Homemade Elderflower Cordial and a Walk on the North Downs

Elderflower is having its moment right now both in the real world and on instagram, where everyone seems to be making elderflower cordial. From the end of May until mid-July you can find it all over the place, both in the city and in the countryside, although you want to gather it away from roads and above hip height for obvious reasons.

It’s very easy to identify and the scent is heavenly – the only thing that you could mistake it for is cow parsley, but once you know the difference its easy to tell the two apart. Each elderflower head is called an “umbel” – such a cool little word don’t you think? The weather was so beautiful last weekend we thought we would head out of town for the day, which also gave me the opportunity to gather some.

Just beyond Croydon – literally 5 miles south – you suddenly hit countryside and rolling hills and wheat fields. Off the main roads, you wind down narrow lanes where passing traffic gradually changes from cars to horses. We headed to the “White Bear” at Fickleshole – even the name of the place sounds enchanting – where we left our car in the car park. On the Inn’s website there are a few recommended walks so we opted for route twoa circular walk over the North Downs. ‘Downs’ is from the old English word ‘dun’, which means hills. I grew up near the South Downs, which pretty much runs parallel to the North Downs, but with a good 31 miles (50km) between them. I don’t know the latter at all, so felt it was a good opportunity to stretch the legs and explore the beautiful countryside.

I had printed off the instructions and we headed off on what was to be a beautiful 8 mile walk down ancient pathways, rolling fields, Saltbox Hill nature reserve and Biggin Hill airstrip. There were a couple of brief times when we had to walk down a lane/road, one time was a little scary as there was no pathway so it was a case of running at breakneck speed about 100m to get to the pathway, which was on a severe bend. Nothing like a little bit of adrenaline to get the heart racing.

We almost missed this sign, so thought I would take a photo of it if you plan on doing the walk yourselves. It’s on Downe Road as you head towards Holwood Farm Shop. You cross the road and then walk down a little pathway that comes out into a large field with crops growing and a clear pathway leading through them and a couple of unsightly large pylons in the field (just ignore that bit).

I adore circular walks that I have not been on before as there is so much so see and take in. At one stage we walked alongside Biggin Hill airstrip, which has private planes landing and taking off at intervals and we even managed to see an old spitfire fly above us. We passed a church on our travels, which had a baptism going on when we poked our heads round the door.

The North Downs, like it’s sister counterpart, are made up of chalk and flint. The latter you can see being used as part of the facade on the local houses – rather pretty I thought!

We seem to come across a lot of horses on the footpaths (in fields). This beauty below was rather special. Just shortly after walking along the top edge of the field we came to ‘Saltbox Hill Nature Reserve’ a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest. Each Sunday, during the summer months, there are guided nature walks through the reserve.

The walk was not particularly demanding, although there were some inclines from time to time and we did keep a close eye on the instructions so as not to get lost.

Back at the White Bear we drank some ginger beer before ordering lunch. In hindsight a picnic on the walk itself may have been more preferable as the walk took a little longer than expected.

The pub is very atmospheric, with cosy corners, black and white photos of owners long gone and a ghost or two apparently. It’s a great place for a drink, although the menu let it down – far too long and the quality of the food was not memorable for us, which was a shame.  It did provide, however, the perfect place to set off on our adventure.

With a bag full of elderflower umbels I left them to rest back at home for a while so that any creepy crawlies could escape. Do not wash them as this can spoil the flavour.

One very important ingredient you need for elderflower cordial, if you want it to last for a long period, is citric acid, which you can easily pick up from your local pharmacy.

Other than that it is very straightforward. You do add 1 kg of granulated sugar – this sounds a huge amount, but you need to remember that the cordial is concentrated so will be used sparingly and added to sparkling water or perhaps a gin cocktail or with some prosecco. The amount I made will easily last for quite a number of months.

The reason I have not been precise on the number of umbel heads required is because the size of the umbel differs from umbel to umbel so it really isn’t an exact science hence I have not given a specific amount.

 

Elderflower Cordial

makes around 2 litres of cordial

1 kg granulated sugar

2 litres of boiling water

4 unwaxed lemons, grated and sliced

50g citric acid (can be found at your pharmacy)

20-30 elderflower umbels (heads)

4 x 500ml glass bottle – sterilised

 

  1. Place the sugar in a large bowl or pan and cover with boiling water. Stir gently to help the sugar dissolve.
  2. Add the citric acid and stir into the water.
  3. Add the grated and sliced lemon.
  4. When the water has cooled add the umbels and submerge them as much as possible.
  5. Cover with a tea towel and leave in a cool place for 24 hours, stirring occasionally.
  6. Sterilise your glass bottles by throughly washing them and then placing them in an oven (on the lowest temperature) for 10 minutes and then remove them from the oven to cool completely.
  7. Use a muslin/clean tea towel over a large bowl/jug and pour the contents of your original bowl into the muslin. Gently squeeze so that all the juice comes through.
  8. Seal and use as and when you want a refreshing summer drink or cocktail. Keep in a cool place and once opened store in the fridge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave


Rhubarb and Ginger Jam

Last year when I attended the Ballymaloe Food and Drink Literary Festival one of the first things I did upon arriving, was to take myself to their beautiful living room and order tea and scones – as you do!  Needless to say it set the tone for the whole weekend, but one very lasting memory was that they served their scones and clotted cream not with strawberry or raspberry jam, BUT with rhubarb and ginger jam. It tasted sublime and I made a mental note to try making some at some point back at home.

Now ok it’s taken me a year but I got there and it tastes great so was keen to share it with you. My mother celebrated her birthday the other day and invited some friends over for tea. My youngest daughter and I made cakes (an elderflower and lemon drizzle, in honour of the recent royal wedding and a carrot cake) and scones and some mushroom tartlets with sour cream and parsley. My eldest daughter baked her legendary chocolate cake and my father made a wonderful Victoria sponge and scones with raisins.

As a side note, scones you can make ahead as they are great to freeze – I made around a 100 for my brothers wedding tea – the recipe is here and it works really well. So whilst strawberry and raspberry jam were on offer for the traditionalists, my rhubarb and ginger jam tempted those who wished to try something new and exciting. Hope you like it too.

Strawberry jam (left) my Rhubarb and Ginger jam (right)         Mama

 

Rhubarb and Ginger Jam

1 kg of pink rhubarb, washed and cut into 2cm pieces

1kg of jam sugar

50g stem ginger

1 lemon, zest and juice

4cm fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated

 

Before you begin you will want to clean and sterilise the jars that you are planning on using.

  1. Place all the ingredients into a large plastic bowl, stir thoroughly and then cover and leave to one side for a couple of hours, stir a couple of times over this period,  so that the sugar dissolves and the flavours all harmonise together.
  2. Place a plate into the freezer.
  3. Use a large stainless steel pot – you do not need a preserving pan – and pour all the ingredients from the bowl into the pan. Place on a medium heat and stir so that the rhubarb tenderises and a setting point is reached. This will take no longer than 15 minutes.
  4. To test for setting point, simply remove the plate from the freezer and spoon a little jam onto the plate. Within a minute the jam will have little wrinkles if you move it with your finger. If it is still too runny, leave it to cook a little longer and try again.
  5. If setting point has been reached, remove from the heat and leave for a couple of minutes before pouring into the sterilised jars. Seal immediately and label. I find this easy fill funnel great for jam and chutney making.

 

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave


Ten Things To Do in New York City

I was recently in New York and spent a lot of time on my feet, pounding the pavements to see the sights and explore – clocking up over 80 miles in a week. I have been to New York many times before, both for pleasure and business, but this time it was definitely pleasure and I had the whole family in tow. My last trip I posted a post here  – so take a look if you are planning a trip. Here are some of my suggestions on things to do in the city that never sleeps.

  1. Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum

Ok, before you switch off and give up on my suggestions before they have begun, let me just say this. This museum completely knocked us for six, it’s brilliant. My girls (12 and 8 yrs old) LOVED it and my husband and I were equally absorbed. It was so interesting in fact that we left if at lunch time to grab something to eat to then returned for another session after lunch. The museum is on the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid and the cruise missile submarine USS Growler, both of which are fascinating to explore. In addition they showcase a Concorde SST, a Lockheed A-12 supersonic reconnaissance plane and the Space Shuttle Enterprise. It was all quite overwhelming to have all these things in one place.

It is located at Pier 86 at 46th Street in the Hell’s Kitchen neighboured on the West Side of Manhattan.

yes it snowed when we were there can you believe it……kind of pretty with the blossom, in a surreal way!

2. The Met

An obvious choice I know, but my goodness the place is fascinating. Focus on one of two periods and then absorb yourself in these rooms. It is based in the Upper East Side just by Central Park. After visiting the Met you could pop into another of my favourite galleries The Frick, which I mentioned about here.

 

3. The Tenement Museum 

Try and book tickets before you arrive in New York for one of their tours as they sell out fast. The museum is interactive in many respects and focuses on Americas urban immigration history. There are a number of tours which allow visitors to view restored apartments from the 19th and 20th centuries, walk the historic neighborhood, and interact with residents to learn the stories of generations of immigrants who helped shape the American experience.

Based on Orchard Street on the Lower East Side.

4. Katz Deli

Close by to the Tenement Museum so a great place to go for lunch if the timing works. This kosher style Jewish deli has got to be one of the oldest in town – first serving customers in 1888. Tourist and locals equally adore the fanfare that goes into making their sandwiches. The portions are epically huge so order one sandwich between two.

Located at 205 East Houston Street, on the southwest corner of Houston and Ludlow Streets on the Lower East Side in Manhattan, New York City .

5. One World Observatory

There are a number of place in NY to get that birds eye view of the city, but One World Observatory is pretty impressive and worth booking tickets in advance online. If you manage to go up on a clear day you really do feel on top of the world. Whilst visiting the observatory, just near by are two pools – approximately 1 acre in size – of where the original twin towers stood before that fateful day on 9/11. Take time to pay your respects to those who perished and see the names engraved around the outside. Behind the memorial you will see the impressive Oculus building, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava to look like a dove in flight. Some critics have been rather harsh but I personally loved the structure. It is in fact a train station for the PATH train over to Jersey City and cost the grandiose sum of $4 billion to build over 12 years.

Based at 285 Fulton St

6. Nom Wah Tea Parlor and a walk around China Town

Book at table at Nom Was Tea Parlor, which has been serving dumplings to hungry New Yorkers since the 1920. There are a number of pleather booths (book one of those if you can), or tables scattered across the restaurant. Order the Xia Long Bao, which are called Shanghainese soup dumplings. It was raining cats and dogs when I visited so provided the perfect respite to warm up and fill our bellies with delicious dim sum.

After lunch have a wonder around Chinatown, which is a feast for the eyes. Mott and Grand street have a host of interesting food stalls, but stay south of Broome Street and east of Lafayette to get that real Chinatown experience. I managed to pick up a gorgeous Chinese teapot for my sister – so much so I returned and picked up one for myself a day later.

Photo credit: @sahirschmann of Five Leaves

7. Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Take some time to explore Brooklyn. As it is such a huge area, aim for Williamsburg which has a host of fabulous, shops, eateries and great street graffiti. Just walking the streets and soaking up the vibe will be interesting enough. There are some great places to stop for a coffee or a bite to eat.

Marlow and Sons – is regarded by some as ‘the best place to eat in the city’. It is great to stop for a snack or just a coffee or a more main meal for lunch or supper. It’s rustic, down to earth charm gives the place a genuine warmth and an enjoyable place to pass the time in good company. The American menu has an emphasis on fresh food and menus that change daily.

Five Leaves, based at Greenpoint, is another good option if you are after brunch with a hip crowd creating a nice buzz to the place.

If you love a bit of thrift/vintage shopping, those in the know head to Beacon’s Closet, which have a few locations, but one is a stones throw from Five Leaves.

Photo credit: @reynardnyc of Wythe Hotel

If you fancy staying in Brooklyn these hotels are worth checking out:

Wythe Hotel: 80 Wythe Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11249; tel: 1.718 460 8000; rates from $300; www.wythehotel.com

right next door is: The Williamsburg Hotel:  96 Wythe Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11249; tel: 1.718 362 8100; rates from $285; www.thewilliamsburghotel.com

1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge60 Furman St, Brooklyn, NY 11201; tel: 1.718 631 8400; rates from $350; www.1hotels.com

Urban Cowboy: 111 Powers Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211; rates from $195; www.urbancowboybnb.com

McCarren Hotel & Pool60 N 12th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11249; tel: 1.718 218 7500; rates from $350; www.mccarrenhotel.com

8. Moma – the Museum of Modern Art

If you feel the urge for a modern art fix then Moma is definitely worth a visit. The Tarsila Do Amaral: Investing Modern Art in Brazil exhibition was on when we visited, but most of all we enjoyed admiring the permanent collection, including works by artists such as Henri Matisse, Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh.

18 West 54 Street

9. A browse around the East Village neighbourhood

We were staying in East Village so over the course of a week got to know a number of the eateries in the neighbourhood. Some evenings we ate in, stopping off at nearby Russo’s for some fresh pasta and sauces and the BEST fried artichokes, to take back to our apartment and devour. This Italian deli has been serving customers for over 100 years so is definitely worth a visit if you are in the neighbourhood.

Another must is to either eat in or order take out at Xian Famous Foods (which I recently discovered is about to open a branch in London). I ordered take out ‘spicy cumin lamb hand-ripped noodles, which were heavenly, but I could quite easily have ordered the whole menu.

A few streets away is an adorable little treasure trove of a shop, called Casey Rubber Stamps, owned by an affable Irish guy called John Casey, selling all manner of rubber stamps. It’s the type of place that you wander in and before you know it you end up buying quite a number of rubber stamps. They are great as gifts or to keep for yourself. It’s is so important to keep small business thriving so make sure you visit John’s store. My whole family loved it and spent time admiring the wide variety of stamps for sale.

For those who have been reading this blog for a while, you will know that I love Vietnamese food. Thankfully there is a great Vietnamese restaurant in the East Village called Hanoi House  which is definitely worth a visit, if you are in the nighbourhood. Right next door to Hanoi House looked a rather good neighbourhood bar called Ten Degrees. and a little further down the street you will see a sign saying ‘Eat Me’. If you head into the door below this sign, you walk into a random hotdog vendor where you will find a telephone booth. You then have to enter and dial a number where you will be asked if you have a booking (make sure you do). Then the wall springs back and you enter the speakeasy. It’s called ‘Please Don’t Tell’ or ‘PDT’ for short. As we had our daughters in tow, we were unable to go in, but my sources tell me it’s a fun place to have a few cocktails and beers.

10. Visit Central Park

No visit to New York is complete without a stroll around central park –  you can even hire bikes or take a horse driven carriage, although the latter might scream ‘TOURIST’ more than you would wish. It maybe good to combine it with a visit to The Frick, The Met or MOMA. If you are visiting over winter you can have a go on the ice rink and in spring and summer there is the option of the zoo. It’s also a great place to have a picnic and watch the clouds float overhead.

Whatever you decide to do, have fun, walk as much as possible and don’t feel you need to cross of everything off your list on your first visit. New York is a wonderful place to sit and watch the world go by. There are so many interesting characters that you’ll never have a dull moment.

 

 

 

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave


Sea Beet and Potato Curry

Recently I went on a lovely coastal walk on Mersea Island, which is off the Essex coast (it’s reached by a tidal causeway). I hadn’t planned to go foraging but when I came across sea beet growing in large clusters, it made sense to gather up two large handfuls to take home and cook into something interesting.

I do love to forage from time to time – not mushrooms mind you as they can be tricky to identify unless you are with an expert. Somethings are easier to recognise and sea beet is one of those. Disclaimer: If you are going to try to find some yourself please consult the internet for other sources to check on identification. John Wright’s book ‘Edible Seashore’ may also be a good book to take on your walks to help identify. It’s best to check with a few sources to be sure.

I thought the sea beet would lend itself well to a ‘sag aloo’ type dish (spinach and potato curry). It’s more robust than spinach and has a lovely earthy taste to it. It is in fact the wild ancestor to the beetroot, sugar beet and swiss chard and is called a host of names including sea beet, sea spinach, wild beet and wild spinach. In ancient times, the leaves and root of the sea beet were used to treat several diseases, particularly tumours. The juice is even good for treating ulcers apparently!

When you forage you need to wash and clean your ‘treasure’ properly in cold water. I rinsed the leaves three times to be on the safe side. I then roughly chopped the leaves and prepared the potatoes. This curry is a lovely way to include sea beet into your diet, but if you are not going near any coastal areas you can always use spinach instead.

I would love to hear from any of you who may have used this ingredient before? How did you cook it? Leave a comment in the comment box below.

Sea Beet and Potato Curry

1 tbsp oil

2 dried red chilli

1 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

pinch of asafoetida/hing (optional)

2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut roughly into 2 inch cubes

1 tsp salt to taste

2 large handfuls of foraged sea beet or around 260g of fresh spinach

2 tbsp water

  1. Heat the oil and then add the dried red chillies. Move around the pan for 10 seconds before adding the cumin seeds. Let the seeds begin to fizzle and then add the turmeric powder and asafoetida (if using).
  2. Add the potatoes and cover them in seeds and spices and cook gently on a medium to low heat, stirring every now and then. Add the salt.
  3. After about 8-10 minutes, add the washed sea beet and fold in gently to the potatoes.
  4. Add 1 tbsp of water and allow the sea beet to wilt and the potato to soften completely. To check the potato has soften stick a sharp knife into it, if it goes in easily then they are ready. You may need to place a lid on the pan to help steam it, if the potato needs more time to soften,  which will speed up the softening. Add the remaining water if need.

Serve immediately with a dollop of yogurt and a wedge of lemon on the side. It also works really well if you cook my chana dal to eat along side it.


Mild Indian Cod Curry for the Whole Family

How have you all been? I hope you all enjoyed the bank holiday – for those of us based in the UK we were blessed with three days of brilliant sunshine. I’m aware I have not posted an Indian recipe for a while so I hope that this one will greatly please you.

If your spice cupboard is fairly limited and you want a quick but satisfying curry, then this mild cod curry definitely ticks the box. It’s a crowd pleaser for the whole family as it is only delicately spiced and the one fresh chilli that I do add, I make sure it does not go onto the plate of any unsuspecting guest or family member. I adore purchasing fresh curry leaves from my friends down in Tooting, but I find that they freeze really well, so I always have a good supply ready to use. If finding fresh is tricky, then dried will be a good stand-in, although fresh is ideal.

Mild Indian Cod Curry

serves 4

2 tbsp oil

10 fresh curry leaves

1 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp of turmeric powder

1 thin green chilli, stalk removed

1 white onion, finely chopped

1 heaped tsp ginger paste

1 heaped tsp garlic paste

3 medium sized tomatoes, diced

1 heaped tsp of tomato paste

1 tsp salt

1 tsp caster sugar

1x400g can of coconut milk

1 large cod fillet, skinned and cubed

 

  1. Add the oil in a large non stick wide pan and when it is hot add the curry leaves, cumin seeds and turmeric powder. Move around the pan for 20 seconds before adding the onion.
  2. Gently cook away for 6 minutes before adding the garlic and ginger past. Cook for a further 4 minutes.
  3. Now add the tomatoes, tomato paste, salt and sugar and simmer gently for a few minutes.
  4. Add the coconut mild and let it simmer for a few minutes before adding the cod pieces.
  5. Continue to simmer for up to five minutes with a lid on the pan, stirring gently once or twice. You do not want to break up the cod pieces so be careful. Take off the heat to rest.

Serve with rice or paratha and some fresh lemon on the side. If you want some accompanying greens this recipe is great and super quick.


The Little Viet Kitchen Cookbook and Lemongrass Chicken Banh Mi

Recently, the lovely Thuy Diem Pham – founder of my favourite Vietnamese restaurant in London, The Little Viet Kitchen launched her very first cookbook of the same name published by Absolute Press.  I preordered a copy for it to arrive on launch date and it is as beautifully styled and photographed as I had hoped.

It is clear that a lot of love and attention has gone into compiling the recipes in this book and the photos, by David Loftus, are just dreamy. Just take a look and you’ll see what I mean.

I could literally eat all the recipes in the book, so will be working my way through it over the coming months. Happy days.

Just looking at the photos has me salivating.

Summer rolls – perfect for the months ahead and oh so pretty.

I was pondering on what to cook – so many choices – but I decided on Thuy’s lemongrass chicken banh mi – Vietnamese baguettes. My family are obsessed with them so I knew it would be a hit with everyone. If you prefer tofu I have a recipe post on how to make them here, and of course Thuy has her tofu version in the book too, which I will most definitely try out.

The cookbook guides you gently through Vietnamese cooking – from Thuy’s larder where she shows you clearly how to make all manner of sauces and dressings, to wonderfully fragrant broths – known as Pho (pronounced ‘fur’), street food, small plates, colours of Vietnam, Thuy’s creations and sweet treats. Like Indian cuisine, Vietnamese does require a few specialised ingredients, but once these have been found then you are ready to go.

Unlike Thai cooking, Vietnamese food is less chilli hot so is pretty versatile for the whole family to eat it. It is packed to the brim with fragrant, refreshing flavours such as lemongrass, tamarind, mint, coriander, ginger and lime juice. It’s all about balancing the sweet, salty, sour and hot and throw a good crunch and texture into the mix then you have the perfect dish. To make banh mi there are a few steps, but nothing that a bit of planning can’t solve.

SO here is what you need. Don’t panic if you find this too long winded. I promise you it really is simpler than it looks. I made a few changes, namely store bought mayo and adding sriracha and then I completely forgot to add the crispy shallots and spring onions – oh dear! – so you won’t find any of those in my photos.

Serves 4

1 or 2 large baguettes (I’ve been told the ones in Sainburys that you heat up in the oven are rather good for banh mi, but not tried and tested as yet)

4 tsp butter

4 tbsp mayonaisse

1 tbsp Sriracha sauce 

1 cucumber, seeds removed and cut into thick diagonal slices

2 spring onions, sliced lengthways

4 tbsp crispy shallots, either store bought or fry up your own (banana shallots work well)

pinch of crushed black peppercorns

4 tbsp chicken liver pate

small handful of pickled carrot and daikon (see recipe below)

large handful of fresh coriander leaves

3 tbsp light soy sauce

optional 1 red chilli, finely sliced

 

 

STEP 1

Make the pickled carrot and daikon (also known as mooli or white raddish).

Makes enough to fill a 500ml jar and will last for a couple of weeks

250ml rice vinegar

250g granulated sugar

250g carrots, cut into fine matchsticks

250g daikon, cut into fine matchsticks

  1. Heat the rice vinegar and sugar together in a saucepan over a medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Allow to cool completely before pouring over the finely cut carrots and daikon.
  3. Seal properly and cool before placing in the fridge.

 

STEP 2

Prepare a little bowl of the mayo/sriracha mix, to taste

 

STEP 3

Prepare the cucumber, spring onion and coriander and place in a bowl ready to fill the baguette.

 

STEP 4

Place the fried shallots in a separate bowl

 

STEP 5

Cut up the baguette at a diagonal. Scrape out a little of the bread so that there is more room to add the filling.

 

STEP 6

 

Lemongrass Chicken Banh Mi

750g chicken breast fillets, sliced diagonally into 1 x 5cm strips

2 tbsp vegetable oil

for the marinade

2 tsp light soy sauce

1 tsp fish sauce

1 tsp oyster sauce

1 tbsp granulated sugar

1 tsp honey

2 tbsp finely diced lemongrass stalks

2 tbsp finely diced garlic

1 tbsp finely diced chillies

1 tbsp finely diced onion

4 tbsp sesame oil

 

  1. Combine all the ingredients and place in a large bowl in the fridge to marinate for at least 3 hours or ideally overnight (I did the latter).
  2. When almost ready to fill the banh mi, heat the oil in a frying pan and when it is hot add the chicken strips and stir-fry for 10-12 minutes, or until the chicken in golden in colour and completely cooked. Keep the chicken moving around the pan or it will burn because of the sugar.
  3. Take off the heat and place immediately into your banh mi.

 

STEP 7 – to serve

  1. Put a little butter and chicken liver pate in the baguette.
  2. Add a good dollop of the mayo/sriracha filling
  3. Lay the cucumber inside, careful not to overfill and add the pickled carrot and daikon.
  4. Add the lemongrass chicken followed by the coriander, spring onion and drizzle of soy sauce
  5. Lastly, sprinkle with chilli slices, crispy fried shallots and crushed black peppercorns.

 

Dive in and enjoy.

 

You can purchase Thuy’s book at all good book shops and of course online here

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave


A Weekend in the Brecon Beacons, Wales

Fancy a weekend of fresh air, open spaces, glorious views, rolling countryside and peace and quiet? Then I have just the place for you. The weekend before last  – you know the glorious hot one  – me and a couple of girlfriends – headed to the Brecon Beacons in Wales,  an area of outstanding beauty. Not sure that’s the official line but it definitely warrants that accolade. It was a very stress free journey from London Paddington to Newport, a quick change of trains and then a further 30 minutes or so onto Abergavenny – a charming station, which really makes you feel as if you have gone back in time.

Greeted by one of my friends in her car (she had driven from the Cotswolds) we whizzed a further 45 minutes to the picturesque Brecon Beacons National Park where we would be staying for two nights in Fan Cottage (sleeps 6), which is part of the Cnewr Estate. If you are with a larger party you can book out the Farmhouse (sleeps 16). You can book them for the week or the weekend. Fan cottage is the little white cottage that you can see in the photo above.

Both properties have been tastefully refurbished in 2017. The beds are super comfortable (that’s mine above) with puffy pillows and duvets, the bathrooms have excellent power showers (one had a bath and shower), there is a snug and sitting room and a good sized, well equipped kitchen with stylish crockery. I was also really impressed by the quality of the curtains – random I know – but seriously people they were so beautifully made. Also the place is really well heated – we had to turn off some of the radiators the weekend we visited as the weather was a scorcher. We couldn’t resist putting on the log burner one evening though to add to the atmosphere of the cottage – so warm and inviting.

Both cottage and farmhouse afford incredible vistas of the Cray Reservoir (no swimming as it’s super dangerous), but fun to admire and walk around at leisure. The dam was pretty spectacular, although am I the only one who imagines it breaking when waking this side of it? Now the sunsets from the cottage were just divine.

It did not take us long to feel relaxed and rejuvenated. One day we went and ate lunch at The Felin Fach Griffin which is about 10 minutes on from the town of Brecon. I had met the owner – Charles and his family – last year at the Ballymaloe Food and Drink Festival in Ireland and he had spoken about his three Inns – two in Cornwall and one in Wales.

The food and service were excellent and I would return in a heartbeat. The place is rustic and low key, the perfect place to nestle in for the afternoon around the fire with the papers or in our case on the grass outside. The food was full of flavour, original, but not too left field, and platted in a way that makes you want to actually dive in. The faro risotto was the tastiest I’ve eaten – just check out the colours on the plate.

Whilst we didn’t even see even half of the Brecon Beacons we did climb the highest peak in South Wales – Pen Y Fan – 886 metres about sea level and Corn Du just next to it, which enabled us to see for miles around.

The round trip, interspersed with lots of chatter and going at a slow and steady pace, is about 3 hours. We did pass a few people running up and down it – but each for their own hey!

We rewarded ourselves with lunch at the beautiful fishing hotel of Gliffaes, which is perched above River Usk. My cauliflower and roasted garlic soup definitely hit the spot after my hike.

The place is enchanting and feels as if it’s from another era, where time has literally stood still. Imagine grandfather clocks, roaring fires, tea in the drawing room, butler service (not quite, but almost) then you get the picture. The grounds and position are beautiful and great to wander around after a bite to eat and before catching the train back to the big smoke refreshed and rejuvenated after a wonderful weekend in Wales.

 

 

To Book:

Fan Cottage or the Farmhouse on the Cnewr Estate – click here

Felin Fach Griffin – click here

Gliffaes  – click here 

 

 

 

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave


Wild Garlic Scones

Continuing with the wild garlic theme for another week, (I hope you are not bored yet!) I thought you might like my recipe for wild garlic scones, which are wonderful slathered with a little butter and a cup of tea. Scones are ridiculously easy to make and are great to freeze and then reheat when you want to eat one of two. All my family love this delicious snack, and as you can freeze them, are perfect all year round. A taste of spring even in the winter!

Unlike my wild garlic pesto you actually need no more than a handful of wild garlic but will still get the wonderful flavour resonating through the warm scone. If you have more of a sweet tooth then you might want to see my sweetened scone recipe here.

To make and cook these little beauties takes no more than 30 minutes, so are quick to prepare a batch. My girls always love to get involved in the kitchen and making scones is very straightforward so fun activity to do together.

 

Wild Garlic Scones

Makes around 22 scones

350g self-raising flour

pinch of salt

1 tsp baking powder

85g softened unsalted butter, cut into cubes

125g mature cheddar cheese, grated

1 handful of wild garlic, washed and finely chopped

2 eggs

1 tsp fennel seeds

175ml milk, gently warmed

1 egg, beaten to glaze

  1. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7 and line a baking tray.
  2. In a large bowl sieve the flour and then add all the ingredients*, aside from the milk and the final egg to glaze.
  3. Mix together gently using your hands and slowly add the warmed milk to bind. Add a little more flour if it remains a little sticky.
  4. Flour your hands and the work surface and move the dough onto the surface. Flatten it with your hands and fold it over a few times. Use a rolling pin to flatten it to a thickness of about 3cm. Use the top of a small glass or a cutter to cut out the scones evenly.
  5. Place the scones at intervals on the lined baking tray so they do not touch. Brush the tops with the beaten egg.
  6. Once you have used up all the dough, place in the oven for 11 minutes exactly. Remove from oven and then either leave to cool completely and then freeze or eat immediately with some butter. YUM.

Note: *If the butter cubes are not super soft then add these first with the flour and baking powder and using your finger tips mix with the flour to create a crumbly mixture. Then add all the ingredients. 

If freezing, when you want to eat them simply defrost completely then heat in a very low oven for 2/3 minutes to rewarm the scones.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave


Wild Garlic Pesto

I love this time of year, when the rain stops, the sun comes out and if you head into the woods you are likely to be rewarded by a bountiful supply of wild garlic. When I was down at my parents recently I went to my usual secluded wood to gather up some bags  of the stuff. The photo below is of my father looking rather fetching in his country garb standing amongst the wild garlic.

I’m not going to reinvent the wheel here as I did a couple of blog posts a a few years ago about how to actually make wild garlic pesto – you can read the post here. It is SO good to freeze that I make enough to carry us through the whole year. I only finished last year’s batch about a month ago.  My family are all slightly addicted by it and one of my daughters even pops it on her toast.

 

If you want an alternative to pesto and wild garlic linguine with sausage crumb then I have a rather delicious soup – wild garlic, courgette and lemon soup with poached egg with crispy panko breadcrumbs which you can see here.

I still have two whole bags to use up so may make some more pesto today and then maybe some wild garlic scones – as they’ll be good to freeze too. Check out instastories to see what I get up to.

 

Have you been gathering wild garlic yet this year? What are you going to do it. Would love to hear so leave a comment below.

 

 

 

 

SaveSave


Rhubarb and Custard Slice – Competition to win ‘Afternoon Tea at Bramble Cafe’ cookbook by Mat Follas

Spring is in the air, well at least for the moment it is. Sunny skies make all the difference and you can notably see everyone feeling that extra bit cheery. Polo-neck jumpers can be cast aside and thick winter coats can be put away, for a while at least. With longer days and flowers beginning to make an appearance, the thought of doing some spring baking is rather attractive.

‘Images from Afternoon Tea at Bramble Cafe by Mat Follas. Photographs by Steve Painter. Published by Ryland Peters & Small.’

Enter Mat Follas – masterchef UK winner way back in 2009 – new book ‘Afternoon Tea at Bramble Cafe’. I can almost smell the delicate scents from the sweetpeas on the front cover and that cheesecake screams ‘summer’ to me. Mat, his wife Amanda and their business partner Kate, opened Bramble Cafe & Deli in Poundbury in Dorset in 2016 and this book is a collection of all the lovely recipes that they showcase in the cafe.

‘Images from Afternoon Tea at Bramble Cafe by Mat Follas. Photographs by Steve Painter. Published by Ryland Peters & Small.’

Sweet and savoury are both included ranging from the classics, such as the ‘Victoria Sandwich Cake’, to fancy dainties and patisseries, such as the ‘Salted Caramel Tartlets’. He includes some wonderful sounding jams, jellies and marmalades – strawberry and elderflower jam, as well as some alcoholic and non-alcoholic tipples.

‘Images from Afternoon Tea at Bramble Cafe by Mat Follas. Photographs by Steve Painter. Published by Ryland Peters & Small.’

I decided to make the ‘Rhubarb and Custard Slice’, which is a take on a classic custard slice or mille-feuille. It also reminded me of my ultimate favourite cake ‘Pasteis de Nata’ also known as ‘Portguese custard tart’. It was super easy to prepare and makes a great dessert or tea-time fancy. The only slight alternation I’ll make next time is that I will oven bake the puff pastry for a little longer and lightly brush whisked egg allowing it to bronze more. Other than that it tasted great and the custard was very similar tasting to the Portuguese custard tart. Rhubarb is so pretty, and tastes fabulous that the combination of the custard and rhubarb brought back many childhood memories for me.

If you would like to win a copy of this book head on over to my instagram page and look for this photo above which will provide all the details. It’s very straightforward so have a go at winning a copy.  UK residents only I’m afraid. For those asking, the beautiful plates above I have collected over the last few years from Anthropologie, which always stock such gorgeous things.

Rhubarb & Custard Slice

recipe from ‘Afternoon Tea at Bramble Cafe’ by Mat Follas

150g puff pastry (bought)

1 egg, whisked

300g fresh rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 2cm length pieces

vegetable oil, to coat,

50g Demerara sugar

200ml milk

100ml double/heavy cream

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

50g plain/all-purpose flour

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

100g caster sugar

non-stick 30x20cm/12×8 inch brownie pan, light oil and lined with baking parchment

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade (35o Fahrenheit) Gas 4.
  2. Roll out the pastry to 3mm thickness and trim to fit the base of the brownie pan.
  3. Using a fork prick holes over the base to stop the pastry rising too much. Use the whisked egg to brush the pastry to help it get a beautiful bronzed colour.
  4. Bake in a preheated oven for 12 minutes or until it is golden brown. If it has puffed up it will shrink when you allow it to cool out of the oven.
  5. Meanwhile trim and cut the rhubarb into evenly-sized pieces, about 2cm/2/4 inch in length. Toss them with a little vegetable oil and then the Demerara sugar. Spread them out on a lined baking sheet and bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes, until they are just softened and cooked through.
  6. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the milk and cream on a low heat, stirring gently until simmering, then immediately take off the heat.
  7. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, flour, vanilla and caster sugar to form a paste.
  8. Pour the hot milk and cream mixture into the mixing bowl, whisking constantly to combine into a think custard.
  9. Now return the custard to the saucepan and on a low heat whisk the custard over the heat until it has thickened and holding soft peaks. It is really important to have it on a low heat so it does not burn!
  10. Pour the thick custard over the pastry base and smooth it to make level.
  11. Place the rhubarb pieces on top of the custard – they should be half submerged.
  12. Refrigerate for at least and hour before cutting into 10 with a bread knife.
I was very kindly sent a copy of this beautiful cookbook. All views and opinions are my own.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave