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Rosemary gimlet

19 Aug

Rosemary gimlet

Cutting back an unruly rosemary bush that was over-reaching itself in the garden has left me with an abundance of fresh rosemary. Besides incorporating it into our last few meals, I made a bottle of rosemary syrup to drizzle over apple-based desserts, and use to glaze my next rosemary loaf cake.

I then got the idea of making a rosemary-based cocktail… An internet search turned up this rosemary gimlet on David Lebowitz’s website.

Having tried it his way, I decided that I prefer mine with a higher proportion of lime juice and rosemary syrup to gin. That way you can have two…;-) Continue reading

Lemon gems

13 Aug

Lemon gems

Lemon gems (or fried egg biscuits, as they are known round here), are delightfully crumbly-yet-crisp, tart little morsels of loveliness. Plus they look so cute! Continue reading

Chicken tikka masala

5 Jul

Chicken tikka masala

Chicken tikka masala is one of Britain’s favourite dishes. Believed to be a local adaptation of India’s butter chicken, chicken tikka masala is such a part of the British culinary fabric, it goes by the acronym CTM.

Usually eaten in restaurants, or as a takeaway, I had never actually made chicken tikka masala myself. Continue reading

Summer pudding

2 Jul

Summer pudding

Before moving to the UK, I’d never eaten summer pudding. I was dead impressed the first time my mother-in-law served one up for dessert.

As she’s a very accomplished cook, I assumed summer puddings required patisserie skills I’d never possess. Turns out she’s a canny cook as well – and summer pudding couldn’t be easier to make. Continue reading

Indian beans on toast

24 Feb

Indian beans on toast

Indian beans on toast is the happy result of one of those “what can I possibly make for dinner?” evenings. The kind where you’re that close to admitting defeat and ordering pizza.

But then you notice a couple of tins of cannellini beans you’d bought to have with the chicken breasts you forgot you’d already eaten, and decide that the onion with the shoots emerging from the top is still usable, and remember there are a few slices of sourdough bread in the freezer.

And with the last tin of tomatoes from the garage, you produce something that – while far from dinner party fare – is pretty tasty, if you do say so yourself.

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Fish pie

18 Feb

Fish pie

Fish pie is a comforting dish, and one many British people associate with childhood. I can’t recall ever eating one before moving to the UK, but unlike Marmite or Jaffa cakes, you don’t have to grow up eating fish pie to enjoy it.

Making a good fish pie does require care and attention. There are several steps – and several pans – involved. I’ve streamlined my version over the years,  arriving at a fish pie recipe where the final result justifies the effort.

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Sweet potato and carrot soup

15 Feb

Sweet potato and carrot soup

This sweet potato and carrot soup comes together in no time, making a great choice for weekday dinner. The sweet potato gives it a silky smoothness that contrasts beautifully with the crunchy seeds. Continue reading

Seville orange marmalade

26 Jan

Marmalade

January can feel long and bleak and dreary. But the arrival of Seville oranges in the shops is a little spot of sunshine because it means I can make this year’s batch of marmalade.

Homemade marmalade on toast with a hot cup of tea takes some beating. Quintessentially British, both marmalade and tea are symbols of Britain’s colonial past – one through trade with Spain and the other due to colonising India. The history of the empire casts a long shadow over British cuisine – and we all eat better for it…

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Filled iced buns

21 Jan

Filled iced buns

I was pleasantly surprised by these iced filled buns, which are like homemade, fresh and delicious jam doughnuts. Or sweet hamburgers. Needless to say, the girls adored them.

As I’m not keen on strawberry jam, I opted to fill mine with raspberry instead. It’s not the most photogenic of jams, appearing dark and gelatinous in the photos.

With these filled iced buns I complete my Great British Bake-off signature bake challenge – better late than never. Continue reading

Smoked mackerel and beet salad

12 Jan

Smoked mackerel and beetroot salad

Smoked mackerel and beetroot salad is the kind of food I crave after December’s indulgences. Healthy without being “too healthy”, this winning combination of colours, textures and tastes feeds the eye before it feeds the rest of you.

The sharpness of the pickled beetroot contrasts beautifully with the mackerel’s oily richness, set off by the fiery horseradish dressing. I heaped forkfuls of it onto Ryvita crackers, and crunched away happily – feeling all Nordic – while catching up on the latest series of The Bridge. Continue reading

Chocolate tart

27 Nov

Chocolate tart

There’s been a hiatus in the Great British Bake-off project, but the girls were never going to let me get away without making the double chocolate tart.

Chocolate pastry is new to me. My go-to pastry recipes have little or no sugar, and I wasn’t confident that would be enough to balance the bitterness of the cocoa. The pastry recipe I followed starts by creaming the butter and sugar, which resulted in a biscuity-crisp crust.  Continue reading

Raised game pie

15 Oct

Raised game pie
My heart sank when the Great British Bake-off contestants were set the task of making a raised game pie.

According to BBC Good Food (where I found this Paul Hollywood recipe), “a game pie always makes a spectacular centre piece and… is amazingly straightforward to make – especially if you buy mixed game meat ready-prepared from a good butcher.”
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Madeira cake

10 Sep

madeira cake

The Great British Bake-off has returned to our tellies, and the family is following along enthusiastically. Inspired by the contestants’ efforts in the tent each week, I’ve signed up to complete each week’s signature bake. Baking and desserts are not my forte, so this will be a stretch for me. First up, Madeira cake… Continue reading

Kedgeree

6 Sep

Kedgeree

Kedgeree is one of my all-time favourite meals. While the British consider kedgeree a breakfast dish, we usually eat this delicious concoction of smoked fish, rice, eggs and curry as a weekday supper with a good dollop of mango chutney. Continue reading

Lemon-ginger flapjacks

2 Jul

Lemon ginger flapjacks

In Canada a flapjack is another name for a pancake. Here in the UK, it’s a sort of baked oat square. Similar to a granola bar, a good flapjack is chewy and dense and sweet with golden syrup.

The first flapjack I tasted was not good – in fact, it was a huge disappointment. While it looked tempting enough in the sandwich shop with its generous coating of chocolate, it tasted of nothing but cheap oil and sugar, compacted itself into my molars and left a coating of grease on the roof of my mouth. I didn’t finish it – or buy another flapjack for a good ten years. Continue reading

Rhubarb crumble ice cream

30 May

rhubarb-crumble-icecream

Rhubarb crumble ice cream is an inspired idea – tart rhubarb, silky sweet cream, nuggets of cakey crumble. It’s not the most visually seductive of ice creams, at least when made with the chunky green stalks of rhubarb from my garden patch. None of that delicate pink forced rhubarb for us.

 

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Frangipane tarts

21 May

frangipane-tart-1

Frangipane is such a beautiful word, conjuring up images of sugar and spice, flowers and French patisserie. These tasty little numbers with their moreish almond filling, tart slick of raspberry jam and flaky crisp pastry are as delicious to eat as the name suggests.

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Eton mess

9 May

Eton mess

May is the start of strawberry season in the UK, and strawberries are going to feature large around here in the weeks ahead: strawberries on our cereal and in our smoothies, strawberry tops in our water, strawberry shortcake, strawberry ice cream, and Eton mess. Continue reading

Pear and ginger oat puddings

16 Apr

Oat fruit puddings

These pear and ginger oat puddings are a cross between a fruit crumble and a flapjack. They are quick to assemble, take only fifteen minutes to cook, and are so light and healthy tasting that I’m tempted to make them for breakfast. Continue reading

Pea and watercress soup

24 Feb

Pea and watercress soup

In spite of the watercress, this is a hearty, wintery sort pea soup. Not as rib sticking as the split pea soup I grew up eating in Canada, but very different to the chilled pea and mint soup we eat all summer.

Even after blending, I find that the soup still has a certain amount of texture. I  like it that way, but if you’d prefer it smoother, you can always push the puréed soup through a sieve before serving. Continue reading

Haggis, neeps and tatties

25 Jan

haggis-neeps-tatties

We celebrate Burns night every year, hosting a supper with friends. As dinner parties go, it’s an easy meal to prepare. I toss a Macsween haggis in the oven, peel a big bag of potatoes and a couple of swede (much tastier than turnips), make with the potato ricer and that’s about it.

We usually start with mackerel paté and oatcakes – homemade this year as the local shop was out. Before tucking in, we stumble through a reading of Burns’ “Address to a Haggis” – delivered in a range of appalling Scottish accents – before toasting the “chieftain o’ the puddin’ race” with a shot of whisky.

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Scottish oatcakes

24 Jan

Scottish oatcakes

This is my mum’s oatcake recipe. She used to divide the dough into four, roll each piece into an 8″ circle, then cut it into quarters before baking. I prefer to make round oatcakes using a biscuit cutter.

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Potato, leek and Stilton soup

13 Jan

Potato, leek and Stilton soup

It’s mid-January and I’m still incorporating Christmas leftovers into our meals…

When I discovered a forgotten wedge of Stilton at the back of the fridge, it inspired me to make this potato, leek and Stilton soup. While I’ve never really warmed (ha!) to vichyssoise, a bowl of this soup is my idea of a perfect winter meal.
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Gin and It

9 Dec

Gin and It

Well, I finally solved the mystery of gin and It this weekend… In my teens, I read a lot of British crime novels – Agatha Christie mainly. It was all quite exotic to a thirteen-year-old Canadian who’d never set foot in the UK.

Country houses where retired military men were forever being poisoned, village fetes and cricket greens, debutantes and domestic servants. And the food – tisanes, gin and It, barley water, beef tea, crumpets, violet creams. I had no idea what any of them were… Continue reading

Smoked trout paté

2 Dec

smoked-trout-pate

Each November, we celebrate Thanksgiving with longtime friends, who have family in America. We pick a date that falls between Canadian and American Thanksgiving, and take turns hosting. The family that does the travelling brings the pies.

This year, it was our turn to cook the meal. I made this smoked trout paté to whet our appetite for the main event. The flavours are more delicate – and it’s also prettier – than my usual mackerel paté. The original recipe comes from Delicious magazine. Continue reading

Dorset apple cake

17 Nov

Dorset apple cake

There are lots of recipes for Dorset apple cake around. Having tried a few, I’ve settled on this one.

This lovely cake is surprisingly light, fresh and lemony. I always make it with Bramley apples, liking their tartness and they way they become so fluffy when cooked. Plus we have a tree in the garden… Continue reading

Apple crumble

5 Nov

apple crumble

Apple crumble is one of the first things that my mum taught me to cook, as I imagine her mother must have taught her. Crumble always on the menu at my grandparent’s house: apple, plum, peach are the ones I remember best. She would serve it with tinned milk,  cheaper and more readily available than cream. While Britain excels in the realm of cream – the range on offer in Canada is far more limited even now.

I was surprised to learn that crumble originated in World War II Britain, when food rationing meant pies were off the menu. Women made crumbles instead to eke out their supplies of butter and sugar. Which leaves me wondering why my English-born grandmother was such a crumble queen – given that she emigrated to Canada in 1927. Continue reading

Rosemary loaf cake

24 Oct

Rosemary loaf cake

As much as I love the flavour of rosemary, and as happily as it thrives year-round in our garden, I don’t actually cook many dishes that call for it. Roast lamb, beef stroganoff, maybe a couple of stalks in a tray of roast potatoes – that’s about it.

Which is why rosemary loaf cake was one of the first recipes I cooked from  Nigella Lawson’s How To Be a Domestic Goddess. Continue reading

Chargrilled broccoli with chilli and garlic

12 Oct

Chargrilled broccoli with garlic and chilli

I’ve looked at this Ottolenghi recipe for chargrilled broccoli with garlic and chilli a number of times, but have never summoned up the enthusiasm to grill individual broccoli florets before today. Blanching, chilling, drying, grilling – it seemed a lot of trouble for a bowl of broccoli.

I don’t know what tipped the balance, but I’m really pleased I finally gave this dish a try. It turns out that chargrilled broccoli is delicious, especially tossed with sautéed garlic, chilli and slivers of lemon. And because I halved the quantities, it wasn’t as time consuming as anticipated. The original recipe comes from Ottolenghi, The Cookbook. Continue reading

Baked spiced plums

8 Oct

Roast plums with Barbados cream

These baked spiced plums are wonderfully easy to make – plus they make the house smell of mulled wine. Good hot or cold, they keep for a week in the fridge, and freeze well too.

Another recipe from Nigella Lawson’s How to Cook, I cut back on the amount of honey after making it the first time, as I found the sweetness masked the flavour of the plums. They are delicious served with a spoonful of Barbados cream.

Baked spiced plums

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Barbados cream

6 Oct

Barbados cream

Much as I’d love to add another country to my country list, there is no evidence whatsoever that the delicious concoction known as Barbados cream originates from Barbados. I’ve now learned that Barbados sugar is another name for muscavado sugar – the lovely, molasses-rich, dark brown sugar used in this recipe. However, the name applies only to muscavado sugar that originates from Barbados, while mine is from Mauritius.

The recipe comes from Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat. I doubt she’d approve of my use of fat-free Greek yogurt, but the end result is plenty rich and delicious enough for me. Its tangy, creamy sweetness goes beautifully with cooked fruit and crumbles – I use it anywhere I would dollop a spoonful of creme fraiche or vanilla ice cream. Continue reading

Leek and potato soup

2 Oct

Leek and potato soup

I ate a lot of soup as a university student – particularly onion potato soup. This was mostly because it cost about $1 to make an enormous pot that I could live off for days. This leek and potato soup is pretty much the same soup, all grown up – just like me…

Butter instead of oil, leeks instead of yellow onions, and a splash of cream for the silky finish it brings. I sometimes add chunks of Polish sausage after puréeing the soup, which makes it more of a meal and adds a appealing smoky element to the flavour. But it’s not necessary – it’s delicious just the way it is. Continue reading

Warm chicken and runner bean salad

22 Sep

Warm chicken and runner bean salad

I was given a wonderful bag of produce from my friend Rachel’s allotment for my birthday last week. Courgettes, tomatillos, piquillo peppers, nasturtium flowers, electric daisies (which make your mouth tingle in a slightly alarming fashion), squash, French and runner beans –  a generous sampling of their bountiful harvest.

Whenever I find myself with runner beans, this salad is the first thing I make. I love the vibrant colours and contrasting tastes and textures – crunchy croutons, tender chicken, just crisp beans, juicy tomatoes – high summer eating at its finest. Continue reading

Spinach, date and almond salad

6 Sep

Spinach, date and almond salad

This spinach, date and almond salad from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook was all over the food blogs a couple of years ago. With good reason – it’s a stunner of a salad, and relatively straightforward to prepare.

Dates and onions are marinated in a little vinegar, chunks of pitta and almonds fried in butter and dusted with chilli flakes and sumac, before being tossed with baby spinach. I ottolenghed it up for my brother and his family when they  arrived visited from Canada. Continue reading

Butterbean and tomato soup

4 Sep

Butterbean tomato soup

I could live on soup, especially thick, puréed ones like this butterbean and tomato soup. Cooked butterbeans have a soft, floury texture, which makes them a great soup base, though I imagine cannellini beans would work here as well.

This is one of those dishes that tastes like more effort has gone into it, which I attribute to the addition of sundried tomatoes. The recipe comes from Rose Elliot’s Vegetarian Fast FoodContinue reading

Grasmere gingerbread

29 Aug

Grasmere gingerbread

Grasmere gingerbread is something I make when supplies are running low. It has only five store-cupboard ingredients – and doesn’t even call for an egg. I came across the recipe in the Observer newspaper years ago, and remember they included two versions – one simple, the other slightly fussier. (I’ve since discovered the original recipes are from Jane Grigson’s English Food).

I tried the simple one first, and decided after only one bite that it was plenty good enough for me. The recipe is so easy, it sounds like the crust one might make for a cheesecake or square. But there’s definitely more going on here. The crumb is exceptional, with an initial give before you encounter a chewy resistance in the middle. Continue reading

Mackerel paté

21 Aug

Mackerel paté

Mackerel paté is not one of the recipe world’s natural beauties, and it’s beyond my limited photography skills  to make it look any better than this. On the plus side, it is dead simple to make and tastes great. To quote Meatloaf, “two outta three ain’t bad”.

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Macaroni and cheese with crispy topping

17 Aug

Macaroni and cheese

Somebody gave me a copy of Annabel Karmel’s Baby and Toddler Meal Planner when Nova was born. Once I got past the freezing purées in ice cube tray stage, I moved onto her recipe for macaroni cheese. I’m pretty sure it’s the only recipe I ever made from it, and have long since given the book away.

The squirt of ketchup in the cheese sauce is something I wouldn’t have thought of myself, and the crispy topping is a nice touch. I’ve always made my macaroni cheese with a good, strong cheddar – and all the many children I’ve fed this dish to have happily scoffed it down. I eat mine with a  good dollop of Dijon mustard on the side.

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Steak salad with horseradish dressing

11 Aug

steak salad

I consider this steak salad to be the summer version of a roast beef dinner –  grilled meat, roast potatoes, steamed green beans, and a horseradish-based dressing to dollop on top. I often make it with boiled potatoes, but as our stove top was condemned(!) by the gas man a few days ago, that wasn’t an option.

I serve the tomatoes, beans and onions in a large bowl; the meat and potatoes in another; and the dressing on the side. This works visually and also prevents the warm ingredients from making the fresh vegetables limp. It also cuts down on complaints from the girls, who are still “learning to like” horseradish – which is what I always say about those foods they currently shun. Continue reading

Pea and mint soup

10 Aug

Pea mint soup

I’m very surprised that we’ve made it to August before I made this chilled pea mint soup, especially as we’ve been enjoying such atypically sunny weather. This recipe is usually one of my summer staples.

I love cold soups, but I know they’re not for everybody. Happily, this soup tastes equally good served warm, and garnished with a sprinkling of fried pancetta cubes. Continue reading