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
Some folk are just too cool for words. Although not seeming to actively pursue perfection – that would be incredibly UNcool, their every move thrums with beta-test brilliance. Pile of pre-Man Booker/Pulitzer prize short-listers: check . Tickets to the next big thing in live music: check. The predicted must-paint colour: check (emerald green, apparently). All of this effortless, osmosified, probably genetic.
I was never that girl. And truthfully it doesn’t bother me. I’ve always, unfathomably, been comfortable in my own skin. Still am. I blame my parents But I secretly hate to be left sitting on the curb when it comes to food and food trends. Just not for the reasons you may think. Continue reading
As I write, Hurricane Sandy is set to bear down on the east coast of America. From coastal New Jersey to slightly more northerly Massachusetts, pretty much everything has shut down for the time being. This Frankenstorm, with its spooky Halloween timing, full moon and clash of warm and cold weather systems, has seen Presidential electioneering suspended (those annoying campaign phone calls will doubtless continue) and transport and public services halted. For goodness sake, even Wall Street has been abandoned. But I daresay, barring serious structural damage, trick or treaters will be out in force come Wednesday. Continue reading
The culinary compensation for the recent rapid slide in temperature is the rapid rise in scrummy seasonal fruits – pears, English apples, blackberries, figs, plums, quinces. My Victoria plums are finished but next week I plan on raiding the local woods to claim a basket of brambles – free nippy sweeties to be eaten as I go, with any left going into jam, dessert and sauce-making. Even nectarines and peaches are still with us for awhile.
To welcome in these crisp and uber-flavoursome replacements for the succulent and summery berries, my Roasted Fruit with Baklava ‘Crumble’ is the easiest of recipes. But easy doesn’t mean unimpressive. Oh no. This light deconstructed baklava takes care of that. Continue reading
Now, you may be trying to stay as far from the stove as possible. Your cooking horizons may have shrunk to slicing things up for sandwiches, maybe stretching to cutting up fruit if eating it whole is impossible. You may even be fanning yourself with a sheaf of shockingly high electricity bills right now, a glass of iced something or other by your side. And here I am wanting you to get out your biggest pot and deliberately stand over a fruity sauna to make jam. Yes, it’s that time of year. Time to get jamming. Continue reading
If any salad that I do epitomises summer I would say this is it. Sure, you can make this salad at any time of the year, especially if you want to feel summery while curled up in a warm duvet and hail ricochets down your chimney. But, it just won’t be the same, not without local grown-for-flavour corn and tomatoes. Out of season tomatoes can be pretty. But pretty insipid. And corn, well if you get out of season corn that tastes of anything other than the little cardboard tray it often comes in, that’s a result.
No, this salad, and any salads that major on sun-ripened vegetables, should really only be eaten in the summer and early autumn. I wouldn’t pass a law or anything but common sense tells us that food grown locally and in the right season tastes better, is better for us, is cheaper and of course is better for the environment. Continue reading
Caponata is the epitome of summer sunshine. Italian summer sunshine, to be precise. A thick cooked-down mulch of all that is best from the summer garden (or market), this colourful Sicilian vegetable stew is a frequent gracer of the food to glow table during summer months. Or, if we are lucky, as a lap-based lunch while sitting in the garden, fending off marauding hens and lap-loving cats. It’s a hard life we have here *tiny violins playing*… Continue reading
I think I might have crossed some kind of invisible line with you last time. As always when I post a recipe there is the slightly anxious wait until the first ‘like’ button is pushed, or the first comment is made. Once that happens I tend to switch off the computer and get on with cooking dinner, or herding hens away from tender edibles, or both simultaneously. Which is hilarious, I tell you.
This time, with the mackerel and rhubarb recipe, my wait was longer, and indeed sweatier (that was ‘sweater’, but I just discovered a dropped ‘i’). As I chopped veg, Maccabees blasting through the speakers, I found myself sidling over to the lonely computer, looking for the little plus sign on the dashboard that lets me know someone has at least read the title and thought, ‘Hmm, that’s alright, I’ll click the like button. Put her out of her misery.’ I don’t know how long I waited, but I think we were actually eating dinner before one of you kind souls triggered the all-important plus sign. Thank you. You saved a grown woman from getting another frown line.
So enough with the weird stuff for right now. Let us have cake. Still with rhubarb – because it’s seasonal and scrummy – but with sugar, cardamom, flour and all those other nice things. And it will make your house smell amazing. Unlike mackerel. Continue reading
I am breaking myself in gently today, suffering as I am from the twin apres-holiday maladies of jet lag and SWS (sun withdrawal syndrome). If you read my last post you will know that Mr A, Miss R and I were visiting my family in the sunshine state of Florida for a couple of weeks. Our visits are always maximum relaxation and minimum stress (although being within 20 feet of a 12 foot alligator was a bit stressful). But unusually on this occasion, minimum cooking too. Continue reading