Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Walters Turkeys

This week I had the privilege of visiting the Walters family farm in Aldworth, West Berkshire. Tucked away down country lanes, atop the rolling hills of the Berkshire downs is Bower Farm. The land has been farmed by the Walters family for more than 100 years and produces cereal crops, sheep, cattle and the reason for my visit: turkey.

I was warmly welcomed by the lovely Kate Walters and taken on a tour of the barns and fields where the family's turkeys thrive.

The Walters select slow growing traditional breeds of turkey, that are allowed to fully mature naturally. Their cereal based diet includes barley, oats and wheat. It is free from growth promoters, and much of it is grown and milled on the farm. The birds have been freely roaming the grassy fields and meadows from sunrise until sunset every day since last August and spend their nights in straw bedded barns. On the wet and fairly miserable day I was there, many had chosen to spend the day in the barn as well, and I don't blame them, it looked pretty inviting to me!

The Walters' use traditional farming methods but aren't afraid to make use of modern technology. Hanging from the ceiling of the barn is a platform. All day long turkeys hop on and off of the platform. They may think they are playing or exercising. But a clever computer is actually monitoring their weight and feeding this back!

The modern facilities continue in the production barns which are bright and spotlessly clean with purpose built refrigerated rooms to ensure the turkey you receive is in the best possible condition.

All Walters Turkeys are dry plucked and hand finished on the farm. As the birds are mature, they have a natural fat layer, and can be game hung for up to two weeks. This ensures the turkey is moist, tender and full of flavour. 

Out in the fields the turkeys braving the rain are highly inquisitive. As soon as we opened the gate to enter the field, turkeys started heading our way. Some sedately, some breaking into a run. Those coming down the small hill, with their wings slightly out, heads down and ungainly gait looked as if they might take off at any moment.  The stags were full of attitude, puffing up and showing off their bright crowns.

My new friends

They didn't make it easy for me to photograph the field of them as they flocked around me, and then followed me out. But they did make me feel welcome!

I'm very pleased to be able to offer Walters Turkeys to our customers this Thanksgiving and Christmas. Happy birds from happy farmers who pride themselves on the care and attention they give to the welfare of their flocks. You can find out more about the sizing and prices on our website.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Christmas is Coming

This time next week (17th November) the Christmas Lights will be illuminated on Eton High Street. The festivities commence with a carol service in Eton College Chapel at 6pm (entrance is by ticket only, available at Tastes Delicatessen, Eton Fudge Shop and the Manley Gallery). The service will be followed by a reindeer led procession through the historic high street to Jubilee Square where there will be carols around the Christmas tree and the grand switch on at 7pm. Shops will be open late, there will be mulled wine and mince pies available, along with Santa's grotto, and a chance to meet the reindeer.

Once the lights are on I can start to mention some of the fantastic products we have available this Christmas.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Buying canned pumpkin in the UK

I know it is far too early (and far too sunny) to mention Thanks Giving. But, I also know there are some customers getting a little concerned about their pumpkin pies already. Poor growing conditions in Illinois last year saw the pumpkin yield fall by 50%. Panic set in, with fears that there would be no Libby's Pumpkin for Thanks Giving. Fortunately everything turned out to be OK. There was enough pumpkin to go around.

However, as was inevitable, supply did subsequently run out in the new year. We have customers (mainly American's living in the UK) who visit every summer, and stock up on their Libby's Pumpkin ahead of time. Realising I've not had any for a few months, they are starting to worry. They aren't alone. It'll be September next week and there is still no news from Libby's regarding this year's harvest. How much will there be? Will there be a price increase? When will it be available? No-one seems to know.

So, to reduce the panic, I've taken a different brand of canned pumpkin, the less well-known Mississippi Belle pumpkin. It arrived this week and I'm pretty pleased with it. Mississippi Belle pure pumpkin is produced in the same factory, on the same line as Libby's and appears to be identical, with the exception of the label. It is still 100% pure pumpkin (no added salt, sugar, colours or preservatives) from Morton, Illinois. Same taste and texture. So far no-one has been able to tell the difference between them. Although it is marginally cheaper.

Hopefully that will put some minds at rest - there will be pumpkin pie for Thanks Giving. It just might not be Libby's.

Five things I've learned whilst attempting to source canned pumpkin
  1. Libby's produce 80% of the canned pumpkin in the US. 
  2. Morton, Illinois where Libby's (and Mississippi Belle) pumpkins are grown is know as the "pumpkin capital of the world". 
  3. California is the second biggest pumpkin grower in the US, but produces about 1/3 of that of Illinois. 
  4. 80% of the pumpkins grown in Illinois go into cans. 
  5. How to spell Mississippi.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Banana & Chocolate Bread & Peanut Butter Pudding

Last week the Funky Nut Company asked me to come up with a recipe for their peanut butter ebook. So I had a think about flavours that work well with peanut butter. Banana was my first choice. I do like a peanut butter banana sandwich: Take a banana. Slice in half, lengthways. Cover flat side with peanut butter. Sandwich back together and enjoy! Its not exactly a recipe though is it?

In the end I decided to see if I could combine peanut butter, bananas and chocolate chips to make a quick and easy comforting nostalgic dessert for autumn*.

So here's my recipe for a Banana & Chocolate Chip Bread & Peanut Butter Pudding.

This is a substantial pudding, which can be served hot or cold, but only small portions will be needed.

For 8 servings you will need:
  • Butter or oil to grease your pan.
  • 8 slices of day old white farmhouse bread. 
  • 120 g - 180 g peanut butter
  • 30 g - 50 g chocolate chips (I used 30 g here)
  • 450 ml milk (if you are dairy free I think this will work nicely with coconut milk instead of dairy milk).
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 extra large free-range egg
  • (optionally up to 1.5 tablespoons sugar and/or a dusting of cocoa powder)
All of which you can buy in a deli like Tastes Deli ;)

Lightly grease an ovenproof dish, roughly  20cm by 10cm.

Trim the crusts from the bread.
Spread with peanut butter of your choice, as liberally as you desire.
Cut or tear the slices into smaller pieces (4-6 pieces from each slice).

Place a layer of bread pieces in the bottom of your dish, peanut butter side up.  This should use about 1/3 of your bread.
Sprinkle with half of the chocolate chips.
Add another layer of bread, again peanut butter side up, laying the slices to cover any holes.
Sprinkle with the remaining chocolate chips.
Add a final layer of bread.


Make a banana custard:
Gently warm the milk in a saucepan.
While it is warming, mash your bananas.
Add bananas to milk mixture and stir to combine.
Lightly whisk the egg with the sugar (if using - the bananas sweeten the custard so extra sugar might not be necessary).
Remove the milky banana mixture from the heat and slowly pour into the eggs, whisk again.

Pour the custard over the bread mixture making sure to cover it all.
Push down on the bread with the back of a spoon to release any pockets of air and encourage the bread to absorb the custard.

Leave the pudding to stand while you heat your oven to 180 degrees celsius.
Put your dish into an oven or roasting dish slightly larger than the dish with your bread & butter pudding in.
Fill the outer dish with water until it is about half way up the side of your bread pudding. The water bath should help keep the custard creamy and light.

Bake for 30-35 minutes (fan assisted), or until the pudding has browned on the top.
Serve hot or allow to cool. Dust with cocoa powder if you desire.

* Although it is 28 degrees in Eton today, it was autumnal on Sunday when I made this!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Still Here

I'm not really blogging very much at the moment. I've noticed other blogs I read are updated less frequently than they used to be as well. It's not just me! And it's not that I have no news. Just that other media have my focus. At the end of last year I added Instagram to the social media tools I use. I now post there regularly, and to twitter, Facebook, flickr and tumblr. I quite like the instantaneousness of a snap and couple of sentences. I don't really have much more to add and just blog when when I have something lengthy to say, or pin things to pinterest which I think might be interesting. I hope that's OK. So by way of an apology to anyone who checks in here regularly, here is what is going on on Instagram, you can find me there most days!

By the way this little summary updates every day, so whenever you look at this post you will see new news!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Picnic Platters... the director's cut

Today I made up 18 picnic platters for the members of the Charteris Day Centre to enjoy at the Eton Street Party, celebrating The Queen's 90th Birthday.

I also made a movie. Not exactly Spielberg standard, and the lighting is terrible (but approved by Environmental Health, so we're going with safety over style).  Enjoy...

Pork Pies, Vegetable Quiche, Van Strien Cheese Palmiers, Three Bean Salad, Potato Salad, Piper's Crisps, Snowdonia Black Bomber, Stockan's Oatcakes, Miller's Damsel Charcoal Wafers, Fine Cheese Company Rosemary Crackers, Chocolate Brownies made from Mortimer Chocolate Powder and Lemon Bakewell slices. All accompanied with still water, Luscombe Still Lemonade and Wild Elderflower Bubbly, and just enough sunshine.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

One of the Best Delis in Berkshire!

It turns out someone, or actually "someones", think Tastes Deli is the best deli in Berkshire! Unbeknownst to me people have been voting for us in this year's Muddy Stiletto AwardsMuddy Stilettos is the most successful and influential blog in Berkshire, Bucks & Oxon: the ‘urban guide to the countryside’ for urbane, intelligent, cosmopolitan, fun-loving women in the Shires. And they are holding a competition to find the best deli, beauty salon, art gallery, bar etc etc in Berkshire.

Tastes Delicatessen has been voted one of the top five delis, along with Cobbs (in Hungerford), Deliciously French (in Cookham), The Local Larder (in Wargrave) and Saddleback Farm Shop (in Brightwalton).

And now the is quest on, to find the best of the best. For the next week, voting is live on the Muddy Stiletto blog. So if you think Tastes Deli is worthy, visit the blog, enter your name, email and postcode, scroll down and select Tastes Deli (Eton). Votes are counted straight away and you can see how we're doing! Voting ends at 12pm on Tuesday 14 June.  Thanks to whoever the nominees were. I really appreciate it!

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Balinese Preserves

Last week I met with Heather from Awani, a hand made preserve producer based in Indonesia. We've been selling Awani's delicious products for a while, but Heather had some new lines for me to try, and some cute freebies for me to give away.

Since 2007 Awani have been creating delicious, artisan jams and marmalade from tropical fruit on the island of Bali. Their preserves showcase the abundance and lushness of the tropical climate: fresh mangoes, pineapples, passion fruit, white and pink guavas, tamarillos, tangerines, limes and many others, sourced from Bali, and other islands on the Indonesian archipelago. In the heart of the tropics the delicious tropical fruit grows profusely, encouraged by the nourishment of volcanic soil and the wonderful warmth of the environment.

Awani bottle the warm lushness of the tropics with delicate, intoxicating, highly fragrant jams and marmalade which are enjoyed at top hotels in Bali and Jakarta. Last year they began to sell retail jars of exotic delights. This is where we came in: selling the fantastic tropical flavours to our customers in Eton (and of course throughout the UK on our web shop).

On her visit last week, Heather brought her photograph album with her, to show me photos of the people who make the preserves. There are 12 full-time staff from the local village in the kitchen, selecting the best, ripest fruits, preparing them entirely by hand to maintain quality and turning them into jam following Yip Lee's very precise, heavily researched, recipes.

Yip is from Malaysia and grew up with fragrant, exotic fruit in his garden. He has a BA in Engineering from Cambridge University and worked in large corporations before deciding to set up Awani in 2008. He pays a lot of attention to detail and his recipes have been finely tuned to perfect the balance of sweetness, acidity and even the texture of the fruit.

I thought, like me, you might want to see some of the photos! The faces behind the jams. First, the whole team, including the kitchen and sales staff at the Awani kitchen in Tabanan, in middle of Bali a few weeks ago.

The kitchen is a traditional, 8 pillared wood/red brick structure, converted to house a spacious, modern, clean, kitchen complying with international standards of food hygiene.

It is situated on a self-sustaining mixed farm with many different types of fruit trees as well as cacao trees and coffee bushes. The view from the window is of lush papaya plants. A slightly different view to that from a British kitchen window!

Every single jar of Awani jam is handmade, from the preparation of the fruit, to cooking, to bottling and labelling. Being so close to the tropical fruit farms means fruit can be left to ripen on the trees, picked late and quickly transported to maintain its flavour and freshness.

When you open a jar, be sure to inhale the aroma first. It really is enticing! So much so, that since meeting with Heather, I've added some more flavours to our range. Pink guava which I overlooked the first time around, thinking it would be insipid, is in fact, far from it. The aroma and taste is intense. Unique. And the pieces of fruit give a delicious texture. In fact, the four groups of people I let try my sample jar, all bought a jar of their own to take home.  I've also added Lime & Ginger, which is a fabulous blend of bittersweet lime with the heat, fragrance and spice of the fresh young ginger. Aside from being used as a preserve (great on some crunchy wholemeal toast, I can assure you), it can also be served with goat's cheese, or used to marinade meat! This recipe from James Sellick, a British Bali-based food designer who is fascinated by flavour sounds like one I need to try soon...

Baked Apple with Raisins and Awani Lime Marmalade with Ginger
Cooking apples, raisins, unsalted butter, Awani Lime Marmalade with Ginger.
Core apples and arrange in a baking dish.
Fill the bottom half of the hollow of each apple with raisins, followed by a lump of butter to fill the hollowed core.
Bake at 180-200ÂșC for 10 minutes. The butter will have melted.
Refill the hollow with Awani Lime Marmalade with Ginger.
Continue baking until apples are brown.

As does another of James': Pan Fried Pork Loin with Awani Tamarillo Jam and Herb Stuffing
800g pork loin, ½ jar Awani Tamarillo Jam, 100g breadcrumbs, 100g shallots, ¼ handful thyme, ½ handful sage, ¼ handful rosemary, 1 tablespoon butter, salt and pepper.

Fry shallots in butter until golden and soft, mix in other stuffing ingredients and roll into pork loin.
Pan-fry until meat is brown and just cooked.
Leave meat to sit for 5 to 10 minutes in a covered frying pan.
Deglaze the frying pan with 2 more tablespoons of tamarillo jam and serve with meat.

The Tamarillo Jam is also great with Stilton and an interesting alternative to cranberry sauce with turkey.

Friday, March 25, 2016

(Very) Good Friday

Fridays are always good.
But this Friday has been exceptional; a really enjoyable day in the deli.
And what exactly has made it so good? Well I think I've worked it out.

Its all the usual things that make this a great place to work, plus ...
  • It's sunny and everyone seems in holiday spirit. Even those not on holiday are appreciating the first glimpses of spring. There's a real sense of "we've survived winter" excitement. People wearing parkers and woolen gloves, but eating ice cream! 
  • No one has called to save me money on my gas / electricity / broadband / telephone / business rates .... Not one, all day!
  • Lots of visitors are out and about on the high street. Don't get me wrong, I love our regular customers, they're the best, but they don't get anywhere near as excited as first time visitors, ohhing and ahhing over our wares. I love that sort of feedback! On more than one occasion today someone has bought something because a complete stranger had also bought (and enthused about) it. 
  • We've sold more stock than usual. The perfect combination of holiday mood, imminent end of the restrained period of lent, and influx of visitors who have to buy everything they want now because they can't pop in again next week, has greatly increased the average basket size. 
We should have more four-day weekends! And if not, I'd accept more sunny days.  Shame about the forecast for tomorrow.
Happy Easter everyone.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Vietnamese Curry

This week I've been experimenting with another of our new curry pastes. This time its Vietnamese.

I made a Chicken & Potato Curry using Red Chili Kitchen Vietnamese Curry Paste and thoroughly enjoyed it. Thao's recipe:

(Serves 4)
1kg chicken thighs
4 tbsp Red Chilli Kitchen Curry Paste
3 large sweet potatoes (peeled and cut into 2.5cm cubes).
3 large carrots (peeled and cut into 4cm pieces).
2 shallots (cut in to small wedges).
200ml coconut milk.
500ml of water.
4 tbsp oil.

1. Put chicken thighs and curry paste in a bowl. Ensure paste is rubbed well in to the chicken. Cover the bowl and marinate for 2 hours in fridge. For best results marinate overnight. Take chicken out of the fridge ½ hour before cooking.
2. Heat 4 tbsp oil in a large wok. Add the potatoes and fry until golden. Use a slotted spoon to transfer potatoes on to a sheet of kitchen paper. Remove some excess oil from the wok.
3. Remove excess curry paste from the chicken and keep aside to add later. Add chicken into the wok and brown both sides at a medium heat until lightly golden brown.
4. Add the shallots and carrots into the wok and fry for a few minutes.
5. Add remaining curry paste, coconut milk and water into the wok and bring to boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover the wok and let it simmer for 30 minutes.
6. Add the potatoes and let it simmer for another 10 minutes or until the chicken and potatoes are tender. Season with salt.

I served it with rice and a sort of Vietnamese inspired coleslaw which I made by shredding half a cabbage, 3 carrots, 1 red pepper, half a pack of mange tout and half a cucumber, then pouring on Red Chili Kitchen Miracle Dressing and sprinkling on some toasted sesame seeds.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Easy Thai

Coconut Kitchen, the fabulous Thai restaurant/sauce producer, have added some new lines to their range. Last week, I sampled the new Easy Thai Red Curry paste. It was delicious. Smelt so amazing that I'd eaten it before I even thought about taking a photograph. So all I could put on twitter was:

Just tested a new Thai curry paste from @coconut1kitchen. If these clean bowls are anything to go by, it's going to be a hit! Appearing on our shelves at @tastesdeli soon! #easy #Thai #curry #happytummy #yum #foodie #deli #eton #coconutkitchen #redthaicurry
But that was enough to generate our first online sale, just 48 hours later. Before I'd even got the product onto our online shop!

I've now enjoyed a second bowl of delicious Thai Red Curry and paused long enough to photograph it. So simple to prepare, and fabulously tasty. This is my Chicken and Cashew Red Curry.

Toast some cashews in a large pan and set aside.
Into the warm pan add a splash of coconut oil, heat and seal two thinly sliced chicken breasts.
Add a jar of Coconut Kitchen Red Thai Curry Paste.
Half fill the jar with water and add that as well.
Stir in a tin of coconut milk and bring to a simmer.
Simmer until the chicken is cooked and the sauce thickened.
Stir in the reserved cashews.
Serve with rice.
Photograph, then eat!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Happy New Year

Better late than never, I need to thank all our wonderful customers and superb producers for making 2015 our best year yet. We sold more than ever before (I know I say that every year!), took on some brilliant new products, and grew our online shop picking up new customers right across the UK. As always there is a little spring cleaning to do at the start of the year. With limited space here some slower sellers will be making room for some exciting new lines that I already have my eye on. I hope you like the choices I make, which you can hear all about on our many social media channels! Fully embracing "multi-channel marketing",  I have joined the instagram craze and post a snap from the shop most days. If you want to follow along look for @TastesDeli, just the same as on facebook and twitter. I'm also cross-posting to flickr as well, and tumblr (although I'll be the first to admit I don't really understand it!). Hope you all had a good 2015, and are looking forward to 2016 as much as I am.