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30 October 2012

Pepper Prawns with Caramelised Cauliflower

Photo: © childsdesign

Perhaps prawns and cauliflower don’t sound a likely combination but the way the cauliflower is cooked makes a great flavour match.
The cauliflower is first coated in a honey mustard dressing which creates sweet and slightly charred edges to the vegetable.
The prawns are given a spike from a chilli sauce with added lemon for brightness and all the flavours marry well in a sweet, nutty, sour combination.

Ingredients (serves 2)

For the prawns
  • 250g raw king prawns
  • quarter tsp Capsicana Chilli Co Habanero Sauce
  • grated zest from quarter of a lemon
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • pinch salt
  • pinch sugar

For the cauliflower

To garnish
  • few coriander leaves
  • 1 spring onion, finely sliced
  • squeeze lemon juice

First marinate the prawns. Put the prawns into a bowl with the pepper sauce, lemon zest, salt, sugar and lemon juice and stir making sure the prawns are completely coated. Leave to marinate for 15 minutes.

To prepare the cauliflower remove the florets, keeping them in large chunks then take each floret and slice into 1cm thick pieces. Place in a bowl and add the honey mustard dressing, stirring to coat all of the cauliflower evenly.

Heat a large frying pan until it is very hot then tip in the cauliflower and let it sizzle and brown. Turn the cauliflower to sizzle the other side. Turn down the heat to continue cooking until the cauliflower becomes tender but still has a nutty bite to it.
Roughly crush the cumin seeds with a pestle and mortar and sprinkle the seeds over the cauliflower, stir gently to mix.

Add some oil to another frying pan, heat some olive until hot and tip in the prawns and cook them, stirring occasionally until they turn pink. This should only take a minute.

Arrange the cauliflower slices on plates, spoon over the prawns and garnish with the coriander and springs onions, finishing with a squeeze of lemon juice.

29 October 2012

Go large with elephant garlic

Elephant garlic is considerably larger than its cousin. The normal garlic cloves in the foreground are around half the size.
Photo: © childsdesign

We can't think of many meals that we cook that don't contain garlic in some way. The versatile bulbs have a permanent place in our kitchen and usually occupy a small box inside the spice cupboard.

Recently we tried some elephant garlic from The Elephant Garlic Company. It was recently harvested and has to be freshest garlic we've eaten, each enormous clove still juicy from the last drink in the field.

Technically, elephant garlic is not a true garlic and botanists have classified it as a close relation to the leek. While the top of the plant does indeed have leek-like leaves, the bottom is very much a huge garlic bulb complete with the individual cloves.
The flavour too is also like garlic, perhaps a little sweeter and not so pungent, but unmistakably garlicky.

Because of the elephant garlic's more subtle flavours we found it was very palatable even when eaten raw. There is some hotness which quickly subsides to reveal a sweet nutty garlic flavour.
Cooked it can be used in the same way as normal garlic and is particularly good when roasted whole.

Photo: © childsdesign

We also tried it mixed with tomatoes to make a delicious topping for toast. Drizzled with some olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt and a grind of fresh black pepper then grilled it was very good. You might want to call it it bruschetta but we like to call it 'Posh Things On Toast'!

23 October 2012

Where the wild things are – now is the time to enjoy fresh venison

© The Artisan Food Trail / Lisa Childs
Over the past few years Venison has risen in popularity, partly because it is healthy, being low in cholesterol and very lean and also because it has a superb flavour and texture.
It is easy to cook, the steaks can be treated the same as you would for beef and a little goes a long way in casserole dishes.

Man has been eating meat from deer since prehistoric times where it played a very important part in the human diet. The word venison is actually a broad term which originates from the Latin venari – to hunt and originally referred to meat from any wild animal.

For centuries venison was the preserve of the aristocracy when deer parks were set up to be used as a source of sport and superior quality food. Having such a concentration of valuable meat, which could only be accessed by the elite, meant there was always conflict between the poacher and gamekeeper.
Fortunately it is available to all of us now and the enjoyment of venison isn’t dictated by our lineage!

The flavour and texture of venison is superb and as long as the deer are wild and free to roam their natural habitat, their diet has a major influence on the meat. Instead of grazing on huge amounts of grass, their diet is far more varied containing easily digestible shoots, young leaves, fruit, fungi and lichens.

Not only is venison very tasty it is good for you too. It has higher iron levels than any other red meat, contains omega 3 fats and less fat than a skinned breast of chicken.

  • When buying venison try to choose park (free-range) or wild venison over farmed.
  • Venison can be stored for a few days in the fridge or longer if vacuum packed.
  • Cook venison as you would beef. It is best to compensate for the lower fat content – for example marinating before cooking will help the meat stay moist.
  • Good quality steaks and tenderloin can be pan-fried but try to avoid overcooking – they are best served pink in the middle. Casseroles need to be cooked long and slow.
  • Flavours that marry well with venison include juniper, gin, red wine, port, rosemary and redcurrant.

We have included a recipe for a rich and warming venison casserole on our blog and you can view it here

The Artisan Food Trail is proud to have a producer selling Wild Scottish Venison.
The Blackface Meat Company supply three species of venison – Red Deer, Fallow Deer and Roe Deer – all of which are wild and are available to buy online direct from them.

Sourced in the main from West Highland stalking estates. The Reds roam free and subsist on highland vegetation, giving the meat its renowned gamey flavour. Red stags are in season from July 1st to October 20th. They are in their best condition in early September. The Hinds (females) are in season from October 21st to February 15th.

The Fallow deer is a parkland deer, which is sourced from parkland herds in the North of England. Its size is half way between the Roe and Red in size, and is a grazing deer. The Fallow have the same seasons as the red deer in Scotland.

The Roe deer is abundant in Dumfries and Galloway. It is a browsing deer, eating a wide variety of tree shoots, and herbage. This is reflected in the delicate flavour of the meat. The Roe is in season all year round in Scotland.

To find out more about The Blackface Meat Company visit their page on The Artisan Food Trail here

Autumn Venison Casserole

Photo: © childsdesign

The leaves have begun to turn glorious shades of red, orange and yellow and as we write the landscape is shrouded in mist and fog, making us think of nothing more gladdening than a rich and warming casserole.

Venison is well and truly in season at the moment and provides the meat at the heart of this dish. Gentle marination followed by long slow cooking creates a full-flavoured meal with melt-in-the-mouth texture.

We used blackberry vinegar (or you could add plum vinegar) to add just the right amount of sweetness and gentle fragrance and the addition of a few allspice berries and some mace brings delicate exotic warmth.

We served ours with mashed celeriac and small potatoes roasted in their skins with rosemary and garlic. You could have creamy mashed potato instead or even some hunks of crusty bread to mop up the gravy.

View recipe

22 October 2012

Alan Coxon introduces new Macadamia Nut Oil to his range

Photo: ©Alan Coxon

Alan Coxon has launched a brand new product within the UK in the form of one of the healthiest oils in the world.

Macadamia nut oil has so many wonderful properties including no cholesterol and high in vitamin E and omega 7, and equally as important, it tastes fantastic with a mild clean flavour of the nut itself.

Alan has added the cold pressed extra virgin Macadamia nut oil to his existing historic food range that includes the globally unique and multi award winning Mediaeval Old English Ale-Gar™, Roman Vinaigre™ and Ancient Greek Vinaigre™ because it marries so well with these products.

The nutty flavour, density and golden colour goes hand in hand to create a stunning dip for bread, salad dressing, or marinade.
In addition to the health and flavour benefits, the oil is perfect to cook with and one of the best for roasting, baking and frying, offering a smoke point of up to 210˚C.

For more detailed information on the benefits of Macadamia Nut Oil please visit Alan Coxon’s website here

To find out more about Alan Coxon visit his page on The Artisan Food Trail here

Order directly from foodbyalancoxon.com

12 October 2012

Food lovers guide to Chocolate Week

Even we didn’t realise just how much chocolatey loveliness was on our food trail and now after delving deep we’ve found some pretty amazing stuff there and want to share it with you.

Well it is Chocolate Week! 


Who can resist a gooey chocolate brownie? Well we know certainly can’t. The ones from #brownies have our full approval The brownies are not available to buy online but a visit to their website gives a list of outlets and markets where you find them.

Whether you’re looking for a delectable tea time treat or need a fully bespoke celebration cake, Honeysuckle Cakes can satisfy your needs.
Chocolate Brownie Buy online here
Strawberry & Chocolate Chip Muffin Buy online here

Not everyone can eat gluten so Monkeypoodle Cake Company comes to the rescue with their totally gluten free creations.
Triple Chocolate Cupcake
White Chocolate & Raspberry Cupcake
Monkeypoodle Chocolate Brownies
Chocolate Cheesecake Brownies
White Chocolate & Cranberry Cookies
You can buy them all online here

For cakes like you make at home – that means no nasty ingredients – Nutty Tarts Gifts & Goodies make an array of delicious ‘real cakes’.
Black Dog Chocolate Beer Cake Buy online here
Chocolate Biscuit Cake Buy online here
Chocolate Brownies Buy online here
A gluten free version is available here
Chocolate Pecan Cake Buy online here
Nutty Chocolate Brownies Buy online here

As well as making the finest pork sausages and pies, Samphire also have a nice line in sweet treats too
Chocolate Tiffin Buy online here


If cake doesn’t quite hit the spot, you might like to indulge in a slab of Fudge Kitchen’s gloriously creamy fudge.
Choose from these wonderful chocolatey flavours.
Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt Buy online here
After Dinner Mint Buy online here
Belgian Chocolate Swirl Buy online here
Double Trouble Buy online here
Chocolate Classic Buy online here
Chocolate & Orange Buy online here
Chocolate Caramel Fudge Buy online here

Ice Cream

All of the ice creams on The Artisan Food Trail are lovingly hand made using British milk and cream, so for something cool, creamy and chocolatey you’ll surely be spoilt for choice.

Simply Ice Cream
Divine Chocolate More info here
Stockist info here


For the best tasting cakes and home made confections Mortimer Chocolate Company make a variety of chocolate powders which can bought online here
And we mustn't forget the melt and dip chocolate which you can either melt in the oven or on the barbecue. Find out more about The BBQ Chocolate Fondue and Melt and Dip Chocolate Pot here


Thanks to our members including producers and chefs, we have lots of recipes for you to try. There’s something for everyone whether you like your chocolate light and creamy or devilishly dark.

Recipes from Alan Coxon

  • White Chocolate Panna Cotta with Saffron, Cinnamon and Cardamom served with a chilli chocolate sauce View recipe
  • Chocolate and Amaretti Torte View recipe
  • Double Chocolate Tarte View recipe
  • Divine Chocolate Birthday Cake with Raspberry Ganache View recipe
  • Dark Chocolate Fondant View recipe
  • Chocolate Mousse with Hot Chocolate Casserole View recipe
  • Alan’s Gooey Fair Trade Chocolate Brownies View recipe

Recipe from Fudge Kitchen

Recipes from Mortimer Chocolate Company
These two recipes have been tried and tested in the AFT Kitchen and we can highly recommend them. They taste good, are simple to make and importantly, indulgent.

There are lots more recipes on Mortimer’s website here

11 October 2012

Food lovers guide to National Curry Week

Curry is undeniably a favourite dish in Britain, so just as well it’s National Curry Week!
We’ve been busy rummaging through the food trail finding all the things to bring you the perfect curry experience.


For those who like to experiment with exotic ingredients then take a look at can be found at The Artisan Smokehouse. for a wide range of spices. They are available to buy online here

Of course chillies are a vital part to any curry and you can find a variety of dried ones from the mild to the very hot from Capsicana Chilli Co
Although the chillies are from Mexico they are very suitable for giving your curries a real depth of flavour as well as a kick. Available to buy online here

If you prefer to use fresh chillies, Edible Ornamentals grow and sell direct from their nursery in Bedfordshire. The chillies are available when in season, so it is wise to check with them first to see what they have.


Everyone likes some chutney on the side, great with poppadums, onion bhajis and pakoras these two from Fancy That From Wharfedale would be perfect accompaniments.

If you like some spice in your chutney the Hot Bengal Chutney is exotic and fruity with the sizzle of chilli flakes. Your can order direct from their website here

The obvious partner to a curry is mango chutney. Mand’s Marvellous Mango Chutney is spicy and sweet, also available to buy online here


For some snacks with a spicy twist we have Filbert’s Fine Foods who make two exotic and fragrantly flavoured nut and seed mixes.

Perhaps not Indian in influence Zanzibar Nuts & Seeds contain African flavours but still have a spice combination to please including coconut, ginger and cinnamon. You can buy online here

Kasbah Spiced Almonds are a taste of Morocco with fiery Harissa, mint and garlic. They are available to buy online here


What better way to end a meal than with a cup of tea. The Kandula Tea Company have a range of handpicked teas from Sri Lanka. For a true taste of India, try Ebony Chai Tea which has a unique combination of aromatic Ceylon spices, including star anise, cardamom, cloves, ginger, cinnamon and rose petals, to create an exotic whole spiced Chai. Available to buy online here


Thanks to our members including producers and chefs, we have lots of recipes for you to try from curries to Indian-inspired dishes.

Recipes from Alan Coxon

Recipes from Capsicana

8 October 2012

The Spice of Life: The Health benefits of Chillies

Illustration: ©The Artisan Food Trail / Lisa Childs
We’ve been enjoying a fantastic chilli harvest in the AFT kitchen garden and with the tips that Jo from Edible Ornamentals has given us, the plants are still producing masses of flowers even though the weather has turned down the heat at night.

We eat a fair few chillies so were wondering whether they were doing us any good – well they are part of your five a day, but what else are they good for? There are numerous articles in the press attributing various health benefits associated with the eating of chillies, but just how much of it is based on actual scientific fact?

Well, who better to ask than Priya Tew of Dietitian UK.

AFT: So what are the ‘magic’ ingredients that make chillies good for us?
PT: Chillies contain a range of wonderful micronutrients including vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, manganese, iron and Vitamin A. However it is a lesser known nutrient called Capsaicin which gives chillies some special health benefits. The more pungent the chilli, the more capsaicin it contains. So a Scotch bonnet contains more than a Spanish Pimento.

AFT: We all know having a good curry can clear out the nasal passages and can help if you feel like you have a cold coming. But what else can chillies help with?
PT: Chillies have been shown to aid blood sugar control so could be helpful in the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes. A study showed eating chilli as part of a meal helped lower the amount of insulin needed to bring down blood sugar levels after a meal (1).

AFT: We’ve read that the natural chemicals in chillies can act as a pain reliever and help inflammation, is this true?
PT: Capsaicin can be helpful in inflammation. It works by preventing a neuropeptide known as Substance P from working. Its has been suggested as being useful in arthritis, psoriases and diabetic neuropathy but may have far more uses in other inflammatory diseases too. Applying creams containing capsaicin have been shown to reduce pain although you may experience a slight burning sensation after application! (2).

AFT: There are lots of ‘super-foods’ that can apparently help fight heart disease, so do chillies have any ‘super’ properties?
PT: Capsaicin looks like it has benefits in cardiovascular disease as well. Eating meals containing chopped chillies can decrease the levels of dangerous cholesterol (3).

AFT: Is there any truth in articles we’ve read that chillies could help you shed a few pounds?
PT: There is also evidence to show that eating chilli raises your metabolism after a meal, hence you feel warmer – so you burn more calories, which could help with weight loss.

It certainly sounds like chillies are indeed beneficial to us all and even if you do find some chillies a little too hot at least you know they’re doing you good!

1. Ahuja KD, Robertson IK, Geraghty DP, Ball MJ. Effects of chili consumption on postprandial glucose, insulin, and energy metabolism. Am J Clin Nutr. 84(1):63-9 (2006).
2. Ellis CN, Berberian B, et al. A double-blind evaluation of topical capsaicin in pruritic psoriasis. J Amer Acad Dermatol 29:438-42 (1993).
3. Ahuja KD, Ball MJ. Effects of daily ingestion of chilli on serum lipoprotein oxidation in adult men and women. Br J Nutr. 2006 Aug;96(2):239-42. (2006).

Priya Tew is a registered dietitian who runs her own nutrition consultancy business, Dietitian UK.
As a mum and food lover she is passionate about helping people to discover good quality food and to show them how healthy eating is not just tasty but vitally important.

5 October 2012

Thame Food Festival post-visit round-up

The streets of Thame were bustling with lots of people last Saturday as visitors came from far and wide to descend on the Oxfordshire town's annual food festival.
Being an outdoor event it was lucky the sun was shining although we have a feeling that even a gloomy day could have done little to deter such an enthusiastic crowd.

Our visit to Thame was a first as we're trying to broaden our horizons and get out to more food festivals around the country – it is also not far from us, being only an hour and half's drive away. Going to this event gave us the opportunity to discover 'new' food producers – new to us anyway – and to finally meet some of our AFT members. It is such a pleasure to meet face to face after only communicating via social media, email and telephone.

Thame is a an attractive town with lots of character and a great range of independent shops, caf├ęs and restaurants including two impressive butcher's shops.
There were around 100 or so food festival stalls stretching far along the high street selling everything from cakes to pies, meat to vegetables, preserves and sauces to bread, the list goes on. For those needing a bite to eat there was enough quality food to consume there and then to keep the most hungry going all day.

We go to numerous food events and we can honestly say that Thame had a vibrant atmosphere – the stallholders seemed genuinely pleased to be there, in fact AFT member Mortimer Chocolate Company say it is their favourite event.
It was good to see the public buying too. All too often people are very keen to swoop in on the free samples without even stopping to talk to the producers, let alone buy something. Maybe it is because Thame is a free event – some food shows (often those held in exhibition halls) charge quite a high admission which can be detrimental to just how much cash visitors are willing to part with once inside.

Other attractions included the cookery demos where several chefs including the famous Raymond Blanc were giving a culinary performance to excited crowds.

We thoroughly enjoyed the festival and it was lovely to catch up with our members; Mortimer Chocolate Company, David's Chilli Oil, Cotswold Gold and Womersley Fruit & Herb Vinegars. And thanks to Rupert of Womersley who introduced us to a potential new member too, whom we look forward to welcoming into the ever growing community of the finest British artisan food producers on The Artisan Food Trail.

Last but not least thanks to Thame Food Festival's Julian Dorling who has given us mention on the festival's website blog here

4 October 2012

Starting a food business from home – what you need to know about hygiene

Many of the food producers’ businesses on The Artisan Food Trail have started from humble beginnings – the home kitchen. Only when they have needed to increase production they’ve moved into catering premises.
Some AFT producers still do operate from their own kitchens.

We wanted to find out whether it’s a difficult step to take and if there are any pitfalls that people should know about. Getting the lowdown from the director of The Red Cat Partnership and Artisan Food Trail member, Sarah Daniels, about starting a food business from home proved to be very useful and surprisingly straightforward.

AFT: With more people wanting to turn their food loving hobbies into businesses, just how easy is it to get started?
SD: We are often asked whether people can set up catering businesses from home – normally the answer is yes. All caterers making food for others to consume need to be mindful of a few simple tips for ensure the food that is produced is safe to eat – that is it is not going to make the consumer ill or indeed traumatise them if they find a hair in it!

AFT: Would people be expected to completely re-fit their kitchens 
to meet top catering grades or is a standard domestic kitchen acceptable?
SD: Firstly we would need to make sure that the area going to be used for food preparation is hygienic – this does not mean wall to wall stainless steel – the surfaces need to be of a non-porous nature and be able to be kept clean.

AFT: Most home kitchens don’t have much room, so is it okay for personal foodstuffs to share a shelf with those we’re using for the business?
SD: It would be wise to separate (in time) home preparation and storage of food from the ‘commercial’ side; it is essential that raw and soily food is kept separate from ready to eat foods. In addition items such as nuts would be best to be kept in sealed boxes or packets.

AFT: There are certain things we do at home which are probably fine if we’re cooking for ourselves, but what would you advise people to consider if they are to keep a hygienic kitchen?
SD: We also advise people to remove the cat or other pets! Not do the domestic laundry at the same time, relocate children’s toys/paperwork etc anything that could find its way into the food that should not be there; it is wise not to use chipped or damaged bowls or equipment – it might be your favourite but I am not fond of eating bits of pastry brush or worse still glass.

AFT: Er, we’ve sometimes eaten things which are just past their dates or cut the mouldy bits off the cheese but obviously if you’re making food for other people you need to be more careful.
SD: Before you start to prepare it is essential that the ingredients are safe; that they have been safely stored, at the correct temperature and are in date (use bys are essential)

AFT: We often hear that some things shouldn’t be kept in the fridge like tomatoes, chocolate and even eggs. We always refrigerate our eggs but what are the rules for commercial storage?
SD: High risk foods such as dairy and protein foods need to be stored in the fridge – the guidance is that eggs should be stored in the fridge – this keeps the multiplication of bacteria down – but you can remove them about 30 minutes before baking to get them up to room temperature; eggs should be used within their date code too!

AFT: When preparing food cleanliness is paramount but just how fastidious should we be?
SD: The preparation area must be clean – a once over with the anti-bac spray and a clean fresh cloth is a must.

You the food handler must be fit for food prep! So we advise that any long hair is tied back, jewellery is kept to a minimum, nails are short and clothes are clean – and no beads or dangly/fluffy bits that could get in the food and that you are wearing a clean apron!

Hands must be clean – after all we are going to be touching the food that someone else is going to be eating. Ideally you would have a double or 1½ sink in your kitchen so that you can always wash your hands – but a nearby wash hand basin will suffice; hand washing needs to be thorough and frequent.

AFT: Some people might struggle into work when they have a bit of a cold and when running their own business, they battle on regardless but is this a good idea if you’re handling food?
SD: It sounds obvious but please do not prepare food if you are not feeling 100% – the food will be able to transmit infections to others. The guidance is that you should be symptom free for 48 hours. At this time of the year we are beginning to get the sniffles so make sure you can prepare food safely.

AFT: We know that it is very important to make sure meat is properly cooked to avoid bugs, so what do people need to observe and do they need any fancy thermometers?
SD: We cook food to make it safe – but also to make it taste great. Do make sure that items containing meat/eggs are cooked thoroughly to the core/centre; you could use a clean metal skewer/knife for this – you do not need a probe!

Sarah Daniels is director of The Red Cat Partnership a health and safety consultancy based in Norwich.
Courses are available covering food safety with a team of chartered environmental health practitioners.