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Competition: Win a Holiday to the Canary Islands

A rare competition from me this morning, sponsored by Canary Islands Tourism. Best of luck! 

Canary Islands

Canary Islands

Lets face it, the British and Irish summer is hardly reliable, so if you are looking for a break with almost guaranteed sun this year, the holiday specialists at Shineagain.com are offering a chance to win seven sunny getaways in the Canary Islands.

Part of Spain but located very close to mainland Africa, this archipelago enjoys balmy temperatures throughout the year. Some islands are known for their lively and family friendly resorts but others offer peace, nature and unique national parks.

The holiday will include flights, accommodation, transfers (or car hire depending on what you choose) and other tasty extras including a sailing excursion, guided walks, a diving experience and lunch at some gorgeously located dining spots.

How to enter:

Choose from one of these island destinations:

La Gomera – For nature
La Palma – For picturesque scenery
Fuerteventura – For beaches
Lanzarote –  For volcanic landscapes
Tenerife – For a bit of everything
El Hierro – The meridian island
Gran Canaria – Another all rounder

Then go to Shineagain.com to make your selection, enter your contact details on the form and then check your email account to complete your entry into the draw.

Want to multiply your chances of winning? Just tweet about the competition and share it on Facebook.

The competition closes at the end of July. Good luck!

Canary Islands

Canary Islands

Rhubarb Cordial
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Recipe: Homemade Rhubarb Cordial

Homemade Rhubarb Cordial

Homemade Rhubarb Cordial

There is a lot to be said for the sunshine and a big bright sky. It brings cheer after a long harsh winter – and I know I haven’t experienced most of it – but London has become a dour place, and it seems as though as a city, it has been suffering from a severe Seasonal Affective Disorder.

So, what joy the sun brought with its big sky and warm sunshine. Everyone was cheerful and the parks were full. I was inspired to cook something bright and joyful. I wanted fruit and I wanted a refreshing non alcoholic drink. My mind turned to rhubarb cordial.

I love homemade cordials, I have one in my book and make many at home all the time. I finish them off with sparkling water and ice and sip as I work. After work, they sometimes end up in a cocktail.

The cordial I made is a fresh version to be consumed within the week. If you want to preserve it so that it lasts a few months, use citrate (also called citric acid) in place of the lemon (1 teaspoon for the recipe quantity below). Citrate is available in pharmacies generally although no longer in the UK, you can however order it online.

I used bright English rhubarb, not forced rhubarb but normal stuff. It was a lovely bright pink, if broader and tougher than its slender cousin. After a brief period of cooking, the cordial mixture is allowed to strain gently through a fine mesh sieve (or some muslin), releasing the bright pink cordial and leaving the darker fruit fibre behind. This incidentally, is great mixed in with yogurt for breakfast.

This recipe also works really well when you combine it with blood orange or rose extract when you are cooking the rhubarb. I make both, and adore them.

Enjoy! This is so easy and is really so delicious. The vibrant flavour and colour are something that you don’t get in the shop bought stuff, unless you are buying an artisanal one (which is also homemade, just not in your home :)

RECIPE: Rhubarb Cordial
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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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Summer Pasta #2 – Broad Bean and Prosciutto Carbonara

One gorgeous summer evening, gloriously sunny in my little urban garden, I gazed out my window and thought, what can I cook that will be bright, cheerful, quick, colourful and tasty? A quick perusal of the fridge contents revealed broad beans, some prosciutto, a little cream and pecorino, and some parsley. The scene was set. I was going to make a twist on carbonara.

Broad beans and ham are such a gorgeous combination. Opposites attract, early season tender sweet broad beans meet the robust boldness of a cured prosciutto. It’s a cliche but it is a match made in heaven.

Carbonara is one of those gorgeous comforting dishes. Traditionalists and purists say DON’T TOUCH. But I do, I can’t help it. It’s one of those dishes that lends itself to lovely interpretations, and so quickly. I’ve made carbonara’s with many different ingredients, chorizo & kale was a lovely one, and now with broad beans and prosciutto.

Isn’t it difficult?

No. The dish (according to Marcella Hazan), was born in Rome during world war deprivation, when American GI’s had eggs and ham and little else. So, they asked the locals to make them a dish, and carbonara was born. Purists (and I am generally one), don’t add cream to their carbonara, the sauce gets it unctous creaminess from egg yolks, and egg yolks alone. Parmesan and pecorino romano add depth of flavour, saltiness and some texture, and should it require it, some water from the just cooked linguine pot will add moisture. Parsley adds colour and flavour, and some garlic, fried in the olive oil and removed when brown, adds a subtle garlicky undertone, which caresses each bite.

How did I make it? Recipe below, but  I did add cream, as sometimes you just must. The luxury it confers is delicious. I’ve written the recipe per person. I always cook for two, as I am generally just feeding myself, and I like my leftovers for lunch. This actually reheats nicely, it’s a different dish, but I love fried spaghetti the next day, and the eggy sauce almost scrambles. It sounds wrong, but it tastes very right.

Ingredients (per person):

100g spaghetti
2 slices of prosciutto, torn into strips
250g broad beans (weighed in the pod)
1 clove of garlic
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp cream
1 tbsp pecorino
1 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Some grated fresh parmesan or pecorino, and some chopped flat leaf parsley, to serve
Olive oil for frying
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Method:

Double pod the broad beans, remove the outer green pod, then the little white casing around each one. Trust me, it’s worth it. The delicate sweetness of the broad bean lies within. Cook for a couple of minutes in boiling water until tender. Refresh in iced water to arrest the cooking process, and preserve that bright green colour.
Cook the spaghetti according to packet instructions.
Add the cream, pecorino and parsley to the egg yolk and whisk until combined. Season. Leave to the side in a bowl big enough to hold the pasta.
Heat some olive oil and fry the garlic until brown on both sides. Discard.
When the pasta is almost done, add the broad beans to the oil, and heat through.
When cooked, drain the pasta reserving some of the cooking water.
Add the pasta to the egg yolk mixture. Toss so all of it is coated. Add a little pasta water if it’s dry.
Add the broad beans and prosciutto and toss. Season to taste.
Serve immediately with some parmesan/pecorino and flat leaf parsley as a garnish.
Enjoy!

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The taste of summer – Israeli cous cous and feta salad

Apologies to anyone who comes to my online kitchen looking for some recipes, I have been very remiss of late. There’s a few reasons for this:

  • I have relocated to Battersea, this is the year of being topsy turvy and moving frequently, it seems.
  • Shortly after relocating, some mice came to visit. Some big mice. That liked to run along the worktop. I hate mice, apart from them being unsanitary, they completely freak me out. There is no logic to this whatsoever, I know they’re smaller than me and I can do them more harm than they can me. It must be a phobia, I completely freeze when I see them and I wish I could say scream, but it’s more of a panicky croak. In summary, I steered clear of the kicthen for a couple of weeks.

I started to miss my lunches. I am used to bringing in something tasty and healthy but, whilst my house became the mouse house, I started to use the company canteen again. Our company canteen could desperately do with a Jamie style overhaul. It offers: hot things in bad sauces, pasta that’s been cooked for (I would estimate) an hour in bad or weird sauces, cold fish fingers in the salad section (YES: salad section) and random bits and bobs. It’s saving grace is the said salad section with the likes of grated carrot but that gets tired very quickly, say 3 days. Let’s just say, the company canteen is not my favourite indulgence.

So, I braved the kitchen – be very proud of me. For 2 weeks, if anything brushed off my skin, I immediately thought MOUSE and jumped or ran. I scanned the counter, peeked behind the door, opened the cupboard and peered in expecting to be face to face with a fat grey mouse. But, there was none there. So, I proceeded to concoct something, fresh, flavourful and quick for work. Something to match this lovely weather and to satiate my lunch time appetite. I made a delicious salad with israeli cous cous, feta, tomato, black olives, parsley and pine nuts with some lemon to lift the flavours.

The recipe is very simple and quick. I think it will become a picnic favourite. This made one large lunch.[Read more]