19.7.15

Norfolk's Best Strawberry Jam

Life seems to slow slightly in the summer months. I've spent some  time at home, soaking in the gentle pace and indulging in home cooking. Dad, you see, has turned from communion to conserves, approaching jam making with just the same diligence. 

The creating of strawberry jam lasted a whole day what with driving to a picking field, getting lost en route, buying sugar, realising we needed more sugar, watching the tennis, boiling the jam, re-boiling the jam and eventually the all important jam setting.  We sat and ate our jam exactly 24 hours after we had picked the fruit from the field and I'm sure you could taste the previous day's sunshine. 







2.7.15

Traditional Lemonade

Roll up, roll up, Ice Cold Lemonade

I don’t know about you, but the second I start to see a glimmer of sun peaking through the dark, heavy clouds of winter, I cannot WAIT to get my hands on a pitcher of ice cold, homemade, old fashioned lemonade. Not the fizzy, transparent, saccharine tainted bottled stuff you might think of – but cool, still, tangy and herbaceous homemade lemonade, made from…well…lemons!

There is something about this drink that transports you, instantly, to some wicker rocking chair, swaying gently on the clapperboard porch of a Louisiana country house…no? Just me? Well, maybe this recipe will take you there.

Making your own drinks can seem a little bit of a hassle, especially if you are cooking a big meal or just, you know, living your daily, busy as anything life. And we have to admit that if you can go and pick up a cordial or litre bottle of something that sounds like it’s slightly fancier than your standard Diet Coke, the temptation can be overwhelming.

But the satisfaction of making your own drinks is second to none. Not even cakes or muffins or roast dinners can compete with the sense of self pride, and even smugness, that comes about when you are gulping on something refreshing, charmingly traditional, and beautifully crafted.

The great thing about this lemonade recipe is that it’s like a good vanilla sponge or brownie recipe – you can customise it any which way you want. Like, say you fancied a tropical kick, just add some finely chopped red chilli in the mix. Or if you felt like you wanted something a little boozier, a splash of limoncello or gin would be beaut. The jug is your oyster so get creative.


We’ve decided to stick to a classic combination of lemon and thyme. That’s right! Step back Sunday roast chicken flavourings, you’ve found a new home now and it’s right in my glass. With ice. And preferably 25 celsius outside. The thyme adds a subtle, garden grass feel that works perfectly with the sharp lemon. And it works even more perfectly if enjoyed in said garden with a barbecue and friends. This drink really couldn’t be simpler and is so SO much better when made by your fair hands. So take a look at the recipe below and let us know what you think! Happy squeezing!


Traditional Lemonade 

4-6 tbsp granulated sugar
6 small lemons – zested & freshly squeezed
1 litre/1¾pints water – still 

1.  Using a little detergent wash the lemons to remove waxy coating and rinse well
2. Zest the lemons into a saucepan, avoiding the white pith which will make the drink bitter. Add the squeezed lemon juice and the sugar.
4.  Gently heat, stirring from time to time until the sugar has dissolved.  Taste and add more sugar if needed. 
5.  Leave to cool and to allow the zest to fully infuse.
6.  Strain and dilute with still or sparkling water.  Serve over ice decorated with slices of fresh lemon and thyme.




22.6.15

Peter Rabbit's Pea & Lettuce Soup


Often my evenings are spent reading Beatrix Potter and pondering Mr. McGregor’s garden with my little boy. He loves the thought of a rabbit getting lost amongst the lettuces, not quite tall enough to see the garden gate. This soup is wonderfully simple and fresh, lovely for a summer lunch just as it is or, if need be, could be made glamorous with a swirl of cream and crispy bruschetta.



Peter Rabbit's Pea & Lettuce Soup

MAKES 1.5 LITRE
PREP TIME – 20 MINUTES
COOK TIME – 20 MINUTES

INGREDIENTS
1 large head lettuce
3 tbsp. salted butter
3 shallots, peeled and finely sliced
3 fat cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
400g petit pois, frozen
1.5 litre hot vegetable stock
A small bunch of mint leaves
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. caster sugar

DIRECTIONS

1/ Separate the lettuce leaves and stalks and wash thoroughly to remove any clinging grit. Melt the butter in a large, deep saucepan over a medium heat and add the shallots and garlic.  Gently fry, turning the heat down if necessary.

2/ When they are tender but not brown, chop the lettuce up a bit and stir it into the butter. When it has wilted, tip in the peas, the stock and the mint leaves and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down, season with salt, sugar and black pepper and simmer for 7 to 10 minutes.


3/ Remove the pan from the heat and blend the soup in a liquidiser. Carefully return to the pot, check the seasoning and serve in big bowls with warm, buttered bread.

10.6.15

Kooks, Brighton

Dinner out seems a little infrequent in the last few weeks; all those wake up calls, nappies and cries for 'one more story' but just occasionally I think sod it, I need an injection of the bright city, some booze, style and sustenance. 

Resto of choice was Kooks - a new boho bistro bang in the centre of Brighton and is owned by an international DJ/Producer Tim Healey and his wife Rebecca. This is a restaurant of ambition; combining music with food could be a disastrous recipe but Kooks is cool, there's no doubt about it. They serve up a modern English menu accompanied by a bespoke soundtrack of choice tunes from Tim's archived music collection. The record albums and line drawings speak a 'hipster restaurant vibe' but the coloured chairs and bottles of tomato ketchup make one feel at ease, as if sitting in a friend's trendy kitchen. 

An espresso martini (my absolutely, slap bang, unashamedly favourite drink, EVER) kicked off the evening and was a total joy. All that fluff, and coffee beans and velvet caffeine was total perfection. We ate pretty spinach, ricotta and vegetarian parmesan gnocchi with roasted goats cheese (£10.50) and a more manly haddock in batter with twice cooked chips, mint pea puree and tartare sauce' (£13.00), both of which were unafraid of being big, bold dishes. The fish tasted fresh and the chips were enormous, crunchy, soft, hot, perfect... you can tell we love a good tower of chips. We split a deconstructed Eton mess which was so good I did my very best to steal more than my fair share. 

As we were leaving punters from Komedia (two doors down) spilled into the bar for a post comedy cocktail. The vibe as edgy and fun, very Brighton. Check it out. 

http://www.kooksrestaurant.com


28.5.15

Chubby Chicken Legs with White Wine, Olives and Caperberries

Spring: the prettiest season by far and definitely less demanding than its summer counterpart. There’s not a wedding on every available weekend, there’s no need to book a holiday due to the copious bank holidays and it’s absolutely unnecessary to bare legs, which helps on the body admin front, a lot. Heck, even wild flowers make the motorway roadsides look idyllic.


We are eating easier, fresher food than the heavy recipes of the winter months and accompanying them with a salad rather than stodge. So, here we were on a spring evening and I cooked a deceptively simple dish for eating al fresco (when I say al fresco, I really mean directly under a patio lamp). I once heard tell that you can taste the quality of a wine that is cooked in a recipe and remembering this and being fully aware that any wine not included in the recipe was to be drunk at dinner, I opted for a beautiful Lindeman's Bin 65 chardonnay. Whole chicken legs are simply placed in an ovenproof dish with olives, caperberries, fresh tomatoes, Parmesan, wine and garlic and baked until the ingredients have mingled and become united. Serve straightaway with fresh greens and a chilled glass of wine.




Chubby Chicken Legs with Tomatoes, Olives and Caperberries


Serves 4



Prep Time – 10 minutes
Cook Time – 40 minutes

INGREDIENTS
3 tbsp olive oil
75ml dry white wine (I used Lideman's Chardonnay)
100g freshly & finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 big gloves of garlic, peeled and very finely sliced
4 plump chicken legs, skin on
4 fresh tomatoes, halved
A handful of black olives (125g)
2 tbsp caperberries
Fresh bread to serve

DIRECTIONS
1/ Preheat the oven to 180C, fan 160, gas 4
2/ Add the olive oil; white wine, half of the Parmesan and garlic to a 2-litre oven proof dish and stir vigorously to combine. Add the chicken legs and coat well with the sauce. Add the tomatoes, olives and capers to the dish and toss in the sauce.
3/ Turn the chicken so the plump side is facing up and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan to cover as if a sheet of snow. Cook for 35-40 minutes until the chicken meat is pulling away from the bone. Remove from the oven and give a final dusting of Parmesan.
4/ My suggestion would be to serve with a hunk of bread and chilled glass of white wine.


17.5.15

How to Make a Naked Cake

Now that we are fully moving into summer, it seems that everyone (and all their friend’s of friend’s and family members and work colleagues…) has something to celebrate. Either someone is getting married, or there’s a birthday, a leaving party – SO MANY PARTIES WE JUST CAN’T KEEP UP.

But, as every cloud has a silver lining, every occasion has a cake Рor 100% should do in our opinion. And if you are half as obsessed with cakes and bakes as we are, you have probably come across naked cakes. Now, these are not half as risqu̩ as they seem Рthere is definitely nothing Dita Von Teese would find interesting here Рbut they are stunning to look at, if done well, and a pretty certain hit at any event.

Naked cakes are a classic example of less is more. You let the ingredients speak for themselves by leaving it all up to simple decoration and beautiful food. Just have a glance at ‘Take One Pot’ and ‘Take One Veg’ and you’ll see this is what I’m all about.

A naked cake, then, is a multi tiered stunner of sponge (in this case, chocolate), a contrasting ganache or buttercream, topped with some seasonal berries or flowers. What could be more beautiful for a British summer time party?

So first: the sponge. The cakey foundation on which all else is built. Most importantly, pick your flavour be it chocolate, vanilla, red velvet, maybe lemon and thyme – this is an area for real creative spark. You’ll need to bake at least three tiers to make this look as ‘wow factor’ as possible, working from the largest base to the smallest top tier. Once baked and risen in a way that would make Mary Berry gleam with joy, split horizontally into three more layers so that you have a 6 in total.

Then, the icing. White chocolate ganache here ALL THE WAY as it needs to be strong enough to support the cakes but tasty enough to leave your guests coming back for more. But most importantly, it needs to be a contrasting colour to the sponge. So I went for white chocolate to stand out against the dark sponge. Then, between each layer, just spread the frosting all the way to the edge, start building and pipe any into exposed edges. Finish the look with a palette knife. 

Lastly, cover the whole thing in a flurry of flowers – no piping bags or fondant here. Just seasonal, pretty, fresh flowers that work at any celebration; mine was a May birthday dinner. What could be more beautiful? 


10.5.15

I Know This Great Little Place in Soho



If you’re anything like us, eating out is one of life’s pure joys. Somebody else cooks, cleans up and plies you with wine all night. What could be better? But more often than not, it’s a blessing and a curse because as social convention states, you only get to have one starter, main and dessert. That’s your lot. Just. Those. Three. But what if we can’t choose?! What if we want it all?! WHAT IF OUR DATE DOESN’T ORDER SOMETHING DIFFERENT AND WE CAN’T TRY EACH OTHER’S?! It’s a real panic point.

But fear not because 10 Greek Street is the perfect place to go, if, like us, you simply will not be forced into this strict choosiness. Bring on the tasting plates! Slap bang in the middle of Soho sits the Google maps friendly named restaurant, 10 Greek Street. It’s a real ‘blink and you miss it’ spot because of its subtle signage but keep your eyes peeled for the large open windows and suitably edgy dark exterior and you’ve got it.

Now, if there’s one criteria that you judge a restaurant on, chances are your entire evening out will hang terrifyingly on this one point. For some, it’s the prettiness of loos (yes…I know). For others, it’s the size of the smile on the waiter’s face. But over here, it’s if there’s free bread. The smallest of offerings, the BIGGEST of returns. We love a carb fest so bring on the house-made still-warm-to-the-touch bounty with all of that olive oil and balsamic and you are firmly in our good books. So congrats 10 Greek Street, you’ve started out well.

This is sharing food / tapas style / indecisive dining at it’s best. You can pick from larger or smaller versions of most dishes, meaning that if you just can’t bear the thought of a small plate of burrata with polenta and morels (OH YES) then you can fill up without having to limit yourself to just one darn plate. The menu is super ingredient focussed with dishes designed to showcase all the individual beauties off like the best kind of foodie beauty pageant. On top of this, it’s extremely seasonal – often switching out dishes completely, week to week. So all the more reason to just go ahead and get all those sides. They might be gone before you blink.


With small plates starting at £6 and mains going up to £19 it’s not what you would describe as a ‘bargain diner’ but it’s definitely reasonable for the quality of the dishes. The perfect place to try everything and regret nothing.