January isn’t the best month for lots of reasons, so, let’s have some comfort food to help it along!

Apple and Pear Plait

You will need: 320g ready-made puff pastry sheets for ease! 2 tablespoons of sultanas 2 eating apples - your favourite 2 pears 2 tablespoons of clear honey 3 tablespoons of apricot jam Pinch of mixed spice Pinch of cinnamon 1 egg 1 tablespoon of plain flour 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil (greasing)

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

Lightly grease a baking tray. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured cold surface in to a large rectangle. Transfer in to the baking tray.

Tip the sultanas in a small bowl and pour with just enough warm water over them to cover. Leave to soak for 10 to 15 minutes.

Core your 2 apples and pears and slice in to even pieces - no need to peel them. Place the

pieces in to another bowl and add the clear honey and the apricot jam. Drain the soaked sultanas and add to the apples and pears. Stir well. Now add the mixed spice and cinnamon. Add enough for your taste.

Spoon out the mixture in a thick strip down the centre of the puff pastry rectangle. Using a sharp knife make approximately 8 diagonal cuts down each side in a herringbone shape, that will form the lattice. Fold the pastry strips alternately across the filling in a plait shape.

Crack your egg in to a bowl and whisk with a fork. Using a pastry brush paint the whisked egg over the plait. This will give a lovely golden colour when baked.

Pop your tray into the centre of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until, using a skewer, the apples are nice and soft and the pastry is a lovely golden colour.

You can serve with vanilla ice cream, maybe crème fraîche or if you are like me some lovely custard!


sow it, grow it, eat it! by Annette Gibbons


Annette Gibbons OBE is renowned as a champion of real Cumbrian food. She hosts Cumbria’s Fine Dining Club and also enjoys her organic vegetable garden.

How lovely to have a real winter! I adore these freezing cold, blue sky days. The air smells so fresh, the views are clear and I keep thinking this is just what the garlic bulbs need to make good fat cloves.

Who wants to go out into the garden when storms are chucking huge winds our way and rain falls in torrents? When it’s cold and wet, much better to stay indoors and sort seeds and work out plans for this year’s growing. There’s not a lot to be done anyway, as plants are dormant, though lots of daffodils, crocus, tulips and lily of the valley are showing their growth in the flower garden, piercing the top soil or chippings. I’ve scattered wood ash from the log fire to increase fertility on some of the raised beds and on the compost heap. I do need to turn the compost heap to help air get into it and make crumbly soil for the spring but it’s probably a bit chilly for that.

At this time of year, the subject of low fat cheese is often raised with me in the shop. We have flirted every now and then with reduced fat cheeses but the whole experience has generally been a negative one. The flavour is simply not up there with the fuller fat version and I normally find myself flinging kilos of unsold low-fat cheese out come February, once everyone's belt-tightening is on the wane! I have always gone by the motto of ‘have the tastier, full fat cheese, just eat half the amount’. Obviously, there are exceptions to the rule as some cheeses are made with skimmed milk by choice (Parmesan is an example of this) so this month, we look at a lovely tangy and tasty skimmed milk cheese, Dorset Blue Vinny.

Now there was a time, when Dorset Blue Vinny could be found in nearly every farmhouse in the country It

was an ideal way of using the left-over milk after the cream had been skimmed off for butter making. As a result, the cheese had a very low- fat content of around 15%. Production of the cheese slowed to virtually nothing following the Second World War, until Mike Davies of Woodbridge Farm near Sturminster Newton resurrected the 300-year-old recipe and started


making the cheese himself back in 1980. He enrolled the whole family, taking over the farm kitchen and his wife's larder until he had perfected the recipe. They use the pasteurised milk from their own herd of 270 Friesians and the cheeses are matured for up to 15 weeks and spiked to encourage the ‘blueing’ process. The result, is a delightfully full-flavoured cheese, generally stronger and more heavily blued than a Stilton for example. The cheeses can vary one to another as you would expect from an artisan product made on just one farm, but you should anticipate it to be slightly drier in texture than some of the more recent, creamy blues and the cheese should crumble slightly. So, if you are looking to shed a few pounds in 2018 without sacrificing flavour, why not give Blue Vinny a try, we have a good stock in at the moment and it's great to cook with too - it makes a lovely soup! So, expect to see it on our menu, certainly through the early months of the year until we all forget about that diet!

John Natlacen, Owner

The plan is made of what to grow, the list of seeds to buy is written and my good intentions of which bed will grow which vegetables is in front of me. Last season was a rubbish year for courgettes which are normally prolific, so I’m trying new varieties this year, the round Nice, Green Tiger, Yellow and a ribbed green. Although I keep hens and do have copious amounts of the contents of their bedding box, I’ve bought some very smelly organic hen manure in a convenient pellet form. I endeavor to use this to help keep the soil rich, particularly for courgette and pumpkin. I’ll keep one part of a bed with no compost in case I do try carrots again. This helps to prevent ‘forking’ of the roots.

We’ve been eating apples from the store; have just cut into the last pumpkin; am using garlic preserved in oil for stir fries and from the garden red cabbage, spring onions, kale and spinach have supplemented our vegetable ingredients. The rest we’ve bought from either Eva’s Organics or local farms. The nearer the growing, the fresher and more nutritious are our meals.

This is such an exciting time, planning what will grow this year. I hope you’ll have a go too.

Do you enjoy eating out but can’t decide where to go and what to choose?

Annette’s popular Dining Club visits Cumbrian eateries where the evening is planned for you. If you’ve just moved to the area and would like to meet new people who also enjoy good food and wine this is a perfect night out. Long standing locals are welcome too! Ring 01900 881356 to request a newsletter by post or email to have one sent directly to you.

ISSUE 422 | 25 JANUARY 2018 | 43

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