Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Marmite with cheese crumbs

This is no Michelin starred dish, but a desperate solution to there being no food in the house. As we wake up to the shock of a dark morning, it worsens as we go downstairs to find there is no fruit and fibre for the boy and not much for the lunchbox. As the mother of all invention after I had squeezed one sandwich out of the cheese there was only the cheesy crumbs left in the bottom of the packet. So this morning for breakfast we have marmite and cheese crumbs on sherston toast and fire porridge, with optional extra fire all to the tune of gangnam style. As for lunch there's jam sandwiches, and for me I'm heading to the shops....

Monday, 5 November 2012

Spiced potatoes

I am currently working on a new project with Foodbank.  We are aiming to produce seven recipes, one for each day of the week, for a main meal using mainly Foodbank ingredients.  With this they can give out a specific box of the right ingredients and recipe to make  a meal. In this we hope to provide a bit more inspiration and help in how to produce a healthy cheap dinner for your family.  I have been experimenting a bit and tonight came up with a spicy potato dish.  We hope that through donations we can provide fresh potatoes and spice mixes to give people a more varied meal. I have a cupboard full of rarely used spices and the more I cook the more I think you can add as much or little variety of them as you have.
Spiced potatoes.
10 small potatoes
2cm fresh ginger sliced finely
1 chilli, deseeded and sliced
2tbs vegetable oil
1tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp tumeric
1/4 tsp garam masala
Scrub the potatoes and boil until tender in their skins.  When cooled rub the skins off.  Heat the oil and fry your mustard seeds until they pop, add the cumin seeds then the fresh ginger and chilli.  When this has softened add any of the spices you’ve got, then break the potatoes into the spice mix, fry for a couple of minutes then add half a cup of water and cook until it’s absorbed and the potatoes are crisping a bit. Season well and squeeze over some lemon if you like.
We served ours with raita, rice and some green beans, although the temptation was definitely to just eat all the steaming potatoes straight from the pan.

Monday, 15 October 2012


I just realised that I don't have enough cake recipes on here, I have two staple cakes that fill our family like nothing else,

My mother in laws apple cake
In theory perfect at this time of year when apples should be in abundance,
1lb cooking apples-  I often use a mix of cookers and eaters
2oz raisins (optional)
1oz walnuts (never put in!)
4oz butter
40z sugar brown or white
5oz self raising flour
1 egg
Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the sugar, flour then egg. Next add the peeled chopped apple and any of the other ingredients you fancy using.
Bake in a small spring form tin at about 180c for 30 minutes.

Lemon cake.
Zest of two lemons
6oz butter, sugar, sr flour
3 eggs
Juice of two lemons
31/2 oz caster sugar
Cream together the butter and sugar, add the lemon zest then the eggs with alternate spoonfuls of the flour.  Combine, I bake mine in a shallow rectangular tray 25x18(ish).  Bake at 180c for 25 minutes, Mix together the topping and when golden and cooked through pour over the hot cake.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

foodbank crumble recipe

Today we have been loving the most perfect autumn day, awaking to the first frost and bright sunshine was enough to put an autumnal spring in our step.  This beautiful day was well timed as today was our community orchard day.  We joined with our neighbours celebrating the years crop and harvest, or as it was this year the celebration of the one noble apple that grew alone.  This mighty lonesome apple was given pride of place at the centre of the table, a beautiful symbolic apple, shining red and green for all an apple represents and this year sadly, our crop of one was testimony of a terrible year for growers.  As we hear wheat prices are set to go up by 40% and the dismal statistics across europe from food growers, who knows what effect it’s going to have .  It makes the notion of food waste all the more repugnant. At our school’s harvest festival the kids sang a very relevant tune, “7 million tonnes of food thrown in the bin every year”.  
As dependable as the trees turning, for us harvest time means a good fruit crumble, but with only a few bramley apples on the tree in our garden I turned to my foodbank ingredients to make one.
Tinned apricot crumble recipe.
1 tin of apricots
40g cold butter
40g oats
40g flour
2tbsp sugar
Drain the tin of apricots keeping back the juice, place them in a small dish that goes in the oven. Cut the butter into small pieces, rub into the flour until it looks like sand, stir in the oats and sugar.  Pour over the apricots and bake in an oven until golden brown, serve with the leftover juice poured over, custard, cream or all three. 

Friday, 12 October 2012

Food bank fish cake recipe

Last week we were able to join in a great celebration of our area's finest food at the Cotswold Life food and drinks award.  This highlighted just how amazing a food hub Gloucestershire is, and how over the last 10 years our area has really put itself on the culinary map. At the awards we had a great salmon starter from the Coln Valley Smokery.  And it has been my inspiration for this week's dish, looking at my pyramid of food tins to create this Food Bank recipe.
So I made fish cakes, you could easily make these fish finger shaped. I had some breadcrumbs in the freezer which I covered them with for extra crunch, you can also use crushed ritz crackers. If you ever have some leftover stale bread you can freeze them into breadcrumbs to use for all sorts of wonderful purposes.

Fish cake recipe.
30g smash
150ml boiling water
Large tin of salmon
Slice of onion
2 tbsp Flour
1 egg
Breadcrumbs or crushed ritz crackers

Chop the onion very finely and fry in oil with a pinch of salt until softened. Make up the smash by adding the boiling water into the powder, stir until blended and thick. Then add the drained salmon, fried onion and season well. Stir together with a fork.
Put the flour in a wide shallow bowl.  To make the fish cakes, roll a tablespoon of the mixture in your hand then roll in the flour.  To give the fish cakes more crunch after flouring dip in the beaten egg then the breadcrumbs. Then fry on both sides until golden then put on a baking tray in a180c oven for 15 minutes.
We ate ours with a mixture of green vegetables heated in some butter, to form a filling balanced meal for us all.

Food bank chilli recipe

My new project, to provide The Stroud Food Bank with recipes started this week with a different type of shopping list.  I filled my basket at Horsley village shop and carried the weight home. Once the kids had built towers with my new ingredients I set about working out what to do with my tins of food, the majority were savoury but a few are sweet.
Inspiration struck and I decided a Corned Beef Chilli would be a good start.
1 onion
1 clove of garlic(optional, dried could also be used)
Cooking oil
Pinch of chilli powder( or any form of chilli you've got, fresh, dried or Tabasco)
1tin of corned beef
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tin of carrots (optional)
1 tin of kidney beans
Firstly I fried the chopped onion in a splash of oil with a pinch of salt, as this softened I added the clove of garlic, this was then followed by the corned beef, the tin of tomatoes (always swill the tin out with a splash of water then add), the carrots, then the drained rinsed kidney beans. This was simmered for 15 minutes over a low heat until reduced.
We ate ours with gusto and some, rice, grated cheese and homegrown lettuce.
How to cook rice.
I always cook rice in the same way and it always works whatever the quantity.
Heat a spoon of oil or butter in a saucepan, fry the rice grains in this until they are coated and golden.  Add twice the amount of cold water to the rice to the saucepan, bring to the boil, stir for the last time, put on a lid and after ten minutes keep checking and cook until all the water has been absorbed. Cover the rice with a clean tea towel, replace the lid and leave for up to an hour or until your ready to serve.
This recipe feeds 4.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012


In the Herbert household we have had another week of fine eating.  It all got off to a great start with the cooking of an enormous piece of Gammon on monday.  I boiled it up in cider and bay then roasted it with honey and mustard.  To serve I roasted some veg, including a garden marrow, and made oodles of 
parsley sauce and vichy carrots.  Obviously all this cooking has left us with a whole load of leftovers, we are slowly nibbling our way through the ham, but the kids weren't so keen on the parsley sauce so I had about a cup left.  Also loitering in the fridge were some egg whites, I thought I would see whether you can wing a soufflé.  I loosened the parsley sauce with an egg yolk then added the egg white to the others to probably make three, I whisked these up to stiff and folded through the parsley sauce mix and  popped them in ramekins into the oven for fifteen minutes.  I ate two with leftover ham: a perfect late breakfast.
My other leftover discovery of the week is chocolate truffles, I made a ganache to ice our big girls chocolate cake, there was a tiny bit left, so I whacked it in the fridge and will roll teaspoons in cocoa powder to make some little truffles, tasty.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012


Tom tells me that eating badly is the consequence of bad organisation!  With the eagerness of a September school girl I made granola to give us all a healthy start. 
250g quinoa flakes
400g oats
200g nuts
100g seed mix
4tbsp desiccated coconut
4tbs of honey( we used the delicious stuff above)
1tbs brown sugar
1/2 tbs salt
5tbs rapeseed oil

Mix together the honey, oil, salt and sugar.  Smash the nuts in the pestle and mortar.  Add all the ingredients to the honey mix, stir well,
Put in a lined big roasting tin, cook at about 170c until browned, for about 25 minutes stir then cook again until all golden.  Turn the oven off and leave the granola in it to dry out further.
We like ours with fruit and yoghurt.
I poached a mixed pack of dried fruit salad in earl grey, star anise and cardamon. 

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Good food Tuesday

After a blissful six weeks of chasing around small children they returned to school.  In a start as you mean to go on kind of a way, the kids get to school early and me and the smallest hit HHB Nailsworth for breakfast.  There's a breakfast we haven't tried on the menu:  Chorizo, roasted tomato and fried egg on wild white toast: almighty.  We flaming loved it the toast had turned crimson with juices, a sensational flavour explosion unfortunately equally appreciated by the three year old who enjoyed it more than her sausage roll.
With out tummies full, we hit the locals and revelled in shopping locally.  Williams had their beautiful celery in, some girolles, a long radish and the ingredients for scampi and tartare sauce.  Bramleys had some fine English plums, great salad bits and pears for a pound.
I am rather guilty of making dull lunches, I always used to make soup with the help of Riverfords veg box, but since that stopped and I spent last winter making hundreds of litres of the stuff we don't manage much more than a boiled egg or cheese on toast.  Today however I was particularly pleased with my cold beef salad and tartare sauce.
I decided what the kids needed after a first day back at school and the boy to secondary was a mighty fine meal.  
The cooking began with a marble cake http://sheshopslocal.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=marble+cake.
In a good mother moment we all sat around the table and had cake and apple juice together when they got back from school, bliss. 
On the last day of the holidays the kids declared they wanted scampi for dinner, obviously I couldn't just buy a pack of the stuff so I set about making it.  Heres the recipe.
Scampi Recipe
1kg of uncooked headless prawns in a shell
3tbsp flour
2 eggs
50ml milk
Oil to deep fry
Firstly fry the uncooked prawns in olive oil until pink, shell, (saving the shells for a fish stock). Put your 
flour in a bowl, whisk your eggs and milk together in a bowl, put your breadcrumbs in a bowl and season.  Dip your cooled peeled prawns in the flour, then the egg mix, then the breadcrumbs, then the egg mix then the breadcrumbs.  Repeat until they are all coated at this point I refrigerated mine. When we were ready to eat I filled my medium saucepan with some previously used frying oil and heated it to hot.  I then dropped the prawns in in batches until golden, we served ours with salad, tartare sauce and leftover roasted new potatoes.
Tartare sauce recipe
1tbsp parsley, capers, gherkins, onion/shallot finely chopped
3tbsp mayonnaise
As if this wasn't enough we finished with the sublime new Winstones fudge brownie ice cream featuring Hobbs House Brownie.

Saturday, 30 June 2012


This week two "To Let" signs have appeared in Nailsworth's shops, this means that Nailsworth will have gone from three fantastic toy shops to NONE. Nailsworth being my ultimate favourite local town is by no means alone in this and I'm sure lots of towns have suffered much more. These are hard times for independent retailers and a bad start to the summer has not helped. More then ever they need our support, and they're not the only ones. Last week I had a tour of food bank in Stroud. A charity in need of our support. This year they have provided food for a 1000 meals. These go to people struggling to meet the most basic needs of feeding themselves and their families, right here in Stroud and in hundreds of Food Bank Hubs across the country. I've been invited by The Food Bank to assist them in developing recipes using food donated to them. By sharing the recipes in my weekly column, I hope to be able to find cheap, healthy, and tasty ways of keeping this charity in our minds whilst perfecting at home, recipes I hope will be useful for the people that need them. It's been a while, what with my E.D. adventure since I used tinned tomatoes and didn't make my own baked beans, but us Herbert's relish our next challenge, and I may even have to finally (in an emergency) after 18 months, revisit the supermarket to get my selection of tins. I will use the Horsley community shop firstly, then the Coop next. It would be great if any of you can let me know of any great independents stocking a wide range of tinned goods. So from next week we'll be cooking differently, see you then.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012


I was asked the other day for my advise on where to go in Bath shopping,I was delighted, a speciality subject (Mastermind Worthy?)
Here it is..

I would start at http://www.theloft-bath.com/single.htm?ipg=11300, which is opposite Toast, http://www.toast.co.ukI would probably pop into http://www.preyuk.com/ on my way to http://colonnaandsmalls.co.uk/: our favourite coffee shop in the world, I dream about their coffee, the owner Maxwell was just named 6th best barista in the world.
After this I would be fully charged for these
Square, http://www.harpersbazaar.co.uk/travel/mini-break-in-bath-79950, this is where my sister got her wedding dress.
Bloomsbury is nice and has a nice jewellery shop too which is next door to an amazing kitchen shop.  http://www.bloomsburystore.com/locations#location-/locations/bath.
http://www.foundbath.co.uk/ is a new discovery, we love their stuff.For men,  http://www.bathdirectory.co.uk/zucci/, Tom has bought suits here.
http://www.samskitchendeli.co.uk/  great for lunch
http://www.demuths.co.uk/about/introduction/, fantastic vegetarian restaurant for dinner.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Feeding the 5000

We spent this sunny Saturday at the Fareshare event on College Green Bristol. Fareshare was raising awareness of the ridiculous levels of food waste in our country. They fed 5000 people by cooking up an amazing vegetable curry, with rice and hot pickles. College Green was packed with a great mix of people enjoying the sunshine and curry.
On a personal note I always think we are pretty good at not wasting too much food. We never throw away unused food, and it helps that I'm able to shop little and often to avoid this. Our problem is scraps; kids not eating their dinner or just cooking too much. I currently have one portion each of beef Thai green curry, sausage and mash, roast lamb and potato dauphinoise and some old rice in my fridge. The problem is how to fit them all together to feed the six of us. I am normally pretty creative at using up scraps, and this will probably form some kind of stew using up the aubergines from the curry and leftover meat all served with two types of potato! Ridiculous, but I refuse to throw it away. A good solution is to put these small portions in the freezer for an instant ready meal.
There is also a food bank in Stroud which like Fareshare redistributes excess food. You can leave items in Emmaus in Stroud. It says on their website that they currently need tinned foods and nappies.
This doesn't solve the problem of my one portion leftover but provides a fantastic solution to the greater problem. Put it in bellies, not in bins.

Squeak piggy squeak

We have been having a really lovely time, enjoying the glorious sunshine and eating out rather a lot.
This sunny, yummy, spell started with a fantastic evening in Nailsworth, the first safari supper organised by Personal Best Studio in aid of Cotswold Care. The safari kicked off in Wild Garlic with some Wye valley asparagus wrapped in brioche served with hollandaise. We then walked to the Hobbs House Bistro for a lamb feast. The finale was at Mark @ Street for a delicious rhubarb crumble.
After this we spent an amazing few days in Cornwall eating some seriously good grub. A common theme I noted was for 'deconstructed' dishes, taking a classic dish, breaking down the elements and serving them differently. What stands out for me is that each deconstructed element has to be stronger in its deconstructed form, than it is in the traditional dish, otherwise what's the point?
Obviously everywhere we ate was doing seasonal, so lamb was hot on the menu and twice we had great fancy lamb dishes. One was cooked by Anthony at Hobbs, slow cooked lamb, confit of lamb breast in divine deep fried cubes and a lamb broth, all on the same board. In the Pony and Trap in Chew Magna there was lamb sweet breads and lambs liver all served with a spiced aubergine purée, delicious. All this eating out culminated with a fantastic night in the Goods Shed Stroud as part of SVA Site Festival where Tom and Henry celebrated the cow, with beef cooked three ways.
All this consumption has left us inspired and in need of some exercise. Where better to start than getting out in the fields and picking the first elderflowers.


Last week when the sun was shining I turned off the oven, we have an oven that works like an aga with the ovens warming our hearth by being on all the time, this just left me with the hob and the desire for a different type of cooking.
On Monday we started out the week with a delicious piece of rump steak cooked on the barbecue. Then this week I had a good attempt at some seriously frugal cooking. Bramleys greengrocers had one of its demon mushroom offers. With a box of field mushrooms for £1 and some fresh peas from the 'overs' box we pretty much ate for a week. The majority of the mushrooms were used in an attempt at a classic Elizabeth David, mushrooms a la greque. The mushrooms were fried in a lot of olive oil with peeled tomatoes and seasonings of bay and coriander seeds, this made a great healthy lunch. The remaining mushrooms were served on toasted sourdough, mushrooms on toast remains one of my all time favourites, even if it's just for the smell of mushrooms frying in butter.
The fresh peas were used in a curry. I probably bought these just to have the pleasure of sitting in the sunshine and podding them. Somehow Tom got to pod them, but he did make a pretty good curry too.
Other meals this week were pretty thrifty, an omelette with new potatoes and a smoked haddock chowder. Our diet this week has attempted healthy, cheap with camouflaged vegetables for the kids, just a shame I have let the side down by eating any chocolate or cheese in sight.

Northern Ireland

We went away last week for the jubilee and the kids half term. We had a lush break with lots of cycling, log fires and DVDs. There was just one key component missing (other than the sun) to a great family break: the food. As I am sure you all know our life revolves around food, and therefore a holiday is always geared by where next to eat. Obviously this becomes harder when this isn't available and there is nothing like absence to make the heart grow fonder. We seriously missed our amazing food shops of home. We cooked some nice meals and had some reasonable ones out but the choice was restricted. What I particularly missed was decent meat and great fresh fruit and veg. Unfortunately this is probably all a sign of the times and what were once thriving towns have now been extinguished. For us this was just serious reassurance that supporting our locals is the only way to go.
We celebrated our return to Nailsworth with breakfast at Hobbs, followed by a good shop round our locals. There were some presents to buy in White Buffalo, an ordered audio cd from Yellow Lighted and some supplies from Shiny Goodness. The sun was shining so we seized the opportunity for a picnic and stocked up with some finery from Williams Kitchen my absolute favourite treat, a true homecoming. We love these five valleys. They taste so good.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The art of dining

 I managed to run from the hills this week and head up to London all by myself.  As much as I love living in the Stroud valleys, I’ll always grab at an opportunity to head up to the big smoke.  It turned out last Thursday that there were three things I wanted to go to, each one holding a connection with home.  The first stop was Somerset house where there was an illustration exhibition featuring some great Horsley talent.  Next up was the pop up shop Nothing but Navy, the shop that first popped up in Stroud at Christmas before heading east to Shoreditch.
The grand finale to a great day was a supper club run by Stroud’s own Alice Hodge.  It was in a National Trust property in deepest Hackney, it was here that I ate what would be my last supper.  The food, art and surroundings were outstanding.  
This summoned a debate with the taxi driver on the way home, who claimed it is not about the food but the company.  Of course the finest food in the world would be ruined if you had no-one to share it with.  But it won’t surprise you to know that for me it’s about the food, it doesn’t have to be splendid but it has to be tasty.  Some of my favourite meals have been simple and shared with friends; fresh eggs scrambled over a camp fire.  Likewise my worst ever meal was shared with a whole load of family and friends but was undoubtably still the worst meal and food experience I have ever had. When great food is shared with the people you love, add in an inspiring setting and that surely is the recipe for a memorable meal. 

So next I tried to recreate the feast,

Last week I spoke about my last supper, this week it was Tom’s birthday and what better excuse than an attempt to recreate it.  On Wednesday night we had twelve for a meat fest.  Tom reminded me it’s been a year since I cooked the almighty french meat dish, pot au feu.  This week it was the turn of the italian classic bollito misto.  This is a big meat dish, chicken, tongue and brisket, boiled together to create an almighty feast.  To start I served some of the broth with the stock vegetables, parsley and spaghetti, topped with toasted garlic sourdough.  The main, stolen from the Art of Dining supper club, was the meats served with a plain boiled potato and carrot, accompanied by mustard fruits, salsa verde and the piece de resistance bone marrow bread sauce. Fortunately Henry took charge of the bone marrow and smoked it before adding it to my bread sauce. Next there was cheese and salad, plums in vodka, rhubarb crumble with dodgy homemade ice cream all topped off with lovingly made chocolate truffles. 
Of course from this big meal there were some serious leftovers.  These were reincarnated as a vietnamese pho, using the broth, brisket, noodles and some added flavour.  The remaining chicken went into some egg fried rice for the kids.
What struck me with this dish was it’s amazing simplicity yet impact to feed a crowd, and confirmed to me this is exactly how I want to cook.  

Winstones ice cream

I have loved pretending it is summer this week. I am loving the blossom, bulbs popping up, sun on my back and the arrival of English summer food.
My purple sprouting has finally sprouted in abundance and worked brilliantly in a beetroot, watercress and english tomato salad.  It’s great to see the garden vegetables thriving and knowing that with a few leafy greens I’ll be able to create a meal throughout the summer.
This Sunday I abandoned the traditional roast in favour of a summery version.  I roasted the chicken as usual, but served it with a selection of salads.  Firstly a panzanella, an italian bread salad, made with croutons of sourdough and english tomatoes.  A wild garlic pesto made with handfuls of the stuff filling woodland banks at the moment.  I just whizzed this together with toasted pine nuts, parmesan and some local rape seed oil.  For me the epitomy of Summer came with the alarmingly early English asparagus, roasted in the oven, may it be the first of many.  Next up was the turn of English strawberries, good but not as good as they hopefully will be.
Of course as in all good English summers we choose the cloudy day to make our pilgrimage to Winstones ice cream on Rodborough.  It’s here that the children behave like they’ve never eaten an ice cream before and we all scoff down in excitement our blackberry and cream ice cream, and then promptly head home to find our jumpers and light a fire.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Cash Mob

Just to remind you I only survive shopping locally and independently because of the almighty Horsley Community Shop.  This is where I can buy all my basics, cleaning stuff and oodles of treats for the kids.
In Cambridge they are trialling an American idea of "Cash Mob", an alternative to the "Flash Mob" that feel You tube. What it means is a group of people pile into an agreed local shop on a particular to show them it's support, to raise awareness of the store and hopefully pick up some new customers along the way.  A fantastic idea and I'm sure exactly what our small independents could do with at the moment.

It's not how you eat but how you shop

I overheard two ladies whinging about cooking and saying how they were bored with their same repertoire, then one said 'I just go round Tesco's looking for new inspiration", she doesn't find it.
How have our large supermarkets blinded people to think there isn't an alternative.
There is and that's the High Street, SHOP LOCALLY,  talk to the experts and the producers and they will recommend what's special and how to cook it.  Start at your local butchers, buy some pork from them, it's cheap and I bet cheaper than the supermarket.  Follow this on with a trip to your greengrocers, buy what's seasonal, our local Bramleys, sells bowls and bowls of fruit and veg for £1 each.  Take it home in a box with change in your pocket and zero packaging for the landfill.  Follow this up with a trip to your local bakers, buy a fresh loaf ideally an overnight dough, you won't have to keep it in the fridge and it will last a week.
Try it please, you might even like it, let me know how you get on.

Cooking with kids

The best way to inspire kids is to involve them.  Let them cook with you, it makes a mess it's hectic and they love it.  Eat together, if your kids see that food is something to celebrate they join in the celebration.  
By all eating together you have a more varied repertoire and they get to eat what you like.  As an antidote to this our kids have a weekly Little Chef night where they get to cook whatever they like and ideally shop for the ingredients too. The kids use the Usborne kids books lots, and love them, they have an ordinary old fashioned one, a world food one and their baking one.  I had a proud moment the other day when I asked my eldest daughter to get the Nigella Lawson cookbook and she responded, "How to eat" or "Feast". It made me laugh but I was impressed, we use both of these cookbooks really regularly and both have kiddie recipes.
My kids have also learned from their failings, the boy made a marble cake but mixed both batches together to make a chocolate cake.  And both have learnt that you need to follow the instructions and not just read the ingredients.
Tom's new book, The Fabulous Baker Brothers has some great recipes to inspire kids.  We have made the fish fingers, the burger and their baps and the demon chocolate cake.  My kids love to bake and recently baked a loaf when they had friends round, because hopefully they are realising it's as much about the sharing as the eating.  

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Good parenting

Just occasionally I have good parenting moments worthy of sharing.
1: buy your children sketch books, it's a great way to see there drawings and ideas year on year, it avoids recycling their fine art, they love it
2: my children used buttons today in their shop as money, genius idea - if buttons were money we would be rich

Thursday, 8 March 2012

The best sort of present


It's not how you cook it's how you shop....
...it's about knowing how to use a 3euro crate of peaches

All cooking is a science and if you teach yourself some basic proportion facts, you can cook anything,
for example, pastry can be as simple as half the fat to flour.

Your cooking will thrive if your kitchen is your favourite room where you will want to spend time.
-Aga's are wonderful for this as they put the warmth into your kitchen, why wouldn't you want to spend time with it.
-Views and daylight are good.
-I have been hanging fat balls outside my kitchen window so I can watch the birds as I cook.
-Fill your kitchen with daffodils, they'll make you happy
-Fling open the doors and window and cook till your heart is full.

Sunday, 4 March 2012


For us our obsession with food is as much about the experience, rituals and memories as it is the actual food.  A lot of our desire for food is about trying to recreate the experience as much as the taste.  When we were in Scotland last year we arrived after a hideous journey at our friends house, where we had been invited for tea in the afternoon.  Tea means different things to different people, for us it means a good cuppa hopefully with a lush piece of cake, for others it may mean cucumber sandwiches and a cream tea, then for some it’s their evening meal A.K.A. dinner or supper.
The tea we had that day was aspirational and I have been trying to recreate it ever since.  A cloth covered table, laid with beautiful plates, tea cups and saucers.  In the centre of the table lay some warm cheese scones, a lemon cake and a pot of tea.  For me this is the perfect tea, simplicity, homely deliciousness.  This is what food should be about yet all too often we try to complicate it.
If your confident in your ingredients and proud of what you have bought, then serve it simply.  A few times recently I have been caught out by unexpected visitors and with an empty cake tin I have raided the bread bin and made oodles of toast.  Bread, the best we can offer, served with a good knob of butter and some homemade preserves washed down with a good pot of tea. Unadulterated bliss, simple.
My favourite cheese scone recipe from Dan Lepard's Short and Sweet,
Makes 6 scones
100g plain flour
100g wholemeal or rye, I used spelt
2 tsp mustard powder
1/4 tsp cayenne
2tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine salt, I used sea salt
1 tsp brown sugar
i clove of garlic mashed
50g unsalted butter, cubed
200g cheddar, diced
1 large egg
4 tbs plain yoghurt
Place the dry ingredients and garlic in a bowl (I used my kitchen aid), rub in the butter, then toss in the cheese, beat in the egg and yoghurt until formed a soft dough.  Get your husband to mould the dough into scones.  Bake in the oven 210c for 20 -25 minutes.

Our dear friend sent us the Delia recipe, but we think Dan wins.

Cheese Crusted Scones

175g self-raising flour
25g butter
75g finely grated strong Cheddar cheese (I used Parmesan)
2-3 tablespoons of milk
half a teaspoon of salt
half a teaspoon of mustard powder
a couple of good pinches of cayenne pepper
and a little extra milk

Make as you would make scones and then at the end brush the tops with milk and add a little of the grated cheese and a faint sprinkling of cayenne.
Bake at 220 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Queen of Puddings

On Friday morning I achieved my ideal and found myself shopping for the weekend in Nailsworth, one of the advantages of this is being able to peruse the country market and feeling like I’m organised and ready for the weekend before it starts.  I started in Williams where they ask me “what recipe are you cooking this weekend then?”  I confessed that it wasn't an ED recipe, instead I was cooking from my brother in laws recipe from his and Tom’s new book.  It then dawned on me that actually everything on the shopping list was ingredients for recipes from their book.  

Friday night started with a fish stew with accompanying super garlicky aioli.  Fish stew made from red mullet, mussels and prawns from Williams.  Saturday night we had a houseful, so sliders all round.  Henry’s homemade slider burgers on Tom’s ultimate burger baps, with lush salads followed by Henry’s Queen of Puddings.  And a Queen of a pudding it was, with bright pink Yorkshire Rhubarb from Bramleys.  By Sunday we were down to eleven mouths for dinner and it was the turn of the slow cooked pulled pork.  Marinaded in ale and paprika and cooked for hours till seriously tender.  We served this with oodles of seasonal veg and some paprika spiced gravy.  Then a rather unseasonal pavlova using up the last of the foraged blackberries and elderberries from the freezer. We worked up appetites with brisk walks and muddy bike rides and warmed ourselves with, woodfire and pots and pots of tea. It’s been a great weekend, no one went hungry.  
I’m hoping a year of Elizabeth David hasn’t left me too recipe book dependent. It’s certainly given me an overwhelming curiosity to try out new ones, even if they have been written by my family.  

Donuts, ED style

Two Elizabeth David recipes have snuck onto the menu this week. A delicious ox kidney casserole, that I didn't dare give to the kids.  The cooking this week has been a lot about the childrenand what they like to eat, it got me thinking about how to get kids eating and to engage with food.  I believe the answer is so simple: involve them.  I think this means eating together and letting them help with cooking, then they learn that food is something to be celebrated.  This week with the kids I have made fish fingers, some skinned plaice  from Williams egged and breaded, so simple but so much nicer than the Captains version.  We made a very extravagant chocolate cake which was a good lesson in the value of ingredients.  The kids have made for themselves pizza, fruit salad and smoothies.  My eldest daughter particularly loves to make food for friends, and will take great pride in making her "smoothie surprise" when her friends are over.
Today we made doughnuts together, the boy has developed a nasty habit for them, particularly caramel ones.  Today we used an Elizabeth David recipe much to their groans.  We made the sweet dough and left it to rise.  During this time we cleaned up the old doughnut jammer Tom remembers using as a child and filled it with the last of the summers homemade strawberry jam.  After we had deep fried the buns, rolled them in sugar, squirted in the jam we scoffed them without licking our lips.
At last my boy has declared we've made an Elizabeth David recipe he'd love to make again.

Elizabeth David Birthday special

I decided this week to reclaim Elizabeth David from my in laws.  She had only been there a week and I was already missing her, the problem was I needed to cook a celebratory meal for my Pa's birthday and I didn't know where else to turn. 
The menu was inspired by what was available locally, the butchers had a good looking duck and the mussels in Williams looked too good to miss. Therefore we started with brochette mussels.  Pre cooked mussels threaded onto a kebab stick with bacon, rolled in flour, then egg, then rye breadcrumbs and pan fried in oil. These were served with a bearnaise sauce with spinach in.  To follow I roasted the duck with stock added to stop him drying out, this was served a la Elizabeth with braised celery and parsnip purée.  I wasn't convinced the pudding was going to be a winner and would let the meal down.  When I spotted apricots in Bramley's I knew I had a couple of recipes left, there was a choice of apricots with a kind of eggy bread or apricots on croutons.  I chose the latter and buttered some finally sliced shepherds loaf and placed them in a roasting tray.  On these I put the halved apricots and filled their cavity with sugar and roasted the lot in the oven. The result was surprisingly tasty not too dry and great with a big dollop of yoghurt.  The dollop of yoghurt made a nice change to "a knob of butter" which seems to be dominating our lives at the moment.   

happy new year

On New Year’s day I cooked my Elizabeth David finale. I’m keeping my options open as to whether this is the absolute end, it’s just the last recipes require some serious attention and detail; calfs head viniagrette, boned duck or coffee infused ice cream.  The finale was her “Boeuf Bourguignon”, said in a silly french accent.  It was mighty fine and definitely the epitome of what a years worth of cooking Elizabeth David has been about.  Great meat marinated in fine wine, cooked over two days for flavour and tenderness, served with parsnip puree, seasonal greens, a large glass of red wine and a great dollop of fiery dijon mustard.  
This leads me to ask, what’s next?  Normality seems appealing but I’m not really sure what that is.  A return to the supermarket certainly isn’t on the horizon, I was reminded of this after being away for a couple of weeks, landing back in Nailsworth felt like home, greeted with smiling familiar faces and people wanting to chat.
As for what’s on the menu, we have been somewhat distracted by the new tv series, Fabulous Baker Brothers.  What with trying out pies and experimenting with recipes for the book, it’s all been very pastry based.  “We” made the most amazing Beef Wellington this weekend, beef fillet covered with sauteed mushrooms then wrapped in savoy cabbage and the finest puff.  Hopefully with all this pie action I’ll get some help completing one more Elizabeth recipe; a giant sausage roll, an oversized sausage wrapped in brioche dough.  Not the food of New Year’s resolutions.

Christmas is coming

Glad tidings we bring to you and your King, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.....
How was your Christmas? I don't like to think that it's already in the past tense, all that effort and expectation has got to be worth a season of goodwill not just a day.  But how do you achieve that when Boxing Day sales start at 5am and lure you in for all you didn't get from Father Christmas. 
From what I've heard and observed, loads of you enjoyed a local Christmas. With such amazing food available from your local town or your Christmas eve Stroud farmers market 
it was easier than ever to enjoy the tastiest Christmas yet.  
We had some great local highs this year with presents.  Tom loved his handmade leather case, the kids were thrilled with all theirs and I was given a fab selection of local gifts- vouchers for a local massage, lush clothes bought locally and a beautiful make up bag bought at Prema's Christmas fayre.

As for our Christmas dinner, we were in France and I can tell you their weeny turkey wasn't a patch on my 9kilo one I cooked at the beginning of December, their sprouts weren't up to much either.

Very ironically I did find myself in a French supermarket on Christmas eve. Father Christmas needed the obligatory walnuts, (later regretted in airport customs, as the kids stamped on them to get at the nuts) clementines and an ice cream.  French towns seem to have the same predicament as our local towns with domineering supermarkets presiding over the demise of independents and the high street.
For High Street sake, make it your new years resolution to shop locally and keep your independents thriving. 
...now bring out that figgy pudding.