Spicy Pan Fried Dill Pickles with a Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce

Spicy Pan Fried Dill Pickles with a Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce from britinthesouth.comIt was in a bar in the deep south that I had my first encounter with fried pickles. Down here it is easy to strike up a relaxed conversation with the complete strangers sitting next to you, especially when you throw in the added novelty of an English accent.

When their bar snacks arrived they urged us to share and that is how I came to first experience the wonder of fried pickles. On the surface of it, slices of pickled cucumber, breaded and then deep fried and served with a side of ranch dressing do not sound like a culinary masterpiece, but these were just the perfect combination of crispy, crunchy, oily, spicy and salty to make the ideal accompaniment to a cold beer. I was hooked.

Spicy Pan Fried Dill Pickles with a Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce from britinthesouth.comThis summer I have been experiencing a glut of cucumbers and have been happily preserving the surplus into pickles and relishes for future enjoyment. I made a batch of garlic dill pickles using this recipe from the excellent foodinjars.com blog. The garlic and pepper gave them a nice kick and I thought they would be the perfect candidate for transforming into spicy fried pickles. I added a little smoked paprika to the cornmeal mix to add to the taste sensation and made a cooling blue cheese and yogurt dipping sauce to partner them. The end result is a tasty and quite addictive snack.

Spicy Pan Fried Dill Pickles with a Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce

8oz dill pickles, drained (I made mine using this recipe, or you can use shop bought pickles)

2 eggs

1 cup all purpose flour

0.5 cup cornmeal

0.5 teaspoon salt

0.5 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

0.5 teaspoon smoked paprika

Vegetable oil

For the dipping sauce

1 cup blue cheese crumbles

0.5 cup plain yogurt

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Spicy Pan Fried Dill Pickles with a Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce from britinthesouth.com

To make the sauce, place the blue cheese, yogurt, vinegar and black pepper in a food processor and blitz until combined but still slightly chunky. Check for seasoning.

Drain your dill pickles.

Beat the two eggs and place in a bowl.

Mix together the flour, cornmeal, salt, pepper and paprika in a shallow bowl or plate.

Spicy Pan Fried Dill Pickles with a Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce from britinthesouth.comHeat a 1/4 inch of oil in a skillet over medium high heat.

Dip the pickle slices in the beaten egg, then dip them in the flour mix until well coated and then carefully place them in the pan. Fry until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side.

Drain on paper towel before enjoying, ideally with a cold beer.

Spicy Pan Fried Dill Pickles with a Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce from britinthesouth.com

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Blueberry and Mascarpone Tart with a Pecan Crust

Blueberry and Mascarpone Tart with a Pecan Crust from britinthesouth.com Oliver Farm is located about 150 miles south of Atlanta and has been owned and operated by the same family for five generations. In recent years they have started producing cold pressed oils from pecans, sunflowers and peanuts, as well as pecan flour.

I discovered them at a local farmers market and picked up a bag of their pecan flour as well as a bottle of pecan oil. They sat in my kitchen for a while as I pondered what to make with them, before I came up with the genius idea of checking out the recipe suggestions on the Oliver’s own website. A few caught my eye but I was particularly intrigued by the “pecan pat-in crust” recipe which used both the oil and the flour and seemed both simple and versatile.

Blueberry and Mascarpone Tart with a Pecan Crust from britinthesouth.comHaving made my crust the next question was what to fill it with. Luckily, our CSA box from Riverview Farms has been supplying us with an abundance of blueberries in recent weeks so I combined the sweet berries with a rich creamy filling of eggs, mascarpone and vanilla to complement the pecan crust.

The result is a tasty and eye catching dessert that is quick and easy to make.

Blueberry and Mascarpone Tart with a Pecan Crust

For the crust (taken from this recipe for “Pecan Pat-In Crust” at oliverfarm.com)

1 cup pecan halves

0.5 cup pecan flour

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

2 to 3 tablespoons of pecan oil (or substitute vegetable oil)

For the filling

1 egg

8oz Mascarpone

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

A few drops of Vanilla Extract

8oz Blueberries

Preheat your oven to 350F and position rack in the middle of the oven. Place the pecans, flour and sugar in a food processor and pulse until they are coarsely ground. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil and pulse again briefly. Then check to see if the mix is sticking together. If it isn’t, add a little more oil and blitz again in the food processor. Once the ingredients are combined put the mixture into a pie dish and use your fingers to press it evenly across the bottom and up the side of the dish. This quantity will fill a 9″ pie plate, or you can do as I did and use two 4″ cases  to make two smaller tarts. Bake for around 10 minutes until the crust is dry to the touch and starting to colour a little. Remove the oven and set aside to cool.

Blueberry and Mascarpone Tart with a Pecan Crust from britinthesouth.comFor the mascarpone layer, separate an egg and then beat the yolk with the tablespoon of powdered sugar. Stir in the mascarpone and a few drops of vanilla extract. Beat the egg white until stiff and then fold into the mascarpone mixture. Spread this on the pecan crust and place in the fridge to set.

Finally, arrange the blueberries on top of the tart. Keep chilled until you are ready to enjoy.

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Sourdough Pancakes with Serviceberry Syrup

When I lived in Britain I had a pretty good grasp of plants that I could forage for locally: wild garlic and hops in the spring, blackberries in late summer, sloes in the autumn.

Sourdough Pancakes with Serviceberry Syrup from britinthesouth.comMoving to Georgia meant a different seasonal calendar as well as new, unfamiliar plants. One fruit that was totally new to me was the serviceberry, also known as the juneberry or saskatoon berry. I first heard about them through the work of Concrete Jungle, an Atlanta based non profit that harvests fruit and nuts from thousands of untended trees around the city and donates them to the poor and hungry. Their map of food sources in the area shows an abundance of serviceberry trees around the city. Last year I stumbled upon a solitary tree on public property in my neighbourhood and tried these delicious, sweet little purple-red berries for myself. This year I managed to pick a few cups of berries to experiment with whilst leaving plenty for other foragers and the local birdlife.

Sourdough Pancakes with Serviceberry Syrup from britinthesouth.comI turned my haul of serviceberries into a gorgeous bright purple syrup that paired beautifully with a stack of sourdough pancakes but would also be great on waffles, or stirred into oatmeal.

Serviceberry Syrup

4 cups serviceberries

1 cup water

1 cup granulated sugar

Add the water to the serviceberries in a saucepan and crush. I used a potato masher.

Slowly bring to the boil over medium-high heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Allow to cool a little and then strain through a jelly bag or muslin. This yields about 1 cup of juice.

Sourdough Pancakes with Serviceberry Syrup from britinthesouth.comAdd 1 cup of sugar to the cup of juice and heat over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and the sauce has thickened a little. Do not let it boil.

Once it is cool pour it into a jar or bottle and it will keep in the fridge for two months.

Sourdough Pancakes with Serviceberry Syrup from britinthesouth.comTo enjoy my syrup I whipped up a batch of sourdough pancakes. My go-to pancake recipe is this one from kingarthurflour.com which calls for sourdough starter and the preparation of an overnight sponge, so it takes a little planning. I found it worked perfectly for me as I left the berries to strain overnight whilst the sourdough batter bubbled and worked its magic. If you have less time on your hands this is a great alternative recipe.

Once you have a stack of freshly cooked pancakes, drizzle generously with syrup and enjoy.

Sourdough Pancakes with Serviceberry Syrup from britinthesouth.com

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Sticky Toffee Pudding Truffles

Sticky toffee pudding is considered to be a British classic. A sponge cake studded with chopped dates and drizzled with toffee sauce, it is a staple on many dessert menus across the pond.

Sticky toffee pudding truffles from britinthesouth.comIt is in fact a relatively recent invention, with a number of claims and counter claims as to who exactly came up with the recipe. It first came to prominence in the 1970s at the Sharrow Bay hotel in the Lake District, who declare their version to be the original. According to this article by English chef Simon Hopkinson their recipe may have actually come from a Mrs.Martin of Lancashire whose recipe appeared in the 1971 book “The Good Food Guide Dinner Party Book”, and there is conjecture that she received the recipe some years earlier from a Canadian source. Another Lake District location, the Village Shop in Cartmel, also claims to be the birthplace of the pudding.

Whatever the origins of sticky toffee pudding, I thought it was a perfect candidate for turning into a bite sized truffle. Obviously I needed to start by making a sticky toffee pudding. Thankfully there are no shortage of recipes; it seems that almost every British chef or food writer has at some point published their own version. I opted for this version from Nigel Slater.

Sticky toffee pudding truffles from britinthesouth.comHaving produced my pudding and separate toffee sauce it was then a case of combining them with some chocolate to form the truffle centres and then coat them in yet more chocolate to finish. I was delighted with the result. The dark chocolate coating balanced with the sweetness of the centre to make a delicious treat.

Sticky toffee pudding truffles from britinthesouth.com

Sticky Toffee Pudding Truffles

4oz toffee pudding (from this recipe)

4oz toffee sauce (from this recipe)

4oz milk chocolate

6oz dark chocolate

Melt the milk chocolate over medium heat in a double boiler or a glass bowl over a pan of water.

Crumble the pudding and place in a bowl. Add the toffee sauce and the melted milk chocolate and stir to combine. When cool, place in the refrigerator until the mixture is firm.

Taking a teaspoon full of the mixture at a time, roll into balls to form the centres of the truffles. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, then return to the fridge to firm up again.

Melt the dark chocolate for the coating in a double boiler. Dip the truffle centres in the melted chocolate to coat and place on baking parchment to set before savouring this bite sized British classic.

Crème Fraiche Drop Biscuits

“Biscuit” is probably one of the better known words which has a completely different meaning on one side of the Atlantic from the other. Back in England, biscuit brands such as Rich Tea, Digestives, Hob Nobs and Custard Creams are crunchy baked products, which Americans would call cookies and which are incredibly popular, especially when dunked into a cup of tea.

Creme fraiche drop biscuits from britinthesouth.comIn the States on the other hand, biscuits are soft, flaky and scone-like and are commonly eaten for breakfast. Here in the South, they are particularly loved and even though they are traditionally made with just a few ingredients (flour, buttermilk, lard or butter, baking powder and/or soda and a little salt), there is much debate over exactly which combinations of ingredients and techniques produce the best biscuit. I’ve tried quite a few biscuit recipes over the years before settling on a couple of reliable options which I regularly return to.

English Biscuits, britinthesouth.comI’m a fan of this recipe from Leite’s Culinaria which uses just self rising flour, butter and buttermilk but produces great results. Many Southerners swear by the legendary White Lily self rising flour which is already blended with leavening and salt, making the job even easier.

Creme fraiche drop biscuits from britinthesouth.comAn even simpler but still very tasty biscuit recipe is the one for “Miracle Drop Biscuits” from Sheri Castle’s excellent book “The New Southern Garden Cookbook“. It uses just self rising flour, heavy cream and a little butter. The recipe calls for minimal handling of the dough so they are hand shaped rather than rolled and cut, which results in a slightly craggy appearance but they are none the worse for that.

I decided to experiment with the miracle drop biscuit recipe, replacing the heavy cream with home made crème fraiche. More commonly found in Europe than here in the States it is a thick, rich, slightly sour cream that is a versatile ingredient in the kitchen. Over here it can be hard to find and quite pricey when you do come across it but it is simple to make by adding 2 or 3 tablespoons of buttermilk to a cup of heavy cream and just leaving it at room temperature for a few hours until it thickens and develops a characteristic sour flavour. It can then be kept in the fridge for a week or so.

Homemade creme fraiche from britinthesouth.comWith the added tang from the buttermilk in the crème fraiche I thought it would add another layer of flavour to the drop biscuits, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Crème Fraiche Drop Biscuits

Adapted from Sheri Castle

2 cups self rising flour (I used White Lily)

1 cup home made crème fraiche

2 tablespoons butter, melted

Creme Fraiche Drop Biscuits from britinthesouth.comPreheat oven to 475F.

Mix flour and crème fraiche together in a bowl and stir to make a soft dough.

Divide the dough by hand into 6 equal parts and place on a baking tray.

Brush the tops with melted butter and bake until golden, 12-15 minutes.

Serve warm.

Creme fraiche drop biscuits from britinthesouth.com

Lime Syrup Cake with Stoneground Cornmeal and Almonds

Spring has arrived in Georgia with the sun shining, temperatures soaring and trees bursting into blossom. However, the handful of farmers markets that open year round are still dominated by root vegetables and winter greens, and it will be a few weeks until our CSA box starts again, so our day to day eating is still heavily influenced by produce we preserved last summer and whatever is to hand in our store cupboard.

Lime Syrup Cake with Stoneground Cornmeal and Almonds from britinthesouth.comTwo things we are never short of are grits and cornmeal, which are regular features in our CSA box. Stone ground at the farm from their own organically grown corn they are great but we sometimes need to find innovative ways to work our way through them. This moist, delicious cake came about after we had picked up a huge bag of limes for just $2.99 at Buford Highway Farmers Market, and is inspired by this citrus and polenta cake recipe from the wonderful Nigel Slater.

Lime Syrup Cake with Stoneground Cornmeal and Almonds from britinthesouth.com

Lime Syrup Cake with Stoneground Cornmeal and Almonds

8oz unsalted butter

8oz cane sugar crystals (or granulated sugar)

4oz blanched almonds

3 eggs

4oz ground almonds

5oz cornmeal

1 tsp baking powder

Zest and juice of 2 limes

For the syrup:-

Zest and juice of 2 limes

4oz cane sugar crystals (or granulated sugar)

Lime Syrup Cake with Stoneground Cornmeal and Almonds from britinthesouth.com

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Beat together the butter and the sugar.

Lightly beat the eggs, and then slowly mix with the creamed butter and sugar.

Chop the blanched almonds finely and then add those and the ground almonds to the mixture.

Stir the cornmeal and baking powder together and add those to the mixture, then stir in the lime zest and juice.

Spoon the mixture into an 8″ loose bottomed cake tin lined with baking parchment. As some of my cakes were destined to be given away I used three 7″x2.5″ oven safe paper baking pans.

Lime Syrup Cake with Stoneground Cornmeal and Almonds from britinthesouth.comBake in the oven for 30 minutes and then reduce the heat to 325F and cook for a further 30 minutes.

For the syrup take the zest and juice of two limes and add water to make it up to 1 cup of liquid. Add the sugar, and then bring to a boil and simmer until it has reduced to around 0.75 of a cup.

Lime Syrup Cake with Stoneground Cornmeal and Almonds from britinthesouth.comMake holes in the cake with a fork or skewer and then pour over the syrup, letting it soak in, then allow the cake to cool before enjoying.

Welsh Cakes for St.David’s Day

I can claim no Welsh heritage but my wife hails from that part of the world so on March 1st every year we will find some small way to recognise the feast day of St.David, the patron saint of Wales.

Welsh Cakes from britinthesouth.comA Welsh bishop who lived in the 6th century, St.David does not get the global recognition or celebrations that St.Patrick gets later in March but his day is still widely celebrated in his homeland. Many people in Wales will wear a leek or a daffodil on March 1st in recognition of the day but as that would probably raise some eyebrows where I live I opted for a culinary celebration: a batch of humble yet delicious welsh cakes.

I hesitate to call this an old family recipe but it did come from my Welsh mother-in-law in the form of an an old postcard that is suitably tattered and stained from many years in the kitchen.

Welsh cake recipe on britinthesouth.com

I had never paid much attention to the source of the card but a little research revealed the story of Jeremiah Hoad, an accomplished artist whose work was not simply restricted to whimsical Welsh postcards. His life encompassed a range of Celtic influences. He was born in Scotland in 1924 to an Irish father and an anglo-Scottish mother. He moved to England at the age of 15 and studied at Winchester School of Art. In 1967 he moved to rural Wales and in the early 70s produced the “Lluniau Cymreig” range of postcards and prints featuring black and white line drawings of Welsh influenced themes and landscapes. From 1981 until his death in 1999 he lived in Donegal and produced many fine landscapes of that beautiful part of Ireland. You can see more of his work here.

With the impromptu art history lesson out of the way it is time to focus on the recipe. It calls for two ingredients commonly found in British baking recipes but less common on this side of the Atlantic. If you don’t have self raising flour to hand you can make it yourself by adding baking powder and salt to all purpose flour. Caster sugar is a finely ground sugar: finer than regular granulated but not as fine as powdered. It often crops up in British baking recipes as it is easier to incorporate into the other ingredients and melts faster. You can substitute “superfine” sugar or make your own by whizzing up some granulated sugar in a food processor. In this particular recipe I find you can get away with using regular granulated sugar.

Welsh Cakes

8oz all purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

0.5 teaspoon salt

4oz unsalted butter

4oz sugar (granulated or caster)

1 egg

4oz currants or raisins

Pinch of salt

Milk

Mix the flour, baking powder and salt together.

Rub the butter into the flour mix. This can be done quickly and easily in a food processor.

Add the sugar, currants and a pinch of salt to the mix and combine into a soft dough. If the mix is too dry you can add a splash of milk to help bring it together.

On a floured surface, roll the dough until it is about a quarter of an inch thick and then cut circles of about 2 – 3 inches.

Lightly grease a griddle or pan with butter and then cook the cakes over a medium-low heat until they are golden on both sides, around 5 minutes per side.

Welsh Cakes from britinthesouth.comOnce cooked sprinkle lightly with sugar before enjoying.

 

Strawberry Liqueur Truffles

Strawberry Liqueur Truffles from britinthesouth.comA couple of weeks before Christmas I strained and bottled the strawberry liqueur that I had started in the spring, much of it being given away to friends.

I was left with a pile of alcohol infused strawberry pulp that I was reluctant to waste. As it is not the most visually appealing of ingredients I have always thought that using it to make chocolate truffles is ideal as the pallid appearance is disguised by copious amounts of chocolate, but previous attempts to do this have proved difficult as the alcohol content prevented the chocolate mix from firming up sufficiently to roll into truffles.

Strawberry Liqueur Truffles from britinthesouth.comLast time this happened I turned the sloppy mix into a dessert but this time I was determined to come up with a ratio of chocolate to fruit that I could work with to roll into truffles but still had good strawberry flavour and a pleasant hint of alcohol. It took a number of attempts but I eventually got there.

Strawberry Liqueur Truffles

8oz white chocolate

2oz strawberry liqueur pulp (leftover from making strawberry liqueur: recipe here)

Pinch of salt

4oz chocolate of your choice for coating (I used Ghirardelli semi sweet)

Melt the white chocolate over medium heat in a double boiler or a glass bowl over a pan of water. Once melted, stir in the strawberry pulp and a pinch of salt.

Strawberry Liqueur Truffles from britinthesouth.comAllow to cool and then put in the fridge until the mixture is firm. Taking a teaspoon full of the mixture at a time roll it into balls to form the centre of the truffles. This recipe should yield around a dozen. Return to the fridge to firm up again.

Melt the chocolate for coating the truffles in a double boiler. I went for a semi sweet coating which I found contrasted well with the white chocolate centre but you could opt for a darker covering or more white chocolate if you wish. Dip the centres in the chocolate to coat and place on baking parchment to set before enjoying.

Strawberry Liqueur Truffles from britinthesouth.com

Samphire

Growing up in England in the 1960s and 70s I was not really exposed to much in the way of exotic food. The supermarkets and grocery stores of the day did not carry the dazzling array of products that you can find today. The food I enjoyed as a child was good and wholesome but relatively plain.

There was one thing that featured on my childhood menu that I later came to realise was fairly unusual for the time and that was samphire. In recent years this edible plant found all around the British coast has become something of a trendy ingredient, popping up in smart restaurants and featuring in food magazines and TV shows. But when I was a kid it was a regular seasonal treat.

Norfolk_Samphire

Across the street from the house I grew up in was an old fashioned corner shop. There is still a shop there today but whereas the 21st century incarnation is a typical modern convenience store, when I was young it was a slightly dark and dingy space that hadn’t changed much since the 50s. It was an off licence and it sold tobacco and sweets and basic grocery items. As a young kid I always thought the owner, Norman Scott, was something of a grumpy old man and was always a bit apprehensive if my Mum sent me across the street to pick something up.

gartonstreet-thenPhoto courtesy of peterboroughimages.co.uk

In the summer, when samphire was in season, Norman would regularly drive to Norfolk and pick samphire in the muddy marshes by the coast and bring it back to sell in his shop. As a kid this seemed totally normal to me but looking back it was slightly strange to get freshly foraged marsh samphire in a humble corner shop over fifty miles from the sea.

When we did get our hands on samphire we ate it simply: lightly boiled and served hot with melted butter, which would run down our fingers as we ate the soft fleshy fronds.

Sadly it has been quite a few years since I last tasted samphire. On this side of the Atlantic it is known as sea beans and I have occasionally spotted it in Whole Foods but just haven’t been able to bring myself to pay the eye-watering price. I shall have to make sure my next trip to England coincides with the samphire season and include a jaunt to the coast on my itinerary.

Boozy Chocolate Truffles

I love making chocolates and candy and experimenting in the kitchen with combinations of chocolate, sugar, fruit and occasionally alcohol. One of my go-to chocolate truffle recipes originally featured on a River Cottage TV show a few years ago.

The beauty of this recipe lies in its simplicity and versatility. It just requires chocolate and jam with optional alcohol and cocoa powder. The possible combinations are only limited by your imagination.

In the past I have had success with combos such as Thai whisky, pepper jelly and dark chocolate, limoncello, lemon curd and white chocolate and homemade strawberry liqueur, strawberry jam and milk chocolate.

With the festive season fast approaching it was time to do an inventory of the various jams, boozy infusions and bottles in my basement and see what confectionery magic I could conjure up.

Blueberry & Ginger Wine Truffles from britinthesouth.comThere were a number of tempting permutations but my eye was drawn to a jar of homemade blueberry and ginger jam, as I knew I could pair it with Stone’s Ginger Wine, a staple in many British households, especially during the festive season.

The recipe simply combines the jam with melted chocolate and a little bit of alcohol.

Blueberry & Ginger Wine Truffles from britinthesouth.comAfter chilling the mixture the centres of the truffles are made by rolling the mixture into balls and coating them with cocoa powder. These are then coated in more chocolate to produce a decadent treat.

Blueberry and Ginger Wine Truffles from britinthesouth.com

Blueberry and Ginger Wine Truffles

7oz Blueberry Ginger Jam (Mine was made using this recipe from the excellent “Food In Jars”)

14oz Dark Chocolate (I used Ghirardelli 60%)

2 tbs ginger wine

Unsweetened Cocoa powder

Melt 7oz of the chocolate over medium heat in a double boiler (or use a glass bowl over a pan as I do).

Once melted add the jam and wine and stir to combine. Allow to cool and then put in the fridge until the mix is firm.

Use a teaspoon to scoop walnut sized balls from the chocolate mix and roll into balls before covering with a light coating of cocoa powder. Put the balls on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and then return to the fridge to firm up again.

Melt the remaining chocolate over medium heat in a double boiler and then coat the chocolate balls. Once again place them on a parchment paper lined baking tray for the chocolate to cool and set.

These make an ideal gift but make sure you test a few first for quality control purposes.

Blueberry & Ginger Wine Truffles from britinthesouth.com