“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” ― Julia Child

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Foodie Kinda Day

Today was my Grandad Eric's birthday, and we went to see him this morning. While we were there his twin brother Uncle Bert showed up to join in the fun. Happy Birthday, Eric and Bert!

After the visit it was about lunchtime, so Sis and I ventured into The Lemon Tree in the High Street. The Lemon Tree used to be located in what is now Prezzo and what used to be The Cinque Ports Restaurant. It's now located in the half-timbered Tudor building that used to house The Tudor Rose and also a bookshop (which was the M&D bus office before that). Phew! Things sure have changed around here!

The interior of The Lemon Tree is not terribly different from the way The Tudor Rose used to look on the interior, of course being a listed building means that the main structure cannot be messed with, so really apart from things like the carpet and the tables etc. it's basically the same. It was a pleasant surprise, first of all, to discover that this is one establishment that offers free refills on coffee. That is a major selling point to me! In the States I had become accustomed to this, but on the whole UK restaurants don't (or at least never used to).

I ordered Plaice and Chips, and Sis got the Ham, Egg and Chips. Plenty of chips on everyone's plate, for starters. My plaice was breaded and perfectly cooked. Sis had lots of ham and a little side salad to boot. Nice friendly efficient service and not too bad on the prices. I looked at the prices of the Cream Teas, in the Light Bite menu that was sitting on the table. £4.95 for 2 scones, jam, butter, cream and a pot of tea ain't bad! Must go there again. Let's give it 4 yums out of 5.

This afternoon at Sis's place we were having an afternoon cuppa while we watched Pointless on TV, and we were partaking of what are rapidly becoming my favourite biccies, Fox's Chunkie Extremely Chocolatey Cookies. By crikey, they're good! They also come in a fruit and nut extremely chocolatey variety. Now the downside. There are only 8 to a packet, and when you consider that they cost around £1.59 here in the UK (and for those among you in the USA I have just learned that Cost Plus World Market carries them for $3.99), they are quite pricey. However, as long as you are not the kind of person that ploughs through cookies at a rate of knots, they are worth the occasional (and I do stress occasional) splurge, but they are so darn good it's hard to resist a second or a third.

This evening I cooked for myself and Chris (Mum wasn't feeling up to much) and I was in the mood for pasta, but I didn't want to do the same old same old, so I did a little Pasta Carbonara with a twist. Instead of using bacon, which is traditional, I used tuna.

I started with some spring onion and a tomato, chopped finely and sauteeing in a skillet with a little E.V.O.O. (that's Extra Virgin Olive Oil, but you knew that, right?) and little finely diced dried chili pepper in there too. Normally I would use dried red pepper flakes, but I didn't have any. I had some spaghetti cooking in some boiling water at the same time. I took a little Red Leicester and just did a rough chop into small pieces and put that to one side. In a little bowl I took a tablespoon of mayo, a big teaspoonful of cream cheese and one egg plus about a half-teaspoon of paprika and beat those together til smooth. When the spaghetti was done I drained off all except a couple of tablespoons of the water, which I left in the pan with the pasta. I then dumped the whole thing, along with a can of tuna, into the skillet. After a minute or so over medium heat I then added the creamy egg mixture and the chopped Red Leicester and tossed everything together in the skillet, so that the creamy sauce coated the pasta evenly and the little cheese chunks started to melt, and then served immediately, finishing with a grind of cracked black pepper on the top of each. It was delicious. I probably could have gone heavier on the red pepper, but next time I'll use red pepper flakes. I'm not sure how long the dried chilies had been around, because I really couldn't taste them. They do tend to lose potency over time.

Recently we have been eating Activia yogurt. I'm not sure about the digestive miracles they supposedly perform, but they are wonderful yogurts. Here in the UK we have flavours that our Colonial counterparts do not. Rhubarb, Fig, and Cranberry. I was a bit surprised by Prune, also, but I see on the US website that it is available there. However, you have Key Lime. And that's not the only difference. In the US it's marketed by Dannon. In the UK and most everywhere else, Dannon is known as Danone. I guess they had to change it for the US market to avoid Americans asking for some of that "Dan One" yogurt. In the US Jamie Lee Curtis is the spokesperson, here in Blighty we have the delightful Martine McCutcheon, known to you Yanks as Natalie, Hugh Grant's love interest in Love Actually. Here we also have the "Intensely Creamy" range of Activia, including the flavours of luscious cherry, zesty lemon, sumptuous strawberry, vanilla, and peaches and cream. But all differences aside, it's all great yogurt. Excellent on cereal (I've been eating mine with Shredded Wheat and Weetabix).

While we're on the subject of yogurt, we've been partaking of the Greek variety recently, specifically that made by Rachel's Organic. The one (OK, three) residing in our fridge right now happen to be the Honey variety, which is great on anything. Rachel's, based in Aberystwyth (boyo!),  make a wide variety of organic dairy products, including ice cream, butter, milk and rice pud! The Greek style yogurt is great and I want to try the Cherry and Coconut flavours. All the Waitrose and most of the Tesco supermarkets carry them, and the 450g size we have is around the £1.65 mark, and about £1.80 for a 4-pack of the 120g size. Good stuff.

Well, that's all for now, fellow food lovers. À votre santé!

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