Sunday, September 28, 2008

Paganum Online Farmer's Market

Farmer's Markets. Stupidly popular now, they've not only turned a lot of foodies onto 'real' meats, cheeses, breads and Beers, but also provided a much-needed lifeline to our precious farming community. A good thing, then - if you can get to them.
On the back of this, Chris Wildman saw an opportunity to increase the presence of online food-buying, and set up Paganum Produce - bringing that awesome food from the Dales directly to you at home. There's also a great blog, which I have linked (pop over there if you wanna see copious amounts of Hogroast and Scottish Breakfasts!)

Chris spared a little time from his busy schedule to answer a few questions for TGS.

TGS: Tell us a little about yourself - and how you became involved in Paganum.
Chris - I am from a family of Butchers and Farmers so have always been involved in the industry - but my commercial work experience has been in branding and labelling in the Label industry and IT project management, so a combination of skills built up over the years. I have always wanted to setup an online business and with the growing importance of local food, provenance and farmers markets this seemed a great idea. Also many farmers struggle to market thier fantastic products direct to both to the trade, and direct to the consumer - and with our skills we think we can improve this and maybe make a living as well.

How's business at the moment? It’s early days as we are still a very new business - so we are not quite planning our retirement yet but we are really trying to promote the business and our products, and hoping that with increased awareness, business will flourish.

Where do people's tastes lie? What's popular right now? Lamb is probably one of our most popular items and our sausages and burgers have been selling well. I think people are really talking care of where there food is coming from now and like to know the provenance of the meat they eat

How do the farming fraternity (the likes of Bolton Abbey and your other partners) treat Paganum? Was there any resistance to going 'on-line' rather than maintaining a 'Farmers Market/Direct approach? Or are Farmers these days aware to what can be achieved via the internet? No resistance at all they see it as a different route to market that compliments the other traditional sales methods.

What's your personal fave from the Paganum range? I love my steaks and I am a bit of a self confessed sausage snob they have to be good for me to like them!

... and Favourite recipe? Well, a quality breakfast is probably one of my favourites and eggs Benedict probably my all time greatest. A nice family roast of beef or lamb with all the trimmings including Yorkshire Puds also hits the mark.

Favourite Pint/Local Brewer? My favourite really has to be Timothy Taylors Landlord (I'm nodding in agreement) but I can’t believe how expensive it has got considering it’s a local beer, only travels 18 miles to me so quite often I will be happy with Golden Best!!! We are spoilt for choice in this area now with Copper Dragon in Skipton and Folly Ale in Hetton.

What does 2008/2009 hold for Paganum? 2008 has really been all about setting up our infrastructure, logistics and a good range of quality suppliers we know and can trust, next year we are hoping to expand both our trade and direct customer base.

When my parcel of Paganum meat arrived, the first thing I did was grab two of those thick, heavy burgers, slap them onto a smoking griddle pan and melt some smoked cheddar on them. Some leftover Parma Ham went on top of that, and the whole thing was plonked onto a bun with tomato, pickled peppers and gherkin. Wonderful - the humble burger, much like sausages or pies, can be a thing of wonder when done correctly, with the best produce. The quality of meat is excellent, and I can personally vouch for Bolton Abbey Beef; it's among the best I have tasted.
Paganum are worth checking out if you care about where meat comes from and that the people who make the produce are getting the rewards.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Plum Crumble Slice

Now the evenings are getting darker, my mind is slipping into 'comfort food mode'. Which means taking advantage of all those great fruits out there and cooking them until they turn to mush, then slapping a topping on them. I love it.

Plum Crumble Slice
You will need:
About 10 plums
1 Apple (Doesn't really matter what kind but i've got a thing for Pink Ladies at the moment - oo-er!)
A handful of sultanas
Lemon Juice, Cinnamon & Nutmeg
1oz Sugar
For the Pastry -
200g Plain Flour
145g Butter, cubed
2oz Caster Sugar
A Beaten egg
For the Crumble topping -85g Softened Butter, 85g Plain Flour, 85g Soft Brown Sugar,1og Ground Almonds

1. The pastry is made by rubbing the flour and butter together until breadcrumbs are formed, then adding the beaten egg to it (in stages) to bring it together. You won't need all of the egg, and the dough should be just sticky, but not wet. Cover the ball in cling film and chill for 45 minutes.

2. Prepare your fruit. Peel and core the apple and put in a bowl with the plums which should also be cored and chopped however you want them. Sprinkle with the Sugar, lemon juice, and spices, mix, and cover.

3. Heat the oven to 200c. Make the topping by making the breadcrumbs again, but this time with all that sugar in. You want the breadcrumbs lumpier this time, though.

4. Roll the chilled pastry flat, not too thin, and line the baking dish with it, making edges and a tart-style base. Arrange your fruit in the base, and then top with the crumble. Don't waste any juices the fruit may have made.

5. Cook for 20 mins on 200c to brown the top, then drop to 180c for another 30 mins to cook through.

Serve hot, with Vanilla Ice-Cream, of course. I had no beer with this, but if I would, I'd have gone for a Schneider Aventinus, or a Chimay Red. The cinnamon flavours would go really well with those beers, I think...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Bretts Fish Restaurant, Leeds

Bretts Fish Restaurant in Headingley is one of those institutions that, when you visit, you realise exactly why their have that status-simplicity. Bretts does fish and chips; nothing more, nothing less. But it does them right.

When the owner, Peter Scott, agreed to have a chat with TGS, I was suitably eager and after months of trying to arrange something, finally got my act together enough for a good old-fashioned Fish supper. Peter himself is a man who came into food in a roundabout way, and he strikes me as someone who simply talks straight. Get the basics right, and everything else will follow. In food, that’s a golden rule.

During the course of the evening, we discussed trade in Headingley, the clientele he receives, and of course, the food. He explained how the light, crispy batter remains so, thus removing the heaviness that can prevail in batter occasionally, and where his fish comes from – although decency won’t allow me to divulge those secrets here.

We began with a heap of fried Whitebait, silver-skinned and bristling with the lightest of flour-dust; doused in salt and lemon, they didn’t disappoint in that great lip-stinging way. Of course, Haddock and Chips came next -what is there to say? Creamy, clean fish encased in crisp, tasty batter. Home-made tartare sauce, thick with capers and gherkins, and a large dollop of mushy peas (hand-made, of course, the proper way). All very simple, all very wonderful. A taste of home.
One thing that stuck out for me was Peter’s admission that there are no “chefs” at Bretts. Fryers make your meal, and friendly, smiling staff bring it to you. And that’s the point - Fryers (and there’s not many who would call themselves that) are in every way masters of that devilishly hot machine, from the preparation of the fish to the filtering and selection of the oil or fat that makes the humble fish what it is. All food is cooked to order, regardless of how busy the restaurant gets. This applies to the takeaway too, which is an extension of the restaurant, rather than a neon-lit hole for post-drink fodder. Judging by the distance people travel simply to order fish and chips I’d like to think this isn’t lost on the people of Leeds.

Bretts doesn’t advertise – it isn’t needed. Peter pulls out a guest book loaded with gushing comments from visitors from Canada, India, The States and South Africa, no doubt regaling their countrymen with tales of the mysterious ‘Fish and Chips’ we Brits love so much. So I’m taking this opportunity to highlight simply what many people already know. The local and national cricket and rugby teams know how good it is, the press in general love to come here, and now you know.
I'd like to think it testament to my amatuerishness, or maybe the fact that I don't do sit-down interviews that much that prompted me do forget to take any pictures of the actual food. But in reality the food was simply too good from the start and as soon as we started eating it was game over - Food time. Apologies - it won't happen again. You'll have to go have a meal to see the goods.
Bretts Fish Restaurant
12-14 North Lane,
Headingley, LEEDS LS6 3HE
Tel 0113 232 3344