Tomato Soup a.k.a. Ghost's Blood!

Well that's crept up on me without me noticing! It's Halloween on Monday: that special day when little kids can 'mug' old people with impunity!

At this point, 'proper' bloggers would roll out a recipe for a cake with spiders, slugs, ghouls or goolies (evening vicar!). Well, my kids are grown up and if I want a cake, I'll make a cake, but I can't be fussed with all that nonsense. Perhaps I can pretend that the pear in the pear sponge cake, that Pauline made a couple of days ago, is ectoplasm or some other such nonsense!

Anyway, here's my recipe for ghost's blood, something special for Halloween (or for that matter any other time that has tons of spare tomatoes!).

This is simplicity itself. I half filled a medium sized saucepan saucepan (about 18cm diameter - the middle sized one that comes in a standard set of three) with cherry tomatoes and added a medium sized onion and stick of celery, both chopped up. Cover with water or stock (I used water), season with salt and pepper, and simmer it for about about 20 minutes before liquidising. Sieve the mixture through a fine sieve, taste and adjust seasoning. It may need a little sugar if the tomatoes were a bit acidic, or some tomato puree adding to the mix if they're a bit flavourless (never an issue with Bob's!). I like to add a tablespoon or two of double cream just before serving. (omit the cream for a vegan version)

Tomato soup

I would point out that this is the very basic recipe and method: the way to make if time is short. Whilst it's fine, greater effort will give an even better result. A couple of options are roasting the tomatoes or sweating the vegetables until cooked in butter before making the soup. You can add herbs/garlic/spices whilst cooking it or chopped soft herbs such as parsley, chervil or basil, after it has been sieved. The one thing I never add to tomato soup is anything for thickening; I think that you don't get the full flavour of the tomatoes if you do.

...and the pear sponge? Well, Pauline made it following a suggestion of mine. It was great but would have been even better had we used whole pear halves rather than chopping them smaller - my fault, as Pauline had asked me what she should do.

Pear Cake

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From Bad to Worse

Doh! What possessed me to write about a luncheon meat when I hadn't finalised the recipe! Normally, it takes numerous trials to formulate a recipe; there's so many variables. With a fresh sausage it's not so bad because you can do trials in 100gm batches and try 5 or 6 variations at a time. I've not yet found a fool-proof way of doing a similar thing with luncheon meat which means that I end up with vast quantities of not too good sausage.

This is my second trial of the recipe for Ham and Garlic Luncheon Meat and to be honest it's worse than the first! I can't believe that, when all I had to do was make the paste firmer, I've managed to make it softer! All I can think is that I messed up on the ratio of fat to meat.

Garlic and Ham Sausage

Oh well, back to the drawing board. I'm not even going to mention the two meat cures I'm doing at the moment: it'd be tempting fate too much!

It's Not a Sin to Bin!

It's Not a Sin to Bin! Or, so says the 'signature' of one of my friends on the forum. Oh boy! Was that relevant this weekend. Firstly, some ham pieces I was preparing for my 'Ham and Garlic Sausage' went 'off', and now my trial 'Local Cider and Honey Ham' has gone 'down the Swanee'! I made this test ham using the injection method of curing and it's turned out with bigger lines than the local heroin addict! It's a pity because it tasted OK and didn't look too bad:

Cider and Honey Ham

That is, until I sliced some:

Yuk, ham with brown lines in it

Doh! I'll make another using a full immersion cure. I'd even made some rolls to put it in:

Bread Rolls

Anyway, to you cheer everyone up, here's three of my favourites from our village's scarecrow competition this weekend:

Picture of scarecrow
Picture of scarecrow
Picture of scarecrow

Competition Winners

Congratulations to local Leicestershire cooks, Holly Bell and Rosie Clark, who were both in the finals of food competitions this week.

Holly was the runner-up in the BBC's 'The Great British Bake Off'. Although beaten in the final by Essex grandmother Jo Wheatley, Holly is still a real winner. Just to get to the final is a major achievement, to come runner-up, more so.

Rosie was the winner of the Leicestershire Cook-Off where her offering of three local breads were named as Leicestershire's signature dish(es?). Congratulations Rosie, the breads sound fantastic.

That said, the official website tells us that Sarah Harrison, city centre director and Leicestershire Cook Off judge, said: "Lots of counties have a signature dish. Birmingham has its balti and Lancashire has its hot pot, and now this county has its Leicestershire Loaves! Congratulations to Rosie, her recipe will go down in history as the county’s signature dish...".

The breads are: Leicestershire beer and honey bread, an Eastern rye bread featuring Asian spices and a Leicestershire Stilton cheese, Irish soda bread...
...Leicestershire's signature dish? Mmm, well I suppose that I never thought that we would have a Black-American spiritual as our national rugby anthem!

Seriously though, somebody please tell me that they're having a laugh!

Leicestershire's Signature Dish

Melton Mowbray Pork PieI've written before about the current competition to find Leicestershire's 'signature dish'. Initially when it was announced, and then when the deadline for entries was extended.

The final takes place at St Martin’s House, next to Leicester Cathedral, on Tuesday 4 October, between noon and 2pm. The six judges, including celebrity chef James Tanner, will choose which of the dishes will become the winner. The finalists are:

  • Coralie Featherstone, 17, from Markfield, whose recipe of stuffed pork tenderloin wrapped in bacon with a honey mustard sauce, has made it through in the 16 to 18 category.
  • Rosie Clark, 48, from Clarendon Park, Leicester, was chosen in the quirky category with her three 'Leicestershire loaves'.
  • Maurice Flynn, 35, from Hoton near Loughborough, had his apple and mulberry crumble cake chosen in the over-18 category.
  • The remaining finalist is Amardeep Singh Anand, 31, from Leicester city centre, who entered in the professional category with his Bradgate Park venison curry with Red Leicester naan bread.

The competitors, who could win a prize of £1,000 worth of cooking equipment, will have their dishes cooked by a team of professional chefs.

That said: if they think that the winning dish will be 'Leicestershire's Signature Dish', then they're living in 'cloud cuckoo land'! There's more chance of me walking than that happening.

"Blimey, he's off again: moan, moan, moan; He told us all this in his last rant". Well yes, and I'm going to do it again! You see, last night I was thinking that maybe I'd misinterpreted what a signature dish actually is. I'm from Enderby in Leicestershire; it could be said that English is not my first language! So, I actually checked what them posh clever people in Oxford say in their dictionary. They reckon that a signature is summat what is a noun and what, among other things, means:

a distinctive pattern, product, or characteristic by which someone or something can be identified:

the chef produced the pâté that was his signature
[as modifier] :
his signature dish

To my simple brain, that means that Leicestershire's signature dish should be "a dish by which Leicestershire can be identified". I'm sorry Mr Rhodes, but a competition, even with a fantastic £1000 prize, cannot decide that: only time and reputation can!

...and to the competitors: I wish you all good fortune. Have a great day; I'm sure it will be a fantastic experience.

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