Alan's Cookbooks

Product of the month : Cherries -    
Cherries  What’s in a name?   Our word Cherry evolved from the Mediaeval Latin “Ceresia” and that eventually became ‘cerise’ in French.  The English dropped the se at the end due to it sounding plural, and ended up calling it ceri.  Historical    First distributed through Europe by the Romans in 100 AD, Lucillus, the Roman general and bon viveur brought the cherry tree from the city of Cerasus hence also its name. The type of cherries known then would have been the sour varieties and used mainly for medicinal purposes.  Fact   There are more than 1,000 varieties of cherries and are divided into two groups, the sour cherries such as Morello and the sweet cherries like Napoleon and Bing. It will be the sour varieties that are found in jars, or dried, the sweet are usually reserved for eating fresh. In French cookery, any game, poultry or sweet dish called “montmorency” has a sauce of sour cherries.  

Health & Fitness   The raw varieties of cherries are a good source of potassium, which helps to regulate the heartbeat as well as keeping the skin healthy.

 They also contain a good amount of vitamin C. In alternative medicine, cherries are used to help cure joint inflammation and in particular – gout – helping to lower levels of uric acid in the blood. It is also believed that they have a cleansing effect and is able to remove toxins and cleanse the kidneys.  Hint & Tip   When buying fresh cherries, check out its stalk.  It should be green and liable, as it ages the stalk dries and withers.
Product of the month :Tomatoes -    
What’s in the name?   There are several name traces for tomato; one of them is from the Aztec word Tomat meaning plump fruit.  The other is pommo d’oro, or golden apple in Italian, referring to their original colour and firmness.
Historical   Tomatoes may have originated in Peru and travelled towards Mexico where they became part of the Aztec staple diet. The Spanish brought the plant to Europe in the 16th Century, where they were met with great suspicion; many feared that they would transmit leprosy.  Early cookbooks recommended that they be thinly peeled and cooked for a minimum of 3 hours to render them edible. In the 18th Century, the tomato began to be taken seriously and the Red variety, as we know today, was introduced. In 1835, the tomato was adopted by the USA, where today million of tonnes are grown and exported.

Fact   The tomato is technically a fruit and not a vegetable and is a relative of the nightshade family, its other relatives include the pepper and potato. There are over 1,000 different varieties ranging in size and colour.   The best flavoured tomatoes come from ones that have been left to mature on the vines.

Health & Fitness   They are a good source of carotenoids, potassium, and Vitamins C and E.  They also contain very few calories. In fact, two medium sized tomatoes contain around 22 calories between them, and so are ideal to include in a weight reducing diet. 

Hints & Tips
 If you have an abundance of fresh seasonal tomatoes like I do, then one way to use them is to cook them down into a thick paste, cool, strain and freeze the puree in an ice-cube tray.  Once frozen, transfer to a freezer bag. When cooking simply add a tomato cube whenever you need to boost the flavour of sauces, soups or gravies.
Product information of the month "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 -    
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 " -    

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.  


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