Morston Mussels, Norfolk Lavender Jelly and Brancaster Best

Mussels can be smoked, boiled, steamed, roasted, barbecued or fried in butter or oil. As with all shellfish, except prawns, mussels should be checked to ensure they are still alive just before they are cooked; enzymes quickly break down the meat and make them unpalatable or poisonous after dying. A simple guide is that live mussels, when in the air, will shut tightly when disturbed. Simply tap them on a hard surface and they should close. If not, bin them straight away!

“Open, unresponsive mussels are dead, and must be discarded. Unusually heavy, wild caught, closed mussels should also be discarded as they may contain only mud or sand.”

A thorough rinse in water and removal of “the beard” is necessary and easy to do. Most good fishmongers will check and prepare them for you, but do make sure you check them all yourself before cooking. Mussel shells usually open when cooked, revealing the sweet, cooked soft flesh.

You are unlikely to find mussels any fresher than they are on the North Norfolk coastline, and in particular, Morston mussels are available picked, cleaned and distributed within a few hours. Grown a stone’s throw away from Morston in Blakeney Harbour, Mark Randell is one of just three mussel growers licensed to operate in the harbour. Unlike some producers, Mark allows his mussels to grow for two years to ensure a better product. Seafood doesn’t come much fresher than this!

“The addition of lavender jelly into this recipe really heightens the overall sweetness of fresh Morston mussels. It also cuts through the beer component, making for a truly amazing sauce. Apparently a firm favourite of Queen Elizabeth 1st, Lavender Jelly or Conserve would probably prove to be a bit of a table top talking piece these days. However just because you may not always see it nestling in next to the mint sauce and redcurrant jelly, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t a surprisingly delightful little condiment.”

Brancaster Brewery takes its name from Brancaster Staithe, a north Norfolk village steeped in brewing history. Located in the heart of prime barley growing terroir, records show brewing here dates back to Roman times. So great was the demand for barley from this area that reputedly the country’s largest malthouse was built in Brancaster in 1797. Ironically the malthouse was built using bricks salvaged from the nearby Roman fort.

“Brancaster Best is a refreshing pale ale with citrus notes on the finish and at a reasonable 3.8% it is ideal to complement the sweet taste of the mussels and does not overpower the delicate flavours from the vegetables and herbs.”

This recipe will serve two as a main course or four as an appetiser.


2 lbs of fresh Morston mussels
1 tablespoon of extra virgin rapeseed oil
About a dessert spoon of salted butter
1 heaped teaspoon of Norfolk Lavender Jelly
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
4 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only
1 bottle of Brancaster Best
1 large fresh red chilli, very finely chopped (leave the seeds in)
A handful of chopped fresh parsley
The juice of 1/2 a small lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to season


Wash the mussels in cold water and remove their beards.
Throw out any mussels that are broken or open and don’t close when you tap them.

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium heat and then sauté the onions, garlic and chopped chilli for around 8 minutes until the onions turn translucent minutes. You need to stir continuously so the onions and garlic do not burn.

Add the Brancaster Best, thyme, Norfolk Lavender Honey and parsley to the pan and turn the heat up to medium-high.
Cook for a minute or so. Once it starts steaming add the mussels to the pot.

Cover the pot tightly with the lid and let it steam for 3 minutes minutes.

After 3 minutes give the pan a good shake and cook for a further 2 minutes.

The mussels are cooked once they are open.

Remove the mussels from the pan and into serving dishes. Discard any mussels that did not open.

Put the pan back on to the stove top and add the butter and lemon into the sauce.

Add a large pinch of sea salt and a few grinds of black pepper.

Pour the sauce over the mussels and serve with crusty bread to mop up all of that wonderful broth.

Happy eating!


Cley Smokehouse Kipper Kedgeree & Poached Egg

Cley Smokehouse is not a factory or a big retailer, they are a thriving little business dedicated to providing top quality honest food. All of their smoked fish and meats are hand crafted in-house from top quality ingredients, sourced locally wherever possible and from sustainable resources.

“Kippers are one of the signature dishes of Cley Smokehouse and their Kippers have an enviable reputation along the coast for their succulent delicate flavour.”

They select finest quality Atlantic Herring which are then split and brined in a secret recipe and individually hung in racks before being slowly cold smoked over oak in their traditional brick kilned oven.

Kedgeree s thought to have originated with an Indian rice-and-bean or rice-and-lentil dish Khichri traced back to 1340 or even earlier. It is widely believed that the dish was brought to the United Kingdom by returning British colonials who had enjoyed it in India and introduced it to the UK as a breakfast dish in Victorian times, part of the then fashionable Anglo-Indian cuisine.

It is one of many breakfast dishes that, in the days before refrigeration, converted yesterday’s leftovers into hearty and appealing breakfast dishes, of which bubble and squeak is probably the best known. Kedgeree is not just a hearty breakfast dish, it makes a wonderful supper dish anytime.

In this recipe kippers are grilled, flaked and mixed with the spice coated rice and topped with a soft poached egg in place of the more traditional hard boiled eggs.

This recipe will serve two portions.


175g of basmati rice
A large handfuls of frozen peas
2 Cley Smokehouse kippers
4 spring onions, chopped
Juice of half a lemon and lemon wedges to serve
1 large fresh red chilli, deseeded and very finely chopped
2 large free range organic eggs
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
A tablespoon of melted unsalted butter (for grilling the kippers)
2 teaspoons of mild curry powder
1 teaspoon of paprika powder (smoked or plain is fine)
4 tablespoons of chopped flat leaf parsley
A large pinch of mustard seeds
350ml of boiling water
A few good twists of black pepper to season


Rinse and drain the rice several times to remove excess starch and place with the peas in a saucepan with a tight fitting lid. Add 350ml of boiling water and put onto a high heat on the stove.
As soon as the rice starts to boil, stir well, reduce the heat to the lowest setting, cover with the lid and cook until the rice is tender. This will take around 10 minutes.

While the rice is cooking melt some butter and brush over a piece of kitchen foil large enough to cover your grill pan. Remove the heads and tails from the kippers (kitchen scissors work well for this), lay the kippers skin side down on the kitchen foil, brush with a little melted butter and grill for approximately 1 minute under a pre-heated grill. Flip the kippers over, brush with the remaining melted butter and grill for a further 4 minutes or until sizzling.

Allow the kippers to cool so you can comfortably handle them and remove the skin and flake the fish into large chunks. This is the time to carefully remove any bones. Place the chunks into a kitchen bowl and cover with cling film to keep moist.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok and fry the spring onions, chilli, mustard seeds, paprika and curry powder for two minutes, then fluff up the rice and add to the pan.
Stir well to ensure all the grains of rice are coated in the spices, then remove from the heat. Gently stir through the kippers and parsley, and squeeze over the lemon juice.

You won’t need to add extra salt (the kippers are salty enough!) but you may want to grind over a few twists of black pepper.
Poach the eggs until softly set, drain on kitchen paper and serve with the kedgeree and an extra wedge of lemon.

Happy eating!

The Perfect Poached Egg


A large pinch of salt
1 large fresh organic egg
1 drop of malt or white wine vinegar (optional)


Half fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Add a hefty pinch of salt.

Meanwhile, crack the egg into a small jug, bowl or ramekin and add a drop of vinegar.

Stir the boiling water vigorously with a balloon whisk until you have a whirlpool then immediately slip the egg into the centre, lowering the jug a couple of centimetres into the water.

Turn the heat down to low, and cook for no more than three minutes.

Drain the egg on kitchen paper, and serve immediately. If you’re poaching eggs in advance, drop them straight into a bowl of iced water instead, or it will carry on cooking; to reheat, simply warm the egg through in a pan of gently simmering water.

Confit Leg of Gressingham Duck ~ Parsley Mash ~ Green Beans and Red Wine Jus.

Gressingham Duck®

With Christmas Day just around the corner, why not try something other than turkey this year? Cooking up the family Christmas dinner can be an overwhelming task and without a doubt a task which will test all of your culinary and timing skills. If you are expecting a large crowd this year, then this relatively easy and delicious confit duck alternative really is the way to go. Why not make this the year to change from the normal, laborious Christmas turkey staple? This recipe really is “fuss free”, and all of the elements can be prepared the day before and easily reheated in around 30 minutes. Go on, give it a go!

This recipe will serve 6 people and the ingredients can easily be adjusted up or down.


8 heaped tablespoons of coarse rock salt
 (I prefer Maldon salt)
1 tablespoon of juniper berries, lightly bashed

2good handfuls of thyme sprigs

1 garlic bulb, skins left on the cloves, cloves roughly chopped
8 good handfuls of rosemary sprigs, broken

10 black peppercorns
 6 good duck legs from free-range farmed Gressingham ducks

5 × 350g jars duck or goose fat

150ml of white burgundy, or other dry white wine
Freshly ground black pepper


In a large bowl, throw in the salt and all the aromatics (the juniper berries, thyme, garlic, rosemary and peppercorns).

Toss the duck legs in the mixture, really pushing the salt into them.

Take a few of the stems that haven’t stuck to the duck, some berries, some peppercorns and excess salt in the bowl, and scatter it into the bottom of a lidded container large enough to take all the duck legs.

Put the first three duck legs in the bottom, skin-side up. Scatter over more of the bits and bobs left in the bottom of the bowl on to the duck legs, before placing on the next three duck legs on top.

Tip any bits left in the bowl over the top. Put on a lid and wrap the whole box in clingfilm. This is so that when you turn it upside down, you do not cover your fridge in salty juice. Leave the duck legs for 12 hours in the fridge, turning the box upside down halfway through.

In a large saucepan, melt the duck or goose fat. Take each duck leg, brush off any visible salt with your hand and pop it into the pan of fat. Repeat with all the legs.

Pick out some berries, peppercorns, garlic, rosemary and thyme, and drop these into the fat as well, taking care not to add residual salt to the duck fat. Add the wine.

Cut out a cartouche (a circle of baking paper) that fits neatly into the pan and place over the duck legs. Put a robust kitchen plate on top; this will keep the duck under the oil.

Bring the fat up to a gentle, bubbling simmer and cook like this on the stove top for 2½–3 hours. You will know when the duck is ready by testing it with a fork; the meat should come away easily from the bone with only the slightest prompting, but should not fall off without.

Preheat the oven to 200C fan / 220C / Gas 7 half an hour before you plan to use the duck legs. Apply a few good grinds of black pepper and roast the duck legs for 30 minutes, or until the skin is very crispy.

While the duck is cooking, prepare the remainder of the dish.

Parsley Mash.


1kg of cubed peeled potatoes
60ml of double cream
2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon of butter
1/2 teaspoon of Maldon salt
1/4 teaspoon of white pepper


In large saucepan of boiling salted water, cover and cook the potatoes until tender, about 10 minutes or longer depending on the size of your cubes.

Drain and return to the saucepan over a low heat to dry for 30 seconds. Press through a food mill or potato ricer, or mash in the conventional way if you prefer. Return to the saucepan.

In a separate small saucepan, heat together cream, parsley, butter, salt and pepper until just simmering. Pour over the potatoes and mash together. Transfer into a serving bowl.

You can make this ahead if you wish. Let the potatoes cool for 30 minutes. Refrigerate, uncovered, until cold. Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Reheat in a microwaveable container at high for 5-8 minutes until piping hot.

The green beans should be trimmed and boiled for 10-12 minutes or until tender. Once again, these can be prepared a day ahead and reheated in boiling water for about 2 minutes. I wouldn’t advise reheating the beans in the microwave as they do tend to spoil slightly.

Red Wine Jus.


500ml of good red wine. I find a Beaujolais or Chianti works best
100ml of red port
3 sprigs of thyme
2 garlic cloves, roughly crushed
1 bay leaf
2 peppercorns
400ml of fresh beef stock


Place the red wine, port, thyme, garlic, bay leaf and peppercorns into a medium saucepan
and bring to the boil.

Boil vigorously to reduce the alcohol to 100ml, this should take 10-15 minutes.
Add the beef stock, reduce heat to low and simmer for 8 minutes, skimming occasionally.

Pass through a fine sieve and add a knob of butter. You can prepare this in advance also.

I wish you all a very Happy Christmas.

Stir-fried Beef and Garlic Shoots

Garlic shoots are the long, thin, sturdy stems that grow out of the garlic bulb. Many suppliers trim off the elongated flower bud at the tip of the shoot, but if they are still intact, look for ones that are tightly closed. If they have the bud on, they resemble flowering chives on steroids. Better still grow your own crop of garlic and keep those stems.

Garlic stems taste strongly of garlic but only when they are raw. Once cooked, the flavour becomes sweet and mellow.


300 grams of boneless beef (choose a tender cut, such as fillet, bavette, flank or sirloin)

15ml of soy sauce

10ml of rice wine

5ml of sesame oil

½ teaspoon of sugar

¼ teaspoon of fine sea salt

½ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon of cornstarch

400 grams of garlic stems

4 thin slices of ginger, peeled

1 1/2 tablespoons of oyster sauce

About a tablespoon of cooking oil (I would recommend vegetable oil)


Slice the meat into strips about 3cm long.

Thinly slice the beef against the grain into strips about 3cm long.

Put the beef in a bowl, then add the soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, sugar, salt, pepper and cornstarch. Combine thoroughly and set aside for about 30 minutes.

Trim off and discard the tough ends from the garlic stems (they will be yellow-green and will feel hard, rather than bendable).

Cut the remainder of the stems into pieces about 4cm long. Pour the oyster sauce into a small bowl, add about 2 tablespoons of hot water and stir to dissolve.

Heat a wok over a high heat and when it’s hot, add the cooking oil.

When the oil is very hot, add the garlic stems and stir fry until they start to soften slightly (about two minutes).

Remove the stems from the wok.

Heat the wok again over a high heat then add the beef (and its mari­nade) and the ginger. Cook until the beef loses its pink colour, stirring constantly.

Add the stems back to the wok and stir in the oyster sauce/water mixture. Stir-fry until the meat is cooked and the stems are tender and sweet.

Transfer the ingredients to a platter and serve immediately.

Happy Eating!

Submitted by Angela Cowan and tested by The Food Snob UK

Jamie Oliver restaurant business loses £10million

Jamie Oliver changes the menu as his restaurant business serves up losses of £10million

Two top executives at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant business have left

Their departure follows a slide in profits and losses of £9.9 million last year

Six Jamie’s Italian restaurants also shut down, which Oliver blamed on Brexit

Two top executives at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant business have left following a slide in profits.
Simon Blagden – who led the division for almost a decade – stepped down this week just days after the results were published, The Mail on Sunday has learnt. Finance director Tara O’Neill has also left.
Oliver’s restaurant chains racked up a loss of £9.9 million last year, having made a profit of £2.4 million a year earlier. 

Sources said Blagden had not stepped down because of the losses, but as part of a restructuring that will see the restaurants brought under the same management as Jamie Oliver Holdings, which looks after the Naked Chef’s TV and book publishing arm.
That division is run by Oliver’s brother-in-law, Paul Hunt, who has turned it around since 2014. Hunt has taken the kitchen knife to unprofitable ventures that don’t fit with the Jamie Oliver ‘philosophy’.
Six Jamie’s Italian restaurants were shut down last year, in Aberdeen, Exeter, Cheltenham, Tunbridge Wells and two in London. The Essex-born chef blamed Brexit for the closures saying the ‘pressures and unknowns’ since the referendum added to a ‘tough market’.

The 48 remaining UK restaurants are being brought under Hunt’s control, expanding his power base.
Oliver has described Hunt, 54, as a ‘man of great integrity’ despite the fact that Hunt, who is married to Oliver’s sister Anna-Marie, was fined £60,000 and banned for a year from the City back in 1999 while working for a US futures broker.
Oliver’s family has become as much a part of his celebrity image as his 30 Minute Meals. He and his wife Jools have amassed an estimated £180 million fortune since he shot on to our television screens in the late 1990s. And the couple’s five children joined them last week to promote his latest commercial tie-up with Jaguar Land Rover. 

The last of Jamie’s Union Jacks restaurants was shut down earlier this year. The chef opened four of the outlets in 2011 to bring back British classics such as bangers and mash, and fish and chips. Two in London and one in Winchester were closed three years later. That left the flagship Covent Garden branch as the only one standing.

Other ventures have failed too. Oliver pulled the plug on his Jme artisan biscuits, sauces and jams in 2013 amid poor sales and criticism from suppliers. Soon after, he closed two Recipease cookery schools-cum-cafés in Clapham and Brighton to focus on the flagship Notting Hill branch, which met a similar fate on Christmas Eve a year later.

However, the licensing business – which holds the rights to all products and merchandise sold under Oliver’s name – enjoyed another solid year in 2016 with profits rising by 5 per cent to £7.3 million.
The media division, which spans everything from cookbooks to TV shows to mobile apps, also saw profits jump – to £5.3 million last year. The year before Hunt took the reins, Jamie Oliver Holdings was £9.8 million in the red. After dividends of £10 million were paid by those two arms last year, Oliver will be hoping Hunt can turn around the fortunes of the restaurants too.

A spokesman for the company said O’Neill had left to return to Ireland, but would not comment on Blagden’s departure. Jonathan Knight has been brought in to oversee the restaurants and will report directly to Hunt. 

By Tom Howard For Financial Mail On Sunday Continue reading

26 signs that you’re a Food Snob (or is that 2 Bakers Dozen!)

Turn your nose up at margarine, processed cheese slices and pre-made salad dressing?

If you’re the one everyone texts for restaurant recommendations and you spend a scarily large proportion of your salary on food, you might just love food.

But if you also find yourself perusing the aisles of Whole Foods more often than Tesco and routinely making your own dip, then perhaps your love of nice food has crossed over into the realm of food snobbery.

Here are the signs that you’re a food snob and proud.

1. You’ve always known how to pronounce quinoa, thank you.

2. Your potatoes are so organic they’re still covered in mud.

3. You know Lancashire, Cheshire and Caerphilly aren’t just places in the UK.

4. You think the phrase “gourmet burger” is an oxymoron.

5. You’d rather try laying an egg yourself than eat a non free-range one.

6. You think pumpkin, hemp, chia, and flax seeds are totally normal everyday food.

7. You call green grapes white grapes.

8. You’ve actually attended a food festival.

9. You use the words nigiri, maki and oshi when it comes to sushi.

10. You wince when people cover every meal in ketchup.

11. You’d rather dip Kettle Chips in hummus than Doritos in salsa.

12. You’d NEVER buy margarine – it’s real butter every time.

13. You turn your nose up to that square, suspiciously orange, processed ‘cheese’ that turns up to every barbecue.

14. Instead of apples and bananas in your fruit bowl, there are papayas and guavas.

15. You know that the raw food movement isn’t “salad”.

16. You check the percentage of meat in sausages at the supermarket, but mostly buy them at the butcher.

17. There’s a bottle of truffle oil in your kitchen.

18. You wouldn’t dream of buying shop bought dip or pre-made salad dressing.

19. You strongly believe meat in a can should be illegal.

20. Domino’s don’t have your phone number to text you about new deals.

21. You’re completely confident de-stoning an avocado.

22. You have a subscription to Graze.

23. You also have a subscription to Abel&Cole.

24. You know sweetbreads have nothing to do with bread.

25. Even with a hangover, you want gourmet food.

26. You own a juicer and fully intend to use it… one day.

We live in a world where food is no longer simply enjoyed. It’s obsessed over, with each bite photographed and every single ingredient traced back to its origins like some sort of artisanal This increased fetishisation of food has spawned the food snob, whose borderline psychosis makes even the simple act of enjoying a meal into an endless parade of ridiculous behaviour.

Just enjoy your food and develop a good relationship with it. Remember, if you get too serious you might be labelled a Food Snob!


a person who imitates, cultivates, or slavishly admires social superiors and is condescending or overbearing to others.

a person who believes himself or herself an expert or connoisseur in a given field and is condescending toward or disdainful of those who hold other opinions or have different tastes regarding this field:
a food snob.

Gin – it’s the in thing you know!

Picture courtesy of Black Shuck Ltd

2016 was officially crowned as the year of the G&T as sales of the spirit exceeded £1bn in the UK for the first time ever. Statistics from trade body the Wine & Spirit Trade Association show sales of gin in the UK exceeding 40 million bottles during the year, a record: that’s approximately 1.12bn G&T’s to you and me!

The growth in gin sales comes against a back drop of falling alcohol consumption overall in the country as we become more health conscious and the dangers of excessive drinking become clearer. In fact across the last 10 years, alcohol consumption in the UK has dropped by around a fifth.

So why the success of gin here in the UK? Well it’s hard to say, is it just a fashion, is it a long term trend, is it a shifting of tastes or is it just a clever marketing gimmick? Whatever the answer, the facts are hard to ignore; for example, three out of every four bottles of gin imported around the world originate from UK distilleries whilst exports to the US have grown by over 550% in the last decade. But those aren’t the only success stories that you see, according to HMRC 40 new distilleries opened up in 2016 which is on the back of the 56 that opened their doors in 2015. That is stellar growth when you consider that official figures show that there were only 116 distilleries in existence in the UK in 2010. In fact the importance of gin to the UK consumer market was reinforced recently when a bottle of the spirit was added to the Consumer Price Index basket of typical purchases.

The birth of gin.

The whole landscape has changed over the last few years and a massive industry has now grown up around the spirit. That’s a far cry from its humble origins. The word ‘gin’ wasn’t seen in the Oxford English Dictionary until 1714 where it was defined as an ‘infamous liquor’, with many of the distilleries of the time based in and around London. It quickly became the ‘social drug’ of its time, preying, because it was so cheap, on the poor and vulnerable. It was said that in the 1730s around 5 million gallons of the raw spirit was distilled in London every year – but of that, less than 10% ever left the capital! In fact the situation became so bad that the Government of the day was forced to introduce the first of six gin acts in 1729 aimed at reducing consumption of the spirit.

Luckily, since those days, when the spirit was often laced with poisonous compounds, the production of gin has now become more of an art form. Unlike whiskey, which can take years to mature and reach the market, gin is simply a base of alcohol and water to which flavourings are added to create the unique taste that the marketers so love. These flavourings are known in the trade as ‘botanicals’ and many gins will now contain a mix of ten or more of these with the people who make the spirits acting like alchemists to come up with the next best taste.

How it’s made.

To make gin, you take your base alcohol spirit, which is generally made from fermented cereals and add to this your choice of botanicals, juniper berries being perhaps the most well-known. In fact, juniper is not only the primary botanical used in gin, but by law it needs to be the predominant flavour in anything that wants to be called gin. Other botanicals can then be added which may include herbs, spices, fruits, seaweed, grasses and quite frankly anything else that the master distiller think can add flavour. This mixture is then ‘macerated’, generally in a copper still, where the liquid and botanicals are heated until they boil, the heat has the effect of cooking the botanicals and breaking down the cell structures of the plants, thus releasing the flavour into the liquid. The boiling liquid then turns to vapour which rises up the still until it reaches the top where it is the drawn back down into the lynearm and then into the condenser where the vapour cools and returns to liquid form – only now it carries the flavour of the various botanicals that have been added. As well as the mix of botanicals, the flavour is also affected by the speed at which the liquid is boiled; and therefore the speed at which the botanicals break down.
All of which explains why the growth of gin and the opening of new distilleries continues apace as our desire for and interest in ‘artisan’ home made, small batch food and drink products increase.

It’s not just gin though.

Winston Churchill once declared that ‘the gin and tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives and minds than all the doctors in the Empire’ referring to the fact that the tonic water mixed with the base spirit contained quinine which was considered back in the day to be very effective at warding off malaria. Whilst most tonic waters nowadays have reduced levels of quinine, there is a whole industry that has grown up around the G & T revival. It’s not just new gin brands that we are seeing, but there are more and more specialist and premium tonic waters hitting the market, most of which are ‘paired’ with a particular type of gin.

And what about the garnish?

As I said earlier, it’s all about the flavour, and as such the ‘garnish’ is just as important as the base spirit and tonic water that you choose. So it’s not just ice and a piece of lemon nowadays, it can be fruit, herbs, spices or anything else that the master distiller thinks enhances the flavours of the botanicals used during the distillation process.
Blimey, after all that gin I’ve got a headache, and I promise I haven’t sampled a drop yet! I think it’s time to take a look in the drinks cabinet and see what I can find: chin-chin and here’s to gin!