2010. július 15., csütörtök

Living in Devon is like living in heaven

Bad stereotype is also a stereotype, and stereotyping is not always bad, but worth to research on your own.

I'm just wondering about how long should be the list of British food I know, I'm guessing quite short, less shorter the one I've ever really tried. Fish & chips, shepards pie, blackpudding, tea with milk, just mentioning the one's I 've heard about possibly the first time in primary school on my English lessons. Where they were wanned to feature the cultural diversity to 10 year old kids, by learning these recipes by heart, memorizing them from old-fashioned, brownish photos. Still cannot understand the reason, but it may explains my future having reservations about these food.
Honestly still uninterested about them, but being grateful about Arvon in Devon - practically the garden and the store-room of England - to show me the other side of British cuisine, the one I've hoped to be existed.

Right after my arrival to Totleigh Barton , Arvon Fundation's first centre, for foodwriting course, in the first morning we went to discover Heatherleigh Farmers Market, a great presentation of local goods and attractions, like their weekly chicken auction, just to mention the most weird, but worth to describe later sight.

Surprisingly they do not sell any blackpuddings, nor fish&chips, neither anything that reminds me this terribly brown meat sauce they often pour on everything according to those good-old photos from primary school. But they have wonderful cheeses with grassy aroma, that truly reminds me the surrounding fields, shiny red strawberries recently picked up in the morning from family run farms, baskets full of vibrant green broad beans, gooseberries in green and pink, blackcurrants, and last but not at least Dan the Fishman with his wide selection of locally collected fish and seafood. I was really surprised by the diversity, never though about England as a big fish eater nation, not even if they are surrounded by the sea actually.
On a hidden shelf of the Cheese shop I've just found the most valuable piece of the day, a local community edited cookbook: Devon on the plate. A selection of fantastic recipes made upon local ingredients, seasonal tips and not boring at all. Some serious inspiration follows.
They proved to me that all my previous preconceptions can be challenged. I wouldn't say they are not true, since a lot more onsight research still needed, but for the moment I'm trully convinced about the opposite. At least for 2 or 3 more days, I can't resist, I'm curious...
Fresh berries and fish are my best friend this week, so I've just recently made up a recipe, inspired by local ingredients such as gooseberry, mackerel and apple cider.
Mackerel Ceviche marinated in gooseberry juice on apple Cider jelly cubes

Ingredients ( for 4 persons)
500g fresh mackerel fillet
1 lemon, 1 lime, 1 orange
250g gooseberries
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 whole chili pepper - (the one you better like)finely chopped
1 ts of soft brown sugar
pinch of salt
fresh ground black pepper
2 tbs fresh coriander or parsley, rough chopped
200ml apple cider
6 gelatin sheet

First start with the cider jelly, that needs a little bit more time. Heat up the cider, till hand warm. Prepare the gelatin sheets according to it's own preparation instructions then add to the cider. Pour the mixture on a plastic tray - preferably the jelly should be 1-1,5 cm tall, and let it cool and become gelatinous firm.
Clean the gooseberries and bring them to boil in 100ml water. Gooseberries go soft very quickly, so after boiling it takes around 2-3 minutes. Let it cool, then put it in a blender. Pass it through a filter, so you can get rid of the useless seeds and fruit skin. Now you have a a fabulous summer scented juice to mix with lemon,lime and orange juice. Add the onions and coriander leaves as well, and finely sliced mackerel fillet. Finish with seasoning it with salt and pepper according to your taste. Let it cool in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Cut the jelly into small cubes (1x1cm). Arrange them on a plate and put on top the marinated mackerel.

This beautiful dish brings into light the quintessential freshness of fish. The fruit juices perform delightfully on the plate asking for more on the plate or whatever follows.
Title quoted from Dan the Fishman.

Last weekend before Arvon

...I`m totally deconcentrated. Everybody was on holiday on Friday, so I was the responsible for the whole cooking school, quite a big challange but drives me crazy. All the daily suppliers arrived the same time, all the phones were ringing in the same time, and guests arrived continously.... running up and down... the advantages and disadvantages of a beatiful, but huuuge 2 floor cooking school. Never mind.

Then the fishman arrived. Saturday is Sushi day, Sunday is for Fish Steak. Almost 20 kilos from the freshest fish, oh, I love so much the smell of the sea. We packed out the boxes and just realized with H. that the whole salmons are just so big, that not even our biggest fridge shelves can give a night accomodation for him. If Mr. Salmon can't come in, the shelf will come out - we`ve decided... and it worked.

Sushi day was fantastic, the course was fully booked, but even a lady with her last-minute morning call could fit in. Loads of sushi, sashimi and miso were done. I was busy taking photos - one of my new projects to illustrate all our courses with. I was even more happier since this was the first time Mum visited the cooking school, already hands-on, participating in a sushi course. Very brave I thought.
Cleaning, closing, setting the alarm. Arrive to the exchange houses till they close, to get my few worthwile paper pieces with some decent smile of Elisabeth. Realising that I have no travel reading, last-time searching for eat, pray, love... unsuccesfully. Oh, God, almost forget about my travel insurance. Obviously no agency is open on a Saturday evening. Thanks to M. little Vespa - Luigi, our quickest family member in city transport, took us to a 7/7 0-24 office.

Sunday began with a terrible dawn dream. Such a technocrat world, I hate so much, but forget my mobile charger in the office, can't live without, no matter how many others are carried in my impossibly heavy bag, amongst others, notebook charger, camera charger, mobile no.2 charger, cabels... Guess who helped out? Kind Luigi...
So stressfull, still planned to do some nice blackcurrant cups, some redcurrant ice-cream, all waiting for me, and I'm wasting the time with such profane things...

Sometimes I do feel that my carefully collected ingredients are just so innocently waiting for something to happen with them, I can almost hear them whispering me shy : Are you gonna play with me? Can I join the others? Can we have a better life out their in your oven? ...just so much pressure.
Still haven't packed anything, I do not even know where my suitcase is, haven't checked the departure time of my transfer bus. My brain is just so busy, but I feel in my inwards, that some cooking will calm me down.
Da-da-da-daaaam. Time for my lonely currants and berries.

I've just saved a nice tray of blackberries from my Thursday market trip. Still wondering what would be the most appropriate way to lift them into heaven. My first idea was to prepare a shortbread type of cake base with vanilla-sourcream filling and blackcurrants on the top. Than just got to realize the most shameful thing that can happen with someone who is actually running a foodblog , my wholegrain flour just went bad. Not even ask how it could happen, how does it looks like, it's simply terrifying. Result: no flour, no pastry.

Here comes some instant help, from the cupboard. Some nice amaretti biscuits. I've just simply crushed them with a wooden rooling-pin, and divide them between 4 wine cups. I've mixed sourcream, with vanilla sugar and some extra powdered sugar, and a bit of lemon zest. Let it cool, till I finished with the rest. Cleaning blackcurrants it's not actually what a girl can dream about. First of all they are black, you're not sure whether they are clean or not, felling well or, not, then comes the tiny little, annoying, brownish end thing, that I do not wanna eat. However I'm just the type of girl who loves niggling with such thing. But I tell you the truth at this point I've give it up and decided not to clean them, only wash them. I've boiled them with some muscovado sugar and Creme de cassis. When the berries are soft, I've removed them from the heat. I've pass it through a filter to collect the beautifully purpleish-pinkish-blackish juice. I've added some gelatine to it till warm.
Taken out the vanilla sourcream from the fridge, divided it between the cups as the second layer, and pouring as a third the blackcurrant juice. I've left it in the fridge for about 2 hours, till the match started, we've celebrated the World Finals with these cups. Absolutely flavourful, a real touch of summer.

Blackcurrant cup-cream

Ingredients (for 4 persons):
120 gr amaretti biscuits
250 g blackcurrants
3 tbs muscovado sugar
4 cl Creme de Cassis
400 ml sourcream
1 tbs vanilla sugar
2 tbs powdered sugar
zest of half a lemon

By 0.30 am I've finally packed, memorized the only goal of the final, celebrated with fabolouos blackberries, and set my mind for a week of food and writing...
Oh, no just realized I've forgotten about by redcurrant ice-creams. Never mind They are waiting for me in the freezer in the Hungarian summer. I'll tell you about them later on, once I got back from the British summer, less warm, less shiny, but even more exciting.