Food Variety (9) Kalettes

A friend of mine once told me that her mother used to persuade her to eat Brussels sprouts by telling her they were “fairy cabbage”.  Little did I realise that nearly 40 years later I would remember this story whilst looking at a packet of small, frilly greens. Kalettes, when they aren’t being a superfood, are definite contenders for the “fairy cabbage” title. When they were first bred by Tozer Seeds they were called “flower sprouts” (and even “Brukale” according to one source) but the Americans decided to market them under the name “kalette” to stress the link to kale rather than sprouts.

At first sight they look like sprouts that have failed to heart up. If you’ve ever grown unsuccessful sprouts  (as I did one year) you’ll know what I mean. However, because of the kale part of their parentage they have red, frilly edges to the leaves and look much more like miniature cabbage than failed sprouts.

Kalettes, looking like miniature cabbages

The taste is mild Brussels sprout with an after taste of kale. Julia says it just tastes like mild kale to her. I suppose it has elements of both parents and seems like different things to different people.

The texture, though not as crunchy as a  sprout, is nice and crisp when cooked correctly. (Though see my comments on that in the next couple of paragraphs).

We had two meals out of the bag, one lot we put in boiling water for four minutes. They came out crisp and perky and were very enjoyable.

I steamed the second lot and mis-timed it (about ten minutes). They came out a floppy and overdone.  This was my fault though, not the fault of the kalettes.

There are other ways of cooking Kalettes, though I haven’t tried any of them yet. I’ve been back to the shop several times in the last two weeks and haven’t seen any on sale, so have not been able to buy more to practice with.

They are, as I think I said a week or so back, very nutritious. It has twice the Vitamin C and B6 of Brussels sprouts. It is also high in Vitamin K, folate, fibre and carotenoids. I’m not sure what they all do, but I’m sure that the more you have the better it will be for you.

All in all, they are highly recommended – they look better on the plate than a pile of kale and taste better, whilst they cook quicker and don’t need peeling like Brussels.

They are also the first vegetable I have known to have its own Twitter page. (I will avoid obvious jokes about some of our less cerebrally able sports and reality “stars” here.)

If you want to grow your own, ask Mr Fothergill.


Light Rye Bread

Bread group again today and the recipe of the session was Light Rye Bread.

I’ve never done well with rye bread, light or otherwise. It sticks to my hands and it doesn’t rise properly. Apart from that it’s grey and unattractive. I like the taste, and I like making something different, but that’s not generally enough to outweigh the negatives.

Fortunately the Bread Group members are more enthusiastic, and as you can see from the pictures, they produced a lot of good bread today.

I was a bit late (had errands to do) so the story starts at the knocking back stage.


These three pictures show the incorporation of caraway seeds as the bread is knocked back, how to secure the rolled dough and what the end should look like after the dough is shaped for the tin.

I couldn’t get shots of other parts as the process as they are blurred, but what you do to get to this stage is to make an oblong and roll it, keeping it under tension, before securing the bottom joint (the karate chop is optional).


Lining the tin with parchment prevents sticking to the tin, and is easier than oiling or greasing the tin. The short loaf, despite my misgivings, did grow to fill the tin (near enough). After that cover the loaf with oiled cling film and a tea towel and allow to rise again. Do not twist the ends of the cling film or trap the tea towel under the tin as this will stop the loaf rising properly.


Before putting the bread in the oven sprinkle liberally with flour. You can slash it if you want but it won’t open up like wheat bread, despite the wheat flour we use to put the “light” in Light Rye. The loaves took a bit longer to cook (judged by the bottom tapping method (with attendant juvenile humour)).

For those of you not familiar with the method, hold the bread upside down in one hand and tap the bottom with your knuckle. If it sounds hollow, or like a drum it is done, they say. However, in truth, if it sounds like a bass drum it isn’t done, it needs to sound a bit higher than that – experience will improve your ability with this. We did spend some time talking about the possibility of marketing an app to to monitor the sound of a correctly cooked tapped bottom but decided it might not be practical. Or useful.

Leave it to cool before cutting it or it will become sticky and doughy, which is not pleasant to eat.

Here is a photograph of the recipe for those who want it, courtesy of Gail.

Recipe for Light Rye bread

Next session will be flat breads to go with the end of year curry.

Food Variety (8) Kale

When I started this series of posts it was in response to a conversation I’d had with one of my kids about eating more exotic fruit and vegetables. It has drifted slightly away from that, though I like to think that it is still about unusual foods and ingredients.

So why, you ask, am I writing about that well known vegetable kale? Well, to me it isn’t that well known: when I was a lad living south of the Trent you never saw it. When I moved to Nottingham I was able to buy it in the shops, though a few helpings were enough to make me turn back to cabbage. Despite this I still grew it. The thing about kale, you see, is that pigeons won’t eat it.

This doesn’t sound like much of a recommendation, but once you’ve had your brassicas wrecked a couple of times you start  to see the point of kale if you want fresh greens from the garden.

Kale – superfood

We tried everything. Netting worked, but looked unsightly, so the next step was kale. We grew it by default and, to be honest, it’s tough and it’s bitter and we yearned for cabbage.  Red cabbage, cabbage and spring cabbage are all better eating – a fact corroborated by the pigeons. In fact I think the old anti-pigeon netting would taste better than the kale.

Then people started talking about kale. People were juicing it. It appeared on TV cookery shows. And finally, people started talking about the rise of kale as a superfood. When I found you could fry it I started eating it more enthusiastically. There’s little that can’t be improved by frying.

The link above seems to solve the mystery, a PR guru with a love of healthy eating is behind the new found popularity of kale. So far it seems to be working, but you have to ask whether it’s a case of The Emperor’s New Clothes and what the next novelty veg will be.

There’s a good chance it will be kalettes, a cross between sprouts and kale. They’ve been available for a few years, though I only heard about them a couple of months ago. In the UK they were marketed as flower sprouts, but in the USA they decided to hush up the sprout link and work on the kale aspects, such being the power of kale.

Kalettes – the future of brassicas

It is claimed that 85g of kalette gives you 40% of your daily vitamin C requirement and 120% of your vitamin K., plus a selection of other nutrients. Impressive.

(We’ve picked all our kale crop for this year – due to bad planning – so I nipped into Lidl between writing the post and taking the photos. While I was in there I found some kalettes, so guess what Food Variety (9) is going to be next week?)




Cape Gooseberry (Physalis) – Food Variety (7)

Plants can be very confusing.

If I was writing about tomatoes I think we would all know what I meant.

If I were to write about castor oil plants the situation would be less clear, as there are two plants called that. One – Fatsia Japonica – is also know as the False Castor Oil plant, and is a fine-looking, and totally blameless, ornamental plant.  The other – Ricinus communis is toxic and has been called the most poisonous plant in the world. That’s why Latin names are important. (Interestingly, they say a lethal does for a human is 4-8 seeds, but a duck can eat up to 80. So, you have the choice, if you have 80 seeds – poison a duck or poison an entire association football team – tough choice.)

Physalis Peruviana, though not poisonous, have so many names it is ridiculous. Cape Gooseberry, goldenberry, Pichuberry, Inca berry, Aztec berry, golden berry, giant ground cherry, African ground cherry,Peruvian groundcherry, Peruvian cherry. Those are just the names in the English-speaking world.

Physalis with paper husks. Note unripe green husks in background.

In warm climates they grow well outside, and are often referred to as weeds when you see them mentioned in blogs and on websites. In the UK we have found that they grow well in an unheated polytunnel. Not sure about soil types – we are on clay and they seem to do well. Presumably, as they grow all over the world, they aren’t too fussy.

We grow them from seed and although South African commercial growers replace them every two years, we have found that they will continue fruiting for at least four years. All we do is cut them down to ground level when they finish fruiting for the year.

After a late start this year, when we had a cold and windy spring and summer, they finally started fruiting in late October, and we are still picking them in November. They come in  a paper case, like a tomatillo or a Chinese Lantern, and are ripe when the case dries out and turns brown.

Even when ripe they aren’t overly sweet, but I can easily eat a dozen or twenty when we have them. They can be used in a variety of ways but I’m boring and have only ever eaten them as fruit or used them in a frangipane, where the sharp, semi-sweet flavour is very like a gooseberry. It can be used in jam and salads, but I’ve never got round to it.

When putting fruits on top of the frangipane cut them in half and press them in cut side up – that uses half the fruit compared to using whole fruit – it also leaves you with more fruit showing – when you use whole fruit the cake rises round the fruit more easily.

According to the internet 100g will provide you with 3% of your daily protein and carbohydrate requirements. They will also give you 14% of your Vitamin A and 18% of your Vitamin C. (Or 5% and 13% according to another site, which also says it will give you 10% of your B1 and 19% of your B3). Let’s just say it’s a reasonably nutritious fruit.

Staffordshire Oatcakes

Back in the days when I was a salesman I would often stop for a Staffordshire oatcake when in the area, and used to take packets home to use for breakfast. When I stopped visiting Staffordshire regularly I stopped eating oatcakes and started to eat potato cakes for breakfast instead. I like potato cakes and until I stopped to think about it the other day I realised I hadn’t had an oatcake for about 20 years.

We had plans to visit Stoke on Trent, which is an oatcake stronghold, so it seemed a good day to look for some. Unfortunately most of the shops we saw advertising them seemed to be closed, though we finally ran some to ground at the Middleport Pottery.

It’s the first time we’ve visited this factory, though it seemed familiar. As we’ve been visiting Stoke for over 20 years it’s always possible that we have visited in the distant past and forgotten, but as we sat down in the tearoom and looked out at the canal wharf I realised why it looked familiar: this was the factory used in the Great Pottery Throw Down.

The tea shop is a great room, though with steps and uneven floors it is way off modern standards of accessibility. It clearly used to be a work room, as the yellow lines on the floor reveal, and the tables and chairs all have previous history too. It’s a great place to sit, and a real antidote to all those bloody awful chintzy tearooms I have grown to hate.

The teapot lampshades could have been twee in some circumstances, but as it’s a pottery what better thing could you have? They are a nightmare to photograph, but Julia managed a half decent shot as an example.

I can’t really tell you about the menu because I just saw “Special Oatcakes – bacon, black pudding and cheese £2.90”. I closed down after that and just ordered without giving the food another thought. They do other things, including gluten-free cake, but I just didn’t take it in.

It was delicious, though the “salad” wasn’t up to much – just some lettuce leaves where the cuts were going brown and a few beetroot leaves on top. It was OK but not necessary and not up to the same standard as the oatcakes.

Special Oatcake at Middleton Pottery

The strips of bacon were cooked to perfection – still pink and succulent – and the nuggets of black pudding were crisp and spicy. There was plenty of good strong cheddar, possibly a touch too much in places, and the oatcakes were soft in the middle and crisp round the edges.

I really don’t know why we need foreign street food when we have local food like this.

Surroundings: atmospheric

Staff: good

Food: excellent (salad isn’t actually food, so I’ll let that slide)

Value: hard to beat

Five stars for this one.

Breakfast Review – Full English at The Nurseryman, Beeston, Notts

I’ve driven past The Nurseryman countless times in my 28 years in Nottingham and never once felt the need to visit. It’s always appeared to be just one more gloomy and uninviting pub, and if you want to visit that sort of pub, Nottingham has many to chose from.

However, being hungry, and on the wrong road, and having to correct my error by turning off next to the pub, I decided to respond to their notice offering breakfasts. It just goes to show that these notices work.

I no longer use this road much and someone appears to have done the pub up since I was here last, as it’s now a lot brighter and cleaner, to the point of being nearly unrecognisable. It’s fair to say that first impressions were favourable, and that we weren’t disappointed by the reception when we walked in.

We were soon seated and shown the menu. I can’t say the menu was thrilling, but the waitress was very cheerful and efficient, and the food arrived quickly. We held back on the food and just ordered two ordinary Full English  breakfasts.

Two breakfasts, two lots of toast and two coffees, all nicely presented and well-cooked with hardly any delay. What more could you want?

Well, how about a bill of £9.99?

I thought the food was very good and the value and service were excellent.

Walking through the pub later, I did think the decor was reminiscent of a 1980s living room and that a couple of points like worn paint and graffiti needed attention in the toilet, but it didn’t really detract from the breakfast experience. (I think I’m getting more picky after watching too many episodes of Restaurant Impossible – this time last year I doubt I’d have noticed this.)

That’s all there is to say.

I’d give it five stars




Walter Smith Supreme Champion Pork Pie

Walter Smith have won numerous awards for their pies, meat, sausages and apprentice scheme. I’d be happy to recommend them just for that last category, because without trained butchers we aren’t going to get good pies.

Visiting their farm shop at Denby Pottery you can see why they are prize-winners. The whole place gleams, the meat looks fantastic and the staff are first class. I was spoilt for choice – three sorts of pork pie, black pudding and sausage rolls. There were also pies to cook and various ready meals.

In the end, and mindful of the fact I’m away for a few days soon, I decided to select just one pork pie, and one balsamic vinegar. It was fairly easy to select a pie, as one choice was topped with cranberries and another with Stilton cheese. I left the latter because I’ve already reviewed a Pork and Stilton pie recently, and I left the cranberry-topped pie because I’m not sure I see the point of it. I suppose I’ll have to eat one at some time, but today is not that time.

First impression of the pie is that has a good shape and is well-browned from the oven. Even though they wrap it in cling film when you select it, you get a good waft of spicy pie coming through the wrapping.

Supreme Champion Pork Pie

Even before cutting, this pie is ticking all the right boxes.

On removing the wrapping, you find a sticker on top, telling you that it was the Great Taste Supreme Champion 2007.  That’s nine years ago – at what time does being a champion become resting on your laurels?

Next comes the pastry, which I found surprisingly soft, as it had looked like well cooked. It was still good, and it had great flavour. I’m not really sure how crisp you need a pie to be, nor am I convinced that most pies are all that crisp, despite judging comments to the contrary. As long as it isn’t hard or greasy I’m happy

Filling came up well to the crust, had good texture, smelt good and tasted excellent. This has definitely been one of the more fragrant pies I’ve eaten. It could have done with a bit more jelly, but that’s really my preference, not a fault with the pie.

According to the video clip on the website, they use rusk in their pies. I always thought that this was a cheap ingredient to bulk things out (and it may well be that too) but they say it is to get an open texture in the filling. It works. I’ve often thought that a lot of “high quality” pies are let down by the solid chunk of meat in the middle, and the rusk sorts that problem out nicely. This was probably the best texture of any pie I’ve eaten so far.Plenty of meat, plenty of texture, plenty of flavour.

After the flavour came the pepper burn. I thought it was at a good level, but Julia thought it was quite strong. We also disagreed on the saltiness. One of my pieces tasted salty; she’s normally more sensitive to salt than I am but in this case couldn’t taste salt. As my other piece didn’t taste salty that tends to suggest that it was just a spot of unmixed salt that I ended up with.

And that wraps things up.

The attention to detail and quality that you see in the shop shows itself in the pie too.

I can’t ignore the salt issue. It may have been an aberration, but it was there, and as I’ve said before, I can only judge what I’m eating at the time. It didn’t quite have the taste explosion quality of Brockleby’s Stilton Pork Pie, but it did have a lot of flavour and it did it all with pork and pepper. On the fault side – a smidgen too much salt and a suspicion of too much heat from the pepper.

Fair’s fair though, it’s an excellent pie, and well worth 9/10.


A note for Derrick J Knight – your nearest stockist is Wyevale Garden Centre, Aylesbury Road, Wendover, HP22 6BD – tough luck Derrick!


Cranberry Creme Balsamic Vinegar – Food Variety (6)

I discovered this yesterday when I visited the Walter Smith Farm Shop at the Denby Pottery.

Normally I don’t test oils and vinegar, because my tastes run more to brown sauce and Henderson’s Relish, as you know. However, as I’m looking for more things to write about I thought I’d better broaden my knowledge of modern food ingredients.

The fig balsamic (which may have been fig and something balsamic – I’m not a very good reviewer) was OK, I suppose. It mainly tasted of balsamic vinegar.

The ginger infused oil had a subtle taste and a decent warmth to it, though I can’t think what I’d use it for. I might have to start using more oil, and eating more salad.

The Cranberry Creme Balsamic vinegar, on the other hand, is good enough to drink with a straw. It’s sharp, sweet and fruity all in one hit and in the Nottingham dialect “it meks yer tabs laugh”. (Translation: It makes your ears laugh). It reminds me of the fruit vinegars that we make, which I mainly use for making hot drinks and pouring over ice cream. At £4.25 for a small bottle (100 ml) I think I’ll stick to or own stuff, though we did buy a bottle to give as a present. Refills are £2.50 if you take the bottle back.

I must think of more uses for  fruit vinegar.

It’s a very easy thing to make – just mash fruit in vinegar, leave to infuse then strain the juice, boil with vinegar and bottle. For more information and some inspiring photographs, look at this blog.

Cranberry Creme Balsamic Vinegar


How’s it going so far?

Experienced bloggers will look at this and smile knowingly.

It’s the sort of post you write when you’ve backed yourself into a corner and need to write something, anything, to avoid that awkward silence. I really should have done it at the end of last week but I believed I was going to be able to keep to my rough schedule.

As those of you who read the Quercus Community blog will know I was busy last week, following orders from my wife and sneaking a visit to a bookshop. I managed to keep up with writing that, but it takes a lot more work running a food blog than it does sitting at a keyboard and hammering out 250 words on the meaning of life and events on the farm.

I can do the words, but with food you also have to have pictures. Good pictures.

The post on kale ground to a halt because I had no kale to photograph.

The review of pies ground to a halt because I haven’t had a good pie recently and you can’t devote a blog to slagging off supermarket pies. They are pies made to a price and you can’t judge them by the same standards as good pies. On top of that, it’s depressing writing bad reviews. I set out to praise good pies, not criticise bad ones.

I’ve tried a few new recipes but haven’t tested them enough, or written them down properly, or photographed the results.

I did try three new recipes at the weekend (if you consider wrapping things in shop-bought pastry trying a recipe) but the photos, taken in artificial light, aren’t good. Well, two of them aren’t good, the third is non-existent. I looked at what was meant to be baked Brie with berries and thought I’ve seen better things in gutters.

That one is going to take some work. With hindsight, I should have photographed it, because it’s how a real life recipe turned out, but my pride took over. I ate the evidence and Julia tactfully binned hers, because, to be honest, the look of the thing wasn’t the worst problem.

Here’s a picture of the empanadas and the Indian Shepherd’s Pie. Those of you coming from the other blog will have seen these pictures already, so sorry for the repetition. The other post is available here if you want to read about the infamous Empire Pie.

Indian Shepherd’s Pie
Empanadas – and yes, I do need a new pastry brush

However, you won’t have seen the top picture – the Cape Gooseberries and chillies. They aren’t that impressive, and the Cape Gooseberries are taking their time about ripening, but I still get a feeling of pride at producing my own fresh produce, even if it is imperfect, late and only available in small quantities.


Pork, Apple and Cider Pork pie and The Real McCoy – a Tottley different review

Let’s get this out of the way quickly – Tottle’s pies and Tottle’s sausage rolls are two different things. OK, I know that’s revealed by the name, but I also mean it on a more spiritual plane. Where the sausage rolls are a tragic loss of a pig’s life, the pies are passable.

They are both lovely looking pies, with great crimping and handy labels on them in case you lose track of what is what when running a pork pie buffet.

Pastry on both is good for a pie from a packet, with a good crisp bite and a decent flavour.

They look good, the pastry isn’t bad, so what does the meat taste like?

Not as good as I would like.

Pork, Apple and Cider is up against some stiff competition. It’s well-filled, has jelly and looks good when cut. In taste, it’s a good supermarket pie, and I suppose that’s how we have to view it, despite the crimping and the write-up (see the sausage roll review for my views on the packaging).

It’s tangy, it has good texture, and it’s looks good on the plate. I’ve just been looking at the photos and if this was a Beautiful Pie Pageant this pie would be in with a shot at the title. But it’s about the taste.

I ate it when it was maybe a little cold from the fridge, but I wasn’t impressed. I left the second bit after it had time to warm up (or after the bouquet had had time to develop, as a wine buff would say). It still wasn’t impressive.

It’s at the level of a good supermarket pie, though possibly a little less tangy than the other pork and apple pies I’ve had recently. It definitely loses out on tanginess to the Sainsbury ‘s Pork and Apple pie I tested recently, but it has better jelly and texture. Same for the TESCO Pork and Bramley Apple Pie – they are probably about equal on flavour but the TESCO pie has a proper peppery after-taste.


The Real McCoy? That really is a name that needs some backing up.

I recorded my feelings on the filling as “good texture, dry, bland”.

Compared to the control pie it scores on appearance, pastry and texture but loses out on flavour.

The final test is which one would I rather see on my plate, and I think I’d rather see the Tottle pie than the Pork Farms, despite the lack of flavour – the pastry is nicer to eat and appearance does count for something.

Even so, it’s a meagre