JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Braised lettuce

We had a huge glut of lettuce, after the long winter weeks of yearning for some soft green salad leaves. It's been salads all the way this week, and by last night I was longing for vegetables that were cooked. This was simple, quick, and much more delicious than you might suppose.

Braised lettuce

Chicken stock (or white wine diluted with a little water)

You need small tight lettuce for this, Little Gem is ideal. Allow one per person. Trim off the tough outer leaves. It's best to serve this in the cooking pan, because the heads are quite fragile when ready.

Brown the whole lettuce on one side in a little oil. Turn carefully. Add a little chicken stock to the pan, a few capers, and cover. Turn the heat right down and braise for 5-10 minutes, depending on size.

This picture shows the leftovers, because Alfred declined to eat any ... now I find it's quite nice cold, too

Related posts

Braised fennel
Braised carrots and capers

Cooked lettuce on other blogs

Peas with mint and lettuce at Serious Eats
Petit pois à la Versailles

Friday, May 30, 2008

Introducing One Local Summer

Here's an exciting project starting this week ... this is the second year of One Local Summer: I was too late to join in last time, but this year I am (drumroll) International Co-Ordinator. This is the brainchild of Nicole at Farm to Philly ... last year I saw lots of One Local Summer posts; this year they'll be everywhere, as there are 133 participants.

The challenge will begin on Sunday, June 1 and run until Sunday, August 31. Your challenge: prepare one meal each week using only locally-grown ingredients - the exceptions are oil, salt and pepper, and spices.

Now it's fair to say that there aren't very many "international" participants - four from Canada and three from Europe (all the rest are from the US), but I'll be linking up with them each week for the next three months. So if anyone wants to join us informally, feel free to send me your permalink, and I'll include you in my round-up. Sunday night is the deadline, and you can find buttons on Farm to Philly.

I'm really looking forward to three months of searching out great local food, perhaps meeting up with the other European bloggers involved in this project, and generally eating some great local food, locally sourced. I'll also try to find some local recipes ... One Local Summer: starting here, next week and every week until the end of August. By which time, let's hope the habit's ingrained.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Courgettes with sultanas and pine nuts

I have two veg boxes being delivered this week, as I'm trialling a rival to Riverford. We had a very small salad box from Riverford on Tuesday, all now eaten; tomorrow Abel and Cole are delivering a large veg box to see us through a busy weekend. Despite this vegetable richesse, I couldn't resist buying courgettes today .... I had a vague idea that I would make courgette fritters, but, instead, this cooked salade tiède beckoned from the pages of Claudia Roden's New Book of Middle Eastern Food.

Zucchini with sultanas and pine nuts

500g courgettes
2 tbsp pine nuts
2 tbsp sultanas (or raisins)
zest and juice of a lemon

Slice the courgettes, cook them fast with the nuts and sultanas, also a clove of garlic if you like. When they're soft, transfer them into a dish, sprinkle with chopped mint, then add the zest and juice of a lemon, a little Maldon salt and some pepper. Leave for at least half an hour for the flavours to develop.

Links to other posts about courgettes

Marrow Zanzibar
A lemony courgette salad
Courgette salad - this is an earlier version of the same dish
What to do when the courgettes have turned into marrows
Essence of courgette ... saving the best till last, just ignore all the preamble; you'll find a good aubergine recipe there too, it's an early-ish post, when I didn't realise that it was better to give one recipe per post if you were to have any hope of finding things again

Links to courgettes / zucchini on other blogs

Stuffed courgettes at Closet Cooking
Courgette and Pumpkin Seed Bread (not cake) at A Wee Bit of Cooking, where you'll find lots and lots of other ideas for things to do with courgettes.
Courgette flowers at the English version of Trembon

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Some thoughts on pizza and authenticity

The idea of authenticity in cookery has become powerful, courtesy of research-heavy recipe books ... Elizabeth David, Jane Grigson etc. The writer visits archive / goes abroad, finds a recipe, preferably a peasant recipe, and sets it in stone. It becomes the grail to which the rest of us must aspire. This is followed by a trip to the supermarket for far-flung ingredients - a couple of decades ago, this was fraught with difficulty (you needed a back-up plan, because it was likely that even the biggest and best supermarkets didn't stock, say, Puy lentils, or coarsely-ground polenta). These days authenticity is less work, as we (in the west) expect to be able to buy what we want when we want, regardless of geography or nature.

The problem with authenticity is that life isn't like that. The peasant will make the dish with whatever comes to hand (or not make it because it is no longer possible/seasonal). It will change subtly over the course of a season: the ingredients are local because they are not flown in from the other side of the world, or trucked in from the other side of the continent. And when the recipe moves to another locality, it is altered to fit in with the new circumstances, sometimes resulting in a completely new dish. This approach is now, in the West at least, history (although there are plenty of people who think it's going to be forced on us soon by an energy crisis).

All this by way of introduction to a passage about pizza in Majorca: the pizza can be traced back to the Etruscans; at the Pizza Museum in Italy, historical research based on archaeological excatavtions refers specifically to the portada, a round savoury tart identical to (Majorcan) coca de verdures. What we have (in Majorca) is the authentic pizza which the Romans taught us to make when they settled on the island; we've carried on making it in exactly the same way. There are more than 400 recognized ways of making pizza, and 1,000 variants of each recipe; everyone has added his own particular stamp."

Two thoughts: authenticity here is understood to be a method rather than a recipe. And I bet the 400,000 recipes don't include pizza with ham and pineapple, or with vindaloo. Each - mystifyingly - much loved in their countries of origin (both far from the Mediterranean).

This post is prompted by Tomas Graves's book, Bread and Oil, Majorcan Culture's Last Stand. Too early to say exactly what I think of it, as I'm only on page 46, but so far it's interesting, if a little fierce.

The photograph is of a potato pizza I made recently. It seems such an odd combination, but it is one which works well (so long as you ignore the health police, who seem to have it in for potatoes, but that's a whole 'nother story for another day). Mine wasn't good enough to pass on the recipe, but if you're interested in making one, you should consult Tanna at My Kitchen in Half Cups.

Related links

White pizza with fennel seeds
Pizza bianca with rosemary
Pizza for lunch
River Cafe pizza dough

Links to pizza on other blogs

Susan at Farmgirl Fare is a great baker, setting up her own bakery, and knows a thing or two about pizza ... there are lots on her site
Lemon pizza from the Wednesday Chef .. yes, I'm not sure about that one, either ;)
Gluten-free pizza from Karina's Kitchen

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Cucumber and mint salad

Cucumber has just started to turn up in my veg box, strongly and sweetly flavoured. It's delicious with mint from the garden roughly chopped, a good squeeze of lemon juice, and a tiny drizzle of oil. Mmm

Delicious ...

... well, for the snails, anyway!

Monday, May 26, 2008

George Perry-Smith's salmon with ginger and currants

This is an adaptation of an old English recipe, made famous by the Bath restaurateur George Perry-Smith, who ran The Hole in the Wall there in the 1950s and 60s. A friend of ours used to work there, but that's not how I know this recipe; I associate it with Lucius's cousin Sarah, London caterer extraordinaire, who often featured it on her party menus.

If you think that currant and ginger paste sounds like an odd mixture, even odder served with salmon, all I can do is urge you to give it a go .... it's a rich tradition, reminiscent of a Moroccan bastilla, a Sicilian pasta con sarde. It's one of those useful dishes that are good hot or cold; the paste also makes up for any shortcomings in the fish, unfashionable though it is to admit that you buy farmed salmon (Shetland is best).

My recipe came from Simply the Best, by Tamasin Day-Lewis, although I see from a quick Google that she's recycled it into several of her books. She wouldn't be pleased that I'm not using wild salmon, and I feel childishly pleased at defying her bossy strictures because, although she's a terrific writer and cook, she brings out the worst in me, and I'm not alone: here's Barking Kitten on Tamasin.

My main changes related, as always, to saturates. So I didn't use a butter-rich shortcrust, I used olive oil pastry. And I made the ginger and currant paste with a little almond oil rather than butter. The paste was fine, I didn't miss the butter, indeed I preferred the cleaner taste you get when you omit butter. The olive oil pastry tasted fine, as it always does, but compromised the look of the thing, because olive oil pastry is best arranged in a swag-bag style, rather like a gigantic shu-mei dimsum. It was just that I didn't quite work that out in time, and tried to make it as if I was using shortcrust, making a seam underneath and decorating with cut-outs in the shape of fishes. None of that worked, as you see.

Salmon baked in pastry with currants and ginger

for 3 or 4

500g fillet of salmon
1 quantity of olive oil pastry
3 globes of ginger in syrup
25g currants
a little oil

Start by making the olive oil pastry - there's no doubt it behaves better when it has rested for an hour or more. You'll need 150g plain flour, a pinch of salt, 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil, and up to 125 ml iced water; full instructions are here. If you're in a hurry, you could try using shaken hot water pastry, which doesn't need resting, and which is a traditional French recipe for butterless pastry.

Heat the oven to 220C / Gas 7 / 425F

Make a paste of ginger and currants, adding a little oil if necessary. I did this with a mortar in a pestle, it didn't take long as the ginger is squidgily soft. Spread this on the salmon, then wrap it in pastry.

Bake for half an hour.

Sarah's version of this uses a whole filleted salmon, the paste underneath. Tamasin's version uses two 500g fillets (for 6) sandwiched with the paste. She also serves it with Sauce Messine, a green cream and egg yolk concoction. We had a little salsa verde, with less anchovy than usual.

Links to other fish recipes

Monkfish with ginger and saffron
Anchovy garlic and caper sauce
Baked scallops
Haddock and prawn stew with saffron

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Lavender syrup

A few weeks ago, I bought a large pot of dried lavender for cooking. It was an impulse: I'd never seen culinary lavender flowers on sale before, and I'd read a rash of recipes for lavender cupcakes and lavender shortbread. I don't know what I was thinking, because we don't do that sort of cooking or eating. So it sat gathering dust, unopened - until today.

The deadline for this month's Heart of the Matter is looming (it's Friday), and I haven't yet made anything. The theme is herbs, so I decided to make something with the lavender. This syrup was inspired by a lavender jam recipe I read at Once Upon a Tart. It's too runny and thin to qualify as jam, and it's not a jelly because it's full of flowerheads. Syrup it is.

The scent of lavender was overpowering when I finally opened the pot; now the syrup is heavy with floral perfume. Sunshine in a jar.

This will be good with yoghurt, on toast, with roast lamb. And once we've all become addicted, the lavender in the garden will be ready to pick, and I should think it will be even better with fresh flowers than with dried.

Lavender syrup

10g dried lavender
50g caster sugar
2 tablespoons of honey
150ml Marsala
100ml crème de cassis
120ml water

Put all the ingredients into a heavy saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer for about 30 minutes, until you have a syrup. Pour into a sterilised jar.

Heart of the Matter is hosted this month by Michele at The Accidental Scientist. The theme is herbs, and the deadline is Friday.

Links to other herb recipes

Butternut squash with parsley and mint
Three herb stuffing for roast chicken
Steak with lemon and thyme
Grilled trout with rosemary stuffing
Mushroom and tarragon sauce for pasta

Lavender on other blogs
(NB, these are not free from saturated fats)

Lavender ice cream from La Tartine Gourmande
Nigella's lavender cupcakes from Albion Cooks (& lavender sugar)
Lavender-crusted duck magret from Chocolate and Zucchini
Lavender and mint tea from Andrea's Recipes
Lavender cocktails from A Wee Bit of Cooking

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Clarissa Dickson Wright's nettle beer

Here is a rare recipe for this blog: one I haven't tried. But it's nettle time of year; Gertrude asked me for the instructions but didn't leave an email address, so here they are. I know that there's a lot of interest in cooking with nettles, because my posts about nettle soup and nettle tea are amongst the most visited on Joanna's Food, particularly at this time of year, when they grow with such profusion.

I'm giving CDW's exact instructions, as found in A Greener Life. There is some suggestion that this helps with rheumatism; not sure I believe it, but it sounds worth a try.

Nettle beer

makes 4.5 litres

1 kilo of young nettle tops
zest and juice of 2 lemons
25g cream of tartar
500g demerara sugar or honey
4.5l water
15g brewers' yeast

Wear rubber gloves to pick the nettle tops. Wash and drain them. Place the lemon zest and juice, cream of tartar and sugar or honey in a large container, preferably an earthenware fermenting vessel. Put the nettles and water in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Boil for 15 minutes. (This can be done in two batches.) Strain the liquid into the lemon juice mixture. Stir well. Allow to cool to around 21C/70F. Remove a little of the liquid and make a paste with the yeast. Stir into a large container. Cover with a layer of thick cloth, tied down so that it doesn't sag into the liquid.

Leave in a warm place for three days to help the yeast to activate. Strain into bottles and cork loosely. Store in a cool, dark place. It is drinkable in one week, but ... the longer you keep it, the better it be.

This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Cate at Sweetnicks

Links to other posts about nettles

Nettle tea
Nettle soup

Links to nettles on other blogs

Nettle and ricotta frittata
from The Chocolate Lady
The Old Foodie on rennet from nettles
Chicken breast stuffed with nettles from Eating Britain

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

In my garden now ...

Better than the football, any day!

Banana cake for Alfred's birthday

This is the cake Alfred asks for every year ... it's a really simple, quick banana loaf, absolutely his favourite. I've tried other, richer, recipes, but none of them is as popular as this. It was given to me by my friend Clare Pelling, after she brought one for a tea party here (probably before Alfred was born). I call it Clare's banana cake; Clare calls it Jane's banana bread.

This recipe is so ancient that it's in imperial, the last unconverted recipe I use (just as well I've got scales which do both). I think that the original idea was to use a pound unpeeled weight of bananas, but I've always taken it to mean the peeled weight, with the result that this tastes very banana-ry. And I use homemade vanilla essence.

Alfred's banana cake

1 1/2 oz Flora
6 oz light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 lb bananas
6 oz self-raising flour
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Turn the oven on to 180C. Line a large loaf tin. Mix the Flora with the sugar, add the eggs and vanilla essence. Add the flour and bicarb, then the bananas - I put them in whole and let my Kenwood do the work (which saves washing up, too). Sometimes I mix them very smooth, although my children like it best if I leave a few lumps of banana to discover, oozing, in the finished cake.

Pour into the tin, and bake for up to an hour. I start checking after 45 minutes.

Leave to cool in the tin. Keeps well; freezes well. Popular at cricket tea.

Links to related posts

Vanilla extract
Nigella's banana cake
Healthy banoffee pie

Links to banana cakes on other blogs

Nupur's peanut butter banana bread for Heart of the Matter
David Lebovitz's banana cake and banana loaf
Marbled banana cake from Baking Bites

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Petit salé aux lentilles

Do you watch tv when you're pottering in the kitchen? I do; & couple of days ago I was half-watching an old episode of Rick Stein's gastro-journey through France, when his barge stopped at Kate Hill's place in Gascony - it was lovely to see one of my favourite bloggers, her kitchen and her garden. He borrowed her kitchen, and used it to make petit salé (don't know how to get the accent ... can anyone advise?***). Petit salé means lightly salted ... it's mostly pork, but I've also eaten a petit salé of duck breast.

If you consult Elizabeth David on lentilles au petit salé, she's not particularly helpful, as she instructs you to add a "piece of breast of salt pork", as if that's something you can easily find outside France. Rick Stein started with an ordinary piece of pork belly, which he salted himself ... he didn't have much time to spare, so left it to salt for four hours. I was in a different kind of hurry, which meant I salted it one evening to cook the next. This is the kind of forgiving cooking I like; which is to say that either method works fine.

There's another point here: belly of pork is a pretty fatty cut of meat (think streaky bacon) ... there was a time when it was more fat than meat. But the consumer preference for lean meat means that even this cut now has very little fat, although it still needs long slow cooking. I cut the skin off before serving. And I cooked it with lots and lots of vegetables.

Petit salé aux lentilles is traditional French cooking: you cook the meat and lentils, together with carrots, onions, celery and a generous bouquet garni of fresh herbs, then serve it in a soup plate with the cooking liquid. It's the kind of thing you might find on the menu at a Routiers cafe.

Petit salé

a boned half belly of pork
bouquet garni of fresh parsley bay thyme
some small onions
Puy lentils

Salt the pork for at least four hours, or overnight. You need to cover meat liberally, but not thickly. Put it in something non-reactive - I used a plastic box - and leave in the fridge until you're ready to cook.

Wash the salt off. Shake the meat dry. Put it skin side down in a heavy pan (Stein used a le Creuset, I used stainless steel). Cover with cold water, add the bouquet garni, and simmer for 50 minutes.

Turn the meat, then add a couple of handfuls of lentils. After about 15 minutes, add small onions (I used shallots, because that's what there was), chunks of carrot, slices of celery. Rick Stein also added chunks of smoked sausage, but I thought that was unnecessarily gilding the lily - I want to end up with more vegetable than meat on each plate. Carry on simmering until everything is ready .. you want the meat to have been cooking for about an hour and a half in total (so don't turn the carrots into batons).

Remove the meat; peel off the skin; carve into thick slices. Serve in a soup plate with plenty of vegetables and a little cooking juice, together with a garnish of finely chopped parsley. Mmm

PS you may have noticed ED's shift of emphasis in name for this recipe: hers is a lentil dish with meat and no other vegetables, apart from a chopped onion. The method and seasoning is identical.

*** huge thanks to Alex at Eating Leeds for explaining to me the intricacies of the acute accent: I'm putting the explanation + link here for anyone else who is interested, and so that I can refer to it when I need, say, a grave accent, or a ç edilla (I'm showing off now, but, as so often with show-offs, I've got my come-uppance, because I can't make it work without the gap between the c and the rest of the word).

This is what you do:
here's the link to Andy's list of html character codes

OK - on Andy's page you need to look at the very first column, headed
'Entity'. For lower case e-acute it has: eacute.

To get blogger to render this properly ... type & eacute; WITHOUT THE GAP AFTER the &.

You can just type this straight into the normal editing pane. If you want to
check whether or not it will come out properly, just hit the preview button.
Once blogger's previewed it, it will display properly in the normal editing
pane too.

After a while you should find it quite intuitive ... as things like a-grave
are just & agrave; and c-cedilla is & ccedil; etc etc.

Thanks Alex!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Happy 3rd birthday!

Today is this blog's third birthday - and the first time I've ever managed to remember the anniversary. Lemon drizzle cake is in order.

I started Joanna's Food on a whim ... I'd made kedgeree in a new, heart-healthy way, which I knew could be improved; I didn't want to forget what I'd done, so I needed to make a note of it and my manuscript recipe book was already full to bursting. I didn't bother to think up a fancy name, but stuck to the purely descriptive. It didn't occur to me then that anyone apart from me would read this stuff, I just thought it would be easier to share recipes with friends because I'd be able to print them out. Ha!

I've always blogged principally to please myself (which is why there are periodic posts about flowers, especially tulips, sweet peas and dahlias; and about anything else that takes my fancy). I've been too lazy to venture beyond the Blogger template, although that's going to change in the coming weeks and months. And I'm not tech-y enough to make the most of the tools that exist to maximise traffic ... I am happy to have made some good friends in the blogosphere, to have had some fun days out with other food bloggers, to have taken part in some great blog events, and with Ilva (Lucullian Delights) and later Michelle (The Accidental Scientist) to have founded Heart of the Matter. Thank you all for reading this far - the community of food blogging means a lot to me, and has been very supportive at times over the past three years.

To be serious for a moment, this blog has always been principally about the journey our family made after my husband's heart attack. We were lucky, despite the terrific shock we all had, despite the intimations of mortality. We were given advice by the medics which was difficult to put into practice ... here is the record of our baby steps.

Proper food, cooked from scratch at home, mainly vegetables, more fish than meat, pulses (though I can't claim that any of my family love them as I do, frozen peas the honourable exception), plenty of olive oil, a little dark chocolate, not too much fuss. And, mostly, we've done it.

Cake, you may wonder? On a blog where no-one's supposed to eat butter, and everyone's supposed to be cutting down on fats? Well, it's not an everyday event here; this one's comparatively light; it's made with fruit, as are virtually all the cakes I make (lemon zest has lots to recommend it) ... and today we're following the 80:20 rule

A few key posts

Looking through three years of posts, I see that there are gaps which need filling (for instance, I thought I had written about citrus zest, but no). Here, though, is a random selection of things I wish I had known when we began

Some basic rules

Salsa verde
Onions, garlic - and skordalia
Getting started - and homemade muesli
Rosemary citrus salt
Affordable superfoods (winterish)
Shaken hot water pastry
Mount Athos diet: chickpea patties
Butterbeans with lemon and maple syrup
Olive oil pastry

That list was compiled quickly, and, checking over it, I see that I haven't included any fish recipes ... every time I post one, I get an appreciative comment or email from Ed Bruske, the amazing DC gardener and Slow Cook who grows vegetables in his front garden less than a mile from the White House (and if you want to see a film about composting, you'll find he's got lots of sensible things to say on the subject). So here's a link to the entire fish section to trawl through if you feel like it ... you'll find lots of things to do with oily fish. And I'm pleased to discover that the fish section of this blog is the second largest, beaten only by the vegetable section. You'll also find my all-time most-read post, the extremely delicious baked scallops ... I hope that a few of you have made them already, and that, if you have not, you might give them a try.

Links to some of the blogs I love

Book the Cook
Bread Water Salt Oil
Figs Olives/Bay Wine (not active at the moment, but we live in hope)
Garlic Breath
Tanna at The Half Cup
Kate Hill's Kitchen Adventure
Lucullian Delights
Mostly Eating
Venice Daily photo (not active at the moment, but what a back catalogue!)
Today I am mostly ... counting blessings and living in the moment

Those are filed in my feed reader under the heading blogs I read daily. I hate the thought of leaving out the section headed fantastic food blogs, and the one headed great garden blogs ... but I'll come back to them another day soon, or maybe even later today if I find another moment.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Carrots and capers

So delicious. This is adapted from Marcella Hazan via the wonderful Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska (how's that for a great name, even better concept?). We ate these for supper last night, and I know they will be a staple of this kitchen.

I was a little worried that cooking the parsley would make it go that rather nasty dark grey colour, but it was still bright green after 10-15 minutes, so I didn't feel the need to add the extra raw parsley I'd kept back for the purpose. And I didn't use garlic. So I'm posting my recipe, whereas Laurie posts the Hazan original. I am deliberately vague about the quantities: put in as much parsley as you need to make it look pretty, and roughly equal quantities of capers. If the idea of capers seems daunting, try a few, and I bet you'll put more the second time you make it ...

Carrots and capers

Capers, rinsed and dried
Olive oil
finely chopped parsley

Prepare carrots by scraping and cutting into strips as if you were making crudites. Fry them gently in a little olive oil for a couple of minutes, then add the parsley and a little water. Cook until all the water is gone and the carrots are tender (add more water if necessary). Stir in the capers and carry on cooking the carrots in the oil that remains in the pan until everything is amalgamated.

This is my entry for Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Gay at A Scientist in the Kitchen ... a little cheeky, as Laurie was last week's host

Other things to do with carrots

Carrot bites
Carrots cooked in orange juice, with anchovy dressing
Three root mash

Links to interesting carrot posts on other blogs

Carrot and corn masala at Monsoon Spice
Braised Carrots with Garlic, Thyme and White Wine at Daily Unadventures in Cooking

Monday, May 12, 2008

Chickpea and spinach curry

Here's something quick and delicious to do with a tin of chickpeas for a cheap supper.

Chickpea and spinach curry

1 medium onion, finely chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp mild curry powder
one small knob of fresh ginger, grated
1 small red chilli, finely chopped
1 x 400g tin of chickpeas
200 ml coconut milk
120g mushrooms, sliced
juice of a lemon
1 stick of lemongrass
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Thai fish sauce
two handfuls of spinach leaves, chopped

coriander or parsley

Fry the onion and garlic in a little oil until soft. Add the curry powder, ginger and chilli, together with the chickpeas, coconut milk, mushrooms, lemon juice, and lemongrass. Bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, pick over the spinach and shred it. Add it to the curry, together with the soy and fish sauces, and cook, covered, for five minutes.

Scatter coriander or parsley over this to serve.

We ate this with boiled Jersey new potatoes, the first of the season. This may sound an odd choice, but Lucius prefers potatoes above all other starch (with the possible exception of toast). It's WONDERFUL the next day cold for lunch.

I have adapted this from a recipe in Sarah Raven's Garden Book ... she uses kale, but it's not that time of year. I can see that we'll be eating this all year round

Other things to do with chickpeas

Mount Athos diet / chickpea patties
Mount Athos chickpea patties, an update
Chickpea mash

More curry

Spicy prawns

Related links to other blogs

Chickpea hotpot - 101 recipes
Crispy roasted chickpeas, from Kalyn's Kitchen

Issy made a wedding cake

This beautiful wedding cake was made by our lovely niece Issy for the marriage of her cousin Tom to Sarah. She took the day off work on Friday to make it. Beautiful AND delicious.

Related links

Wendy made a wedding cake, too, on the same day

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Tree houses

I took this photograph of our tree house last week, just before it disappears behind its cloak of oak leaves for the summer. As I took it, I wondered if I could find an excuse to publish it on my blog, and thought not. Sadly, I now have.

Several years ago Lucius, a talented amateur carpenter, started building this treehouse on a whim. It was this time of year, and it took him most of his free time for the whole of that summer. Our near neighbours watched the progress with interest and enthusiasm. So did passersby.

In the autumn, we had a visit from a planning official, who said that there had been a complaint, and that we needed planning permission for "the building". It was a while before we were able to find out who had complained: a man who lives on the opposite side of the valley, who needed a pair of binoculars to see it - and then only in the winter, when the leaves of the oak tree had fallen. It seemed almost incredible that anyone could complain about such a beautiful structure, built on seven levels, with an octagonal lantern at the top. It was deeply upsetting.

Happily, the planners unreservedly took our side, and we did not have to demolish the treehouse. Now, however, I find that the builders of another fine treehouse are having similar troubles (thanks Allotment Lady) ... and if you are a British citizen you can help out by signing the petition lodged at Downing Street. I'll keep you posted on how it goes ... even though the only connection with food is that our treehouse has been the venue for a number of fine picnics, particularly in poor weather.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The first strawberries

Ridiculous Mrs Elton, chattering her stream of consciousness at Mr Knightley's strawberry-picking party (I'm re-reading Jane Austen's Emma) ... she brought me up short this morning.

The best fruit in England - everybody's favourite - always wholesome. -These the finest beds and finest sorts. -Delightful to gather for one's self - the only way of really enjoying them. -Morning decidedly the best time - never tired - every sort good - hautboy infinitely superior - no comparison - the others hardly eatable - hautboys very scarce - Chili preferred
???!? Chili preferred ?!!!? - white wood finest flavour of all - price of strawberries in London - abundance about Bristol - Maple Grove - cultivation - beds when to be renewed - gardeners never to be put out of their way - delicious fruit - only too rich to be eaten much of - inferior to cherries - currants more refreshing - only objection to gathering strawberries the stooping - glaring sun - tired to death - could bear it no longer - must go and sit in the shade.

It turns out that until the mid-18th century, there were two sorts of strawberries, both wild: Chili and Virginian, and that these were accidentally crossed in France, the first genetic modification for what was ultimately to become the large modern strawberry. The process was clearly well under way by the early 19th century - Mrs E has several to choose from.

The ones I ate outside in the sunshine for breakfast were large, sweet and juicy, and grown in the next county. Obviously under a sea of plastic, but - well, who could resist them? The best fruit in England.

Best not to mock, even those who seem foolish.

Related posts

Eton Mess
Sir Walter Raleigh's strawberry vodka cordial
Innocent's strawberry smoothie recipe
Strawberry sponge

Links to strawberries on other blogs

Strawberry panzanella - 101 Cookbooks
Strawberry watermelon agua fresca
Strawberry sour cream bread - Closet Cooking

Monday, May 05, 2008

Book meme: Honey from a Weed by Patience Gray

Like Fiona, I'm subverting this meme. You're supposed to pick up the nearest book (and in this house, I'm rarely further than one foot away from the nearest teetering pile); you can't do that if you decide to give the meme a culinary flavour, because the next instruction is to open it at a particular page and post three particular sentences.

1 green and 1 red pepper. 6 tomatoes. 1 large garlic clove, skinned and chopped. Great, that's got you all running off to consult Claire Macdonald. So I had a think, chose Honey from a Weed by Patience Gray, and, amazingly, found it on a shelf. This is what I found:

You eat the delicious but bony fishes with your fingers and mop up the liquor with bread. Is this infanticide? Are these rosy scorpion fish of a dwarf kind like the brownish
scorpaena notata (see Mediterranean Seafood p 146) which also appear on the fishmonger's platter or, if left in the sea would they grow up?

This comment comes after a recipe for a soup of little rockfish, and, although it sounds strikingly like the sort of breast-beating you might expect to find in the current copy of The Observer, Honey with a Weed was a lifetime's project, 20 years in the writing and first published in 1986. Anyone with a serious interest in the food of the Mediterranean, or slow food, or delicious eating, should read this erudite and entertaining book.

PS the real instructions for the meme are below, although it would be much better if you chose a cookery book, opened it at p 123 and then chose three consecutive interesting sentences (which is what I did). I tag (no pressure):

Riana at Garlic Breath
Tanna at My Kitchen in Half Cups
Francois-Xavier at FX Cuisine
Kate Hill at A French Kitchen Adventure
Nicole at Farm to Philly, who is organising this year's One Local Summer, and I hope you will all join in.

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

Thanks Fiona!

Related posts

The secret of cooking is the release of fragrance
A cure for depression
Shakespeare and St George

Saturday, May 03, 2008

HotM 14: Brunch, the round-up

We do breakfast in this house. I'm not sure what the difference between breakfast and brunch is, but, no matter what time we get up, it's breakfast all the way here. And looking at the entries this month, it seems to me that brunch is misnamed, because it seems to be interpreted as a cross between breakfast and elevenses. Brevenses, anyone? Elefast?

At Lucullian Delights, co-founder Ilva's OVEN ROASTED PROSCIUTTO WRAPPED ASPARAGUS is fantastic ... I've found that if you want to eat at least five-a-day, you've got to make a good start first thing. Here, the asparagus season is just beginning, so I think this is going to become a favourite.

Chris at Mele Cotte has made a Buckwheat Groats Scramble, and includes loads of useful information about buckwheat (aka kasha), and heart-healthy hazelnut oil.

Ann at Redacted Recipes has made something that is sure to become a favourite with my funghi-loving daughter: Roasted Mushroom Breakfast Bruschetta. Ann's also included lots of nutritional information (I had no idea mushrooms were so good for you!), and a link to a site with help for those of us who can't poach an egg (I leave that to Horatio, who has been brilliant at egg-poaching since he was about six).

Aagje at Labelga gives us a new take on an old favourite: Porridge with millet flakes, dried fruit and nuts ... it's too easy to think that porridge can only be made with oats, and this makes a great change.

Lisa at Little Bits gives us an original creation: Polenta, Tofu & Veggie Bake ... the silken tofu lightens the polenta, and there are loads of vegetables too. And for those of us afraid of tofu, Lisa gives some good tips for using the silken sort in everyday cooking.

Lore's healthy brunch is open sandwiches and a fruit salad. She makes a little cheese go a long way - which is one of the secrets of heart-healthy eating - and makes sure of plenty of fruit and veg to start the day.

French Toast with Fruit is on the menu at Green Gourmet Giraffe. It's a vegan version, and well worth checking out .. rhubarb to go with it, too. Mmm

Jeanne at Cook Sister has made Oat and cherry muffins using a recipe from a muffin cookery book she bought on impulse the other day. I never have much luck with muffins, but these look worth a try - lots of oats, and nutty wholemeal flour.

At Food for Laughter I found Something Light and Lovely - Artichoke Frittata, which I would never have thought of eating in the morning (see what I mean about breakfast and brunch?), but which I'm going to try. Lore uses bottled artichokes, and we'd have to, too, if we made it this weekend, but pretty soon there will be masses of fresh artichokes from the garden, and then this recipe will come into its own for me.

Nearly forgot ... here's my post about making porridge the slow way, using oatmeal, rather than faster flakes, and a polenta-ish way with any leftovers.

Let me know if I've forgotten anyone ... thank you all for taking part, there are lots of good ideas here for me to try for brunch in the garden on Monday, when we have a bank holiday. Michelle at Accidental Scientist will soon be making an announcement about next month's Heart of the Matter theme. You'll find this round-up, and all the previous ones too, on the Heart of the Matter website.

Related posts

Kippers - without stinking out the house
Smoked haddock
More things for breakfast
Kedgeree (my very first blog post)
Frying pan bread - a quick fix for the disorganised
Baked pears with pinenuts