“She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
"Winter is dead.”
~AA Milne, when we were very young
NOTE: I am away at the moment helping my mother with her treatment for lung cancer. I have set up a few posts to post whilst I am away as a special surprise. Some are new and some are reposts of old favourites that you may have forgotten, or if you are a new reader may not even have seen. I'll be back at the end of May, but in the meantime . . . Enjoy!
PS - I will only have sporadic internet use, so if you ask a question and I don't get back to you . . . it's not that I don't want to. It just may take me a while.
Friday, 31 July 2009
For the last two weeks my veggie box has contained a huge bunch of lovely carrots. I love carrots, and not just because they can help you to see in the dark!
What's that you say? My mother was lying??? Say it ain't so!!!
Anyways, I digress . . . Carrots are one of my favourite vegetables, right up there with potatoes, which by the way they have had in the box as well.
I do have quite a lot of carrots that need to be used up and so yesterday, as the weather was kind of cool and breezy (what happened to July?), I decided to make us a tasty soup for our supper, which used up a good lot of those carrots and some of the potatoes and onions too!
This was lovely and full of flavour, quite unlike any other carrot soup I have eaten in the past. In fact, if I hadn't known there were carrots in it because I made it myself, I would have been hard pressed to define exactly where that elusively delicious flavour came from . . .
Note, if you use vegetable stock in this, it becomes Vegetarian.
Crecy is a small town northeast of Paris, where the carrots are said to be some of the tastiest in the world. Make sure you use a strong chicken or vegetable stock for this tasty soup!
2 TBS butter
1 medium onion, peeled and coarsley chopped
1 large clove of garlic, peeled and minced
1 small potato, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 cups sliced carrots
3/4 cup chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup basil leaves shredded
2 1/2 cups of Chicken or Vegetable broth
1 tsp salt
dash of Tabasco sauce
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 TBS fresh lemon juice
Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the chopped onion and garlic and sweat over low heat until nicely softened, without browning. This should take some 5 minutes or so. Add the carrots, potato, tomatoes, and basil. Pour the stock over and add the salt. Season to taste with some pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and allow to simmer, partially covered, for 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from the heat at the end of the simmering time and puree with a stick blender, or if you don't have one, puree very carefully in very small amounts in a regular blender. Add the Tabasco sauce and lemon juice. Serve hot.
Thursday, 30 July 2009
We have Italian Prune Plum trees right here on the Country Estate that I live and work on. During plum season the trees are just dripping with the purple/blue fruits, hanging off the branches like jewels.
Todd and I both love plums, little purple ones, baby fist sized Italian ones, yellow mirabelles . . . ruby coloured pluots, damsons, green gages . . . we love them all equally . . . they are one of our favourite types of fruit.
The ones here on the Estate are not quite ready yet, but the other day, as we were driving down the A21 towards home, I saw a sign that said, "5 lbs local Kent plums, £1.50," and how could I resist! There is a truck stop food van that parks in one of the layby's near home, and they always have local fruits and flowers advertised. We stopped and picked up a bag. I had in mind to make a lovely Plum Crumble or a tart . . .
It was a lovely bag of plums, just chock full of a variety of different plums, all colours and sizes.
The crumble won out. How could it not? This crumble is especially delicious when made with only Italian Prune Plums, but it's also incredibly moreish with a mixture like I had. We really enjoyed this, warm and sweet from the oven, with those crunchy crumbles on top and a huge dollop of fresh Cornish Clotted Cream . . .
*Fresh Plum Crumble*
I think Plums are one of Todd's and my favourite fruits. Especially during plum season when the trees around here are just dripping with them like little purple jewels. This is one of my favourite ways to prepare them. You get the lovely sweetness of the plums, topped with the sweet and nutty crunch of a delicious streusal. It's just wonderful!
2 pounds pitted and quartered plums
3/4 cup of soft light brown sugar, packed
2 heaped TBS of plain flour
3 TBS of creme de cassis liqueur (If not available you can use fruit juice)
For the Streusal:
3/4 cup plain flour
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup soft light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup rolled oats (not instant oats)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
4 ounces cold butter, cut into cubes
Creme fraiche or clotted cream, for serving
Pre-heat the oven to 190*C/375*F. Combine the fruit, brown sugar, flour and cassis together in a large bowl. Pour the mixture into a shallow baking dish. Set aside.
Measure the flour, white sugar, brown sugar and salt together into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times to combine. Add the oats and pultz again. Add the butter bits and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. You want the butter to be the size of peas. Add the walnuts and pulse a couple times just to combine. Sprinkle the streusel evenly over top of the plum mixture in the baking dish. Place on a baking tray to help prevent a nasty spill in your oven!
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the plums are bubbling and the streusal is nicely browned. Serve warm or at room temperature, spooned into bowls with a dollop of creme fraiche or clotted cream on top of each. (Or ice cream!)
Monday, 27 July 2009
Pancakes, or hotcakes as they are also known, have long been a family favourite in my household. When the children were growing up, I always made them for breakfast, every Saturday morning. I also made them when they had a friend to stay overnight.
It was de riguer.
Of course they each had their favourites . . . some liked them just plain without anything fancy added, other's like them made with buttermilk, and my oldest son, he liked the ones I made with sour cream and silver dollar sized. In blueberry season, I always made them blueberry buttermilk pancakes, which they all loved, especially with my homemade blueberry syrup on top along with oodles of melting butter.
Now that there are only Todd and I here, I only ever very rarely make them. Usually I only make them on Pancake Day in February, and then I make the lovely crepe like English pancakes. Sprinkled with lemon juice and sugar as tradition calls for.
The little fella that lives next door was over last evening and was hungry so I whipped up a batch of these tasty Oaty Hotcakes for us all to share. Accompanied with a scrumdiddlyumptious Caramel Banana sauce, they went down a real treat!!
*Hearty Hotcakes with Bananas*
When my kids were growing up we always had hotcakes, or pancakes as they are called in North America, each and every Saturday morning, as well as when they had a friend to stay overnight. Normally they would be either plain pancakes or buttermilk. I wish I had had this recipe back then. I am sure they would have loved them. Light and fluffy and filled with oaty goodness. The caramel Bananas are the perfect topping, but if you want to be more traditional, you can of course use maple syrup. Other fruit flavoured syrups go very well also, as well as crushed raspberries.
185g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
a touch of freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of salt
1 TBS caster sugar
25g rolled oats (not the quick oats)
1 medium egg, beaten
35g butter, melted, plus extra to butter the pan
caramel bananas (see below) or maple syrup, fruit syrups, or berries sprinkled with icing sugar and lightly crushed
Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg together a bowl. Stir in the oats. Beat the buttermilk, egg and melted butter together. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients all at once and stir together, just until mixed and there are no dry pockets.
When ready to cook, heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Brush with a little butter. Add pancake batter, 1/4 cupful at a time. Don't crowd the pan or they will run together. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until bubbles appear on the surface of the pancakes. Flip them over and cook for a further 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate and keep warm while you cook the rest.
Serve hot, along with the caramel Bananas.
Makes enough for 4 servings
Mmmm . . . caramel, bananas . . . deliciously moreish!
3 large bananas
90g soft light brown sugar
2 TBS water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Place the butter, brown sugar, water and vanilla in a large skillet over medium heat. Whisk together and heat until the mixture comes to the boil, thickens slightly and forms a caramel. Add the bananas and toss together until they are well coated. Serve while warm.
Sunday, 26 July 2009
Oh what a fool I am for a fool. A fool has to be one of the easiest desserts to make ever. All you need is a bit of fruit puree and some whipped cream. Add in some buttery biscuit crumbs and you have a dessert fit for royalty.
You could use strawberry puree and crushed shortcake biscuits and it would be delicious!
You could use blueberry puree and crushed ginger biscuits and it would be fabulous!
You could use raspberry puree and crushed tea biscuits and it would be scrummy!!
Or you could do like I did and use a gooseberry puree and crushed gingernuts and it will be scrumdiddlyumptious!
Easy Peasy, Gooseberry Squeasy!
*Gooseberry Gingernut Fool*
Tart gooseberry puree, softly whipped cream and buttery gingernut crumbs . . . this is a marriage made in heaven. This is absolutely when a threesome works!
4 ounces gingernut biscuits, crushed
1 1/2 ounces sweet butter, melted
8 ounces fresh gooseberries
1 TBS cold water
4 ounces caster sugar
1 cup double cream, whipped
Place the gooseberries into a saucepan along with the water. Cover and simmer gently for 10 to 15 minutes, until very soft. At the end of that time, stir in the sugar, and then use your stick blender (my preferred method) to blend them into a puree. Alternately, pop them into your regular blender, or your food processor and blend until pureed. (DO so carefully with a towel over top, as hot things in a blender build up pressure and can pop the lid off, hence why I use my stick blender) Leave aside to cool completely, or pop in the fridge to chill it faster. (You can pour it onto a baking sheet and spread it out and it will chill really fast!) Once the gooseberry puree is completely cool, fold it into the whipped cream.
Mix the gingernut crumbs and the butter together. Place a little bit of them into the bottom of each of six dessert dishes. Spoon half of the fool over top of each. Sprinkle another layer of crumbs over top and then the remaining half of the gooseberry mixture. Top with a final layer of gingernut crumbs. Chill until completely cold.
Serve to six lucky people. Listen to the ooohs and ahhhs!
Saturday, 25 July 2009
I often wonder why it is that, when I don't have any rhubarb to hand, I can always find loads of recipes that I would love to try using it in. And yet, when I do have some, I struggle to think of something to do with it . . .
I suppose in a way it's like money. I can think of a million things to spend it on, but when I have £20 in my purse, I can't find a single thing that I really want to buy . . .
There was some rhubarb in my Able & Cole veggie box this week and I really had a hard time deciding what to do with it. This was compounded by the fact that I don't really have a working oven at the moment. Roll on Monday!
When I was a girl, my mother used to give us stalks of raw rhubarb to eat, along with bowls of sugar to dip it in. I had always loved this jaw achingly delicious treat, kind of like an all natural lick-em-aid. I didn't think that either Todd or I were quite up to this, although I do confess that I did try a small piece with sugar to see if I still loved it that way. Umm . . . no.
I finally decided to fall back on my Abel & Cole cookbook. I figured that if they sent it to me, then there must be a recipe in that I could use to cook it. There was, Rhubarb Bread and Butter Pudding, and it was delicious. I halved the recipe, because there are only two of us, and because we can only eat so much, not to mention . . . because my convection oven is only so big. I also skipped the water bath, as, well . . . I just couldn't fit the both of them into my convection oven. Thankfully, it turned out pretty good regardless!
The original recipe didn't have any measurements, only a mug sized measure of things. I decided to actually measure them, and the amounts are reflected in my adaption of the original recipe. You can add more sugar to the rhubarb if you wish, depending on how sweet you like it. The amount I used was perfect for us.
*Rhubarb Bread and Butter Pudding*
I have always loved rhubarb . . . in pies, cakes, even shortbreads. I had never thought of using it in a bread and butter pudding until the other day. This is pure genius, and oh so very delicious as well! Adapted from the Abel & Cole Cookbook.
6 stalks of rhubarb, topped, tailed and chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 cup sugar, divided
12 slices of white bread, crusts removed
4 large eggs
8 ounces cream
4 ounces whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
freshly grated nutmeg to taste
Creme fraiche to serve
Place the chopped rhubarb in a bowl along with 1/2 cup of the sugar. Allow to sit for about an hour or so, so that it softens slightly and becomes all juicy.
Butter all the bread slices on one side and butter a 10 inch square baking dish. Lay 4 slices of the buttered bread, buttered side down in the baking dish. Spread half of the rhubarb over this. Repeat and then top finally with the last four slices of bread.
Whisk together the cream, milk, eggs and vanilla. Slowly strain this mixture over top of the bread. Grate some fresh nutmeg over top and then place in the fridge for approximately an hour to allow the custard to soak in somewhat.
Pre-heat the oven to 190*C/375*F. Place the pudding dish into a large roasting tin. Fill the roasting tin with enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the pudding dish. Carefully set in the heated oven. Bake for about 1 hour, until the pudding is set and the top is golden brown.
Spoon onto dessert plates and serve warm with a dollop of creme fraiche.
Friday, 24 July 2009
One thing that we used to really look forward to each year when I was growing up, was corn on the cob season. It was one of our favourite times of year because, we knew that, once the corn was ripe, we would be having a feed of delicious corn on the cob for supper.
And . . . when I say a feed of corn, I mean exactly that. My mother would bring a huge pot of water to the boil, whilst we kids got busy to shucking the corn in the back garden at the picnic table. Once it was all shucked, we'd bring it in and she'd commence to boiling it. Oh the smell of corn that permeated the air, was enough to make our taste buds tingle in anticipation. Once it was cooked just right and crispy tender, we'd sit down at the table and commence to eating . . . cob after cob of that sweet golden goodness, all slathered in butter and salt.
We could eat as much of it as we wanted to, and each of us would try to outdo the others in how many cobs we could manage to eat. I don't think I ever managed any more than three at the most . . . oh how good that corn tasted, with butter running down my chin, all crisp and sweet and buttery in my mouth, my teeth running down the cob like an old fashioned typewriter platen . . . I liked to eat it in rows.
Todd and I don't sit there and try to see how much we can outdo each other these days when we have corn on the cob, and I don't cook oodles and oodles of it either, but during corn on the cob season, I make sure I treat us to this delicious golden treat more than just a few times . . .
Coated with a delicious and tangy lime butter, it is hard not to make a pig of myself . . . and, really . . . who could blame me if I did . . .
*Corn on the Cob with Lime Butter*
Crisp and sweet, just oozing with buttery lime goodness. When it's corn on the cob season, this is one of our favourite ways of eating it.
2 large ears of corn on the cob, or 4 small
(Shucked and all silk removed)
1 TBS sugar
6 ounces butter
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
the juice and zest of 1 small lime
2 TBS fresh coriander leaves, chopped
Salt and black pepper to taste
Trim your corn on the cob and cut each ear in half if using large ones. Place in a pan of boiling water that you have added the sugar to. Cover and turn the heat down to a simmer. Simmer for 5 to 8 minutes, just until the corn is tender.
While the corn is cooking place the butter and cayenne pepper in a small saucepan along with the lime zest. Heat until the butter is melted. Whisk in the lime juice and chopped coriander.
Remove the cooked corn from the pot onto a heated plate and immediately pour the sauce over the hot corn. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
Tuesday, 21 July 2009
What do you do when the rain is pouring down and it's too miserable to go out for a walk or even just to sit in the garden . . . well, if you are me, you bake a cake.
I had been eyeballing this recipe for a Bakewell Cake on the cover of the August issue of Good Food Magazine ever since it slipped through my mail slot several weeks back. Now was my chance.
It was ever so easy to throw together. All the work was done in the food processor. I turned my oven on to pre-heat it and proceeded to put the cake together. Easy Peasy Lemon Squeasy, right? WRONG! My oven isn't working! Oh no! The burners are working, the grill is working, but the oven is not. Bummer. The dang thing is only 6 months old.
We call the manufacturer. An engineer can't call until Monday . . . Double bummer . . . what to do, what to do. I hate waste. I especially hate the thought of wasting a delicious looking cake.
We hopped into the car and drove to the nearest Curry's. (I know . . . I'm a spoilt brat) Back in the early 1980's I had a combi oven . . . combination microwave/convection/grill oven. I am sure they still make them and they are probably not all that expensive.
They do, and it's affordable, and here it is. Problem solved.
The cake turned out beautifully. It cooked to perfection on the convection setting. In fact, it cooked so perfectly that I may use my new combi oven to bake all my cakes from now on.
If I recall correctly, my old one used to make really scrummy baked potatoes, with incredibly crispy skins. Yummo!!
And here we have it . . .
A delicious, perfectly baked, tasty Bakewell Cake . . . courtesy of Good Food Magazine, very little work, a few ingredients and a lot of ingenuity!
*Raspberry Bakewell Cake*
This recipe is adapted from a recipe in the August 2009 issue of Good Food Magazine. It's totally scrummy. I'm not sure it can be improved . . . well a bit of a drizzle icing on the top would probably go down well, but really . . . with a dollop of creme fraiche, it went down a real treat! Moreishly delish!
5 ounces ground almonds
5 ounces unsalted butter, softened
5 ounces golden caster sugar
5 ounces self raising flour
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
9 ounces raspberries
2 TBS flaked almonds
Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Base line and butter an 8 inch round deep cake tin with a removable bottom.
Place the almonds, flour, butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla in the bowl of a food processor. Blitz until well combined and smooth. (It should be quite pasty) Spread half of it in the prepared baking pan. Scatter the raspberries over top. Dollop the remaining batter over top and then spread it evenly over all. (I used the bowl of a wet spoon for ease) Sprinkle the almonds evenly over top.
Bake for 50 minutes until well risen and golden brown. (It took 60 minutes in my combi oven to be baked to perfection) Cool in the tin on a wire rack before removing from pan. Dust with icing sugar before cutting into slices to serve. If desired serve with dollops of creme fraiche.
I suppose when you really think about it, and consider what I went through to have this cake . . . it may well be the most expensive cake I've ever baked, but I have to say . . . the results were well worth the cost! Dig in!!
The day is hot and you just want to sit on the porch and relax with an ice cold glass of lemonade . . .
You just made a fresh batch of strawberry jam, using up the last of the berries and you have friends invited over for afternoon tea . . .
You have decided to go on a Saturday afternoon picnic with your loved one(s) and you want a tasty little sweet to pack into your basket . . .
You're dragging the kiddies and the hubbie to the beach for the day and you want something to serve as a tasty treat in between the ice creams and ice lollies . . .
You just are in the mood for a little bite of something sweet and satisfying . . .
No matter the mood or occasion, these tasty little treats fit the bill. Quick, easy and oh so very scrummy !!!
*Strawberry Jam Tray Bake*
Makes 16 to 24 squares
These are perfect for taking on picnics or for enjoying on the porch on a hot summer afternoon with glasses of iced cold lemonade. They are also great to serve at tea parties. Hmmm . . . these are just delicious no matter what!
500g sweet shortcrust pastry
6 TBS strawberry jam
200g butter, softened
200g caster sugar
4 medium sized free range eggs
100g ground almonds
100g self raising flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp almond extract
150g sifted icing sugar
the juice of 1/2 lemon
Pre-heat the oven to 200*C/400*F. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured board to fit into a 12 by 8 or a 9 inch square baking pan. You want it to fit the base and partway up the sides. Place into the pan and then spread the jam evenly over all.
Beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl with an electric hand whisk until they are smooth and creamy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, adding 1/3 of the ground almonds after each addition. Add the flour and the remaining almonds. Mix well. Stir in the almond extract. Pour the mixture over the jam, spreading to make an even layer.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until well risen, firm and golden brown. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Leave in the tin.
Stir together the icing sugar and enough of the lemon juice to make a drizzle icing. Drizzle this decoratively over top of the squares. Allow to set before cutting into squares to serve.