In 1977 I went to work as a nanny for an Iranian family living in Oxford. I arrived on a Sunday evening ready to start work on the Monday. It was a cold November night and I was welcomed with the most delicious Ghormeh Sabzi served with Persian steamed rice. I discovered on this first night that rice would endlessly be cooked and turned out of the pan to great ceremony,with both the children’s mother and their granny competitively trying to achieve the perfect and fluffiest finish. The Persian steamed rice was always fragrant with saffron and glistening with butter. A raw egg, presented in an egg cup alongside a side dish of somagh were often placed on the table, ready for us to add to our own serving of rice. I hated that raw egg, but eventually became quite adept at quickly mixing it into the hot, steaming rice so that it scrambled slightly, losing its raw snottiness. My favourite rice was always the one served with a thick, golden crunchy crust of TahDig, (bottom of the pot) which formed when slowly steaming the rice over a layer of butter, or sometimes yoghurt and saffron. I was taught to make this and eagerly watched whenever it was made to make sure I had the best chance of perfecting it myself.
Recently I was sent a pot of Sandlings Saffron to sample which is grown in Suffolk and when I opened the envelope containing the tin capsule the aroma hit me, instantly reminding me of those days working as a nanny. Persian rice therefore was my go-to recipe to test the pungency, colour and strength of this locally Orford grown saffron. Quantities were not important when I was taught to cook the rice, just the technique, which if followed should work for any amount that you decide to cook. It has for me over the years. The best rice to use is a bog-standard long grain Basmati rice. Usually the cheapest bag in the supermarket that’s not ‘easy cook’ or if you check the cooking time on the packet is not a 10/15 minute quick cook rice. Generally any ethnic supermarket will have a good unadulterated Basmati.
- Soak the rice in cold water overnight or for at least a few hours if overnight is not practical.
- Take a couple of pinches of saffron threads and pummel in a pestle and mortar, then steep in about half an egg cupful of boiling water until needed.
- Rinse the soaked rice under cold running water until the water runs clear.
- Heat a large pan of boiling, unsalted water and stir in the rinsed rice. Stir only once or twice to stop the rice sticking to the bottom of the pan. Allow the rice to reach a rolling boil (and you might notice some grains and foam starting to float to the top) and cook it for 5 minutes. The grains should be softening on the outside but hard in the middle.
- Drain and rinse the rice again under cold running water.
- Take a deep, heavy based pan, non-stick if you want to ensure the TahDig comes away in one piece. (It must be clean so don’t be tempted to use the pan that you’ve blanched the rice in unless it’s had a good wash.)
- Melt a couple of large knobs of butter in the bottom of the pan, enough that once melted it covers the bottom of the pan and is about 5mm deep. Add a splash of oil to the butter to prevent it from burning too quickly.
- Once the butter is sizzling take the blanched, drained but still wet rice and carefully spoon it over the butter layer. Sprinkle with a little salt.
- Make about four holes with the handle of a wooden spoon and divide the soaked saffron between the holes, cover up with a little loose rice, hiding the saffron and forming a small mound with the rice in the saucepan.
- Wrap the lid of the pan in a clean tea towel and place the pan over a very low heat for an hour. The heat must be no more than the equivalent of a slow trembling simmer. Do not remove the lid or peep at the rice during this time.
- After an hour turn off the heat and the rice is ready to serve.
- Turn out onto a large serving dish, admiring the crust (TahDig) that’s formed on the bottom and which was always the prized part of the rice. You may need to encourage the TahDig to come away from the bottom of the pan, but hopefully it should come away in one piece.
The Sandlings Saffron was excellent and robust enough to flavour the rice and provide the pungency required to provide that saffron waft when turning out the rice. I’ve always been lucky enough to be sent Iranian saffron which I think is the best, but Suffolk’s doing very well indeed and I’d have this one in my store cupboard any day.
- soak the rice overnight or for as long as possible
- bring to the boil in a large pan of water (5 mins only)
- melt butter and a splash of oil in a clean pan
- add the blanched and drained rice burying the steeped saffron and liquid
- steam for 1 hr using a cloth to cover the saucepan lid
- turn out onto a plate and if you are lucky the tahdig will be in one piece
- fluff up the remaining rice and add more butter if desired
Film Feast Suffolk will be showcasing feature films, documentaries and short films around the subject of food and drink. Just up my street and a fringe event to the wonderful Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival. Local Suffolk cafes and restaurants will be festival partners and recreating the meals and food featured in the films screened. Book now!
Food redistribution charity FareShare East Anglia officially launched in Ipswich today with the aim of supplying hundreds of local charities with good food that will otherwise go to waste. FareShare is the UK’s largest food redistribution charity tackling food waste and food poverty by redistributing in date, good quality food from the food and drink industry. The food is redistributed to frontline charities and community groups that support vulnerable people, including homeless shelters, children’s breakfast clubs, and domestic violence refuges. These organisations transform the food into nutritious meals, which they provide alongside life-changing support. The FareShare East Anglia Regional Centre was made possible through a £500,000 donation by the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Foundation as part of its ‘Fill Your Tank’ programme. So how can you help? If you are an East Anglian charity or community group interested in becoming a food member to access good quality in-date food, visit http://fareshare.org.uk/fareshare-centres/east-anglia/. If you would like to become a local 'food hero' and are free to volunteer a few hours a week to drive surplus food to local charities and groups, visit http://fareshare.org.uk/get-involved/volunteering/apply-to-volunteer-east-anglia/
Organised by Gusto Pronto, The Great Gusto Food Superhero challenge encouraged young diners to use their creativity and come up with an imaginative food superhero. Some fun ideas created! Here are the winners...
The One Bull @ Bury St Edmunds – Jess Lewis (age 10) for Flossie Flash who is super fast and shoots sticky candy floss. Jemima (age 6) for Fruit Girl who throws fruit into the mouth of anyone eating an unhealthy snack and Georgina (age 3) for Flavour Girl and her Flavour Machine who adds delicious flavour to food.
The Cadogan @ Ingham - Megan (age 11) for Bubble Gum Girl who traps villains in bubble gum, Harriet Sykes (age 8) for Super Blueberry who knocks people out for an hour and can fly and Austin Speed (age 4) for Noodle Boy who shoots out laser noodles.
The Crown @ Hartest – Amelia Clarke (age 6) for Captain Carrot who can fly and Mr Strong Apple who has super strength and Oscar (age 1) for Potato Man who mashes and crushes baddies. The pubs tweeted their best entries each week during August using #TheGreatGustoFoodSuperhero if you want to take a look.
We are loving the look of the new café at Framlingham Castle which has opened following a major revamp by English Heritage. The menu includes Suffolk Grumbly, a regional dish made with sausage meat and a mustard and cheese sauce, and a Tudor Tarte Owte of Lent, made with ingredients you’re not allowed to eat during Lent – cheese, cream and eggs; cooked in a light pastry case. Lots of other local produce too, including Maynards juices, milk and cream from the Marybelle Dairy in Halesworth and beer from St Peter’s Brewery.
- beautifully incorporated modern facilities in the castle
- family friendly cafe
- delicious home made cakes
Don't miss this four week celebration of food, farming, landscape and the arts at White House Farm, Great Glemham, near the Suffolk coast. Intermingling arts with food, farming and heritage crafts, farm suppers, festival talks and a pop up shop and a tea room. Festival talks include 'Unearthed' this Friday 12th May by local food writer in residence Tessa Allingham. Tessa, who co-authored Unearthed, is going to use the book and the stories in it to explore some of the things that are important to her, and that she loves writing about - food provenance, and the people who grow, rear, fish, farm, bake, cook and sell the wonderful food we have in Suffolk, as well as some of the wider issues about traceability and honesty in food that this subject invokes. The talk includes a delicious soup, bread and cheese supper afterwards.
Why are all the decent pubs I've been to recently near Woodbridge? Last week I took Mr SuffolkFoodie to The Turks Head for a late Sunday lunch, as I'd been invited by Jemima the owner. Jemima was actually away on holiday, so I was sorry not to meet her. Still, I admire an owner who offers a review meal and shows such enormous confidence in the staff ... and the staff were brilliant, all quite clearly trained in their roles, and friendly, without hovering or being stifling. The Turks Head is a family and dog friendly gastropub with the Hasketon countryside providing some great local walks. (Handy PDF downloads for 11 guided walks are provided on the website). Even at 5pm, on an early April evening, the terrace was busy with families who looked as though they were stopping for mid walk refreshments. There's also a proper pentanque pitch, which has been added to my list of 'must investigate further, it could be fun' activities. The Sunday lunch is a set menu of 2 courses for £19 or 3 courses £24. I was hoping to try the Gressingham duck steamed dumplings which apparantly are a favourite of the regulars, but they had eaten them all, and so the replacement dish was an oriental duck salad with hoisin, which came garnished with wafer thin hot and piquant pickled ginger. A Caesar style, wild turbot salad had crunchy homemade croutons, whole anchovy fritters and with a very generous amount of wild turbot soldiers, a novel and very good take on the classic version. Spotted also on the menu was a foraged nettle soup which sounded tempting. The head chef, Mauri is a classically French trained chef who was born in India and has worked in many high profile establishments, the menu reflecting his eclectic range of cooking styles from around the globe. The highlight dish of our lunch undoubtedly being a local venison bhuna masala with rice, papad and raita. It is probably the best curry I've had between Southall and Leicester with powerful spicing providing the punch required of a great curry. Tender, pink roast sirloin of beef was topped by an impressive and very large Yorkshire pudding and was served with side dishes of tomatoey ratatouille, roasted carrots, celeriac and a cauliflower cheese. We finished with a banoffee pie (Birdy our delightful waitress telling us that the customers had petitioned when the pudding had been removed from the menu, so now reinstated) and Hamish Johnston selected British cheeses, which included a Perl Las, a Godminster organic Cheddar and Ellingham goats cheese. Behind the bar is a great range of local cask ales and my favourite Aspalls cyder and notably an excellent range of interesting soft drinks for the driver. There are three sittings for Sunday lunch starting at 12 midday with the last sitting at 5pm.
- Dogs are welcome
- Oriental duck salad with hoisin
- Caesar style wild turbot salad, croutons, anchovies
- Roast sirloin of Suffolk beef, Yorkshire oudding, red wine gravy with lovely seasonal vegetables
- Local venison bhuna masala, rice, papad, raita
- Banoffee pie, toffee sauce, caramelised banana
- British cheeses from Hamish Johnston
- Families are welcome
- the dining room
We met Amos Smith aka Mossy back in the middle of 2016 when he brought us some test jars of his deliciously moreish homemade yogurt. He wouldn't deliver until he was sure he had perfected the recipe, which had been handed down to him from his Auntie Jo. So we waited patiently. When it finally arrived we loved the slighty sweetened, faintly caramel like natural bio yogurt. In fact we have been watching Mossy and waiting ... and waiting for the product to launch. At last Mossy has his production line up and running and his yogurt production perfected. Check out this map of stockists.
This week we had a sneak preview inside Bury's newest restaurant The Giggling Squid. Prosecco was flowing at the opening party and canapes included this delicious salt and pepper squid. We loved the decor. Lots of orchids on a back drop of hand picked drift wood with atmospheric lighting. Upcycled mirrors and a huge bookcase of over 2000 books from the local Oxfam for those that fancy a browse. We are going back to sample the menu which includes seafood, street food and simple rustic Thai food all made in house. We are not sure if all the food is going to be elaborately garnished but loved watching the fruit and veggie carving at the opening party.
So did you know that Justin Sharp from Pea Porridge enjoys chips and bearnaise sauce for his midnight feast, Lee Bye (Tuddenham Mill) enjoys a bowl of muesli and Lola Demille (Darsham Nurseries) goes for a cheap supermarket creme caramel? Just some of the fun facts in Suffolk Feast, a serious food lovers guide and celebration of great Suffolk produce. From field to fork, the book features twenty of the best chefs in the county and their recipes. (They work. I tried them.) Inspiring writing by co-authors Tessa Allingham and Glyn Williams and superb photography, the book includes a directory of farm shops and markets, food and drink producers, places to eat and stay, some of the county’s food festivals and cookery workshops. Buy your copy from one of the featured restaurants or check out the Suffolk Feast website for more details. Coming next is Norfolk Table. I'm so excited!