food and drink
Oranges and (Preserved) Lemons
What is the mediterranean for you? For me the essence is in the smell of warm sunshine on the leaves of a lemon tree, and the radiant orange yellows of the citrus fruit.
I love seeing pyramids of oranges and lemons in the market and I pile them high in bowls at home. The juice and zest, sparkling with Vitamin C, can be used for a 1001 mediterranean delights.
We buy lemons with thick, glossy and unblemished skins in abundance when they are in season.They are kept in glass jars all year round. (Click through for the MoreSouth Preserved Lemons recipé!)
We add them to our Merguez sausage in baguette – which can be tasted every Saturday at the Berkhamsted market in Hertfordshire.
This is how to use Preserved Lemons in as many mezze and salad dishes as you like:
- Pull away and discard the pulp, rinsing the peel quickly under cold water to reduce salt intake
- Cut very finely
- Use tiny amounts for a shot of intense, unforgettable flavour. Half a teaspoonful can be combined with the juice of half a lemon in a salad for 4
Seasonal salad of the moment: Tabbouleh
Originally from the mediterranean shores of Lebanon, Tabbouleh is made of parsley, mint leaves and cracked wheat. It’s a green dish – note the proportion of fresh parsley – and it is essential to cut with a large sharp knife to avoid soggy green bruising of leaves.
–200g flat leaved parsley leaves
–20g fresh mint leaves
- 50g cracked wheat (soaked for an hour)
- 1 very ripe tomato
- Olive oil, Preserved Lemon, lemon juice, salt & black pepper to taste
Combine ingredients, stirring in the finely cut parsley and mint, and diced tomato very gently. Serve within an hour as a mezze dish to awaken the senses.
What uses have you found for the distinctive taste and fragrances of Preserved Lemons?
MoreSouth London food days
Last week we went into central London for a day of market research. Our Hertfordshire location is very near and MoreSouth often caters for events and parties in the capital. Window displays were dotted with Halloween pumpkin lanterns like this arrangement in the famous Fortnum & Mason.
We had coffee in’ L’Eto’ in Soho before walking to Selfridges Food Hall.
The cakes were elaborate and quite pretty.
I was particularly amazed by a pale pink chocolate eclair which had three different coloured crystalled rose petals poised on top.
(No, it’s not here; too beautiful to photo.)
Of course all shops are ready for Christmas sales.
Are you buying any of this year’s festive cookbook best sellers?
Around lunchtime we made our way to the outdoor food stalls in Covent Garden. Last week we served hundreds of lunches of Couscous Royale, and handmade Merguez sausages in organic rolls at the ‘Wood, Wool & Food stall’ at Hemel Hempstead. Here is the stand we liked best from Karantania Delicatessen.
On our Menu page you can find our selection of MoreSouth Christmas Canapés. We’re taking orders for parties and corporate events.
The way to someone’s heart on Valentine’s Day?
By guest writer, Virginia Webb
There is one day a year when I categorically won’t go to a restaurant, however much I love dining out – and that day is Valentine’s. Because even if you are truly, madly and deeply in love, there is something deeply cringe-worthy about sitting there surrounded by a clutch of other doe-eyed couples. Valentine’s day is one day when you should cook your way to someone’s heart.
Imagine coming home to a delicious meal, with your partner having taken time think of what you love to eat? All you’d have to do is dive into a glass of well-chosen wine before feasting on simple, but delicious flavours – now wouldn’t that utterly gorgeous? Or, if you both like cooking, you could do a course each and spoil each other.
As for the aphrodisiac qualities of certain food, it might be fun to include a few items that have a reputation for certain effects on Valentine’s, but don’t take that aspect of the food too seriously, otherwise you’ll be too focussed on the result rather than enjoying the moment!
Here are a few ideas of Mediterranean ingredients that could be fun to use this coming Valentine’s, which are a little less clichéd than oysters and chocolate:
Honey – eating honey is a sensual experience in itself, but it also provides a shot of natural energy. Known as ‘The Nectar of Aphrodite’ and created from the nectar of flowers it embodies ripeness and romance.
Chili Peppers – seems an unlikely food to have an amorous effect, but the eating of spicy chili releases natural painkillers, endorphins, which end up making us feel good. Make sure your beloved likes them as much as you do though!
Basil – a wonderful, zingy flavour, fresh basil is a feature of many Mediterranean dishes, but did you know that in Roman times basil was a symbol of love?
Pomegranate – in mythology, this stunning red fruit was the symbol of Aphrodite and has long been held to have aphrodisiac qualities. Be that as it may, it’s packed with vitamins and antioxidants, and is a fabulous addition to both sweet and savoury dishes.
Figs – Apparently eating a fig in front of a loved one is the ultimate sensual act! Linked with love and temptation, it’s been suggested that the fig was the original forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Why not end a meal with fresh figs and great cheese, which coincidentally has ten times the amount of the feel good chemical PEA than chocolate.
Whatever menu you choose (or persuade your partner to cook for you!), the important thing is that it really is a labour of love, served with verve and in an atmosphere of sensuality and indulgence. So go on, cook up a storm this Valentines!
Virginia Webb recently founded The Good Fork after a varied career which has involved studying and working in Italy, France and Portugal. She has had a life long interest in good food, starting as a child at her mother’s side baking biscuits and intensified by cooking and eating her way round most of Italy, working in Paris as a waitress, and latterly hosting a local Supper Club.
With The Good Fork she aims to bring the fine foods of the Mediterranean within easy reach of keen cooks across the UK, and to encourage them to taste some of the delicious flavours she has enjoyed on her travels.
www.thegoodfork.co.uk/ currently features a delicious deli-box packed with ingredients on the theme of love, ‘The Lovin’ Forkful’. This contains eight fine foods from around the mediterranean and a quirky leaflet with recipe ideas, priced at 39.50.
For further information about this or the monthly deli-boxes visit the website or call 020 81661900.
What will you be cooking this Valentine’s Day?
Breakfast goes on holiday (to the mediterranean)
Holidays are for changes and surprises so do not pack your Cornflakes. Holidays are for doing what you want to do and eating what you love on blue skied summer mornings on your terrace by the sea.
Sunday summer breakfasts are for getting up when you like and giving yourself a fresh, colourful and delicious promise for a lovely day.
What is your favourite holiday breakfast?
Let’s pass on the ubiquitous hotel ‘Continental Breakfast’ of orange juice from concentrate, formerly frozen croissant, ‘filter (going cold) coffee’ and cute little jams and butters in plastic boxes.
What about a Fruit Smoothie to begin the day? Blend fruit from your market trips with ice cubes and yoghurt. No blender in the villa? Poach some figs and apricots the night before, and add creamy milk or yoghurt in the morning.
Take out some more market buys from the fridge, then go out to the nearest bakery for some good, fresh bread.
Lightly toast a thick slice, then drizzle with a little olive oil and add chopped tomatoes for an Andalusian style breakfast. Mozzarella and avocado go well on the side.
We are skipping Bacon& Eggs but for some people breakfast does not deserve this name without an egg. If you like your’s scrambled why not add some parsley, chives and strips of smoked salmon? Getting on to brunch-time….- you could add your eggs to a base of fried charcuterie and mushrooms, or half a grated courgette and red pepper, throwing in a handful of feta cheese and sprinkling of crushed cumin seeds.
Phew! You may only be wishing for a quiet coffee and biscotti. My Moroccan family eat a piece of cake at the weekends with a milky coffee before cooking a large, midday lunch.
If you really need a change go to Alexandria where Egyptians do not say, ‘Good morning,’ but something like,
‘Hi, a morning of goodness to you,’ — to which you will always reply,
‘And a morning of beans!’
before going off to devour a warm bowl of ‘ful’ (broad beans) with raw onion and a tomato… to make that perfect day.
What is your dream holiday breakfast?
(Special thanks to photographer Stephen Bray, who lives on a mediterranean beach in Turkey.)
Recipe: Bread on the mezze table (2)
If food is theatre the mezze table is the prelude. Canapés are a welcome and a surprise.
Compose a feast and create a sense of occaison, whether you are presenting an aesthetic spread for a corporate event or throwing a cocktail party or canapé reception.
Celebrate the beginning
Always have ‘Starters.’ Finger food is fun, and social.
Give your guests a glass of arak (similar to Pernod) or sweet, fragrant mint tea and pass round a tray of freshly roasted pistachios or cashew nuts, with warm olives in lemon and herbs, and some Rocket Pizzetas.
Make a table top of colourful ’open sandwiches’. Try mini bagels, rolls, ciabattas and baguettes with smoked salmon, cream cheese and chives or chicken cooked in thyme, topped with chargrilled red and yellow peppers.
Make mini wraps filled with sour cream, beans and guacemole, or Grissini bread sticks twisted with oven – dried tomatoes, parmesan, black olives or herbs.
Pizza dough is the same as for basic bread but with 1tbs of olive oil added for a crispy crust.
• little Turkish Pizzas are topped with minced lamb and garnished with red pepper and a slice of preserved lemon.
• Calzones are made by putting a favourite filling on half of the rounded, flat dough, moistening the edges with water and folding over to enclose with either fingers or a fork.
Tomato and Basil Bruschetta
This works both in the kitchen and over the barbecue coals, taking about 10 minutes to prepare. The topping can be made in advance but should be added at the very last minute before serving. ( Tip: soggy bruschetta is not so lovely.)
You will need ciabatta or similar rustic style bread that is at least a day old, ripe plum tomatoes, olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic.
1) Pour boiling water over the tomatoes for 1 minute, and peel the skin off. (not a compulsory step)
2) Deseed the tomatoes, cut into small pieces and drain in a colander.
3) Cut the bread to about 2cm thickness and toast or grill.
4) While still warm, quickly make 3 shallow slashes and rub one side with a sliced half of garlic, and then decide how much extra virgin olive oil you want to drizzle over.
5) In a bowl add shredded fresh basil leaves, salt and pepper to the tomatoes before spooning over the bruschettas.
An even simpler version of this Italian garlic bread can be made by following steps 3 & 4 but squeezing some tomato juice onto the warm toast after rubbing in the garlic.
- Add goat’s cheese with the tomato and basil.
- Mash cooked cannelloni beans with a little salt and white pepper, and top with chargrilled red or yellow peppers.
-Lightly fry small asparagus, and place on ricotta.
Crostini, meaning ‘little toasts’ is the elegant little sister of Bruschetta, and resembles crispbread. You can use baguette, – again, it holds together and does not absorb too much olive oil if it is a day old.
Cut the bread to approximately 5mm thickness, and toast under a hot grill. Use a brush to completely drench with olive oil while very hot, and then cool.
Be creative with your favourite cheese, fish, meat or vegetable topping. I like to add cream cheese, then cooked salmon with lemon and chives, but we are in Canapé Land and the sky is the limit. Cut the baguette into diamond shapes to make an amazing mosaic of colour on your mezze table or canape tray.
At MoreSouth we created Baby Bread Shots with nuts, grapes and celery.
What do you serve for canapes?
For more mediterranean mezze tips sign up for the MoreSouth newsletter. It comes to your inbox on a Wednesday morning mid-month.
Locally sourced, freshly prepared food.
I would like to show you a photo of the MoreSouth allotment.
Look at this magnificent lettuce, one of the dozens not yet picked. Next I would like to make you a Mozzarella, Pesto and Tomato ciabatta sandwich using basil grown on this very special plot of land near Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire.
‘The Good Life’ = Local Life. We are so fortunate to be able to grow all our own salads and herbs on biodynamically farmed earth. This season we have three different types of lettuce, as well as rocket, radishes, tomatoes, basil, parsley, fennel, coriander, sage, chives and mint.
All of this goes into our freshly prepared sandwiches which are baked every morning on site, and into the mezze dishes, salads and dips ordered by you for parties, weddings and events.
There is surety in knowing where your food comes from, (unless you believe that pasta grows on trees in Tesco’s back garden ), and who prepares it.
Good food = fresh food. Do you know anyone who would argue with that?
I’m going to quote one of our clients who is responsible for co-ordinating catering for working lunches, training days and corporate events in a large, local company,
‘We’ve been using ___ for lunches sometimes. They come round in their van. But I’m worried that they sometimes use yesterday’s bread because it feels stale.’
But can fresh be risky too?
In May and June this year 30 people who had either visited or lived in northern Germany died, and 3,000 became ill from a severe strain of E coli ( 0104 ).
”Salad veg under suspicion!”
In blind panic Germany initially blamed Spanish cucumbers. 225 million euros a week have been lost to European farmers as warnings went out to stop eating salad. 80% of vegetables were destroyed due to there being no market.
On June 11 the Independent on Saturday reported that a business in Lower Saxony producing bean sprouts had been the probable cause.
Grow your own?
It’s a risky life, but eventually choices have to be made.
- I agree with the Daily Mail; ‘Wash your vegetables!’ How much do you know about farm and factory hygeine?
- Decide whether you hold with the sterility of chemical fertilisers, that do not do a lot towards keeping a healthy immune system, or go for organic which hopefully does not farm with the manure of factory farmed, possibly ill animals.
- Eat in season. At MoreSouth we only prepare food from seasonally inspired recipes that do not require importing.
- Know where your food comes from as far as possible and form relationships with your suppliers.
Perhaps in the future this will not be interpreted as paranoia, but common sense.
But we do have a fantastic recipe for Lettuce Soup too!
How important is locally sourced food to you? If you find this article valuable please retweet.
Recipe: Bread on the mezze table (1)
There are a hundred and one ways of using bread on the mezze table, from canapes such as bruschettas, Grissini bread sticks with sundried tomatoes or Rocket pizzetas (I love these Italian names) to Rosemary focaccia or pitta bread with dips and crudites.
Bread makes fabulous picnic fare, of course. When we lived in the Galilee we would go into the hills many Saturdays. By the roadsides were Druze women baking flatbreads (try on a wide over-turned wok in Britain) which would be eaten rolled up with ‘labaneh’ – a soft white cheese made from yoghurt – , za’atar , picked on site , olive oil and a handful of olives.
In mediterranean tradition bread is eaten with every meal, often used to enjoy the sauces to the last drop. In Middle Eastern countries it is often broken by hand rather than sliced with a knife. We would tear off warm pitta to dip in houmus and tahini or pesto just as often as enjoying it filled, with salad and falafel.
A favourite choice from the MoreSouth bakery when a mediterranean buffet is ordered is Rosemary Focaccia.
Rosemary Focaccia Recipe
Knead some pizza dough and spread evenly into an oiled rectangular baking dish.
Beat together olive oil, tepid water and salt.
Dimple the dough with your fingers, brushing half the oil mixture over. Sprinkle on fresh rosemary and a little coarse rock salt .
Put in a medium oven for 30 minutes.
When baked drizzle immediately with the remaining oil mixture.
A variation of this is Olive Focaccia, where chopped black olives, parsley and garlic are worked into the dough while kneading, or sundried tomatoes.
Good toppings are grapes and fennel seed, or red onion sliced very thinly with goat’s cheese.
Next time we will be looking at the Canape menu.
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Recipe: Elderflower Summer Magic
Here comes the white glamour of the British countryside, heralding in summer with tiny star-shaped sprays of fragrant muscat aroma. There is indeed magic in this wild plant found in woods, gardens and country lanes. The flowers give bursts of flavour in sorbets, cordials, jellies, jams and the magnificent Elderflower champagne. We found ours in the hedgerows of the Grand Union Canal.
Celebrate the summer with a beaker of Elderflower Champagne.
Pick on a blue-skied morning. Flowers should be opened and still absolutely white and fresh.
TIP: Gather away from the routes of cars. You should not wash the clusters but gently shake away any leaves (and dear little summer bugs ) to retain both the delicacy of the Elderflowers, and the pollen. It is the pollen which gives the bursts of fizz if you are following a recipe for elderflower champagne.
If you are making a refreshing Elderflower Cordial you should place 20-30 white coronets in a large bowl with the zest of 2 lemons and 1 orange and cover them with 2 litres of boiled water. When cool, strain and add 350 g of sugar and 50ml of lemon juice to every 500ml of elderflower juice. Heat, simmer and cool.
- drink diluted with ice-cold water
- freeze into cubes to add to summer cocktails
- use as a syrup base for cakes and desserts. (More surprises about this, later!)
Elderflower Sorbet Recipe
Dissolve 225g of caster sugar in 6oo ml of water and boil until dissolved. Add 7 Elderflower coronets, with the juice and very thinly grated rind of 4 lemons and 1 small orange. (The peels must be in perfect condition.)
Leave the flower mixture to infuse until completely cool. Strain.
If you do not want to use an icecream machine, freeze for 20 minutes, whisk, (to get rid of ice crystals) part freeze again, whisk and then freeze the sorbet until firm.
This can be a wonderful summer addition to your Mezze Table, and can be served at the beginning, middle or end of the meal: it’s magic!
SPECIAL JUNE OFFER! Free organic Elderflower Cupcake offer from MoreSouth for those who are lucky enough to live in Hertfordshire.
Food for Thought
By guest writer, Tom Evans
Research has shown that there is a connection between what we eat and how we feel. The biochemical basis of this food-mood link lies in the chemical messengers, called neurotransmitters, that relay thoughts and actions along the neural pathways of the brain.
As food affects the action of these chemical messengers it can also have an impact on our mood. Nutrient choice is therefore important to support the thought process. Meal timing, portion sizes and the combination of foods, play a vital role in the regulation of mood and energy. They influence blood-sugar levels which can leave us as high as a kite one minute and scrambling through the cupboard the next, in search of a sugar fix.
For this next exercise, look at how your food affects your creative performance. Like many of the exercises in this book, the benefits to be had by this approach will have an impact on other areas in your life.
Go Low Glycemic
Carbohydrates, in particular, affect our energy levels and mood. High sugar products raise blood sugar for a short period, always followed by a dip that leaves you unfocused and lethargic.
Low-glycemic carbohydrates (e.g. brown rice, pasta, vegetables), on the other hand, provide more stable energy and mood levels. Small portions of complex carbohydrate at regular intervals throughout the day will be effective in regulating energy.
Glycemic Index (GI) refers to the rate at which sugar from a particular food enters the cells of the body. Foods with a high glycemic index stimulate the pancreas to secrete insulin, quickly emptying sugar from the blood into the cells. This produces the familiar ups and downs of blood sugar and the roller coaster energy levels that go with it. Foods with a lower glycemic index do not push the pancreas to secrete so much insulin, so blood sugar tends to be steadier. Eating low GI foods and combining carbohydrate with protein and fibre will reduce the rate at which sugar empties into the cells.
You should, therefore, combine low GI carbohydrates, protein and vegetables or fruit in each meal or snack sitting. Some good examples are:
- Chicken, brown rice and roasted vegetables
- Salmon, couscous and greens
- Wholemeal pitta with tuna and salad
- Nuts and fruit
- Wholemeal cereal and semi-skimmed milk with fruit
The most effective way to keep energy level even across the day is to spread your calorie need over five to six small meals, rather than the traditional three. This can help you avoid the commonly experienced mid-morning and mid-afternoon energy dips that leave you lacking concentration and focus.
Unsurprisingly, the most common time for people to visit the office vending machine is mid-afternoon, as those who have not eaten a healthy lunchtime snack are on a mission to get a sugar-fix.
Prepare some healthy snacks in the morning so that your work-flow is not interrupted when you sit down to write, and think carefully about which nutrients you select for a brain boosting breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Foods With The Best Brain Balance
Fruit such as grapefruit, apples, cherries, oranges and grapes have a lower glycemic index. Fruit has a lower GI than fruit juice, because the fibre in the fruit slows the absorption of the fruit sugar. A whole apple will therefore be more brain friendly than apple juice.
For cereals and grains, oatmeal and bran have the lowest GI. Other foods with a favourable GI include spaghetti and brown rice. Corn flakes and sugar-coated cereals have a high GI and are therefore not ideal.
Vegetables, soybeans, kidney beans, chickpeas and lentils have the lowest glycemic index of any food. White potatoes have quite a high GI so try to opt for sweet potato instead.
Finally dairy products, milk and yoghurt have a low GI, slightly higher than vegetables but lower than fruit. Plain yoghurt has a lower glycemic index than flavoured yoghurts with added sugar.
During the winter months we are starved of sunlight and this can lead to a reduction in the release of serotonin, an important chemical found in the brain. Serotonin is referred to as the feel good hormone and reduction in its release can lead to the development of serious seasonal depression for some, or just a dip in mood for others. Interestingly, our food intake also has an impact on the release of this hormone and tweaking our diets can lead to an improvement in mood, or halt this dip altogether.
Particular foods have a calming effect on the body that results in heightened feelings of happiness. Chocolate can have this effect as it triggers the release of serotonin and endorphins that make us feel good. Other happy foods include chicken, milk, leafy green vegetables and bananas which all contain a compound called tryptophan.
Tryptophan is an amino acid and one of the building blocks of protein. It competes for access to the central nervous system, with several other amino acids, and it is thought to increase the brain’s production of serotonin, and subsequently to elevate mood.
It is known as Nature’s Prozac.
Proteins in the diet affect brain performance, either leaving us alert and productive or ready for bed. Rich foods can make us feel alert, jumpstarting the brain so we are ready for action.
Another amino acid that increases neurotransmitter activity is Tyrosine. High tyrosine foods include seafood, soy, meat, beans, tofu and eggs; eating them can leave you focused and motivated.
Essential Fatty Acids
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) also play a role in mood regulation. Those with low intakes of Omega 3 fatty acids have been found to be more likely to experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) during the winter months. Three to six grammes of EFAs – taken in the form of food like fish, avocado, nuts or supplements – are recommended for general health and mood promotion.
Water, Water Everywhere
Drinking enough water will also make a dramatic improvement to energy levels. Aim to sip on small glasses of water throughout the day. If you don’t want to interrupt your train of thought by nipping into the kitchen to re-fill your glass, fill a litre sports drink bottle and sip one over each half of the day.
White van man and the sandwich
Sandwiches and driving
By guest writer, Sarah Arrow
As the director of a same day courier company I have to extort my drivers to take a specific lunch break. I even have to do random checks on their vehicle tracking reports to make sure they have stopped for lunch and not eaten whilst driving. To eat when driving can put the driver in danger.
I did a quick poll of our drivers, our white van men the other day to find out what they were eating for lunch and I was surprised – ham sandwiches came out top.
Tuna Mayo is out
When a sandwich can’t be eaten straight away by the driver they have to get creative with the fillings. To have a wet filling means the sandwich has to be eaten straight away and not when they pull over. They know I am going to check so tuna mayo is out as it makes the bread wet and soggy if they leave it until they have stopped driving.
Bacon is out
Yes the traditional bacon butty is out, out, out. It makes the hands greasy and is often too hot to eat right away. So the driver has to wait and cold bacon isn’t the most appetising. It can make the bread soggy.
It appears soggy bread isn’t popular at all these days.
Posh breads are not popular choice for a driver’s sandwich if pushed to have an alternative to bread then they would prefer a wrap that can be folded at the bottom and none of the sandwich filling falls out. But not a bacon or tuna wrap. Any seeded bread is out, the drivers are customer facing and they hate it if a seed is caught in their teeth and they don’t know. They get embarrassed when a customer points it out and more embarrassed if I point it out, as that means it’s been there several hours and no one has told them.
Salad or not?
Ban cucumber – it makes the bread soggy. So does lettuce and tomatoes… don’t get me started on tomatoes! The tomato pips stick in the teeth and are generally a pain in the backside. Tomato pips? Who knew tomatoes had pips??? Cress is annoyance too, adding no value to the sandwich and again getting caught in the teeth.
French stick anyone?
“Do you have any idea of how much mess a sandwich made with a crusty French stick makes?” one driver asked me and then went on to remind me of the urban myth of the white van man who was so slobby they had a next of mice living under the front seat and feasting on the crumbs. Apparently the mice left when the guy stopped eating French stick sandwiches. You have gotta love an urban legend!
The benefits of the humble ham sandwich
Sliced ham, from the bone with real butter on wholemeal bread came out top. No salad to make it soggy, although one driver admits to having salad in a bag on the side. Shhhhh! don’t tell anyone, he doesn’t want to be seen eating healthily he’d rather you thought of him as a wild white van man with one hand on the wheel and the other filled with a hot, greasy bacon butty
What do you eat on your lunch break?
Sarah Arrow is the director of special projects for Essex same day courier company Arrow Light Haulage and the managing editor for Birds on the Blog, the home of business women bloggers drop by and say hello, if your passing.