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Three beautiful duck eggs on display at the Todmorden Agricultural Show

Cracking stuff: in praise of the duck egg…

Three green and one white duck egg

So that moveable feast, Easter, is well and truly behind us for another twelve months or so. It’s a time of the year which is synonymous with eggs – as a symbol of life, of change, as a treat or gift, and as the rebirth inherent during spring. Our modern Easter is a convenient, contradictory and sometimes conflicted mélange of pagan, Christian, and (increasingly) consumerist influences; and there’s plenty of scope for debate about the origins of many of the things we associate with this time of year. Sidestepping much of the ideology and etymology, I’d just like to talk about eggs…*

Actually, it’s hard to think of a more elemental, universal and iconic foodstuff than an egg. Considering eggs (and duck eggs in particular) are one of the favourite and most-used ingredients in my kitchen, it surprised me to realise we’ve never written a piece in praise of them.

They crop up in plenty of our recipes; they’re the first thing I buy when I go to the market each week; they’re my number one packed lunch item (the ultimate self-contained foodstuff). So this is a celebration of eggs, and especially the duck egg, which is indelibly wrapped up in my past memories and modern routines.

Three beautiful duck eggs on display at the Todmorden Agricultural Show

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Slaw Food Movement

I’m picking up the slaw baton from Miss South, after last week’s delicious-sounding fennel slaw. Coincidentally I was busy making kohlrabi slaw here in the Pennines at the same time.

I’d clocked the distinctive and slightly alien shapes of kohlrabi last year when I was in Hungary, pottering around the markets. I knew what they were, but wasn’t sure I’d ever tasted them.

Here at North/South Food we’re both well-known for our love of all things brassica –  from roots like turnips; leaves like cabbage and kale; and flowers to cauliflower and broccoli – so of course I was keen to add these swollen stems to our checklist of brassica we’ve known and loved.

To my mind there’s something very mittel European about these light green orbs, so it was fitting I was introduced to their flavour by a friend who’d lived in Germany for many years, and had picked up a taste for them when she out there. This was one half of the dynamic duo behind Porcus, our local free-range pork producers (and general self-sufficiency experts).

We had some kohlrabi to accompany a fantastic spread of roast pork and other goodies, as part of a medley of vegetables, but while this was being prepared I was given a chance to sample a slice of the raw kohlrabi. It had a crisp and crunchy texture, and a ‘bright’ and fresh flavour, a little like celeriac with a hint of apple and a pinch of nuttiness. Very nice it was too.

So when I was given a couple of kohlrabi and some radishes, all freshly picked from their hilltop garden, I felt it was worth making the most of this flavour and texture. In the spirit of all things summer I knocked up a quick. light, refreshing slaw to accompany some other salad-y goodies.

I started by peeling and slicing a kohlrabi stem, before julienning it.


I did the same with a carrot, then grated the radishes (don’t you love the form and colour of grated radish?).


These were all combined with a wholegrain mustard mayonnaise (Hellmanns, rather than anything made by my own fair hand… I was far too hungry to go through all that palaver)

Finally, in what proved to be a mildly inspired flourish, I added some sliced chives and a few mint leaves from my windowboxes. These added a touch of clean coolness to the dish which really played off the other ingredients.

A few minutes later I was sitting in the sunlight, eating hardboiled sliced duck eggs, some tomato & feta salad, and a massive dollop of the coarse-cut kohlrabi-slaw. Gorgeous. Kohrabi’s not terribly well-known in the UK, but it you spot some at a farmer’s market, or if you fancy growing some yourself, I think it may become a firm favourite for you. It’s certainly got a place in my kitchen any time…

All Boar, No Bore…

Up bright and early and filled with the joys of summer on Sunday I headed into Brixton to take advantage of the season’s finest. Already chuffed to bits about getting some very reasonably priced donut peaches and baby plum tomatoes at the fruit and veg stall opposite the back of Brixton Village on Coldharbour Lane by the bridge, my day was made when I discovered a stall at the Farmers’ Market selling, (amongst other things) wild boar and duck eggs. Almost before I knew it, my money had found its way out of my purse and a bag with a rolled wild boar loin and two double yolked duck eggs was nestled in my hand. Suddenly dinner seemed a long way away…

Back home, I tucked into a delicious cooked breakfast with the eggs and the tomatoes and set to reading the Sunday papers. Seeing Jay Rayner compare Red Dog Saloon and Pitt Cue Co in the Observer got me thinking that I just can’t have enough pig and pulses in my life and that slow roasting the boar loin over beans would be the perfect twist on that American classic this Independence Day weekend.

Being all organised when I made the root beer beans a few weeks ago, I soaked and cooked more haricots than I needed at the time and then froze them. So while the oven heated to the maximum temperature to blast the boar skin into crackling, the beans defrosted and I prepared a rub of salt, butter, oilve oil and home grown fennel seeds for the skin. Once the meat was at room temperature I slathered the skin with the rub, working on the premise that the only thing better than pork fat, is pork fat with butter on it!

The loin went into a very hot oven for 20 minutes to crisp up. I also chopped up fennel, red onion and some of those baby plum tomatoes and some cloves of garlic to mix with the beans as a bed for the meat to slow roast on.
I then took the meat out, set it aside, deglazed the pan with some water and then tossed the beans and veg well in the juices, put the meat on top and popped in the oven at 160℃ for about two hours. Or until I remembered about it again…

It smelled amazing when I opened the oven, but I was worried that the fennel was the wrong side of caramlised and would just taste burnt. But the meat looked so mouthwatering moist and tender I didn’t really care. Slow roasting on the bone had turned this into something really special. I left it to rest to make sure I didn’t miss those precious juices and chopped up a quick slaw of white cabbage, fennel, carrot and golden beetroot to go on the side.

If you aren’t just as fennel obsessed as I am, feel free to leave it out of the beans. But do keep it in the slaw where the anise cuts through the sweetness of the beets and carrot and tempers the mustardiness of the cabbage. The fresh crunch of the slaw is its selling point, so don’t be tempted to chop too finely or drown it in dressing like a shop bought version. I used a tablespoon of yoghurt, a dessertspoon of mayonnaise, cider vinegar, fish sauce and a tiny bit of Dijon mustard to make a light yet flavoursome dressing that coats the vegetables well without being overwhelming.

Then after all the chopping, shredding and roasting, I dug in. It was so good. The meat was so juicy and tender even compared to the equivalent piece of pork, falling off the bone beautifully. The crackling wasn’t just as shatteringly crisp as pork can be, but the slight chewiness and caramelly finish from the butter made up for that in abundance. The beans were deliciously meaty whil even the slightly burnt fennel was very enjoyable. Everything just burst with flavour, especially the boar itself.

And best of all, it didn’t feel like a heavy dish thanks to the refreshing crunch of the slaw and the fresh flavours of the beans so you could eat a hefty portion of the meat with feeling defeated. It’s dishes like this that remind me why seasonal food is so worth the wait…

Duck and scramble with huevos rancheros

It struck me earlier I don’t often blog about breakfast, which as we all know is the most important meal of the day. I’m a great fan of a hearty, lazy, savoury breakfast… something which isn’t normally possible with the bustling routine of the working day. So weekends are the time to reclaim the tradition of cooking up a proper breakfast.

Today I’m going to cover huevos rancheros (or raunchy eggs as my breakfast companion called them earlier).These ranch-style scrambled eggs have a bit of a kick to them. I’ve only made this dish once before, many moons ago, when a mate crashed over after a night on the beers, and we felt we needed something to counter the first signs of a hangover. I remembered it was delicious, but also a bit of a faff. Definitely the kind of low-intensity task best suited to lazy Sunday mornings with the brain switched to low power mode and some good tunes in the kitchen. Perfect for this morning, in fact.
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Bloodlust: six black puddings and a beer for breakfast…

Ever since some bright spark had the idea to stuff intestines with coagulated animal blood, flavourings and other assorted filler ingredients, humans have been making the most of their livestock’s leftover bits, enjoying the results greatly. As a result almost every culture has some kind of black pudding tradition. Miss South and I have been enjoying black pudding in various forms for some time, and as our appreciation and fascination with blood sausage has grown, we’ve idly contemplated a sanguine side-by-side comparison of various favourites. So we finally did it, pitting six of the best we could track down next to each other. But before you read about that, I should make a confession.

I didn’t like black pudding as a kid. Not at all. Miss South and I had it once at the house of a family friend (both it and white pudding, another traditional Irish favourite) and it put me off for a long time. To be honest, I don’t think it was the taste or texture as much as the knowledge at the back of my mind of what it was made from. I wasn’t especially squeamish but it was just too ‘bloody offal’ to contemplate, nevermind enjoy eating. Besides, it wasn’t a family favourite so we had little exposure to black pudding: indeed our mum thinks our modern love of the black pudding is very very wrong, and she’s rarely judgemental about food. So I start this post knowing black pudding can be divisive and disgusting for many folk.
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