Friday, 24 February 2012

Cider - muse of the rock 'n roll kitchen

Has anyone else noticed how cider is right in there with the foodies these days? Its gone way past 'cool' and become popular again.

Depending on what you read where and more importantly by whom, many people may have you believe that 2011 saw a resurgence in cider. Personally, I think its probably more accurate to say that about cider USA but here in UK the resurgence started quite some years ago and we are still reaping the benefits with regards to growth and awareness. One thing is for certain, its certainly on the up and big business all over the globe is investing. What did happen last year was that cider here in UK got to a stage of that resurgence that it started appearing on television, quite frequently. You only have to leave the tell on to see they're all at it, so I was left asking myself 'Is cider the current darling of the kitchen?' It gave me the idea of investigating further so I approached the Guardian online about doing something with Pete Brown. It actually turned into something a little different - but this is my take on the original idea.

Marco Pierre White (or 'Mark Peter White' using my preferred English moniker) was endorsing the virtues of Westons cider in 2011 stating 'Without question Westons cider mill produces the greatest commercial cider in the world!' I had the previous week met Mark Hix who had kindly agreed to help us on an article for the Guardian article. Whilst walking around the yard at Westons in late October, I had seen a load of pallets shrink-wrapped in Heston Blumenthals  Mulled Cider. A week after my return Jamie Oliver visits Roger Wilkins on his tour of British regional food... it was all slotting onto place. Sleb chefs ahoy, Ramsey'll be at it next (WHERES THE F***ING CIDER??)

Then the Hairy Bikers dedicated an entire episode to a kitchen celebration of Britains beers and cider which you can watch here.

Cooking is something I've always done with cider because when I'm cooking (which is alot) I'm generally thirsty, I love cider so I use it in the food. I use it for gravies, sauces, dressings, marinades and even a soup once. I tend to use it to mix up English mustard powder with roast pork as well as to stew apples in for the apple sauce. Different ciders have different flavours that suit different meals so its also a chance to play. I often use a slug of Somerset Cider Brandy too sometimes, particularly with desserts, the younger ones are really fruity and add a touch of luxury to my ready-steady-cook approach to cooking. I know its used as an ingredient in many products these days from luxury pies to chutneys and ice cream!

I know there are millions of recipes including cider and its and area definitely worth exploring if you are into food and cider at all.

I used the late afternoon of my day at Westons last October to take these photos were taken at their Scrumpy House - a cafe complete with resident (and super modest) and expert chef Chris. I had asked him to come up with 3 recipes using their Wyld Wood because I think its their best cider and is probably the most available. He did them proud. Three fantastic recipes that anyone can create, they're really diverse and cover all the bases.

Please feel free to post cider and food ideas here as a comment and even include recipes I can try at home if you can be arsed!

Baked Field Mushrooms cooked in garlic butter and cider.

Steamed Mussels and Clams in a creamy garlic, shallot, onion and cider sauce 

(aka Moules Marienere a la Much Marcle)

Quick fried cumin soiled lambs liver salad with roast apple and cider dressing. 

My favourite


Hix pickled sardine fillets with foraged beach herbs

The Hix Fix (Cherries pickled in cider eau de vie topped up with Perry)

Flaming veal cutlets with apple flambéed in Cider brandy

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Cidery Illustrations & Inspirations

Check dis'..

Its by Ruxpin Illustration, the first illustration taken from one of my Wassail photos 'Revellers'.

Its flattering to be asked to supply images to other creative types to produce something new. Twice last year I was asked to provide source imagery for artists to use in two completely different mediums - charcoal and digital illustration. The first time was Kate Lynch. She wanted something tree based and asked if I had anything she might use. Kate has introduced me to two very important things in my life: both cider as a photographic subject (my first cider project - Apple Villages) and more importantly, my wife, so I owe her bigtime!

Keep up the good work Kate and Ash.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

La Sidra Asturiana

If you haven't been there, its worth a visit... Asturias (and Asturians) will give you a very warm welcome. It was the flyingist of visits, I think I was there for a total of 56 hours or so and I've already written about my trip so I shan't bore you any more but only I shall point you at the article itself online should you wish to know how to survive (better than me at least!) Hard Cider International is a new(ish) volunteer venture looking at cider cultures from around the world, something I can relate to. The editor Tess lives in Asturias so has alot more experience of the region that me. La Sidra, the local cider magazine is worth checking out too if you think you'll make a visit. The point of their competition is to raise awareness about their cider culture and encourage travel to Asturias to learn about it first hand. I hope it'll encourage more of you to send something in later this year.

One thing I will add is to echo the thoughts of Tess on cider "isn't just a drink; its a lifestyle for the Asturians"

For the photo geeks amongst you, your skills really get tested when you decide to shoot on location after dark (or in cellars) using available light and no tripod. Its my preferred method of shooting but it certainly presents a whole plethora of drawbacks and conditions. You get used to looking for the right things to leaning hard up against. You shoot wide open at 3200 ISO, bracing yourself against a pillar, holding your breath and firing several frames off in a second, which means sometimes you miss... I does keep you free though and on the move so its good practice if you are a tripod lover (I love the idea of a tripod but I struggle to really get along with it.)

Here are some photos.