Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Camembert: the best value cheese in Britain?

I know it's heresy but I'm not at all sure that Camembert isn't the best value cheese in Britain. For just £2.35 or £9.40 a kilo (online), for example, you can buy a perfectly matured Tesco Finest Camembert that will easily feed four.

Add a few grapes and crackers and you have a respectable cheese course for well under a fiver. Sainsbury's - obviously price-watching - costs the same.

OK, on special occasions I'll splash out on Britain's answer to Camembert, Tunworth, which is around £7.95 for the same weight. We all like to fly the flag. But it's not just that these premium Camemberts are cheap, they're also tasty - so much improved from a few years ago.

You can also bake them, a Nigel Slater classic that makes an indulgent supper for two with some boiled new potatoes or crusty bread and a sharply dressed green salad (although Nige, I see, favours PSB - aka purple sprouting broccoli)

Some of you may know that I also have a food and wine matching site so you'll be pleased to hear that I can also recommend a drink pairing for your Camembert that won't break the bank: a dry or sparkling cider. Or, if your Camembert is particularly runny or pongy, a Pommeau - a mixture of cider and apple brandy. The Somerset Cider Brandy Company has its own version called Pomona for £9.60 a 50cl bottle which would easily serve six.

What do you reckon is Britain's best cheese - or the best value cheese sold in Britain?

Friday, 11 October 2013

5:2 recipes: Mushroom, tomato and cardamom curry

Not the best pic I've taken because I was ravenous and couldn't be bothered to faff around with it but better than it might have been thanks to Hipstamatic

I've got a bit lazy about 5:2 lately, largely because I've found it's just about possible to keep my weight under control without it (more on this in due course) but after a heavy week last week I decided I needed a proper fast day.

This is what I made for supper. Mushrooms are brilliant diet food as they have diddly squit calories which justifies you having more indulgent ingredients like crème fraîche and rice which makes you feel as if you've had a proper meal. Which, of course, you have.

Don't leave out the cardamom. It makes it.

Serves 2

1 tbsp oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp grated fresh ginger (optional)
2 tbsp curry paste (I used a korma paste but reckon a garam masala paste would be even better. But use what you have)
6-8 cardamom pods crushed, husks removed and seeds ground with a little coarse salt - or 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
250g mushrooms, wiped and sliced
2-3 medium to large tomatoes (about 225-250g), skinned, seeded and chopped or 1/2 a 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
Salt, freshly ground pepper and a squeeze of lemon if necessary
A handful of coriander leaves
2 tbsp low fat yoghurt or half-fat crème fraîche (optional)

Heat the oil in a frying pan over a moderate heat and fry the onion until it starts to soften. Add the garlic, stir for a minute then add the curry paste and cardamom. Stir, cook for a few seconds then add the mushrooms, stir and cook until they begin to release their liquid. Add the chopped tomatoes, stir, bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer while you cook the rice - or veg. (Steamed broccoli would work well). Check the seasoning of the curry, adding more salt if necessary and pepper and lemon juice to taste. Stir in the coriander leaves and heat through. Stir through the yoghurt or crème fraîche if using and serve with rice or a green vegetable.

About 175 calories without the yoghurt or crème fraiche (about another 20-25 calories). 75g of cooked rice would be an extra 80 calories - you could, of course, have less.

Friday, 4 October 2013

What to do with tons of plums including a great plum jam

I've been meaning to write this post for a couple of weeks which means that probably all your plums will have fallen but you may still be able to find some in the shops. And, if not, hopefully it will be useful for next year.

A fortnight ago we spent a weekend with some old friends (old as in we've had them for a long time not that they're ancient) who had a plum tree that was absolutely laden with fruit.

We'd thought of doing a bit of preserving but ended up having to think of other ways we could bring plums into the day's eating which included supper for nine.

This is what we made:

Roast plum relish and salsa

A plum salsa from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's Guardian column. We didn't have any lime so I used lemon. This was really good - I'd definitely make it again. We had it with chicken but it would be even better with lamb.

A roast plum and onion relish to go with the cheeseboard. Just because I wanted to see how it would turn out if you roasted plums. Slightly dull is the answer. Don't bother.

Baked amaretti plums from a Woman and Home recipe for which we used an ancient (and on this occasion I do mean really old) bottle of cream sherry rather than the recommended marsala. Also delicious and incredibly easy.

A spiced plum chutney from the Woman and Home site. We didn't have any raisins so we used a mixture of dried cherries and cranberries. It tasted pretty good when we'd finished but it needs to mature another couple of weeks.

And this incredibly good (though I say so myself) plum jam which I invented largely to compensate for the plums' lack of flavour. The pomegranate molasses made it so don't leave it out and it needs the cinnamon too. Note there's far less sugar than in most recipes so it'll be a bit runny but add more if you want.

Plum and pomegranate jam
Makes about 4 x 400g jars

1 kg plums
250g preserving sugar
300g granulated sugar
3 tbsp pomegranate molasses
6-8 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
100ml water

Halve the plums, twist and remove the stones, then cut into 2 or 3 pieces. Place in a large saucepan or preserving pan with the sugars, pomegranate molasses, cardamom pods, cinnamon and water. Place over a very low heat until the sugars have completely dissolved then bring to the boil and boil hard for about 15 minutes until the jam is set. Skim off any scum, fish out the cardamom pods, rest the jam for 10 minutes then pot into hot, sterilised jars*.

* If you don't know how to sterilise jars there's a useful post here.