Nova Scotia summer 2016

Nova Scotia, you never disappoint. Ever. The 2 1/2 weeks sped by and H. and I had a packed but fantastic time. The air, the scenery, the water, the sunshine (perfect weather), the food (and drinks!), the sunsets, the people, the space…. did I mention the people?

I’m so lucky to call this place home and to have been able to visit frequently since I moved away.








July 2016 Favourites

Hi from Nova Scotia, where I arrived yesterday! I’m so happy to be home! Here are a few links for July. The blog will be on hiatus for the next few weeks, so wishing everyone a great August!

◌ Book previews – what’s to come in the second half of 2016. fiction; nonfiction.

◌ Beautiful pictures of London.

Zadie Smith on Brexit, nailing it as usual!

◌ I have recently been on a podcast binge. My two new (to me) favourites are Reply All and America’s Test Kitchen.

The War on Stuff.

No-cook dinners (and here’s 25 salads).

◌ Enjoyed the Lenny interview with Bobbi Brown.

◌ Parts 1 & 2 of a big series of the most influential people in Canadian food.

Summer skies in London

Yogurt Cheesecake with Roasted Strawberries

“Yogurt cheesecake” doesn’t really capture the deliciousness that is this simple cake. I used the base cheesecake recipe here –which is a great staple base — but made it with strawberries instead of rhubarb.

I’m not quite sure what I was doing with the strawberries– I was sort of doing this without thinking. At first I thought about roasting them but ended up just putting them in a pan on the stove and simmering with some balsamic vinegar and sugar. The result was….well, basically jam. Ha! Not really what I was going for, but it worked taste-wise. If/when I make this again with strawberries, I would simply put them on raw. I think this would work well with pretty much any fruit!:)


Mushroom Strudel with Spinach & Cream Sauce

It’s so hot here at the moment that even thinking about putting something in the oven fills me with dread. London is in a mini heatwave (highs into the 30s this week), and needless to say this mushroom strudel is probably one of the last things I’d want to make right now. Alas, I made this a few weeks ago when we were still in our “not summer summer” period of cool and rainy weather.

I’ve been trying to think of a good way to describe this dish. It’s one of those dishes that looks like it’s a lot of work….good for a dinner party (or brunch). Parts of it are very easy to make, and the rolling up is not difficult but just takes some precision and care (hardy store-bought pastry helps a lot).

The recipe is from Craig Flinn’s Fresh and Local, and I’ve had it on my ‘to-make’ list for a while. Love pastry, love mushrooms, love garlicky creamy sauces — what’s not to love in this?

Mushroom strudel, adapted from Craig Flinn

  1. Mushrooms: sautee 500g of mushrooms*, 2-3 chopped shallots, a clove of garlic, and salt and pepper in butter, until the mushrooms release liquid.  Cook for roughly 10 more minutes, and then deglaze the pan with 60ml sherry (or wine). Add in 4 tbsp chopped fresh herbs and 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs.** Allow to cool.
  2. Pastry: Roll out your pastry [see * note below about mushrooms] and place the cooled filling in the centre lengthways. Using an eggwash of 1 egg + 1.5tbsp milk, brush this along the inside seam of the dough. Roll up, on the long side. Then placed the rolled ‘log’ on a baking sheet and make 4 slits to allow the steam to escape. Bake at 200C for ~20 minutes (it should be golden brown and crisp).
  3. Meanwhile make the spinach sauce***: Lightly sautee 1 chopped shallet with some lemon zest in 1 tbsp butter. Add in 225g spinach and 6 leaves basil [latter optional]. Wait till it has wilted and then add in 125ml white wine. Reduce liquid by half, and then add in 125ml cream & 1 tsp lemon juice. Allow it to come to the boil and then take it off the heat. Puree in a blender or with an immersion stick!

With a side salad it’s a winner. I will definitely be making this again when it cools down a bit later this summer.

*The recipe calls for 2lb/900g. I found that was way too much. It also specifies “one puff pastry sheet”, which I am guessing must be a lot larger in Canada than here. Adjust accordingly!
**I COMPLETELY forgot to do this! I had the breadcrumbs out and ready and only realized I’d forgotten when it was in the oven.
***I was a bit nervous about the sauce, but it’s excellent. It really works. It would be great on a number of other things!



Spinach & Blue Cheese Biscuits

WOW is the word to describe these biscuits. Game-changer. They are simply delicious. I’d even go so far as to say amazing… I think they’re the best biscuits I’ve had! They’re so good that I don’t even have a picture to show you because we gobbled them up so quickly.

I followed Joy’s recipe closely, except I started with fresh spinach (not even sure frozen exists here), cooked it down, and allowed it to cool. The blue cheese flavour is subtler than expected, but it really works. And for those that don’t like spinach, I’d urge you to still give these a go. It’s not a strong taste.

They’re quite hardy, not a dainty biscuit. I was a bit worried because I had an oven fiasco and had to delay putting them in, but they turned out perfectly despite that. They’re best warm (I had every intention of freezing a couple but they didn’t make it that long!) and can be heated up in the toaster (just keep an eye on it due to the cheese), best served, I found, with a bit of butter.

I’ll be making another batch soon and will update this point with a photo but wanted to share the recipe as soon as possible.

Summer Bucket List

Inspired by Joy’s summer bucket list, I thought I’d do one of my own! I’ve split it into two, since I dream about Nova Scotian summers all year long.:)

Swim at Hampstead Heath
See a jazz show
Go on a walk in the country
Visit at least one new gallery or museum

Nova Scotia
Hike Cape Split
MAVILLETTE BEACH (I’ve been saying this for years).
Kayak Shubie Canal

Read Fates & Furies and In the Unlikely Event
Make and/or eat as much strawberry shortcake as possible
Experiment more with makeup (maybe perfect a summer smokey eye?)

SCpart3 018

June 2016 Favourites

Happy Canada Day! I’ve spent so many Canada Days outside my home country now I’ve lost count. But, as they say, absence makes the heart grow stronger.

Wow, June. What can I say. It’s been one of the most chaotic months of my life and certainly in world politics in recent memory. To be honest, I am still struggling to put into words my feelings about what’s happening here. All I can say at this point is thanks for shattering my dreams, 52%. Brexit has huge consequences for me, personally and professionally. The country is in crisis. It is really scary.

In all of this chaos I almost forgot that June was a month of celebration for me: I submitted my PhD thesis! And watched one of my best friends get married!

So, to counter all of this doom and gloom, some cheeriness…

Stunning photos of waves.

◌ Apparently the top 100 restaurants in the UK. I’ve only been to 6 of them and I’m dubious. Bao would be nowhere near the top 100 for me.

◌ Reading this and this and both are excellent.

Why I go barefoot in the kitchen.

How to bear-proof your house. Just because!

◌ Kickass Canadians. A perfect link for July 1st.

Beach Town, by Anthony Bourdain.

14 champagne cocktails!

◌ In between Euros games (auf geht’s Deutschland!), H. and I have been watching Detectorists (season 1 is on Netflix here). I really can’t recommend this series enough. It is the antidote to chaos. Quietly funny. Brilliant.

What to eat in July. Good collection of seasonal recipes.

◌ Goop’s summer reading suggestions.

Hello CN Tower — went up for the first time since I was about 10!

A new way to do roasted veg

A new, longer, more complicated way to do roasted veg, that is…..but a really delicious one.

This caught my eye a couple of weeks ago in the Graun. It’s basically a tray of roasted vegetables with a delicious sauce poured over top. Sounds good, doesn’t it?!

Ottolengh’s recipe includes potatoes, leeks, beans, peas, asparagus, and zucchini. I used only potatoes, leeks, peas, and zucchini and to be honest we found this to be plenty. That’s the great thing about this dish: it’s extremely flexible. It’s not difficult to make, but a kitchen timer is a must, because the roasting times are short and you need to keep adding ingredients. You can’t be doing too many other things at once or you’ll lose track (and make sure the veg is chopped in advance!). Also, the bechamel looks a bit finnicky,  but it comes together easily and if you follow Ottolenghi’s tip of covering it with plastic clingwrap, letting the film touch the sauce, it works really well.

I still love my traditional roasted veg, but this is a nice upscale ‘twist’ and would be great for a dinner party. The only thing I’d change is to add more lemon — it did not come out strongly enough for me; I’d recommended adding a little zest to the sauce if you like a stronger lemon taste.



Strawberry Gin Smash

I will address the results of the UK’s EU referendum at some point on my blog, but I need some time to calm down and reflect. In the meantime I offer this cocktail as a distraction… but believe me, I’m not celebrating anything here…

I love strawberry season. Along with raspberries they are my favourite fruit. At this time of year I usually end up buying 2-3 punnets a week (so expect a few more strawberry-related posts to come!). Even though London’s weather cannot really be called “summer” yet, I’m pretending it is, at least when it comes to cocktails.

This “recipe” comes from the Kitchn and is part of their 10 minute happy hour series (definitely a series I can get behind). The main ingredients are gin, strawberries, lime, sugar, mint, and tonic water. My only criticism of this is that it’s a bit difficult to eat/drink the berries in their smashed state – one sort of ends up half-chewing, half-swallowing them. It’s a really refreshing drink, perfect for cool and rainy hot summer days.


strawberry gin smash

See my other gin cocktails here.

Zucchini & Basil Pasta Salad

Since we’re heading into summer, zucchini and pasta seem to be everywhere these days. It’s a good and dependable combination (see two previous dishes I’ve made — both excellent — here and here). As I was making this I was asking myself how many zucchini pasta dishes one needs in their repertoire. Not many I don’t think.

This dish looks easy by appearances, but is a bit of a faff (how’s that for a nice English word). My tolerance for faff is quite high if the outcome is good, although I realize more and more that time is becoming an increasing pressure — I’ll never have as much time to dedicate to cooking as I did when I was in Germany, until maybe I’m retired. In this case, I’m not sure the effort was worth it.

Preparing this is a four-step process: frying the zucchini, making the basil “sauce,” cooking the noodles, and then throwing the dish together. None of it is difficult, but it’s a bit more effort than one would normally go to for weeknight pasta I’d say. I followed Ottolenghi’s recipe closely except I substituted the edamame for peas. Never again. I just don’t like peas in pasta.

I’d rate this a 5/10 — it didn’t pack nearly enough punch as I thought it would — although H. thought it should be given a much higher score! I’d been planning on saving some of it for today but he ate it all. I guess I had high expectations for this combination and it wasn’t a winning one for me unfortunately.