Rice Pudding

We took advantage of a few days leave and hopped on a (stunningly efficient) Grand Central train to Yorkshire, away from the sea and the house admin and the wifi. A cattle farm was our destination, 200 acres of pure, unspoilt English countryside complete with emerging snowdrops and catkins aplenty. 

We ate pheasant casserole, homemade pork pies and slabs of sliced ham but it was milk that really tasted good. It was almost buttery in colour, thicker and had one hell of a cream line. Almost sweet. Apparently the taste changes throughout the year, that's obvious I suppose. 

I was prompted to think milk, what a beautiful ingredient it can be and how to make it the recipe star. Rice pudding was my solution, one litre of the good stuff simply combined with vanilla, sugar, rice and nutmeg. 

Rice Pudding 

knob of butter 
140g Pudding Rice 
100g caster sugar 
1.2 litres full fat milk 
seeds from 1 vanilla pod 
grating of fresh nutmeg 

1/ Preheat the oven to 140C, gas mark 2.
2/ Using either the enamel dish or a saucepan, melt the butter. Stir through the rice and sugar. Pour over the milk and bring to a gentle simmer. 
3/ Grate over the nutmeg and pour the mixture into the 1.5 dish. Carefully transfer to the preheated oven. Bake for 2 hours. Serve hot from the oven.


Favourite Breakfast Spots in Brighton

Breakfast has become my favourite meal out and here is my list of  Brighton's best -   

Velo Cafe - Rose Walk, The Level, BN1 4ZN - www.velo-cafe.co.uk

The first on my list has an unfair advantage; it's my local. Set abruptly in the middle of Brighton's biggest park, Velo cafe could have been lazy; it might have served the secured punters with mediocre coffee and over cooked eggs but instead we have locally roasted small batch coffee and a breakfast menu that hasn't disappointed yet. Maple porridge with roasted plums and eggs Florentine and particularly good. 

Marmalade - 237 Eastern Road - www.cafemarmalade.co.uk

Marmalade is a little walk from Central Brighton, in Kemp town but well worth the trip. There are glimpses of the buildings former use; an old diary but now transformed into a stunning, light, clean cafe. The food is fiercely fresh and you hear the chef discussing an order, such is their proximity. We ate eggs & soldiers, honeyed granola and cheese on toast. We drank flat whites and read the newspaper in warm reflected sunlight, no wonder I like it. 

The New Club - 133 Kings Rd, BN1 2HH - www.thenewclubbrighton.com

The restaurant, which occupies a cleanly modernised space amid Brighton's retro seaside muddle, is very much a chunk of now. It is hard surfaces and sunlight and enamel plates and urban eating. There is also something very contemporary about the way the menu descriptions are realised on the plates, calm and unshowy. We ate a hot pretzel with salted caramel; how very New York. 

I Gigi - 31A Western Road, BN31AF -  www.igigigeneralstore.com

Located on Western Road, this general store is surely the most beautiful of them all? There's a ridiculously priced but very stylish general store on the ground level, while the top floor houses an atmospheric cafe that is especially lovely at breakfast time. The breakfast offerings range from breakfast welsh rarebit with grilled tomatoes, to two dippy eggs with giant buttered soldiers; and from acai smoothie to a toast basket with organic jam and marmalade. Walk off your breakfast with a stroll to the Naked Eye Gallery which often has a lovely small exhibition.

Bread & Milk - 82 Trafalgar Street, BN1 4EB - www.breadandmilk.co.uk

Located on Trafalgar Street, the main artery feeding Brighton station, Bread & Milk is easy to find. It packs a lot into its small quarters nicely combining vintage with a touch of the industrial. As well as serving artisan coffee they do a lovely line in fresh juices and a simple menu (though the small kitchen does limit them to a toasted sandwich & breakfast muffin). At the weekend it becomes a place for exulting in the what’s-the-rush pace, I suggest going to drink coffee and eating a breakfast brownie.  

Small Batch - 17 Jubilee St, BN1 1GE - www.smallbatchcoffee.co.uk

This renowmed coffee bar now has six locations in and around Brighton and does a roaring business in American-style coffee and selling a very good croissant. I head here for an injection of the Brighton trendies sitting, headphones on, with a shiny Mac and feel a bit inspired. You can choose from several different kinds of coffee, roasted in-house, or a long list of herbal teas. The most central branch is Jubilee Street, right by the library so have a wonder around afterwards.


Valentine Truffles

An annual decision: does one ignore valentines day, snub all those who carry home limp looking roses on the commuter train or acknowledge a moment to tell someone they are special? 

Is it a blessing or a curse? Gone are the truly exciting valentine years when a red envelope might arrive signed only with a scrawled question mark or when as school girls, we might buy a multipack of cards, sending them quite liberally to the boys in the higher years.

But this year, I want only one card from one boy and it couldn't make me happier. 

I decided to make him just a little thing, just to show him he's my number one. His favourite biscuits are these fiery ginger ones from M&S but alas, they weren't to hand. Instead I nipped across to the local shop and bought the next best option, dark chocolate digestives. There was condensed milk in the cupboard and butter in the fridge. You see, it was all quite easy. 

I whizzed up the biscuits, stirred them with melted butter, condensed milk and cocoa power. I rolled the mixture into little balls and let them sit in the fridge. I rolled them in cocoa powder and balanced them in a great tower, waiting for the morning. 


Chicken Soup

This week has been a road to recovery, the non-stop chicken pox party has finally come to a close and the unwanted guests have left the building. Family Fuggle were in need of some vitamins, some feel good food and soul nourishing that preferably could be eaten from a mug. 

Chicken soup: it's long been touted to relieve symptoms of flu, a cold or indeed the blues. I can confirm all of the above and more. In fact, simply walking to the end of our street and buying the chicken from Mr Archer (Brian Archer, 4th generation of butcher and currently been working for 45 years in the same shop) was quite the wholesome experience.

It's a recipe that takes care of itself, one that needs little of the cooks expertise and relies far more heavily on the quality of the few ingredients. We didn't have celery to hand but that would have only added an extra note. 

Sadly, the pot is now empty and the bowls washed up but we shall start the week feeling like our vitamin tank is full. 

Chicken Soup 

Serves 6 

1 x 1.8kg free range chicken 
6 carrots, scrubbed clean
4 shallots or 1 large onion
 1 tsp black peppercorns 
3 or 4 stems of thyme 
100g pearl barley 
Fresh parsley, to serve

1/ Place the chicken in the largest pot you have. Cut 3 of the carrots in half and add them to the chicken. Quarter the onion and add with the thyme and peppercorns. Pour over enough cold water to cover the chicken. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat, skimming any foam that rises to the top, until the chicken is cooked through, about 45 minutes. 
2/ Transfer the chicken to a bowl and let it cool. Strain the broth, discarding the vegetables. Return the broth to the pot and add the pearl barley. Bring the stock to a simmer and cook the pearl barley for 30 minutes. 
3/ Meanwhile, thinly slice the remaining carrots. Add them to the broth and continue to simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred the meat and add it to the soup. Stir through fresh parsley and ladle into bowls.