30 September 2012

Mushrooms and Beans on Toast with Garlic, Lemon, Parsley and Chili

One of my favourite lunchtime quick fixes, humble mushrooms on toast become quite luxurious with a few added ingredients. Fragrant, comforting and ready in 10 minutes. This is not a precise recipe and things can easily be omitted or substituted - just use what is in the fridge and cupboards.

Butter Beans
Fresh Parsley
Freash Thyme
Dried Chili
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
Sourdough Toast

Slice the garlic, chop the mushrooms roughly and crush the dried chili. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan and chuck in the garlic and dried chili. After a minute or two, add the mushrooms and thyme. Fry until the mushrooms start to colour, then squeeze over some lemon juice. After another minute or so, add the beans and let them warm through. Season generously with salt and pepper and stir in the parsley. Serve on buttered toast and finish with some grated lemon zest on top and, if you are feeling spicy, a bit of extra chili.

27 September 2012

Garlic and Parmesan Hasselback Potatoes

I can't believe I haven't made Hasselback Potatoes once since I moved to London 12 years ago! Until now, that is. They are so good and a really nice alternative to normal (but always lovely) roast potatoes. The other week I suddenly remembered about these gorgeous thinly sliced crispy things and decided to add a couple of ingredients to the original recipe to make them truly scrumptious. Here it goes:

Parmesan Cheese
Salt and Pepper

Wash the potatoes and dry them with some kitchen towel. Slice as thinly as you possibly can for ultimate crispiness, being careful not to cut all the way through the potatoes so they stay whole. The trick to this is to put a wooden spoon handle right next to the potato whilst you slice it to stop the knife going all the way down. Make a garlic butter by adding a few crushed cloves and plenty of salt and pepper to some room temperature butter. Put a knob of this on each potato, grate some Parmesan over the top and bake in the oven for around an hour at 180 degrees. Dig in!

23 September 2012

Pretty and Pink

Roses, three bunches for a fiver, from Columbia Road. Extra cheap on rainy days.

20 September 2012

Gilbert Scott Bar

Years ago we visited what used to be the Midland Grand Hotel on Open House Day. The building next to St Pancras station always seemed so intriguing and I remember how exciting it was to go inside. Best of all was the story about the women's smoking room - the hotel was the first place in Europe where women were allowed to smoke in public. Now the hotel has been re-opened, and the other week we went for a drink at the Gilbert Scott bar. The room is spectacular...and of course strictly non smoking. Funny how things change!

17 September 2012

Blackberry and Spicy Boozy Pear Tart

As far as experiments go, I have to say this was a very successful one. I love baking but don't often attempt other things than sponge cakes. But inspired by GBBO, I decided to have a go at pastry and came up with this rather delicious little thing. I wanted to use pears and thought it could be interesting to poach them in something alcoholic, like when you do wine poached pears as a dessert. Instead of wine I used spice rum which gave the whole thing a warm, gorgeous taste, and as I used quite firm pears, cooking them took the edge off that crunch. To add extra spice I chucked in some whole cardamom pods too. On their own, the pears tasted quite alcoholic, but together with the creme patissiere and the pastry, they were amazing.

250 gms Plain Flour
125 gms Butter
1 tbsp Sugar
A pinch of Salt

3 Pears
A punnet of Blackberries
2 dl of Spiced Rum
10 Whole Cardamom Pods

400 ml Milk
1 Vanilla Pod
3 Egg Yolks
80 gms Sugar
25 gms Plain Flour
4 Tbsp Corn Flour

First make the pastry. Blitz the butter and flour in a mixer until it resembles bread crumbs. Add the sugar and salt and work it with your hands until it holds together. Shape into a ball, wrap it in clingfilm and put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
In the meantime, prepare the pears. Wash them and cut them into halves, remove the stalks and cores then slice them thinly. Put the rum in a saucepan, add the pears and cardamom pods and place over a medium heat. Simmer very gently for around 10 minutes, although this will depend on how firm the pears are - bite into one to check they have the desired texture. Turn the heat off and leave the pears in the liquid to cool down.
Roll the pastry out a floured surface. Line your tart tin with the pastry and prick the bottom with a fork. Cut a circle of greaseproof paper out, line the tart with it and put some baking beans on top. Bake for 20 minutes at 180 degrees or until the pastry is a light golden colour.
For the creme patissiere, pour the milk into a saucepan, add the vanilla pod and heat it up until it is almost boiling. Mix the eggs, sugar, flour and corn flour in a bowl. Add the warm milk gradually, mixing in between to ensure there are no lumps. Pour everything back into the pan and put it over a medium heat. Stir continuously until it thickens. Pour into a bowl and immediately place some clingfilm over the top to prevent a  thick skin forming. Leave to cool.
To assemble, fill the pastry case with the creme patissiere. Drain the liquid from the pears, then arrange them neatly on top. Put some blackberries around the edge and dot another few on top of the pears. Carefully remove the tart from the tin - serve and enjoy!

14 September 2012

No maintenance gardening

Considering the amount of time I have spent gardening this year (none), it is a miracle that I have any fruit on my tomato plants at all. But nature is amazing and this is the proof. No feeding, hardly any watering. I didn't even pinch out side shoots and kept forgetting to tie the plants in. Now they just need to ripen - fingers crossed for a few more sunny days and then we will have tomato salad.

11 September 2012

Shrimpy's - Anniversary dinner at a petrol station

For our anniversary dinner, we went to Shrimpy's. I have been wanting to go for ages so was really happy to finally make it there. Shrimpy's is a pop up restaurant run by the people behind Bistrotheque and is located in a disused petrol station just up the road from King's Cross. Seated beneath a gorgeous painting of a giraffe, we had soft shell crab burgers and some lovely cocktails. The crowd was suitably young and fun and seemably temporarily migrated from East London. Best were the artworks by Donald Urquhart and the already mentioned giraffe.

9 September 2012

Sunny Sunday

View from my spot in the corner of the garden.

Another glorious day. The sun is beating down and all the colours are sort of amplified. This morning I sat in the garden and from my corner all I could see was blues and greens. And as a reminder that it is actually autumn, a cobweb suspended between the tomato plants and our neighbours' apple tree.

The other night I went for a walk around North London, I was on the way to dinner at some friends house. The evening light that hit the tops of buildings and trees and was the most amazing golden honey colour. I took deep breaths as if to inhale that light, to store it in my belly. Charging up before the dark months ahead.

5 September 2012

10,000 breakfasts in bed

For our anniversary, I gave my husband a new breakfast tray. Not a very exciting gift perhaps, but I did tell him the present includes 10,000 breakfasts in bed. That sounds like I am really going to spoil him, but actually I already bring him breakfast in bed every day, more for practical reasons than anything else - I wake up first, so it kind of makes sense. Only now it will come delivered on a pretty tray.

We did use to have another tray, but it fell behind a cupboard and is now lost forever. I love this new one from Liberty with the dark ground floral print. The tea cups are from Burleigh, purchased from their factory shop on a road trip.

3 September 2012

Late summer sky

View of the City from Hoxton Station.

So, as usual September throws up some unexpectedly warm and lovely weather. Today we had a gorgeous sunny day and a beautiful evening with that particular late summer soft, glowy light. I will leave the mashed potatoes for a few more days, and the wool jumpers can stay in the cupboard for a bit longer too.

2 September 2012

Grilled Broccoli with Peas, Mange Tout, Chilli and Mint

There is nothing wrong with plain steamed broccoli, but grilling makes it a bit more interesting and is a good way to extend ones broccoli recipe repertoire. I love this vegetable and think it is completely unfair that it has a somewhat dull reputation, so I am always happy to find new ways of cooking it. For this recipe you can use a griddle pan, stick it on the barbecue or just use a dry non stick frying pan. The mint and chilli on the top add some zing. A squeeze of lemon as a final touch might also be a nice idea. The dimensions are not very precise here - just add more or less of anything according to what you like!

1 Head of Broccoli
A handful of Mange Tout
Two handfuls of Frozen Peas
Half of one Red Chilli
A sprig of Fresh Mint
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Cook the broccoli slowly until it has softened slightly and has a charred surface. Boil the peas for a couple of minutes, adding the mange tout half way through. Finely slice the chilli and chop the mint leaves. Mix all the vegetables in a bowl, season with salt and pepper, drizzle over some olive oil and scatter the chilli and mint on top.

1 September 2012

Yellow and white

Sunflowers and white roses, a slightly unusual combination but don't they look amazing together?

It is the first of September and there is a definite chill in the air. The evenings are dark. I worry that my tomatoes will not get enough sunshine to ripen. Summer is over and there is a hint of melancholy about that. But. There are good things that come along with it too. This morning I had a flick through some cook books and felt more excited about future meals than I have in a long time. And also very hungry, hungry for proper big, comforting, hearty dinners. Coq au Vin. Chicken and mushroom pie. Boeuf bourguignon. Mashed potatoes. You get the idea. I can't wait to start going to the market again, buying kale and game and autumn fruits. 

Watch this space for good autumnal dinners - coming up soon!