Thursday, 21 November 2013

PORK - Preparing, curing & cooking by Phil Vickery & Simon Boddy

Well Christmas as certainly come early for myself this year 2013, for it is mid Novemeber and whilst I was enjoying a Full English breakfast it was quite apt that my postman arrived clutching a brown parcel with a book inside explaining how to make those all important breakfast ingredients like; sausage, bacon, ham and much more.

That newly published book titled PORK is authored by my good friend Phil Vickery along with his friend Simon Boddy. Not many of us will know that Phil has a huge appetite for all things farming, we just see him on telly doing his other passion, yes cooking. But I can tell you he has a thirst for farming knowledge and for all that it encompasses especially in the production of food and how best we do this. I remember some farmer friends of mine on the Isle of Bute in Scotland ringing me after Phil had visited them, he was there to film about their smoked meat produce and albeit he expressed his interest in the produce, my friends said very happily, Phil just wanted to quiz them both on how they farm their land in such a unique landscape and how the cattle and sheep cope with the extreme weather etc etc. To converse with Phil on such a topic pleased my farmer friends more than having the film crew there to cover their story on smoked food.

So it was of no surprise at all that to read this book and find stories that relate to the rearing of livestock in particular the pig given Phil's interest. I don't know Simon his butchery friend, we have never met, however I feel I've been in his company many times having read his tales on butchery and pig rearing. I would relish the chance to meet him and have a colourful debate over his comments on page 14 over whether traditional breeds offer the best in flavour (of coarse they do) whilst we are downing an ale or two of coarse. If we could include Peter Gott too in the room, then it would be definately a night to remember for sure...

Anyway back to this book, it's been a while since such an honest inclusion of recipes that salute the pig has been put together, of coarse this is Phil's domain and he is considered one of the top chefs in the country who knows best on how to use British produce. He also very cleverly finds the balance by including some recipes from his travels with inspiration from the Americas, Asia and Europe thus tempting us to try them. However by partnering with his butchery friend Simon they have also included an element of charcuterie recipes where families can get together, timely given now that they are returning to tasking themselves in carrying out forms of basic sausage making and the curing of homemade bacon and hams. The charcuterie recipes included by Simon are similar to my own, so I know the reader is in for a real treat when they come to eat their first homemade bacon butty.

An odd thing to say perhaps, however I'll say it anyway, "I trust this book so much" I'm going to include it in my charcuterie classes for my fellow students to browse with an added inclusion in my course handouts as to where they can purchase a copy. 

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The Gentle Art of Preserving by Katie & Giancarlo Caldesi

Earlier this year I predicted that preserving would be the in thing in the foodie world, this topic is not new as we know, but I think it is right on trend at the moment as we have seen much of it now being screened on our televisions in the form of jam making amongst baking programmes, chutneys being covered by daytime chat shows and gravlax on other evening food programmes etc.

There are many books on this subject in circulation but none written down in the way that Katie and Giancarlo have approached the subject. As the title suggests "the gentle art of PRESERVING" this book is laid down so that the whole family can get involved and easily attempt and succeed in preserving their favourite foods whether that may be fruits, vegetables or maybe fish and meats.

I myself have spent time with the family Caldesi at their home and at their restaurant in Bray, I witnessed first hand their grit and determination in ensuring all that they were to pass on was fully tested by themselves, their family, their friends, their colleagues at the restaurant, even their customers and not to mention all those who happened to drop by their home (OK, I was referring to myself).

Katie took me in the garden and showed me the Wendy House that she had proudly converted into a smokehouse (not sure why they had a Wendy house in the garden when their children consist of two boys). The pictures of the Wendy house in the book may look like an house fire at first, but it demonstrates that you can adapt what ever you may already have at home without having to spend money unnecessary.

I've been preserving food for many years and yet whilst sampling the wares in the Caldesi kitchen that they had produced in their research for their book, I found myself learning a lot more about preserving than I already knew (I must remember to blag a copy of their book, if only to access that Sloe Gin recipe). One of the recipes they include is the brining of chicken, oh what a revelation this is if you have never done this before. The process does many things to the chicken, but the best one of all is it allows the most novice cook to fully roast the bird without it ever becoming too dry, it remains moist and flavourful and allows the cook to be applauded for having such skill.

The day I popped into the Caldesi home kitchen luckily was a day when Giancarlo was just about to start butchering a pig, this being my territory, I was intrigued at how he would tackle the job. It was fascinating watching him butcher the pig for both British and Italian cuts and sometimes he would do this single handidly as his mobile phone was too often in his other hand taking calls from the media etc.

But not to be outdone Katie was busy making up brines and preparing salt crocks to house the cuts I later saw like Guanciale, Lardo and Coppa all of which she cured whilst getting ready the off cuts to produce various salami.

The Caldesi's have previously written many books and this new book is as well written as their earlier books, they surprised me constantly by travelling to all corners of Europe to double check that their researched recipes were accurate and that the preserving techniques were as they should be.

This is a book that will bring families together and at different times of the year, it is a book that will educate, a book that will reward you and it is a book where siblings will argue as to who will have it handed down to them!

If there was ever a book to buy this coming Christmas, then surely it has to be this one....