Foraging for Samphire on the British Coast

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June, July and August are the months to forage for marsh samphire, not to be mistaken for rock samphire, which grows on rocks on land and tastes completely different, I am told. Marsh samphire can be found in abundance in salt marshes and tidal mud flats on the British coast. You may have also come across it by one of it’s other names:  glasswort (its name of old alluding to a time when it was used in making glass and soap); sea asparagus; Saint Peter’s herb (the Patron Saint of Fisherman) or it’s rather grand sounding Latin name ‘salicornia europaea’. I particularly like its less well known name of ‘Mermaid’s kiss’.

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A few years back marsh samphire was not so easy to source in the shops, other than the fishmonger who would grace their fish displays with the vegetable from time to time. Recently I have seen it in the larger supermarkets in the UK being sold in packets on their fish counters. It’s relatively expensive for the amount you get, so if you happen to be on the British coast in the summer, it is well worth having a forage for the vegetable.

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I’ve been spending the last week or so on the borders of Suffolk and Essex, which is perfect hunting ground. I initially came across some growing on the mudflats on Mersea Island and immediately gathered a small amount to prepare for when I returned home. The following day we were passing by the picturesque and historical village of Orford in Suffolk – well worth a detour on many levels – Richardson’s smokehouse, the great Pump Street Bakery, some fine pubs, a small castle, a grade I listed church with Norman remains and a sailing club – all civilised places have a sailing club don’t you find? I had read that Orford was the perfect place to forage for marsh samphire, so bucket and scissors in hand Big A, Mr B and I went a foraging.

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It was not long before we spotted the easily identifiable marsh samphire sprouting up through the tidal mudflats. They almost look like miniature cacti, without any spines or sharp bits. When foraging though you need to be very careful not to pull out the whole plant as it will prevent it from growing further. Simply pinch off the top parts or use a pair of scissors, so that the fibrous stems and roots remain intact. You will find that the the samphire needs to be thoroughly washed a couple of times so that the mud, grit and general nasties are disposed of.

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Whilst it can be eaten raw, I like to cook samphire – boil or steam for a couple of minutes, and then eat with a dollop of melting butter and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Absolutely no salt is needed as they taste of the sea so are more than sufficiently salty. They are rich in Vitamins A, C and D and taste  similar to asparagus, albeit more salty!

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They are also a perfect accompaniment for fresh fish and also lamb, although I rather like the way that this blogger has prepared their samphire – see here – Poached Eggs with Samphire and Honey Harissa. How good does that sound?

Are you able to forage samphire near you? Does it grown in your country? How do you eat it? I would love to know so write a comment below for us all to see.

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Fresh Marsh Samphire with Butter and Lemon

A handful of fresh marsh samphire per person

 knob of butter

lemon wedges

1. Trim and wash the marsh samphire a couple of times so that all the mud, grit and stray seaweed is discarded.

2. Boil a large pan of water and place the samphire directly in the water (if steaming put into the steamer). Boil gently for 3 minutes and drain immediately.

3. Plate up and add a knob of butter to each serving and a lemon wedge on the side. Equally you can pre-melt the butter and pour it over the samphire. Both ways work equally well.

Eat immediately when it is hot and enjoy.

Remember no salt is needed. 


Pork and Onion Curry – Dopiaza

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I haven’t posted an Indian recipe for quite some time so thought it would be refreshing to post one for you. With all this deliciously hot weather we have been blessed with recently in the UK, cooking a pork curry is probably the last thing on your mind, instead opting for fish/salad type foods right? When the weather cools slightly then come back to this one as it is guaranteed to become a firm family favourite.

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If you’re a bit of a curry novice in the kitchen then this curry is a perfect one to start your life long love affair with cooking Indian food.   It require a lot of onions – that’s the Dopiaza bit (it actually means twice cooked onions) – and all the other ingredients are always in my store cupboard. If you are not very keen on things hot and spicy this also works well as it is very mild requiring only one teaspoon of chilli powder.

Enjoy the sun and hope this curry finds it’s way into your belly very soon!

Pork and Onion Curry (Dopiaza)

4-6 people

900g onions (slice half thinly and chop the other half)

butter/ghee/vegetable oil 2 tbsp

2 tbsp lemon juice

 roughly 1.1kg/2.8lb boneless pork, cubed

2 tsp turmeric

2tsp ground coriander

1 tsp fenugreek

1 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp salt

 handful of fresh coriander – to serve

1. Heat the butter/ghee in a deep pan and add the chopped onions (remember to keep back the sliced onions) and the lemon juice and cook gently for 15 minutes on a low heat until golden, stirring frequently. Remove from the pan and place to one side.

2. Using the same pan add the pork and increase the heat slightly so that the pork is browned on all sides. Remove from the pan and place to one side.

3. Continuing with the same pan (you may want to add a little more butter/ghee/oil) add the sliced onions, coriander, fenugreek, turmeric, chilli powder and salt and fry for around 10 minutes. Re add the browned pork and add a little cold water and gently cook covered on a low heat for 50 minutes. You may need to add a little more water if it begins to look to dry.

4. Re add the fried onion and cook for another 15 minutes continuing to stir.

5. Serve with rice or chapati and some fresh coriander.


Pecan Puffs

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When we arrived back from Hong Kong in the New Year we headed out to the countryside to stay with my parents in order to celebrate Christmas (part 2) with them, my siblings and their partners. The tree was down by this stage, twelfth night had long gone, but that aside my parents sweetly replicated the Christmas that they had had on December 25th again for us as we were back in the UK. Anyone passing by the house would have thought we had all gone completely mad as carols were playing and mulled wine was wafting through the house. We ate turkey, wore silly cracker hats and played parlour games. My mother went to town, as usual, on the food which we all greatly devoured.

It was whilst we were lazing away the hours that I stumbled across a little pot filled with the most delicious, crumbly biscuits I had ever eaten. They were completely heavenly as well as being very addictive and perfect to nibble away at whilst having a cup of tea (we English love our tea) by the fire in the late afternoon.

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It transpired that they had been sent from the US, lovingly made by a friend of my sister and her beau. Needless to say they did not last long as the whole family took a liking to them.

I urged my sister to track down the recipe so that I could try and make them myself. I had to do all the US conversions from cups to grams and somewhere along the line with my conversions they went wrong. They still tasted delicious but they were not as puff like as the originals as they were coming out of the oven a lot flatter.

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Finally after a few false starts I found the right balance of the ingredients and the delicious puffs returned. They are meant to be crumbly when you bite into them and certainly not the same texture as a biscuit. In as far as they are quick to devour they are also quick to make. Big A and Little Z love to get involved and prepare them with me as they are very straightforward to make.

I rather like the idea of putting them in little packets tied with a bow and given to friends and loved ones. How impressed will the receivers of such fancies be when they taste your pecan puffs. Trust me they will be begging you for the recipe. Send them this way of course. x

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Pecan Puffs

Inspired by Lainy in the US

Makes around 30 (depending on size)

240g unsalted butter, cubed at room temperature

120g pecan nuts, finely ground

240g plain flour, sieved

50g icing sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla essence

1. Finely grind the pecan nuts in a blender and place to one side.

2. Line a couple of baking trays with baking parchment and again place to one side.

3. In a large bowl add the sieved flour, icing sugar and salt.

4. Add the cubed butter to the flour bowl and using your hands begin to mix the ingredients together, softening the butter into the flour as you do so. Once it all begins to come together, add the vanilla essence and the ground pecan nuts.

5. Once all the ingredients have been thoroughly mixed together form a large ball and break off small pieces, a little smaller than a hens egg, but bigger than a quails, and roll in the palm of your hands into a ball and then slightly flatten, but not so much that it is completely flat.

6. Place each pecan puff on to a baking tray so that they are well spread out. I tend to leave a couple of inches around each puff . Whilst you are preparing the puffs preheat the oven to 160 degrees centigrade.

7. Place in the oven for 16 minutes and then leave to firm up before placing them on the cooling rack. When they are completely cool sift icing sugar over the top. Voila your pecan puff is ready to be devoured.


Black Pepper Tofu

For those of you who are unaccustomed to eating tofu, I really urge you to give it try. Some people simply right it off as being rather bland tasting, but the fact is tofu has a fabulous melt in the mouth texture and absorbs some of the other flavours that you cook it with. Its a great vegetarian option to meat and is hugely versatile. This is my third recipe using tofu on my blog – the other two, Ma Po Tofu and Soba Noodles with Tofu I incorporate fairly regularly in our diet. This recipe is also heavenly and reminds me in fact of one of my favourite dishes of all time – black peppercorn crab – that I ate in Singapore last year at Red House  on Robertson Quay. This recipe is sourced from the Yotam Ottolenghi’s  book ‘Plenty,’ which focuses exclusively on vegetarian recipes.

The recipe itself is fairly straight forward, however, as there is a fair amount of chopping, slicing, crushing it does take a little bit of time on the preparation part. The finished dish though is totally worth the effort you put in to the preparation. I have made a number of alterations to the original as I found that when I followed his quantities exactly the pepper was too overpowering and I did not need quite as many chillies or spring onions. So it is a little toned down but see how you get on and if you prefer it with more pepper just add an extra 2 tablespoons to the 3 that I suggest below and throw in a few extra chillies.

Black Pepper Tofu

A Yotam Ottolenghi recipe adapted from his book Plenty (p44-45)

Serves 4

700g firm tofu

vegetable oil

cornflour to dust the tofu

100g butter

10 small shallots, thinly sliced

4 fresh red chillies (fairly mild ones), thinly sliced (seeds removed)

10 garlic cloves, finely grated/chopped

3 tbsp fresh root ginger, finely grated

3 tbsp sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)

3 tbsp light soy sauce

4 tsp dark soy sauce

2 tbsp caster sugar

3 tbsp coarsely crushed black peppercorns

5 small and thin spring onions, cut into 3cm segments

1. Carefully remove the tofu from its pack and cut it into large cubes, around 3 x 2cm, being careful not to break it.

2. Sieve a little cornflower over the tofu so that it delicately coats the cubes.

3. Heat  a little oil in a deep frying pan and add the tofu in small batches so that the tofu is evenly golden. Place on kitchen roll whilst you prepare the next batch.

4. Clean the pan thoroughly before adding the butter. Once it is melted add the shallots, chillies, garlic and ginger and saute on a low heat for 15 minutes so that the ingredients have softened and darkened slightly. Stir occasionally.

5. Add the soy sauces, sugar and crushed peppercorns and mix into the other ingredients.

6. Place the tofu in the pan and coat in the sauce, being careful not to break up the tofu cubes. After a minute or so add the spring onions and stir into the ingredients.

7. Serve immediately with steamed or boiled rice.

Do you have any wonderful tofu recipes that you would like to share with me? Leave a message below and let me know.


Classic Lemon Tart

Sometimes in life I think it is best to get straight to the point…….

COOKING A CLASSIC LEMON TART IS NO EASY FEAT

However,  I have been fine tuning this recipe now for sometime (I had a few disasters on the pastry front) so I think that if you follow my instructions carefully you should be rewarded with a delicious dessert that will wow your friends into thinking you a natural patisserie chef in the making.

My blog has been up and running for one year now (….jumps for joy…) and after looking through all the recipes I have shared with you I realise that I have tended to ignore the sweeter things in life. This is largely because I rarely eat puddings – I just don’t really have a sweet tooth and I guess part of it stems from the fact that, for the most part, I don’t think they are massively healthy. Then again the old adage of ‘everything in moderation’ is so true, so perhaps over the coming year you may find a few more sweet recipes to tempt you.

So to the recipe in hand. Scroll through the photos below and read the tips I have added to prepare a perfect lemon tart. Let me know if you find any other tweeks necessary that you would like to share with the wider community. I would always love to hear from you.

I prepare the pastry a day ahead and leave it in the fridge. Bring it out of the fridge at least an hour before rolling so that it can acclimatise to room temperature.

Thoroughly grease the loose bottom tart tin with butter. This is really important as you want the tin to come away easily from the pastry after cooking. Failing to do so will result in the sides of your tart breaking.

Sprinkle flour on the surface that you are going to roll the pastry. I have found that to transfer the rolled pastry to the tin is virtually impossible as some of it breaks off. Do not be alarmed. Place as much of the pastry in the tin as you can and with the bits that have broken off simply piece together.  Also make sure that the pastry is sufficiently up the sides so that it is evenly spread.

Remember the bottom of the flan is not going to be seen by a wider audience as you have the lemon mixture going on top of it.

Make sure you have enough ceramic baking beans/and or mixed beans to cover the whole of the tart dish. You want to make sure that they are evenly spread.

Do not whisk the eggs so that they are frothy. A gentle whisk, using a hand whisk is suffice.

Don’t forget to strain the creamy lemon mixture before transferring into the tart base. You want the mixture to be smooth.

I added some raspberries to compliment the lemon tart in both appearance and taste. Strawberries would also be a great addition.

A scattering of icing sugar adds the finishing touch. I noticed a little hand popping into the frame of my photo just as I had taken the shot. Clearly too irresistible not to eat!

Classic Lemon Tart

Serves around 12 people

Adapted from the recipe in Red Magazine April 2012  

I use an 11 inch (29cm by 4cm) tart dish

For the pastry

300g plain flour

45g ground almonds

pinch of salt

200g butter, keep at room temperature and cut into cubes

4 tbsp caster sugar

3 egg yolks

1 1/2 (one and half) tbsp cold water

For the filling

300 ml double cream

zest of 2 lemons

juice of 8/9 lemons (so that it measures 200ml juice)

6 eggs

200g white caster sugar

1. If you can make the pastry a day in advance. If not make the pastry and leave to chill in the fridge for 20 minutes. Ideally using a food processor, pulse the flour, ground almonds and pinch of salt and then add the butter followed by the caster sugar. Add the add yolks and water and whizz together until the mixture forms a large clump. Work the pastry into a neat ball and wrap in clingfilm and place into the fridge, either over night or for around 20 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees if using a fan oven or 200 degrees if not or gas mark 6.

3. Grease the tart dish throughly. On a cold surface sprinkle some flour and roll out the pastry and transfer, as best you can, to the tart dish. If it breaks simply press the remaining pastry pieces together to cover the gaps. Make sure the pastry has sufficiently gone into all the grooves of the dish. You will probably find that you have a little pastry left over, which you can either use to make a mini tart or use as you see fit.

4. Place baking paper into the tart dish and cover with baking beans. Place in the oven for 20 minutes to bake blind. Take out of the oven and discard the baking paper and save the baking beans for another time.  Brush the pastry with egg yolk and return to the oven for a maximum of 5 more minutes. Then leave to rest before putting in the lemon mixture.

5. Put the cream in a pan with the lemon zest to infuse gently. When small bubbles appear turn off the heat.

6. Break the eggs into a bowl along with the caster sugar. Using a hand whisk gently stir together – you do not want to make them frothy so do not over do it here. Stir in the lemon juice and very slowly, so as not to cook the eggs, add the warm lemon zest cream.

7. Place the tart shell onto an oven tray and then sieve the lemon mixture into bowl/jug and gently pour into the warmed pastry tart shell. Transfer to the oven on the middle shelf and cook for 18 minutes. Keep checking for the lemon mixture to set (it becomes nicely firm and does not wobble when you move the tray!!) as you may find you can bring it out of the oven a touch sooner than this.  I left mine in for 20 minutes (as the Red Magazine recipe states) but found that it darkens some of the pastry too much (have a close inspection of final photo !).

8. Place on a wire rack to cool completely. Gently remove only the outer part of the tart dish. Serve at room temperature.  Add icing sugar, raspberries to decorate as required.


Carrot and Walnut Muffins in the most adorable cases

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When I was strolling around Gastown, the almost gentrified area of downtown Vancouver, I ambled into a rather delightful home interiors store called Orling & Wu. A treasure trove of throws, cushions, lamp shades, wallpapers and candles, clearly artfully chosen by its two owners. Within the store I came across the most stunning selection of muffin case designs that I have ever seen. They were utterly gorgeous and the type of cases that inspire you to throw a tea party in order to show them off, they certainly deserve the attention.

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On closer inspection I learned that the cases were sourced closer to home – in Sweden of all places. The company Kala:s far:m designs and creates these little gem muffin, cake and cupcake cases. In each delicately boxed case there is a recipe – what an ingenious idea – and in mine was carrot muffins, which I thought I would share with you. I’ve altered it slightly, so below you will find my version. I don’t have a sweet tooth at all, but these muffins taste really good and deliciously moist, I may even be converted.

Carrot and Walnut Muffins

Fills 20 cases

300g/12 oz granulated white sugar

200ml olive oil

3 eggs

3 carrots, grated

250g/10 oz self-raising flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

50g/2 oz walnuts

1. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees centigrade.

2. Beat the sugar and oil in a mixing bowl and then add the eggs.

3. Grate 3 carrots and add these to the mixture.

4. Mix the flour, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, almost all the walnuts (save a few if you are going to do some butter cream on the top) and salt and stir into the egg and sugar mixture.

Carrot and Walnut Muffins

5. Carefully spoon the mixture into the muffin cups so that just over half the muffin cup is full. If you fill them to the top they will spill over the sides when they are in the oven.

6. Place in the oven for 15-17 minutes at 150 degrees centigrade and then leave to cool prior to putting any butter cream on top.

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Butter cream

I tend to leave some of my muffins butter cream free as I know some people prefer them without a topping so the proportion below will cover about half of the muffins. Do double quantities if you want to cover all of them.

75g/3 oz unsalted butter

175g/7 oz icing sugar

a few drops of warm water

1. Take the butter out of the fridge when you begin to make the muffins themselves, so that it softens.

2. Beat the butter and icing sugar until fluffy. To save time I used an electric mixer but good old fashioned arm power will work equally well. If you need to soften the icing then add a few drops of warm water.

3. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts.

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4. Enjoy !