Could there possibly be two more quintessentially English ingredients than rhubarb and elderflower, I wonder? (Now that I’ve written it, even the word quintessentially looks quintessentially English.) For me, these two flavours perfectly conjure up an English summertime and they come together so beautifully in that oh so English of desserts, the anything but foolish fool.
My daughters and I picked bags full of elderflowers from the fields at the back of our house a few weeks back and we had a go at making ourselves elderflower cordial for the first time. I can’t believe I’ve never made it before. It’s the most deliciously refreshing of drinks, especially when mixed with sparkling water, which we took to calling elderflower fizz.
To use up the last of the cordial I whisked it into double cream and the end result was so incredibly fragrant and divinely delicious I could have eaten the whole lot straight from the bowl just as it was. But instead I combined it with a rhubarb puree to create the most heavenly fool imaginable. Yes, this pudding is most definitely an English summer in a glass.
Rhubarb and elderflower fool
Serves 8 to 10
juice of 1 orange
80g caster sugar
300ml double cream
4 tbsp elderflower cordial
Chop the rhubarb into 1 inch chunks and place in a saucepan with the orange juice and caster sugar. Place over a low heat and bring the rhubarb to a gentle simmer.
Cook the rhubarb slowly and stir occasionally until the rhubarb is tender and beginning to fall apart. Remove from the heat before it’s completely turned to mush, and leave to cool before placing in the fridge.
Put the double cream and elderflower cordial in a large bowl and whisk until it forms soft peaks. Taste, and whisk in a little more cordial if you think it needs it.
Spoon a little of the chilled rhubarb puree into glasses or bowls, followed by some of the elderflower cream. Continue layering until each glass or bowl is full. Serve as it is or perhaps with a little shortbread biscuit on the side.
Panzanella is a tasty and satisfying Italian summer salad, perfect for picnics and eating al fresco. We enjoyed it last weekend when the sun was shining and it felt like we were on holiday in our own garden. The weather has sadly turned greyer and damper, but I am hopeful the blue skies will return. Hope, hope!
I took this recipe from a cookery book called Yolanda’s Kitchen, written by Yolanda Pearson who was born in Normandy to a French mother and an Italian father. With that kind of a background, it’s not surprising Yolanda can cook. Yolanda is a good friend of my husband’s family. As a boy, Jason used to play with Yolanda’s son Simon whenever they visited their holiday cottage up in Shropshire and he has very good memories of eating well at their house.
According to Yolanda…
This traditional Tuscan snack gets its name from the ‘Zanella’, the ditches by the side of the fields where the farm labourers used to sit to eat their lunch, and ‘Pane’ (Italian for bread). Thus they mixed leftover and dried-up chunks of bread with whatever salad ingredients their vegetable patch had in season, hastily dressed with wine vinegar and olive oil and enjoyed in the open air as a one-course meal.
I find the salad is enough on its own for a good lunch. I’ve been taking it to work this week in my lunchbox, and it’s surprising how crispy the ciabatta stays even when it has soaked up some of that tasty dressing. I do have to apologise though when I open it up, as it rather reeks of garlic! It’s also good as part of a picnic or served as a side dish with a barbecue.
1 ciabatta loaf
3 spring onions
2 celery sticks
1 garlic clove, crushed
250g small plum tomatoes
2 Little Gem lettuces, leaves torn
handful of basil leaves
150ml extra virgin olive oil
50ml red wine vinegar
1 tsp white sugar
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 160°C / gas mark 2-3.
Cut the ciabatta into bitesize cubes, place them on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes, until it gains just a little colour. Leave to cool.
Peel, deseed and slice the cucumber. Finely slice the spring onion. Dice the celery. Mix together with the crushed garlic.
Cut the plum tomatoes in half. Yolanda says here to remove the seeds, but I must admit I didn’t bother with this bit.
In a large salad bowl, mix together the bread, tomatoes, lettuce leaves, chopped vegetables and torn leaves of basil.
In a small bowl, mix together the oil, vinegar, sugar and salt and pepper.
Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well before serving.
As this is salad is perfect for picnics and outdoor dining, I’m entering into Four Seasons Food, a wonderful new challenge hosted by Chez Foti and Delicieux. The theme for the start of summer is Picnic Food & Outdoor Nibbles.
It’s been another fantastic month for the Recipes for Life challenge. I must admit, when I was first told the three ingredients the SWALLOW cookery club had decided on for April, I wasn’t sure how many recipes we’d receive. But as ever you lot have excelled yourselves and we’ve ended up with an incredibly varied and mouthwateringly tempting array of dishes all using the three set ingredients of pork, sweetcorn and tomatoes.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at those delicious dishes and, most importantly, announce this month’s winner…
Don’t theseSlow Cooker Sweet & Sour Sausages from The Crazy Kitchen look good? The list of ingredients might look long, but don’t be fooled – this is a quick and easy dish to prepare, just perfect for a midweek supper. And what’s more it’s a very frugal dish, making one pack of sausages go a long way.
We had to bend the rules slightly for this Sausage Chilli from The Garden Deli. Sarah was very keen to take part in the challenge but as Sarah is vegetarian, we really couldn’t make her cook with meat. So Sarah entered her sausage chilli using veggie sausages and then I (or rather my husband) tried out her recipe with pork sausages – see below. And we can confirm it works superbly both ways! Here’s how ours turned out:
The whole family loved it. Sarah’s chilli is a feast of colours, flavours and textures, and perfect for little ones as it has just the right level of spice without being too hot.
Next up is a dish that’s making me yearn for summer! Doesn’t your mouth just instantly water when you look at Under The Blue Gum Tree’s gorgeous photos of her sumptuous BBQ Pork Ribs with Sweetcorn Salsa? The ribs are smothered in a simple BBQ sauce made from store cupboard ingredients – the trick is not to marinade the ribs but instead to pour the sauce on for the last 10 minutes of cooking time – and served with a zingy salsa made from roasted corn and fresh tomatoes.
JibberJabberUK has come up trumps with this satisfying Slow Cooker Pork Creole – as she says it might not be 100% authentic, but it’s a great way to add a bit of spice to your family’s food. It’s an incredibly versatile dish, so you can throw in whatever vegetables you happen to have in the fridge or freezer.
You may recall that Helen from The Crazy Kitchen entered not one, not two, but three dishes into last month’s Recipes for Life. And she’s worked her magic again! This Sausage Pesto Pasta is her second entry for April’s challenge and I know my own family would absolutely love this. The recipe is simplicity itself but you just know it’s packed with flavour and would satisfy even the grumbliest of tummies.
And for her third offering, Helen from The Crazy Kitchen brings us this ever so easyOven Baked Tortilla – a great one-pan meal, which Helen says is one of her favourite dishes to prepare when they’re away on holiday as it’s just so simple to do.
The brilliantly named Fun as a Gran came up with a wheat, egg, dairy and gluten-free dish of Pork, Sweetcorn & Tomatoes with Vermicelli Rice Noodles. I love the fact there is “no fancy measuring” and the recipe can be adapted up or down at the drop of a hat to cater for any number of people staying for dinner.
Here’s a great first-time entry from Spurs Cook: Pulled Pork Wrap with Tomato and Chorizo Salsa and Sweet Sweet Sweetcorn. I’m a big fan of slow-cooked pork, especially when it’s seasoned with a whole host of rich, warming spices like paprika, cumin, cayenne, chilli and fennel, and I’m intrigued by the idea of the sweetness of the sweetcorn intensified even more with the addition of honey. Got to give it a go!
How about this for a taste of summer sunshine? Chez Foti’sVery Retro Sweet and Sour Porklooks just glorious and I bet it tastes every bit as good as it looks. Sweet and sour flavours are always a firm family favourite and this looks so much better for you than the horrible battered version with a gloopy sauce you so often find in takeaways. Like Louisa, I think I might add a touch of chilli too in the adult version…
MyCheat’s Ciabatta Pizza is the next entry and to be honest hardly deserves to be described as a recipe as it’s just so easy to make. It’s simply sliced bread with your favourite pizza-style ingredients chucked on top and either grilled or baked in the oven. A quick and easy dinner to throw together when you don’t have time to make your pizza dough from scratch.
And last but most certainly not least is a second entry from Fun as a Gran – Red Rice Accompanied by Pork, Sweetcorn and Tomato – another dish that’s easily adaptable depending on what you happen to have in. It features lovely nutty red rice served alongside pork steaks in a sauce made from a can of chicken or mushroom soup. It reminds me of some of my favourite student recipes!
Well, who would have thought pork, sweetcorn and tomatoes could lend themselves to such very different dishes? I look forward to working my way through these over the coming weeks.
But of course, what you’re waiting to hear is the name of this month’s winner. And so I’m very pleased to announce that the winner of first prize in April’s Recipes for Life challenge, as chosen by SWALLOW’s cookery club, is…
Huge congratulations to Helen for her well-deserved win, particularly as this means she’s now scooped first place two months in a row! The guys at SWALLOW said they liked her tortilla because it features a good selection of veggies and was just a little bit different.
So well done again to Helen – a little gift will be coming to you in the post in the next few days. Watch this space to find out the three set ingredients for May’s challenge, and let’s see if we can knock Helen off the coveted top spot – surely she can’t make it three in row? Or can she?!
If you’d like to find out more about the work of SWALLOW and perhaps get involved in their Twenty for 20 appeal as part of the charity’s 20th anniversary celebrations, please take a look at their funky new website.
I was recently given a new hand mixer and so, naturally, the first thing I had to try it out on was homemade pesto.
Normally I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to pesto. I could eat basil and pine nut pesto every day and never tire of it. It brings back very fond memories of inter-railing around Europe with my best friend after our A-levels. The only food we could really cook in our basic hostel kitchens was pasta and pesto from a jar. Washed down with a cheap bottle of plonk, we couldn’t have been happier. And then we ate fresh pesto in Italy and we were happier still.
But as my husband isn’t much of a pesto fan, I have started to experiment with different variations. Wild garlic pesto was a big hit last year and I look forward to picking some again from the local hedgerows when spring finally decides to turn up here in Somerset.
One of my favourite food bloggers is Louisa at Chez Foti who happens to be a bit of a pesto aficionado. I love the look of her stilton, walnut and parsley pesto and will be trying it soon. In this same blog post Louisa helpfully listed a whole menu of ideas for anyone wanting to dabble in a little pesto experimentation.
One of her suggestions was watercress, which is a particular favourite ingredient of mine. And so I came up with this recipe for watercress and pistachio pesto. I thought it might be a little peppery for the children but that wasn’t an issue at all. They wolfed it down and came back for more. A definite success. Bear in mind that if you do add the Ricotta at the end, you’ll need to use the pesto within a couple of days. If you leave it out, the pesto will keep in a glass jar in the fridge for a couple of weeks.
Watercress and pistachio pesto
Serves 6 to 8
1tsp rock salt
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
60g Parmesan, grated
60g shelled pistachio nuts
150 ml olive oil – the best quality you can afford
2 tbsp Ricotta cheese
In a blender, process the watercress, salt, and garlic until well chopped. Add the Parmesan, pistachio nuts and olive oil and blend until fairly smooth and creamy.
Scrape into a bowl and fold in the Ricotta cheese. Serve with pasta of your choice. Personally I always go for spaghetti with pesto.
If you have featured a pesto recipe on your blog, please feel free to include a URL in the comments below and I’ll be more than happy to link up to it!
I am entering this recipe in the #TuscanyNowCookOff. It might not be the most authentically Italian pesto, but it might possibly get through on creativity!
Beetroot, carrots and cheese. Those were the three ingredients selected by the cookery club at SWALLOW for this month’s Recipes for Life challenge. And they did indeed present quite a challenge.
But I should have known I could rely on you food bloggers to deliver the goods. We received a surprisingly diverse range of recipes this month, showing just how versatile these humble ingredients can be…
Sarah from The Garden Deli got the ball rolling with this sumptuous Carrot and Beetroot Soup with Cheesy Croutons. Featuring garlic and cumin, this beautiful soup is a proper winter warmer and I love the croutons for dunking topped with one of my favourite cheeses, Wensleydale.
I experimented with some Beetroot and Carrot Pancakes for my first entry and, while they tasted pretty good – particularly with the herby mascarpone on the side – I was a bit disappointed the pancakes didn’t turn out pink like the batter!
Last month’s challenge winner, Chez Foti came up with this fantastic Roasted Roots and an Easy Roasted Roots Pizza. Louisa’s dish brings together sensational seasonal roasted root vegetables on top of a quick and easy wholemeal scone pizza base, not forgetting lots of lovely mozzarella. Yum!
Helen from The Crazy Kitchen really did go crazy with not one, not two, but three entries for Recipes for Life. Anyone who was stumped by the three set ingredients this month – look and learn! First up were these incredible Baked Cheesy Meatballs with Beetroot Sauce. Now don’t they look good? And a crafty way to sneak vegetables into unsuspecting children…
Another fiendishly clever way of disguising veggies comes in this gorgeous Two-of-your-five-a-day Chocolate Cake – the second entry from Helen at The Crazy Kitchen. “It’s sooooo good!” was the verdict of Helen’s 10-year-old, beetroot-hating daughter! Say no more!
There’s been a lot of talk on Twitter and food blogs recently about the 5:2 diet. So much so, my husband and I are both giving it a go. ThisBeetroot, Carrot and Cottage Cheese Salad, the final entryfrom The Crazy Kitchen’s Helen would definitely make a delicious lunch for a 5:2 fasting day and I plan to give it a try very soon.
I love the look of thisRoasted Vegetable and Goat’s Cheese Risotto from Under The Blue Gum Tree. It sounds so simple to make but you just know it’s going to be absolutely packed full of flavour, with the gorgeous creaminess of the goat’s cheese a perfect partner for the earthiness of the root vegetables.
Meeting the lovely Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog was one of my highlights from the Bristol Blog Summit earlier this month, which also gave me the perfect opportunity to persuade her to enter Recipes for Life. She promised she’d try, and I was very pleased to see she was true to her word with these ingenious Beetroot, Carrot and Goat’s Cheese Muffins. As with all Choclette’s recipes, there’s some chocolate in there, as well as a little kick from a touch of cayenne pepper. I look forward to trying them out.
This is a dish we eat quite a lot in our house, so I just had to enter it – my Beetroot, Carrot and Feta Cheese Salad.It’s ever so simple and ever so tasty, and a great way to create a summery-feeling salad with winter vegetables.
The final entry came in at the very last minute but I was so glad to see it – a Carrot and Beetroot Cake with a Cream Cheese Topping from Lucy at The Bell Inn. Again I sadly don’t have photos of this one but when you read the recipe you just know it’s going to taste good and I absolutely adore beetroot and carrot in cakes. Another one to try very soon.
But of course, what you’re waiting to hear is who did the SWALLOW cookery club choose as this month’s winner? Well, Lucy at The Bell Inn came a very close second with her Carrot and Beetroot Cake but first place goes to… Helen from the Crazy Kitchen for her scrumptious Baked Cheesy Meatballs with Beetroot Sauce. The group said they particularly liked the sound of the oozy cheese in the middle of the meatballs. Me too!
So a huge congratulations to Helen for her well deserved win – a small prize will be arriving in the mail very soon. Thank you so much to everyone who entered their wonderful recipes this month, and watch this space for the next set of three ingredients for April’s Recipes for Life challenge.
The theme I set was brunch, and we received a surprisingly diverse and incredibly delicious array of not-quite-breakfast-yet-not-quite-lunch dishes, all equally perfect for this festive season when we’re allowed to roll out of bed just that little bit later than normal.
So without further ado, let’s crack on with the round-up…
Next on the menu is this Beet Greens & Red Pepper Frittata from Eleni at On Top of Spaghetti. It’s easy to prepare, healthy and tasty, and ideal for brunch or perhaps a light lunch with a side salad. What’s more, it’s a great way to use those beet greens that many people don’t even realise you can eat.
As Louisa from Chez Foti says herself, these White Chocolate & Cranberry Christmas Cookies make for a “wickedly good brunch snack with a cup or two of coffee” and are just the ticket during the festive period when sweet treats are de rigeur, even at breakfast!
I can’t believe I’ve never thought of combining beans and cheese on toast with a poached egg myself, but that’s exactly what Laura from Credit Munched has done in her Buck Rarebit. The combination sounds just so ‘right’ and perfect for a lazy brunch.
Now while these Swiss Scrambled Eggs, Croissants and Shakes from Fabulicious Food might look designed to be a hangover cure, they’re honestly not. Ren came up with this delicious breakfast-brunch to fill her family with much-needed vitamins and goodness to aid recovery from the winter flu bug. I’m sure they were fighting fit in no time…
Mushrooms on toast, especially using good homemade bread, has to be a top contender for my favourite brunch dish. And these Mushrooms on Rye Toast from The Garden Deli look simply beautiful, don’t you think?
Sometimes brunch becomes much more like lunch than it is breakfast. And in times like these, wouldn’t you love a Minestrone Soup like this one from Divine Foods Living to set you up for the day?
These Nduja Potato Cakes from Foodycat make for a hearty, grown up brunch, especially served with a Bloody Mary. I must admit to having to google nduja – it turns out to be a spicy, spreadable sausage made from pork and is a Calabrian variation of salami.
Elizabeth from Elizabeth’s Kitchen describes these Christmas Breakfast Muffinsas the best tasting muffins she’s ever made, and I have to say they do look incredibly good from her photos. Made from granola, marmalade, orange juice and apricots, they are the perfect breakfast in a cake.
It might not look like your usual late breakfast dish, and indeed I did have to persuade Kavey from Kavey Eats to enter her spectacular Speculoos & Mascarpone Pancake Cakeinto this month’s Breakfast Club, but personally I think this would make a superb, albeit slightly decadent, brunch. I also think I could gladly tuck into this amazing creation at just about any time of day…
I adore poppy seeds in any baked goods and they look particularly scrummy in these Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins from Mondomulia, and isn’t the photography simply stunning too? They’re perfect for a festive brunch, but I think they’d be great at any time of year. I might also try baking a batch for my daughters’ lunch boxes in the new year.
And last, but certainly not least, come these fantastic Brunch Quesadillas from Camilla at Fab Food 4 All. Filled with bacon, mushroom and cheese, these tasty tortillas would make an ideal brunch for New Year’s Day to help sort your head out after that one-too-many-glasses-of-fizz from the night before.
So there you have it. A particularly fine round-up of brunch recipes, I think you’ll agree. Thanks to Helen at Fuss Free Flavours for inviting me to host December’s Breakfast Club and to all you wonderful bloggers for linking up your yummy recipes.
When I put out a call a month or so ago for people to send in their favourite family recipes for the Care to Cook recipe challenge I had absolutely no idea what kind of response to expect. Care to Cook is a challenge I set up with a fostering and adoption charity I work with called TACT in order to promote their cookbook, which they’re selling to support adopted children and their families.
But I had nothing to worry about. You lot rose to the challenge splendidly, supplying a fantastic assortment of family favourites, both savoury and sweet. The task set was to suggest a dish you would cook to welcome someone into your family home. For many children in care, family meals are simply something they are not used to. Each and every dish submitted into the challenge is one I know would make a vulnerable child or young person feel special, valued and welcomed.
Before I announce the winner, here are each of those delicious entries in turn. Warning – this list is guaranteed to make you hungry!
First in was this tasty little number from Under The Blue Gum Tree, which looks far superior to its McDonald’s namesake: Homemade Fillet O’ Fish and “Chips”. The fillet is served in lovingly prepared carrot and cumin bread rolls, with potato skins covered in paprika and cayenne pepper, and some salsa and soured cream on the side. Now, who could resist that?
Next we have French Madeleinesfrom Crêpes Suzettes. These pretty little cakes look so tempting and perfect for goûter, the snack French kids have at around 4pm. I think my children must be a bit French as they are always starving when they come home from school too!
For Reluctant Housedad, what to cook for this challenge was a bit of a no-brainer. It had to be his Peanut Butter and Salted Caramel Chocolate Cheesecake. Doesn’t it look incredible? I love puddings that combine sweet and salty and absolutely anything that contains peanut butter, so this is going straight to the top of my must-bake list.
My fabulous mother Cheryl suggested this next dish Hokkien Mee, which she remembers eating as a girl growing up on the Malaysian island of Penang. It’s a hot and spicy noodle dish, featuring both meat and seafood, common in many South East Asian dishes. It’s a little different to the Singapore version but, as my Mum would tell you, much more delicious!
Karen from Lavender & Lovage offers up these ‘frugal but comforting’ Stuffed Tomatoes with Herbs and Oats, which I think look incredibly tasty and very satisfying. It’s a real family-favourite in Karen’s house; her daughter loved eating this when she was little, and still does now she is all grown up!
My little sister Elly surprised me with her cooking skills with this next entry, her Nonya Chicken Curry from Malaysia. I just assumed she would submit a recipe for something sweet and sticky – she’s a great baker you see. But no, this is her curry dish that got a big thumbs up from her boyfriend’s dad. He’s from Malaysia himself and apparently not an easy man to impress!
Pasta and Pesto Sauce is our next entry which comes from A Trifle Rushed. Pesto is always a favourite in our house but I must admit it’s normally a meal-in-a-hurry using dried pasta and jarred sauce. Here Jude and her daughter lovingly make fresh pasta by hand and blend their own pesto in a pestle and mortar. I bet it tastes incredible; it certainly looks wonderful.
Louisa at Chez Foti now lives in the French Pyrenees and likes to cook classic French dishes whenever friends and family come to visit. This Boeuf en Daube is a particular favourite and I can see why; it looks so sumptuously satisfying! It’s one of those meals you can prepare in advance and leave to slow cook in the oven, so that your visitors arrive to the most glorious aromas emanating from the kitchen. Yum!
When I received this next entry from Lavender & Lovage for Yorkshire Season Pudding with Herbs I had to try it straight away. We had it for brunch one Sunday morning, and it was perfect with our bacon, eggs and beans. I like the fact this is a traditional family recipe, and one that Karen’s grandmother used to make. I think it might just become a tradition for our family too.
Spinach and Bacon Macaroni Cheesefrom Sian at Fishfingers for Tea is next up. Macaroni cheese is the ultimate in satisfying comfort food and I do love this version, beefed up with tasty bacon and spinach and finished with slices of tomato and crunchy cheesy breadcrumbs on top. Another great dish for preparing in advance and popping in the oven just before your visitors arrive.
My Nana Barbara sent in two dishes for her entry: Courgette Bake followed by Vanilla Cream Terrine. She says the courgette bake works well both as a starter and as main course served with large hunks of crusty bread. My Nana is fantastic in the kitchen and as a kid I would love staying with her and Grandad as it always meant getting to eat lots of lovely cakes and pies.
Chicken Basquaise is the delicious entry from Helene at French Foodie Baby. She warns that it might differ from traditional recipes but that’s what she likes so much about her mother’s cooking; she cooks from the gut. I love the way Helene relives her food memories through her blog and brings them into the present day as she cooks for her little boy Pablo.
ThisStrawberries and Cream Birthday Cakecomesfrom my step-mum Sue and is the cake she bakes every June to celebrate my twin sisters’ birthday. I’ve always been very jealous of them having a summer birthday when strawberries are in season! Now wouldn’t you like this for your birthday cake each year?
The final entry is one of mine: Hainanese Chicken Rice. It’s a dish I loved to eat when I was a little girl on trips to Penang with my mum and little sister. I had no idea how to make it so I turned to members of my Chinese-Malaysian family for a helping hand, and my Aunty Lorene and Cousin Sisi did the honours by providing this recipe. How would I ever survive without Facebook?!
There you have it – a fine collection of family recipes if ever I saw one! But there can only be one winner in the Care to Cook challenge, and the unenviable task of selecting a winner was given to 15-year-old Josh, who lives with one of TACT’s foster carers in the South West of England.
So a huge congratulations to Keith at the Reluctant Housedad for your fabulous entry, which Josh found he simply couldn’t resist! As winner of the Care to Cook family recipe challenge he will receive a copy of TACT’s Care to Cook recipe book, signed by the charity’s celebrity patron Lorraine Pascale.
And thank you to everyone who has taken the time to share their favourite family recipes, helping to raise awareness of this very worthwhile charity, which is working so hard to improve the lives of children and young people across the UK who haven’t had the best starts in life. More information of the work of TACT is available on their website.
The last few weeks have been as busy as ever in the Bangers & Mash house. I jetted off to Amsterdam and London for work leaving my darling Mashettes to fend for themselves for a few days. I’ve never been apart from my family for that long before but of course when it came to food they were all sorted, as I’d left them with a trusty meal plan…
Amsterdam was wonderful. The last time I visited I was in my early twenties and it felt quite strange going back all grown up and all professional. I was there for the Meet the Blogger event for interior design bloggers at the simply stunning Conservatorium Hotel. If you’ve ever seen my home, you’ll know how incongruous I felt being at a conference for glamorous ladies talking about the latest in home design trends. But my role there was to tweet and blog about the proceedings, and I’m always happy when tasked with writing. There is a lovely short film documenting Meet the Blogger if you’re interested…
As I was there in a work capacity I didn’t have much opportunity unfortunately to really explore Amsterdam’s restaurant scene, although I did enjoy a rather splendid steak somewhere I can’t remember the name of at the end of a very long day. And I was also taken to a lovely bakery for a quick bite of lunch on my way back to the train station. De Bakkerswinkel bakes superb bread, as well as pastries, cakes, pies and all kinds of baked delights. I only had a simple ham and cheese roll but it was sensational and a delicious way to end my stint in the Dam.
A day after getting back from Holland, I had to head off to London for a trade show where I was helping out as a press officer on a client’s stand. I can’t say the event was all that exciting but it was a good chance to catch up with my Dad and step-mum Sue the night before as they live in Tottenham. And I finally got to see their amazing new kitchen, which they’ve been talking about and planning for oh, only the last 20 years or so. I am now green with envy. I want a new kitchen. Now.
But back to the food. I’ve been trying out some really rather good recipes lately. Initially I was rather disappointed with my attempt at a lamb and rosemary crumble. When it came out of the oven it just didn’t look particularly appetising and so I didn’t bother taking any photographs. Yet it tasted surprisingly good. I’m to work on it a bit more to see if I can make it look as good as it tastes.
Another tart that turned out well was a butternut squash tart with blue cheese, spinach and ricotta. It was one of those very simple affairs where you roll out some ready-made puff pastry, smother it with a few choice ingredients and bake. Hey presto! You have a tasty supper.
Pasta is always popular in our house, particularly as a quick dinner after a busy day at work and school. We all loved this yummy sausage and courgette pasta carbonara from Chez Foti. Definitely a dish we’ll be making again. And again.
Pasta makes another appearance in my list of highlights. Broad bean tops arrived in our veg box the other week. I have to admit I had no idea you could eat them but they are quite delicious; like a cross between pea shoots and chard. I used them in this recipe from Riverford for pasta with broad bean tops, ricotta and mint, which was very good indeed. We are growing broad beans in our vegetable patch, so I look forward to experimenting some more with this new ingredient.
Egg fried rice is an excellent speedy supper and so versatile too. You can throw in whatever you have to hand or need to use up. I cooked up a big wok full of egg fried rice the other night with peas and red pepper, served up with lashings of soy sauce and hot chilli oil. My kind of fast food. Yum.
Last but not least comes the Full English pizza. Yes, you’ve guessed it. Pizza topped with all those staples of the traditional cooked English brekky: sausage, bacon, tomato, spinach and egg. I wanted to use mushroom as well but my daughter Jessie hates them with a passion. You’re probably thinking it sounds completely OTT and you’re probably right, but it was so tasty and very, very moreish. I can’t believe I’ve never tried it before.
Well I think that’s it for now. I’m rather pleased to be able to look back and see the highs far outweigh the lows. I’m definitely getting better at this cooking lark, I think. Now, time for those meal plans…