This week’s recipe is a transitional one. Much like how we will wear a poloneck jumper under a summery shift dress, or pair thick wool tights with strappy sandals (at least here in the UK), today I am using a rather S/S ingredient in a slightly A/W way. When I think of grilled polenta and beans together, my immediate thought is mmm, stew with polenta. Or mmm, a bean and polenta bake. Very wintry, very -5C. What I don’t automatically think is wouldn’t this be nice with stir-fried new season’s chard.
But chard is an early-ish, cooler-weather crop, with more than a hint of hardy wintriness about it – even when young and small of leaf. It is a robust, no nonsense kind of vegetable that stands up to rough winds, cold temps and punchy flavours like no other. I would love to persevere with more adamantly Spring dishes such as last week’s crab one, but we still need the warmth of this sort of dish, combined with the promise of what is to come. For after chard comes asparagus and watercress, then broad beans, beetroot and courgettes. And then the flashier summer crops of tomatoes, artichokes, corn and aubergines, and as many tender herbs as you can ever wish. I am already making haphazard lists and scribblings of the many spring and summer-crop recipes I want to make because, like Little Orphan Annie says, “the sun’ll come out tomorrow.” Crossed fingers. Continue reading
I can’t really remember the first time I had hummus. Being raised in a Deep South commuter town, whose main highway was hemmed in with strip malls, Burger Kings and Dairy Queens, I seriously doubt it was there. We did have - and it is still there today – a lone Greek restaurant, but I only ever remember the ubiquitous but very pleasant Greek salad, with its starchy ‘garnish’ of yogurty potato salad as a sop to American tastes. But hummus? I don’t think so. This was the era of aerobics and low fat after all. If I had been more adventurous, and less figure-conscious, I would no doubt have found the hummus and been hooked from the get go. Restaurant hummus is always far superior to that we can make at home. Or, so I thought. Continue reading
I was going to give you a super-easy and healthy-ish, ice cream recipe, inspired by my recent trip to Spain. Miss R even had a crackin’ tune all planned out, a real belter. But the sloppy slap of rain against the conservatory roof put me in a baking mood. Not a cake baking mood but a full-on comfort extravaganza, involving batter.
Batter-based clafoutis is, according to Nigel Slater, the only hot pudding acceptable in summer. I quite agree. Menus featuring sticky toffee puddings and hot chocolate fondants seem somewhat disagreeable when the mercury is nudging 30C. Like wearing a fur coat on the beach. I would imagine.
To quell my baking fixation, as luck would have it two packs of English cherries were hiding in the fridge, their plastic carapaces not yet be breached by snack-seeking fingers. So I thought – lightbulb moment – clafoutis. But clafoutis with a – turning up the dimmer switch – dark side. Continue reading
Gosh, it feels like ages since I last put fingers to keyboard. All thumbs here. As I am feeling somewhat rusty this might be a bit brief.’ Yay!’ I hear you cry. But not because I have nothing to say. Oh no. Continue reading
I hope that title hasn’t freaked you out too much. Please stay! I know what you may be thinking, “I recognise the egg bit but what the devil is the rest doing in a breakfast?”
For the most part we will be quite normal here, thanks to you all: muffins, smoothies, porridge, pikelets, that kind of thing. But just indulge me a little with my eggy, samphirey, tofu-y fixation. I might even convince you to venture to your fishmonger, or nearest beach, to get some samphire and try this. Yes, you deduced correctly: Samphire is a marine plant. A pretty one that tastes like asparagus to boot (or Wellington). And for today only, samphire isn’t just for fish. It’s my brekkie. And hopefully yours – someday… Continue reading
That’s quite a lot of ingredients in a title, isn’t it: Green tea, lime, passion fruit AND polenta. What I didn’t mention was the olive oil, lime leaves and the almonds. No kitchen sink though. It’s just that I couldn’t decide what ingredient to emphasise so I typed them all down; I hope that doesn’t put you off. It sounds a bit fussy, I know, but I promise you it is anything but. If you have ever made a polenta cake, you know that this will be easy. If you haven’t, please just trust me. You won’t regret it. It easily works as a dinner party pudding when paired with the fresh passion fruit curd; an easily-kept, lunchbox-friendly cake on it’s own; or maybe even a fresh and zingy alternative to the traditional simnel or chocolate cake this Easter Sunday.
Other than the pick and mix assortment of flavourful ingredients I also have a tweak that I think makes this cake as light as any containing flour, of which this cake has none. And I even have Claudia Rodin‘s blessing. Continue reading
Yay! We’ve reached March! Despite the fact that – at least in the UK – March can actually be more miserable than February (more wind, more rain), it does have one huge advantage – promise. With every newly-hatched chartreuse bud, with every daffodil held tight in its green jacket, with every brave nosing through of still-chilled soil, Spring marches ever closer (yes, that pun was intended, however bad).
Today as I topped up the chicken feeders and filled the garden bird feeders it didn’t dawn on me that I had stepped out sans outer garment. Although the temperature is single digit, the air is still and the sun on my back was warm and inviting. I lingered in my shirt sleeves, surveying our modest garden for signs of promise: the delphiniums are well and truly up from their long nap; the Lenten roses in full flower, their cerise cups nodding companionably below one of my favourite winter plants, the blue tit-attracting mahonia Japonica; our various lavenders are bristling with new life and the promise of heady summer scent. And of course the weeds have a head start on all of the above, poking cheekily through paving cracks and spreading blatantly through still-dormant areas of the garden. At least I know what I’ll be doing, trowel in hand, next weekend.
What about you: is your garden springing to attention? What’s up first for you (besides weeds)? Of course you Antipodeans are slowly heading towards Autumn, but I’d still like to know what heralds your Spring. Hopefully by the next post I may have even had a quick lunch (as much for my always-hungry hens as the temperature) in the garden. Let me know when you’ve had your first Spring picnic, and what you ate.
cheering up my desk today
After an unfeasibly long absence, hello! I’ve been in Florida the past couple of weeks visiting my lovely Dad and younger sister, getting a bit of sun/Vitamin D and eating in some of Tampa Bay’s great new local-food restaurants. I won’t take over a whole post with restaurant reviews but I must say that even since my October visit the food scene has spiced up considerably. I’ll pop down some recommendations in a soon-to-be-written page of travel finds (she typed hopefully), but I was quite impressed by Wimauma and Boca, both in south Tampa.
The former specialises in what it terms “Cracker Cuisine”, referring to the jokey name given to native Floridians, indicating a ”frontier people who did not just live but flourished in a time before air conditioning, mosquito repellent, and bug-screens.” Although I did not see squirrel on the menu, my sister and I split, and enjoyed very much, a dish of juicy shrimp (although anything but shrimpy – the suckers were HUGE) sauteed with tomato, basil, white wine and pork bark, and served over the creamiest, softest grits I have ever tasted. Green tomatoes, hush puppies, collard greens, Florida seafood, boiled peanuts and many other native treats get the gourmet treatment at this unusual, family-friendly restaurant. My only criticism – too much salt. I noticed that many higher-end restaurants take the French way of seasoning to the extreme. I should have done a pre- and post-trip blood pressure check. Could’ve been quite alarming though. I am hoping the copious amount of backyard grapefruits and star fruits that I scoffed will somehow have mopped up the excess sodium. Note to molecular biologists and biochemists: please do not write in and disabuse me of this new but strongly-held belief.
As I have been back less than 24 hours, this post will be short-ish and to the point (-ish). I have an urgent appointment with a comfy sofa… Continue reading
As many of you know, I am originally from Florida. Lived there 24 years in fact. Twenty-four largely sun-soaked, carefree years. But now I call Edinburgh, the beautiful capital of Scotland, home. Although I miss my family and friends, the year-round, bathwater-temperature climate, and the cheap and abundant seafood, I truly love my adopted city. I love the warm, but appropriately cautious people (you would be as cautious if your ancestors endured a similar border-raiding history); the vibrant cultural scene; the handsome nuanced buildings, often in gardens I used to think only existed in movies; and the wealth of nutritious and delicious produce – from brambles to venison. I have even grown to, if not love, at least appreciate the certifiably crazy weather. Florida merely has a climate, punctuated by thunderstorms and the occasional hurricane, but no real weather to speak of – or seasons.
Perhaps, not surprisingly, whenever I meet someone new – a British person – the conversation often goes something like this: “You’re not from around here. Where are you from?” Me: “Florida, but I’ve lived here over 20 years.” Them: “Good God!…Why?” Then I get an opportunity to let said person see this beautiful, green and pleasant land through my eyes. Admittedly it’s rainy, blowy and a bit parky (cold), but if we had great weather everyone would want to live here. I’m sure there would have to be some kind of quota system to visit our tiny loch and mountain-dotted country. I don’t do Florida down, but I like to remind folk of how much we have here. They probably still think I am a bit bonkers though.
But one thing we don’t have here, and that I miss very much, is citrus. Good old Florida citrus: tangelos, grapefruits, minneolas, limes, lemons, pomelos, uglis, tangerines, mandarins, satsumas and even the little, fairly useless kumquat. Continue reading
“Oh, thrice and four times happy those who plant cabbages.” Francois Rabelais, 16th century French writer
M. Rabelais might now be in the minority with that opinion, but from a health standpoint, he’s spot on. Cabbages have been cultivated for at least 6000 years, probably originating from wild, non-head forming greens (acephala), of which modern kale is perhaps the truest descendent. Our forebears may not have known why kale and cabbages are so fiercely good for us, but historical figures have thought well enough of it to pass comment: Pythagoras praised it as an all-purpose remedy; Hippocrates (who else) declared it “the vegetable of a thousand virtues”. Continue reading