Alan's Cookbooks


Product information of the month "Strawberries" -    
Strawberries  
 What’s in a name 
 There are a couple of associations related to the strawberry, one probably comes from the Anglo-Saxon from the wild strawberry plant “streawberige” meaning runners.  The other relates to the bed of straw that the berries are cultivated upon, to prevent thee fruits coming into contact with the muddy earth.

  Historical   The wild fruits were grown in Classical Rome as well as in Europe during the 17th Century.  The strawberries that we know today are relatively new fruits, when to American species were brought together in the 18th Century to produce the varieties of many of the thousand or so cultivated strawberries today. 

 Fact   The strawberry is a member of the Rose family and is the only fruit to have its pips on the outside and not on the inside.

  Health & Fitness   Strawberries are a good source of Vitamin C and higher than any other berry. Six average sized strawberries contain as much Vitamin C as an orange with 100g portion containing only 27 calories. In traditional medicine, strawberries have long been used to cleanse and purify the digestive system and are said to act as a mild tonic for the liver and to have antibacterial properties. In a book published in 1931, it claimed that strawberries held on the teeth for 5 minutes will removed any discolouration and a cut strawberry rubbed over the face after washing will whiten the skin and remove sunburn. 

 Hints & Tips   Always wash strawberries with their calyx in place, as this prevents water entering into the centre of the fruit, thinning down the flavour and washing away the nutrients. If the strawberries are lacking in flavour try dusting them with icing sugar and leave them covered at room temperature for 45 minutes.  Alternatively, sprinkle them with Kirsch, Cointreau or Grand Marnier. 
History of the Asparagus -    
Asparagus. 
Originally from Eastern Europe and know by the Greeks in its wild form, Asparagus was also loved by Louis XIV of France.
It became a popular local produce after the Elizabethan period and was, as it is today, classed as an aphrodisiac, due mainly to its shape.

These long spears usually take a couple of years to establish and will last up to 20 years, with the best quality achieved in the fourth or firth season. 

In traditional folk medicine, it was used as a sedative and a treatment for poor eyesight, whilst on the medicinal line, it is not recommended for people suffering from gout.
It also contains a chemical that scents the urine, apart from that, it contains a good deal of beta carotene, vitamin C and E and can also be a mild laxative.

An Asparagus auction is held in Evesham every year and attracts visitors from far and wide.
  
If you are cooking some at home the simplest methods are the best, steamed or microwaved with plenty of butter.
If you trim the stalks, you can then save the ends and reserve for soup. You could always try cooking asparagus in your pan of boiled potatoes, simply stand the asparagus upright and cover the tips with foil. The heads will cook from the steam and the stems will flavour your potatoes and the same time. 
Origins of the name " Easter " -    
ORIGINS of the NAME 

Some claim that the word Easter is derived from Eostre, a Teutonic goddess of spring and fertility. Other accounts trace Easter to the Latin term hebdomada alba, or white week, an ancient reference to Easter week and the white clothing donned by people who were baptized during that time.
Through a translation error, the term later appeared as esostarum in Old High German, which eventually became Easter in English.

In Spanish, Easter is known as Pascua; in French, Paques. These words are derived from the Greek and Latin Pascha or Pasch, for Passover.
 
Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection occurred after he went to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover (or Pesach in Hebrew), the Jewish festival commemorating the ancient Israelites' exodus from slavery in Egypt. Pascha eventually came to mean Easter.
Product information of the week " Lamb" -    
What’s in a name?   The word Lamb comes from Old English (Ovis aries). 

Historical   Lamb ancestry dates back to around 9,000 BC when longhaired moufflon sheep were kept for their fleece before being slaughtered for their meat. Roast sheep was the first sacrifice to the gods, and it is still associated with celebration around the globe, such as Passover in the Jewish calendar, the Eid festival that marks the last month in the Muslim year and Easter in the Western and Christian Churches.  The Romans once enjoyed a lamb dish of “milk fed baby lambs of 3-4 weeks old”. 

 Fact   Lamb is the meat of a young sheep defined as one that is slaughtered within one of year of its’ birth, after that it could be called a hogget, old season lamb or even mouton, although mutton is usually associated with sheep around 3-4 years of age.  Flavours that go well with lamb are, of course, min, garlic and rosemary, An interesting flavour that also works well is dried ginger, rubbed into the meat prior to roasting lamb, as too is orange. In the Middle East many lamb recipes contain cinnamon. 

 Health & Fitness   A 90g serving of cooked lamb will supply approximately 20g of protein, (a third of our daily recommended amount).  Lamb also provides vitamin B and iron. Although lamb is bred to be leaner, it still contains a high proportion of fat within the meat itself although this depends greatly on the age, breed and the cut of meat. 

 Hints & Tips   Always bring refrigerated lamb back to room temperature before cooking it.  This will improve the browning and sealing on the meat.  
Happy Passover! The passover Meal and the Seder plate -    
THE PASSOVER MEAL – THE SEDER PLATE

Each of the components of the meal is symbolic. The food is eaten in ritual order and its meaning and symbolism is discussed.

The first item on the Seder Plate is MAROR, a bitter herb (some use horseradish, others Romaine lettuce) that symbolizes the bitterness of the slavery.

The second item on the the Seder plate is the CHAROSET which is a chunky brown mixture of apples, nuts and wine, that symbolizes the mortar that was used by the Hebrews during their slavery.

The third item on the plate is the KARPAS, as green-vegetable usually celery signifying the onset of spring. The celery is dipped into the saltwater and symbolizes the tears of the Hebrews under the Egyptian rule. Parsley is often used as Karpas.

The fourth item is the “Z’roa”, a roasted shank bone is used to symbolize the Passover sacrifice that was made every year at the Temple in Jerusalem.

The fifth item is the BEITZAH , a roasted egg that symbolizes the Festival Sacrifice that Jews used to make at the Temple in Jerusalem. The egg has also come to symbolize spring and rebirth, however that was not the original intent of the egg on the Seder Plate.

Additionally, there are three MATZAHS on the table to symbolize the three groups of Jews, the priests, the Levites, and the Israelites.
The Cheese Story - Camembert Cheese Article - Alan Coxon   
I have recently just returned from filming a pilot TV cookery show over in Normandy called the Food Archaeologist, a series about the history of food, a personal passion that I have held for many years. Normandy in particular is a personal favorite of mine, a smorgasbord of delicious foods and beverages at every turn. 



 









For a in-depth introduction to Ready in Minutes click here

For a newspaper review of Ready in Minutes click here