Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Wine, wine, glorious wine!

As experiments go, this one has been one of my favourites. I have been trying out wine in a few recipes and each one has gone down extremely well. I picked up a few old cookery books in my local antique centre and found a few poems inside them. Just my sort of book! I found this inside:

There's nothing like the blood of grapes
To give escapes
From care's infesting festering apes,
To set the wit upon probation,
To give an edge to conversation,
To make a friend of a relation;
There's nothing like the blood of grapes.

From One Thousand and One Nights
Powys Mathers

There's also nothing like the blood of grapes to help flavour your food! I used it last night in a sausage casserole with my flatmate and it was amazing. I threw everything into my pan and let it simmer away for 45 minutes. Try it, it was so easy:

Venison Sausage Casserole with Butter Beans


6 pack of Sausages, each sausage cut into thirds. (can be whatever you fancy but I found the vension sausages on offer and wanted to try something new. Make sure they are more than 70% meat.)
1 large onion, diced.
Knob of Butter
Few Bay leaves
Glass of Red Wine (good quality- wine you would drink!)
Thyme, chopped.
Peppers, diced. (or whatever vegetables you have left over and want to throw in)
Small tin of Butter Beans
Few cherry tomatoes, quartered.
Beef Stock
Any Chutneys in the fridge that would sweeten it up (i.e tomato chutney, caramelised red onion chutney)
Salt and Pepper

  1. Add knob of butter to pan and then throw in onions. Fry off for about 10 minutes until soft.
  2. Add the glass of red wine and leave to reduce with the onions until nearly gone.
  3. Next, fry off sausages for a few minutes to brown with the onions.
  4. Scatter bay leaves on top.
  5. Add the stock and turn down to low.
  6. Now add in all the vegetable (in my case, peppers, butter beans and tomatoes).
  7. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and thyme.
  8. Add any chutneys you have lying around, even mustard if you wish.
  9. Simmer for half an hour until the wine and stock and thickened and serve with buttery mashed potatoes.
  10. Serve with the rest of your red wine and enjoy!

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Join the Fish Fight!

Recently, in the media, there has been a lot of attention on the type of fish that we are eating. A third of the fish we eat are either Salmon, Prawns or Tuna. This needs to change to keep the fishing levels afloat. We need to explore our supermarket providers and local markets to find different fish we have not tried before. This way we can give the popular fish a break, and allow them to flourish in the sea again, otherwise our supply of them will run out. So buy some new fish this weekend and save the sea!

Please spend a few moments by signing up on this link and support Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's campaign in this international food fight. An EU law keeps the fishermen throwing dead fish (that we can eat) back into the sea. Please help to change this law and save the fish!

Do your bit by stopping to buy the common fish and go for something different. I picked up a fillet of Whiting at my local deli counter for £1 a fillet: a cheap and easy meal. Being a member of the Gadidae family, which also includes the Cod, Whiting is widely underused. Cod is being over fished in our seas (mainly due to the Fish 'n' Chip shops) so by picking a similar fish in the same family, I hoped it would be just as flaky and delicious, but also trying to be resourceful.

Even Mr. Swift himself was fond of delicate seafood:


Charming Oysters I cry,
My Masters come buy,
So plump and so fresh,
So sweet is their Flesh,
    No Colchester Oyster
    Is sweeter and moyster,
    Your Stomach they settle,
    And rouse up your Mettle,
    They'll make you a Dad
    Of a Lass or a Lad;
    And, Madam your Wife
    They'll please to the Life;
Be she barren, be she old,
Be she Slut, or be she Scold,
Eat my Oysters, and lye near her,
She'll be fruitful, never fear her.

Jonathon Swift

Not everyone can afford Oysters for supper so my recipe below is one of my quick, cheap and satisfying dinners that can be adapted with any white fish.

Fish and Cream Sauce

White Fish (try Whiting, Pollock, Hake, Coley or ask your fishmonger or deli for what they have)
Shallot or small onion
Dash od white wine
Soft Herbs (Parsley, chives, tarragon and chervil work well here but choose any two you like)
Flour to dust fish
Salt and Pepper
Double Cream

  1. Start by getting a medium frying pan medium-hot.
  2. Season the fillet with salt and pepper. Dust with flour and pat the excess off.
  3. Drop a tablespoon of butter into the pan and once foaming, place the fish skin side down.
  4. Fry for a few minutes until golden and turn off the heat. Flip the fish over and the remaining heat in the pan will cook the fish.
  5. Whilst the fish is finishing off, slice one shallot/onion and a handful of your two herbs.
  6. Remove the fish and wrap in foil to keep warm (it might fall apart like my one below but don't worry!)
  7.  Add the shallot/onions to the used frying pan and cook until opaque.
  8. Add the dash of white wine (half a glass) and sweat off until only a slight amount remains.
  9. Add cream (200ml per person) and allow to bubble and thicken for a minute or so.
  10. Add chopped herbs, lemon (this will thin it slightly) and salt and pepper to finish off the sauce.
  11. Serve with mashed sweet potato, a green vegetable and a glass of white!
  12. Enjoy and feel good for helping our fish!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Ancient Food Poetry

What else still exists from 500 BC? Not a lot but this does...

To roast some beef, to carve a joint with neatness,
To boil up sauces, and to blow the fire,
Is anybody's task; he who does this
Is but a seasoner and broth-maker;
A cook is quite another thing. His mind
Must comprehend all facts and circumstances;
Where is the place, and what the time of supper;
Who are the guests, and who the entertainer;
What fish he ought to buy and where to buy it.

Quoted by Athenaeus
From Dionysius

Monday, 10 January 2011

And the winners are...

Congratulations to Richard Falkus, Tom Stone and Rachel Beckwith who have won the January Food Poetry Competition! Please read and enjoy their poems!

Restaurant de Sanctuaire

I yearn for the days I held up my head,
Before my principles were left for dead,
I was born in 1806 and since have grown,
Remaining modest yet proud of my skin of stone.

I was once a restaurant where many would dine,
Heartily sharing their memories whilst sipping vintage wine.
Whether they were in group, on a date or on their own,
They felt safe within my body of stone.

Wars and developments rattled my friends,
Yet I thought not once to change, not once to amend.
People would retain or regain with me their lost smile,
Whilst the tragedies of the world would unpredictably compile.

As decades passed my wrinkles were noticed and removed,
Keeping arguments against change consistently proved,
I barely survived as my neighbours were forced to convert,
The values of drugs and alcohol took over, regardless of who or what was hurt.

As long as my customers kept coming in on more than occasion,
We'd hold on longer against the new generation,
I inevitably aged and gradually lost my appeal,
All it took was an offer to sign my last meal.

With no voice to scream nor the human expression to frown.
I stood still as they climbed me and stripped me completely down.
For years my futile tears flowed from my gutter,
As my skin of stone melted down like a reluctant butter.

My modest name was kept in the past,
As my wishes were lost to make my dignity last,
I was refurbished with white walls and glamorous lights,
Soon to be labelled like my friends, open merely at night.

I was now a repulsive setting of sin,
As the broken bottles grazed my once invulnerable skin,
I was tortured with sights I'll never escape,
The end of relationships, the beginnings of rape.

My privilege to see the patient development of a kiss,
From the first date peck to the instinctively passionate bliss.
Empty meaning is now all people bring.
As stumbling tongues aim and carelessly swing.

Post-humiliation all I can do is remain humble,
As I watch society's values become corrupt as they crumble.
Humanity has removed it's meaning and removed my skin of stone.
Marching over me indifferently, singing in a different tone.

by Richard Falkus

New Beginnings

I look out my window
For somewhere out there
A child is crying
I have left
So very many
Nails in its crib.
I'm no parent
It's time
For a new beginning
First, I shall
Head to
the nearest orphanage.

Tom Stone


You said my way of cooking
was decisively slapdash.
You couldn’t understand why
I didn’t weigh and measure flour
like I weigh and measure words.

You were surprised, I think,
at what a kitchen does to me.
Jealous of the way my head
tilts back at the smell of yeast;
jealous of the way I touch the dough.

You said that I write poems
that I couldn’t show my mother,
but I would cook for strangers,
and how did that make sense?

You stepped closer. Brushed the flour from my hair.
I licked a dab of honey from my thumb.
I explain that in my life
many things must be laboured,
but food should only ever be for love.

Rachel Beckwith

February's competition is now up and running! Please see my previous post for more details. I look forward to hearing from you and reading your poems!

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Ancestry with Poetry

The following is about my Step-Grandmother that I spent a lot of time with but as we have now gone our seperate ways, I no longer see her. I thought it linked with my last post with the feeling of loosing and gaining relatives, feeling lost and found, along with their connection to food.

Your Blue Cardigan

for Ann

Mum took me to you when I was ill.
You used to make me cheese on toast.
I had orange squash and lemonade.

You taught me how to make tea,
We always drank tea.
You made big cakes the size of my face.

I bounced on your springy carpet.
I peeked inside spare rooms.
I dissolved into the beds.

I played with the bears and dolls you made.
We played scrabble and chess.
You had your glasses on your chain—

You helped pick out my first pair.
You were tall and smelt of lavender.
Your hair was light brown turning grey.

We spent millennium night watching
fireworks in your flowery garden.
I wore a starry dress, you wore your blue.

by Zara Preston

Ancestry with Stew and Dumplings

What a fabulous start to 2011! I originally thought I was 100 per cent from Berkshire, England, but it turns out that one half of me is from Oxford! I have discovered that my great great granddad owned a pub called The Kite Inn in Osney (Botley) and my other relatives on my Mum's side are spread out across Oxford town and the suburb of Summertown. I have a lot more to find out as I only know the addresses, not stories behind the walls but I now have starting points and my family history is expanding which is fascinating. All of this has made me quite nostalgic of my childhood, of old times and memories. By remembering old times and memories; this normally leads me to food. Now, this following recipe does not leave me very often so please take care of it when you use it. Please see below the recipe for my Mum's beloved stew:


Lamb- enough for 4 people (ask your butcher for boneless stew meat)
or a cheaper option of:
Beef (use beef shin- it melts in the mouth after a few hours of cooking)

2 Onions (however small or large you like)
3 large Carrots (large chunks- looks prettier cut on the diagonal)
2 sticks of Celery (small slices)
Potatoes (bit bigger than the carrots)
Bouquet Garni (Bay, Thyme, Rosemary or whatever herbs you like tied in a string)
Any other Vegetables left over (Mushroom, butternut squash, sweet potato i.e make the stew your own!)
Secret Ingredient: Mint Jelly!
Salt and Pepper
600 ml Stock (either fresh or from a jelly stock cube)
Glass of Red Wine
Few handfuls Flour
Few tablespoons Oil to brown meat off
Chutney's to add taste and thicken (whatever you have in the cupboard)

200g Self Raising Flour
100g Suet
1/4 teaspoon Salt
150ml very cold water (use from a run tap)


  • Pre-heat a low temp oven (160 degrees centigrade or 170 degrees centigrade or gas mark 3).
  • Put oil in roasting dish. Dust all pieces of meat and fry off about 10 pieces at a time. Do not put any pieces on top of each other because they will braise rather than fry.
  • Once all pieces have browned off on all sides, drain fat and remaining oil left in dish.
  • Add all vegetables, herbs, salt and pepper, mint jelly and chutney's and the finally the stock and glass of red wine. It shouldn't cover the ingredients.
  • Add lid to roasting dish. Stir after 2 hours and add more stock if necessary.
  • Cook for a total of no less than 3 hours and no more than 4.
  • Mix flour, suet, salt and water and use Butter knife (rounded edge) to bring together quickly. 
  • Form into golf size balls and put on top of stew (just before it's ready to serve).
  • Cook for 20 mins and the stew and dumplings will be ready!
Enjoy with a glass of red wine on a cold evening!

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

February's Food Poetry Competition!


The January Food Poetry Competition will be closing at midnight tonight.
Please get your entries in by this time.

This means that the February Food Poetry Competition will open from tomorrow morning!

Entry requirements:

* 40 lines max.
* This month's theme is: 'Vegetables' (poems can be based entirely or loosely on the theme.)
* You may enter a maximum of 4 poems.
* Entry Fee: FREE
Please send your entries to zara.preston@bathspa.org.

Good Luck!

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

A New Magazine to be in Publication!

Libby Walkup (http://libbywalkup.wordpress.com/) is launching a new magazine and needs poetry, short stories, photography and more delightful treats under the theme of the first issue: "Conversations over Coffee".
Deadline: Feb, 1. 2011.

Please click on this link for more details!

Friends with Food Poems

My good friend has shared with me one of her poems. I thought it would link well with my previous post where eggs were my main theme. I hope it can show others how food can permeate into poetry and how effective it can be. Please enjoy!


One of only two things
I inherited from my father
was the way I eat boiled eggs.

Or rather, when I’m done spooning
at the yellow gloop inside,
and the white around the edges
has been peeled clean and gobbled,

I like to flip the husk right over
to the smooth horizon of the shell
and pretend that nothing’s happened.

It used to drive my mother wild:
this tiny memory of him –
thinking I’d not started
when I’d eaten every morsel.

The best was still to come:
now I’d pulled off the perfect trick
I liked to bash it and bash it
until it was smashed away, and gone.

by Rachel Beckwith

The closing date of my monthly food poetry competition is the 5th of every month, or in other words; tomorrow!

Please send in any Food Poems you wish to be entered to zara.preston@bathspa.org. The winners get published on this blog so let food be the centre of your poems and send some in!

Saturday, 1 January 2011

New Beginnings

Happy New Year to all and to all a Happy New Year!

The 1st day of the year is usually held together with promises of resolutions but these promises do not always turn out how we expect them to. Let’s make this year different. Let’s use this new beginning to live life better. So take time to relax, enjoy the little things you cherish, take on new hobbies, visit new places, meet new people and use your time wisely.

The little things I cherish are Poetry and Food. I love to cook and I love to write. By combining them both together in a form new to me called blogging; I am learning, venturing out into the unknown, and trying to help others to explore too.

In my first theme, I have chosen to begin at the most cyclical representative in the culinary world: the egg. At the time of posting this, I presume a lot of people will have sore heads from indulgent New Year celebrations, so Eggs Benedict will be a breakfast craved for by many. Restaurant’s hype up many dishes so they sound more complicated than expected, and I know it sounds cliché, but if I can make them, then anyone can. I think that making a recipe from scratch not only makes you feel an accomplishment but you can learn the basics of cooking that will help you in other parts of cooking processes.

Before the recipe, I want to include a poem that not only encompasses the theme of the egg but also of New Year itself. I thought the following does just this:

Nest Eggs

Birds all the summer day
Flutter and quarrel
Here in the arbour-like
Tent of the laurel.

Here in the fork
The brown nest is seated;
For little blue eggs
The mother keeps heated.

While we stand watching her
Staring like gabies,
Safe in each egg are the
Bird's little babies.

Soon the frail eggs they shall
Chip, and upspringing
Make all the April woods
Merry with singing.

Younger than we are,
O children, and frailer,
Soon in the blue air they'll be,
Singer and sailor.

We, so much older,
Taller and stronger,
We shall look down on the
Birdies no longer.

They shall go flying
With musical speeches
High overhead in the
Tops of the beeches.

In spite of our wisdom
And sensible talking,
We on our feet must go
Plodding and walking.

by Robert Louis Stevenson

With new inspiration, please use my following recipe as and when you wish: 

Eggs Benedict

For the Hollandaise sauce:
·         2 egg yolks
·         110g Butter (55g per egg  yolk)
·         1 dessertspoon of white wine vinegar
·         1 dessertspoon of lemon juice
·         Salt and Pepper (to your own taste)

Remaining Ingredients:
·         2 White or wholemeal Toasting Muffins
·         4 whole eggs for poaching
·         Few drops of white wine vinegar
·         2 slices of Ham/Bacon/Parma Ham
·         1 large pack of Spinach/Asparagus (if you wish)

Firstly, make the Hollandaise (slowly combining butter into eggs):
1.      Melt the butter in a saucepan; skim the residue off the top, and decanter into a pouring jug. Do not allow to cool. You have to work quickly but not too fast!
2.       Place a large glass bowl over a pan of simmering water but do not allow the bowl to touch the water. Place the egg yolks into the glass bowl and add the vinegar, lemon juice and a pinch of salt and pepper.
3.       Slowly (very slowly) add the butter in the egg yolks continuously whisking. The eggs will thicken under the heat of the water but be careful not to allow the eggs to get too hot (the first time I tried this the eggs scrambled because of the high heat so don’t panic; just have some back up eggs to resort to!)
4.       Continue to whisk in all of the butter. If the sauce is too thick then add a few drops of warm water to thin slightly.

Secondly, poach the eggs:
1.       Use saucepan of simmering water used to make the sauce. Add more water so the eggs have space to poach.
2.       Once the water is boiling, add in vinegar (it helps to solidify the egg yolks).
3.       Swirl water to create a vortex and drop in a whole egg. The egg white will circle around itself to form an oval shape around the yolk.
4.       Leave the egg to cook for 2-3 mins, and remove with a drainable spoon.

Thirdly, plate up and serve:
1.       Slice open muffins and toast.
2.       Place Ham or Bacon on top (or Spinach/Asparagus), then poached eggs and then the hollandaise sauce.
3.       Season with Salt and Pepper and enjoy!