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Greek Yoghurt with rhubarb, mango and pomegranate

I wondered if this warranted a blog post, it hardly requires a recipe, but, it is pretty and a delicious and healthy start to the day. All part of a new breakfast regime I am trying to implement!

I am on a rhubarb kick, you may have noticed, so I stewed a batch of rhubarb by chopping the rhubarb into inch pieces and stewing with a little sugar and a couple of tablespoons of water for 15 minutes or so until it is like a compote. It keeps in the fridge for a few days so doesn’t required this level of work in the mornings and makes it a speedy breakfast. To complement I pureed a fresh mango and stirred a couple of tablespoons of each into greek yoghurt (the real deal, no cows milk, just sheep and goats) and then sprinkled with pomegranate seeds. Delish.

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Spiced Chickpeas with Spinach

Yum scrum! Spiced chickpeas with spinach. The humble chickpea, small and nutty, packed full of protein and fibre. So tasty and cheap, I bow before thee. I first had chickpeas in a youth hostel in Rome many years ago, at the tender age of 19. A fellow youthful traveller was eating them out of a tin that he had hacked open with a swiss army knife, I was curious and had to try. I’ve never looked back.

I love chickpeas, whether they are in dips, stews or curries. In salads with cheeses, herbs and tomatoes. I like them baked as a snack or spiced in a pitta. Like all pulses, it is worth making the effort soaking dried ones over night and cooking them until tender, if reasonably fresh, usually for an hour or so. There’s no comparison for me between dried and tinned – the texture of those cooked from dried is so much better, firm to the bite, rich in flavour and not waterlogged like tinned.

Earlier this week, I soaked and cooked off a big bag of dried chickpeas, and, for that evening, spiced about 2 tins worth with spinach and froze the rest. It’s a quick dish with tasty results. This will serve 4 and is good served stuffed in toasted pitta bread. [Read more]

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Rhubarb Fool

On a recent trip to Borough Market I spied lots of forced yorkshire rhubarb, and recalled a childhood rhubarb obssession. Stewed rhubarb with custard is, for me, very evocative of my childhood. I loved it, just simply chopped and stewed with a little water and lots of sugar with lots of custard. It was either that or stewed apple for me, as frequently as I could have them. Both grew locally, our neighbour had two huge apple trees and another had rhubarb, there was more than I could eat, and I was the only one that would eat both in my house. I honestly think that was part of the appeal – I had it all to myself!

A good deal of forced rhubarb has been grown in Yorkshire in the Wakefield triangle over the last 150 years, and is still picked manually by candlelight to preserve the younger, still growing stems. It is such a proud heritage that there is a Rhubarb Festival in March and the rhubarb farmers are currently seeking protected name status, like that for parmesan or parma ham.

Forced rhubarb, grown in the dark, forcing the stem to shoot upward looking for light, produces a much more delicate plant with long sleek stems, a more tender texture, a sweeter flavour and a bright pink colour. It really is so pretty, I find it difficult to resist.

So, after work, I bought myself some forced yorkshire rhubarb and hurried home excitedly, to be greeted by a neighbour wondering what was in my bag that could be making me so happy. Ok, that’s a slight exaggeration, I’m sure almost entirely in my head, she merely asked what was in my bag, and I proceded to tell with glee that I was off inside to stew my rhubarb for rhubarb fool.

How was it? Delicious! Absolutely delicious. Sweet and tart and creamy and pink. A delight. This recipe should serve 2, or two servings for one ;-)[Read more]

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Chorizo & butter bean tart

I wanted to cook but really wasn’t in the mood for making something elaborate, it has been a long and heavy week. I wanted something substantial, nourishing and comforting, that would use up lots of things in my fridge.

So what was it to be? Some lovely cooking chorizo that has been waiting patiently in my fridge, peeking out from behind some fennel, has been playing on my mind and that needed to be in the starring role. I also had some nice, plump organic butter beans cooked from dry waiting in the freezer – approximately equivalent to a tins worth. What better pairing? Add to that an onion, some garlic, hot spanish paprika and tomatoes and you’ve got a lovely spicy stew.

Now this could be alot more complex and often I make it so. It could have wine to enrich the flavour, lots of herbs would fit nicely, but for now, I am keeping it simple and quick, and it’s still delicious. Strong, bold flavours like chorizo and tomatoes speak (very loudly) for themselves.

I did promise someything pretty and heart shaped too so I decided to turn my stew into a tart. This would have been perfect for a Valentine’s post, were I not so busy – a rich red tart with a little heart shaped pastry top. I’ve been intending to make olive oil pastry for the longest time so thought that I would experiment. I had a look around to see how other people do this and came up with my own version – a garlic and parsley olive oil pastry crust that was quite nice The pastry is crumbly, almost biscuity, and perfect with the stew. It was a worthwhile experiment, I’ll be trying olive oil pastry again and seeing where I can take it.
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Happy Hallmark Day

Well, yes, I am a cynic, but I do have a romantic thread, so, I struggle with this day. My conclusion is, it’s great to be romantic but not necessarily with everyone else in the world on the same day, all squashed into heaving restaurants eating over priced food. It just sounds so uncomfortable. Save it for another day, do it more often :-)

Stuck for a present? Got a foodie Valentine? In London? Get thee to Selfridge’s – you still have time. I had a wander around there at the weekend for non V-day reasons and saw, for the flush and decadent amongst you, a leg of pata negra ham wrapped in valentines heart covered paper. Wow! Pretty heart shaped boxes of Godiva chocolates, enormous heart shaped meringue’s, pretty cupcakes and even V-day Marmite with champagne for your marmite-lover. For those of you with more money than sense there’s limited edition bottled water for £29.99.

I am a sucker for pretty things and had great plans for heart shaped delights to treat you with on the blog but I’ve had a busy week and have failed. I’ll store the recipes and use them another time. As I have failed you with a recipe of my own for today, I’ll direct you to pretty & indulgent things on other blogs.[Read more]

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Fernandez & Wells

It feels like I am letting you into a little secret, but I am sure I’m not, it’s just that I liked this place so much, I almost want to keep it secret! I popped into Fernandez & Wells in Soho with a friend on Saturday evening. I’d wanted to go for a while having seen it many times on treks around Soho. It looks so appealing, with legs of ham in the window, bottles of wine on the counter and lots of cheese behind. There’s blackboards outside and in advertising their wares.

They look like they know what they’re doing, although looks can be deceptive – not in this instance. I was there only briefly but enjoyed a charcuterie plate with prosciutto, basque salami and chorizo with a glass of albarino. We were also offered some manchego to taste. It was delicious and well sourced, alot of time and attention had gone into these selections. The meats, served on slate and sliced wafer thin & melt in the mouth, the cheese aged and crumbly and the albarino a gorgeous white, delicious and light. I didn’t want to leave but we had dinner plans elsewhere, besides they close at 9pm (although that should be moving to 10pm soon).

It was refreshing just to sit there and be nosey, to soak it all in. The staff are really passionate and knowledgable, it’s a real treat. I will definitely be back to try more, and request their recommendations. I would recommend that you go too!

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Happy Chinese New Year!

Happy Chinese New Year! The Chinese New Year festivities start today – the year of the rat – the first year of the 12 year chinese zodiac, an apparant year of plenty, opportunities and good prospects.

I love Chinese New Year in London, Chinatown is just buzzing and there’s always a big celebration organised by the Mayor of London, this year on this coming Sunday. It’s an excuse to explore another culture and join in on the fun. After work I wandered down to Chinatown to grab some chinese pastries from Kowloon Patisserie and some ingredients to make some chinese food over the coming days. Lots were staples that I’ve run out of, and others random things I picked up after they grabbed my interest! Makes for a creative few days.

There were some dragons lions wandering around, no – dancing and jumping to drums, and popping into local businesses, bringing good luck with them and receiving red envelopes, containing cash I believe, for their efforts. There was lots of drums and excitement and police ensuring that their journey was smooth.

The 15 day celebrations are days of feasting, beginning on the first day of the lunar month (today) and ending on the 15th. Many buddhists abstain from meat on the first day as it is believed to ensure longevity. Often noodles are consumed for the same reason, but never cut, as uncut noodles are believed to represent longevity and long life.

I’ve been craving noodles recently, it’s been ages since I’ve made them and they’re perfect for light meals like lunches. So, before I left today, I did a little searching online for a chinese noodle dish that might ensure a quick tasty bite after my chinatown adventure and meet the chinese new year requirements. The dish that caught my eye, I found published in a number of places, but the recipe appears to have originated at eatingwell.com – Long Life Noodles with Green Tea.

This really appealed, I have never had noodles with tea in them before for a start and it looks really light and healthy, a perfect counter to the Chinese pastries I was intent on consuming. Green tea tastes great and it’s healthy, so it looked like I might be on to a winner. The origin of the dish, or this type of dish, is said to be the Yangtze River valley where there are many tea farms and where it’s popular to serve noodles with ingredients like green tea and tofu in summer as they are perceived to be cooling. A little bit of a climate mismatch here really, in February in London, I am not looking to cool down, but I am looking for a new light noodle recipe so I thought that I would give it a go.

I made a few changes to the recipe as I had normal tofu, not baked, although I am sure that smoked would work well here too if I had found it. I couldn’t find a yellow pepper either so doubled the amount of red. My research said that egg noodles are not traditional for this day, but again, it’s what I had so I made do. It’s a really nice recipe, really light, healthy and delicious, the green tea is very subtle and the dressing flavoursome but not overwhelming. Nice hot or cold, I had it hot this evening and will be having it cold for lunch tomorrow! I will be making it again.

This recipe will serve 4.

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The Duke of Cambridge

Inspired by my recent jaunt to Acorn House, on my doorstep for the last year but unexplored territory, I decided that I really should go to the Duke of Cambridge in Islington soon. I didn’t expect it to be quite so soon, I was meeting friends for lunch last weekend. It needed to be child friendly and nice as, with a newborn baby, my friend doesn’t get out that often these days. A friend with a child suggested that we try the Duke of Cambridge.

I called on Friday evening to book a table for lunchtime the next day. They said that only one table was booked, so we didn’t need to worry, but as I was on the phone I thought that I might as well just book a table. I’m glad I did as when we got there for lunch on Saturday it was packed. Situated on St Peter St, just off Essex Rd in Islington, the Duke of Cambridge is set on a street corner, with lots of windows looking into quite a nice looking refurbished pub. Our table was towards the back by the open kitchen, in a conservatory.

For those of you that don’t know of it, the Duke of Cambridge was Britain’s first organic gastropub. It has been brought to my attention a number of times, most recently in the Oberver Food Monthly Eco Awards, with Geetie Singh reaching number 16 on their top 40 list. It has also been listed on the Best Sunday Lunch OFM lists twice. It’s had positive reviews in far too many places for me to list here and maintain your interest!

They use seasonal, fresh, local and organic ingredients, and most foods, from bread to ice cream are made on the premises. The menu changes twice daily and is determined by what the supplier delivers. They have an ethical fish policy, farmed salmon and trout is organic, wild fish is caught off the coast of Britain – on the South and South East coasts where possible to minimise food miles and they only purchase fish caught using sustainable fishing methods. In addition to this fish is purchased seasonally and outside of breeding seasons. Their policy is approved by the Marine Conservation Society.

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