MARINATED COURGETTE WITH DILL

Courgette & fresh dill pickle

Marinated courgette with dill

Summer time and the plot is bursting at the seams…and the courgettes are intent on a veg patch take over. Will we ever learn not to put in so many-no, probably not because ‘you never know’ what may happen.  Some plants may not make it through the minefield of growing your own vegetables………………… too hot, too cold, too dry, too wet slugs, hapless gardeners, mildew, pests etc etc. Once they get past the danger times they grow at an alarming rate the beautiful, orange flowers start appearing and, magically, they develop into tiny courgettes. It is best to pick them small but beware turn your back, they have grown into huge marrows. ‘What shall I do with them’ ? is a common cry. I like mine sliced into rounds and simply fried in olive oil but there are lots of other options -roasted in the oven, made into soup, spiralised into salads or pasta and baked in various cakes and scones.  After you have exhausted all the usual ways to deal with them try this very simple dish. It is easy to grow the delicious herb dill alongside your vegetables or it is pretty enough to go in the flower beds as well. It is my favourite fresh herb and simply used with courgettes a summer treat for me. Don’t forget it isn’t a pickle and you have to eat it fresh although it will last until the next day.

MARINATED COURGETTE WITH  DILL

2/3 Small courgettes

50ml rice wine vinegar (+water)

Approx. 1 teasp. sugar*

Fresh dill

Seas salt and freshly ground, black, pepper

  1. Using a ‘T’ vegetable peeler remove long, fine ribbons along the length of the courgette. Move around in quarter turns and then discard the middle bit. If you have to use an older courgette I would remove half of the peel as it will be tough.
  2. Put the vinegar in a small pan with 3 tbsp. water. Add *some of the sugar. Briefly simmer and then leave to cool. Taste- it shouldn’t be too sweet or too vinegary.
  3. Finely chop the dill-you can do it with the stalk unless they are tough. In this case you can take them off and just chop the feathery bits.
  4. Put the courgette, vinegar mix and dill in a small bowl and mix together.
  5. Leave for an hour and then drain before eating.

 

 

 

 

SAUSAGE & EGG PICNIC PIES

School holidays and sunshine (well it is here in the West, sorry East but it is usually us in the rain and cold!). Time to head out for a picnic-these portable, Sausage & Egg Picnic Pies are scrumptious. They are  a bit more of a fiddle to make than a cheese sandwich but they don’t curl up around the edges when you leave them out in the sun and……………they are delicious. If you can get hold of a nice, meaty, sausage rather than a more processed one that is better.

So head off in to the great outdoors or just down to the bottom of the garden or local park and have fun in the sun! Toodle pip

Sausage & Egg Picnic Pies

Sausage & Egg Picnic Pies

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ROAST CHICKEN WITH STICKY CARROTS

Roast Herby Chicken with Sticky Roots

Roast  Chicken with Sticky carrots

Well it’s been a while…I’m thinking ahead to a simple Sunday lunch or  easy get together meal with the family and this roast chicken with sticky carrots fits the bill. Roast chicken is always a safe bet (and economical) so it’s my go to family, weekend, roast. My Christmas turkey always sits on top of a ‘trivet’ of  vegetables & herbs  to help keep it moist by raising it off the base of the roasting tin and adding extra flavour to the chicken. It also helps to make the best gravy ever so I have used this trick with the chicken. Try to get hold of  to a higher welfare chicken if you can it is much better not just in terms of flavour but more because of the meaty texture-not the ‘cotton wooly’ texture  of meat from many factory raised birds.

My bird is fragrant with rosemary, roasted garlic, juicy with lemon and sweet, sticky carrots AND roasted all in one pan so not much washing up-can you resist?

Here is my;

ROSEMARY AND LEMON ROAST CHICKEN WITH STICKY CARROTS

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LEMON CURD

Gorgeously citrusy lemon curd

Gorgeously citrusy lemon curd

This delicious lemon curd is truly the the food of the gods and takes just 20 minutes to make.  You could use it fill a light, fluffy sponge cake or lemon roulade, dollop onto freshly baked scones or use as a decadent filling for dainty sandwiches-white bread, no crusts of course. Personally, I found it very difficult not to eat the whole lot directly from the jar……not just me..I had to wrest it from my husband as well.

The curd is made in small jars as it doesn’t keep well although this is academic as you won’t be able to resist it for long

 

Try it and you will never look at a bought jar of bright yellow, gloopy lemon curd in quite the same way.

Lemon Cake

LEMON CURD

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MOTHER’S DAY CAKE

Mother's day cake

My special Mother’s Day cake

A special cake for a special day-what could be a nicer gift than a home baked one made with love? This is a rather special cake which, ditching the bunting, you could use for all sorts of celebrations-the crystallized rose petals giving it a very pretty, vintage look.

I have a long history of making cakes for Mothering Sunday..with various degrees of success..for some reason my sisters and I thought it would be a good idea (and perfectly feasible) to get up very early in the morning bake a cake AND ice it….yes, you can imagine what happened but I’m sure my mum looked at the wonky cake with the icing sliding down the sides and thought it was the best present ever!

Nowadays we have ready made fondant icing  which is very easy to use and gives a perfectly smooth professional looking finish -it’s as easy as child’s play to put it on just have a look at some You tube videos to show you how. I confess I am not a fan of eating it and I think that the synthetic, vanilla flavour is over sweet and spoils my lovely cake! It is a waste as I cut mine off before I eat it.. I could be harsh and say it often is used to cover up a poor quality cake and, from a business point of view, gives it a very long shelf life.

Home made marzipan is a revelation to convert even the most ardent ‘I hate marzipan’ brigade and I confess to being quite evangelical about singing it’s praises.  It is easy peasy to make just stir the sugars together and bind with egg and it doesn’t have the sharp, chemical after taste of bought marzipan. Almonds are expensive so it makes commercial sense not to use too much and then to get the ‘almond’ flavour by adding a cheap, artificial flavour.

I made the bunting for a special Mother’s day message, it was a fiddle although you can buy the little paper flags from a craft shop. These I glued onto the ribbon (using a high tac glue that dries quickly and clear) and tied the ribbon onto some paper straws. Move them around to get the right ‘hanging effect’ before you sink them into the cake. also used crystallized fresh rose petals which look so..oooooooooooooooo pretty. You can also crystallise primroses, violets or forget me nots, the loveliness is endless. I did try it with snowdrops one year, they looked ok but are really too fleshy to do properly and you really need a flower with an ‘open’ face. Give it a go and you will be amazed at how easy it is.

 

A simply iced cake for any celebration

A simply iced cake for any celebration

Here is my mother’s day  cake-appropriately for Mothering Sunday I have used my mother’s own recipe for it. I used a Madiera cake as it is quite firm so a good base if you want to cover it with marzipan and icing. The cake has a dense texture and lemony flavour and traditionally it was served topped with very thin slices of crystallized lemon peel.

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ESPRESSO COFFEE CAKE

Coffee & Tia Maria cake just for the grown ups!

Coffee & Tia Maria cake just for the grown ups!

Grown up’s espresso coffee cake with ‘Tia Maria’

If I’d known you were coming I would have baked you a cake…tra la la so it goes and what could be nicer to give to someone but a home made cake? This espresso coffee cake is a sophisticated marble cake with ‘Tia Maria’ liquer rather gorgeous and strictly for the grown ups. Hands off my little ones this is all mine. I’m not really one for the strict New Year resolutions viz a viz the ‘great cake eating/healthy eating debate’ so I’m going for the ‘a little of what you fancy does you good’ standpoint. Much more successful with me at any rate-what about you?

I have decorated the cake with chocolate covered coffee beans – you can find them on the counter in some of the larger coffee shops or in Italian type  delis etc. They are worth searching out to decorate this cake. Here is my recipe:

ESPRESSO COFFEE CAKE WITH ‘TIA MARIA’

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CHRISTMAS ICE CREAM PUDDING

Christmas Ice cream Pudding

Christmas Ice cream Pudding

Let’s be honest a traditional Christmas pudding is not every one’s cup of tea and…………………….you are a tad late if you want to make one so here is a spectacular alternative. It is every bit as special (some would say more), much lighter and filled with brandy soaked fruit, juicy cranberries and ginger biscuits. In bid to show off (tick) I have decorated mine with shards of white chocolate, crystallised berries and a fair bit of edible sparkle. It looks gorgeous and there will definitely be a Tah ..da..moment when you carry it to the Christmas table.

Don’t be tempted to …….flame this pud…you have been warned..

LUSCIOUS CHRISTMAS  ICE CREAM  PUDDING WITH SPARKLY WHITE CHOCOLATE SHARDS AND CRANBERRIES

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BEEF BOURGUIGNON & DUMPLINGS

Classic Beef Bourguignon with crispy Baguette Dumplings

Brr it’s cold and blustery in Cumbria today and this beef bourguignon is a great warming dish on an almost wintery day. A classic French chef may shudder at the thought of adding the crispy baguette dumplings but they make a great topping and an ‘all in one’ meal. The dish uses cheaper cuts of meat which have lots of flavour (more so than expensive cuts) but slow cooking. These cuts are also cheaper so it’s win win for me. Shin beef in particular has a great flavour and almost melts down into a rich gravy, a piece popped into any beef stew takes it to a new delicious level. Trust me I know my shins from my steaks.

CLASSIC BEEF BOURGUIGNON & DUMPLINGS

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FRESH SALMON NICOISE

 

 

'White Lady' runner beans looking good in my late summer potager

‘White Lady’ runner beans looking good in my late summer potager

My veg patch is still producing salad leaves, spicy rocket, peppery mustard and frilly lettuce. Plus the  beans are just starting to produce, picked when tiny-an ‘unbuyable’ late summer treat. These ‘White Lady’ runner beans are delicious and the white flowers very pretty, behind them you can just catch a glimpse of the sultry, dark ‘Purple Cascade’ French beans. Another good looker for the plot. Hmm..now what to make?

This fresh salmon nicoise would be lovely for a late summer evening perfect eaten in the garden with a glass of something cold and fizzy. Ok I know I’m getting carried away here. It is highly unlikely that this will take place in Cumbria in September but perhaps we really will get an Indian summer.

This is easily put together and then whipped out to impress.

FRESH SALMON NICOISE

Fresh salmon nicoise

Fresh salmon nicoise

 

 

Serves 4 as a starter or 2 as main course with crusty bread.

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Summer Pudding

My little plot is bursting at the seams and we have been enjoying freshly dug ‘Pink Fir Apple ‘ potatoes, courgettes, tiny peas, gorgeously beautiful Swiss chard, spinach, tiny broad beans and more. My favourite herbs; dill, coriander and mint are all set for plot domination and ready to be picked by the handful. Fresh dill for salmon, cheesey dips and for a fresh ‘pickle’ with cucumber; fresh coriander to liven up a chicken and mango curry and fresh mint for some delicious chickpea falafels -(take a look at my recipe for this) and to add to elderflower fizz or gin and tonic at the end of the day. How lovely to see what fruit and vegetables are ready and then think of ways to use them rather than starting with a recipe and going to buy the ingredients. It is a much more creative process dictated by the seasons and the prepared dishes are all the better for it. I know I’m lucky to have a vegetable garden but even some spicy salad leaves grown in a pot taste so much better than any bought ones and they are much cheaper!

Today I spied these wonderful, glistening redcurrants and I knew it was time to make…..Summer Pudding. Aptly named as it is made with lots of summer fruits that are at their best now.

Beautiful berries from my garden

Beautiful berries from my garden

This pudding is the quintessential taste of summer and all the more special for being made just once a year. Serve it in small slices, as the flavour is quite strong and lots of double cream. Don’t be tempted to go for a healthier option such as Crème Fraiche-this pudding needs cream and after all it is a once a year treat!

You can make one large pudding with this recipe or approx. 6 small ones. The small ones look lovely but are a bit of a fiddle to make.

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