Gazpacho


In hot summer it’s a good time to make this quick cold soup – serve with ice.

100g breadcrumbs – made in food processor

1 kg tomatoes, chopped

1 red and 1 yellow or green pepper, deseeded and chopped

1/2 a large cucumber, peeled and chopped

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

100 ml good quality olive oil

50 ml apple vinegar

salt and black pepper

Garnish – hard boiled egg, chopped black olives, small pieces of cucumber, mint and parsley

Method

  1. Soak the breadcrumbs in a little water.
  2. Put the chopped tomatoes, red and green peppers, cucumber and olive oil in a food processor and blend until smooth.
  3. Squeeze the water out of the bread and add to the mixture and whizz some more.
  4. Add the oil, vinegar and seasoning and chill until ready to serve.
  5. Add some ice cubes just before serving and present at table with the garnishes.

 

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Chocolate brownies


Makes 12 portions

Ingredients

125ml vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla paste

2 large eggs

60g plain flour

70g cocoa

1/2 tsp baking powder

50g chopped nuts

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 160C Fan.
  2. Line the base of a shallow square or round baking tin – about 20cm – with non-stick baking parchment.
  3. In a bowl mix the oil, vanilla and beaten eggs.
  4. In another bowl sieve together the flour, cocoa and baking powder.
  5. Stir the oil and egg mixture into the flour mixture.
  6. Spoon into the baking tin and bake for 25 minutes.
  7. Test to see if the mixture is soft in the middle – if too soft cook a further 5 minutes.
  8. Remove the tray and leave to cool.
  9. Cut into pieces when cool and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

 

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What am I doing now?


Well I run The Nutrition Program which is used by over 1000 schools in the UK and around the world.

And I write textbooks and resources for Ridgwell Press for food education.

And I belong to the Guild of Food Writers and attend wonderful lectures and trips and meet passionate food people such as Ian Cumming of the Great British Bake Off

ian

 

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Marguerite Patten – my tribute


Marguerite Patten

Today, June 11th 2015 is a great tribute day to Marguerite Patten. And here is mine.

In 1960 at school I was ‘too clever’ to take part in cooking lessons but I was given Cookery in Colour by Marguerite Patten.

In 2010 I went to her house in Brighton and she signed the battered copy and wrote ‘To Jenny with love – Glad you found this helpful’.

Indeed it was the start of something brilliant – over 40 years for me working with food.

cookery in colourcookery in colour

More to come but now I have to go to work!

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Pancakes


Teaching pancakes was a lesson firmly on my school calendar – the date changed along with the Easter holidays but we knew it was coming when Jiff lemons appeared in the shops.

Jiff lemon for pancake

Jiff lemon for pancake

As a child on Shrove Tuesday, my mother would stand by the gas stove and make pancakes just for me. She only stopped when I had enough and this could mean cooking and tossing up to ten crisp pancakes which were folded, sprinkled with fine caster sugar and squeezed with half a fresh lemon.  No Jiff lemon for us – she never believed in processed food!  By the time I’d finished eating one, the next was tossed and frying in the pan.  I had my own cooking servant, and a very good tosser.

My mother promised  we’d go to the Olney Pancake race outside Northampton. I’d  read about the Olney ladies dressed up in their aprons and hats who run through the streets tossing pancakes in their frying pans, but we never went.

Olney ladies running with their pancakes

Olney ladies running with their pancakes

So, like a juggler with a three ball juggling trick, I’m going to share this impressive skill with my class. Tossing pancakes is a risky business and the class gets noisy with excitement.

I tell them how pancakes are made on Shrove Tuesday so that the last of the fatty and rich foods could be used up before Lent, when people  restrict some of the foods that they eat. And eggs and milk were once considered rich foods for many people.

 Now my class is ready for our pancake making session.  We’ve made the batter from eggs, milk and flour. My old school frying pans are non stick after years of wear, so the pancakes should slide out when cooked.

‘Melt a knob of lard until the fat has a smoky blue haze, and pour in a thin layer of batter.’

Why are the boys laughing again – oh, its knobs. But what else do you call it?

Pancakes rolled up with lemon juice

‘Class – you’ll find your first pancake never works. It sticks to the pan and cooks into a gluey glob. So scrape it in the bin and start again.’

I hope even the hungriest boy is not tempted to eat it, as this uncooked dough is not easy to digest. Somehow the frying pans remember their task. The lard melts and smokes, the batter sizzles, and the thin pancake crispens, bubbling with little craters , ready for turning.

I challenge the group.

‘You need to toss your pancakes into the air and they must land in the middle of the pan cooked side on top.

So who is a good tosser?  If you don’t think you can do it, turn with a palate knife.’

The boys give each other a knowing glance.

What have I done now?  Is this challenge too great?

I learn later that tosser is a vulgar word, but what else do you call someone who tosses a pancake? Miss has been doing more rude cooking again.

Boys really love this lesson. Tossing a pancake appeals to their competitiveness and there’s a round of applause if their pancake lands in the pan after it has somersaulted through the air.  Some do a double flip  and take a bow, but I do wonder if the pancakes that drop on the floor are a deliberate tactic to enhance the game and increase the laughter. The girls are more reticent and safely flip their pancakes with a palette knife.

We keep our pancakes in a hot oven until we’re all ready to sit round the tables for eating. Quickly. No time to take our aprons off or throw on the seersucker table cloth or get out the doyleys. Our pancakes must be eaten now.

I  serve them like my mother did and with a sprinkle of sugar a squeeze of  lemon and then roll them up. Only we can’t afford fresh lemons. Our lemon juice comes from the bright yellow, plastic Jiffy lemons which corner shops  display in large wire baskets as Pancake day approaches.  Jif lemons are better than the real thing with no pips or bother.

Jif Lemon

The TV jingles out its advert.  ‘Don’t forget the  pancakes on Jif Lemon day’ .

I wonder if we will lose the plot on what food is real or not.

‘Eat the pancakes with your hands.’

The boys push in mouthfuls and charge out to their next class.

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Making marmalade 1973


On a freezing January day the greengrocer delivers a large box of Spanish Seville oranges for my O level Marmalade lesson.

We’ve stripped labels from empty jam jars and made a collection of the black haired gollies from pots of Robertson’s Golden Shred. Wonder if anyone will raise objections to these in future?

Robertsons gollyThis is the first outing for the giant aluminium preserving pans stacked on the top shelf of the larder and I’ve dusted them and removed dead spiders and flies.

‘We’ll work in groups and share out the marmalade when it is made.’

Clever, stroppy, foldy arms Carol looms towards me.

‘I ain’t sharing me cooking with no-one. How will I get a mark if we share! I ain’t sharing.’

Carol has been ‘placed’ in my O level group with Vicky as no other teacher wants them. Cooking lessons are easy so why should I make a fuss?

The class despairs at their constant outbursts. They’d  love the pair to toddle off to smoke and drink Maxwell House coffee in the station cafe.

‘OK Carol – you and Vicky make marmalade on your own. Now all of you, slice the orange peel really thinly like this.’

I demonstrate how to cut tiny slivers of peel,  leaving the bitter pith behind.

‘Put the pith, pips and orange fruit in these pieces of muslin, tie up with string and simmer with the orange juice and water.’

A bolt of muslin is stacked on the top larder shelf ready for wrapping Christmas puddings and straining curds from whey to make cheese. And today my London teenagers will be tying it in tiny bags to boil in a pan. Oh ancient tasks of yester year.

Carol is on the moan again.

‘I don’t want no pips or peel in mine. We don’t eat them things.’

‘Carol, the pips and pith contain pectin which helps the marmalade to set, otherwise it’s runny and the peel is lovely on buttered toast.’

She doesn’t care. She and Vicky will strut out of the room soon, off to meet the local smokers who lurk outside the school gates.

We settle into the gentle rhythm of slicing the peel which  bursts with zesty fragrance. A warm, pungent calm descends.

This lesson is going well until Janice yells, runs to the rubbish bin and spits out a large lump of orange flesh.

‘Urrggh Miss, this orange is vile. Sour as anything. It’s off. Take ‘em back to the shop.’

‘Class, put down your knives and let me explain.’

The quiet hush has been disrupted again.

‘Seville oranges are bitter and sour. You don’t eat them. You cook them with sugar. The first marmalade was made in a factory in Dundee – they got a delivery of sour oranges that they couldn’t use so they invented a new recipe – Dundee Marmalade. Now let’s get on.’

I’m like the smart arse from Listen with Mother, only with a Midland accent.

Steam blurrs the classroom windows as we simmer the orangey juice then tip in vast quantities of Tate and Lyle sugar. Ah Bisto! The room smells delicious.

‘Please don’t lick your spoons class or taste!’

Marmalade may smell nice but it’s reaching tongue scorching temperatures.

I rotate from pan to pan sticking the jam thermometer into the bubbling mixtures. Sylvia, my classroom helper,  follows with a cold plate for the wrinkle test. A spoonful of marmalade is placed on the plate and if it wrinkles, it’s setting.

We’re ready. Hot jam jars come out of the oven and are filled with scalding, golden liquid. Quick now. Cover and seal it from germs with a circle of greaseproof paper and a crackly cellophane top tied with string.

The room glows orange –  floaty slivers of finely cut peel dancing in the gold jelly of our east London marmalade.

Two pots are different. Carol and Vicky have abandoned their sugary, orangey liquid which will probably never set and never deserve the name marmalade. But they gone down the cafe.

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Peppermint creams – Christmas cookery lesson 1972


For days pungent smells of cinnamon and nutmeg have wafted out my cookery room as we mass produce mince pies for carol services and Christmas parties.

Marzipan fruits, coconut ice, chocolate truffles and Christmas logs are made for special gifts, and rich, dark fruit cakes are stacked in my larder ready for their final shroud of marzipan and royal icing.

Decorations are green holly leaves and blobby red berries made from fondant icing then the cakes are tied up with red ribbon tied in a giant bow. It’s the modern TV look to keep up with fashion.

Liz, as always, arrives late and dives in her bag to bring out a lump wrapped in grey tissue paper.

She plonks a grubby, plastic Father Christmas sitting on his even grubbier sledge on top of her cake. The plastic reindeer pulling the sledge need a good scrub. A faded red tinsel band is tied round the cake’s waist and Liz presents her cake triumphantly amidst the starker offerings of holly and berries.

‘We always have ‘im on our cakes, Miss and decorate it like this.’ She points to the battered tinsel.

Mr Bush the headmaster come in to judge my Best Christmas Cake competition. I’m showing him that I don’t spend lessons cooking my supper, or doing my washing in the school machine.

Liz, with the plasticly decorated, common Christmas cake, wins. She raises a fist in triumph. Some people have no taste.

cakexmas

On my last lesson of term, the boys are making peppermint creams as a Christmas present for gran. – or more likely they will eat them on the way home.

Gavin is back from his week’s suspension for bullying a younger boy.

I’ve been dreading the moment I have to start educating Gavin again. Well not exactly again. I can’t make any claim to have educated Gavin, ever.

‘Hello everyone, and welcome to the peppermint cream lesson. Get yourselves ready and sieve your icing sugar into your bowls.’

Peppermint creams

Gavin thunders down to my desk and towers over me.

‘I’m going to make rum creams, Miss. Don’t like peppermint. And anyway rum is more Christmassy.’

He eyes me provocatively and sways unsteadily. His right hand clutches a bottle of rum. Half of the contents are missing.

How did Gavin know what we were cooking today?

Perhaps pinned a small boy to the wall with threats.

‘Tell me what she’s cooking else I’ll kill yer.’

Through clouds of sugary dust I wait.

‘Gavin – get ready to cook and leave the rum on my desk!’

Gavin ties on his apron and places the rum bottle gently on my pile of marking.

Amazed, I face the class of surprised faces.

‘Gather round – I’m going to show you how to crack an egg to separate out the white.’

They stand by my table except for Gavin.  Perhaps he’s gone home. Thank God.  But the bottle of rum teeters menacingly on my paperwork.

They sieve and mix icing sugar and egg white into a dough.

‘Now  add drops of peppermint essence and some green colouring.’

A sudden movement catches my eye. Gavin rises from behind his table and stamps his boots to attention. On his head is one of my pudding bowls and his right hand is raised in a Nazi salute.

‘Miss! I told you! I am using rum!’

The group is silent. No one wants to be noticed by Gavin.

‘Gavin – we can’t use alcohol in the classroom. It’s forbidden and you are under the drinking age.’

‘You let them girls put brandy in Christmas cakes last week.  Are you picking on me?’

Gavin puffs like the Jolly Green Giant on adverts for tins of sweetcorn. Only Gavin is bigger.

And not jolly, not green and not friendly.

And not singing ‘Ho, Ho, Ho.’

He’s right about the brandy, and quick witted for a drunk.

But wrong that I would pick on him. Not on my own in my cookery room.

The group rolls and cuts out the icing dough into green shapes. A factory line of peppermint creams  in a kitchen silent with tension.

Gavin stumbles to my desk and grabs his rum.

I must deal with him or there will be more trouble.

His great body suddenly thuds down on my chair and he lets out a gigantic yawn.

‘Gavin – the room’s hot – you must be tired. Put your head down and rest.’

Obediently he spreads his fleshy arms on my desk, rests his head on his bulging forearm and begins to doze.

I turn to the class, industriously packing up their sweets and clearing away. We smile together.  Peace is restored. I have won. And next week it is the Christmas holiday.

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