Stirring Slowly

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The wonderful Stirring Slowly had been on my list for a while, but being an inherently lazy cook, when it comes to new recipes and meal inspiration more often than not I turn to Instagram or the internet and the mecca that is jamieoliver.com. But this recipe book is a game changer.

On the day it arrived it just so happened that I had all the ingredients for roasted sticky plum chicken with pickled cucumber (I mean, when does that ever happen?). A perfect late summer dish when the plums are still sweet and the cucumbers British. One recipe in and I was already consumed, thumbing pages and trotting off to the greengrocer for ingredients.

As it happens, when you have a young baby, lots of people want to come and visit. Which means cake. Lots of tea and cake. Funnily, one of my main reasons for buying the book was Georgie’s blondie recipe; I’ve heard great things but am still yet to make it. When you have recipes for malted milk chocolate and raspberry tart and pumpkin and ginger layer cake it is easy to become distracted. Whole afternoons disappeared while my four-month old baby slept; I probably should have been doing the washing, tidying the house or looking around nurseries. Instead I baked.

As I sit writing, perched on the table next to me is a still-warm-from-the-oven fennel and sausage muffin from Stirring Slowly. It’s a moody autumn day outside and the kitchen is filled with the warming aroma of fennel; it’s a herb I’ve come to love and a spice I don’t use enough. I’ve included the recipe below, not because it’s my favourite but because it’s comforting and versatile: breakfast, snack or paired with a lunchtime bowl of soup.

So I’m slowly working my way through what Jamie Oliver calls a ‘new modern classic’; Georgie’s total understanding of flavours makes for dishes which I will go back to time and time again; each recipe is balanced and restorative and although she does not proclaim herself to be overly health conscious (I’m looking at you banana loaf with peanut butter frosting), there is a wholesome quality to her cooking and in the blend of ingredients, both of which are influenced by her Greek-Cypriot heritage.

I urge you to get yourself a copy immediately so you have enough time to work your way through it before Georgie publishes her next book! Also have a look at her blog; Georgie is more than an accomplished cook, she is a wonderful writer. She is also a mother who has suffered tragic loss and her story is inspiring and heartwarming.

Next up, the Jerusalem artichoke and thyme barley risotto.

 

Fennel & Sausage Muffins

Ingredients

1 garlic clove

1 tsp fennel seeds

200g good-quality sausages, Italian if possible

1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes

150ml olive oil

1/2 bunch spring onions

350g plain flour

1.5 tbsp baking powder

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

2 large eggs

275ml full-fat milk

135ml buttermilk

200g mature cheddar

a few sprigs flat-leaf parsley

 

Preheat oven to 180°C/GM4 and line a muffin tray with cases

 

Peel and finely chop garlic, grind fennel seeds in a mortar and pestle and place a large non-stick frying pan on a medium-high heat. Squeeze the sausage meat out of the skins and place in the pan with the garlic, chilli flakes, fennel seeds and a glug of olive oil. Break up with a wooden spoon and fry until crisp and golden. Spoon the sausage meat on to a plate and leave to one side to cool.

 

Trim and finely slice the spring onions. Place most of them in a large bowl with the flour, baking powder and seasoning. In a jug whisk together the eggs, olive oil, milk and buttermilk.

 

Add most of the cooked and cooled sausage to the flour (reserving the rest to sprinkle on top of the muffins). Make a well in the middle and pour in the wet ingredients, then finely chop the parsley, add to the bowl and gently fold everything together. Do not over-mix or your muffins will be tough! A few lumps are ok.

 

Divide the batter between the cases and top with the remaining spring onions and sausage and grate over the remaining cheese. Bake the muffins for 18-20 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through. Leave them in the tray for 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool.

 

 

 

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Phatty Beet Burgers

While in The Big Apple last week, Mr W and I visited Smorgasburg; an outdoor food market in Williamsburg where vendors serve everything from corn dogs to Vietnamese dumplings and lobster rolls. Bamboozled by the choice – some 70 plus vendors are selected each year to take part in the weekly market – we spent a good hour running circles around the stands, sampling the wares.

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In a rare moment of weakness, overwhelmed by choice I plumped for a beetroot burger. Not a particularly normal decision when surrounded by some of the best barbecued meat outside of Texas. This ‘Calexico’ Phatty Beet Burger is the creation of Chickpea & Olive who use locally and organically sourced plant based ingredients. It oozed with daiya cheddar cheese (that delicious slightly orange US cheese phenomenon to us Brits), it melted under avocado and chipotle aioli and came studded with pickled red onions and jalapenos. In short, it was nothing short of life changing.

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Fast forward a week and I’m at Raynsfords my local greengrocer in Battersea with my hands inexplicably drawn to a bunch of earthy looking beetroot. A couple of days later – after a failed attempt at peeling the suckers which resulted in a trip to A&E – beetroot are grated and combined with eggs and porridge oats and made into patties. I loosely used this recipe for the burgers, adding ricotta rather than feta or tofu.

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In the absence of any orange American cheese I have grated a combination of Keen’s Cheddar, an usual variety of Gouda and Parmesan and made some soft cheese ‘crisps’ to layer in between the brioche, cucumber, lettuce and avocado. I combine mustard, ketchup and mayo which spreads on to the brioche, before meeting the beetroot patty and a couple of cornichon.

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The patties are perfect and meaty; they hold their shape and don’t ooze as much as the Chickpea & Olive version meaning that the whole burger holds it’s shape better. A perfect supper for Meat Free Monday!

Islington Sur Mer

It was a day which promised rain, fish and chips and a blustery walk along the beach. In true British style, mid-April we had taken our swimmers along with us. Just in case.

Of course, being of an excitable temperament whenever I see the sea, it was less than half an hour after arriving in Whitstable that we found ourselves wrapped in too-small towels running down to the water. Cue strange looks from passers by on the beach as we took the plunge into the icy depths*.

Of course there is only one way to warm up after such an alarming ordeal

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A tumbler of Breton cidre!
I tried to book a table at the very pink Wheelers Oyster Bar; the kitsch palour is famed for it’s simple menu and offering of oysters.
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Sadly they were full so I booked table at The Royal Native Oyster Stores instead. However by the time lunch came around, the sun had put it’s hat on and we thought better of sitting inside, instead taking a pew on the pebbles at the lobster shack we’d spied on the beach.
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We sat basking in the sunshine, devouring half lobsters and chips, sprinkled with vinegar and lashings of salt served with great big dollops of mayonnaise and some token lettuce leaves.
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Half a dozen native rock oysters were the freshest I’ve tasted in a long while; straight from the sea to cardboard plate.
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The empty shells are piled in mounds on the beach, awaiting return to the sea where they are put to good use on the sea bed creating ‘clutch’ which encourages baby oysters to settle.
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After devouring salted caramel ice creams, we walked along the beach in search of a pub past clapboard houses and cottages with brightly painted front doors.
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I’m told there are lots of brilliant vintage and antiques shops down the lanes around Whitstable; sadly we were too distracted with cider, lobster and sunshine to find them so I’ll have to go back another time.
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*shallows on the mud flats where the water is supposedly warmer. Fully immersed but little ‘actual’ swimming achieved.

At The Chapel

I’d been to At The Chapel before; breaking the long journey from Cornwall to London at this restored medieval chapel. That time we stopped for a pizza – local mozzarella and chorizo – which arrived at the table hot from the wood fired oven.

This time I was staying, lured back by the bakery and promise of fresh croissants delivered to your door in the morning.

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Beautifully designed with a laid back atmosphere and friendly staff, the hotel in Bruton is a hidden gem in the middle of the rolling Somerset countryside.

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A short walk away is Hauser and Wirth, the gallery at Durslade Farm which is also home to The Roth Bar & Grill which serves seasonal local food, much from the farm itself.

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We strolled from the hotel through muddy fields and past allotments where the first signs of spring were showing.

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We spent an afternoon exploring the gallery and gardens and the dangerously good collection of cookery books in the shop. I resisted but mentally added Persiana, The Ethicurean and Kinfolk Table to my already groaning bookshelf. Returning to the hotel we settled in for tea complete with flaky pastries and afternoon cocktails.

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We ate the hotel, sampling the entirety of the menu in the three days we were there; food is relaxed and there is an emphasis on local producers. Just my cup of tea. The ricotta gnudi was so good that we went in search of the farm where it is produced hopeful that we might buy some; we weren’t disappointed.

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Westcombe is a dairy farm famous for its white truffle cheddar and the ricotta they produce is supplied to Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurants around the UK. We sampled great hunks of their cheddar and Duckett’s Caerphilly. We peaked our noses into the cave where the wheels of cheddar are left to mature and best of all we left with a pot of the creamiest ricotta I’ve ever tasted and was so inspired that I vowed to try making it at home (which you’ll know about if you follow me on Instagram).

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Of course it rained which we used as an excuse to find a cosy pub and sit fireside with pints (half for me!) and pork pie.

Reluctant to leave yet full to the brim with croissants, bread and pastries we made our way home to London, stopping on the way at The Beckford Arms. Being a Saturday, the restaurant and bar were full but we were hungry so we found a nook in a comfy old sofa by the fire and devoured manly sized portions of oozing Welsh Rarebit, topped off with shots of Guinness.

Broadway

London has its fair share of markets, from vintage clothing and antiques at Portobello, to flowers at Columbia Road and the grocers of Covent Garden who supply some of this city’s top restaurants; each has something different on offer. In the realm of food markets we are spoilt for choice, not only for produce but also the street vans that flock to feed hungry foodies and tourists every weekend. Borough Market is no exception to this but is more famed for the quality of its producers; hours can be spent idling away a Saturday morning by tasting your way through charcuterie, cheeses and artisan breads.

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But often it is the smaller and lesser known markets which are the real gems; Maltby Street is just round the corner from Borough Market in Bermondsey. Supposedly the market here first appeared when the competition for Borough Market was so great that a number of producers struck out on their own and set up under the railway arches on Rope Walk.

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Early on a brisk Saturday morning last Autumn I found myself at Maltby Street eating an oozing Cheese Truck toasted sandwich for breakfast (with a side of bacon). Never go to a market when hungry; it’s torture. There is a doughnut hatch courtesy of St John Bakery, Monty’s Deli infamous salt beef sandwiches and a mean Bloody Mary served by the Little Bird Gin ‘bar’.

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And then there’s Broadway Market where you will find grocers, bakers and butchers but also an array of incredibly tasty stalls too; Hansen & Lydersen’s beautiful smoked salmon tartines, crepes, Climpson & Sons coffee and hot jellied eel.

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Stalls are packed back to back along the street and just when you think you’ve reached the end, a chalkboard directs you to the School Yard where yet more awaits! To be precise, a small table with oysters sitting on a red and white checked cloth surrounded by shallots, chilli, lemons and parsley; an old sea dog stood waiting for his customers to spy him amongst the food vans, ready with his shuck and the pearls of the sea.

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I picked up some cod cheeks and scallops for ceviche at the fishmonger before heading back to where I started for a bahn mi; perfectly crisp morsels of pork, pickled vegetables and chilli sauce in a rice flour baguette. Perfect Saturday snacking!

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Buttermilk Ice Cream

I first stumbled upon The Bojon Gourmet a few months ago when I had an excess of buttermilk in the fridge. I was searching for a recipe that would let the buttermilk shine; often it is lost in recipes or plays second fiddle to stronger ingredients. As it isn’t apricot season, I passed on the opportunity to make apricot and buttermilk cake again, although  when summer comes I’ll be thanking my lucky stars if we have a glut of any soft stone fruit.

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And so it was that I found Alanna’s recipe for buttermilk ice cream and her beautiful blog. An ex pastry chef, she creates well balanced recipes using seasonal and happy produce; a lady after my own heart. Most of her recipes are gluten free and many are vegetarian.

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The first time I made the ice cream I followed the recipe ounce for ounce; it was decliously creamy and smooth in consistency and remarkably tangy (thanks to the buttermilk). More recently, for a healthier alternative, I replaced the sugar with maple syrup and the cream with semi-skimmed milk; the ice cream was lighter and very refreshing, especially when served freshly churned with blood orange ceviche.  

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Luckily I have a KitchenAid ice cream maker, but if you don’t have one or something similar, you can do the churning by hand; place the mixture in a container in the freezer and beat with a fork every half an hour to obtain a fluffy consistency.

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La Ville-Lumière

I remember holidays pre world wide web; European cities were mysterious and hard to navigate places – don’t even get me started on buses – and restaurants a gamble unless you possessed a hefty tome of a Michelin guide. Now, with so much information at our fingertips, there is no excuse to spend days with your head in a map, frustrated come 9pm when you don’t have a dinner reservation. We are a generation of informed travellers.

Thus it was that I returned to The City of Light this weekend, armed with a list of cafes, buildings, restaurants and flea markets, mostly thanks to instagram and the global blogging community. I have been to Paris numerous times; each trip a less touristy version of the former with an increasing emphasis on patisserie, aperos and cosy dinners.

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On this occasion I was lucky enough to be visiting one of my best friends who has been in Paris for a few months. After an apero at home – read bottle of champagne – on Friday night, we jumped in a cab and made our way across town for dinner and drinks with friends.

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Nursing slightly sore heads the following morning but eager to make the most of the day, we enthusiastically sprung out of bed, into the patisserie beneath the flat and on to the Metro with our still warm from the oven croissants.

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After a morning searching out antiques and bargains at the Marche aux Puces Saint Ouen, we made our way towards the Marais.

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After a quick refuel in the sunshine on Place des Voges at Cafe Carette we wandered the streets in search of L’eclair de Genie and Merci; the ultimate destination for the best in household goods, furniture and fashion all under one roof. If we hadn’t already made plans for lunch I could easily have whiled away the afternoon in the Used Book Cafe.

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But we did have a plan and so headed down Boulevard Beaumarchais to Maison Bastille, a beautiful salon de thé specialising in all things petit-dej, brunch and cake. We arrived at lunch time but opted for the brunch menu; €22 for a three course feast and endless tea and coffee.

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It’s a set menu and being a small cafe, service takes time but we weren’t in a hurry. A boiled egg arrived, complete with egg cosy and a basket of baguette.

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After smoked salmon with salmon pate, spinach and potato galette, it was time for matcha and raspberry cake, by which point my sweet tooth protested in alarm after a morning of croissants and macaron.

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For a Saturday breakfast with friends in a quieter corner of the Marais, add Maison Bastille to your Paris to-do list.

More adventures from La Ville-Lumière coming soon.

Monthly Groceries

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut with food purchases. I’ve never been one to do a weekly shop at the supermarket but I will go to the greengrocer or market on a Saturday morning; this means that my shopping bag is ever changing and filled with seasonal fruit and veg. It’s important to experiment with new ingredients and more than anything this monthly round up will be a way to challenge myself to use new and different produce.

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Tumeric; I’ve always kept tumeric in my spice drawer, the deep orange powder a go-to for a curry but Laura of  The Green Forks sings it’s praises as a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory and suggests adding it to your morning juice. It is known to settle upset stomachs, curb joint pain and delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.

Chickpea Flour; a brilliant and natural gluten free alternative. Original inspiration came from Dolly & Oatmeal and I’ve since made pasta with Ottolenghi’s chickpea pancakes next on the hitlist

Romanesco, the most strangely beautiful vegetable; a brassica, it has a delicate nuttiness and lacks the bitter edge often found in cauliflower. Roast the florets for 15 minutes in some olive oil, salt and pepper and toss into a salad or alternatively try adding it to pasta with lemon zest, chilli, garlic and parmesan; once cooked it will easily crumble into orecchiette.

Perhaps my most exciting find this month was the brown paper bag offered to me by my local greengrocer. Inside I found baby kiwis, but these weren’t just any old kiwis; these were grown in London, on my doorstep in Battersea to be precise.

Rhubarb and Custard Cake

On the way out of London yesterday afternoon, we took a small detour via Richmond and popped into the teahouse at Petersham Nurseries for a cup of tea and slice of cake. The last time I went to Petersham Nurseries, I spent weeks after trying to recreate Skye Gyngell’s pear, almond and chocolate cake; eventually I cracked it and oh was it worth it!

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Syke Gyngell’s has since moved onto pastures new at Spring, Somerset House and the teahouse at Petersham along with the restaurant is now under the watchful eye of Damian Clisby, former head chef of HIX, Soho.

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The charm of Petersham Nurseries is being able to sit in a greenhouse mid winter with your afternoon tea and feel that it’s completely normal to do so. The long and beautiful greenhouses home higgledy piggledy wrought iron chairs and tables, jasmine branches cling to everything and you feel that you feel that you are somewhere a world away from England. The delicate and zesty scent of paper whites and hyacinths fill the air and although its cold and crisp outside, the greenhouse is remarkably cosy.

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Before we find our way our way towards the ramshackle teahouse we wander around the nursery. Gael and Francesco Boglione bought Peterhsam House in the late 90s and by 2004 had completed renovated the nurseries; their talent lies in “drawing out beauty in the simplest of things”.

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We queue in the kitchens with a tray and take our pick from the table of cakes; while the flourless chocolate and almond cake grabs my eye, like a child in a sweet shop, I can’t resist the rhubarb and custard cake. It looks gooey and is tinged with pink. Armed with jasmine tea and hot chocolate we find a table amid the afternoon rush. The cake is gone within seconds; I vow to recreate it at home.

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Fortunately, my mother bought some rhubarb at the market that morning and has spare. It’s Dutch but British rhubarb is just coming into season and the forced stems are delicate and jewel pink.

I used Afternoon Tease’s recipe with some minor adjustments; it needs to cook for at least 1 hour 30 minutes and although it’s not complicated, the process takes time as there are 3 stages to cooking the cake. I made my own custard but you can use ready-made however make sure it is thick enough in consistency; if necessary warm the custard with a little conflour.

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I also made made some candied rhubarb for decoration; simply place equal parts sugar and water in a pan – half a cup will suffice – bring to the boil and cook until the sugar has dissolved. Using a vegetable peeler, slice thin lengths of rhubarb and place into the sugar syrup, remove then place flat on a baking tray, ensuring they do not touch. Cook at 180 until the rhubarb has dried out; you will need to keep an eye on the oven as it can turn very quickly. Once dried, remove from the oven and while it is cooling, curl it into shapes to use as garnishes on cakes and cocktails.

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If like me you have a thing for rhubarb or a glut then I suggest you have a look at these!

Chickpea Pasta

If like me, you could eat pasta for breakfast, lunch and supper every day then you will be thanking your lucky stars for this recipe.

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‘Gram’ or ‘besan’ flour is naturally gluten free and works well as a replacement for Tipo ’00’ flour when making pasta dough; it is unbleached and adds colour as well as a nutty flavour to pasta dough. The humble chickpea is high in folate and a good source of protein as well as being incredibly versatile; it can be used to make all manner of comfort foods as well as pasta.

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Some recipes use 100% chickpea flour however here I have combined it with Tipo ’00’. As the dough is lower in gluten, it is difficult to hang when cut and shouldn’t be made too thin as it will stretch and break.

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Method

1. Weigh you flours and if you don’t have a mixer with a dough hook, place them on a cool surface and make a well in the centre. Add a large pinch of salt.

2. Add the whole egg and egg yolks and gradually draw in the flour with a metal spoon, working the mixture into a dough. When ready, knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic; it should be slightly sticky in consistency.

3. Using a rolling pin (or kitchen aid pasta press if you have one!) roll your dough to a 2mm thick and cut to your liking: tagliatelle, parpadelle, fettuccine

4. Ensure your pasta is well floured and pile into nests and place in the fridge until needed.

Ingredients

1 whole egg & 2 egg yolks

100g gram flour

100g tipo ’00’

Large pinch of sea salt

1 tsp olive oil

Additional tipo ’00’ for rolling and dusting

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