October 2nd. Sigh. I love fall, but damn it’s a busy time of year. Posts have been few and far between, mostly because I haven’t been cooking much, or rather haven’t been cooking much that’s new. I feel as though my time isn’t my own any more, which is sad to admit, but true. I hope to bring you a few food posts in the coming weeks. In the meantime…
◌ A selection of recipes from Nigel Slater’s new book.
◌ Really liking the wine app Delectable, a recent download of mine.
I love tomatoes and will happily eat them in just about any form in anything. One of my favourite times to be in Nova Scotia is when the tomatoes are ripe and plentiful in my aunt and uncle’s garden — it is overwhelming! The tomatoes are so good that neither of them eat them at any other time of the year unless it’s their own frozen ones. Alas, that didn’t happen this year, so I’ve had to get my fix elsewhere — usually at our weekly farmer’s market, where we’ve had tomatoes since late July (which is actually when I made this).
Before we left for Nova Scotia in early August, H. and I completely cleaned out our freezer and used everything up. I had some frozen puff pastry, and had visions of a tomato tart, and in my search came across this recipe at the Kitchn. I was a bit unsure at first because of the mayo. Yes, I have a fear of mayonnaise that I am gradually overcoming. ;) In the end, the simplicity of this tart won me round, and I’m really glad I tried it.
My version was two-cheese rather than three (cheddar and feta), and it was delicious. No, it’s not the healthiest meal around, but it’s damn tasty and really hits the spot. And is perfect if you are lucky enough to have access to lots of tomatoes right now!
I feel like summer is well and truly over. Weather-wise back in London, it’s been pretty poor — a freezing 9 degrees when I left the house yesterday morning. I’ve been back to work for a week now and so my weeks of checking email only once every couple of days are a distant memory. I do love fall though, and am excited for it, but before we get into spiked pumpkin latte season (shout-out for you MC, ha ha), a few late summer recipes are still to come on the blog.
I made this chowder a couple of weeks ago in Sandy Cove. We were fortunate to have some amazing seafood on hand — haddock, clams, and leftover lobster. I love a good chowder and so thought it would be the perfect way to combine it all.
I started loosely basing it on this one from The Bite House, but ended up changing things around fairly quickly. I only used a small amount of fennel (garden-fresh too!) but had to remove it as even the smell was too licoricey for me. Instead of sausage I used about 4 slices of bacon. I followed Bryan’s liquid measurements closely, and it came out the perfect most rich (but not overly rich) silky chowder. Much better than my first attempt three years ago! Most ingredients in the bowl were Nova Scotian, and all of the seafood had been caught locally. I know a lot of people eat like this all the time (well, for at least part of the year), but it’s still a novelty for me to cook a meal that is well and truly ‘local’, and a very good feeling.
◌ Vacationing like it’s 1999, i.e. without constant technology. I found this refreshing but sad that some people have to resort to paying for solitude from technology. I hope I never become one of them.
A recent NYT article claimed that steamed clams and melted butter were “summertime perfection.” I have to agree. One of the highlights of our trip to Nova Scotia was an evening spent clam digging! Living in London we rarely get these kind of ‘ground-to-table’ experiences first hand and so it was extremely satisfying to dig the clams ourselves and then eat them. We went with a couple of friends and our local clam digger captain extraordinaire, who was a machine at digging (the rest of us were very slow in comparison!).
When it came to cooking the clams, we rinsed them a few times and then soaked them overnight in water. Most of the sand came out and I had very little grit in the end. Then I steamed them. With some butter (add garlic to make it extra tasty), some bread and/or a garden salad, this is a perfect simple and satisfying summer lunch.
I know I’m publishing two travel posts almost back-to-back, but I am trying to keep some semblance of chronological order on the blog. After our week in Scotland with my family, H. and I spent three weeks back in London. I packed as much as I could in, work-wise, in those 3 weeks — submitted four chapters of my PhD to my second supervisor, and turned in the final copy of the syllabus for the course I am teaching this fall. Then it was time for our ‘real’ summer vacation, Nova Scotia. I say ‘real’ because I have taken/am taking the 2 weeks off completely from work, which I have not done for a very long time and which was desperately needed.
When we originally looked at flights, back in early spring, I figured it wasn’t going to happen this year: return trip prices via Air Canada were out-of-the-question high. However, on further digging we came across an option that we could afford: a three-legged trip, via Iceland on the way there, at half the price of the Air Canada option.
That’s how we ended up spending 30 hours in Reykjavik. Aside from some problems with public transportation, this city completely charmed us. We packed a lot in and managed to eat and drink local delicacies, do a walking tour, and even see the Gay Pride Parade. Reykjavik has a very laid-back, accessible, family feel to it. We loved it, and really want to return to Iceland one day to see it properly.
This past year has been an annoying one for me, allergy-wise. I developed a severe allergy to some types of raw nuts and was told by the allergist that this would likely also extend to certain fruits and veg in the future. I now have to be very careful with raw fruit, particularly stone fruit. I tried peaches earlier in the summer and had a mild reaction, so unfortunately did not get to sample these cherries in all of their raw glory. However, cooked fruit is absolutely fine, and when I saw this recipe on David Lebovitz’s blog, I thought it looked like a good one to try.
I was sure I had made a clafoutis before, but can’t find a post about it on this blog nor remember exactly what type it was. The fact that we didn’t really like this dessert also confirmed it! There is not much to report on this one. Making it is extremely straightforward, other than the tedious cherry pitting, which I H. did by hand (thank you H.!). Ultimately, though, neither of us really liked the clafoutis, not because it didn’t taste good but because of the custard-y texture. Too eggy. Just not for us. Ah well.
I’m writing this from Nova Scotia where I have been for just over a week. I have about 10 posts sitting waiting to be written/finished/started — a big backlog. I am trying to work my way through them as the days go by here. I will catch up eventually… I hope still roughly in time with the seasons and timely posts, because before you know it fall will be upon us!
It seems a long time ago now, but last month I spent an incredible 8 days in Scotland with 29 other members of my mum’s side of the family. We stayed in Dumfriesshire, just over the border close to Gretna Green, and enjoyed day trips to different parts of northern England and southern Scotland. Aside from a chapter deadline (me) and a bout of stomach flu (H.), it was another amazing family adventure. Scotland is a very special place to me: it’s the land of birth of my father, the place that connects both sides of my family, and it’s where I met H. (not to mention one of my BFFs!). :) It’s also one of my favourite places to go on holiday. Here are a few snaps.
One of my favourite pastas ever is this one (a Mimi Thorisson recipe). There is something about the combination of zucchini, cheese, and pasta that I really love. The zucchini somehow seems to keep it much lighter – perfect for summer.
So, as soon as I started seeing zucchini at the farmers market I knew I had to try this dish from Smitten Kitchen. I used a pasta bought from my recent trip to Italy called gnocchetti. Supermarkets there always seem to have much more interesting shapes (not to mention be more affordable — when I looked this type of pasta up at UK supermarkets, it was over £6 a kilo and I paid less than €2 for 500g). Gnocchetti comes from Sardinia and was historically made by pressing the dough on the bottom of a wicker basket. (As soon as H. laid eyes on the bag, he proclaimed that they looked like maggots!).
The dish involves a few different steps — preparing the zucchini, cooking the pasta, making the bechamel — but it comes together quickly, and it’s definitely worth it. Both H. and I thought it was the perfect summer dish — easy to make, not too heavy, and really tasty. The only thing that would make it better, for non-vegetarians of course, is adding bacon. ;)
PS: for more zucchini recipes, see a roundup here.
Thomasina Miers has had a column in the Saturday Guardian magazine for quite a while now. She is the owner of the Wahaca restaurants, which are Mexican, but her columns have always been rather internationally focused, cuisine-wise. Until recently, I hadn’t tried any of her recipes (or at least can’t remember having done so), but this one caught my eye a couple of weeks ago. It had me at “Thai BBQ chicken.”
Ah, barbeques. This is the time of year that I really feel the absence of a back yard or a balcony. Majorly. If I had my way I would be cooking outside most nights, but since that isn’t an option when you live in a small flat in one of the world’s most expensive cities, I did it in the oven.
I followed the recipe fairly carefully (using thighs instead of a whole chicken), but omitted the coconut and raisins in the rice. I don’t like the texture of the former, and the latter is not meant to be eaten in any other form except on their own (no personal preferences here at all! Ha).
This is one of those weird dishes that is really more than the sum of its parts. On its own, each element isn’t anything to write home about — particularly the rice, which I found a bit stodgy and I’m still not sure about the roasted cashews which get a bit lost. But when it’s all mixed together in a mouthful (with the sauce, not pictured below), it’s delicious. It reminded me a bit of a new-ish restaurant in London, a Thai BBQ place called the Smoking Goat, which H. and I tried a couple of months back. Yes, char from a BBQ would have made it a lot better, but this version worked just fine for us. It’s definitely a marinade and sauce combination I would make again.