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

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ice Ice Baby

Well, this...

is Coconut Ice!

A sweet coconutty confection that I absolutely loved as a kid.

The following is a recipe for coconut ice. It’s ideal for school bake sales, village fêtes, church fairs, that sort of thing. Kids love making and eating sweet things, and coconut ice is one that doesn’t require any cooking or any real kitchen know-how, so it’s a safe recipe for small hands to get stuck into.

If you’re making this with your brood, it’s worth buying pink food colouring rather than just using a teensy-weensy amount of red. Children let loose on red colouring can easily produce coconut ice that looks like the St Valentine’s Day Massacre, so splash out on the pink stuff for a reliably Barbie-pink finish.

To make just over a kilogram of coconut ice, you’ll need:

400g dessicated coconut
400g icing sugar
1 tin (397g) condensed milk
½ teaspoon pink food colouring

In a large bowl, stir the dessicated coconut, icing sugar and condensed milk together until you have a stiff, sticky mixture. Remove half the coconut ice to a clean bowl and add the food colouring, then stir again until the colour is blended in smoothly. (Here you will need to help the kids because it's very stiff and stirring it will require adult muscle.)

Line a small rectangular dish with cling film, making sure there is plenty overhanging at the sides. (Later, you will fold these overhanging bits over to cover the coconut ice.) Grease the cling film with a few drops of vegetable oil. Take the white portion of coconut ice and pack it firmly into the lined dish, making sure you produce an even layer. Pack the pink portion into a neat layer on top of the white layer. They will stick together firmly, thanks to the amazing adhesive qualities of sugar and condensed milk. Fold the cling film over the top and refrigerate the coconut ice overnight.

When the coconut ice is nice and firm from the fridge, turn it out of the dish, using the cling film to help, and peel the film away. Chop into little squares (a serrated knife is useful here), dust with icing sugar and pack in greaseproof paper for the Grand Vicarage Fête.

Okay, what's the next food?

Name This Food!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

All's Well At The Wells

Today Laura and I decided to be adventurous and take the bus to Tunbridge Wells. The great thing about it is the fact that the bus actually picks up around the corner from the house, about a 3-minute walk. The downside is that the bus ride is about 90 minutes, which is a long time to be on a bus (Greyhound riders excepted, of course). A big plus, though, is that the route from Tenterden to Tunbridge Wells takes you through some of the prettiest towns and villages in Kent, nay, in England. Cranbrook, Goudhurst, Horsmonden, Brenchley, Matfield... all gorgeous places. Once there in the town of Royal T.W. we immediately went to the Farmer's Market, which was just off Monson Road, near the Monument, and as it was extremely windy and a bit nippy we were happy when practically the first stall we saw was a man selling apple juice. He had bottled juice of course, but he was doing a roaring trade selling hot spiced apple juice for £1, so we had one each and it was nice and warming. We moved on down through the market and there were, it seemed, a preponderance of stalls selling cheeses, some regular cheese, some sheep's milk, some goat's, all of which looked great, and we did in fact sample and buy some.

We then came to a stall selling home made preserves and mustards, which we had to give a try, and ended up buying a jar of the fabulous Whisky Marmalade.

We stopped at one stall which was Sedlescombe Winery, and in addition to his wines, the man there had some liqueurs. He saw we were sipping on the warm apple juice and he poured in a shot of a liqueur which I did not get the name of, but which made our hot apple juice a real zinger. Woo hoo! Here we were, not even 11am and we were getting tiddly already. We purchased from him a bottle of the Black Cherry liqueur. Mm mm mm.

There was a lady I recognised from Horsmonden Farmer's Market who makes Greek and Mediterranean pastries such as Baklava and Spanakopita. I'd had her Spanakopita last time and so as I knew Laura had not tried it before, bought one to share. Well, as soon as Laura tasted it she said, "Well, you're not getting this back!". I managed to get the last little piece. It was so good.

On our way back along the other side of the row of stalls we came across a lady named Sophie Wood from Mount Pleasant Food Company who makes home made soups which are microwaveable. I tried a sample of the asparagus Soup and loved it. She told me that the asparagus that went in to making the soup was only picked on Friday morning - now that's fresh!

For a complete list of the stallholders at the Farmer's market, click here.

Later on we ate lunch at The Nutmeg Tree which is a place that is supposed to look like a 1930's tea room. The decor and music certainly give it that atmosphere, as do the black dress/white pinny uniforms of the staff.

"One....soup!... and... another.... soup!"

I had the spinach and mushroom lasagne which came with a healthy helping of fresh steamed veggies....

Laura ate the Leek and Potato bake, which came with a massive side salad.

She also had a lovely glass of cherryade.

All very yummy.

When I got back, I had a little tipple with my Indian food from Gram Spice in Biddenden for dinner. A glass of Biddenden Vineyard's Gribble Bridge Rose.

Oh my gosh. I love this wine. It is one of those very versatile rose wines that would be good with just about anything. Not too sweet, not too tart, just perfect. Another good buy from the guys at Liquid Pleasure (plug, plug).

Kooshti sante!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Not A True Nut


are Almonds.

Almonds don't actually look like this when you get to eat them, of course, so that's why I chose that picture. I foolishly thought that it might throw you off the scent a little bit. But it seems we have a genuine food whiz in Iris, who once again answered the question in record time. I can see I'm going to have to try a little harder from now on.

The almond (Prunus dulcis), is a species of tree that is native to the Middle East and South Asia. Almond is also the name of the edible and widely cultivated seed of this tree. Within the genus Prunus, it is classified with the peach in the subgenus Amygdalus, distinguished from the other subgenera by the corrugated shell (endocarp) surrounding the seed.
The fruit of the almond is not a true nut, but something called a drupe, which is a fruit in which an outer fleshy part (exocarp, or skin; and mesocarp, or flesh) surrounds a shell (the pit, stone or pyrene) of hardened endocarp with a seed inside.
A symbol of hope and prosperity in Eastern cultures, the almond used to be known for its fat content but has now made its way to the top of power-food lists. This nutrient-dense tree nut has become best known for its many health benefits. Eating a handful of almonds a day may lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and diabetes. They are also an excellent source of vitamin E (a powerful antioxidant) and manganese -- 1 ounce (that’s about 24 almonds) has 35% and 32% of the RDA respectively. And with only 1 gram of saturated fat, 13 grams of healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats, 6 grams of protein, and 160 calories per ounce, it's clear that almonds are a friend of any true health nut.

Here's a recipe, of course...

Roasted Curried Squash Soup with Almonds

1 large butternut squash
1 large acorn squash
1 large onion, peeled and cut in half
1 whole garlic bulb
½ tsp olive oil
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted, divided
5 cups low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth
½ cup apple juice
1½ tsp curry powder
½ tsp nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
½ cup fat-free half-and-half
6 tbsp fat-free sour cream or plain yogurt
1 tbsp fresh or 1 tsp dried chives

Preheat oven to 425ºF.
Cut each squash in half, scoop out seeds, and place cut side down along with onion on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray.
Cut top off garlic bulb, drizzle with olive oil on cut surface, wrap bulb in aluminum foil, and place on sheet with other vegetables.
Roast for about 45 minutes or until tender. Let cool.
Scoop flesh from both squashes and squeeze out garlic flesh from bulb, placing all in a heavy-bottom pot along with onion, ½ cup almonds, chicken broth, apple juice, and spices.
Simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes. Using a hand or traditional blender, purée soup in batches until smooth; return to pot and add half-and-half and cook until thoroughly heated.
Serve immediately with sour cream or yogurt, remaining almonds, and a sprinkle of chives.

Makes 8 servings.

OK, what about the new food?

Name this Food!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Council of Chow

Last night was an interesting night. We went to the Town hall to watch my mother become Deputy Mayor. As it turned out there was a last minute challenger for the post but Mum won by 8 votes to 7. She gets to wear an official chain of office and everything! Woo hoo for Mum!

After the ceremony and official stuff was over there was food and wine laid on for assembled guests etc. Food was provided by a nice young lady named Jess from Tea At The Oast, a place on Woodchurch Road that I've been meaning to go to sometime but haven't yet. Well, not to worry. After last night I am officially moving it up on the agenda to somewhere near the top. If last night's food was anything to go by, and I'm sure it probably is, this is a fab place to eat (at least as long as Jess works there). The table was loaded with lots of little nibbles, and as I approached I had a slight feeling of dread that I wouldn't be able to eat much of anything because I suspected that there might be lots of meat-based things on offer, as is sometimes the case. I needn't have worried, however, because Jess did us proud.
First thing I noticed were lots of little thimble-cups filled with a green liquid which turned out to be chilled asparagus soup. What's more, it was damn good asparagus soup. I went back for about 5 more, I have to be honest. She also had miniature cheese scones with a chive butter (divine), cheese sandwiches and egg & cress sandwiches (fab), cheese straws of course, mini Stilton rarebits (to die for), but my two favourites were (a) the little breaded balls filled with an aranchini/saffron risotto (wow. Just wow.) and (b) the little mini bruschettas topped with a purée of peas, broad beans and mint with a mini dollop of crème fraîche on top (no way to describe this but a pure delight to put in your mouth). Beautiful stuff Jess - keep it up and I promise I'll come down to the Oast soon.

Today I popped into Cinnamon in The Fairings, a place I mentioned before in a fairly recent post. I had once again the Mozzarella, Tomato and Spinach sandwich on Granary Bread, and once again it was top-notch. The double espresso I had with it was pretty darn good, too. Love it.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Baby Baby

So my Sis beat everybody to the punch by correctly naming this...

as Baby Spinach!

Baby Spinach is a lovely versatile leaf and probably my absolute favourite when it comes to salads. 

Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) is an edible flowering plant in the family of Amaranthaceae. It is actually a native plant of central and southwestern Asia, thought to have originated in ancient Persia (now Iran). Traders took the plant with them to India, and from there it moved into China via Nepal. The Saracens introduced it to Sicily and by the Tenth Century A.D. it was popular throughout the Mediterranean. Betcha didn't know that!

So what exactly is BABY spinach?

"Baby spinach" is a term typically used to describe spinach that has been harvested during a fairly early stage of plant growth, usually between 15-35 days after planting. We're usually familiar with baby spinach in the grocery store because of its small leaves, tender texture, and sweet taste in comparison with mature, fully formed spinach leaves. (For these mature spinach leaves, the harvest dates are usually between 40-65 days.)

Okay Jeff, how about a recipe?

Okay, if you insist.

Eggs Florentine with Baby Spinach and Goat Cheese


4 (1 inch thick)slices bread (something nice and crusty)
3 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 spring onions (green onions), thinly sliced
1 pound baby spinach
1/3 cup crumbled fresh goat cheese (3 ounces)
4 large eggs


Heat broiler/grill, with rack set 4 inches from heat. Place bread on a baking sheet, and brush both sides with 2 tablespoons oil. Season with salt and pepper. Toast until golden, 1 to 3 minutes per side; set aside.

In a large nonstick frying pan, heat 1 teaspoon oil over medium. Add spring onions and as much spinach as will fit; season with salt and pepper. Cook until wilted, tossing and adding more spinach as room becomes available, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain off excess liquid; mix in goat cheese. Transfer to a bowl; cover to keep warm. Set aside.

Wipe out pan; heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil over medium. Gently crack eggs into pan; season with salt and pepper. Cook until whites are almost set, about 1 minute. Cover, and remove from heat; let stand until whites are set but yolks are still soft, about 3 minutes.

Top each piece of toast with spinach mixture and 1 egg; serve immediately.

Okay folks, what's the next one?

Name This Food! (hint: it doesn't look like this when you get to eat it.)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Pad Thai

Yet again Iris triumphs by correctly identifying the last Name This Food! food as...

Pad Thai!
Or phad thai as it is sometimes spelled,  a dish of stir-fried rice noodles with eggs, fish sauce, tamarind juice, red chilli pepper, plus any combination of bean sprouts, shrimp, chicken, or tofu, garnished with crushed peanuts, coriander and lime. Pretty much THE national dish of Thailand, and darn tasty it is too.

The dish has been around for centuries. It is thought to have been brought to the ancient Thai capital of Ayuthaya by Vietnamese traders, but it was first made popular as a national dish by Luang Phibunsongkhram when he was Prime Minister during the '30s and '40s, partly as an element of his campaign for Thai nationalism and centralization, and partly for a campaign to reduce rice consumption in Thailand. The Thai economy at this time was heavily dependent on rice exports, and Phibunsongkhram hoped to increase the amount available for export by launching a campaign to educate the poor in the production of rice noodles, as well as in the preparation of these noodles with other ingredients to sell in small cafes and from street carts.
Following World War II there was a recession in Thailand, and the post-war government of Phibunsongkhram was desperate in its efforts to revive the Thai economy. They looked for ways to stem the massive tide of unemployment, and among the occupations the government aggressively promoted to give the populace a way to earn a living was the production of rice noodles and the operation of noodle shops. Detailed instructions on how to make the noodles and recipes were printed and distributed around the country. From these efforts, rice noodles became firmly rooted in the country and have since become a widespread staple food.

So there you have it, folks. History and food on the same page. There's a lovely Pad Thai recipe on the BBC's page.

Next food?
Name This Food!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


I must be making this too easy or maybe you are all just too damn smart out there. These...

are gooseberries.

"Whoa! Hold up Jeff!" I hear you shout. " Gooseberries are green, aren't they? Like this?"

Well, yes. But not all of them. There are in fact several varieties of red gooseberry. Google it if you don't believe me. Thing is, gooseberries are very tart, but some very smart scientific types decided to develop some different types that were a little sweeter, and, well, reddish. There's even a funny little fruit named the Jostaberry (pronounced 'yostaberry') that is a hybrid of a gooseberry and a blackcurrant. I'll have to see if I can find some of those.

But what can one make with red gooseberries? Well, of course there's pies and crumbles and fools, but how about something a little bit different for this blog? How about a clafoutis?

A what?

A clafoutis. The classic dessert of the Limousin region of France. Cherries arranged in a buttered baking dish and covered with a thick flan-like batter, baked and then served lukewarm, covered with confectioner's sugar.

Nigella Lawson, she of the annoying voice and perky boobies, has a recipe for a red gooseberry clafoutis in 'How To Be A Domestic Goddess', apparently, but technically that's not really a clafoutis but une flaugnarde.

Do what now?

A  flaugnarde is a sort of second cousin of the clafoutis. It’s where you use other fruit instead of the cherries -  apples, figs, pears, peaches or what I'm using, les groseilles rouges – red gooseberries.

Perhaps clafoutis recipes are as wide-ranging as ones for Languedoc cassoulet or Dublin coddle, hence all the flaugnardes. Even for a “proper” cherry clafoutis, people’s recipes for the batter mix will vary wildly too – from a Yorkshire pudding type gunk to a refined custard or even a light soufflé.

Clafoutis is comfort food,  and as with most comfort food it’s really up to you which way to go, and how custardy, cakey or puddingy you want it to be. And, of course, whether to have plums or red gooseberries instead of dark cherries.

So anyway, whatever you want to call it, try this...

1kg red gooseberries
5 eggs
25g butter
120g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
80g plain flour
500ml full-fat milk
1-2 tsps ground almonds (optional) – or about 2 tsps of flaked (slivered) almonds for a crusty crust
4 drops of vanilla extract (or a vanilla pod)


Lightly grease an oven-proof gratin dish with some butter
Put the gooseberries in the dish, fairly evenly spaced
Beat the eggs and sugar together
Add the flour, then the milk, then the vanilla extract; mix well to get rid of lumps
Stir in the ground almonds if using
Pour the batter over the dish of gooseberries
Sprinkle on the flaked almonds if using
Bake in an oven at 190C for 45 minutes (approx) until golden brown
Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly
Sprinkle with sugar
Serve with cream, vanilla ice cream or crème fraîche

OK folks, next food?

Name This Food!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Apple Streusel Coffeecake

I tell ya what - one of the absolute greatest things that the USA introduced to my palate was the concept of the coffeecake. Not a coffee-flavoured cake, you understand - in the UK that's what a coffee cake is - but a cake to be eaten with a cup of coffee, somewhat less dense than a traditional cake, more like a muffin in consistency.

The other day I had bought a whole bunch of apples in town. On Fridays Tenterden has a market, which always used to be held in the car park outside the museum. For some reason it is not held there any more, but that is by the by. (I must ask my Mum who is a Town Councillor why they moved it). The market instead is held in various spots along the High Street, and it is quite fun on a Friday morning to wander along the street and investigate all the various stalls. Anyway, one of the stalls is a lady who sells fresh fruit and veg and last week she had 3 bags of apples and/or pears for £3. So I got two of apples and one of pears. I had been snacking on the pears all week (one of my absolute favourite fruits) and yesterday I looked in the cupboard and thought, "I gotta do something with all those apples before they go manky". As we all know, there's nothing worse than having to deal with stuff that's gone manky in your cupboard.

So I decided to whip up a big apple coffeecake. Here's the recipe I used:

3 cups plain (all-purpose) flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1.75 cups sugar
1 cup sunflower oil
4 eggs
5 apples, cored, peeled and chopped roughly
a splash of lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon

Firstly I put the apples in a big mixing bowl, followed by the lemon juice (this will stop the apples turning brown and add a nice touch of citrus). Then I added the dry ingredients and the eggs. Using a big spoon or a fork or even your hands (hey, it's OK to get messy in the kitchen. That's why they invented soap and water), mix until combined  into a nice stodgy mixture. Get yourself a baking dish such as a loaf pan or preferably a casserole dish...

This sort of thing would do admirably.

and having greased it with some margarine, cooking spray or a smattering of cooking oil, dump the whole shebang into it and spread evenly. Then in a small bowl, take a handful of sugar, a handful of flour, another teaspoon of cinnamon and a splash of oil, combine until this mixture resembles a crumble topping, then spread on top of your coffeecake. Pop this into the oven at 350F for about 55 minutes or when a toothpick inserted into it comes out clean (or almost clean - it's OK to have a little moisture in the centre because that'll be delicious when it's cooled). What you should end up with should look something like this...

Cut the whole thing into squares and have one while it's still warm...

If you were to get a little butter on a knife and smear it onto the warm inside of this cake and eat it like that, I would not think any the less of you. In fact it would probably make you go up in my estimation.
This cake got a thumbs-up from everyone in the house, kids and dogs included.

Whip one up and then invite me for coffee!
Great way to use up fruit and keep 'em all happy.

Kooshti sante!

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Leaf Of Many Names


is Lamb's Lettuce.

It's also known in different parts of the world as Lewiston cornsalad, corn salad, fetticus, field salad, mâche, feldsalat, nut lettuce and rapunzel. So I actually got two correct answers, from Iris and from Anonymous (whom I strongly suspect is my mum). Well done to both!

Corn salad/lamb's lettuce grows wild in parts of Europe, northern Africa and western Asia. In Europe and Asia it is a common weed in cultivated land and waste spaces. In North America it has escaped cultivation and become naturalized on both the eastern and western seaboards.

Corn salad was originally foraged by peasants in Europe, but it was De la Quintinie, Louis XIV's royal gardener, that cultivated it and introduced it to the world.

In Britain it has been used as food for many centuries but has only been available commercially since the 1980s. As to the name, it's called 'corn salad' because it frequently grows as a weed in wheat and cornfields.

Myself, I've only ever heard it referred to as 'Lamb's Lettuce' although at first glance it looks a lot like watercress. I have to say though, I prefer the taste to that of watercress and would go so far as to say it's probably my second favourite salad leaf next to baby spinach.

So how's about a recipe?

Other than uses in salads, it's also good when gently steamed as a side vegetable, but here's a recipe for soup.

Cream of Lamb's Lettuce Soup

150g lamb’s lettuce
200g peeled potatoes, large diced
50g butter
Ground pepper (preferably white)
250ml double cream

Set aside a few lamb’s lettuce leaves.

Put the butter in a saucepan, add the rest of the lamb’s lettuce and leave to sweat without colouring.
Add the potatoes, season with a good pinch of salt and a few turns of the pepper grinder. Add 1 litre of water and leave to cook gently for 30 mins.
Blend the soup thoroughly in a mixer. Add the cream and check the seasoning.
Serve in medium–sized cups or in soup bowls.
Finely snip up the rest of the lamb’s lettuce and spread over the top of the soup.
Serve hot.

Sounds good to me!

Okay then, how about the new food?

Name This Food!


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