24 July 2018

Inspiring Food Boxes for Foodies!


I recently received A Most Wonderful Thing ~ a box of goodies from British Herb Kitchen.  Just look at this!

I blatantly stole this image from British Herb Kitchen's website, hope they don't mind.

The aim of Victoria McNeill of British Herb Kitchen is to re-familiarise us with the ancient native herbs of Britain that used to be the mainstay of our cooking but which seem now fallen out of favour. In addition to the herb of the month each box will contain a selection of artisan products from around the British Isles. If you want to discover new tastes, ideas and products this is the thing for you!

This is quite a long post because there was so much in that box!

I understand from Victoria that, so far, she has plans to feature Sweet Cicely, Lemon Verbena, Lovage, foraged Juniper Berries, Bay and Savory in forthcoming boxes but not sure which herbs when as, of course, much depends on growing conditions.

British Herb Kitchen's July box contained …


He's recovering well from his trip!


~  A sorrel plant


~  Some fresh sorrel leaves


The first thing I did, of course, was nibble on the cut sorrel leaves seeking inspiration; they have a bright, sharp lemony flavour. Having thoroughly digested this information I decided to make a cream sauce to go with the cod I had luckily bought that very afternoon.






Sorrel Cream Sauce


100g fresh sorrel – stems removed and leaves shredded
30g butter
splash of dry white wine
125ml double cream
salt and pepper


~   In a small pan cook the shredded sorrel in the butter till it has wilted and lost its bright colour.
~   Add a tablespoon or so of dry white wine and then the double cream.
~   Bring to a boil and cook till the sauce thickens slightly. 
~   Taste and season with the salt and pepper.


Because I love crunchy textures with creamy textures I coated my cod in panko crumbs before pan frying in the rapeseed oil which has a delicious toasty flavour.




~  A pack of mixed lettuce seed 

Quite wonderfully, see these instructions on the back of the box that all the goodies arrived in …



... so that's what I'm going to do.

~  A jar of British Herb Kitchen’s Tomato and Lovage Passata 


This is a fresh tasting tomato sauce with notes of anise and celery from the lovage. Apart from a quick taster I haven’t done anything with this yet, but don’t worry I definitely will, probably involving fish. Watch this space.

Incidentally I understand that the word lovage is derived from the medieval name for parsley, meaning love-ache!



You can just see my reflection
in the spoon!


~  A bottle of Hillfarm extra virgin cold pressed rapeseed oil.  


I normally dress my salads with extra virgin olive oil but after trying a little of this on my finger tip (nutty and delicious) decided to drizzle it on my lunch (tomato, red onion and chorizo salad with garlic and herb Boursin and homemade sourdough) together with a little balsamic vinegar.



~  A bag of whole blue peas from the wonderfully named Hodmedod’s 



These look and taste like a refined version of the dried marrowfat peas  that I use to make my Geordie lad his mushy (aka sloppy) peas. 



Mushy Peas ~ so much nicer than they sound!

This  makes about 6 portions.

~   Soak 275g dried peas overnight (or possibly during the day) in copious cold water (actually, there are soaking instructions on the packet!).
~   Drain, rinse and put into a saucepan.
~   Add 600ml cold water, bring to a boil, turn down the heat, cover the pan and simmer. If you are a bit picky check after 10 or 15 minutes to remove any skins that have been shed.
~   They take about 45 minutes or a bit more!  Check and stir occasionally and top up with a little extra water if necessary.  They are ready when they have broken down and are soft, aka mushy. 
~   Give a brisk stir to improve the mushiness, add a knob of butter and season to taste.
Traditionally served with fish and chips but also with many manly meaty dishes!


Blue Bean Dip


For lunch today I made myself a bean dip.  My basic recipe for these is here - Hummus & Other Bean Dips + how not to tell lies! I replaced the olive oil with the rapeseed oil, added a couple of leaves of fresh sorrel and folded in some of the roasted pumpkin seeds (below).  I also drizzled it with balsamic glaze because I always do that with bean dips!


~  Roasted salted pumpkin seeds from Simply Seedz 


These came with the serving suggestion that they be nibbled whilst drinking “a glass of something cold” which I naturally assumed meant white wine. So that's what I did with the seeds that I didn't fold into the bean dip above.

~   A box of Flower & White’s lemon meringues

  
There were 2 seriously large meringues in the box, both sadly broken but delicious. Here’s a picture of the not too damaged meringue with the evening sun streaming through it – romantic or what?

For dessert last night we had half each of one meringue with Cornish clotted cream and I quickly made a little blueberry coulis with some leftover blueberries.  Lemon and blueberries go surprisingly well together.



I am also going to make a sort of Eton Mess Ice Cream using my lovely no-churn ice cream method and a little lemon curd.

~  A couple of recipe cards.



So this is what I have done so far with all these goodies.  I will be re-potting the sorrel plant and sewing the lettuce seeds soon and have lot of ideas for the sorrel!

As you can imagine this is an exciting thing for a food obsessed person to unpack – one of British Herb Kitchen’s boxes would make a superb gift for any foodies you might know.





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12 June 2018

How to Make an Easy & Sudden Lunch for Friends


A few times recently people have popped round to see us and stayed for lunch (as suggested by me) and I have put on a spontaneous collection of items that I’ve found in the fridge and pantry, some good bread, an offer of wine et voila! 

Plate of cheese and chorizo, salad, glass of red wine

This is ideal for summer entertaining when you don’t fancy all the faff of cooking and being away from the party but, on the other hand, a few bags of crisps seems a bit stingy.  There is a middle road, however; I call it the Sociable Feast.

Simply put this is an assortment of complementary bits and pieces, some of which can be prepared ahead if you have time, bunged on the table so that everyone, including you, can snack and nibble whilst enjoying the scintillating conversation, flirting, gossip and what not.

Firstly, here’s a recipe for a perfect sociable feast followed by lots of food ideas.

Eating Al Fresco

good weather
garden or terrace
roomy table to put all the dishes on
a generous number of bottles of wine
good friends
1 chair per friend
plates, glasses, knives, forks
flowers – optional
food – see below

~   Place the table in a flat and attractive space in the garden or on the terrace. This could be in the sun or the shade, according to taste.
~   Arrange the chairs around the table.
~   Look at the wine bottles and sort into two basic colours.  Chill the white wines, open some of the red bottles so that the wine can breathe (it is, of course, always possible to open more later).
~   Place your choice of plates, glasses, knives, forks etc. on the table.
~   If you have plumped for flowers scatter them randomly yet attractively on the table top or put into low vases and place at intervals.
~   Assemble your friends and place one on each chair.
~   Put some bottles of wine on the table.
~   Place the food on the table.
~   Invite friends to partake.



outside dining

Alternatively, a picnic works well too although takes a little more planning (picnic ideas here) and even eating indoors can be great if you have good food and good company.

The Food ...

Cheese is the perfect foundation for a sociable feast. I always have mature Cheddar, Gran Padano, Herb & Garlic Boursin and a blue cheese such as St. Agur, Castello or Cambozola in the fridge.  Recently my guests were lucky enough to find me with some Vintage Gouda too!  

If you are planning ahead a mixture of cheeses; hard, creamy, pungent, salty etc. is good but I think even one great cheese can work well.

Here are some cheese friendly sides …


blue cheese and sautéed grapes
Fruit & Nuts

Grapes, of course.  If you have got time to plan ahead you might like to try Sautéed Grapes.

A perfectly ripe pear is a humdinger with blue cheese and so are these Sugared Walnuts (be sure to add a good dose of black pepper). 

Nice fresh plump figs go well with most cheeses.

Meats

I like to add some chorizo (I always have chorizo for these 21 good reasons), prosciutto or pâté to the platter. Here’s a lovely cheese friendly idea if you do have time think ahead …

Chorizo in Red Wine


200g spicy chorizo sliced about this thick [  ]
½ tbsp olive oil
1 small red onion – finely chopped
a little garlic – finely diced
200ml red wine
1 tbsp honey

~   Fry the chorizo slices in the olive oil for a couple of minutes on each side then set aside.
~   Cook the onion and garlic in the residual oil till tender.
~   Add the wine, bring to a boil, return the chorizo to the pan, turn down the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
~   Set the chorizo aside again!
~   Add the honey to the pan and boil till you have a syrup.
~   Turn off the heat and return the chorizo again.

Nicest served warm.


chorizo cooked in red wine, on toast

Roasted Garlic


squeezing soft, buttery roasted garlic


This goes beautifully with goats’ cheese and blue cheese but with others too.  Serve the halves whole (so to speak!) and quests can squeeze them straight onto the good bread you are serving. See here for how to make delicious roasted garlic and lots of ideas for using it
black garlic cloves


Black Garlic

Lovely stuff which goes very well in a cold collation such as this! 

Salad


If you have the makings a green salad is a good addition to your feast or maybe some coleslaw

Sweet little tomatoes are also good either whole or sliced, tossed with finely chopped red onion, seasoned and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and a little balsamic or sherry vinegar.


bread, cheese and tomato salad


Speaking of tomatoes ... 

roasted tomatoes over mozzarella with flatbread

Roasted Tomatoes


These are great with soft cheese, try them hot over mozzarella,   

~   Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F/180ºC fan/gas 6
~   Halve cherry tomatoes, or keep whole if tiny, and toss with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.
~   Spread on a baking sheet and roast for about 10 minutes till soft and collapsing.



Here are Six Sexy Salads that would be suitable if you have a little time.

a drizzle of truffle honeyCondiments

You could also add mustard, pickles, chutney (especially caramelised red onion chutney), salad dressing if you are serving salad (obviously!) and truffle honey which goes very well with blue cheese and strong Cheddar. 

I would recommend serving good bread – not the pappy kind but something rustic, crusty and chewy, good butter, olive oil for drizzling and maybe some crackers.

Of course, other things you may have in your fridge will work too, for instance hummus, cold chicken, ham, melon (particularly good with prosciutto and ham) and, of course, leftovers!

Speaking of leftovers ...


best leftovers cookbook ever



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8 June 2018

OMG This Must Be THE Best Omelette Ever!


Sorry about the over the top title to this blog, I was going to call it Crunchy Chorizo Flecked Omelette but you know how it is – we have to try harder and harder to make ourselves noticed on social media and saying ...

“Mm, that was rather nice” 

probably wouldn’t do it!,

This rather nice omelette has been evolving over some time and, in fact, I have written about it in its earlier stages before but details below.  

This is just a quick post to tell you of a great idea I had …

softening chorizo in frying pan
I am very partial to chorizo and have often added it to my favourite omelette but the other idea I had a brilliant idea.  Instead of adding the chorizo to the filling I coarsely chopped it and gently cooked it slightly in a little oil in the proposed omelette pan.

I then cooked the omelette in accordance with instructions here so that, over the higher heat, the chorizo crisped up and flecked the outside of the omelette.  Good idea of what?


Gorgeous Omelette Recipe


There I go again!

This omelette filling has been evolving for some while …

~   Thinly slice a red onion and cook like this.
~   When the onions are soft but not caramelising add 2 or 3 small new potatoes, thinly sliced, plus just a splash of water.  Replace the foil covering and lid (you need so see how to cook the onions, here!) and continue cooking till they are completely soft.
~   These days I then stir in half a teaspoonful of smoky, medium hot chipotle paste, which I get from Asda.
~   Whisk up 2 eggs and make the omelette (with the chorizo as above) and, when the egg is almost cooked, add the oniony/potato/chipotle mix and grate over some mature cheddar cheese.
~   Fold in half, pour out a glass of red wine and eat.

potato, caramelised onion, chipotle and cheddar omelette flecked with crisp chorizo

This is a great way of making the most of a little leftover chorizo but, of course, omelettes are great for making the most of all sorts of leftover foods which, as you may know, are something of a passion with me!

and 

rick stein quote on leftovers and my answer!

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26 May 2018

Three Cornered Leeks!


green salad with three cornered leeks

I was chatting with my friend Carol the other day, about wild garlic, and she asked if I had tried three cornered leeks.  Tried it? – I’d never even heard of it!

 So, she took me into her garden and picked me some.  Very pretty with a milder but similar smell/fragrance to wild garlic. So naturally I had play …

Firstly, having done some research (see Wild Food UK for lots of useful information on three cornered leek) and read that the whole plant is edible I nervously nibbled a flower.

I then nibbled the stem and a leaf – and the taste was very similar to wild garlic, which I love, but maybe a little milder.


Yesterday, driving round Cornwall’s gorgeous wild flower filled lanes, I spotted a patch of these naughty flowers.  As it says on Wild Food UK …


An invasive species brought over to the UK from the Mediterranean, it is an offence under Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act in England and Wales to plant or otherwise cause to grow this species in the wild.

So, I picked a bunch and here is last night’s dinner …

salmon with spring vegetables including three cornered leeks


A simple summery dish of roasted salmon with buttery Jersey Royals, mange tout (Rodney), asparagus and three cornered leeks.  Glass of white, naturally.

Now then, as I said, three cornered leeks are very similar to wild garlic so it would be cheating, I feel, if I just repeated all my wild garlic ideas.  Instead see my post Wild Garlic ~ Calloo Callay! for lots of info and  ideas and do the same with three cornered leeks.

vase of three cornered leeks




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24 May 2018

Windows 10 Update Completely Emptied my Computer!

I’ve just had an ‘orrible time with my computer.

A few morning as I was  on my computer, as usual, a pop-up popped up as they do, and told me that a windows update was taking place. I had no choice in the matter, although I would have accepted anyway.

Within a few minutes the update was complete and I was prompted to choose which language I wanted to use – I chose English UK. I was asked again I chose the same thing. This happened about 20 times and I could do nothing to get rid of the language screen so I said a rude word and switched off.

When I switched back on all I had was a blank black screen with just one icon – a completely empty recycle bin.  
 

black screen with empty recycle bin after updating Windows 10


Scary!!!

Anyway, I am not very savvy at this sort of thing and can’t really remember what I did but after about 4 hours researching on my partner’s computer I managed to get mine working – but still completely empty! 


This site, Windows Central, helped me a lot but I’m not sure what I did in the end to at least get my computer basically operational.  

So, I have been repopulating it. Thank God I keep all my documents and photos in Dropbox!

It is a slow job especially because …

~   Although I still have Dropbox (praise the Lord) I seem to have it twice and need to sort that out as not all files are in both versions. A long job, methinks.

~   Lots of programs I have downloaded have changed considerably from the version I had installed so there is quite a lot of learning to do.


~   The computer also seems much slower, to the extent that I assume things haven't worked, and, when first turned on it sometimes takes several minutes to boot so I have a worrying time looking at the black screen with my fingers crossed. 

~   Programs are frequently "not responding" for some while.

~   I have to do a lot of password changing as I, apparently, hadn’t kept my notes up to date on that.

I understand several people taking class action lawsuits against Microsoft for this error and I don't blame them.


So, if your computer updates, be afraid – be very afraid! 

So, the only thing I have to report, food-wise is utterly gorgeous Davidstow Vintage Cheddar, Cornish by the way, which I was lucky enough to find considerably reduced. 

gorgeous crumbly Cornish cheddar cheese

Thankfully, that, with a glass of wine, calmed me down a bit.
  


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16 May 2018

6½ Super Flexible Recipes for Leftovers


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again …



The following 6½ recipes can help with this because they are all so very adaptable

1.   Flexible Fritter Recipe


There are several ways to make fritters; larger pieces of leftover food, such as pieces of fish, can be coated in batter or breadcrumbs and fried to crisp. If you have leftover mashed potato plus other leftovers mix them all together and fry.  Here, however, is a useful fritter batter recipe that can take almost any leftover.  These are Cauliflower Cheese Fritters made with leftover cooked cauliflower and, yes!, cheese.

cauliflower cheese fritters from leftovers


Sweet fritters work too – how about leftover banana (sliced or diced, of course) with soft light brown sugar and a drip or two of rum?


2.   Soup from Leftovers


Of course, you could just run your leftovers through the food processor and dilute to soup consistency but there is a much better way! 

My all-purpose soup recipe is so damned useful I’ve even written a book about it (great preview here), but the basic details are all here, to get you started.



3.  Omelettes


So useful are omelettes for using up leftovers that a café I used to breakfast at, De Loose Mongoose, often had Trash Omelette blatantly on the menu, filled with whatever they had left over from the night before. See how to make a perfect leftovers omelette here.


frittata filled with leftover gooies

3½.   Frittata

           
A frittata is a more substantial type of omelette (hence the ½) so, the good news is, you can use up more leftovers! Ham, bacon, chorizo, cheese, seafood, asparagus, mushrooms and lots more are great in frittatas.

If you use half a dozen eggs this should feed 2-3 people.

~   Fry raw onion, if using, gently in oil or butter till soft then add a little garlic, if you wish.
~   If adding leftover potatoes increase the heat and add these now crushing them slightly and cook till they start to crispen and colour. Add a little more oil or butter as necessary.
~   Now add any other cooked ingredients and mix into the potatoes, taste and adjust the seasoning, adding herbs and spices to taste.
~   Turn down the heat, whisk together  six eggs and pour them over everything else.
~   Preheat the grill.
~   Cook the frittata gently for a few minutes till the bottom is set but the top still moist.
~   Sprinkle with grated cheese, if using, and slide under the grill till melted and a little golden.
~   Cut into wedges and serve hot or cold.

bowl of mushroom and black garlic risotto4.  Risotto


I used to love making risotto when I was a chef – it’s a great excuse to stand still for a few minutes (apart from the arm doing the stirring) and maybe even to partake of a chef’s coffee. I do much the same at home – see here for the basic risotto recipe.  


In case you are wondering, here are details of chef’s coffee and also, fortuitously, how to make a frittata with leftover pasta! 


5.  Bubble & Squeak aka Hash


Firstly, of course, Bubble and Squeak is a great way to use up leftover cooked potatoes whether they be boiled, mashed, baked, roasted, etc. and also works well with sweet potatoes (leftover of course).

Secondly, all sorts of leftovers; vegetables (leftover cabbage is traditional in Bubble & Squeak but is by no means obligatory), fish, meat, poultry, cheese, bacon, ham, sausage, chorizo etc. can very happily be incorporated.

Oh, and you could fry it in leftover bacon fat or schmaltz for added deliciousness.

Important Tip when Pan Frying Potatoes …


Let the mixture sit over a medium heat, undisturbed, for several minutes allowing a crust to form before turning.

~   Fry some finely chopped onion gently in a little oil, butter or fat for a few minutes till soft. Add some garlic if you like!
~   Increase the heat, add the leftover cooked potatoes crushing them slightly and cook till they just start to crispen and colour. Add more oil or butter as necessary.
~   Stir in other leftover vegetables and continue to fry and turn till all is hot, crispy in parts and delicious.

Serve the hash as it is, quite possibly topped with a fried egg, or form into little cakes or pile onto a pie filling to make a super-duper fish pie, cottage pie or similar.


hash made with leftover potatoes and other lefovers


6.  Bread Pudding ~ Sweet or Savoury

This is not the manly rib sticking Bread Pudding which is like cake, it is a rich creamy custard based dessert similar to Bread and Butter Pudding but, instead of using slices of buttered bread, I use random bits and pieces of leftover bread – whatever I have.  Stale or slightly oven dried bread is best.

Normally we associate bread (and butter) pudding with sweet ingredients but a Strata is a savoury bread and (no) butter pudding layered up with whatever other ingredients are being used. Leave out the sugar and season the egg mixture with salt and pepper and anything else appropriate according to taste. Mix in cheese and other ingredients before pouring over the custard.

Serves 4
  
100g-150g stale bread in small chunks
200ml milk
100ml double cream
2 eggs
75g-100g leftovers

For a sweet dish …

80g sugar plus a little for sprinkling
flavourings appropriate to your leftovers eg. vanilla extract, a little brandy, chocolate chips or what have you

For a savoury dish …

salt and pepper
whatever seasonings will complement your leftovers, such as garlic, herbs, spices, grated (possibly leftover) cheese etc. – to taste

~   Put the bread into a lightly greased ovenproof dish.
~   Add your leftovers and toss to mingle well.
~   Whisk together the milk, cream and eggs plus the sugar OR salt and other seasonings you are using.
~   Gently push the bread under the surface to soak it. Set aside for 30 minutes or more – even overnight will do.

To cook …

~   Preheat oven to 350˚F/180˚C/160˚C Fan/gas 4.
~   Sprinkle the pudding with the extra sugar OR grated cheese as appropriate.
~   Bake for about 40 minutes till risen, golden and slightly wobbly when nudged.

Serve hot, warm or cold but warm is best.


creamy bread and butter pudding


In my book, Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers, I give numerous ideas for 450 different leftover foods including more ideas and details for the above recipes.

leftovers handbook


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