock
1 onion
1 carrot
2 sticks of celery
2 bay leaves
A handful of fresh thyme
5 black peppercorns

1 - Place the yellow split peas into a muslin cloth and tie securely. Place them along with the rest of the ingredients into a stock pan.
2 - Cover with water, bring to the boil then simmer for 2 and a half hours.
3 - Drain the split peas then mash with a fork or blend depending on how smooth or rough you like them.
4 - Serve spread thickly in buttered thick bread, slithers of ham hock and English mustard.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Wild Garlic and Hazelnut Sauce

If you go down to the woods today you're in for a big surprise. And if you do have a walk around any British woodland at this time of the year you may be really surprised to have your nasal passages hit with the heavy smell of mild onion.

It is right now that you will find wild garlic, or ramsons, growing in thick patches all over our green and pleasant land. Recognisable by their wide thick leaves and depending on the time of year, a cluster of small white flowers, they are the easiest to harvest and most widely available free food you will find.

Milder and more onion-like than the garlic widely available in stores, ramsons are perfect for injecting subtle flavour into food. Try a bunch of them stuffed into a fish before baking, or chopped raw and thrown into a simple pasta dish or a salad. I like to bash them up in a pestle and mortar with walnuts or hazelnuts for a rough pesto or sharpening with capers and mustard for a green sauce to go with pasta, fish or a good steak.

Make the most of this wonderful spring wild food. They aren't difficult to find and if you have never harvested wild food before, it will inspire you to take your first steps in becoming a true wild food forager. Just keep an eye out for those bears.

Wild Garlic and Hazelnut Sauce
Makes a small jar full - will keep for 3 days in the fridge

4 handfuls of fresh wild garlic leaves
2 handfuls of hazelnuts, lightly toasted in a dry pan
1 tsp English mustard
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp cider vinegar
25g Parmesan or Pecorino Cheese, grated
100ml extra virgin olive oil or rapeseed oil
Salt and pepper

1 - In a pestle and mortar or a food processor, bash the wild garlic and hazelnuts to a rough pulp.
2 - Stir in the remaining ingredients and taste for seasoning. Seal in a sterilised jar.
3 - Serve stirred into warm pasta, with cooked fish or steak.