24 hours in western Cumbria

There are so many parts of the UK that are jaw-droppingly beautiful. Recently we got to experience another one of them: the western Lake District/west Cumbria. This visit was short and mostly sweet. Our job was to drop off my aunt J and her good friend L, who started the 190-mile Coast to Coast walk on Friday. After a horrendous drive north on Thursday (bank holiday weekend + rush hour), we were rewarded with a full day of excellent weather on Friday.

We managed to pack a lot in in just 24 hours. We did the first third of day 1 of the C2C, which took in some stunning views of the Cumbrian coast and Irish sea, and then turned back for St Bees as J and L continued on their way. That afternoon, we walked partway around the stunning Ennerdale Water before visiting a local pub for some yummy fish and chips. On Saturday morning we headed back south, down the loooong M6 (fortunately not nearly as much traffic), and back to London life.

This trip was really the last of the summer wine hurrah. It’s back to school now, and I’ve got a very busy first 2 weeks of September to prove it!

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Thai-flavoured Chickpea & Millet Cakes with Red Pepper Sauce

Having moved more than 6 times in the past 10 years, I’ve learned not to keep much. I’m not a collector of anything (yet), with one major exception: books and magazines. I find it hard to get rid of these. My rule for books is to give away what I would never want to read again, and I’ve recently devised a magazine rule too: only keep them for a maximum of two years. In a small flat with no storage, even that is pushing it.

So, 3-4 times a year I go through my collection, which is mostly delicious as I have a subscription, and rip out recipes I want to keep (yes, I know… old school). I do it seasonally so that I can better be in the time of year frame (no use sorting summer recipes in the middle of Feb.). I recently went through a bunch of late spring/summer ones and (re)discovered this recipe, which comes from the May 2013 issue of delicious.

This is one of those dishes that really grabs me. I love a cake (this blog is full of them), love millet, and the flavour combinations really seemed to work.

Here’s how to make it:

  1. Put 125g millet in a pan with 300ml water and bring to a boil. Then, reduce and heat and simmer until cooked, ~15-20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile make the red pepper sauce: chop up 1 red pepper and put it in a pan with 1 tbsp maple strip, 1 tbsp cider vinegar, and a pinch of chili flakes. Cover and cook over low heat for 10-15 minutes. The pepper will lose water and become tender.
  3. When the millet is finished, mix it in a bowl with 1 can of drained and rinsed mashed chickpeas, 3 tsp Thai curry paste*, 4 tbsp chopped coriander, and 2 chopped spring onions. Mix together, and then form the mix into 6-8 cakes.**
  4. Heat 1/2 cm of oil in a pan and fry the cakes in batches. Fry until they are golden.
  5. Meanwhile make the dip: mix together 3 tbsp maple syrup and 2 tsp Dijon mistard.
  6. Serve the cakes with the dip, red pepper sauce, and a side salad!

*Use your preferred curry paste, or make your own. It called for red but I’d run out of red so used green.
**Here’s the thing: there was a major flaw with this meal….the cakes did not want to stick together! There is no binding agent in them and even with a lot of pressing it was touch-and-go. The mixture may have needed to be colder.

As you can see from the pic below, at a certain point I sort of gave up. The cakes weren’t sticking together well and so I cooked the second half of the mix on its own. But guess what….the TASTE was spot on! We loved this meal. The sauce, composed of just mustard and maple syrup (3 tbsp), with a pinch of chili flakes, was SO good, and the red pepper sauce worked perfectly. While the cakes may have been a bit of a failure I wouldn’t call the overall meal that at all. Just a good lesson for me to stop being such a perfectionist and concentrate on what matters…delicious food.

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Kinda gave up
Kinda gave up

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.

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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.

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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!🙂

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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!

 

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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.🙂

London
Swim at Hampstead Heath
Peckham
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

General
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?)

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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.

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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.

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