Midweek Mushroom Soup

Did you know a single large portobello mushroom can have more potassium than a banana? A good excuse for a rich earthy mushroom soup. This is a simple soup to pull together, and it is always fun to whizz stuff up in a blender.  You could also re-purpose this as a rich pasta sauce, or sauce for chicken or pork.

  • 2T Rapeseed oil
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 1 med/large carrot diced
  • 1 stalk celery sliced
  • 200g mushrooms, sliced…I used a mix of Chestnut and Shiitake
  • 1 small potato, peeled and grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Generous pinch Herbs de Provence
  • Salt and pepper
  • 400 ml whole milk
  • Chopped fresh herbs, and/or croutons, or some toasted seeds or…..

Heat oil on a large skillet and add the onions, celery, carrots and mushrooms. Cook, covered over low heat for 15 min. Add a couple tablespoons of water if it is getting dry- then add garlic, grated potato, pinch salt and Herbs de Provence. Cover and cook another 10 minutes. Take off the heat and tip it into a blender. Add a bit of freshly ground pepper and the  milk and blend until fairly smooth. Pour back into a pan over low-medium heat for 5-10 min until heated through., if it is too thick add a bit of stock or water to thin.

Serve with a sprinkling of freshly chopped herbs, or your topping of choice. Serves 2 as a main and 4 as a starter.

 

A fresh little salad

A lovely little recipe from Katherine,  and a nice welcome to spring! Katherine lives in California, so Spring might be a little bit closer than here in London. I am certainly ready for some nice refreshing salads…..and will be trying this one out soon.
  • 5 small cucumbers diced
  • 3 big tomatoes chopped
  • 1/4 quarter onion diced (I would suggest red/purple)
  • A handful of diced parsley
  • A handful of diced cilantro (a.k.a fresh coriander)
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 2T olive oil.
Mix everything together add a pinch of sugar, salt & pepper to taste. If needed add more olive oil and a splash of vinegar. That’s it, simple!

For sale! ….and budget considerations (yawn).

The house is now ‘decluttered’ (sort of….) and on the market.  10 viewings so far and it is all a bit manic, no ‘smelly’ cooking, everything put away, floors constantly hoovered and mopped and making sure the dog is sorted  (e.g. out of the house during viewings)…probably not the most inviting thing for everyone to be welcomed by a large wolf-like creature, despite that fact he is very friendly.

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I am a bit torn- I hope we get an offer soon so we can get back to ‘normal’ but I am also aware that once we accept an offer ‘normal’ is going to mean lots of admin and planning….and the fact we are likely to be homeless for a bit given we can’t actually buy anything in France until we are confident our London home is really sold. House buying and selling in the UK is infamously volatile and being in a chain of interdependent buyers and sellers can be a nightmare…and we have been in a chain that fell apart, not fun.

So the next task for us is getting a better idea of various restoration/renovation  and building works costs in France so we don’t get stuck with something that seems a good buy…and then end up breaking the budget.  We aren’t planning to buy something that needs extensive renovation, but we also know that whatever we buy is unlikely to be ‘perfect’ and may need another gite, or upgrade, or a swimming pool (or renovate a swimming pool)….or fencing for fields etc.  Yeah, this isn’t exactly the exciting bit, I still seem to be smiling to myself a lot.

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Berry Nut Slump

‘What is a slump?’ I hear you ask….well, it isn’t a cobbler and it isn’t a crisp.  It is kind of calfouti-esque (and what is a clafouti? https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2013/aug/29/how-to-cook-perfect-cherry-clafoutis) in that it is basically a bunch of fruit covered in a batter, but for a slump the batter is slightly more cake like and a calfouti is more flan-like.  Confused yet?  What you need to know is that this is an easy and forgiving recipe, and is a great way to use up whatever fruit you have – fresh or frozen.

  • 75g toasted hazelnuts
  • 300g blackberries (or blueberries, or raspberries, or boysenberries….)
  • 50g demerara sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 200g butter
  • 180g caster sugar
  • ½ t salt
  • 140g flour
  • 1/8 t ground cardamom
  • ¼ ground cinnamon
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • thick yoghurt and honey to serve

Preheat oven to 180C. Butter an 8×8 inch square baking pan (well buttered!) Melt the 200g butter, set aside. Chop the toasted hazelnuts and sprinkle them in to the pan. Top with the berries then sprinkle the demerara sugar over the berries and nuts. Make the batter – in a bowl mix together the flour, salt and spices. In a separate bowl, beat eggs and sugar together until pale and fluffy, stir in lemon zest, then fold in the flour mixture. Pour the batter over the fruit and bake for 35 minutes. Cool 10-15 minutes then turn out onto a serving dish so the berries are on top. Serve with some plain yoghurt and a drizzle of honey….it is best served slightly warm, and a good treat for breakfast the next day (if it lasts that long!)

Picking up momentum

Simple: a long weekend in the ‘Land of Pigeonniers’  to try and get our heads around exactly where in France we want to live. See a few properties to get a better idea of what we could afford/expect….have some nice food and wine.

Well, 10 properties later…we are back home in London and putting our house on the market!

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We arrived with a detailed list of what we wanted…and didn’t expect anything to fully fit the bill.  And, no, nothing was perfect- but there were three properties that could easily work for what we want to do.  We realised we can make this happen now.   I have my favourite of course- but I am confident we have choices and will be able to find something when we now go back in May.

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Some highlights of the trip:

  • The rented Renault Twingo automatically linking to my phone and blasting Rufus Wainwright as soon as we set off from Toulouse airport
  • Viewing a 13th century castle and ‘compound’ and believing for about 10 minutes we might actually be able to make it work (later realising it probably costs a lot of money to ‘shore up a tower’)
  • Hearing our French estate agent  Ludovic enthusiastically telling a French couple about what a great idea we have for a cooking school…focusing on local products, including the Black Gascon Pig.  And then having them agree.
  • Spending £5 on a bottle of wine that was really damn good!
  • Eating duck confit with a cep sauce on a February day – outside – in a lovely village

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Katherine’s Simple Pasta

This is a quick, simple and healthy dish to pull together – perfect for a midweek meal, and should please most kids!

  • Handful of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 3 cloves diced garlic
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Dash Olive oil
  • Handful of fresh chopped parsley & basil
  • 2 cups dried macaroni pasta
  • 2 strips of bacon, cooked and sliced fine

Cook pasta and set aside. In a medium skillet sauté the garlic until soft in olive oil, add cherry tomatoes and cook until they start to pop. Add pasta, bacon and lemon zest to garlic and tomatoes, mix together then add cheese and fresh herbs to taste. Serve and enjoy.

London Omelette

Not ‘folded frying pan’ omelette, not a ‘Denver’ omelette, not a Spanish omelette (which is actually called a tortilla in Spain – not to be confused with those corn or flour tortillas you use for burritos and tacos!)….and there really isn’t an ‘official’ London omelette so why not this recipe. Like a Spanish omelette, it is a one dish omelette that will serve a few people, and it has potatoes inside. The similarity ends there. What about this makes it a ‘London’ omelette you ask (and that is a very good question)…well right now I live in London, and I created this recipe here. So, London omelette it is!

You can mix it up of course, what do you like with your eggs? Well…toss that in, try different ‘fillings’ and toppings. Make your own hometown version. Let me know how it goes and what variations you try out.

  • 1 large potato, scrubbed and grated
  • ½ small yellow onion, diced
  • 5 eggs
  • 125 mL whole milk
  • handful chopped fresh herbs (e.g. chives, parsley, basil)
  • generous handful of chopped, cooked streaky bacon (or sautéed mushrooms, or whatever cooked meat or veg you have to hand)
  • ½ c grated cheddar
  • 2T vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 200C. Place grated potato in a bowl of cold water for a couple minutes. Drain and squeeze potatoes in a tea towel to remove any excess liquid. Put potatoes, onions and vegetable oil in a 20x20cm baking dish. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and mix together. Put dish in oven and cook for 15 minutes. While potatoes and onions are cooking beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add milk, beat well. Add herbs and bacon and mix well. After the potatoes have been cooking 15 minutes, take the dish out of the oven and lower the temperature to 180C. Pour the egg mixture over the potatoes and top with grated cheese. Put the whole mix back in to the oven and cook for a further 20 minutes, or until puffy on top and eggs are set.

I like to serve this with a bit of fresh tomato salsa….or just some chopped fresh tomatoes. You also might want to try a little Greek yoghurt or sour cream as well.

Thees’ Triple Chocolate Hazelnut, Nutella Brownies

Happy Valentine’s Day!  ….and for me Valentine’s is not just about loving couples, it is about showing your love for your friends and family.  And what better way to show your love than with chocolate!

I created this for a 5-year-old chocolate monster named Thees, I think if given the choice he might just like a spoon and a jar of Nutella for breakfast.

Now, I have to admit these have had a mixed reception with the kids, they either love or hate these brownies (but so far all grown-ups love them).  If you can believe it the kids who don’t like them say they are ‘too chocolaty’!

As with most of these recipes you can substitute a few things, e.g. a lighter chocolate, 50-60% (but not milk chocolate) and/or you could use peanut butter and peanuts in place of the Nutella and hazelnuts.

  • 55g cocoa powder
  • 170g butter
  • 170g chopped 70% chocolate
  • 55g cocoa powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 80g flour
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • ½  teaspoon salt
  • 100g toasted hazelnuts (lightly chopped)
  • 9 teaspoons of Nutella

Pre-heat oven to 180C. Melt butter and chocolate together in a large metal bowl set over simmering water (alternatively you can microwave in a glass bowl, just give 30-45 second blasts and mix well after each blast – you want it to just start melting but nit over cooked, if you keep stirring it will all smoothly met together). Set aside to cool slightly. Butter and flour a 2ocm square pan. Sift or whisk together cocoa and flour into a small bowl.  Beat the eggs, one at a time, into the melted butter/chocolate mixture. Add the sugar and salt then mix in the flour/cocoa mixture.  Fold in the hazelnuts and pout into the prepared pan. Drop 9 small teaspoons of Nutella evenly across the top of the brownies.  Take a knife and very gently swirl in- but don’t mix. Bake for 25-30 min, or until just set in the middle.  Let cool completely before cutting into squares. I usually get 16 squares – these are rich so you don’t need much.  If you want to make a full dessert out of these top then off with some nice vanilla ice cream…et voila!

The first day of the next bit

Many of my friends know I’m moving ahead with a pretty big life change right now.  The moment it became ‘reality’ for me was the afternoon of 19 October 2016, while I was sitting on a train platform in Jerez, waiting for a train to Cadiz.  It was the first proper ‘holiday’ I had taken since both of my parents had died earlier in the year and the utter relief to just be sitting quietly in the sunshine with Dom was almost startling.  We had been discussing the need for a change for months and knew we wanted to sell up and move to France…but at this point it was just talk.   I was looking at my phone to kill the time, checking my email and saw 5 emails from friends and recruitment agents almost one after the other highlighting freelance opportunities. I looked up at Dom and said, ’that is it, I am giving notice as soon as we get back’.  Which I did…sort of, I wrote the letter as soon as I  got back and then waited for my line manager to return from her holiday …and handed in my notice on Wednesday the 2nd of November. I then had an amazing dinner at Wild Honey with a couple friends (who I am now freelancing with!).   I started freelancing last week…and am now moving full steam ahead and aiming to get to France by the end of the year.  In addition to my foodie and kids cooking posts, I am going to start tracking this’next bit’ here.  So, cheers to everyone…and  hope you see you in France next year!

sherry

Katherine’s Apple Cobbler

Apple Cobbler the perfect fall dessert and a nice alternative to apple pie. This is a recipe from Katherine, she has to keep gluten out of her diet- so in addition to being a tasty apple-filled dessert, the added bonus is this is also a gluten free recipe.

  • 6 
green apples, peeled and sliced
  • 1 
pear, peeled and sliced (this is a secret ingredient)
  • Juice from 1 orange
  • Juice from 1 lemon (save the skin for zest)
  • 1/2 
cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • Cold butter -to grease the pan

For the topping:

  • ¼ cup lemon zest (you will need two lemons)
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup quick cook oats
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1 
cup gluten free flour
  • 1⁄2
 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • Note… you can also add a dash of nutmeg, dash of cinnamon and toasted almonds to change up the topping.

Preheat oven to 180C

Put the pear and the apples in a big bowl. Squeeze in the juice of one orange, & 1 lemon. Mix in sugar , corn starch and add a pinch of salt. Grease an 11 x 7 inch backing dish with cold butter. Pour apple mixture in baking dish and smooth out so the thickness is about an inch and a 1/2.

Prepare the topping:

In the big bowl you used to mix the apple mixture mix the following: lemon zest, butter, flour, brown sugar, oats, corn starch and stir together until it looks like a lumpy paste.
Spoon topping over the apples. Bake at 180C  for 30 to 45 minutes until apples bubble and the topping is golden brown. Apples should be fork tender.

Serve with vanilla ice cream or sweet whipped cream.