Author Archives: jennyridgwell

Pickled onions and chutney


My school food budget of £50 is so small that I’ve asked for donations of spare fruits and vegetables for our preservation lessons. London gardens spill out their windfall apples and pears and we get plenty of beetroot and onions from the pickings of allotments. The keener students bring in blackberries and crab apples gathered in weekend forays round Epping Forest and from the derelict building sites around the area.

As the class shambles in, the tables are piled with boxes of apples in various stages of dilapidation. There is a large sack of very small onions.
They settle on their stools.
‘These lessons are about preserving things so that they will last longer. How are we going preserve these apples and onions so that they last over winter?’
Silence. They don’t care.
‘Come on, what shall we do with them?’
‘Put them on the compost heap, miss – them apples look rotten.’
Terry is good in the school garden so he should know.
He’s right – we need to remove the battered and bruised fruit but I must inspire thriftiness in this throwaway world.
‘We’re going to use the apples to make apple chutney and pickle those small onions in vinegar.’
It is clear from the grumbles and shuffling that they’d rather do scones like last week.
‘Hurry up – you have to make a choice! Apple chutney or pickled onions?’
They divide by sex. Girls choose chutney, boys the onions. This separation often happens. They are not choosing what they want to cook. The boys and girls just don’t want to work with each other.

On a school training day we were told to mix up boys and girls and make them sit next to each other and work in mixed sex pairs. That night I’d gone past the deer in the park. The female deer huddled together and the giant stags patrolled the boundaries. No one made them mix up. And when they chose to it was on their terms and only for a few seconds on special occasions.

In the classroom the girls cook in clean, organised workplaces and the boys create a messy nest of ingredients and cooking equipment which soon spills onto the floor and ends up being kicked under the tables.
Big boys preparing tiny onions make me laugh as they peel away the withered, brown skins, then top and tail the onions and put them in salted water. Gradually the tears flow.
‘What’s up Terry – does this lesson make you sad?’
Terry rubs his fists into his eyes. Now his whole face is pink and blubbery.
‘Class – don’t wipe your eyes with oniony hands – the juice gets in and makes the crying worse.’ They blink at me, their eyes reddened and bleary.

 

I should have warned them earlier but they never listen to instructions. And crying is such a cissie thing which would never happen to these tough guys.

‘Me nan peels her onions under water so she don’t cry.’

Bill dumps his onions in the butlers sink full of cold water. A stream of dribble runs from his nose, over his chin and plops down in the water. Pickled onions and snot – now how are we going to make that safe to eat?

Squeals come from the girls who are peeling and chopping the pile of windfall apples. Liz has chopped through a slug and its innards ooze onto the table.
‘Err miss – look at this slug – I ain’t using them apples – they’ll poison me.’
They gather in disgust to watch the slug shrivel in green slime. Liz pokes the slug with her knife and holds it up for the class to see and share their revulsion  at using this less than perfect fruit.
‘OK. Throw those apples away and clean down the work surface to remove the mess. We’re still going to use the rest.’
‘Miss, I ain’t eating food that has slugs in it.  Why do I have to do this lesson anyway?’

Liz unties her apron, slings it on the table and stomps out of the room.  This is her afternoon trick  to meet her boyfriend at the school gates. He might not find the smell of vinegar, onions and rotten apples so attractive this time. But Liz wants to make babies and thinks school, and my lessons in particular, are rubbish.

Apple chutney is a piquant compote of apples, onions and sultanas gently simmered in vinegar and brown sugar and the girls stir the spicy broth as it softens and thickens.
The boys pack their onions in hot kilner jars and pour in hot, spiced vinegar.
The fragrance of cooking wafts into the school corridors and attracts wandering staff and students who sniff the air and go Ah! like the Bisto ad.
Biff is a frequent visitor to my room. He gets sent out of most lessons to drift around the school in search of mischief and sources of entertainment.
‘Miss – this room always smells lovely – when can I do cooking with you – please let me in.’
‘One day – maybe – now get on your way. I expect the headmaster is waiting to see you.’
Steaming apple chutney is piled into jam jars, with a circle of waxed paper on top and covered with cellophane and an elastic band.
The labels on the jars are designed to impress for the highest marks.
Alice’s Amazing Apple Chutney 1973.
Paul’s Perfect Pickled Onions.
Maybe some are still maturing in a secret east end cupboard somewhere, waiting for discovery. And maybe, like Lea and Perrin’s Worcestershire sauce, they will become a mass produced delicacy found on future supermarket shelves.

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Salad cream


During the research for this book I’ve asked a lot of people about salad cream. When I was teaching, we put salad cream in lots of things such as stuffed eggs, and served it in a posh jug with a meal. Here is my research on salad cream which will appear in the book.

Salad cream was the first brand developed in 1925 by Heinz for the UK market. Salad cream was hugely popular during wartime rationing as it livened up the rather limited range of foods available. There is a class issue with salad cream, as it was popular in working class areas, and the more sophisticated cooks made their own mayonnaise. My favourite salad cream dish was mashed hard boiled eggs, salad cream and chopped chives in a wholemeal bread sandwich.
Salad cream sales began to decline in 1970’s, when hamburgers and American mayonnaise arrived on our shop shelves, salad cream went into decline. Salad cream is virtually unknown outside the UK.
In 1998 Heinz relaunched the brand with the slogan
Any food tastes supreme with Heinz salad cream.
I once had the job to write a cookery leaflet with 21 Heinz salad cream recipes. My family despaired at having to eat salad cream with nearly everything!
The chef Marco Pierre White is supposed to have said
‘Salad cream is one of the greatest culinary inventions’ .

These are the food labels for salad cream and mayonnaise. Amazingly the ingredients are virtually the same, only in different proportions. Salad cream has half the calories of mayonnaise. Both use pasteurised egg yolk for safety to avoid salmonella food poisoning.

Heinz salad cream  332 calories per 100 g 41p per 100g
Spirit Vinegar, Vegetable Oil (25%), Water, Sugar, Mustard, Salt, Egg Yolks (3%), Modified Cornflour, Stabilisers – Guar Gum and Xanthan Gum, Colour – Riboflavin.
Hellmann’s mayonnaise 722 calories per 100g 45 p per 100g
Vegetable Oil (77%), Water, Pasteurised Egg & Egg Yolk (8%), Spirit Vinegar, Salt, Sugar, Lemon Juice, Mustard Flavouring, Antioxidant (Calcium Disodium EDTA), Paprika Extract.
What is the difference?
Mayonnaise contains more oil and has twice the number of calories weight for weight.
What is the same?
They both contain oil, water, spirit vinegar, egg yolk, salt, sugar, mustard.
They are similar in price

Did you know
In a 2009 survey by Windsetlers Gel Capsules, 20% of travellers that go on a foreign holiday take salad cream or brown sauce in their suitcases. Tea bags are the most popular memento (42%), then newspapers (25%) then sauces, then toys (11%).

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Dukka


This dip is used to scatter on Middle Eastern breads or use with oil and bread as a dip.

Ingredients

30g toasted, crushed hazelnuts

30g toasted sesame seeds

10g cumin and coriander seeds, toasted and crushed

10g fennel seeds,

10g ground cinnamon

10g paprika

5g dried mint or oregano

10g sea salt

Method

Mix all the toasted seeds and nuts together and stir in the other ingredients.

Put in a sealed jar and use within 1 month.

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Orange, rosemary and almond biscotti


These biscuits can be served with coffee or to accompany other dishes like lemon mousse.

Ingredients

100g blanched almonds

1 large orange

350g caster sugar

250g plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

2-3 large free-range eggs

4 sprigs rosemary leaves picked and finely chopped

100g dried cranberries

  1. For the biscotti, preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4. Tip the almonds onto a baking tray and roast them for a few minutes until fragrant.

  2. Using a vegetable peeler, peel off 1cm wide strips of zest from the oranges. Cut the strips into 5mm pieces. Place in a pan of water and bring to boil for a couple of minutes. Drain and repeat this blanching process 3 times.

  3. In a large bowl, mix together the sugar/flour mixture, baking powder and add the eggs, rosemary, blanched almonds, dried cranberries and orange peel. Use your hands to mix into a fairly solid dough – some extra flour may be required.

  4. Split the dough into 2 pieces. Use your hands to roll each piece to a sausage shape about 4cm thick. Place each piece of dough on a lined baking tray and use the palm of your hand to flatten them slightly. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool for a few minutes.

  5. Turn down the oven to 160C/140C Fan/Gas 3. Chop the biscotti on the diagonal into slices about 1cm thick. Separate the slices, place on lined baking trays and bake for another 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool

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Choux buns


Choux pastry – 14 small buns

Eclairs, choux buns, profiteroles and cheese puffs are made with choux pastry.
Choux pastry is not rolled like other pastries – it is a dough of flour, fat, eggs and water.

Ingredients
50g butter or margarine, plus extra for greasing
125ml water
75g plain flour
pinch of salt
2 eggs, beaten
For cheese puffs, mix 100g grated cheese to the dough, fill with low fat cream cheese.
For profiteroles use 150ml whipped double cream and dust with icing sugar.

choux buns

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 220°C/Gas 7 and grease a baking tray or line with parchment paper.
  2. Melt the butter or margarine in a saucepan with the water then bring to the boil.
  3. Add the flour quickly into the boiling water and beat the pastry mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon until it’s smooth and leaves the bottom of the pan. This takes about 5-10 minutes.
  4. Cool for 2-3 minutes then gradually beat in the eggs to make a smooth, shiny paste.
  5. Using a dessert spoon, put spoonfuls of the mixture on the baking tray.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 180°C/Gas 4 and bake for 15-20 minutes, until puffed up, golden brown and with a crisp bottom.
  7. When cooked, pierce holes in the top to let out the steam and bake for 2 minutes to dry out.
  8. Leave them upside down on a cooling rack to dry completely.

The science bit

When the eggs are beaten into the flour dough, they trap air which helps the pastry rise.
Beating the mixture stretches the gluten which helps form the structure.
When the mixture bakes, the liquid from eggs and water in the dough turns to steam and puffs up and raises the mixture leaving the centre hollow.
The egg protein denatures, coagulates and the gluten in the flour sets forming the structure.
Starch in the flour gelatinises as it cooks.
The hole is made in the choux buns to let the steam out and stop the buns from softening.
Coagulated egg also glazes the crust to give a golden colour.

 

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Thai vegetarian green curry


My thanks to Robin, Lewes Community chef for teaching me this recipe – adapted for school use. Instead of fresh curry paste, I’m using Thai green curry paste as it’s easier for students to bring to school.

The dish is a soup and served with rice.

Serves 2-4

thaigreen

Ingredients

2 tbs Thai green curry paste

400ml coconut milk

200ml vegetable stock made with boiling water and stock cube

200g sweet potato, washed and cut into cubes

1 medium aubergine 150g cut into cubes

100g green beans washed and chopped into 2cm lengths

1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped into chunks

100g spinach washed and chopped

1 dessert spoon sugar (10g)

Method

  1. Put the curry paste into a large saucepan and heat gently for 1 minute.
  2. Add half the coconut milk and sugar and bring to the boil, stirring all the time.
  3. Add the vegetable stock, sweet potato and aubergine and cook on medium heat for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the beans and red pepper and the rest of the coconut milk and boil.
  5. Add the spinach and cook for 1 minute.
  6. Serve in large bowls and garnish with coriander leaves – or if possible shredded kaffir lime leaves and Thai sweet basil.
  7. You can serve some sticky rice as an accompaniment.

Thai green curry paste

1 shallot

4 cloves garlic

4 green chillies

1 bunch fresh coriander

1 tsp cumin

1 lemon grass stalk

5 cm peeled ginger

juice of 1 lime

2 tbs fish sauce

Method

Chop the shallot, crush the garlic and ginger and put in food processor which chunks of lemon grass and chopped chilli.

Put the washed, chopped bunch of coriander into the processor and blitz until smooth paste.

Add lime juice and fish sauce and put in tupperware pot to use within next 2 weeks.

 

 

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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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