Sunday, 2 September 2012

Good things to eat [Volume 11]

A few more things I've been enjoying recently but haven't written about elsewhere.

Plum puddings

Not plum puddings in the Christmassy sense, plum puddings meaning any dessert made from plums. After last years magnificent damsons I'm on the look out for anything vaguely plummy. Damsons themselves are yet to appear but I've made a couple of lovely puddings with some Victoria plums and some cheap and cheerful purple supermarket plums of unknown variety.

The secret is in the cooking. Neither variety of plum was that exciting to eat alone, not juicy or sweet enough to give much pleasure. But slowly baked under a thin, crisp topping the juices ran and the flavours came alive.

It's far too early for a full-on crumble and custard is out of the question, so I just make enough topping to barely cover the fruit. A large knob of butter rubbed into a tablespoon each of oats and flour and a dessertspoon of sugar.

Think of it as a late summer plum crisp, and serve it warm rather than hot with a dollop of thick, cold cream or vanilla ice cream (or even better, both). Heaven.

Lamb from Rivelin Valley farm shop

As with the plum puddings a slow roast shoulder of lamb smacks of autumn, conjuring up images of pillowy piles of mash and jugs of gravy. It doesn't have to be that way, have it with roast new potatoes and minty summer veg and you've got a splendid Sunday dinner for August.

The lamb on this occasion was from the farm shop in the Rivelin Valley, and I'd thoroughly recommend it. There was real depth of flavour to the meat, quite strong and very slightly gamey. The farm shop is one of the more basic survivors, there's no plush barn conversion tea room or any other frippery, just fine produce.

Proper jerk

Jerk how I love thee. Proper jerk is one of the finest foods known to man. It really is. Sadly there's a lot of crap out there sold in the name of jerk, so you might have been given the false impression that it's just another chilli sauce and grilled meat combo, caribbean Nando's if you like.

Jerk chicken, or whatever other meat you choose to jerk, is so much more than this, it has real complexity of flavour from the marinade, allspice and scotch bonnet chillies being the dominant forces. It's a hot, smokey, fruity, spicy, lip-tingling thing of wonder.

The jerk in the photo was just such a thing, marvellous it was. I bought it at the Bristol balloon fiesta, a huge event with dozens of food stalls, of which this jerk stall was the least professional looking by a country mile. Mis-spelled menu scrawled by hand in felt tip, a makeshift counter made from an assortment of camping furniture and a great big fuck-off kettle drum barbecue.

These are always the best places for jerk, it's usually better to shun anywhere that looks vaguely professional (especially any upmarket caribbean restaurants, which are all expensive and boring) and make a beeline for the most ramshackle stall or a takeaway carved out of the front room of a terraced house.

Custard tarts from Ho's bakery, Leeds

I'm not always sure what to make of Chinese baked goods. If I'm in the mood I quite enjoy the sweet, doughy buns stuffed with all manner of bits and bobs, roast pork being a particular favourite. I do have to be in the mood though, sometimes they just seem a bit weird to my British palate. I always bite into them half expecting jam or that fake cream stuff they love at Gregg's or anything other than pork.

I do love the custard tarts though, especially when they're done as well as those at Ho's bakery in Leeds. They're really delicate with a wobbly, barely sweet filling and light, flakey pastry. I could eat half a dozen.


Leigh said...

Yeah, those custard pastries ARE good , aren't they?!

Dave said...

Certainly are, tempted to pick up a few when I'm in town on Wednesday (even though I'm going to Spain to eat for a week on Friday).

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