Christmas gifts of the day: Foodie books

Newly published foodie books | H is for Home

Here’s the first of our 2016 Christmas Countdown gift guides. We’ve researched newly published foodie books and made a short-list of ones that any epicurean would gladly unwrap on Christmas morning!

Keelham Farm Shop

Keelham Farm Shop entrance

We had a lovely drive over to Skipton today to visit Keelham Farm Shop.

Keelham Farm Shop in Skipton

We saw the shop on television at the weekend on the Countryfile programme. We were really taken with the Huddersfield-produced halloumi that was featured.

Keelham Farm Shop floor, Skipton

So we decided to go buy some of that – and see what else was on offer. We filled a trolley with all manner of deliciousness!

Coffee shop upstairs in Keelham Farm Shop, Skipton

There’s also a large ground floor restaurant and mezzanine café with a vintage industrial vibe – now bedecked in its Christmas decorations.

Adelle in the Keelham Farm Shop coffee shop

We found a Hygge-friendly corner! Adelle had a cute little penguin to keep her company while relaxing with a cup of coffee and slice of carrot cake.

Stairway looking down on to the shop floor of Keelham Farm Shop, Skipton

We bought quite a selection of (mainly) Yorkshire produced food & drink… including two types of the Halloumi (or Haloum! – as they call it). A mint variety and a fiery chilli. Justin bought himself a pork pie – he always judges and establishment by its pork pies. To be honest, he bought four different kinds of pie! As well as bread, cheeses, soups, ales, biscuits and puddings.

Selection of (mainly) Yorkshire produced food & drink | H is for Home

We’ve been sampling items for both lunch and dinner – they’ve all got top marks so far! We’ll be making a return trip very soon as we really like Skipton anyway – and this shop is just one more good reason to go.

Price Points: Preserve starter kits

Preserving starter kits | H is for Home

  1. Kitchen Craft preserving starter set, 4 pieces: £10, hobbycraft
  2. VonShef 9L Maslin pan jam preserving starter set bundle: £32.99, Amazon
  3. 5-Pieces preserve starter set by Kilner: £69.99, Wayfair

One of the things I love about the start of autumn is making jams, jellies, pickles, chutneys and all manner of other preserves. I made a batch of apple and chilli jelly this week… the first of the season.

Late summer is spent foraging for fruit such as wild raspberries, elderberries and blackberries. They’re added to the redcurrants that were harvested from our allotment in and are made into mixed fruit jelly.

You really should try it – it’s really easy, satisfying and far superior to most shop bought stuff. Get yourself one of these preserve starter kits and you’ll be quickly on your way to making your own.

Each has its own merits however, I’ve chosen #2 as the best of the preserve starter kits for a number of reasons. The most important component is the jam/maslin pan. It needs to be large, sturdy and made of the right material. It needs to be made of a non-reactive material such as stainless steel. Reactive metals such as aluminium and untreated cast iron can give a metallic taste to the food and can also cause discolouration. The pan also needs to be a good conductor of heat, for example, copper so that it achieves the high temperatures necessary in jam-making.

The next most important component is the thermometer. It’s not absolutely essential but, if you’re not entirely confident with using the cold saucer method, a thermometer is the foolproof way of knowing that the magic 105ºC/220ºF temperature has been reached.

A jam funnel is very useful if you’ve got shaky hands like mine, however buying the other components are less necessary. I have a huge store of different sized & shaped jars – I never put the finished jars of honey, mayonnaise, pesto etc into the recycling. With a little pre-planning, you shouldn’t need to buy jars specially for preserving. Just make sure ones you’re reusing have no chips or cracks and have their original airtight lids.

Having said all that – yes, both #2 and #3 come with jars as part of their kits. The former has the edge over the latter as the single 1-litre jar is much less practical than 6 smaller ones. If you store a litre of jam, jelly, chutney etc in a single jar you’ll have to eat all the contents within a couple of weeks of opening or it will go off. Also, you should store your preserves in the fridge once they’ve been opened. I usually have too much other stuff in the fridge to accommodate a litre-sized pot of jam.

In the years I’ve been preserving, I’ve never used a jar lifter (I use a pair of kitchen tongs), a jar wrench (just twist a dinner knife between the space between the lid and the jar) or a magnetic stick (again, I use kitchen tongs). So that’s 3 of the 4 Kitchen Craft items that would be neglected at the back of the cupboard. You could buy each preserve making component you think you’ll need singly – but it’s often cheaper to buy them as a bundle.

Apple and chilli jelly

Spoonful of home-made apple and chilli jelly | H is for Home

We spent about an hour this week picking apples in Justin’s parents’ neighbours’ garden. Got all that?

Chopped apples, chilli and lemon zest

We must have harvested about 10 to 15 kilos. I wanted to make something where I didn’t need to peel and core that many apples. Though they’re delicious (they’re cooking apples), a lot of them are small and misshapen – a nightmare job!

jelly making equipment | H is for Home jelly making equipment | H is for Home

Justin suggested apple and chilli jelly. It would utilise the apples – and some of the 300 glass jars I’ve managed to accumulate over the years!

Strained juice and bags of sugar | H is for Home

I weighed out 4 kilos of apples – so doubled up this recipe. I barely made a dent in the pile!

Sterilized jelly jars and funnel | H is for Home

It’s not a complicated process, but a bit of time is required for chopping, boiling, straining, re-boiling. No problem if you’re in the house as you can get on with something else as it bubbles away.

Jars of apple and chilli jelly | H is for Home

The resulting jelly is a wonderful colour – and tastes amazing! The perfect accompaniment for vegetarian or meat dishes which is ideal for this household. Perfect with cheese, burgers and kebabs. Justin thinks it will be absolutely awesome with slow roast pork and has vowed to try it at the weekend. If you have an apple harvest ready to pick then we can thoroughly recommend this recipe. It will last for months (even years) in your store cupboard – or make perfect presents for anyone deserving enough!

Jars of apple and chilli jelly | H is for Home

Now… what to do with the other 10 kilos of apples?!

Step up your healthy eating game

Selection of healthy foodcredit

Gone are the days where you can just look at food and know where it’s been. Now, you don’t even know what’s in your food or where it comes from unless you read the packaging. Although there’s an abundance of unhealthy foods around, you’re by no means limited in your selection of healthy and tasty foods. Before you throw all caution to the wind with your eating habits, take some time to adjust them so you can enjoy better health.

Japanese mealcredit

You can’t judge food by its appearance

Often times, you may use the appearance of your foods to determine whether or not they’re suitable for you to purchase and eat. However, many foods, especially processed ones don’t spoil or show signs of being poor in quality right away. Sometimes the best way you can judge your food is to sniff and taste it. If it smells or tastes like something that turns your stomach, then you may want to avoid eating it.

Of course, there are some foods and dishes in other cultures that may not look like many of the foods you’re accustomed to eating. However, that doesn’t mean that you should avoid them.

Full chest freezercredit

Storage appliances

Depending on where you live, your local climate and other environmental factors, you need to be careful about how you store your food. Some items cannot be left out at room temperature for too long or they’ll begin to spoil. You don’t want to waste any food that you spent time and money to get. Invest into some good food storage appliances like a refrigerator. If you plan to keep certain food items for several months in the freezer, you should use a deep freezer instead of the one on your refrigerator.

Deep freezers are designed differently and are made for freezing and storing foods for long periods of time. Also, your frozen food is better protected because you won’t open and close the door to the appliance as much which helps to keep prevent the viscous cycle of thawing and re-thawing your foods.

Reading food packaging in a supermarketcredit

Read the package

Sometimes food, no matter how good it looks, isn’t healthy for you. Some foods have a lot of unhealthy things in them that can ultimately affect the way you feel and look and your health. It can be the case that foods are made using questionable practices and equipment that may pose a risk to your health. Play it safe by paying close attention to the information that is on the packaging of the foods you buy.

Compact kitchencredit

Kitchen design matters

The way you prepare and cook your food matters. Many people who have small kitchens try to minimize the time they spend in them because the lack of space affects their moods. A great way to make the tasks of food preparation and cooking more enjoyable is to design or decorate your kitchen so that it uplifts your mood and makes you want to be in it. Certain colours and accents can improve lighting and create visual effects that give the illusion of more space. Strategic storage cabinets and utensil placement can add more space and comfort into your kitchen as well.

Hamptoncreek food products

Buy better foods

You may need to spend a little more money just so you can eat foods that are of good quality. Certain manufacturers like Hamptoncreek Foods have an impressive line of plant-based food products that you can use to transform your health and taste buds in a healthy way. There’s nothing wrong with spending a little more money for quality.

Food preparation in a kitchencredit

Make cooking a priority

If you struggle to find time to cook and spend more of your time eating fast food and processed meals, then you may need to make some adjustment to your schedule so you can adapt healthier eating habits. Pick one day out of the week to prepare your meals. Use that day to plan out your dinner menu for the entire week and complete any preparation work so all you have to do is to select a meal and put it into the oven. You should also consider doing all of your grocery shopping for the week on a designated day.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle requires you to be committed. Start making better food choices now so you can enjoy the benefits for the rest of your life.

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Nettle pesto

Home-made nettle pesto | H is for Home

The nettle patches around here are in fine form at the moment. For the past week or so, I’ve been telling myself off for not carrying rubber gloves and a large plastic bag when I go for a dog walk. Finally, I remembered to do it yesterday and picked myself a bagful of bright green, vibrant nettle tips.

Freshly picked nettle tips |H is for Home

I’ve previously shared recipes for nettle soup and nettle loaf. This time I’m making a batch of nettle pesto.

Grated Parmesan | H is for Home

The nettles take the place of basil and I’ve replaced the more traditional pine nuts with walnuts.

Nettle pesto ingredients in a food processor bowl | H is for Home

The taste and smell is much earthier than traditional pesto but can be used in exactly the same way. It’s a very versatile store cupboard ingredient. I like it with an extra glug of olive oil and mixed through plain spaghetti then finished with a spoonful of grated Parmesan. I also like adding a few small dollops of pesto to the top of a pizza before putting into in the oven. Justin thinks it’s great with roasted or pan fried meats too – and has just made chicken breast wrapped in smoked ham and filled with nettle pesto butter for this evening’s meal.