Who is Cooking this Mother’s Day?
As the spring approaches our season food list is at its lowest. There are stocks of winter root vegetables and some of my favourites, spring and savoy cabbage, leeks, kale and cauliflower are delicious at this time of year. Game meats are also plentiful including duck, venison and rabbit. There may also be wild boar available. You can rely on beef, lamb and poultry. Mutton is also now available so have a look for that delicious meat.
As for fish, we have a minor issue of being approximately 75 miles from the seas in any direction in the county. Having said that we have some great fish suppliers who can get the best seafood available for us. This time of year we can get crab, cockles, lemon sole, oysters, pollock, farmed salmon, shrimp, and farmed trout. There are plenty of others available such as gurnard, lobster, mackerel, scallops, sea bass and razor clams. A quick search on the internet will help you find your nearest fishmonger.
It is worth exploring the many local markets that are extoling the passion and quality of local food and drink producers. You will find these markets in Oxford, Thame, Wallingford, Wantage, Witney, Deddington, Henley, Didcot and elsewhere across the county. Check with your local district council for information about these markets, when and where, you can find this information on their websites.
The producers at these markets offer a range of fresh produce which has fabulous flavour and texture. I used local winter vegetables, carrot, parsnip, cauliflower and beetroot, to create a winter root vegetable terrine in a glass for the 2015 Oxford Real Farming Conference dinner in January this year. Not only did the colours of the layers create a colourful impact but the flavours of the vegetables shone through!
So what do you plan for Mother’s Day and further ahead, Easter?
I used to cook for my mother a very traditional roast lunch. Her favourite was roast chicken and I prepared it by stuffing the bird with my own herb stuffing and roasting it wrapped in foil that was coated with olive oil sitting on a few stalks of fresh rosemary. As you close the foil up over the chicken pour in a little water around the bird. This helps to keep the chicken moist. With about half an hour before the cooking time is up open the foil so that the chicken can brown and crisp up before it is ready to serve.
Recently, I was asked to prepare a dinner for eight with something spectacular. I came up with a Venison Wellington. This is the same as a Beef Wellington but the fillet in the pastry is Venison. This is a beautiful cut of meat, not hugely expensive and has the texture and flavours that will impress. It sounds a complicated dish but trust me, I am a chef, it is all in the planning and preparation. Serving this on Mother’s Day would increase your standing!
Alternatively, if you are feeling adventurous for your consideration can I suggest the following: Rolled and Stuffed Pigs Head Noisettes. This is something you could try yourself or you can make the stuffing and ask your butcher to prepare the meat, stuff and roll it for you. The rolled joint can be then cut in to individual rolls, around 2cm thick, and quickly pan fried then briefly put in a hot oven to finish cooking. Details of preparing this recipe, and others mentioned, can be found in the Recipe Book section of TheLateChef.com.
Or you could try a rack of lamb with a beetroot glaze or lamb steaks with a tomato and mint Salsa. I mentioned mutton and this is definitely having a renaissance. A fatty but tasty meat from a sheep over two years old. Lots you can do with this on the bone as a slow roasting joint or take the meat and dice it for a slow cooked stew, such as a Basque Mutton Stew with sweet peppers and red onions, delicious!
Now what about desserts?
Traditionally recipes like a fruit crumble or pie are a great option as they are simple and very tasty. There are other options such as a Normandy Apple Tart or a Lemon Meringue pie would be great to make. A recipe I have many request for is a Chocolate Torte. It is simple to do. The base is made with oats, flour, ground almonds and maple syrup. Much like the digestive biscuit base made for cheesecakes. The filling is chocolate slowly melted with coconut milk and a little maple syrup to sweeten it. Bake the base for fifteen minutes and when it is golden remove and cool. When cold pour in the chocolate mixture and allow to set on a flat surface. Chill for a few hours before serving. It is beautiful and very tasty – it is also vegan so it should hit most people’s dietary needs!
One recipe I love because it uses up the remaining bread in the bread tin. Bread and Butter Pudding. I add a twist to mine – chopped dried apricots and a dash of Calvados. What a fabulous way to use up leftover bread and turn it into a treat!
Whatever you decide to cook, either for Easter or Mother’s Day, or at any other special occasion there are plenty of great recipes out there to try.
I implore you though to visit the nearest local food market or a farm shop near you. You will find lots there to taste and buy. The producers are passionate about what they do and proud of their efforts. So they should be. They all produce great produce which is worth the time and effort to find.
Enjoy your menu planning and sourcing the best local ingredients. I hope you have a great spring, enjoy Mother’s Day and Easter!
- Paul Bellchambers