Netherton Foundry Shropshire

Netherton Foundry Shropshire
Classic cookware, made in England

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Our new cake tin is put through its paces

Someone called the workshops last week and asked whether we had a rep visiting their area in the near future.
The short answer was, "No", but to expand on this brevity.... we are a small, family business and when you call you deal directly with us. You can talk directly to Neil, the creative genius and founder of Netherton Foundry, father of my children and all round superhuman and you can talk to me.  
We do not have reps and agents schlepping around drumming up business for us - that's not how we do things.
When Neil created the first Netherton Foundry, made in Britain product -  our slow cooker - there was nothing else for it than for me to fill my "little blue van" and tour the length and breadth of the country, hammering on shop doors
Not being a natural front of house/sales person, with a lifetime of back room jobs behind me I found this new role, shall we say, challenging. However, with no-one else to do it, I simply had to get on with it - what doesn't kill you makes you stronger!!
To start with, I was quite frankly terrified and rubbish.  But as the trips and the miles accumulated, so did my confidence, market knowledge, sales and "technique".  
I covered a lot of ground, quite literally, and met many people.
Of the rude, arrogant, ignorant and hostile, the less said the better.
Of the inspirational, imaginative, supportive, kind, tea offering and friendly majority, no praise is high enough and my thanks to all of you are implicit here.... you know who you are.
I learned a lot of valuable lessons and have a store of anecdotes, with which I occasionally bore anyone who will listen.

My personal armour, donned to protect me, in part, from the aforementioned hostile crowd, and polished to bolster my confidence, was double skinned; my passion for what we had started and personal knowledge of the product.
I simply refused to sell anything we hadn't tried and tested ourselves.
Cliché it may be, but I spoke from the heart.
For example, before the milkpan was made available to you lot, one came home with me.  Its first run was a batch of porridge, and when it had been successfully and easily cleaned out, it had to face a helping of scrambled egg followed by a pint of custard.  Product testing can be hard at times, imagine having to eat a pint of creamy, home made custard and call it work!
Incidentally, that's how the milkpan ended up with 2 pouring spouts - our son is left handed and accused us of right hand prejudice when he tried out the pan.

The latest Netherton Foundry equivalent of a "shiny new thing", which naturally isn't shiny at all, is our cake tin and this was tested with the same ruthlessness as everything else.
No paper lining and the stickiest substance in the cupboard were the starting point.
And this is what happened................. this was not a special tin, nothing extra had been done to it, it came out of the seasoning oven, had its brass rivet added and was unceremoniously bundled onto the front seat of my slightly newer little blue van.

Honey, date, walnut and lavender cake.

120g butter
50g broken walnuts
120g honey
70g chopped, pitted dates
2 eggs
170g sr flour 
 2 lavender heads, chopped (optional and you can substitute fresh thyme if you prefer)
3 teaspoons runny honey.

Pre-heat the oven to 170ºC.
Grease your cake tin - as my mother before me, I use the wrapper from a pack of butter, and dust with flour.  Tip out any excess flour.
Put the honey, butter, dates and walnuts into a pan, our milk pan is ideal.
Warm over a gentle heat until the butter has melted.
Leave to cool while you whisk the eggs in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy.
Pour the butter mix into the eggs and whisk again.
Fold in the flour and lavender/thyme (if using) 
Pour the batter into the  greased and floured cake tin.
It looks like porridge at this stage - don't worry!

Place in the oven for 20  - 25 minutes, you can tell it's cooked if a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean

Drizzle top with 3 tsp runny honey while still warm.
Allow to cool in tin and then turn out carefully.  You will get sticky hands, but hey, what's the problem with that?  Lick your fingers.

This can be served plain with a cup of coffee or dressed up with, say, caramelised or puréed apple and a dollop of Mascarpone.

© Netherton Foundry 2017

Monday, 12 June 2017

White chocolate and raspberry cake

No rambling, no proselytising, just a fab new recipe, of which I am extremely proud.

120g sugar

2 eggs, separated
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
120g rice flour
100g white chocolate, melted and cooled
120g stracciatella yogurt, you can get big tubs of this in Lidl 
120g raspberries
120g rice flour

Pre heat the oven to 180ºC
Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla extract until very pale.
Add the yogurt (use plain, vanilla, lemon or coconut if you can't get/don't like stracciatella)
Whisk thoroughly.
Add the cooled, melted chocolate and whisk again - it will feel a little stiffer now as the chocolate cools.
Whisk the egg whites until they form peaks.
Fold the rice flour and the whisked egg whites into the chocolate batter.

Pour into a greased 10" prospector pan or one of our new cake tins
Arrange the raspberries in concentric circles on top of the batter..... or if you are feeling anarchic, just scatter them where they fall!

Bake for 30 minutes until golden and a skewer comes out clean.
Leave to cool, then turn out of the pan.

Serve just warm eight on its own or with creme fraiche, Greek yogurt, clotted cream or raspberry sorbet/ raspberry ripple ice cream.

© Netherton Foundry 2017

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Comfort food - artificial sunshine

There are times when food really is the answer.....

I'm not talking about famine and food banks, neither of which should feature in our 21st century society and both of which remain fixed in the reality of the present day.

We have just been bombarded with the shrapnel (forgive me if that is an inaccurate military metaphor) of election issues, and whilst these food issues were not at the forefront of the debates, in fact were sadly little more than footnotes, let us hope that they WILL be tackled.

............and so,  back on message as the pollsters would say.

I am talking about *overused cliché alert* "comfort food", the so-called "hug in a mug", although I much prefer the "high in a pie".
This is about using what you put in your mouth - no smutty jokes at the back of the class, please - as a means to  lift your spirits and feed body and soul. A genuine mood enhancer.
If you believe in karma,  it will come as no surprise to you that after I started formulating this piece, I reached page 179 of Kay Plunkett Hogge's The Adventures of a Terribly Greedy Girl - the Comfort of a Roast Chicken.  This perfectly sums up everything I wanted to say. Damn you, Kay.  I urge you to read the whole book and appreciate the "full emotional clout of food"
Kay is an incisive, entertaining writer, her words compelling you to turn the pages and I write in her shadow.  But stick with me, you may find some resonance in my ramblings.

This is not about quick fixes and instant gratification. I am as prone as anyone to cravings, it's just that I am not a chocolate biscuit kinda girl and am most likely to found stuck into an oversized pot of coconut yogurt - each to their own!
This is not about reaching for the yogurt pot or a Mars bar, any more than it about ripping open a bag of crisps, face-planting a bowl of popcorn or cramming in a cream horn.................  I told you, no giggling at the back.

What I am ranting and rambling about is the solace of sustenance and the sheer joy of comfort food, achieved through comfort cooking.

The simple, yes, it has to be simple - go read Kay and Diana Henry  - process of mixing and heating.  A chemical reaction and an exercise in philsophy. Concentration, focus, dare I say "mindfulness.
Comfort cooking is not about cleverness or cockiness, it is about simplicity and satisfaction, and, quite possibly, a little alimentary alliteration.
Much has been said recently about coalitions of chaos, a phrase lately referring to the politics of our times,  but also, I believe, descriptive of the tsunami of alleged nutritional advice that swamps all forms of media and drowns out the little voice in your head that says, "All I want is a cheese sandwich"  White bread, saturated fat, gluten, carbs aaaargh!!!!! Shame on you.

We are assailed by wellness bloggers (yeah, ok so the English language is evolving, but like seriously, what even is that?), we are bewildered and bemused by an array of diet regimes (fads), rendered guilt laden if our calorific intake is not clean or real, bombarded by acronyms - just go away JERF - blinded by pseudo scientists telling us to eschew all E numbers (did you know that E simply stands for Europe and E300 is Vitamin C?) and misled by claims of the benefits of low fat and low sugar prodcuts.
If you have the time, please read Michael Mosley and One Angry Chef on these topics - they are waaaaay more qualified than I am to explain/debunk this crap to you. 

It is a sad truth that for many people, food represents challenges rather than comforts; be they pecuniary, supply issues or health related.
But for the rest of us, we can revel in food, take joy from growing it, buying it, engaging with producers, preparing, cooking and finally eating it - with relish!
Whereas junk food will give you a quick hit, prolonged satisfaction (again, quiet at the back, please), can be had from lining up a few ingredients, switching on the heat, switching off the outside world and performing a little alchemy.

Here is a little artificial sunshine, for days when you need a little lift.

Apricot and brown sugar cobbler

3oz butter
A dozen apricots
Maple syrup
2 oz ground almonds
4 oz self raising flour
½ tsp baking powder
2 oz dark brown sugar
Approx 130 ml buttermilk

Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC
Put 1oz of the butter in a shallow Prospector pan and place over a low heat.  When the butter foams, add the halved apricots, cut side down.
Drizzle with maple syrup - it's up to you how sweet you want them and how ripe they are (the riper the fruit, the more naturally sweet they will be). Turn off the heat.
Put the pan in the oven and roast the apricots for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the almonds, baking powder and flour into a food processor or large bowl. Chop the remaining butter and add to the flour.  Process/rub until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Add the sugar and mix well.

Add just enough buttermilk (substitute plain yogurt or milk if you wish) to form a soft dough.
Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces.
Roll each one into a slightly squashed ball.

Remove the apricots from the oven and arrange the dough balls on top.
Replace the dish in the oven and cook for 20 minutes.

Serve warm, rather than piping hot with clotted cream.

© Netherton Foundry 2017 

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Summer savarin

This is a delightful - she says modestly - summer savarin recipe, using seasonal ingredients.  OK, so that means you won't be able to make it all year round, but that is part of its appeal and you can use the basic mix to create new variations as other ingredients come into season.

I have used foraged elderflowers, picked en route from the workshops to home and fragrant rose petals from the garden.

4½oz plain flour
3 teaspoons caster sugar
½ teaspoon dried yeast
5 flo oz sour cream
2 eggs
2 oz melted and cooled butter
Finely grated rind of a pink grapefruit

4oz caster sugar
2 oz water
Juice of 1 pink grapefruit
5 heads of elderflowers
A handful of fragrant rose petals (optional)
5 fl oz sparkling white wine

400g strawberries
Juice of 1 lemon
Sugar to taste

Place all of the savarin ingredients in a large mixing bowl and beat thoroughly for 2 minutes.
Cover the bowl with cling film or a clean,damp tea towel and leave in a warm, draught free place until doubled in size.

Quarter the strawberries and place in a shallow dish. Pour over the lemon juice and add sugar to taste.  Leave to steep and allow the juices to run.

Prepare the syrup. Put the sugar and water into a pan - a 7" saucepan is ideal and heat gently until the sugar is dissolved.  Bring to the boil and simmer for 3 minutes. Place the elderflowers and rose petals in a large jug. Add the grapefruit juice to the sugar syrup, bring back to the boil and then pour over the flowers.
Leave to infuse.

Back to the savarin mix...... lightly grease a 9½" savarin tin   and pour in the savarin batter.
Cover with cling film or a damp tea towel and leave for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 200ºC

Put the savarin ring into the pre-heated oven and cook for approx 20 minutes, until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and pour over about half of the syrup.  (You can use the rest to make cocktails with the remainder of the bottle of Prosecco).
Leave to cool and absorb the syrup.

Turn out onto a serving plate and pile the strawberries in the centre.

Dust with icing sugar and scatter rose petals over the top - if you happen to have some!

© Netherton Foundry 2017

Monday, 29 May 2017

Tomato and onion bread

We wanted some tasty rolls for our Bank Holiday weekend picnic, to accompany a rather fine piece of Martin Moyden's Caer Caradoc and this was a great excuse to get out the savarin tin and make an attractive bread ring, top add visual interest,as well as taste to my new bread recipe.
Of course, you could also bake these on a griddle plate, but this gave them a lovely crust.

10 sun dried tomatoes, soaked in boiling water for 30 minutes
1 onion, finely chopped
1 Tblsp rapeseed oil - as usual I used Bennett and Dunn
1 Tblsp chopped fresh marjoram, I picked mine straight from the garden, but if you haven't got any use 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1tsp salt - don't overdo it, dried tomatoes are often salted.
1lb white bread flour

While the tomatoes are soaking, gently fry onions in oil until golden. An 8" frying pan is ideal. Set aside.

Remove the tomatoes from the water and chop them into small pieces
Make the tomato soaking water up to 10 fl oz
Place all ingredients into a food processor, fitted with a dough blade and mix for 30 seconds.
Alternatively mix all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl, turn out and knead for 5 minutes.

Make sure the dough is covered and leave to prove until doubled in size.  Either cover the top of the processor with the pusher or a piece of clingfilm. Use cling film or a damp tea towel to cover your mixing bowl.
Divide the risen dough into 12 equal pieces and roll into balls.
Lightly oil a large savarin tin and arrange the dough balls in a circle., cover with cling film or a damp tea towel and leave in a draught free place and leave until doubled in size again.
Meanwhile heat the oven to 220ºC

Bake for approximately 20 minutes.  Serve with butter and cheese.

© Netherton Foundry 2017

Monday, 22 May 2017

Rights and responsibilities

This is not a history lesson, but we should remember that universal suffrage has not been long established in the history of British democracy.
As such, the right to vote, in my opinion, is also a responsibility.  Having been given, by accident of birth, the privilege of living in a free society, we should accept this responsibility and take seriously our part in the running of our country.

Our children are now both old enough to vote in their first general election, which has come much sooner than we could have foreseen.
It is fascinating to engage in debate with them and discuss the issues that are important to them.
This is encouraging to us.  After many years of unswerving political affiliation, we are for the first time, questioning the best and most tactical way to vote, weighing carefully the implications of our choices.  The children may vote differently from us, we may even make different choices ourselves, but the one thing that is certain is that we will all be at the village hall on June 8th casting our vote.  I am proud of their interest, engagement and analysis of the election process.
We recall the politicised days of our student lives; the miners' strike, apartheid, Thatcherism... Followed by a Creeping apathy which seemed to smother the generations behind us.  It was as if Johnny Rotten had never spat at an audience or sworn on TV.  As if we had never sung along to the Specials as they called for the release of Nelson Mandela.  Casual and organised racism insidiously grew and no-one seemed bothered.

Race riots, youth unemployment and even the more recent introduction of tuition fees and the burden of debt could not galvanise the young.

And then, to our horror, we sat aghast and heard the fateful news that the British public, ill informed by all sides and swayed by unfounded emotion, had voted to take us out of the EU.

This was the turning point.  That their future could be so determined by people who would not live long enough to see the consequences of their action, stirred those who would be most affected and shocked them out of their apathy and inertia.

I am heartened by the number of people who have registered to vote, by a heightened awareness and willingness to participate amongst the younger generation and I can only hope for a more questioning and challenging attitude from the older generations, who should not blindly accept the lead of the press and the personality of individuals.
Individuals cannot run the country, we need a government with the interest of everyone at the forefront of their policies, to protect the vulnerable, to educate, to look after the environment, give the strong the backing to succeed in a socially responsible way, to serve the needs of the nation.

Make your own choices, but make them wisely, and make sure you vote, whether you are 18 or 108.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Boozy bread pudding

This is not the height of sophistication, it's just a grown up version of one of our all time favourites - bread pudding...... and an excuse to play with our new savarin tins.

You can either eat it warm with custard or cream or leave it to go completely cold and eat it on its own.

100g raisins
50ml rum, I used my own spiced blackberry rum
120ml cider
1 tsp dried yeast
30g sugar
60g yogurt
2 eggs
130g plain flour

Soak the raisins in the rum for at least an hour.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the yeast, sugar and cider and leave until the yeast starts to froth.
Add the eggs and yogurt and beat well.
Stir in the flour and beat thoroughly.

Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel or cling film and leave to prove for an hour in a draught free spot.
Pour the mixture into a 9½" savarin tin or a 10" Prospector pan , cover and leave to prove for a further hour.

During the second prove, pre-heat the oven to 200ºC.
Cook for approx 30 minutes.
Allow to cool a little in the tin and then turn out.

If you serving this as a dessert, you could fill the centre with a mixture of whipped cream and apple pureé.
If you prefer something a little sweeter, drizzle the finished pudding with maple syrup whilst still warm.

© Netherton Foundry 2017