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A Little Break in West Cork

Church in Glandore

Church in Glandore (where my friend will get married!)

Hi folks! Apologies, but my next Posh Lunch Club post (from Viajante) will be a little delayed as I am in Cork for a week. Hope to get it up in the next few days. For now I am at home for a wedding in gorgeous Glandore in West Cork.

It’s really beautiful here, and very sunny. Sensibly sunny though if I may say so. Not like when it got hot in London last week, and as much as I loved it, I was burned, chomped on by some critter or other while asleep, leaving me with big swollen bites, and it was just that little bit too hot for someone as pale as me with blood those critters can’t get enough of. It always seems better with that sea breeze anyway.

I’ve missed the sea, both the water and the salty sea air. I’ve missed my friends too. So, I am going to down tools for a little bit and enjoy it!

Not long though, I will be back soon with some food stuff and a Posh Lunch.

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The Times: 40 Bloggers Who Really Count

Just over 3 weeks ago, I received an email from a gentleman at The Times. He wanted to let me know that I would be included on a piece on bloggers in The Times that Saturday (May 1st). How exciting!

Prompted by this discovery, I managed to get out of bed early on a Saturday (now, that rarely happens), and got myself a copy. Where was the piece? I couldn’t find it.

Eventually I uncovered it, in the magazine! I was included in a piece titled “40 bloggers who really count”. What an honour. I was in surprising company too. There were celebrities David Byrne (amazing) and Gwyneth Paltrow (ok!). Inspiring people like Naomi Klein. Two champion fellow food bloggers Dos Hermanos & James Ramsden. And me.

I’ve had so many lovely lovely emails from you that I just wanted to say thanks. And also to apologise to those that I haven’t been able to reply to. I get a lot of email these days, from new bloggers that are looking for advice to people looking for specific recipes or suggestions, often people just saying hi. I try to reply to as many as I can, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day, so, to those looking for recipes, hit that search box and I hope that you like what you find. New bloggers, I will write a post soon, about blogging from my perspective and I hope that this answers your questions.

So, thanks again, and thanks for the comments and the emails, I do treasure them all. If I don’t reply, it doesn’t mean that I haven’t read it, I read them all, and I will reply, as soon as I get a chance to. Soon!

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Some Recipes for Summer from the Archives

How glorious is this weather? I am pink-pink-pink from some exposure yesterday, and as a result, I am sitting inside waiting for the sun to sink a little before I expose my poor skin to its naked rays.

I am thinking food and had a browse of my summer archives. Here’s some recipes you might want to try. Eat outside of course, that’s what I am planning to do. Bring on the summer picnics.

Prawn Curry

Burnt aubergine with sweet peppers and red onion

Broad beans, green garlic & mint bruschetta

Fregola Sarda with Asparagus, heirloom tomato and goat’s curd

Tagliatelle with Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Anchovies and Pecorino

Chargrilled peach & speck salad

Broad Bean and Prosciutto Carbonara

Crab Linguine

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Intolerant of Intolerance: A Personal Story

Everyone has got an opinion – I have plenty of my own. What grates is when people have got an opinion about something that they have no experience of, especially when they’ve got it completely wrong. I’ve seen many posts accusing lactose intolerants of being food intolerant, for reasons relating to weight, fussiness or the bizarre notion that it’s trendy or a middle class affliction. Jay Rayner had a rant on the Guardian, Ms Marmite Lover had a rant on her blog. I’ve even had people tell me that they are lactose intolerant but can eat milk and cheese, so what’s the issue with me?  So, I thought it high time to share a lactose intolerant side of the story.

Being lactose intolerant is not a choice. I adore dairy. I love butter, cream, cheese, buttermilk, I love it all. But it doesn’t love me. It wasn’t clear until my mid 20’s that it was an issue, but for reasons as yet undetermined I was very ill. I have always had trouble with my tum and bowel, and it was accepted from a very early age that that was just the way I was. As a baby I had terrible eczema (my poor mother, only 21 years of age, claims I looked like a skinned rabbit every morning when I woke). I had extremely bad colic, and I was always in pain. My GP advised my mother to water down my bottle and see if I improved. I did, a little.

When I was able to vocalise what I would and would not eat, and boy was I fussy, I refused milk, cheese and butter. There was no reason that I could remember. I would occasionally have butter on a biscuit, but dreaded milk I would not touch. I did love yogurts, custard and cream. My mother tried everything, flavouring the milk, sneaking butter in my jam sandwiches, but I always spotted it and refused. The funny thing was that I didn’t hate the taste, I just hated the idea of it. As a result, it wasn’t until my teens that I started eating dairy, and that was when I started to feel ill.

I always had a funny tummy and once was out of school for several weeks because of it I remember in university being struck by a severe pain and rushing to the doctor. No one knew what it was. After several more of these I was diagnosed with a problem with stomach acid, potentially an ulcer and was put on proton pump inhibitors. In my Masters year I started to get a problem with my eye. It was extremely painful, and prevented long periods of study. A consultant was flummoxed and announced it was a thickening of my cornea usually only seen in older men exposed to too much UV light. I was prescribed topical steroids which I applied daily to keep it at bay.

A year and a half later I moved to London. I ran out of my steroids and my eye started to hurt once more. My childhood eczema had returned and I had a lot of bowel pain and bloating. But I was used to this by now and didn’t figure it an issue, it was just the way I had always been.

I went to the local GP and casually requested a prescription for my steroids. She was shocked, how long had I been taking them, she asked? A year and a half, said I. She was gob smacked, 6 weeks should be the limit. So then was I. She sent me as an emergency patient to Moorfields Eye Hospital and by lunchtime I had seen ophthalmologists and had been referred to a gastroenterologist who did an impromptu internal investigation. We think you have Crohn’s but you should see a dietician also, so that we can rule out problems with your diet.

I trundled off to the dietician and told my story. She wondered if I was celiac and/or lactose intolerant. She explained that the symptoms can be quite awful and in some cases can result in depression, with your body being so battered over a prolonged period of time. I left clutching the details for a two week exclusion diet, saddened but hopeful. I was then, as I am now, obsessed with food.

Two long weeks followed, and traumatic as it was, I was really starting to feel better. The bloating was gone, the pain in my intestine vanished, my skin was clearing, and my eye less painful. I started to reintroduce dairy and it was immediately and painfully obvious that that was my problem. Each time, within half an hour, I was struck with intense shooting pain, and horrendous and sudden diarrhoea. So, that was that for me.

I stayed off all dairy for 6 months, and the results were incredible. I felt so light and healthy, my dress size dropped twice. I was still eating lots, I was certainly not dieting, but the lack of dairy and associated bloating made an amazing difference. My skin was clear, my eye was healed. I had read about being able to establish a level of tolerance by introducing small amounts and thereby encouraging/training your intestinal bacteria to digest by proxy. I tried, I failed, I was so disappointed.

So, how can I eat dairy now? I eat it rarely, and as a treat, accompanied by digestive aids that a friend sends from North America. Lactase enzyme, bought as tablets, can help you to digest. It’s used very commonly there, and an ex-colleague brightened my life immeasurably when she introduced me to them. Happily, it’s now possible to buy lactose free products, made by Lactofree, which I now use at home all the time. When will they make cream and blue cheese? I hope soon.

So, there you have it. Hopefully this will shine a light in a dark corner. We’re not fussy, we’re not food intolerant, we just can’t digest lactose. Some can digest more than others, some none at all. It’s painful and can have some serious side effects long term. It’s not as bad as an allergy, but that’s not to say that it’s not serious.

So, be kind, and be tolerant of us poor intolerants.

Photo courtesy of meantux under a creative commons license.

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(Cornish) Posh Lunch Club at Tom’s Kitchen

Cornish Menu at Tom Aikens

This weeks Posh Lunch Club is a little different. I was treated to a preview of a Cornish Simple Pleasures menu at Tom’s Kitchen in Kensington, a showcase of some of the finest Cornish produce. Very much a fishy affair with MSC certified Cornish mackerel and Cornish mullet fresh from Cornish day boats taking the stage for the starter and main course, with Apple Tart Fine and Cornish Kelly’s Ice Cream (indulgently made with clotted cream) for dessert.

Cornish Menu at Tom Aikens

A little first on MSC certification. The MSC’s fishery certification program and seafood ecolabel recognise and reward sustainable fishing. By promoting the best environmental choices in seafood, they are helping to protect the over fished and traumatised sea beds, and hopefully, will ensure that as a result, there will be fish available for everyone for years to come. That of course is dependant on us the consumers making more responsible choices and supporting what they do when we shop and eat out. I try to, and it’s becoming easier, there’s a handy guide on their website if you’d like more information. A good fishmonger should be able to help you out too.

Cornish Menu at Tom Aikens

Tom’s Kitchen in Kensington is a bright, relaxing and airy space.  Offering a more rustic menu than michelin starred sister restaurant, Tom Aikens, it offers breakfasts of homemade granola, pancakes, eggs, weekend brunches, lunch and dinner. We went for a mid week lunch.

We started with a Grilled Cornish Mackerel Salad with baby watercress, boiled eggs and bacon dressing. This was very light and with the exception of the naughty but delicious bacon dressing felt very healthy. Very simple but well executed, I really enjoyed it.

Cornish Menu at Tom Aikens

Roast Fillet of Cornish Mullet with slow roast tomatoes and olive sauce was delivered for mains. The mullet had been roasted in a wood oven and had a delicate smoky flavour with perfectly crisp skin and sweet delicate flesh beneath. The roast tomatoes and olive sauce was a wonderful complement aside the meaty potatoes. It was light, yet perfectly filling and very enjoyable.

Cornish Menu at Tom Aikens

Dessert was an indulgent Apple Tart Fine with Kelly’s Honeycomb Ice Cream. I am not usually a sucker for dessert but the rich simplicity of this was divine, and the honeycomb clotted cream ice cream was rich, creamy and delicious. I ensured that I nabbed some for my freezer soon after!

The food was a charming in its simplicity and was so summery, fresh and healthy that I am sure it will be snapped up. It’s also a bit of a bargain at £23.50. The Cornish menu will be available until the 11th July and is available for lunchtimes only. If  I have any criticism it’s that, even though I enjoyed everything that I had, it would have been an improvement to have a choice of courses. It has also awakened my ache to be near the seaside and to see some sun. I can’t wait for my trip home at the end of the month, the sea is assured, the sun, well, we can but hope.

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Recipe: Roast Pork & Black Bean Chilli

On a trip to the butcher recently, I spied a hand of pork, an old school cut that you don’t see so often now and certainly never in the supermarkets. It’s a meaty cut, the lower part of the shoulder, often with some of the leg still attached. It has more fat than the leg or loin but less than the belly or shoulder and so is perfectfor a roast, with plenty of flavour and moisture from the fat, but is not so fatty that you worry for your health. It’s also got lots of skin for crackling and is usually terrific value for money. I predict that it will become the next trendy cut.

I roasted it when I got home as this particular evening demanded the simplicity of it, and the time. Unusual to want more time, but I was shattered and wanted a nap as it was roasting.  It was simple with the usual tricks: hot water over the scored skin to puff the skin up so that it would deliver better crackling, dried with kitchen paper or a clean tea towel until not a trace of moisture was left and salted with sea salt. It took over a couple of hours for the joint that I had: I will roast another one soon and record the times and intricacies, for now I will get tell you what I did with the leftovers: black bean chilli.

Savoury, sweet, juicy, succulent, spicy and hot, what’s not to love? I love all pulses but black beans and pork are fantastic together. Black bean chilli is a purist dish, and I normally prefer to take the purist approach, but this evening, I wanted it and I had little time, I had very good leftover roast pork, so I figured that I could take a few shortcuts.

I had no time to prepare any home cooked beans for this dish as it was a craving that descended on the tube home one evening. I know this sounds silly, but I refuse to use tinned beans. I hate them. They’re generally insipid and too soft in contrast to home cooked beans which have a crisp skin, meaty firm texture inside and much more flavour. I normally have a stash in my freezer but I’ve just moved flat and haven’t built up my beany stash yet. I thought it might be time to get off my high horse and experiment, so I bought the best (and consequently most expensive) tinned black beans that I could find. They weren’t perfect for a purist annoyance like me, but even I had to concede that they were pretty good.

Roast Pork & Black Bean Chilli

This recipe was really simple and quick, the real joy in it came from the fresh spices, good tinned tomatoes (Italian La Fiammante for my money every time), and that delicious leftover pork. As with every rich dish with deep flavour, you need to add something to lift it, a handful of fresh coriander did the trick at the end. It’s a rarity, but there was leftover crackling on the pork, as it was such a big joint, and hungry horse that I am, there was only one of me to tackle it. I diced the pork into small chunks, keeping the crackling on, and it gave such wonderful textural contrasts that I would definitely recommend that you do the same.

As always, I definitely recommend that you roast and grind the spices yourself as they add so much to the dish, but you can use half the amount of ground instead. A note on the pork – use as much as you have, if you have a lot add extra tomatoes and/or stock. I normally use fresh chilli but didn’t have any, so substituted dried chilli flakes instead.

So, here’s the recipe. Purists avert your eyes. Everyone else: make it, you’ll love it. I think you will anyway!

Pork & Black Bean Chilli

Ingredients:

Diced leftover pork roast incl. fat and crackling if possible – I had about 400g
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp sugar
Dried chilli to taste
1 good tin black beans, drained
a handful of chopped fresh coriander leaves
some light flavourless oil for frying
S&P

Method:

Heat a frying pan with no oil until very hot, and dry fry the spices for 30 seconds or so, until the start to pop and release fragrance. Grind in a pestle and mortar or spice grinder.

Fry the onion until soft and translucent in the same pain in about a tbsp of oil, add the spices and the garlic and fry for another minute or so.

Add the tomatoes, chilli and the sugar (important to balance the tinned omatoes), raise the heat until the sauce is bubbling, reduce and cook for a further ten minutes or so to allow the flavour to develop. Check both the sweetness and the heat and adjust to taste.

Add the pork and the beans and cook for a further 5 minutes until the pork is warmed through. Depending on how much pork you’ve added you may need to add some stock or water. I didn’t add the pork earlier in the recipe as I wanted any remaining crackling to retain as much of its crunch as possible.

Add the coriander and season to taste. Serve immediately.

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Moving Food: For Me, A Steak

Hawksmoor Steak Tasting

I am cocooned in a sea of boxes and enormous bags full of pointless unnecessary treasures. I have moved house.

It started in an organised fashion, but as time escaped descended into more chaotic survival packing, chucking everything into boxes, vaguely ordered by room, vaguely ordered by nonsense.

Surrounded by stuff, I was without all of it, for I had no idea where anything was. I know that all you organised kids are tearing your hair out now, shocked at the chaos of it all, but really, isn’t moving always like this, at least on some level for everyone?

Faced with the challenge of imminent overwhelming hunger and no plans for dinner, and no clue as to where to retrieve my kitchen tools at short notice, I uncovered the hob from beneath a stack of boxes, retrieved my bright orange cast iron pan as it was easy to spot, and charred a steak which was quickly and hungrily devoured.

Steak offers sustenance and it’s speedy food. A good steak tastes great, charred on the outside on a scalding hot griddle, and bright pink, meltingly tender and rare within, with only a sprinkle of smoked sea salt for company. Washed down with a nice Malbec, I can’t think of anything better. The pleasure I got from eating it offered moments of divine distraction, before I headed back into the sneezy wonderland that is unpacking boxes.

What do you reach for when you’re moving house, when every second is precious, and everything is packed away?

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The General Election: Parliamentary Waffle House Election Special

Parliamentary Waffle House Election Special

So, that’s that. We voted, and now we’re waiting. The Tories have more votes than anyone else.

I thought I should do something to lift my own and your flagging spirits (except for the Conservatives among you that is – you should enjoy this too anyway). On the night of the general election I got myself a ticket for the Parliamentary Waffle House Election Special from Bompass & Parr so that I could watch it unfold with some friends, soe gin, and a bit of fun and surrealism.

Parliamentary Waffle House Election Special

Think Gin Cloud Machine (a walk in breathable gin cocktail), nail polishticians willing to give you a political manicure, prominent politican pinata, a gingerbread recreation of the gherkin, pork belly sandwiches, pie polls and many more election themed adventures running through the night until 8am.

Parliamentary Waffle House Election Special

I didn’t last that long, for I had a busy day Friday, but I had enormous fun while I was there, and can’t think of anywhere better to watch the exit polls and initial coverage. For your pleasure, here’s some photos from the evening. I have blogged about it previously, I know – and I know I’ll be asked – so – I have no affliliation with Bompass & Parr, I just love what they do.

Parliamentary Waffle House Election Special

Parliamentary Waffle House Election Special


Parliamentary Waffle House Election Special

Parliamentary Waffle House Election Special

Parliamentary Waffle House Election Special

Parliamentary Waffle House Election Special

Parliamentary Waffle House Election Special

Parliamentary Waffle House Election Special

Parliamentary Waffle House Election Special

Parliamentary Waffle House Election Special

Parliamentary Waffle House Election Special

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Posh Lunch Club at Texture

Posh Lunch Club at Texture

There has been a lull in the transmission of Posh Lunch Club – apologies. The lull was only a week, but a week is a long time in politics blogging. I have been busy moving house and it has been a difficult transition. My new place is better located, and lovely and bright, but it is much smaller, and as a result I have a ridiculous amount of excess stuff. This takes sorting and dispensing, so it was lovely to escape from the chaos and indulge in a Posh Lunch with Sig of Scandilicious once more.

We had chosen to go to Texture, an Icelandic restaurant near Marble Arch. Iceland you say? You’ve heard of that recently? Well, this is possibly the star in the Icelandic crown. Forget attention seeking Eyjafjallajokull, that infernal volcano spouting puffing ash clouds all over the northern horizon and ruining everyone’s holiday plans. Forget about the collapse of the economy. Londoners, when you think of Iceland, you need to think Texture and you need to go there.

Why? Well, it’s a Posh Lunch Club bargain at £22 for 3 courses. The menu is pure simplicity, and deceptive for the food is intricate, and oh-so pretty. Each dish is like a woodland scene, I expected to spy a mini gruffalo peep out from behind a frond of dill amid Sig’s main course. I wanted to scoop my parmesan snow into a lunchbox and keep it forever in my freezer at home, like a parmesan ice queen. It’s modern yet in tune with nature, using normal ingredients (for us: chicken, salmon, asparagus, prawns) in creative ways.

Agnar Sverrisson is the culinary brainchild behind the operation. Icelandic, he started his culinary career in Reykjavik and has built an impressive CV including a stint as the Head Chef at La Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons. There he met Xavier Rousset (Sommelier), and they left to setup Texture in 2007. They’ve just received their first Michelin star, and I really think this is one to watch.

Texture

We started with a plate of crispy bits – I am sure they have a better name! Crispy sheets of parmesan, potato, bread and cod skin with wasabi and lettuce emulsion and yoghurt and barley dip for dipping. The dip was fresh, and it was perfect, save the cod skin for me which was a little too fishy, although Sig loved that. This was followed by a gorgeous little amuse of pea and mint, what appeared to be soup, but was a combination of textures and flavours, some mousse with pea, mint & I think I detected some asparagus on top. The pea was almost frozen in parts, and the whole dish was packed with flavour, and had a purity to it with very clean and sharp flavours.

Posh Lunch Club at Texture

The menu offers two choices per course, we each chose one so that we could try everything. Honestly, nothing disappointed. My starter of New Season English Asparagus, Parmesan Snow, Hazelnuts, Olive Bread was stunning. The crisp steamed asparagus was carpeted with a gentle icy parmesan snow. The hazelnuts were a great complement, and the texture of the crispy bread was perfect with the melting snow.

Posh Lunch Club at Texture

Sig went for Greenland Prawns, Gazpacho, Avocado, Tapenade. This dish had a touch of drama with the bright red gazpacho poured over at the table. The prawns were deliciously sweet and plentiful and the dish, from my brief tasting, worked beautifully.

Posh Lunch Club at Texture

For mains I went for chicken – more precisely Corn Fed Free Range Chicken Breast & Leg, Barley, Chicken Jus. Chicken is normally absent on a Michelin starred menu and I was curious. Sig went for the Organic Scottish Salmon, Sorrel, New Potatoes, Cucumber. I was pleased when the waitress advised that they don’t cook the salmon through, as this is how I love to eat it (even if it’s not my dish!).

Posh Lunch Club at Texture

The dishes were breathtakingly pretty and packed with flavour. Mine had white breast meat and dark leg meat, with nuggets of barley and tiny dark brown mushrooms throughout. It was rich but not heavy, with two delicious spears of sprouting broccoli and carrots. I knew that not only was this delicious, but it was doing me good. Sig’s salmon was tender and flaked beautifully, she was very happy with her main course.

Posh Lunch Club at Texture

Desserts: I chose Mango & Pineapple Soup, Lemongrass, Basil, Olive Oil. The soup was poured at the table, a nice touch, and was fragrant and fruity and a fitting end to the meal. Sig couldn’t resist the Valrhona White Chocolate Mousse, Ice Cream, Dill Cucumber, mainly to see what they would do with the dill and cucumber. Again, she really enjoyed it, and we both agreed that we would love to go again, and as soon as possible. We finished with coffees and delicious petits fours, a pretty and delicious little macaron and truffles. Just enough to satiate and not enough to feel guilty.

Posh Lunch Club at Texture

Posh Lunch Club at Texture

Overall the food showed a real lightness of touch, both in the artfulness of the dishes and a purity and sharpness of flavour. At the end of the meal, we both agreed that we were satiated but perfectly so, perhaps because Sverrisson doesn’t use cream or butter in his savoury food, and you can really feel the difference. Not that I am knocking cream or butter, but it is nice to have somewhere that goes without and produces something this wonderful.

Posh Lunch Club at Texture

Much has been said of the wine, of the wide variety and the keen pricing. We didn’t explore this very thoroughly as it was just lunch after all. We wanted something light, with a bit of life, that wouldn’t knock us out and that would complement the food. We requested a suggestion for under £30. A Spanish wine from Rueda was proposed at £29 (Verdejo, José Pariente, Bodegas dos Victoria, 2008), and it fitted the bill perfectly, not unlike a Sauvignon but lacking those limey/gooseberry flavours, it matched the savoury dishes nicely.

All of this wonderful lunch came to £45 each including service. If that’s not a bargain for this gorgeous michelin starred lunch, tell me what is.

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Drumroll! Competition Winners and their Fantastic Stories

What a terrific response there was to the competition last weekend for the Real Food Festival tickets and the Cornishware mugs. I only wish I could have given everyone something – it was lovely to received so many comments from you all (100 in total!) and to hear some of your hilarious stories.

*DRUMROLL*

The winners are:

The gorgeous Cornishware mugs were won by Zoe Wells.

For the Real Food Festival Tickets: Sonia Porter, Zoe Vanderwolk, Caroline Duong & Louise Hughes.

Congratulations all! The winners were chosen randomly using the random number generator at www.random.org. All ladies this time even though many guys entered. It’s the luck of the draw I guess.

Your comments were superb, I can’t tell you how nice it was to hear from you and to get your fab feedback and your wonderful stories and in some cases poems! I hope you don’t mind me sharing some here. They are too good not to :)

Next time, I am giving a prize for best comment too. Maybe someone would like to donate one for these worthy commenters (really!). Before I do, to the gentleman who queried the gender specific nature of this blog, well,  is tongue in cheek and not at all Sex & The City influenced – that I can assure you. It’s just fun – girls eat, boys eat, we all eat, and I like to write about it. And, I am a girl. It’s just the way it is!

First up, a gem from Danny at Food Urchin. Irish readers will appreciate this:

Food Urchin:

Hellooo, my funny story involves a conversation I had at the weekend in County Mayo.

Irish man in a bar – So do you have any Irish blood in you?

Me – Yes, of course I do *hic*

IMIAB – Whereabouts yer family from?

Me – er…..ah…Lilliput!

IMIAB – What the place with all the little people!?!?!

Me – er no sorry…I mean Limerick

************************************************

And finally, this gem from Jo at Lovespoon. I dare you not to splutter your tea/coffee all over the screen as you read it!

LittleFfarm Dairy:

Hi Niamh –

Jo from Lovespoon, here. I always try to comment on Blogs (when I get the rare chance to read them!) as I appreciate how much time & effort goes in to writing & photographing a post. I write a couple of Blogs myself; but am woefully behind as so bloomin’ busy. I came across you via Twitter & must say I’ll be back as a regular visitor, always great to find a well-written & interesting Blog.

Golly, what gorgeous mugs! Cornishware has such timeless elegance & is reminiscent of farmhouse kitchens with the kettle singing on the hob and a gentler pace of life. Not that we get that here with the goats….

So; onto a tale of our cheeky caprine chums, & how they too like their tea. One day my OH was hard at work in the old goat shed so I took him a cuppa with a plate of ginger nuts to keep him going. He paused in gratitude, & leaned comfortably over the gate whilst supping the steamy brew & viewing the contentedly-cudding Milkforce.

Vine – she of the long eyelashes, capacious udder & luxuriant facial hair – sidled up to Tony for her oft-asked-for cuddle. Taking a bite of his biscuit he went to give her an ‘air kiss’; but infuriated at the sight of the ginger delight disappearing down his throat, Vine promptly stuck her tongue into his mouth to retrieve it!

He was so shocked he dropped his mug & got hot tea down his trousers. Meanwhile Vine had already made off with the remaining ginger nut which had been sitting folornly on the plate.

I have since discovered that she also loves Marmite….needless to say when I’m snaffling my breakfast toast at morning milking, I keep well away from the lovely Lady Vine!!

Needless to say if I was lucky enough to win a prize I’d love the ‘girlie’ mugs, please; they’re such pretty, refreshing colours & spring seems to be such a long time arriving, down here in the valley.

Sadly being a full-time farmer I won’t have an opportunity to get to the Real Food Festival this year as Tony will be away & we still have goats due to kid; London is, alas, so far away….

However, maybe next year we too will be there, proudly showcasing our lovely gelato. Well; I can dream…!

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Recipe: Israeli Cous Cous, Beetroot Shards, Fresh Buffalo Cheese & Pea Shoots

Israeli Cous Cous, Beetroot, Fresh Buffalo Cheese & Pea Shoots

Some of my favourite dishes are happy culinary accidents. You have a plan, it seems perfect and then for some reason something doesn’t work. Frustrating, but somehow, the solution offers up an alternative that you might not have thought of, so instead of one new dish, sometimes you have two.

I found myself in that situation this morning. I have declared May a month of health, of vibrant lunches full of flavour, and of new dishes. I was making it last night, and had some enormous beetroots that I bought at the farmers market on the boil for well over an hour and a half, but they were still hard. I left them in the hot water overnight, hoping that they might cook a little as it cooled down, but they didn’t. I guess they were really very big! So, I was left with some semi-cooked, but still mostly raw beetroots which wouldn’t fit in with my original recipe idea.

What to do with them?

One thing was for sure, I was bringing lunch in, so I needed to figure out an alternative. I surveyed the scene in my kitchen at 7am this morning. I had already cooked my Israeli cous cous, and it was waiting patiently with some finely sliced red onions in olive oil. In olive oil, as I wanted to remove the sharp acidic tang that they have, and didn’t want to use lemon as it wouldn’t go with the dressing I had in mind.  I was using a fresh cheese, again from the farmer’s market. I wanted to make my own but they had sold out of their raw buffalo milk. What to do?

I know – grate them! Cue, rumbling in boxes for 10 minutes trying to source the grater (I have just moved house) to no avail. I did find my vegetable peeler so proceeded to peel slices from the peeled semi-raw beetroots, which I then sliced into smaller shards. They were slightly sweet, still firm and had a great texture, one that’s lost to cooked beetroot normally. Perfect!

I had intended to avoid balsamic in the dressing preferring something fruitier and livelier but couldn’t resist adding a 10 year aged balsamic that I found in my rummaging. Balsamic vinegar and beetroot are perfect partners. This worked especially well as the beetroot was only slightly sweet as it was very undercooked and the rich vinegar complemented it. I am going through a smoked sea salt phase, so used this to season with black pepper and it was delicious. It’s worth seeking out – Halen Mon or Maldon both sell it. Pea shoots added colour and texture, and a nice delicate flavour. Mint would work very well here too though, maybe even better.

Where can you get Israeli cous cous? Look in the kosher section of large supermarkets, or seek out Jewish delis. An alternative, which is a bigger bouncier and equally delicious version is mograbiah which you can find in Turkish shops.

I am presenting the recipe here as I did it, but really, you can just finely grate the beetroot too, it will be just as nice and certainly very healthy. Also, you can substitute the fresh buffalo cheese with any fresh cheese, goat’s curd or young goat’s cheese e.g. caprinhia.

Enjoy!

Israeli Cous Cous, Beetroot, Fresh Buffalo Cheese & Pea Shoots

Israeli Cous Cous, Beetroot Shards, Fresh Buffalo Cheese & Pea Shoots

Ingredients:

1 beetroot (normal size will work fine!), whole
100g Israeli cous cous
1 small red onion, halved and finely sliced
100g fresh cheese or chevre, crumbled
A handful of fresh pea shoots
Extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
S&P

Method:

Cook the Israeli cous cous according to packet instructions. Cool under a cold tap and leave to the site with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Peel & grate your beetroot OR boil for 20 minutes, then peel & slice with a vegetable slicer as I have.

Combine the cous cous, beetroot and red onion and dress with 3 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp vinegar. Adjust to taste. Season with S&P and add half of the pea shoots. Stir through. Place the other half on top and around the salad.

Et voila! Enjoy.

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Make Room for Asparagus

Slow Roasting Asparagus with Tarragon

It’s a sure sign that summer is nigh when English asparagus starts to grace our shelves. It’s a welcome moment in my year, as it indicates a splurge of seasonal food availability. I’ve come up with as many recipes for kale as I can manage, and as much as I love it, I am ready to move on. Bring on the wild garlic, asparagus, purple sprouting broccoli, nettles and on and on.

The fresher the better, straight from the ground asparagus has a delicious sweetness and intensity of flavour, I ate some raw last year as it gave it’s death squeal on the tip of an allotmenteers knife. I’ve been making the most of the season so far, as I always do, and it’s graced many a brunch, lunch and dinner.

Asparagus Wrapped in Parma Ham
What to do with it? Simplicity is key. It’s fabulous steamed or fried and lightly salted and used as soldiers for soft gooey eggs. Yesterday morning I couldn’t resist adding another savoury note by wrapping each spear in the finest of parma ham, drizzling with olive oil and roasting with a sprinkle of smoked sea salt for 10 minutes at 180 degrees. I used them to probe and devour the softest and richest of egg yolks, from my favourite eggs – Old Cotswold Legbars from Clarence Court. I don’t know why some restaurants persist in importing their eggs from Italy for their golden yolks when these are beauifully gold, almost orange, and satisfyingly rich. It’s wonderful with tarragon, and mint gives it some life.

You might like to try the Asparagus & Truffle Carbonara that I made last year, dunk some in the softest of poached eggs or try Fregola Sarda with Asparagus, heirloom tomato and goat’s curd.

I’ll be back soon with more recipe ideas, now that I have a kitchen to cook in again. For now, do tell, what’s your favourite way of eating asparagus?