Thursday, 30 June 2011

cherry blossom and pea shucking

well hello! guess what? i am in australia!! yes, indeed. i made it safe and sound, even though the chilean ash cloud was threatening to ruin it (i touched down the morning before the airport closed, what a blessing!)

unfortunately my photo software is having issues, so for now you won't be able to see my australian photographs, but there's still a few i wanted to show you from this english spring/summer - and i'm sure you won't mind...

the cherry blossom on our tree, which lasted what seemed like a few days (when it had been anticipated for months!) - but it was worth the wait!

beef stew with bay leaves and green veg - simple, honest food.

waitrose always do really good offers - and this particular day they had a bag of pea pods. mum and i had great joy chatting and shucking at the same time!

we had the fresh peas with some oyster mushrooms, komatsuna, and mustard rabbit (which was kind of horrendous, but we ate it anyway! of course.)

so that's all for now... there may be another english installment until we get onto the australian delights of custard apple and lamingtons!

currently watching: old episodes of english crime dramas on ozzie tv - love the television over here! and of course australian masterchef, which is awesome...

Saturday, 18 June 2011

pick your own and fresh tulameen raspberries

on thursday i was invited to Millets Farm Centre near Oxford for a tour of their pick your own farm...

i absolutely adore PYO farms, and so there was no way i was going to refuse the invitation! i was totally intrigued by the farm centre too - i'm always happy to find good quality farm shops, which stock a wide variety of produce, and which sell not one but 2 different brands of raw(ish) ice cream - booja booja and no nuts just coconut were both there!

after an initial browse, and realization of just how incredible the millets farm centre actually is - it has 2 restaurants, kids farm, trout fishery, maize maze, garden centre, bakery. and it does weddings too apparently (not that i'm planning on that any time soon, but you know, it's nice to know). it's quite like dart's farm, near Exeter, which is equally as incredible and makes me want to buy everything because it's local and healthy.

case in point. it's gorgeously displayed, and has a very posh cooling system to keep everything fresh!

so, off to the pick your own section...

we ended up picking a whole load of fresh tulameen raspberries - which are divine - and a handful of elsanta strawberries - not quite ripe, but still excellent. i also got a few rhubarb stalks and one carrot!

the cherries were incredible! i've never seen trees so jam packed with fruit - thanks to the netting to keep the birds off, and the fact that we were the first pickers of the season. i was a very happy woman!

we were talked around the pyo farm by the fruit & veg experts, Orlin and Les. two very genuine guys, who clearly have a passion for what they do, and a genuine desire to nurture their crops in the best way possible. and they do a really good job, because everything tastes good!

the raspberries were my favorite - because they were massive and juicy and so sweet. very incredible. and i picked lots, and ate lots on my way too.

there were a bunch of other bloggers there, and it was great to meet a few, including Aveen from Baking Obsessively. a really lovely lady, who is a very skilled baker, and who's blog includes things like stem ginger cake and chocolate battenburg, how scrumptious!

at the end of the afternoon, we were given a few little goodies to take home - which included the award winning millets apple juice, which was insanely good, and which my brother drank almost all of in the course of one meal.

the best thing about the PYO farm is that you can pick your own vegetables too - beetroot, spinach, broad beans and corn on the cob. i love the idea of having that kind of a connection with your food. you know it's fresh, and you know exactly where it's come from!

currently: packing, because i leave for australia tomorrow!! watch out for posts and videos in the coming months all about my travels down under...

Thursday, 16 June 2011

butter croissants and choux farci

i hope you enjoyed part 1 of my french food photos! here is the second round (with slightly less waxing lyrical about france!):

duck is a really popular meat in france - and you can buy it in all sorts of different forms. one night we had duck confit - which was divine in all it's melt-in-your-mouth goodness. and this evening we had peppered duck steak with green beans and broccoli - fantastic!

breakfasts are a long leisurely affair, which could not take place until we had spent an hour walking to and from the local bakery with croissants and pain au chocolat. i ate bell pepper salad with avocado and boiled eggs most mornings, and indulged in pastry on a few occasions :)

one day we visited Ile de Re, where i ate a fantastic layered prawn salad with sweetcorn, egg and tomato. very scrumptious indeed! (ps. yes, this is the one i tweeted!)

my brother Jonny and i went for a stroll along the beach most evenings, and on a number of occasions we saw other people collecting crabs or other seafood... we tried but weren't so successful!

one of the best places to eat in france are the big supermarkets with cafeterias. it's amazing the food you can get, and it's very high quality. 

we went out a few times, but this was my favorite - choux farci (sausagemeat in cabbage in tomato sauce) and a huge side salad. i literally only managed half of it, but could happily have eaten it all because it was so good. i must try and make it myself one day :)

another thing that i didn't photograph but have to tell you about is the amazing organic store we stumbled across about 15 minutes away from where we were staying. it had bulk bins and fresh fruit/veg, it was like a mini wholefoods! the chain is called biomonde, and they have loads of stores across the country. why is it the uk (apart from dart's farm) have not been able to create a decent health food store?

over and out.

currently reading: the simple dollar by trent hamm - very helpful in re-evaluating my goals and budget...

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

crevettes rose and far breton

don't you just love the sound of the word nourriture, it's french for food, and i think it's fantastic how it is so similar to the word nourishment... it describes how food should be. something good for the soul and deeply satisfying. that's why you can't buy microwave meals in france, and how the convenience food aisle is really just preserved vegetables.

the french way of eating celebrates real food, and for that it must be praised. 

it's so interesting going into foreign supermarkets and towns to see what sort of food is on offer. it totally fascinates me. 

for example, on our trip we bought a cooked chicken from the local deli (i am slightly addicted to rotisserie chicken!) and it cost £15! i was fully prepared to pay £5 like i would in the UK, and then was taken aback when the guy said 'quinze euros, s'il vous plait'. but do you know why it was the most expensive chicken ever? it was huge, it was lean, it had been grown 15 km up the road, and it said the exact name of the man who had reared it. and it was really tasty.

the french really value local produce, and that's wonderful! the statistics tell us that the French do typically spend a lot more money on food than other countries - 4% of an american's income goes on food, in france it's 14%! (thanks to michael pollan for that one)

so, we relished going to the local market, savouring the produce and speaking (en francais, oui oui) to the people who grew it. i loved it. it makes me want to move there!

anyway, here are some of the delicious things we ate:

prawns, or crevettes rose, were on offer at the local poissonerie for £6.95 a kilo!! so we ate them about 4 times in the 9 days we were there :)

fresh cherries has just started their season, and were abundant, so we ate those a few times too!

because we're a very adventurous family, we chose the craziest looking fish at the market, which was actually a type of shark - slowly pan fried in butter, it tasted really good. and had an almost meaty texture, a bit like chicken.

artichokes. i really didn't have a clue how to cook it, or choose one, but i was in france so i had to buy one! it was a bit of a failure, because it was inedible (i think i needed to boil it longer?) - but it was so pretty, it was worth the money even without eating it! 

far breton - a type of prune flan. it tastes really nice, and has a perfect consistency. we bought it from the market, from a man who was selling cured meats, yet had a big stack of the far breton too. i'd love to make a less refined version of this one day!

check back for more french food photos tomorrow!

and in the meantime, please tell me about how you like to cook artichokes? and what do you like about the French way of eating?

currently listening to: let me go by maverick sabre

Monday, 13 June 2011

dark chocolate mousse and venison meatballs

buon giorno! i hope your day is going magnificently.

it was so interesting to hear you opinions about making yogurt and sprouting alfalfa. the best things in life are simple and cheap to do really - just watching the miracle of a tiny seed sprouting, or bacteria turn milk into yogurt, amazes me always! 

anyway, no more dilly-dallying here today, let's get straight into my latest tasty eats:

blackberry porridge with homemade marrow ginger jam and a sprinkle of cinnamon

♥ dark chocolate mousse - which i filmed for my YT channel, see here

♥ and last but not least, venison meatballs, using venison mince from the local farmer's market and following my grandmother's recipe. with a little grated apple and fresh mint added too. these were ridiculously yummy!

i've got a wonderfully busy week this week - off to Millet's Farm on thursday, which i'm very excited about - and of course, packing and getting all things organised before my departure to australia on sunday. whilst catching up on everyone's blogs too before i jet off, and uploading my food photos from france too...

currently listening to: my tunein radio app on the iphone - i am trying to get some awesome new tunes onto my iphone for my trip, any suggestions?

Friday, 10 June 2011

on a stick: a cookbook review

hello everyone! hope your day is going swimmingly.

i was recently sent matt armendariz's (from matt bites) new book 'on a stick' for review. and as i always love reading new cookbooks, i was definitely intrigued by this one, as it promised something completely different from any other cookbook i've seen before. 80 recipes, all with things on sticks...? i get stuck after chicken satays, and cheese and pineapple - who wouldn't want more party-perfect foods or great things to barbecue.

and the book definitely delivers in variety, excitement and recipes that are perfect for parties. a few of my favorites are: lamb souvlaki with cucumber yogurt sauce, spam and pineapple skewers (aloha!), spicy cajun skewers, fresh mango and chili powder with lime, grilled fruit skewers with honey mint yogurt. delicious!

i made the Dak Sanjuk from page 55, which were very very delicious and quick to make too. and they look so pretty!

there are however quite a few deep fried recipes, which i can't make because i don't have a deep fat fryer (the only people i know that do are my grandparents), and which i wouldn't want to make because i don't believe all that deep frying would do me any good. and also, there are loads of very sweet recipes, which i wouldn't and can't have either, like cake pops and homemade marshmallows.

but aside from the deep frying and the general sweetness, there are loads of fruit and vegetable recipes, and some really delish looking sauces and dips. and the photography is AWESOME! it's very beautiful. and after all it is matt's profession, so they ought to be incredible :)

the book has an interesting picture on the cover - it did totally intrigue me, that's for sure...

the only time's in my life i've eaten things on a stick have been cheese fondue's as a teen (my mum used to make a mean fondue), chicken satays from the deli counter at waitrose and countless 60's style cheese and pineapple sticks at Christmas parties. so having something new and different is really quite refreshing!

how many times in your life have you eaten food on a stick? and what are your favorite things to eat from a stick?

currently watching: 90210 on 4od - i unashamedly love the glitter and glamour and fashion of it...

Thursday, 9 June 2011

yogurt making and alfalfa sprouting

well hello lovely readers!

by now i'm sure you are all aware of how much of a DIY sort of person i am - no not in the home department, no siree, i mean, i'd rather learn to make butter than buy butter, and i'd rather make homemade granola than pay for it. and i even grow my own vegetables and berries up at the allotment.

but now i've taken one step further in becoming more self sufficient - i've learnt how to make my own yogurt and sprout my own seeds! not inherently complicated things, but have taken a while for me to attempt because my skepticism got in the way (which is unusual for me).

i started out with yogurt making by trying out easiyo - the title makes it sound so simple to do, and i knew that yogurt making should be a more cost effective way of getting a regular portion of yogurt to eat. so i succumbed to the advertising (which is again unusual). and boy, did i regret it! easiyo is simple, once you've found and purchased a packet of the dry mix at great expense, and then regret doing so because you're concerned about the possible health un-benefits a dry mix is (probiotics only survive when chilled, so what's the point?)

anway, fast forward 2 years, and we have a vintage yogurt maker by Bel. my mum used to have one when she was younger, and recalled their simple and efficient wonderfulness. all you have to do is use one pot of live yoghurt (froma  previous batch, or from the supermarket), add a little milk powder for thickness and then add some organic UHT milk (i love the one's by Moo). mix it together, pour in the glass cups, switch on and wait for hours. then you have perfectly portioned, delicious set yoghurt. every time. wunderbar! 

the wonderful bel yogurt all her glory!

the next thing was sprouting. which is inherently very simple, but seemed tricky to me a few months ago. i've had this one packet of alfalfa sprouts for years, and i've always thought i had to wait until i purchased a 'sprouting kit' before i could use them. and they are always so expensive i never have... ergo, no sprouts.

until, a few months ago when i figured that people have been sprouting for centuries, and it probably wasn't common to have a plastic strainer lid 100 years ago. it must be possible! and of course, all you actually have to do is soak the alfalfa seeds for 8 hours (it's different with other beans and seeds, so be sure to check), then drain and rinse them twice a day until you want to eat them.

well, though the draining is a bit tricky, it can totally be done with just a steady hand. and then you just need to cover it to stop any pests eating the delicious sprouts. i just sit them on my side, turning occasionally and rinsing occasionally, until they look perfectly green.

you only need one tablespoon of seeds for one big jar, because they grow so large... 

and they taste wonderful with everything, giving a fresh texture and lots of important nutrients and minerals - check out this 'why sprout?' article from the nourishing gourmet for details on the health benefits of sprouting.

i've also figured out a way to grow my own salad leaves successfully! all it takes is 3 large tubs with lots of compost, some packet seed and then every 2 weeks you sprinkle some seeds out to grow. they need watering every day too.

and they save money, taste awesome and are so full of nutrients because they are so fresh!

it's funny how some things that are actually really simple to do and have great health benefits can get forgotten about because they are portrayed as wacky or hippie or only what health nuts do. perhaps i've reached a point where i'm happy to be labeled in that way, or perhaps i'd rather save money than worry about how i'm judged. 

but i'm so happy to have got all these things in my routine, and am pleasantly surprised at how easy they are to fit in! in the morning, all i do is rinse the sprouts and water the salad leaves and take out a pot of yogurt from the fridge. it's simple, and it's an awesome way to remind me of the simplicity of life (aka, how does all that come from a tiny seed?!?) - it's inspiring and connecting, and a pleasure not a chore.

so, i want to know, how many of you sprout, grow your own salad leaves or make your own yogurt? have you got any extra tips? what are your thoughts?

currently reading: sense and sensibility by jane austen (yes, still)

Sunday, 5 June 2011

swedish ettsoppa and catherine wheel sausages

hey everyone! hope you're all ok 

so i'm back from france, and properly befreckled. we had a really lovely time - eating prawns 4 times (who wouldn't at 6.95E per kilo?) and making a few trips to the local markets to stock up on fresh veggies. we also went to the most awesome historical theme park ever, called puy du fou, it is absolutely incredible. i will be uploading pictures soon, i promise!

but first, here's a few of my recent eats:

oat porridge (not coconut, but still pretty good!) with desiccated coconut on top and hot cup of tea

swedish ettsoppa with a started/side of boiled egg, avocado and crispbread with mustard - i was very hungry that day!

catherine wheel sausage (thank you Waitrose!) with broccoli and cauliflower - simple and satisfying primal meal!

currently reading: 2413 posts on my bloglovin reel, they really mount up when you've been away for 2 weeks!!

ps. it's only 2 weeks until i head off to australia!!