Homemade tomato ketchup

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The favours at our wedding

The favours at our wedding

Recipe by Adam Holden, inspired by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

My husband, Adam, made this ketchup as a favour for our guests on our wedding day last year and, although I may be biased, it is blinkin’ lovely, and it’s so satisfying to make your own. He also has an amazing brown sauce recipe, which may well appear here soon…

Ingredients:

4 cans of good quality tinned tomatoes. They can be chopped or whole, as they will eventually be blended anyway – we used half and half to get a blend of juice and flavour.

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 whole star anise

2 sprigs of rosemary

8 peppercorns

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2 anchovy fillets

½ tube of good quality tomato purée

200mls red wine

A homemade bouquet garni (tie the following up in a muslin bag: a big pinch of mace – “mace is ace!” – some thyme, 4 cloves, one fresh bay leaf or two dried ones, a whole scotch bonnet*, ½ stick of cinnamon). *Scotch bonnet is what we used – it’s fruity and has a lovely rounded spice if used whole. If cut then it would be ferocious! You could use a milder chilli, cut in two if you prefer.

300g (approx.) brown sugar

300mls (approx.) white wine vinegar

Olive oil (for frying)

Splash of white wine

Get to it!

  1. In a large saucepan on a low-medium heat, fry the onion in olive oil with the star anise, rosemary sprigs and peppercorns until the onion is soft and starting to colour (you want to get a caramelised colour without letting them go crispy). If it starts to stick then just add a splash of white wine.
  2. Add the garlic and stir for a couple of minutes, then add the anchovy fillets. Stir it all until it breaks down. Do NOT let the garlic burn. If it does, then you need to start again as it will make the whole sauce bitter.
  3. Add the tomato purée and stir fry until it starts to stick (probably about 2 minutes).
  4. Add the red wine, turn up the heat, and keep stirring until it’s reduced by a third.
  5. Add the tinned tomatoes and the bouquet garni and gently simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally. Keep the empty tins.
  6. Fill one of the empty tins 2/3 full of brown sugar and add that to the sauce. Do the same with the white wine vinegar, but this time transfer it across the remaining three tins to make sure that you get every last drop of tomato goodness. Stir the sauce for a bit to combine it all.
  7. Simmer uncovered until it’s think and syrupy (which will take a couple of hours). It becomes like a volcano as it thickens, so get a cheap mesh frying guard to pop over the pan or else your kitchen will look like a massacre has occurred, and you’ll probably end up with molten tomato sauce in your face. No one wants that.
  8. Taste and decide if you like it – you may want to add more sugar or vinegar at this stage.
  9. Go fishing: remove the bouquet garni and any other big bits and pieces (like the rosemary) and then blend until smooth with a hand blender.
  10. Bottle while it’s hot, in sterilised jars, as if you were making jam.

Winchester City Mill

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A little bit of history

A little bit of history

There’s no denying that when you live in a place you often don’t make an effort to visit many of its attractions, probably because you think that there will always be another opportunity to do so.  This was definitely the case with the Winchester City Mill, which I have passed many times en route to the various  drinking and eating establishments located in that part of town, but never actually entered. Until I was given a National Trust membership card for my birthday (I’m only 31, but you’re never too young to appreciate a bit of heritage, right Mum?)

And what a lovely experience it was too.

Bread. Freshly baked bread. And butter. Is any food more primal? The smell alone is enough to make the most steadfastly ‘functional-eater’ drool with anticipation as they imagine the golden pat gently melting, dripping slowly over the soft, fluffy centre towards the brown, crusty outer. You can tell that I haven’t had dinner yet. The point being that bread has been – still is – so vital to our human history that an historic mill is a fascinating place to visit, especially when set up as well as it is in Winchester, and staffed with such enthusiastic volunteers.

On the day we went the mill was in action, the huge stones grinding the grain to make the flour that was being packed up and lugged about the place, and that really added to the atmosphere. Downstairs you can stand right by the giant wheel as it churns up the River Itchen with strong, powerful turns. You’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s the

Here it is - the fruits of their labour. And infinitesimally better for you that the white stuff from Tesco.

Here it is – the fruits of their labour. And infinitesimally better for you that the white stuff from Tesco (*don’t sure me, I am not a professional)

mill wheel itself that controls the flow of the river, not the other way around, until you notice how strong the rapids are, moving below your feet under the metal bridge. Exhilarating.

It’s one of the oldest surviving examples of a working urban cornmill, and we are actually rather lucky to have it on our doorstep. Although nowadays the Winchester City Mill is mainly for eduction, they do produce between 15-20 tonnes of flour each year, most of which ends up in National Trust shops and restaurants, with the rest going to local businesses and bakers – you can even buy some flour for yourself (without paying the entry fee, I should add).

In short, it’s well worth a visit. If you do go, I’d urge you to see when they are baking – not only will you get some very tasty treats offered to you, but the ladies there are very knowledgeable and more than happy to share recipes and baking tips with anyone who asked – we’ve got a wicked sourdough in the pipeline. And it will all set you back less than a fiver.

At a glance

  • Historic city mill with live demonstrations
  • Open from 10am, but check the website for details
  • £4.40 for adults, £2.20 for children, £11 for families (visit the website)

The Butcher’s Hook, Southampton

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What it's all about

What it’s all about

I’m just going to get this out there: Southampton is not top of my list for quirky nights out or original foodie ideas, but – slowly – I think this is changing. Places like Tap Room (which I am yet to visit) and No. 4 Coffee and Wine Bar, coupled with the impending regeneration of the city centre*, are surely a step in the right direction.

But city centres are one thing; small satellite neighbourhoods are quite another. This is just one of the reasons that The Butcher’s Hook micropub, in the otherwise fairly generic suburb/village of Bitterne, is so remarkable. Set in a tiny sliver of ceramic-tiled room, squeezed somewhere in between the local Indian and the Coop convenience store, is a small slice of craft beer heaven – the kind that would be right at home in East London. Who’d have guessed that humble Southampton would be home to one of only 100 micropubs in the UK? It’s really rather exciting.

As soon as you walk in you know this is the real deal; those lucky enough to have nabbed a seat sit

Natty staff and happy customers

Natty staff and happy customers

side-by-side with strangers on trestle tables, while others perch wherever they can against the wall or propped up by the constantly opening front door. At the back of the room is a very busy young gentleman in an appropriately natty outfit and ‘tash working his rack of beer kegs to keep the punters happy, and that’s it (apart from the remarkably nice toilet – a small detail but I do think a loo says a lot about a place, and this one is unusual and surprisingly clean. Anyway, enough about that).

The list of beers and ales (and ciders) is extensive and, although when we went many had sold out, staff were happy to advise on suitable alternatives. It’s very easy to hunker down with half a pint, only to find that an hour (and two more halves) have flown by, such is the welcoming atmosphere within. And it’s not just filled with beardy beer-geeks in Star Wars T-Shirts either. Perhaps it’s because we went over Christmas, but among the clientele were older families, couples, groups of lads in their twenties and a lady in a fur coat – not many places can boast such a harmonious environment given such an eclectic mix of people, especially in Southampton…

The snacks are not extensive and there is high probability that you’ll have to stand holding your coat, dodging the queue for  beer, but I really hope that this is the first of many similar places in Hampshire, let alone Southampton – it certainly seems as though there is appetite for one or two more.

At a glance:

  • Micropub in Southampton
  • Craft beers, ales and ciders
  • Small but perfectly formed
  • Check their Facebook or Twitter page for the latest beers (and opening hours)
  • 7 Manor Farm Road, Bitterne Triangle, Southampton
  • 07912 092928

 

Beechcroft Farm Shop

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Cows at Beechcroft farm

The view at Beechcroft farm

Last week I was lucky enough to attend the Hampshire Life Food & Drink Awards at the marvellous Elvetham Hotel, where we had the pleasure of witnessing our local farm shop, Beechcroft, win ‘Best Farm Shop’ for the second year running.

A blog on Beechcroft is well overdue because Adam and I go there three or four times a month to buy meat, and it would be fair to say that we are as loyal as they come. In fact, Adam loves it so much that it’s becoming a bit of a running joke amongst his friends, but that’s probably story for another time…

So what makes Beechcroft so special, and how on earth did a tiny farm outhouse down a single track road outside of Winchester pip the likes of Newlyn’s Farm Shop to the title two years in a row? Well, aside from the outstanding quality of their meat, I think it’s almost a case of what Beechcroft doesn’t have that makes it so unique.

Beechcroft cows

Beechcroft cows

Unlike the larger, ‘one-stop’ style farm shops, which sell everything from chutneys and cheeses, to avocados and Himalayan rock salt, Beechcroft only really sells its own meat, supplemented by a handful of useful vegetables and a few juices and sauces. As such, the focus on quality and value is paramount.

All the meat they sell is reared by them, on the farm that you see through the window of the shop, and one glance around the beautiful fields is enough to show you that they are extremely committed to high quality and genuinely care about the animals they raise. It is the perfect example of quality of goods over quantity of choice.

Don’t get me wrong, I really do also like the larger, more polished farm shops, with their abundant jars and deli counters. I love that places like The Good Life and Newlyns sell three types of frozen pastry and dried jalapeno chillis, and I adore wandering through their aisles, marvelling at the myriad styles of sourdough, but a place like Beechcroft is a farm shop in its purest sense: it’s a shop on a farm that sells its own produce. I may well be over-romanticising things (in fact, I know I am) but when I pull up outside the barn to be greeted by the clucking of chickens and a view to die for (you can see the Isle of Wight on a clear day), it just makes me very grateful. And, love them as I do, that’s not a feeling I get from most other farm shops, no mater how many flavours of gourmet popping corn they sell.

At a glance

  • Top-quality pork, chicken, lamb and beef, reared on their farm, right outside the shop
  • Fridays: 10am – 5.30pm
  • Saturdays: 9am – 5pm
  • Winchester Farmers’ Market (second and last Sunday of each month, 9am-2pm)
  • Sarum Road, SO22 5QS
  • www.beechcroftdirect.co.uk 
  • 01962 868214 / 07710 168388 / beechcroftdirect@hotmail.co.uk

Jake’s Pork Pies

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Jon 'Jake' Kaye

At Winchester Farmers’ Market

Jon ‘Jake’ Kaye is the driving force behind Jake’s Artisan foods, makers of the very delicious Jake’s hand-cut pork pies. Being quite a fan of pork pies, and having discovered Jake’s Pies at the Winchester Farmers’ Market back in the autumn, I was intrigued to know what attracts a man like Jon to the pork pie industry…

So, I have to ask: why on earth pork pies? 

This was completely accidental. I’d been hankering after being involved in food as a full-time endeavour for many years. Pork pies happened to be the thing at the right time and place. But it could have been cured trout, curry paste, pasta sauce, puff pastry, brioche, croissants or ready-to-cook cookie dough. In fact, the pork pies are just the first of a range of Jake’s products, all of which will embody the same focus on taste, flavour, simplicity and honesty.

Did it take you ages to find the recipe, or was it a trusty one you already had, just waiting in the wings?

The first pies I made were based on a recipe in an old catering textbook I’d picked up, but it evolved over a few years of domestic consumption. From December 2012, after deciding to sell them, the recipe was further refined until it became pretty much what it is today. If you want to make new friends, spend three months taking in tasters to your place of work.

I notice that you have a distinctive accent going on – there’s definitely a Canadian twang, but am I right in thinking you are an Englishman by birth? 

Yes, born in Manchester, grew up in Canada (Ottawa and Toronto mostly), and came to England after Uni with my dual citizenship, expecting to stay a year or two. And like so many before me, I ended up staying. I grew up in Canada with unreconstructed working-class Mancs, so my world view was quite a mixed one. For me, eggs, chips and beans were a totally normally Sunday meal, much to the horror of my school friends, while today pancakes aren’t pancakes unless they’re thick, fluffy and slathered in butter and maple syrup.

So what did you do for a living before Jake’s, and why did you gave it up in pursuit of pies?

Hard at work

Quite a change from the trade press

Having always thought that I would have a career with words, in the late 1980s I found myself writing for the IT industry trade press. I’d previously worked on titles covering North American sport and recording technologies, and I ended up editing a few titles and working as an industry analyst.

Then, 20 years later, I got bored. I needed a major change in direction and, after some time, I realised it was food that was going to be at the heart of it all. In 2004, still freelancing, I took an NVQ catering course and, ironically, got a job working as a commis chef in a restaurant in Belgravia where I’d had many a business lunch as a paying customer.

However, I soon found that while I loved prepping, cooking and learning the business of kitchen craft, I was pretty rubbish during a busy service. But I learned so much in those six months that the lessons are still proving useful. A stint at a Hampshire pub followed by a three-rosette restaurant in Surrey completed my cheffing career, then I went back to full-time work as a communications editor. It was during my last role in Chichester that I began plying colleagues with pork pies,perfecting the recipe. I began selling them in April last year and went full-time in late November, so I think that brings us roughly up to speed.

Where did your love of cooking begin, and do you still cook in your spare time, now that it’s a business for you?

My parents encouraged me and my brother to cook when we were young. I think making my first successful cheese omelette when I was about nine kicked it all off. I haven’t stopped trying new things or perfecting others since (though my brother didn’t get the bug – he still defaults to fast food and ready meals).

I still cook most meals for the family, but there’s less time for playing with food. Which I’m trying to rectify by stuffing the fridge and freezer with home-made ready meals.

So, where do you get the ingredients for your pork pies from

The good stuff

The good stuff

I get all my pork from nearby Rother Valley Organics, which sources free-range pork from Hampshire-based farms – saving me the hassle of travelling vast distances. Plus, they’re a really good bunch of people.

After you’ve used the meat there is a lot of rind left, so I try to make use of that too. About a third of the rind and fat from the whole shoulders I buy goes into making the jelly for the pies, and the rest of the rind now goes into making crackling for domestic consumption (which I hope to make part of the Jake’s range soon). Some of the back fat does get wasted, but on the backburner I’m experimenting with a lardo-type product. I’ve tried rendering the fat to make home-made lard but I’m not convinced it’s worth the effort – yet…

Pork pies are a pretty niche, who are your main customers, and where can we get hold of these bad boys?!

I don’t see pork pies as being niche. In my mind, they’re a staple product that should be in everyone’s fridges at any given time, just like sliced ham, cheese, pickles, salami and other charcuterie. They work brilliantly as a classic lunch or snack, but also as part of a tapas plate. And you’ll find them perfectly suited to wine tastings, where they’re increasingly being used.

The pies are sold at Hampshire Farmers’ Markets in Winchester, Petersfield and Southsea, as well as at shops, delis, pubs and restaurants. While the markets remain absolutely core to the business, growth is coming from the trade, with more outlets coming on stream over the next months (see the end for the full list).

What do your family and friends think of it all?

A well-earned break

A well-earned break

For those who’ve known me the longest, the common feeling is a great sense of relief that I’ve finally stopped talking about doing something with food, and actually done it. For everyone else, there’s just a huge amount of goodwill and support for the project. That’s taken me by surprise, and is one of the nicest aspects of it all. Maybe it’s because it’s set off against my natural cynicism, but it nevertheless restores my faith in people and creates a strong connection with individuals and communities – not something you feel often working in a faceless office.

Finally, are there any local food producers who you especially admire?

I can’t rate Hampshire Cheeses and its Tunworth highly enough. Here’s a company that, over time, has created one of the most fabulous cheeses you’ll ever taste. While it is developing its new Winslade, it’s still essentially a one-product company focusing on serving an increasingly broad and diverse market. Think Poilâne, Macsween – similarly single-product companies (with a relatively few variants) that have made their mark on the world food scene. I don’t see why Jake’s can’t one day be grouped in the same category.

At a glance:

  • Delicious hand-cut pork pies – and more to come
  • Follow Jake’s on Twitter: @Jake_Hampshire
  • Buy Jake’s Pies at the following places:

Harting Stores, South Harting
Durleighmarsh Farm Shop, Petersfield
Bodega Continental Delicatessen, Winchester
Sussex Farm Foods, Pulborough
Rother Valley Organics, Rogate
Hampshire Farmers’ Markets in Petersfield, Southsea and Winchester.

On the menu at:

The Old Vine, Winchester
The Ferry Restaurant, Old Bursledon
Folly Bar Downstairs, Petersfield
Waterstone’s Café W, Ringwood

 

The Cheese Stall

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The stall itself

The stall itself

I think The Cheese Stall was the thing that convinced us to move to Winchester. It’s a bold statement, but when we stayed with friends on a ‘scouting’ mission we stopped by and bought some fantastic cheese to take home with us. On re-visiting them during a second trip (OK, so we were pretty serious about the move by this point anyway), the lady behind the stall remembered us as if we were long-standing regulars, and from that point on I was sold.

This lady, it turns out, is Jayne, and she runs The Cheese Stall with her husband Graham and their son Edward. And a nicer, more knowledgeable bunch of cheese mongers you are unlikely to meet. I don’t know what I expected a cheese vendor to be like, but it wasn’t an energetic young man with tattoos and his charismatic parents. Perhaps I was being a little narrow minded.

cheesestall

They buy whole cheeses so you don’t have to

Their philosophy is simple: to provide the best quality in a traditional manner, only stocking produce that is true to its place of origin; protecting traditions, quality and producers (e.g Cheddar from Somerset and Brie from Meaux in France etc). They buy directly from small cheese producers where they can, sourcing from all over the UK and Europe, allowing them to procure superior products and maintain competitive prices. It also means they really get to know the products they are selling, which is a huge benefit as a customer. In fact, I urge you to ask for their recommendations unless you really want something specific, as that’s when Ed will pull out a hidden gem from the back of the display and tell you all about how this particular cheese is only made during the summer months, when cows graze on a certain type of grass, resulting is a unique flavour that is just reaching its peak at this time of year. Now, I don’t know about you, but I can’t claim to know enough about cheese to be able to make those kinds of informed decisions alone.

Another factor that makes them special is that they only buy whole cheeses, so you can buy whatever size you want and it will always be ready to enjoy. For me that’s a bit like going to a bar and seeing that they have 100 fantastic wines available by the glass.

The Cheese Stall Wedding

One of their wedding creations

Despite its popularity, and although food has been a part of their family business for many generations (get this: Edward’s great grandfather opened up a cheese stall in Lancashire when he was 70, which is still being run by one of his sons today), The Cheese Stall, as it currently stands, is a relatively new thing. Inspired by many-a-summer camping holiday in France, and fresh out of University, Ed decided to open up a continental delicatessen, using his French-residing parents to ferry him authentic cheeses back and forth. This led to a successful business in wholesale, and in 2010 they exhibited at their first market. The rest is history, and between the three of them they now have a stand at markets in Odiham, Winchester, Romsey and Alton every week – as well as popping up at special events (I met them again at a wine and cheese evening in Wine Utopia back in the autumn), and keeping busy with a line of ‘wedding cheese towers’ and an expanding range of meats and condiments (many of which are home made with seasonal fruit).

With such a range of locations across Hampshire there is no excuse not to pay them a visit (unless you dislike cheese, of course, but then I reckon you may have deeper issues). I will leave you with a parting quote from Ed:

“I genuinely have an obsession with food and drink, and the whole emotion and celebration that sharing these two things around a table creates. Selling really good food allows you to be a little part of others’ enjoyment.”

I can only speak for myself but the fine produce from The Cheese Stall has certainly given us a lot of enjoyment since we moved here, and will hopefully be part of an even bigger celebration when we serve their hams and cheeses at our wedding in October.

At a glance:

Alton: Tuesday
Winchester (High Street): Wednesday, Friday, Saturday
Odiham (High Street): Friday
Romsey (The Cornmarket): Saturday

Church Paddock Trout Fishery, Winchester

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View of the lake at the fishery. Taken from www.churchpaddock.co.uk

View of the lake at the fishery. Taken from http://www.churchpaddock.co.uk

My knowledge of ‘catch your own’ fisheries is lacking, at best – a few forays into overcrowded, murky ponds as a child (followed by the fear of actually catching something and having no idea what to do next) was as far as I ever got – but the little experience I’ve had has led me to be suspicious.

However, the Church Paddock Trout Fishery is as lovely as it sounds. It’s a simple place, set within five acres of landscaped grounds, and from the minute you get there it feels like a place you definitely want to buy fish from. When we went on a Saturday morning there were groups of friendly local anglers, keen to show off their catch, and I didn’t feel anywhere near as out of place as I thought I might. In fact, once I got them taking about their fish, there was hardly any stopping them!

We went along to buy some fish (rather than catch it ourselves) and Eddie (the helpful guy manning the counter) informed us that he’d just caught some half an hour earlier, and that he’d happily gut and fillet them for us. I should point out that we were lucky – normally you’d have to call them the day before to guarantee that they’ll have some, but they are happy to do this if you don’t actually want to fish yourself. We paid £8 for our trout, and the quality was fantastic (so much so that we turned it in to a simple raw tartare that evening) and it was as fresh as you can possibly get. They also sell smoked trout and salmon, as well as pâtés and the like, and I can vouch for these too. They are experimenting with smoking their own fish, and the result is a wonderful, thick sliced, oaky treat that is definitely up there as one of the best smoked fish I’ve tasted.

If you want to go one step further than I did, then obviously you can catch your own. Prices start a £25 for a “2-fish ticket” (I’m not sure why, but I find that quite amusing), and you can hire rods, bring your own, buy a 10-fish pass or even pay for angling lessons, which Eddie was more than happy to recommend. £12.50 for a whole trout isn’t actually that bad, and when you factor in the quality of the fish, the fun you’ll inevitably have catching it, and the fact that you might – just might – catch a whopper (the price is charged regardless of the size of the fish you catch), it suddenly seems like pretty good value. In the lake they have a variety of trout, including brown, blue and even rainbow. If you want to know more, Eddie’s definitely your man.

It’s becoming increasingly tricky to find ‘sustainable’ fish, and, personally, farmed fish often makes me uncomfortable – how many drugs are used to control disease in overpopulated pools? Will it taste as good as wild? But how can I be sure wild fish are sustainable? etc. etc. In other areas near the coast you can support local fishermen via ‘Community Supported Fishing’ schemes (like Catchbox) that allow them to catch what’s in season in a sustainable way, and give local consumers the chance to buy a variety of fresh, sustainable fish. Sadly that’s not usually a possibility when you live in land, so fish eaters need to look elsewhere – especially when you live in Winchester and there’s no fishmonger.

At Church Paddock they don’t use any chemicals in their waters – Eddie tells me that he’d rather sacrifice the whole stock of fish than start to interfere – and from a novice’s perspective, that philosophy seems to be working. The water in the lake is clear and the fish that we saw were slick, bright-eyed and red-gilled; just what you’d be looking for if you were buying from a market or a fish counter.

At a glance:

  • Local ‘catch your own’ trout
  • Fresh and frozen local smoked fish and pâtés
  • Licensed cafe and outdoor seating area
  • Parking
  • Family friendly
  • Dog friendly (on leads)
  • Open 8.30am – 5.30pm, 7 days a week (but phone Jamie ahead, just to be sure: 07765 591931)
  • http://www.churchpaddock.co.uk