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Showing posts with label Food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Food. Show all posts

Sunday 16 May 2021

Rhubarb Crumble

Rhubarb Crumble
Rhubarb Crumble

There are few comfort foods more comforting to me than rhubarb crumble, preferably served with a generous dollop of creamy vanilla custard. The sweet gingery smell as it cooks, the slightly tart flavour and the crunchy topping take me right back to my childhood, back to the days when the statuesque specimens in my mum's rhubarb drill were taller than me. 

Wednesday 25 March 2020

Jam Muffins, Rationing and Teatime Rituals ...



These days I'm constantly obsessing about our food stocks, and making things last as long as I can possibly s-t-r-e-t-c-h them out for. At the same time I'm craving comfort foods: things like bacon and barley soup or fish chowder with freshly made bread and lashings of creamy butter.

At the same time it's comforting to follow familiar rituals like afternoon teatime. Normally, when Emi gets in from school, we have a cup of tea together. Sometimes I make fluffy pancakes and other times I make muffins or cookies. He's not going to school at the moment, but it's reassuring to observe the old rituals - like milky tea with freshly baked muffins. It's not much, but it's something to remind us that this lock-down will pass, and normality will return. One day. Soon.

The hand of fortune has provided me with a healthy surplus of black-currant jam. Long story short: I kept making jam with my black currant crop because I didn't want to waste them and I couldn't come up with a better alternative. People seemed to have preferred my raspberry jam - which is long since history and a happy memory, so I find myself left with multiple pots of the other stuff. And in a bid to make use of everything in my larder I've come up with a recipe for 6 jam muffins: that's just about enough for the three of us at tea time. My thinking is that having something fresh from the oven every day is better than a big box of muffins that have lost their sparkle spread over several days. In my little world on lock-down that's what passes for economy of scale.

So, anyway, that's my philosophy, and here's my recipe if you'd like to give them a go:


Friday 25 January 2019

Minestrone Soup ...

I'm in the throes of seasonal grey. I am filled with admiration for those people who can enthuse about all the seasons and extol the delights of our great British seasonal variety.  I try. I really try to mimic them and muster some enthusiasm for January, but it always defeats me. January is just a month too many in the book of my year.

If January were cold and crisp and full of frozen cobwebs and ducks slipping and sliding on the lake over at Osterley Park, where the WonderDog and I like to stretch our legs, it might be different. But right now, right here in the Big Smoke January is cold and grey and wet and miserable.

So I'm hunkering down and making soup. I've been on a health crusade since last June, which involves not eating many processed carbohydrates so I've left pasta off the list of ingredients and bigged up on the beans for this fortifying Minestrone: a small midday fix for the January blues.




Sunday 10 June 2018

Iced T

I've come over all summery: my drink of choice in these balmy days of early summer is iced tea. I'm normally a builder's brew type of girl, who occasionally pushes the boat out with an exotic cardamon tea from the Turkish grocery shop. But these days I'm brewing tisanes to chill in the fridge and serve over ice in tall glasses.


Monday 19 February 2018

Leek 'n' tattie soup ... the ultimate comfort food

Poor Emi has just gone Full Metal Jacket with the orthodontist, who has started to encase his teeth in metal braces. The poor lamb is still getting used to the sensation of having his pearly whites pulled into place to straighten his smile. I'm sure he'll thank us in the future, but right now he's got mixed feelings about the whole business.

So, to cheer him up, and give him some easy-to-chew chow whilst he's getting used to how his mouth has been re-configured, we're eating a lot of ... soup. One of my favourite go-to dishes in times of crisis and stress is Leek 'n' Tattie soup. It's comfort food on a spoon, and it's helped me to cope with many a black dog day. And, let's face it, with all this cold, grim weather, we could use a bit of comfort.


Just read on for the recipe.

Wednesday 16 August 2017

El Celler de Can Roca

Last week we had a special dinner date, a very special dinner date indeed. All the planets aligned and we were offered a table at the celebrated Celler de Can Roca in Girona. We've been trying to get a reservation there for ages. Normally you have to book 11 months in advance. Yes, that's right. Almost a full year ahead of when you want to go out for dinner. Mr B has been trying each month, on the first day of the month, when they open the bookings for 11 months down the line, to wrangle a table. But here's the thing: they open the booking line at midnight on the allocated date, and within ten minutes all the tables for the entire month on offer are gone.

El Celler de Can Roca

As we knew we were going to be on the Costa Brava for all of August we put our names down for a cancellation - any cancellation. And last week, when our besties, P and A were in town, we lucked out with a table for four.

So what's so special about this Celler de Can Roca? you may well ask.

Well, they've got 3 Michelin Stars for starters, and if you check out the World's 50 Best Restaurants you'll see that they're up there - right up there at the very top. In 2013 Celler de Can Roca was voted the world's Number 1 restaurant, in 2014 it fell to number 2, 2015 saw it return to the number 1 spot, in 2016 it was number 2 and this year, 2017, it's number 3. In anyone's gastronomy it's a very special eatery.


Saturday 1 July 2017

Loganberry & Lemongrass Jam ...

Yesterday I made some Loganberry & Lemongrass Jam, and it was a big hit with the troops, a really big hit. Just read on for my recipe:

Loganberry & Lemongrass Jam
Loganberry & Lemongrass Jam

Tuesday 20 June 2017

It's too darn hot ...

To quote Cole Porter: It's Too Darn Hot 😤, and  Ella's lovely, deep velvet voice keeps singing those lines in my head these hot, hot days.

I don't know what's happened to our weather here in London, but every day the mercury seems to push its way north of 30º C, and I'm really struggling not to wilt. Mr B has been recovering nicely from his knee operation last Tuesday, so we've not had to take life too strenuously, which is just as well. If I had to do anything difficult right now I've got a feeling I'd fail miserably.

The other afternoon I was trying to calculate how many stitches I needed to cast-off to shape the neckline of a baby cardigan, and it took me four attempts - four! -before I managed to lose the necessary 8 stitches over 20 rows. I can only plead heat fatigue.

At least, looking on the positive side of all this heat, my Loganberry bush has produced a decent bucketful of fruit. I've picked the better part of 2 kg of berries, and it's still going strong. Because they don't all ripen at once I pick them, and freeze them each day as they're ready. When the weather cools down a bit, I'll make jam from the frozen berries. I'm not going anywhere near a hot stove and a steaming preserving pan in this weather!



Monday 16 January 2017

Shoulder of lamb with date and pomegranate stuffing

Did you know that this is Blue Monday? Officially it's the lowest point of the year. With all the fun of Christmas been and gone, but the bills still lingering for payment it's the day when we're all supposed to be feeling the most bleugh!

Looking on the bright side: things can only get better after today ... 😜

And one way to make everything happier is to cook up some soul food indoors. So I'm comfort-eating with hearty winter fare to get me through Blue Monday. Mr B has a partiality for roast lamb, and  I'm rather keen on rolled roasts. I love the contrast of the meat and the stuffing. In this case I've added some dates to add a little sweetness, which works nicely with the lamb and some pomegranate seeds for a little extra zing.


Just read on for my recipe:

Wednesday 13 July 2016

Summer Pavlova ...


This is my go-to dessert whenever I have a brain freeze and can't think of anything else to make. It's so easy, and yet at the same time looks like it took a bit of effort to put together. For me it's the perfect dessert when the soft summer berries are in season. The sweetness of the meringue needs something slightly tart to cut across it and balance the flavours. In my book a mixture of alpine strawberries, raspberries, and blue berries would be a pretty perfect accompaniment, but you can add whatever works for you.

And if there was one recipe that I was to pass on to my son as a perfect keep-it-up-your-sleeve secret to impress any dinner guests with in the future, this would be it. Just read on for the details ...

Wednesday 6 April 2016

Feeling hungry in La Boqueria, Barcelona ...

The other day I had to go down to Barcelona for a meeting. As luck would have it the venue was just beside Barcelona's totally sensational La Boqueria market. Afterwards I needed somewhere to stop off for lunch with Emi and Mr B, who had driven me down. It would have seemed churlish not to pop into this wonderful foodie's paradise for sustenance, so this is where we ended up.

Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria,
Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria,

Tuesday 22 December 2015

Apple and salted caramel pies ...

I love traditional mince pies, but I've noticed that Emi and a clutch of his chums from school aren't that keen on old-fashioned sweet mince - so I've knocked up an apple and salted caramel combination that no one, but no one can resist, especially if you toss on a scoop of ice-cream. There's something especially delicious about the sweetness of the caramel, the slight tartness of the apple and the saltiness of the sauce that's guaranteed to have them begging for more ... .


These pies are really quick and very easy to rustle up if people drop in unexpectedly. Just read on for the recipe:


Wednesday 14 October 2015

Chocolate week ...

I've only just realised that we're in the middle of  London Chocolate Week. Eeek! Why haven't I heard about this wonderful celebration before? It overlaps with the London Rumfest, billed as the World's biggest 3-day festival of rum, and the two are being paired in a chocolate and rum tasting event on Friday at the Chocolate Show in Olympia. The Chocolate Show is running from Friday 16th to Sunday 18th October, and features an impressive array of London's top chocolatiers. Top billing, however, has to go to the chocolate fashion show. Let's hope the spotlights on the cat walk won't melt the couture or things could get really messy ... .

Well it all sounds suitably bonkers, so I thought that I might as well join in. And, let's be honest, if there's chocolate involved I don't need much persuading. So I'm off to rustle up some of the very best Chocolate Brownies for the troops over here at Talk-a-Lot-Towers. You can find my recipe here: The best chocolate brownies - ever!


Tuesday 8 September 2015

The Apple Harvest ...


Last weekend we had a go at picking some apples - as you can see! The weather was glorious on Sunday, and we all mucked in.

If there's one thing that makes my heart sing at the end of summer it's the apple harvest. We usually have loads of apples. Our trees are heritage varieties from Devon, where the emphasis is on working apples for cider or cooking, rather than sweet dessert types.


Saturday 25 July 2015

Grandma's Apple Pie

The apples aren't ready to harvest yet, but things are shaping up for a good crop when the autumn comes. As we were admiring them the other day my mum suggested we pick a few of the Bramley apples for an early apple pie. We found a windfall or two to add to the mix as well, so that it didn't feel too sinful to harvest baby apples that haven't had a chance to reach their prime.


Every year when they're ready we have a glut of apples, way too many and all at the same time. So in a way it makes sense to use a few now to make an early season apple pie.

Just read on for my mother's recipe:

Thursday 9 July 2015

Home-made black currant cordial that won't rot your teeth ...

Last weekend the Fates were on my side, and Mr B, who’d been delegated the task of picking the black currants down in Devon, came home with just over a kilo of wonderful, ripe fruit. I’d asked him to get them for me never thinking that he’d actually follow through and deliver. But, notwithstanding my skepticism, and against all the odds, Mr B found his way to the black currant bushes, recognised them for what they were and harvested the crop – or as much of it as was ripe for the picking. He promises me that there are more yet to ripen in the not-so-very-hot Devon sunshine.

I decided to turn them into some black currant cordial, which I can add to a glass of Cava or still white wine on a hot summer evening. I have even been known to add it an innocent glass of sparkling mineral water to turn it into a minor celebration too.

It reminds me of my childhood. Growing up in the north of Ireland there weren’t many fruit crops that we could consistently rely upon to deliver jam-making produce in our cool, damp summers. But our little black currant bushes never failed us. As a consequence my mother and grandmothers relied heavily on this rare bounty for making jams, jellies, cordials and pies.

They’re a real heritage crop. In the dark days of the Second World War when the Nazi naval blockade was threatening the nation’s nutrition the government seized upon the black currant crop as the only means by which they could prevent an entire generation from being weakened by scurvy. The currants are full to bursting with vitamin C, and, as part of the War Effort, they were turned into syrup, which was then fed to the children to keep them healthy.

More recent studies have shown that consumption of black currants can also help reduce the effects of heart disease, diabetes and maybe even Alzheimer's. They're a bit of an all round superfood.

And I have to sing their praises for today’s gardener. They fruit reliably every year. I've had very little to worry about from either aphids or mildew - or anything else for that matter. They don’t need much attention. You just plant them in a hole in the ground, mulch around the roots a bit and let them get on with it. Prune them towards the end of winter and that's about it.  If you’re only going to grow one fruit crop in your garden I strongly recommend that you chose this one. 

And having packed all that fruity goodness into my cordial the last thing I want is to include cavity-inducing, tooth-rotting sugar, so I've substituted xylitol in place of regular sugar. If you wanted to use normal sugar that would work fine too.



Anyway if you’d like to make some cordial here’s the recipe:

Sunday 10 May 2015

Marmalade Biscuits

It's Sunday afternoon. We've finally got the homework done - yeah! The sun has put in an appearance. Mr B has cut the grass and there's that great spring smell of a freshly cut lawn. It's pretty fabulous outside, and I can feel a nice cup of al fresco Rosie Lee with one of my very best marmalade biscuits coming on. 


Now I know I've gone on in the past about how much I love marmalade (my middle name is Paddington). But, honestly peeps, I've got the very best Clementine and Cardamon Marmalade known to man - and I'm always keen to use it in everything, and at every available opportunity. It really is that good. 

And these biscuits with their subtle notes of cardamon and allspice, and the chewy bits of baked clementine from the chunky-cut marmalade are really very good, very good indeed. In fact they're just perfect for dunking in a cup of tea in the garden on a fine spring afternoon. 

Would you like to try one?

Thursday 16 April 2015

Hostal la Fosca, Palamós, Spain ...

Looking for a beach-side, child-friendly, dog-welcoming restaurant set on a pristine beach in a beautiful cove on the Costa Brava? Well, you might like to try this place!


Tuesday 10 March 2015

Love your leftovers ... Beef and Mushroom pies

The Sunday Roast is a weekly favourite in our house. We love a good roast dinner with all the trimmings. It's a bit of an occasion, and we like to linger around the table, taking our time, putting the world to rights and enjoying what Emi calls golden rainbow family time. It's the one time of the week when no one's in a hurry.

It doesn't matter whether it's beef, chicken, duck, a leg of lamb, or a shoulder of pork; they all taste better for having been slow-roasted in the oven. And ditto too with the veggies and potatoes. My Spanish family rarely cook anything outside of bread, pizza and cakes in their ovens, but over here in Blighty we've always loved our oven-cooked savouries.

One of the great things about this type of cooking is the left-overs. A good roast of beef, like we had last Sunday, can easily be stretched out over a couple of dinners. And what you do with the left-overs can be just as tasty as the main event.

Last night I made these beef and mushroom pies from our Sunday leavings. And they went down a treat with the troops at supper time.


If you'd like to have a go at making some of your own, they're easy and quick to prepare. Here's my recipe, which should produce individual pies for 5 or 6 people (depending on how generous you are with the filling):

Ingredients

My left-over Sunday Roast weighed about 400g after I'd cut off all the bits of fat


250 g sliced mushrooms
2 bay leaves
1 large carrot peeled and sliced into smallish slices
1 large leek, washed and finely sliced
4 toes of garlic finely sliced
200 ml of gravy also left-over from our Sunday dinner - made using the cooking juices from the joint
200 ml red wine
A couple of sprigs of finely chopped thyme
pre-rolled puff pastry
1 egg for an egg-wash (optional: I don't do this as one of my troops has an egg allergy and I can't be faffed trying to remember which pie I haven't put the egg-wash on. It's easier for me to go eggless.)

Method

1. Over a low heat sweat the leeks, carrots and mushrooms in a saucepan with the bay leaves and the thyme and a good glug of olive oil for about 15 minutes. You want them to be soft, but not browned.
2. Add the red wine, and turn the heat up to burn off the alcohol for 5 minutes or so, stirring to make sure that the mixture doesn't catch on the bottom.
3. Add the diced meat and the gravy. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir well so that everything's nicely mixed and set to one side (off the heat).
4. Roll out the pastry and cut circles for the bases of your pies and for the tops. I use a pie tray with individual pie moulds that measure 9cm in diameter and have a depth of 6 cm. I think they produce a pie of perfect proportions for each person. Through trial and error I've discovered that if I use a Portmeirion cereal bowl to cut around it makes a perfectly sized circle for the pie casing, and cutting around the base of an Emma Bridgwater mug makes the perfect pastry roof to go on top. Ideally you want your case to sit just a little bit higher than the top of the mould so that you can squish it into the roof to seal the whole thing up, but we'll get to that later.
5. Butter the pie moulds to stop things sticking, and line them with pastry.


6. Spoon the beef and vegetable mixture into your pie cases. Be sure and pick the bay leaves out of the mixture and discard, as they won't make great pie-filling. Place the pastry lids on top, and push them gently into the walls of the cases with the prongs of a fork to seal the edges. Then slice through the top with a knife to make two or three steam vents.




7. If you're doing an egg-wash. Beat your egg and glaze the tops of the pies with the egg mixture using a pastry brush.
8. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 220º C for 20 minutes. Then, without opening the door, turn the heat down to 180º C, and leave them to bake for a further 25 minutes.
9. Remove from the pie moulds with a palette knife and serve with a Greek salad or whatever sort of side-dish takes your fancy.


Enjoy with your nearest and dearest and a decent glass of vino.

All the best for now,

Bonny x

Wednesday 4 March 2015

Blueberry Smoothie ... a perfect mid morning pick-me up ...

Yesterday morning did not start brilliantly.


I looked out so see that my adversary, old Slinky Paws, the squirrel, had mounted a dawn raid on my bird feeders. He'd made off with not one, but three fat balls that had been strung to the branches of the plum tree. Now if he'd taken one I'd have shrugged my shoulders and said Fair enough, Slinky. You've got to live too. But the greedy fluffster had snaffled three balls, and only eaten two of them, leaving the third one lying on the ground. In the fullness of time it was retrieved by Maxi the Wonder Dog. Of course he duly gorged on and this new and exotic delight, and made himself very, very sick indeed.

Well ... that was a bridge too far.

By 9:00 a.m. the Wonder Dog was projectile vomiting, and the only vaguely cheerful thought that occurred to me was that if he managed to clear his stomach, messy though the process was, I wouldn't have to worry about the other end of his digestive tract suffering a similar affliction.  Happy Days!

Invoking curses on old Slinkers and all his descendants, I did what the Tough habitually do when the going gets rough: I went shopping.

I cruised down to the local garden centre and loaded up with a couple of squirrel-resistant feeders. I would say squirrel-proof, but that would feel like I was tempting fate. I'm sure old Slinkers has, by this stage, grown a pair of opposable thumbs, and is working on his Mensa application as I type. He'll probably get his fluffy little head around the various locking mechanisms that I'm depending on in a thrice, and, with his manual dexterity and teeth that can gnaw through concrete, there's nothing outside of a nuclear bunker that's going to be totally Slinky-proof.


Anyway, by the time I got back to the ranch, the Wonder Dog was looking a bit more chipper, and I slowly started to feel optimistic about my chances of wresting control of my back garden from my nemesis, the Slinkster. I filled my shiny new bird feeders and strung them up on the plum tree, wondering all the while when he'd show up to do battle again.

Retiring indoors to survey how much the new installations were being appreciated by my little feathered friends I was suddenly hit by an attack of the mid-morning munchies. I'd had breakfast, but clearly not enough breakfast to carry me through all the drama of the morning. These days I am beginning to feel vaguely concerned about fitting into my beach-wear again come the sunny days of the Costa Brava springtime so the biscuit tin, my usual mid-morning nosebag, is firmly off limits.

Instead I made a blueberry smoothie.



 It was perfect, hitting the spot and leaving me feeling just a tiny, little bit virtuous as I sat in the sunshine, waiting for old Slinky Paws to put in an appearance.

If you'd like to make one for yourself it's about as easy as tripping over your shoe laces. You'll need 100 g of frozen blueberries, 150 g of Greek yoghurt and 100 ml of milk. If you're feeling decadent you could mix in a cheeky swig of Cassis as well. Blitz it all in the food processor, pour into a glass and enjoy with some sunshine and a dash of smugness for being so healthy.

And strange to say, but Slinky was conspicuous by his absence all day. If there's any justice in this world he's been lying in his burrow with his paws pointing up to heaven, feeling as healthy as the Wonder Dog did.


All the best for now,

Bonny x