Archive | picnic

Recipe | Cherry Pie

Make America Bake Again

To start with a completely different subject ….

I would love you to come and watch my cookery demo at the Game Fair at 12 pm on Saturday 29th July. I will be sharing some delicious ideas on what to do with game along with cookery writer Tim Maddams. The Game Fair is at Hatfield House (just 20 min by train from London Kings Cross) and is a fantastic day out for anyone interested in the countryside, shooting, fishing , horses, dogs, falconry and of course food !

Meanwhile back in the USA….

“I’m having a little trouble with my tackle” chortled the fisherman…

He had been quietly fiddling with it for at least ten minutes without the desired effect and being British I wasn’t sure what was the polite thing to do. Do I offer to help or is it one of those things you just leave them to until you see their rod waving high in the air ready for action?

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Recipe | Wild garlic and lemon risotto and wild garlic pesto bread

If you go down to the woods today ….

You are quite likely to find a host of lush green edible leaves… and me picking them !

Wild garlic, a.k.a ramsons, buckrams, wild garlic, broad-leaved garlic, wood garlic, bear leek and bear’s garlic has just started to spring up, an exciting sign that spring really is here.

Bears apparently like to munch on it when coming out of hibernation to help get their digestive system fired up which perhaps helps explain its Latin name of Allium ursinum (Ursa being Latin for bear). When foraging here in the UK it is most unlikely that you will need to fend off any bears whilst gathering your wild garlic ( though possibly you will me)!   What you do have to look out for is mistakenly picking the plant Lilly of the valley, which looks similar, but is toxic. If unsure give the leaf a rub and you should instantly be able to smell garlic.

Other animals keen on it are cows which can be unfortunate as it then taints the milk.  Naturally garlic milk would of course be perfect for making a delicious béchamel sauce… but less so when its comes to a nice cup of tea.

So excited was I about smelling, finding and picking my first basket of the season last week, that I took a bag with me on my job cooking in Herefordshire for the weekend.

Personally, when it is in season, I would quite merrily have it in most things including risottos, pasta, bread ( one of the recipes for this postcard), pesto’s and my personal favourite.. laced into scrambled eggs for breakfast.   I did manage to restrain myself from putting it into everything for my clients though as showing diversity in the kitchen is always appreciated and expected in my profession.

I used up my bag on the first day but then discovered down by their river there was a carpet of the lovely stuff (and some amazing Jurassic era looking plants). If you are out on the hunt for it yourself you are most likely to find it in ancient deciduous woodlands, shady lanes, hedgerows, near patches of bluebells ( though they appear after) or dimly lit river banks. Failing that I saw some bunches at borough market, though at £1.50 for a tiny bunch it may be more cost effective to travel out to your nearest woods to try and find your own!

If you find wild garlic I think the best way to harvest it is to cut the leaves near the base instead of pulling up the entire root which will reduce the amount of plants available next year ( the plant reproduces through forming underground bulbs) and bring with it a load of mud. You can eat the bulbs but it is the leaves and in a couple of weeks the flowers you should really be after…

Once you have them back home wash the leaves well several times and depending on where I get them from I sometimes add a dash of Milton to the water to help get rid of any unwanted germs. You should check carefully through your stash before cooking and eating as it is easier to pick up other plants like ivy which you clearly don’t want to be eating.

When not cooking dishes involving wild garlic my other weekend food included an epic curry night ( I have found the best Kerelan curry recipe ever), rhubarb tarts, ice cream and a refreshing rhubarb, ginger and rosemary sorbet, roast beef – Hereford really does produce some fantastic meat, a whole baked monkfish with harrissa and zhoug, and the instgram star of the week avocado, ricotta, tahini, poached eggs with sourdough and chili flakes.

For this postcard I have included not one but two recipes as I would love you to eat lots of it, in lots of different ways before the short 6 week season flies by and ends. When the flowers are out don’t forget to try my fritter recipe from last years wild garlic post  Deep fried wild garlic flowers. It is also worth keeping an eye out in the shops a little later on in the year for Cornish yarg cheese ( normally wrapped in nettles) wrapped in wild garlic leaves.  I like to eat the two types side by side as its quite amazing how the same cheese can taste so different just from being covered by a few different leaves.

This week

Every home should have : a river with banks carpeted in wild garlic in the garden.

Dishes with wild garlic : 7 ( at home)

I’m loving : local Herefordshire beef

I’m driving : a sporty Audi A5 and a Peugeot 208 ( less sporty)

 

Wild garlic pesto laced bread

Pesto

Handful of washed wild garlic

100g freshly grated Parmesan

1 small garlic clove, crushed with a pinch of salt.

Juice and zest from ½ lemon

50g lightly toasted hazelnuts ( skin off)

150ml olive oil

Place everything except the oil in a food processor or NutriBullet ( the are amazing) ( no I’m not sponsored by them) and whizz up till smooth. Stir in the olive oil and season with pepper and possibly a pinch of salt (as the cheese is salty and the garlic had salt when being crushed, you may not need it).

For the bread ;

2 1/2 tsp dried yeast

2 tsp honey

250ml warm water

450g white bread flour (plus a little extra)

1 tsp salt

40ml olive oil plus a drizzle extra

Pre heat the oven to 180 °C fan.

In a jug mix the yeast, warm water and honey together and leave to stand somewhere warm for 5 minutes – it should start frothing.

In a big bowl mix the flour, salt and olive oil then pour in the water. Bring together into a bowl and knead for 10 minutes.

Leave to rise in a bowl covered with a tea towel for 30 minutes then gently fold in a few spoonful’s of the pesto.

Lightly roll out into an oblong 1 inch thick and transfer onto a lightly floured baking sheet or a piece of baking paper.

Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise for 30 minutes.

Remove the tea towl and using your fingers make a few dimples in the dough, drizzle on a little olive oil and sprinkle with some salt flakes.

Bake on a lower shelf for 20 – 25 minutes ( it should be lightly golden and have a firm bottom) .

Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes before cutting into slices and serving.   You can serve with the extra pesto to smear onto it or save the pesto to stir through pasta or risotto.

Wild garlic risotto.

Serves 2

1 tbs butter

1 tbs olive oil plus a little extra.

1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 sticks celery , washed and finely chopped

300g risotto rice

splash of white vermouth

1 glass dry white wine.

1-liter of light chicken, game or vegetable stock ( hot)

100g freshly grated parmesan

zest and juice of 1 lmon

2 large handful of washed, roughly chopped wild garlic.

In a saucepan gently sauté the onion and celery in the butter and olive oil.

Once softened ( about 10 mins) add the risooto rice and stir until all coated and hot. Add the vermouth and wine and a ladleful of hot stock and stir.

Keep adding the hot stock one ladleful at a time, stirring and waiting for the liquid to be absorbed before you add the next one.

Once the rice is nearly cooked take off the heat and add the lemon zest and juice and 2/3 of the parmesan and some freshly milled black pepper.

In a clean pan fry the washed chopped wild garlic with a little extra virgin olive oil until wilted then stir this and any pan juices into the rice.

Check for seasoning and consistency ( you may want to add a little more hot stock) then serve straight away with extra parmesan on top.

 

Next stop …County Carlow .

 

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Recipe | Spiced Sticky toffee apple and pear cake

Season Eatings…

Season greetings to you all, I hope you had a very Merry Christmas!

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Currently at an airport waiting to board my next flight I wanted to send you a quick christmas postcard but I am seriously distracted by the festive flavours going on in the coffee shops, although not at all tempted.

I simply can’t imagine what Gingerbread house latte laced with elf shavings would be like or how eggnog essence mince pie tea topped with Santa’s beard sprinkles would work on the palate. However it is amazing how quickly even the thought of some flavours can make a dish be Christmassy.

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Over the last few days back at base, unable to tear myself away from the stove, light on the festive flavours I was not. Unctuous Cinnamon and star anise slow cooked local beef Brisket with clementine’s and ginger went down a treat, super tender with a crackling crunch free range pork belly with plum sauce and five spice was gobbled up and there is not a trace left of the chocolate, chestnut and brandy log.

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Although not strictly speaking a traditional Christmas food household there are certain foods I will always make sure are in stock around this time of year. Layers of locally smoked trout, wedges of Dorset Blue Vinny, home made mince pies ( I am still working my way through the pots of 2013 filling that I over enthusiastically made), mint chocolates ( currently stocking six different varieties) and of course mountains of clementines.

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The other staple that I like to have waiting in the wings for those unexpected guests or hungry family members or even a pre breakfast breakfast is plenty of cake after all mince pies alone are not a balanced diet.

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So, just before I dash, for this postcard recipe I want to share with you my sticky toffee apple and pear cake, obviously laced with festive spices.

 

This week

Turkey cooked: 27 kilos

Spice cupboard : much depleted

Brandy used : 1 bottle ( yes that’s a lot…it made its way into a fair few cocktails )

Clementine bowl : now empty

 

Apple and pear caramel cake

5 small Apples

1 tbs Demerara sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

Caramel sauce

150g salted butter


110g golden caster sugar


60g dark muscovado sugar


260ml double cream

Cake batter

250g soft salted Butter

250g caster Sugar

250 g Self Raising flour

4 organic Eggs

2 tsp ground Cinnamon

½ grated Nutmeg

1 tsp Ground ginger

2 pears

Line a 10 inch deep cake tin with baking paper.

In a small saucepan gently bring all the ingredients for the caramel sauce to a simmer and cook for five minutes.

Pour half on the sauce into the cake tin.

Peel and core the apples then split in half horizontally toss with the 1 tbs demerara sugar and 1 tsp ground cinnamon and 1 ts ground ginger. Place into the cake tin and move around to coat with caramel sauce then arrange flat side up.

To make the batter

In a bowl beat the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy.

Add half the flour, all the spices and 2 of the eggs. Gently beat until combined then add the rest of the eggs and flour and gently beat again.

Grate the pears , sin and all but discarding the core. Stir through the batter then pour on top of the apples.

Bake on the middle shelf for 40 mins or until a skewer comes out clean ( its just the batter you don’t want to see on the skewer – there may be caramel sauce

Leave to cool in the tin then turn out on to your serving platter.

Gently arm the rest of the sauce and pour over the top of the cake.

This is delicious with whipped cream or even brandy butter.

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Next stop… Val d’Isére.

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Recipe | Almond, cherry, lime and tequila cake

The girl who played with a wood fired oven

I felt like a real party pooper as I sat soberly on the plane heading from Edinburgh to Ibiza. It was around midday and the rest of passengers were clearly well on their way to tipsy land. Amusingly as soon as the seatbelt sign went off the entire plane (minus me and a chap who had already passed out) got up to use the ‘facilities’ then once that kerfuffle was over the drinks trolley became like a moving god down the isle . Ibiza is of course known for its excellent clubbing scene and fun nightlife however for those who have discovered it there is also an island of great beauty, food, secluded alcoves and paradise like beaches.

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Recipe | Vlita, saffron and feta pie

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My big fat Greek….Pie

An overnight stay in Athens was swiftly followed by a few hours boat ride across the Aegean to the pretty island of Paros where the gleaming white washed buildings lay backdrop to the colourful myths, legends and modern day lives of the Greeks. The winding streets of the towns, so designed to make attacking pirates lives more difficult, were filled with cafes, boutiques, ouzerias and restaurants. I soon decided this was my kind of place.

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Our villa instantly filled with guests and I quickly got my first taste of Greek family life. They are similar to the French and Italians in terms of passion and excitement over food, the amusing uncontrollable urge to stir pots on the stove every time they walk by and the wonderful ability to discuss recipes at length. Even the children were overheard debating which their favourite dish of the week had been.   In my books however I have to currently admit the Greeks edge ahead with their friendliness. Firstly they do not look at you like you have just blasphemed every time you attempt to utter a few words of their language (the French, as much as I love them, have I am sure given most of us puzzled glaring looks when pronouncing words fractionally wrong then follow it with a mini lesson that they are never satisfied with the result in). Secondly, unlike the Italians (of whom I am also very fond) who fiercely defend their recipes and dictate that theirs is the best and only way to make a certain dish, the Greeks seem much more easy going and delighted and interested in their food culture being an inspiration for a new dish.

With the mercury easily hitting the 30°C each day but a delightful breeze keeping us all in a very pleasant state, food was light, summary and involved of course a lot of extra virgin Greek olive oil. 2016-07-10_0014

I instantly loved that shopping for fruit and vegetables was dictated by what was fresh, local and in season and it was very much one of those places here you go to the shop/market and then decide what to cook. There are permanent stalls/benches set up in the towns that farmers can just come and sell there produce at when they have it and some farmers shops that although are certainly more shi shi than a few old wooden crates by the side of the road still fully focus on what the very productive island has to offer.

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Feeling plucky and encouraged by the feed back by day three I decided it was time to cook them a lamb dish

“ Ooh that’s brave, cooking lamb for the Greeks”, the hostess playfully told me as I splashed extra of the local excellent wine, Moraitis over the young legs of lamb and returned them to the oven.

Well too late now, I thought as suppertime shortly loomed. Again they were delighted with it loved that I had used local wine and the wild thyme and oregano that had been picked by the path that led down to the beach.

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With encouragement from this and courage from a little outing with the group the night before for a pre dinner ouzo I decided it was time to have a go at my version of their practically national dish, Spanakopita (surely the name of the next bond girl)  this postcards recipe.

Having never been one to feel totally compelled to follow the well-trodden path I had been thinking of ways I could beneficially twist the dish.

Saffron and vlita became my answers.

 

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In the middle ages the charmingly named Essex town of Cheppinge Waldron became Englands epicentre for saffron and so great was its importance that the places’ name was changed to Saffron Waldron. Sadly with a puritan sway sweeping the land as we emerged from the Middle Ages, our tastes became plainer, the saffron use declined and so did the industry.

Legend has in ancient Greek that when the bold and ‘easy on the eye ‘ youth Crocus set his amorous heart of the nymph Smilax she indulged him in some frolics in a wood near Athens. Enjoyment, on her part at first, soon turned to boredom and when he continued to persist in bothering her she turned him into the flower ‘saffron crocus’ and still to this day the fiery glow of the stigmas reveals his smouldering but unrequited passions…or so the story goes.

The Mediterranean island of Santonrini has had discoveries of wall murals dating back a few thousand years BC of beautiful breast baring female saffron gathers that tells us of the exotic spices long history with this land. I cant imagine a similar dress code or look for the Middle Ages saffron pickers in Essex but then again perhaps it was dress down Fridays that sparked a puritanical turn in our ways.

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So on a bold Friday morning I made my big fat greek pie and presented it at the table. We sat down to lunch, slices were shared out and we began to eat.

Then the head of the table says;

“ That was the best spinach pie I have ever had”!

Inwardly I was thinking OMG are the woman going to throw plates/daggers/a wild cat ( there are quite a few here) at him?! Would this be the beginning of the end for me? Will this bring and end to the holiday harmony and bliss? ….

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No of course not, more wine was poured, the laughter and chat levels rose, various methods, twists and recipe ideas were discussed and the party continued…

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This Week

Greek Extra Virgin Olive oil used : 8 Litres

Raw Greek Honey used : 2 lbs

I’m loving: Ouzo

Im reading : Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, totally gripping and can’t believe I hadn’t read it before.

Mode of transport : Boats, trains, Planes and cars

Every Greek Villa should have: poolside beanbag loungers and be within skipping distance to the Aegean.

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Vlita, feta and saffron pie

Serves 8

In the UK although the leaf vlita is not wildly available, it is a bit like a chard / spinach / nettle cross (but with out the sting), you will have seen its seed Amaranth in many food shops, a so called super food packed full of protein.

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4 or 5 thick sheets of filo

pinch of saffron

150g butter

2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

2 red onions finely chopped

1 tsp dried oregano

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

3 good handfulls of blanched vlita (or spinach / chard)

200g top quality feta

4 organic eggs

1 1/2 tbs each of finely chopped parsley, mint and dill

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Pre heat the oven to 180 °C

Melt the butter in a small pan with saffron then leave to one side to infuse

In a frying pan sauté the onions and garlic with the olive oil until softened and sweet.

In a bowl lightly beat the eggs, crumble in the cheese then add the herbs.

Add the cooked vlita to the egg mix and season with salt and pepper.

Brush a pie dish or baking tin of approx. 8” by 10” with the saffron butter.

Lay a sheet of filo down, it should come up over the sides and brush with butter.

Repeat with 2 more layers .

Tip the filling in and level out.

Then crinkling and rucking up the rest of the sheets of filo and the overhanging sides enclose the pie and drizzle with the rest of the saffron butter.

Bake for 45mins to 1 hour, the pie should be golden.

Can be eaten warm or cold.

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Next postcard recipe….I’m staying put !

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Recipe | Chocolate caramel brownies

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 Tackling picnics…

“There is something a little unusual we would like you to do this time Philippa”
“Oh, yes?” Thought I, not entirely sure what my client was going to ask.

For the last few years I have been booked to make the journey to the boating heaven of Itchenor and prepare a post shoot dinner, arm the client with a selection of dinner party dishes they can whip out from the freezer when needed over the coming year and cook for a few casual family dinners.

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“We have been invited to THE Rugby on Saturday, we would like a pre match tailgate picnic.”
“THE Rugby”? Thought I, quickly trying to remember which match that might be.

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Part of the fun as a private chef is being exposed to so many different worlds. I have learnt more about the finance sector, the fashion industry, the art world, a bit on taxidermy, and a lot more on Scottish estates than I ever expected. I have found it useful and interesting to do a bit of homework on these varied matters hence my monthly diverse reading material ranges from Tatler to the FT and may include riveting reads like A Practical Guide to Algorithmic Strategies and Trading Systems and The Grouse in health and disease (ok the last two are still sitting by the bed). Rugby I am ashamed to say I know very little about.

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The plan was to drive to Twickenham, find somewhere nice to dine then off they would go to the match and then later that night we would return home in a state of celebration or misery (sadly we all know how the story ends).

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The picnic was a complete success despite on the way up a few anxious calls to those with local knowledge as to where we should have the picnic. There were good suggestions like a secluded little green patch they knew on the river bank by the Thames and less good ones like the local sports club car park or a friends driveway. We ended up in Bushy park , Richmond. The sun was almost ready for setting, the night was barmy warm for an October evening and the numerous stags who were rutting provided an unusual soundtrack to our al fresco dinner.

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Within minutes tables, chairs, table cloths and hampers had been unloaded from the Landrover, champagne corks had been popped and the feasting had begun. The pre-rugby picnic menu read as follows:

Canapés
Crab on toast with lemon, parsley and chilli
Smoked salmon pate with crudités
Cheese pastry swirls

Main
Slow roast shoulder of lamb with cabbage, caraway, pine nut and yogurt salad, hummus, chilli sauce and flat breads.
Lobster brioche rolls

Dessert
Chocolate caramel brownies
Fruit Kebabs

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I wasn’t quite sure of the precedent for a pre match picnic. Would it be like the ones at Glyndebourne where everyone tries to out do each other with candelabras and gulls eggs or would it be more a case of just making sure they eat some wholesome nosh as the nights can get a little wild at such events. I opted to go on the elaborate side. Personally I think if you are going to make the effort to go on a proper picnic you might as well go all-out on the food. Choose a few dishes you can tuck into straight away with the welcoming drinks and then maybe something like a chunk of meat that can be theatrically carved at the table.

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Passers by certainly were impressed with our spread and unfortunately so were their dogs with the slow cooked lamb bone, we even diverted the attention of a stag for a few moments before he spied his lady deer conquest across the park.

Picnic successfully consumed and the merriment underway the clients headed off to the match. We all now know what happened within the next few hours in the sad part of this tale but I wasn’t sure how bad they would take it and how moods would be for the journey back home.

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To help cheer things up I had at the ready trays of home made sausage rolls, glasses in the side doors and wine at the ready. This coupled with an impromptu Queen’s Greatest Hits sing along and an education in Pink Floyd led to a very entertaining and fun ride home. For the record, I was driving and was stone cold sober but in full voice nevertheless!
So overall the day was a great a success and greatly enjoyed by our party. Yes we may have lost the rugby but we certainly did it in style.

This postcard recipe is for my chocolate caramel brownies, damp and with a serious chocolate kick they will theoretically keep for at least 4 days, that’s if you can resist.

This week

Every home should have : a hamper

I’m driving: a BMW X5 and a Landrover

I’m loving : Royal park picnicking

I’m learning: about Pink Floyd

Dogs who tried to join picnic: 5

Owners who tried to join picnic :3

Chocolate Caramel brownies

Makes 12 squares
line a 20 x 20 cm brownie tin with baking parchment
250g 70% dark chocolate
250g salted butter
250g soft light brown sugar
4 organic eggs
1 tbs coco powder
130g plain flour
3 packs of Rolos

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pre heat the oven to 170°
Melt the butter and chocolate together in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water.
With an electric mixer whisk the eggs and sugar together till thickened and at least doubled in volume ( 4 – 5 mins).
Fold the egg mix into the chocolate then fold in the coco powder and flour.
Poutr into the tin and scatter with the Rolos.
Bake on a low shelf for 30 – 40 mins (you want the slightest of wobbles in the centre to make sure they remain moist.
Leave to cool completely in the tin before cutting into squares.
You can take them out a little earlier from the oven then pop in the fridge for a few hours if you like your brownies to have a very fudge like texture.

Next stop, the Land of Macbeth…..

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