Some notable food-related bits have occurred in the past month; here’s a loosely curated deposit including magazine spreads and food cooked on a Blacksmith’s 1200ºC forge.
A spread from my chicken-and-storm-filled cycling trip appeared in Issue 07 of Root+Bone. The original recipe for the Banana Oat Energy Bars was on Wandercrush in April, but I scraped some new words together for the feature:
“You could say that touring the hilly Lake District atop a gearless bike was a terrible idea, and my legs and lungs would agree. My stomach, however, would quickly add that our meals made up for—and even benefited from—each gruelling ascent. Food just tastes better when your body needs rewarding (i.e. an apology), which is why you enthusiastically devour a boring sandwich after skipping breakfast and how a simple bowl of stew tastes heavenly after a long commute home in the wintertime. Hence, the bullets of hail pelting us all the way around Coniston Water didn’t feel so punishing after our third free refill of strong black coffee at the local lakeside cafe; it was only a distant memory after digesting a Cumberland sausage baguette and soup of the day. As we shared a generous slice of carrot cake, our dripping gloves and waterlogged shoes laid forgotten, optimistically scattered around the wood burner. Appropriately festive for the Easter holidays, we groped around a friend’s Cumbrian chicken coop to collect 28 freshly laid eggs. A handy issue of Root+Bone (fantastic tent-time reading) doubled as kindling when we cracked a handful of those eggs over our campfire the next morning. Their flame-licked yolks were enough sunshine to fuel us up for an overcast cycle through beautiful Grizedale Forest. After managing a few hours’ sleep inside what felt like a plastic bag caught in a tornado, it was time to dismantle the tents and load up our panniers. When we wheeled our bikes onto the road towards Kendal station, there was a loud crack as the wind snapped a tree in half. Given these omens, we weren’t too surprised to hear that the ferry crossing was closed due to unfavourable weather conditions. The detour through Ambleside didn’t leave any time for Cumberland sausages, but we each had a homemade banana-oat energy bar left to get us through the storm—quite literally—and onto a train home.”
In older bike-related publication news, my friend Harriet submitted a piece to Boneshaker to document last year’s trip from London to Bournemouth. I only accompanied them to Brighton with my little plastic Oktomat camera, but somehow occupied half a page with my bum up a tree.
More recently, I experienced this incredible meal from The Cornwall Project, each course cooked on a blazing forge that the guys at Blenheim Forge use to make beautiful knives of layered Damascus steel. I say ‘experienced’ because half the enjoyment was in witnessing a hunk of cornish beef combust into flames and hearing a collective cheer as the white-hot poker seared its way clean through a Bramley apple. The other half, naturally, was in the eating.
Transcending the (justified) argument against badly designed and ineffectual electric stoves, there’s just something undeniably honest about cooking with naked flame. Without becoming entangled in Richard Wrangham’s theory for human evolution, I do think it’s safe to say that the very earliest civilisations featured fire—in one form or another—at the heart of every meal.
Its full range was harnessed masterfully on the night; the relentlessly charred crust of beef rump revealed a pink-centred cross section like that of delicately seared ahi tuna, while the gently hot-smoked mackerel appeared untouched but tasted distinctly of lingering fire. All said and consumed, I wholly agree with Francis Mallman, badass Argentinian chef known for incredible live-fire cooking: “Whether you’re cooking in the streets of Paris, under the Brooklyn Bridge, or deep in the Andes, fire always has a magic way of slowing things down and bringing people together.”
I don’t believe the ‘super seared’ meat could be recreated with a gas stove on high heat, but chef Michael Harrison has kindly adjusted the dessert course recipe for those without a blacksmith’s forge at home.
“Originally we heated a steel rod until it was white hot (around 1200ºC) and used it to force the core out of a cooking apple. This not only removed the core and roasted it from the inside out but the extreme temperature charred the fruit in a very unique way. It was unlike any apple I had eaten before.”
- 4 egg yolks
- caster sugar
- double cream
- 10 whole cardamom pods
- 1/2 vanilla pod
- sea salt
- 2 large bramley apples
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- 200g slightly sour raspberries
This recipe will make more custard than required for the recipe, but it is very hard to make less. Put the egg yolks into a small glass or measuring jug and mark their volume. Measure the same amount of caster sugar, twice the amount of milk, and twice the amount of double cream.
Deseed the vanilla pods and crush the cardamom pods. Place all pods and seeds in a saucepan with the milk and cream. Heat to just below a simmer and hold there for 15 minutes.
Beat the egg yolks, the caster sugar and a pinch of sea salt together until a smooth, pale consistency is achieved. The mix should also increase in volume.
Take the milk and cream mix off the heat, rest for 1 minute and pour 1/3 of it into the egg yolk mix whisking constantly until fully incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and cream mix whisking the same way.
Transfer the whole mixture into a clean, heavy bottomed saucepan over a very low heat or a bowl over a Bain Marie and stir with a spoon until the mixture significantly thickens (enough to coat the back of the spoon). If you can see lumps forming, it is ready.
Strain the custard through a fine sieve into a bowl set in ice water and stir until cool. Refrigerate.
Clean the raspberries as necessary and mince the rosemary leaves as finely as possible.
Preheat your oven to maximum. If you have a corer, core the apples and roast until they just start to soften. You are looking for an al dente texture. In the absence of a corer, slice apples in half vertically and remove the core.
Mix the custard, raspberries and rosemary by gently folding them without over incorporating. Stuff the apples with as much of the mix as possible. If using cored apples slice vertically once stuffed.