Banbury and the Bard

Banbury is, as you may know, forever entwined with Banbury cakes, flat-ish oval pastry filled with spiced currants. They’re not unlike Eccles cakes. They’re still widely available thought not in the two shops most associated with them in days or yore. I present to you – the days of yore.

banbury_cakeshop

E. W. Brown’s Original Cake Shop, 12 Parsons street.

BanburyCake

Betts’s Cake Shop on Banbury High Street in 1878

There’s some dreadful idea being tossed around about turning that High Street space (it is very much present and in use to this day) into an arcade. Yes, a gaming arcade. I am very much hoping the request for the change of use required will be denied. But never mind that now. I will complain about that elsewhere.

Banbury has another eponymous foodstuff lurking in its past and today seems a good time to mention it. Why today? Because today is April 23rd — anniversary of both Shakespeare’s birth and his death.

Banbury Cheese!

banbury_cheese

“Banbury cheeses, for which the town was noted until the 18th century, were first mentioned in 1430” (Cal. Close, 1429–36, 74). It was a cow’s milk cheese, yellow in colour and quite strongly flavoured, made in thin (about 1 inch) rounds.

“But wait!” I hear you cry. “What does this have to do with Shakespeare?” Continue reading “Banbury and the Bard”

Marching to a Foodie Drum

March is full to the brim with culinary observances.

CAFFEINE AWARENESS MONTH: I’m hugely aware of it, thanks. In fact, the more I have, the more aware I am. We’re always been more or less in a constant state of caffeination at Fabulous Foodie. From a few facts in our Quick Coffee Trivia Round Up to our tips for Crafting a Cup of Coffee; from the mildly mind-bending Coffee Conundrum, Caffeine Continuum to choosing which coffee day to celebrate in Coffee Really Gets Around.

coffee_beans

CELERY MONTH: An entire year has passed since I posited that there was no reason celery needs an entire month and I have yet to hear anyone present anything that has changed my mind.  Not even the people who run Celery Flats in Portage, Michigan. What is Celery Flats, you ask? It is – I kid you not – an interpretive center (open seasonally) dedicated to explaining the importance and history of  celery farming to region. If THEY can’t convince me the stuff is worth commemorating, I am unlikely to be convinced.

celery-flats

FROZEN FOOD MONTH: Now, I suspect they mean commercially frozen food but I am going to take this to include the freezing of food at home. Because quite frankly, the only difference between our freezer and pantry at TransAtlantic Towers is the temperature. Our freezer space works as hard or harder than anything or anyone in the house. Worthy of celebrating, indeed!

Continue reading “Marching to a Foodie Drum”

Spatchcock Psycho

It started a few weeks, back, under the cover of night.  I’d been aching to try it for a while, but it seemed so difficult and dangerous that I was nervous about an actual attempt. I’d read about it of course, and even seen a few videos on one of those specialty YouTube channels. They made it look so easy, but still I was afraid I’d wind up with a mangled corpse and a kitchen saturated with blood.

A Decision Made

Finally I plucked up the courage to try my hand.

I waited until I knew there would be no witnesses to catch me should I fail. I brought my victim home, put on my apron and sharpened my largest, heaviest knife. Then, with a drink to steady my nerves, I sneaked up behind my victim, and set to work.

The relief and pride as the job was done were immense. And later, as   I gazed down at my victim lying spread-eagled before me and sampled the juicy morsels of tender flesh, I knew I would do it again. And again and again. This was not some dark adventure to try only when the moon was full or when I could hold out no longer against my dark desires. This would happen regularly, perhaps once a week if I was lucky and could find people to share my new compulsion – and if my freezer could hold the rising tide of body parts. I had become a man obsessed.

cleaver

Yes. Spatchcocking chicken had changed me forever.

You may have heard of Spatchocking as “butterflying,” but that’s far too pretty a term for what this process involves.

Spatchcocking – not to be confused with Spatchcock, which is a culled immature rooster, or Spitchcock, which has to do with eels- is when  the backbone of a chicken is removed and the chicken is flattened out, ready for grilling or roasting. The term  is apparently an Irish word, which is another culinary reason to thank them, along with flavored potato chips and chocolate milk.  It’s been around since at least the 18th century, though it’s such a brilliant way to prepare a chicken for cooking that I’d be surprised if nobody had thought of it sooner. Spatchcocking has regained popularity for a while now, mostly because it’s perfect for the barbecue.

Flattening  a whole chicken like that allows you to grill it in one piece, like it’s one big piece of meat. And who doesn’t go berserk for a big piece of meat?

Now that’s all well and good, but why lose my mind over it? Continue reading “Spatchcock Psycho”

Tasty Tidbits: February News Peruse

Every now and then, I come across foodie stories that I feel compelled to comment on. Then there are stories where commenting to the screen isn’t enough (come on, we all do it) and I do another Fabulous Foodie News Peruse to share those thoughts and opinions with someone other than the cat. This is round up of just those kind of stories.

  • Beans Do Not Belong in Chili” declares the Slate headline. Well, I don’t know about that. I have tried and enjoyed beanless chili but I am firmly in the “beans are perfectly welcome in my chili” camp. I spent my childhood in Texas eating chili and every year perused the offerings at the Chili Cookoff competition at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. Beans were found in any number of those dishes and no one spurned them, called them goulash or declared them out of bounds.  I say, “Yes” to beans in chili. What say you?

  • If you consider the fact that potatoes are one of the most thrown away household groceries on both sides of the Atlantic, you might think people were already buying more potatoes than they know what to do with. Add that to the chips, fries and mash consumed by the ton when eating out and you might also think tater sales were pretty good.  And yet, apparently that is not enough for the U.S. Potato Board (there is a board for everything, trust me). What are they doing about it? According to Food Republic the U.S. Potato Board Is Firing Up 500 Food Trucks To Sell More Spuds. OK, who’s not buying and eating their share of spuds? I can’t do this all by myself people!

potatoes

  • Hardly a week goes by when I don’t see yet another article declaring that they have found the IDEAL way to make scrambled eggs. This week is no exception with epicurious suggesting that “The Ingredient Scrambled Eggs Are Always Missing” – oh really? Now, scrambled eggs are one of those things people hold VIEWS on – but my preference for soft/firm/with cheese/without can depend on my mood. I am TOTALLY on board with the addition of a certain amount of really good cheese to a scramble now and again, however. How say you, foodies? Should cheese be ONLY involved when it comes to omeletes or are you happen to cheese up a scramble as well?

eggs_toast

Pickled And Baked

It’s not what you think.

I’m not wallowing in wine or whacked out on weed. (At least not right now.) I do, however, have homemade bread baking in the oven, and I’ve just put up a bunch of pickles.

Again, it’s not what you may think. I haven’t joined a commune in Vermont, delved too far into the world of Laura Ingalls Wilder, or taken up extreme right-wing ideologies and moved into a nuclear bunker in Tennessee. I’m just trying to stay hip. And for once, I’ve found I haven’t already aged out of the latest trends.

Both baking and pickling are tres chic here in the UK. That runaway smash tv show The Great British Bakeoff has taken the nation by storm over the last few years.

mary-berry

What was once the province of the WI has now become a national craze. Artisan bakeries are opening across the land, companies are holding their own employee cake contests, and near strangers are getting friendly jabbering about their Genoese sponges.

In the restaurant and television cookery worlds, pickling is equally de rigeur. TV shows like Masterchef: The Professionals are giving us weekly bites of the latest fine dining trends, and along with pistachios, apricots, cauliflower and cured mackerel, pickled vegetables adorn pretty much every plate. In fact, sometimes they’re all on the same plate, which strikes me as a digestive challenge.

Pickling

Now I don’t, as it happens, have much of a sweet tooth. I’m not a big fan of cakes or pastries. And I’ve never before felt a particular need to knead. Nor do I, living on the third floor of an apartment block as I do, own acres of farmland replete with legumes that need preserving before they rot.

But still, a boy can get to feeling left out.

So what to do about it? Continue reading “Pickled And Baked”

Spaghetti: Dressed For Dinner

We recently celebrated Spaghetti Day here at Fabulous Foodie. Deborah’s fabulous post about the various forms of- and sauces for- spaghetti got me to thinking about what a large part spaghetti has played in my culinary life.

I remember being a child watching my dad make his spaghetti Bolognese sauce, and how – though it’s certainly my own sauce now – mine is based on his. Yes, I know that sauce is actually called a ragu, and that in Italy it’s never served with spaghetti (except perhaps resignedly to tourists) because spaghetti is the wrong shape and texture to properly hold the sauce, but like everyone who didn’t grow up in Italy, that’s the way I first ate it. And it’s still how I prefer to eat it to this day.

bolognese-sauce

As a teen, I learned how to eat spaghetti properly, instead of cutting it into childishly spoon-able lengths; how you gather a few strands on the tines of your fork, and twirl the fork against the side of the bowl or a spoon until they’re neatly twined around your fork. And how it’s actually okay to slurp a bit , just to get those few recalcitrant straggly ends into your mouth. (At least it is in my house.)

Then I remember how I learned to cook spaghetti (and all pasta) properly:

Continue reading “Spaghetti: Dressed For Dinner”

Jan 3: Chocolate Covered Cherry Day

I went to see if I could find some interesting or odd details about chocolate covered cherries when I was brought up short by the SHOCKING number of recipes online for making your own chocolate covered cherries.

choc_cherries

Don’t misunderstand. I love chocolate covered cherries but at no time, in no way and in no circumstances that I could ever imagine would I make them. Who does that? Anyone?

10 Best (Non-Baking) Uses for Bicarb

Before anyone asks: yes, my fellow Americans – bicarbonate of soda is the same as baking soda. Now that we’re on the same page – Happy Bicarbonate of Soda Day!

There was a time when I assumed the only thing bicarb was good for was, once mixed in with water, as a hangover remedy. These days I bake more so I realize there’s more to it than that. But I’ve also realized in the past year or so, that its usefulness as a tool in the cleaning arsenal around the house is unrivaled. Well, only rivaled by lemons. Between bicarb and lemons, I hardly need anything else.

Bicarb_lemon

I’ve been switching to greener cleaning options these days – for a number of reasons, chief among which is the obsession that cleaning product manufacturers have these days about scenting EVERYTHING. They clearly have a very different understanding of the word “lemony” or the phrase “pine fresh scent” than I do. YUCK!

baking-soda-for-cleaning

So, I thought to mark the occasion of Bicarbonate of Soda Day, I thought I’d round up a few of the ways I used bicarb around the house. You may find a useful tip or two – and by all means, share any others you might have.

Continue reading “10 Best (Non-Baking) Uses for Bicarb”