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Farmer's wife appears on Masterchef to raise awareness of farming and food produce

Farmer’s wife and mother Louise Pullan recalls how her childhood inspirations influenced her own family’s food tradition and how she became a more confident cook after appearing on BBC’s Masterchef earlier this year.

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Farmer's wife becomes succ

Growing up I used to go and spend time with a farming family in Appletreewick, a small village in the Craven district of North Yorkshire.

 

Head of the family was Betty Walker, a family friend and a lady who became an inspiration to me.

 

She was the kind of woman who could make a meal out of anything. She made proper belly-bursting food and was big into baking. There was always buns, biscuits and cakes on the table.

 

Around the kitchen table you would have the three generations of Walkers. It brought them all together during a hard day’s work.

 

There were so many fruit bushes outside the home; I remember eating fruit straight from them before collecting gooseberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants to put into pies.

 

Betty would light up a room whenever she talked about food. These days, you do not find this so much, as it is all too easy to go to the shops and let others think for you.

 

I really enjoyed food technology at school and my teachers were very encouraging. They could see I liked cooking and pushed me to be better.

 

One teacher was traditional in her thinking, the other was modern and a little more fun, so the two were a good balance.

School

I got an A* at GCSE, which I am proud of as it is not just about food, it is also about understanding the food processes and working in a kitchen.

 

Back home, my mum was a home cook. My mum was one of four children, so my gran used to have to please the masses and was known to cook a good stew with jam roly poly for pudding.

 

Good quality home-cooked food was served and my gran used to use cheap cuts of meat, such as breast of lamb or beef brisket, to save money.

 

So when my dad realised how much I loved cooking, he thought it was brilliant.

 

I remember trudging down to Guiseley School with my bags filled with food ready for class.

 

Each week, they would give us a theme from which we had to create a dish, so I learned to cook to a brief. It got me thinking about the food I would serve and I really enjoyed trying to work out say, for instance, what dish I would cook a 20,000-strong Olympic crowd.

 

I went on to do some waitressing in a restaurant serving modern British food and one of my favourite dishes there was the crushed cod on a bed of creamy linguine with a red pepper sauce.

 

I remember realising how you can cook food and not only make it taste nice but make it look utterly amazing. But cheffing was not for me, as I did not like the anti-social hours.

 

When I attended Bishop Burton College to study equine study, cooking became more of a distant hobby, but I picked up my cooking again when I moved in with my partner Richard, as I could not bear to see him living off baked beans and frozen pizza.

Farmhouse cooking

These days, I still like to cook proper food, by which I mean something cooked from scratch using home-grown produce where possible.

 

Our Sundays will always involve a roast dinner with silverside of beef, roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings and seasonal vegetables. We are definitely a Sunday roast kind of family.

 

Last week, I tired making horseradish sauce, which actually turned out great. Fresh horseradish is really underrated and I will be using it in the future.

 

Celeriac is a very ugly looking vegetables, but as my five-year-old daughter Faye does not like potatoes, which is quite annoying, she will eat that. She has funny habits as she will think nothing of eating a raw mushroom, but will never entertain it if it is cooked.

 

If I am not cooking, we will opt to eat in our local pub, as we know it is a plate of home-cooked food. Don’t get me wrong though, we do enjoy a takeaway curry every now and again.

 

Cooking isn’t hard; anybody can do it. My husband can, but he just doesn’t because he knows I will do it and I enjoy it.

Masterchef

Appearing on BBC’s Masterchef earlier this year was a fantastic experience. I learned how to be more effective and efficient with the food I make.

 

One of the dishes I made was a venison steak with blackberry and red wine sauce, celeriac dauphinoise served with apple and cabbage, and I still make that now at home if I want to cook something special.

 

I also learned how to be more organised and not have a kitchen which looks like it has exploded.

 

One of the reasons I applied for the show was to raise awareness of farmers and the food they produce, as there is still a lot of work to be done with the wider public.

 

We have visitors come and stay with us on our campsite and they have no idea where their steak comes from, so we point to the cows and talk them through it. One visitor had never even stroked a dog.

 

Food, without a shadow of a doubt, brings a family together. Sitting around the table to learn about each other’s day is a special time and gives chance to talk, plus it is a good excuse to have pudding every night.

 

I like to cook with Faye, so she watches and learns and maybe one day decides she wants to try and make it herself. What we do, say and eat definitely influences children and how they develop in later life.

 

When you have been outside all day, you look forward to coming into the kitchen to stand in front of the Aga and get warmed up. It is a place to sit with family and welcome your friends, or can be a place to just be on your own.

 

The kitchen is the heart of our home.

Stuffed rolled pork with wholegrain mustard sauce

This for me is a meal I will make for Sunday lunch when I do not feel like a standard meat and two veg-type meal.

 

Granted there is a little bit of ‘faffing’ to be done, but it is well worth it and you can prepare the pork in advance.

 

Pork fillet is serious under-used, yet it is tasty and a versatile cut. Think of something which has annoyed you during your week while tenderising the pork fillet, as it is great for a quick destress.

 

Get all the chopping done before you start and it makes life much easier when you are cooking.

 

Ingredients (serves four)

500g piece of pork fillet

150g button mushrooms, finely chopped

One red onion, finely chopped

One garlic clove, crushed

One tbspn of fresh thyme leaves

One tspn of dried sage

One heaped tspn of mustard powder

12 rashers of streaky smoked bacon

Salt and pepper

Two sprigs of fresh thyme

 

For the sauce:

Butter

Six shallots, finely chopped

100ml chicken stock

50ml double cream

1 tbspn of wholegrain mustard

Small glass of white wine (optional)

 

Method

  1. Prepare the filling first so it is cooling while you tenderise the pork; put a medium-sized non-stick pan on a medium heat and add a little piece of butter to create a film
  2. Add the mushrooms, red onion, garlic, thyme and sage; once softened, remove from heat
  3. Cover a chopping board with cling film; place your pork fillet on top and cover with another piece of cling film. Now hit with a rolling pin to flatten out the fillet to roughly 50mm in thickness; it helps if you keep turning it as you tenderise it
  4. Lift the flattened pork to one side and lay out the bacon on top of the cling film, then place the pork fillet back on top; rub the pork with the mustard powder
  5. Spoon the cooled filling carefully down the centre of the mustard coated pork
  6. Roll up the pork, carefully tucking the bacon around the sides, using the cling film to help you get a spherical shape; wrap in several layers of cling film to secure and place in fridge for a good couple of hours or overnight
  7. Preheat the oven to 200degC/392degF/Gas mark 6 and remove the pork from the fridge; carefully remove from the cling film and transfer to foil, making sure it is covered completely; place in the centre of the oven on a baking tray, cooking for about an hour, folding down the foil for the last 15 minutes of cooking to brown the bacon
  8. Once the bacon has browned off, remove from the oven and rest for five minutes before slicing

For the sauce:

  1. Add a small knob of butter to a frying pan; add your shallots and cook until softened; if you are adding the wine, add it now and reduce it down until the volume has halved; have your heat reasonably high for reducing the wine and stock, but be careful not to burn your shallots
  2. Add chicken stock and cook down until the volume has halved
  3. Turn the heat down, then add the cream and mustard and stir well

To assemble:

  1. Crush the new potatoes, place your buttered carrots and green beans and then finish the stack with the beautiful pork
  2. Decant the sauce over the top and sprinkle with parsley. Enjoy with a glass of chilled cider
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