The Leicestershire Cook-off

October 4, 2011

Just spent an entertaining lunchtime watching the Leicestershire Cook-Off, a project prompted by Leicester City Centre management body Le-One and designed to come up with a signature dish for the county.  Winning submissions in four categories were invited to a cook off at St Martin’s House where a voting system that combined public acclaim with the views of five judges saw Clarendon Park baker Rosie Clark win with her selection of three Leicestershire loaves. As well as winning a range of kitchen goodies, Rosie gets her bread put on the menu at the restaurant at John Lewis Leicester – which must feel like a bit of a result.

Turns out Rosie is a real bread evangelist for Virtuous Bread, a network that is trying to kickstart small scale baking businesses in communities.   As she lives nearby hopefully we’ll fix up something more from her in this blog but for now here’s one of her winning loaves,  billed as Leicestershire Stilton Irish Soda Bread. It looks simple and if you can get it as good as the sample I tried, is well worth trying.

275g Claybrooke strong white stoneground flour

250g buttermilk

1 tsp salt

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 tsp sugar

50g crumbled Stilton cheese.

Mix ingredients in a bowl, kneading to ensure ingredients are well incorporated. With wet hands scoop into a ball  and place on a greased baking tray. Make a cut in a cross shape that is about one third through the bread. Bake at 200 degrees for about 20-25 mins.

Rosie Clark with fellow finalists and chef James Tanner (centre), chair of the judges

Other finalists included a delicious venison curry from Amadeep Singh Amand, inspired he says by a visit to Bradgate Park. This was served to the public as a canape though the published recipe involves a red wine sauce and a Red Leicester-stuffed naan. Amadeep is chef at the soon to open Arabic-Indian-Italian fusion restaurant Endimaj – must say I’m more inclined now to give it a try.  Catering student Coaralie Featherstone had won the aged 16-18 category with a dish of stuffed pork tenderloin with flavours of apple, mustard and honey, while the fourth finalist was Maurice Flynn with a delicately spiced apple and mulberry crumble cake.

  

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If there’s one food Leicestershire is famous for, it’s probably cheese.  And part of that is down to the quality of businesses such as Long Clawson Dairy which this year celebrates 100 years. It was founded as a co-op by a dozen Vale of Belvoir farmers and  is, famously, one of only six dairies licensed to produce Blue Stilton, though it produces some 30 types of cheese.   To mark the occasion the dairy has got chef Tom Aikens to produce a cheese cookbook “Cooking Creatively with Cheese” that tells the history of the dairy and offers recipes representing each of the last ten decades – taking in the likes of broccoli and Stilton soup and white Stilton and red onion tart.

You can get the book on Amazon but as a special treat I’ve got a copy of the book available for one lucky reader. Just leave a comment to this post by Friday 3 June (if you’ve nothing to say, just put your favourite cheese!). I’ll select at random and will get back to the winner to arrange delivery. And for the rest of you, here’s one of Tom’s recipes, apparently from the 1930s, for savoury biscuits:

White  Stilton with mango and ginger savoury biscuits

100g plain flour
100g White Stilton with Mango and Ginger
100g butter
12 turns of milled pepper
Pinch smoked paprika
1⁄2 tsp caraway seed
1⁄2 tsp cumin seeds
2 egg yolks

Place the butter, cheese and flour into a food mixer, adding the paprika and milled pepper, and mix on a medium speed until it forms a smooth dough.

Take the dough from the mixer and roll it into a long log shape to a diameter of 4cm and wrap tightly in cling film, chill for approximately 60 minutes. Place some baking parchment onto a baking tray and slice the mix with a knife to around 1cm thick and place onto the baking trays.

Mix the egg yolk with a little water and brush the top of the biscuits to glaze them. Sprinkle on the cumin and caraway seeds and you can crumble some extra cheese over the top, too.

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