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Recipe: Smokin’ Hot Red Eye Ribs

Smokin' Hot Red Eye Ribs

Now I loved that bacon jam. And it opened my eyes to using coffee in a marinade. Why not? It worked so well there it was bound to be a winner. Then a friend told me about red eye gravy, a coffee gravy served over ham in the American deep South. Coffee and pork are two of my favourite things in this world. The die was cast.

Pork ribs are a much under valued and underused cut of meat. So cheap, so full of flavour, I expect it must be because people don’t know what to do with them. (fyi – in response to a comment below – I am of course referring to the UK & Ireland here. I know they eat lots of them elsewhere). Marinaded ribs are wonderful on the BBQ but also great cooked low and slow in the oven until the meat teases slowly from the bone. Then, and only then, are they are ready to eat.

Smokin' Hot Red Eye Ribs

The secret to all marinaded meat recipes is time, so make sure you marinade them for long enough. Aim for a minimum 2 hours, overnight is best. I used chipotle in adobo again in these, it is one of my favourite things to use at the moment. So versatile with a rich smoky heat. You can get it online quite easily if you are not an urbanite like myself. Otherwise substitute with your favourite chilli, or chipotle chilles (dried or fresh).

Now when choosing pork ribs you have two options: baby back ribs or spare ribs. I love both and on this occasion had some pork spare ribs to try from the London Fine Meat Company, an online butchers based in London. The ribs were big and meaty and delivered at £4.70 a pack (approx 12 big ribs in each). I will use them again, time is such a precious commodity these days.

I made these for friends and they loved them, hope you enjoy them too. These ribs were big so 3 per person was perfect. You may choose to make more, and why not when you are roasting them for so long. You might as well make the most of the oven. Shredded leftovers would make a great sandwich filling or Asian noodle salad.

Recipe: Smokin’ Hot Red Eye Ribs

Serves 2

6 pork spare ribs

Marinade:

500ml fresh brewed coffee
3 chipotles & 3 teaspoons of the adobo sauce (or substitute with chilli), finely chopped
80 ml cider vinegar
4 tbsp rich brown sugar like molasses sugar
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
generous pinch of sea salt

Combine all ingredients for the marinade and massage ito the ribs. Cover and refrigerate for minimmum 2 hours, preferably overnight.
Preheat the oven to 150 deg C.
Put the ribs and marinade in a high sided tin and cover with foil.
Roast gently for 2.5 – 3 hours until the meat pulls off the bone, basting with the juices every half an hour.
Rest the ribs for 5 minutes under foil before serving. If the marinade hasn’t reduced to a sticky sauce (it should haev), reduce gebntly over a medium heat in a saucepan and serve poured on top of the ribs.
Eat with your fingers! It’s wrong not to.

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Modern Vintage: Classic Voices in Food From Quadrille

I come from a large bustling Irish family and, as a result, spent my childhood creating random outfits with clothes handed down from my older cousins, which I think has contributed to my eclectic sense of dress today. Equally, I had cookbooks from my aunt and old ones from the library, and this has inspired a fondness and near obsession with gathering vintage cookbooks for my groaning cookshelf. One of my most prized possessions is my Grandmothers old cookbook. The problem is that, generally, they are difficult to come by today.

Our modern attitude that only current or new is valuable is really depressing so I was delighted to discover that Quadrille have started a new series of books – Classic Voices in Food – where they are publishing sometime forgotten but highly respected books. The first two are Modern Cooking for Private Families by Eliza Acton first published in 1845 and Madame Prunier’s Fish Cookery Book first published in 1938.

The books arrived bright and early with the postman at a startling 7.30am and I immediately tore into them. Bright and lovely hardcovers sheath hundreds of honest recipes, there is no pretentiousness here. They are such a lovely and interesting read.

They are also still very useful, if you discount the recipe for swan eggs of course. We don’t want the Queen hunting you down because you decided to indulge in some swan egg forcemeat. What if there was a baby swan inside too? Too many risks, not to mention the oft retold urban myth of a swan breaking your arm should risk stealing an egg too.


They really are a joy and an inspiration and I look forward to the next two, to be published in September. Boulestin’s Simple French Cooking for English Homes and The Gentle Art of Cooking by Leyel & Hartley, both of which were published in the 1920s.  I recommend you try them out too.

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Recipe: Ricotta Frittata with Tomatoes & Fiddleheads

Ricotta Frittata

Life is busy. Life is crazy busy. I’ve left my job and written a book (I am so excited to even type that!). It all happened in 6 months. In the middle of this my Dad has been seriously ill and I have been going home a lot. I have also been travelling elsewhere more than before. I have moved flat too.

I’ve chosen this life, and I love it, I wouldn’t change a thing. Working doing what you love means that work never stops, and being so busy does take a toll. I have been ill more than is normal and I am growing pretty tired of it. I hate being ill at all.

So today as I sat here coughing and wheezing with a scratchy throat, I felt depressed. I needed to eat something that would make me feel good and really wouldn’t take any time to cook or much effort to source the ingredients. I dragged my carcass to the local Waitrose and my face lit up when I spied there on the shelf Laverstoke Park Farm Buffalo Ricotta.

HOORAY! I adore this stuff and when I visited the farm last year I asked if they had any plans to make it, to be met only with an echoing NO. Disappointed. But now they are making it and joy of joy I can get it less than 10 minutes away. So into the basket it went and I skipped/coughed my way home.

I combined some eggs with the ricotta and whisked it with a pinch of salt until the ricotta was the size of breadcrumbs. I then sautéed some sweet small tomatoes and some fiddleheads (I still have a mini stash!) with a clove of finely chopped garlic. When soft I added the egg mixture and popped it into the oven to bake. 15 minutes later a puffy joyful frittata awaited me. It made me smile.

Now why haven’t I done this before? It was so lovely and light a perfect summer dish and very quick too. No fiddleheads? Increase the tomatoes or add some asparagus, whatever works for you. This is perfect quick lunch food for friends to be eaten in the sunshine with some salad.

Recipe: Ricotta Frittata with Tomatoes & Fiddleheads

Serves 4

Ingredients

6 large eggs (free range organic if possible)
200g good ricotta
150g good cherry tomatoes, halved
12 fiddleheads, trimmed and washed (or asparagus spears)
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped

Preheat your oven to 180 deg C.
Sauté the tomato and fiddleheads in some oil for about 5 minutes until softening. Add the garlic and after a further minute take it off the heat.
Combine the eggs and ricotta and beat or whisk until the ricotta is the size of breadcrumbs. Season with some sea salt.
Add the tomato mixture and the basil and stir through. Pour into an oiled frying pan with oven proof handle or large pie dish and bake for 15 minutes.
Check progress (it will depend on the size of your pan). When the frittata is set and golden and all puffed up it will be ready to devour.
Enjoy!

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Video: Making Fiddlehead Soup & Pickling Fiddleheads (Canning) in New Brunswick, Canada

So, we picked the fiddleheads and washed them (as per the video in my last post). We then brought them back to O’Donnells Cottages and made a delicious fiddlehead soup for lunch. We preserved some of the rest and took a jar back home with us. I am saving mine for dirty fiddlehead martinis. Yes you did read right,and yes, isn’t that genius? I got the idea from a lovely lady in New Brunswick.

Apologies for the camera flash in the middle of the pickling video, I didn’t spot it until I rendered it and am struck down with a chest infection so can’t face doing it again.

Hope you like!

fiddlehead-video
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Video: Fiddlehead Foraging in New Brunswick, Canada

A fun little video for you from our fiddlehead forage in New Brunswick last weekend! Recipes and more soon.

fid·dle·head
[fid-l-hed]
–noun
1. Nautical . a billethead having a form similar to the volute carved at the upper end of a violin.
2. the young, coiled frond of various species of ferns, eaten as a vegetable.

for·age
[fawr-ij, for-]

1. the act of searching for provisions of any kind.
2. to collect forage from; strip of supplies; plunder: to forage the countryside.
3. to supply with forage.
4. to obtain by foraging.

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Farewell New Brunswick!

Farewell, New Brunswick!

I am on my way back to London now and very sad to leave Canada behind. It was a wonderful trip, a perfect combination of catching up with old friends and doing fun things with them in Nova Scotia, to a terrific food trip around New Brunswick centred on the humble twisting fiddlehead.

I need to adapt and already as I sit in the airport reality is starting to nip, deadlines are shouting at me, I am wondering about how I can do x, y & z. It’s just like Sunday night before school when you don’t want to do your homework. Hey-ho.

I will miss a few things after my 2 week trip here. The people, well they are as nice as everyone says, they’re funny too! It has been lots of fun. The seafood is sensational, the lobster, mussels and scallops particularly so. I’ll miss those darn fiddleheads! I’ve taken to it here and have even started sticking an odd “eh” at the end of my sentences. I must really stop doing that now, or the London folks will eat me alive when I return.

So to nicer things and some photographs of today. It was so much fun. We visited an Acadian restaurant and tried some of their food. Acadians were the French settlers that came to Canada in the early 17th century. Cutting a long story very short, they were expelled by the British. Some years later some returned, establishing communities on the harsh land by the coasts in the South of New Brunswick. They became fishermen and developed a cuisine based on fish, potatoes, eggs, soup from chickens when they were too old to lay (fricot) and lots of potato based dishes as they could grow these quite easily.

We tried several of these, my favourite was Fricot au Poulet, a delicious chicken and potato soup with Acadian bread.

Fricot au Poulet (Acadian Chicken & Potato Soup)

The crêpes à râpée were pretty tasty too, basically French crêpes with lots of grated potato in, served with molasses.

Crêpes à Râpée

We finished the day with a lobster cruise at Shediac on the Acadian coast, a 2 hour mini adventure where the art of lobster fishing and eating Acadian style is explained, and you get a lobster to eat at the end. Interesting and lots of fun. The Acadians are famous for their parties and humour, and I can see why now.

Super fresh New Brunswick lobster - DELICIOUS

A little lobster roll in Acadian bread - you just have to

More on Acadian food culture and fiddleheads and jam and lots of other things soon. For now, I will board my flight to London. See you on the other side, folks!

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A Postcard from New Brunswick

Greetings once again from Canada! This time from New Brunswick where I have been on a food trip. We started the weekend foraging for those fiddleheads that I love. We sped along the river to a little island where the ostrich ferns had just peeped their heads up. We snapped the heads off and bagged them for soup, dinner and jarring later.

Violent, me? Only with fiddleheads. Other highlights are listed below with, as always, more details soon.

Flying to New Brunswick on a teeny tiny plane

Who knew?! I am the tiny speck at the bottom

Foraging for fiddlehads in Doaktown, New Brunswick

Expert fiddlehead forager, Brian

We picked these! 40lb of fiddleheads

Cara (Gourmet Chick) and I with our fiddleheads

Stuffed predator

Covered bridge in New Brunswick

Making jam with Darleene at The Jam Shack (and trying her secret recipe burger sauce!)

Blackberry scones with strawberry jam & cream at (another) Darleene's Tea House

Birdhouses

4lb lobster

Lobster Fisherman Teddy

Boat in Acadian colours outside an Acadian house

Moose Bolognese

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Comfort & Spice: Now in the Catalogue & Coming Soon!

Oh, now this is exciting! Quadrille have published their latest catalogue, and my book – Comfort & Spice – is in there. Here’s the blurb.

New Voices in Food: Comfort & Spice by Niamh Shields £ 14.99, paperback

Full-flavoured, generous and easy to reproduce recipes have won Niamh Shields a huge following for her blog, Eat Like A Girl, as well as critical acclaim (The Times included the blog in its top ten food blogs from around the world).

Now, for the first time, her adventurous though frugal food and warm, bright writing style is collected in a book. Niamh’s gastronomic curiosity has gathered together the cookery of her native Ireland, in such dishes as the Cork speciality Spiced Christmas Beef, as well as exotically greedy but delicious Asian Chicken Skin Skewers, and an elegant Raspberry and Rose Tart, in dishes that embrace both the passing of the seasons, the foods of the world, and the special occasions of a modern life.

Comfort and Spice is a book both to read in bed and to splatter with sauce next to the stove, whether you’re a nervous novice – a group of potential cooks very close to Niamh’s heart – or simply someone who wants to make their food sing.

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Antidote to Bacon Jam: Greek Yogurt with Berries, Toasted Oats & Pecans

Greek Yogurt with Toasted Oats, Pecans and Berries

By now, I expect that many of you will have spent a few days shovelling bacon jam down your gullets and are now anxiously clutching your hearts wondering, what if I have gone too far? I need more! What do I do? You little bacon addicts.

Here’s what you do. Make yourself a nice healthy breakfast. (Then more bacon jam)

This is simple and feels righteous. It tastes good too. Per person, spoon 2 tablespoons of greek yogurt into a bowl and add a tablespoon each of raspberries and blueberries. Toast a tablespoon of oats and pecans in a dry frying pan with a teaspoon of brown sugar, stirring as you do so they don’t burn, for a few minutes until the oats start to crisp. Serve on top of the fruit and yogurt.

Feel better? I know I do.

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A Postcard from Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia is suffering an unusual bout of grey weather and rain for this time of year so not many pictures of the landscape for you, but a small selection of some things that I liked as I made my way around. I think they capture the spirit.

It’s still a superb place to visit. Like Ireland, they are used to the bad weather and so have a vibrant indoors culture. A bubbling local brewing culture and lots of vineyards pair beautifully with great local seafood. Live traditional music and jazz sits comfortably beside.

Looking forward to getting back here in the summer sometime too. I would love to head up to Cape Breton and also over to Newfoundland. It has to be done, right?

Great coffee and a cookie as big as my head at Two If By Sea, Dartmouth

The Chamber of Commerce in Shelburne (a very small place!)

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Choo Choo! All Aboard the Bacon Jam Train! (Recipe)

Bacon Jam. Stop, take a moment, and say it out loud. Bacon. Jam. BACON JAM! Yes, that is what I am talking about! Feeling excited?

So, bacon jam first came into my life some years about when I heard that they sold it in the US. I promptly spent a fortune and ordered some, paying the same in postage as for the jam itself. I fell in love.

I had to have more so I came up with a recipe. It was earmarked for the book but I decided not to put it in (although I do think that was stupidity now) so I never blogged it. It’s my recipe so, as you can imagine, there is lots of spice and big flavours.It’s delicious, and almost as good as my chorizo jam, both recipes will find their way to you eventually!

I am in Nova Scotia now, and when I got to the airport my eye was drawn to a visitors booklet called Taste of Nova Scotia. It has lists of places to try and also some local recipes. One of these was for seared scallops with bacon jam. The recipe was quite different to mine and I was keen to try it. It has coffee in it for one (genius – it accents the smokiness).

The local scallops are very good here and super reasonably priced. I found some smoked scallops at the farmers market and that was it, I was making it. I have used the Taste of Nova Scotia recipe from Shelley Steventon of The Old Fish Factory as a base but made some changes. I didn’t use Tabasco, instead I used chipotles in adobo which gave it lovely depth and smokiness (substitute with normal chilli or 2 tbsp Chipotle tabasco sauce if you can’t get it). I also added a little more sugar and then some red wine vinegar which gave it a lovely tang (I love cider vinegar and there is some in the recipe too but the red wine vinegar adds another layer when added towards the end). Otherwise, thanks very much Shelley for bringing this into my life!

This is terrific with scallops and in a BLT too – just add lettuce and tomato, or just on crackers. It is best served warm. You will love it, you will become addicted. I hope you don’t get gout (I hope I don’t get gout!). Enjoy :)

Bacon Jam Recipe

Ingredients

500g streaky bacon (it has to be streaky), chopped into small dice
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 red onion, finely diced
50g brown sugar
50mls maple syrup
50ml cider vinegar
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
250ml fresh brewed coffee (NOT instant – important)
2 chipotles in adobe (1 chillies – NOT 2 tins!), finely chopped

Method

Sauté the bacon over a medium heat until starting to crisp.

Take the bacon out and fry the onion in the bacon fat until softening but not coloured. Add the garlic for about a minute.

Transfer the bacon, onion, garlic to a large pot with the rest of the ingredients (excluding the red wine vinegar). Simmer gently for one hour, adding a little water every 30 minutes if required (I only had to do this towards the end). Add the red wine vinegar in the last 5 minutes.

Shelley recommends pulsing it in a food processor briefly (to retain the course texture) although I felt it didn’t need it as the bacon was chopped quite small.

Ready to serve. Will keep in the fridge too although I doubt you will have any leftover.

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Some Ghosts, Some Oysters, Some Shrimp: All in a Good Lunch

Requirements for a good lunch:

  • fresh local produce cooked well
  • good local wine, preferably sparkling
  • a wine cellar in an old lift that used to be used to transport bodies
  • a toilet haunted by the ghost of an angry man and a little girl

All jokes aside, this describes where I lunched today in Halifax. The Five Fishermen is a popular restaurant in Halifax spread out over two floors. Originally a school that offered education to children from poor families in Halifax (it was the first free public school in Canada), it then became the Halifax Victorian School of Art before being bought by the Snow family and becoming the John Snow & Co. Funeral Home which sadly would be associated with two major disasters not long after.

Photo of John Snow & Co. Funeral Home

When the Titanic sank in 1912, the wealthier victims were brought here so that arrangements could be made. A few years later the Halifax explosion (the largest explosion in the world before Hiroshima) claimed over two thousand lives, and many of the bodies ended up here.

Naturally, now there are lots of ghost stories and sightings. Mediums have gone to eat there (and always remark on the presences), and Creepy Canada (seems to be like Most Haunted in the UK) paid them a visit. Curious!

There are tales of taps that turn themselves on and windows that won’t stay closed. Pockets of cold air on hot days, apparitions, an elderly gentlemen with long grey hair appearing infrequently in a mirror or on the landing.

Scariest of all, is that the ladies is haunted by an angry male ghost, and a ghost of a little girl who is really scared and doesn’t realise she is dead. They have had two exorcisms in the bathroom but she has been sighted since. The thinking now is the angry male ghost won’t let her leave. Typical, eh? I can tell you that I decided to wait to use the toilet elsewhere once I heard that.

SO, those are the stories. But what of the restaurant? The downstairs section is modern and bright. An enomatic machine houses the best wines by the glass downstairs, ensuring that you always get it at its best, and some tables sit by a glass walled wine cellar. Upstairs is very classic with stained glass windows from an old French convent lighting one room beautifully, and lots of quirky maritime fixtures abound.  The wine cellar as you go up the stairs is the one in the aforementioned mortuary lift.

The wine list is reputed to be one of the best in Halifax, and it has one of the widest local selections of wine. The first two pages of the wine list are entirely devoted to Nova Scotian wines.

I ate there for lunch. I am all about the seafood here and this is what they specialise in so I chose tempura oysters to start (3 for $9), which were perfectly fresh and juicy with some good mayonnaise.

I followed this with a shrimp po boy ($16), a local take on the New Orleans classic. Large succulent North Atlantic shrimps, very lightly battered were served in a brioche bun with salad. You could have this with a stilton caesar salad, garden salad or bowl of soup, I chose the caesar.

Seafood Cobb Salad ($14)

To drink I tried two very good and well priced local sparkling wines. Prost from Jost Vineyards (€7.50 a glass), and Crescendo from Gasperau Vineyards (€9 a glass).

Otherwise, there is a comprehensive a la carte and a very well price Prix Fixe menu with three courses for $42 including access to the mussel & salad bar. I do want to check out the Oyster Happy Hour before I go back. All oysters are $1.50 and are served freshly shucked, baked and in other styles with great wine offers by the glass including a chablis for $10. A bit of a bargain.

So there you go! It ticks a lot of boxes and is well worth a visit for the history, a little drama, and definitely for the wine list and super fresh delicious seafood.

http://www.fivefishermen.com/

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Decadent Snacking: Crayfish with Lime Mayonnaise

You will have cottoned on to the fact that I am in lovely Nova Scotia. A great friend of mine lives here and we are catching up, exploring, cooking, eating, and imbibing plenty of wine. She is a bit of a wine buff so I had to bring her a bottle of Nyetimber English sparkling wine (the award winning 2005 vintage) to try. Happily she loved it.

I love wine, but food is where I am happiest. So what to eat with that? Seafood is plentiful, super fresh and reasonably priced here so I am in my element. I have eaten it every day and will continue to. The local fishmonger had lots of shell on crayfish which looked too great to leave behind, so we bought a bunch of them, and then I whipped up some decadent lime mayo to dip them in when we got home.

Home made mayonnaise is beyond easy, luxurious, cheap to make and very quick (with a mixer). It is really tricky by hand with the drop by drop addition of oil (an egg yolk can only take so much at a time so if you add to much with slow whisking it will split and then it’s bye bye mayo).

Mayonnaise actually tastes best with less flavourful cheaper oils, so if using extra virgin olive oil I would recommend using only half with half sunflower, rapeseed or groundnut oil. I usually use cider vinegar or lemon juice to acidulate but I used red wine vinegar here and it actually worked really well. It seems to really suit the lime.

This would be great with prawns or lobster too. Also, try it with chipotle sweet potato chips – a personal favourite, perhaps I should blog them soon.

Enjoy!

Crayfish with Lime Mayonnaise Recipe

Ingredients

Crayfish – shell on or off, whatever you can get, cooked (and as much as you want to eat)

Lime Mayonnaise:

2 large egg yolks
1 tsp mustard
1 tsp red wine vinegar (or cider or white wine vinegar)
250mls oil (rapeseed, groundnut, sunflower or similar ideal, or half one of these with half olive oil for that lovely olive oil flavour too)
zest of 1 lime and the juice of half the lime
sea salt to taste

Method

Whisk the egg yolks with the mustard and vinegar until creamy and frothy, then slowly add the oil in a thin drizzle. The mayonnaise gets thicker as you add more oil, so don’t worry if it isn’t thickening straight away.

When you get to the consistency you want, or when you have used all of the oil, add the lime zest and juice, whisk in, and  season to taste with the salt.

See! EASY.

Serve with the crayfish or whatever seafood you are using.

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A Wave from Nova Scotia with Fiddleheads, Scallops & Wine

Greetings from Halifax, Nova Scotia folks! Swap some of the wooden houses for the occasional pink or yellow concrete house mixed among some grey, and some dilapidated thatched cottages, and truly you could be in Ireland. I can see why everyone has been saying that they are similar places to me now. I love it.

I flew in yesterday and was mighty sleepy post flight, but that didn’t stop me going out and buying some fiddlehead ferns and local scallops to cook up for a quick lovely supper. Food is actually quite expensive in the shops here (surprisingly), yet scallops are very reasonable as they are plentiful in local waters (ours were from Digby), as are the local fiddleheads as they sprout up everywhere at this time of year.

What’s a fiddlehead? It’s the gorgeous curled frond of a fern as it grows. Think green bean meets asparagus. As you cook it, it gently uncurls. It’s a perfect partner for scallops, we added some spiced sausage too which was like the tenor for the singing troop. The firm hand to guide the dish to your taste buds. With a big healthy salad on the side, it was perfect.

To complete, we had some Nova Scotian wine with it. A delicious lightly sparkling number first for aperitif (I do like an aperitif!), Nova 7 from Benjamin Bridge. Gentle and fragrant of rose and lychee, it is a perfect summer drink that is very light in alcohol (I think about 9% from memory).

Great start to a week I am very excited about. Back soon with some photos and more details.

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And into the FIFTH Year for Eat Like a Girl! Help Me Celebrate…

For the third year running I completely forgot about my blog birthday. The 4th birthday has passed and I am now in YEAR FIVE! Crazy, isn’t it? I should have baked a cake. For now we will have to settle for my crappy improvised graphic above.

What a rollercoaster ride it has been! This last year especially. I took the jump and left my job, having left once before to do the market, and returning to the workplace for 3 days per week following that while I worked out my book proposal and all that jazz. So, I am now working full time as a food writer. Did I just write that?

I have written my first book, a cookbook called Comfort & Spice for Quadrille. Quadrille are one of my favourite publishers, how thrilling! It has gone to print and will be in the shops in September. I do hope you all like it as much as I do.

Very excitingly, I was shortlisted for the Observer Food Monthly Blog Award last October. Sadly, I didn’t win. This might be because I didn’t ask anyone to vote for me at all, which was pretty foolish of me. It didn’t seem right to canvas for your votes, but that was really silly as that is how these things work, isn’t it? I do appreciate that to be shortlisted without asking was an amazing achievement and I am really grateful for that – thank you.

Which brings me neatly to: the voting has started for this years OFM Awards and I would be thrilled if you thought that this little space was good enough for a vote. It takes little time, you can do it online, and really EVERY VOTE COUNTS. I would be so delighted and appreciative of each and every one. Not to overstate it, but to be shortlisted again would make my year.

To vote, just go to the voting form and put in your details and in the food blog section vote Eat Like a Girl / http://www.eatlikeagirl.com. Other categories would love your support too if you had favourites there.

Vote in the OFM Awards here: http://www.easyanswer.net/observer/default2.asp

Thank you :) x

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Barcelona: Lunch at Cal Pep

You have to go to Cal Pep! You may not get in though, big queues! Book in advance. It is excellent. So echoed everyone that gave me advice for my trip to Barcelona. Cal Pep is loved by locals and tourists alike.

A gorgeous little tapas bar tucked away in a corner of Plaça de les Olles near Barceloneta, it reminds me of a sushi bar in style. Lots of happy diners scoffed at the bar, and a queue snaked the length of it. I was happy that I had taken the advice proffered and booked a little table at the back.

Happily I was dining with yet another food blogger, lovely Luisa (The Wednesday Chef) and Nico, a wine importer and wine blogger based in Barcelona, so we were all open to enjoying a decadent lunch and Nico was appointed our wine expert.

I asked for a menu, there is none. But, but, but, I saw one on the wall outside, didn’t I? No, there’s no menu, what would you like? A selection of meat, veg and seafood? It sounded great to me and I love to be surprised (the others were happy with it too) so we went with that.

Nico chose a lovely rich creamy cava, a Gran Reserva from Bertha. A complex and delicious cava, and one that we don’t see too much of here unless you really seek it out. A great shame really, but do try it if you come across it. The food was delivered plate by plate, a series of delights and all delicious, there wasn’t a dud among them.

We stayed there for a few hours, moving on to a house red rioja that was only €9 a bottle and very drinkable before I had to get a taxi to the airport. I loved Cal Pep and can see why everyone says it’s a must do. We paid €50 each for a terrific large meal (incl of drinks and service). Treat yourself to lunch or dinner there, and book before you go.

Cal Pep, PLAÇA OLLES, 8
08003 Barcelona, Spain
933 107 961

A delicious raw salmon dish (the name escapes me - sorry!)

Pimentos de Padron

Tuna Tartare (this was sensational)

Excellent jamon

Tortilla with Ham - perfefctly gooey and eggy inside as it should be

Clams with paprika

Sirloin Steak with Potatoes (it looks plain but is packed with flavour and richness)

Foie Botifarra (I think) with Beans (divine)

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Barcelona Food Markets

When in Barcelona and looking for a market, everyone goes to the Boqueria. And so they should. It’s a wonderful market, buzzing, lively and full of energy.

Often ignored by the traveller though is the everyday food market, San Antonio Market near the Universitat. The customers are mainly locals shopping for their daily produce. I didn’t see another tourist there the morning that I visited.

The San Antonio market has all that the Boqueria has, in an ordered controlled way. It has little tapas bars as the Boqueria does, granted not as many. It is not rammed (the Boqueria is always packed) and has everything you could possibly want. It has less of an international focus – the Boqueria stocks everything you could imagine – and if you’re in Spain, it is surely Spanish food you are after.

So, I would ensure that you do both. If you don’t like crowds the Boqueria will drive you crazy, but it is worth an explore and a stop off for tapas. Go to the San Antonio Market to buy food to bring home and to enjoy the tapas in a stress free manner. Mainly, go to experience markets in Spain as they really are.

San Antonio Market:


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Dinner By the Sea at Agua in Barcelona

I grew up near the sea and I really miss it. That fresh salt air that sweeps through your lungs, slaps your face and wakes you right up. It makes you feel alive. Barcelona is happily on the sea and there are several restaurants on the beach. A leisurely evening beach walk perked our appetites and we started with drinks and some tapas outside, before moving inside for more tapas then dinner.

We ate at Agua, a stiff contrast to the traditional tapas bars it is a bright modern restaurant, spacious and airy. I feared style over substance but happily it delivered very well on both. Traditional rice dishes were gorgeous, and the tapas as good as anywhere in central Barcelona. You pay a little more, but it is worth it. The bonus is you are next to that lovely light roaring sea and beautiful light. Large windows allow you to revel in the glory of the sunset.

You will have to forgive my lack of notes on the dishes, I was busy eating and generally enjoying myself but the pictures should help. Highlights of the meal were the patatas piccantes, gorgeous sliced fried potatoes in a glorious rich dark savoury sauce. It reminded me of a spicy tapenade but was in fact dried chillies with tomatoes and onions. Asparagus with romesco was simple and perfect. The gazpacho poured at the table was beautiful and summery and as good as any I had in Andalucia.

The main course highlights were their arroz (rice dishes) and the fiduea with clams, one of the cheaper dishes at €16, a gorgeous slow cooked rich noodle dish scattered with clams in the shell. A dessert of wild strawberries in a  light custard with black pepper was a tad large but delicious – I recommend you share it if you order if you start with as many tapas as we did!

Highly recommended for a glam and traditional take on Catalan cooking.

http://www.grupotragaluz.com/rest-agua.php

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Postcard from Barcelona, Day 2

I woke up reasonably grumpy today, mainly very tired, and plan free. I don’t like to plan too heavily when I travel, as I like a little free range explore and the freedom to be lazy, frankly. As I left my hotel this morning that’s exactly what I did. Wander, slowly and slightly lazily, watching as I went.

I followed the sound of some church bells, peeling in the distance, they were joyful and I knew there would surely be activity nearby. Choir song burst out of a basement. I happened upon a gorgeous large church, and just as I arrived the doors jolted open and people erupted out. Children had footballs that they were already bouncing and adults joined in. It evolved from a quiet moody square to one that was  jostling, playful and quite busy. Girls in communion dresses wandered around, clearly proud of their elegance. In the corner there was a lovely little tapas bar (Fragments Cafe). I thought coffee.

This pic from phone... I didn't have my camera

This pic from phone... I didn't have my camera

Despite the menu being in English as well as Spanish it was an entirely local affair. I was the only English speaker there from what I could see. I started with coffee and progressed to a refreshing glass of vermut (local vermouth with an orange slice and two green olives served within) which was presented with a free tapas. Did I mention I love it here? Some iberico jamon croquetas later and I was sold and very happy. Some foods just get those endorphins flowing, croquetas are definitely one.

This pic from phone... I didn't have my camera

A wander around Barcelona to build up the appetite and help digest breakfast brought me by many of the sights and near the sea. The evening finished perfectly with some great tapas and wine with another visiting London food blogger, Sabrina Ghayour at La Vinya Del Senyor, a gorgeous local bar in the shadow of the looming impressive Santa Maria del Mar.

What will tomorrow bring? Who knows. That’s how I like it.

La Vinya Del Senyor

Santa Maria Del Mar

Taking a Break at Santa Maria del Mar

Santa Maria Del Mar - I do not know this guy! It's totally random.

Santa Maria Del Mar

Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down at Sagrada Famiglia

Sagrada Famiglia