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Veda Bread Ice-Cream

July is a hot month back home in Belfast. Not especially due to the weather, but because of the slightly heightened feeling on the streets due to the Orange Order marches held in what is known as the Twelfth Fortnight. This was the traditional summer holiday for the shipyard workers in the city and a chance to hark back and remember Catholics and Protestants knocking the pan out of each other at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. For those of us who don’t enjoy some light civil disobedience, it’s a good time to potter around at home doing all those things you’d sort of meant to do all year since you can’t really go out. Or ignore them completely and spend time watching box-sets and eating ice cream instead…

Feeling oddly left out here in London, I thought I would try and join in with a ice cream recipe with a taste of home. I’ve been wanting to make a traditional brown bread ice cream since I got my ice cream maker earlier this year, but the arrival of my mother on the week of the Twelfth with every Northern Irish exile’s request in the shape of a loaf of Veda bread, meant I decided to give it an Ulster twist and use Veda instead.

A dark delicious slightly sticky (non-fruited) malt bread, Veda makes the best toast in the world, marrying together with butter like nobody’s business. Adding sugar to bring out the natural sweetness and crisping it up with butter is what my life has been missing up until now. Using this recipe by David Lebovitz, I crumbled the Veda into smallish pieces, fried off in butter and a good unrefined caster sugar and then toasted in the oven for about 30 minutes or until I had clusters of crispy, sticky, malty heaven that were so good, I could have skipped the ice cream and just eaten them alone.

But since I had promised ice cream, I made ice cream. The recipe uses a basic custard, but with the addition of cream cheese to stop it all being just too sweet. This is much more faffy, needing a third bowl, more counter space, a sieve, a whisk and more potential for the custard to curdle as it needs to be hotter to melt the cream cheese, so in future, I don’t think I’ll bother with this addition. Otherwise, it was all pretty straightforward.

I gave this ice cream a bit of a Brixton twist and added a slug of dark rum, some vanilla and then stirred the caramalised crisped up Veda into the churned mixture about five minutes before the end. Because the Veda is stickier and maltier than regular brown bread, the crumbs clumped up more and made huge nuggets of crispiness. Fearing that I would either break my teeth or the machine, I blitzed them in the blender to make them more crumb like. Everything then went in the freezer for a couple of hours to firm up and create hands down the finest ice cream ever created.

Creamy beyond belief but crunchy and chewy due to the crisped up bread crumbs and with a slightly grown up flavour from the rum, this was just magnificient. Rich with butter and with a gorgeous toffee feel, I defy you not to fall in love with this amazing ice cream and want to sneak a spoonful everytime you pass the freezer. It was declared even better than the Northern Irish ice cream institution that is Maud’s Pooh Bear Delight*.

You need to make this ice cream immediately. If you don’t have access to Norn Iron’s best kept secret, try it with some Soreen or a really good brown bread instead. This is what breadcrumbs aspire to being…

*Youse know it’d be belter in a poke.

Ham, cheese and malt toastie heaven

Sometimes simple pleasures are the best. For me, this ticks all the boxes: great local cheese, great local ham, and not-quite-so local but equally great bread. The cheese was the remains of some of the original Calderdale Cheese which needed eating up, and I had a few small pieces of the air-dried ham left over, so I whipped up a bit of a rarebit-like mix. Miss South was visiting at the time I made this (this post is prompted by me finding these photos from early in the year), so I raided my stash of precious Veda bread from the freezer in celebration.

Veda, you say? Yes, these are slices of Veda bread (truly one of the high points of Northern Irish baking culture), and for the uninitiated, Veda is a dark, malty loaf. A bit like Soreen, but without the fruit, and not as dense a mix. It seems at one time Veda was widely available across the UK, but over time tastes have changed and the last remaining backwater of the country to keep Veda in a place close to their heart is Norn Irn. Several bakeries still produce it over there, but try as I might I’ve never managed to track it down on this side of the Irish Sea.

Miss South and I grew up eating (and loving) the humble Veda bread. One wouldn’t do much with it… possibly toast it, or add a few slices of mature Cheddar… the slightly sweet malty flavour, and almost sticky texture was enough. I’d often eat half a loaf of this diminutive loaf in one sitting: something encouraged by the fact Veda never comes sliced, so you tend to cut off big doorstep-like wodges to toast. I’m salivating at the very prospect, just writing this now… I’ll be filling a suitcase with Veda next time I go back to see family. Over the years I’ve converted more than a few folk to the exquisite delights of Veda… I would dearly love to proselytise further. Let me know if you fancy a slice of Veda toast some time!

Giving thanks for ham and turkey eggs

Ah, turkey eggs. Not quite as rare as hen’s teeth, but still something you don’t see every day. I was lucky enough to be given one a couple of years ago by a colleague whose dad works with a lot of farmers (and I made a 3 egg frittata, with hen, duck and turkey egg… wow!) Thanks to Mr S for that experience…

I’ve been trying to source them ever since, but there are two fundamental issues in tracking down turkey eggs. Number 1: turkeys don’t lay as many eggs as, say, your average chicken. Many fewer, in fact, so that many eggs are actually fertilized and used to grow little turkey chicks. Number 2: they taste rather wonderful as well, so even if they’re not going to be used to expand the turkey population, only somebody benevolent or with bounteous quantities of spare eggs is actually going to allow other non-poultry farmer types to sample them.

As you can see, they’re delightfully speckled and have a distinctive pointed end – not sure if this makes them any easier to pass – turkeys often look rather aggrieved so perhaps not. They also have a very flavoursome taste and a creamy consistency.

I was lucky enough to have been given a few as a birthday present by my friends from Porcus up at Height Top Barn this morning, alongside picking up my bread order, so I resolved to make a luxurious breakfast. First I toasted a couple of slices of wonderful home-made bread, generously buttered it and covered it with some torn air-dried ham, before finishing with two poached turkey eggs and a good dose of freshly ground black pepper. As the photo above might suggest, such a simple and classic combination as ham and eggs was taken to the next level with this delightful breakfast plate.

So, if you ever get the chance to sample a turkey egg, don’t let it slip through your fingers. Although my final advice would be that, due to the thickness of their shells (equal to goose eggs) even if they do slip through your fingers they may well land intact. They just won’t be around for long afterwards!

A little slice of Pexommier cheese…

Sometimes the simplest things bring the greatest pleasure. This evening’s meal was based around local food: incredible fresh bread from the Height Top Barn Company, and gloriously melting Pexommier cheese from the Pextenement Cheese Company.

This is the latest offering from this local start-up producer, coming hot on the heels of their wonderfully fresh East Lee soft cheeses. Having sat at room temperature for some days, this cheese was just starting to ooze runnily when I cut it open: the mild aroma did little to alert me to the fantastically rich, smooth taste and texture. One might lazily start by comparing it to a good cambembert, though without the slightly ammonia-esque tang you might expect of that more matured cheese. However that comparison doesn’t aid in highlighting the slight sweetness of the cheese, the oh-so-soft skin and the harmonious pairing with some really good bread and local butter. All washed down with a great beer (in this case a Trippel from Chimay… the one with the white label).

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