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Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Crisp and Cool!

Garden Cucumber Cucumber & Boursin Nibbles3

With the garden produce in full swing, there is nothing like picking your own fruit and veg.
Now, I'm going to have to admit that I can't really take all the credit for the fruit and vegetables in the garden. My husband is the one who lovingly planted the seeds and did all the potting on, my job was to make sure that everything was well fed, watered and happy. The results of which are healthy, nutritious, organic delights.

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When I noticed that Andrea from Andrea's Recipes was hosting an event entitled 'Grow Your Own', I knew I was going to have a fight on my hands. My veggies started to throw themselves at me as I tried to make up my mind what to select. In the end, I picked a cucumber - we had just had a day trip to France and some soft cheese that I had bought would be the perfect accompaniment.
The result was crisp, cool little nibbles, perfect for a warm summer evening.

Cucumber and Boursin Nibbles1

Boursin, Tomato and Cucumber Nibbles
Amounts are approximate because it depends on the size of the cucumber. I used Boursin cheese, but you can use any cream cheese - one with herbs would be good.

1 small cucumber, or half a long one
100g Boursin, or cream cheese
Fresh basil leaves
Semi dried tomatoes in olive oil, sun blushed tomatoes or even half a cherry tomato

Cut the cucumber in half length-ways and slice a little off the bottom to make it sit flat on the plate.
Scoop out the seeds and discard them.
Fill the hollow of the cucumber with the Boursin/cream cheese, smooth top with a knife.
Cut the cucumber into bite sized pieces and top each one with a basil leaf and a tomato. Secure with a cocktail stick.
Drizzle with some of the olive oil from the tomatoes.
Chill until ready to serve.

(Printable Recipe)

Cucumber & Boursin Nibbles2

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Waiter, there’s something in my… meatless barbecue!

Grilled Cheese, Bread and Tomato Skewers2

I have been waiting all week for the rain to stop so we could have a barbecue. It has really been ghastly - and to top it off, it was accompanied by strong winds.

But today, as if by magic, the clouds had evaporated and it was glorious. It was HOT!! It was bloody fantastic - summer again!
Time to whip off that barbie cover and fire up the coals!

And I'm just in time to join in Waiter, there's something in my... meatless barbecue!, which is being hosted by Jeanne at Cook Sister.

One of my favourite things to grill are these crispy, gooey, tangy skewers - which everyone seems to enjoy. We usually nibble on these while the rest of the meal is grilling.

Grilled Cheese, Bread, and Tomato Skewers1

Grilled Cheese, Bread and Tomato Skewers
Amounts are a bit vague, but you get the idea!

Wooden skewers - soaked in water for an hour or so
Semi or sun dried tomatoes in olive oil, you can even use cherry tomatoes
1 clove garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper to taste
French bread or ciabatta rolls
Cheese - either Edam or Monterrey Jack if you can get it, cut roughly into 1 inch cubes
Fresh basil leaves

Soak skewers.

Put a few tablespoons of the olive oil from the tomatoes in a large bowl and whisk in the garlic and salt and pepper.

Cut the bread into cubes, about 1"-1½", and toss in the olive oil until well coated. If you have a lot to make, you can add some extra, plain olive oil with a teaspoon of dried herbs, like oregano.

Thread the bread, cheese, basil and tomatoes alternately onto the skewers and grill for about 5 minutes or until the cheese is starting to melt and the bread is toasted.

Serve hot.

(Printable Recipe)

Grilled Cheese, Bread, and Tomato Skewers3

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Going Local for SHF #34

It's time for another Sugar High Friday, hosted by The Passionate Cook, and this month the theme is 'going local'.
It's particularly hard for me to choose which sugary treat to make as there are so many local specialities where I live. Kent is the 'Garden of England' after all, and fruit is in abundance at the moment.

Farmers' Market Produce apples in trug

We have a beautiful farmers' market every two weeks on the village green, where I went to find something special to buy for my entry. I came home with local strawberries, plums and honey, but then decided to pick a few apples and pears from my own garden to make these fruit shaped tarts.

apple pie1

When I'm in the mood to make desserts that look attractive, and also require the minimum of work, these fit the bill. Of course, you can cut the pastry into circles or squares, as well as fruit shapes.

Easy Fruit Tarts
Makes 4 tarts

2 apples or pears
½ lemon
2 tablespoons apricot jam
400g all butter puff pastry
1 egg, beaten, for glazing pastry
1 tablespoon caster sugar

Squeeze a couple of teaspoons of lemon into a small bowl and mix with the apricot jam, you may need to warm the jam slightly.

Peel the apples, cut in half and remove the cores neatly. Place the apples in a bowl and cover with some water and the lemon shell while you roll out the pastry.

Roll out puff pastry and cut into apple shapes - use half of an apple as a guide by laying it on the pastry and cutting around it, leaving a 1cm border, score a line around the apples.

Lift off the apples and brush the pastry edges with a little beaten egg. Cut the apples into slices, and reassemble onto the pastry.

Sprinkle some caster sugar (fine granulated) over the apples.
Bake in a hot oven for 10 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to medium and cook for a further 15 minutes until pastry is well-risen and golden.

Brush the apricot jam and lemon juice mixture over the top of the apples and serve with icing sugar dusted on the plates and some spiced whipped cream.

(Printable Recipe)

shaped pies1 shaped pies4
shaped pies2 shaped pies3

Friday, 17 August 2007

A is for Apple

hanging apple1

Get ready for an overdose of apples! Ours are ripe and ready for picking. Now the question is what am I going to do with them all?

apple tree1 bucket apples1 apple tree2

B is for Baking
Many moons ago, on a trip to San Francisco, I saw a mandoline on sale in one of the department stores. It was another piece of kitchen equipment bought to gather dust at the back of a cupboard.
Well, no more! What better way than to put it to use on my apples and make some apple chips. Just slice the apples and dip in some lemon water, place on a Silpat sheet and bake in a very low oven for 1-2 hours. Easy!

apple chips1

C is for Chips
Keep apple chips in an airtight container and eat within a few days.
Oh, and if you are going to use a mandolin, please use the guard, bits of sliced finger need a different oven temperature to the apples.... I know!

apple chips3

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Strawberry Cream Cake

strawberry cream cake 2

Every once in a while, the cooking shows on television come up trumps with their offerings and this is one of them.

Recently, the BBC had a series called Sweet Baby James, where chef James Martin shared his love of desserts, puddings and cakes. This one particular cake caught my eye, as it looked to be one of the easiest and most elegant looking to make.
It was, in fact, super easy to put together, you could even buy a ready made sponge flan case as James used, or make your own, as I did. The filling is a dream to whip up and has a more luxurious taste than plain whipped cream. The only part I found time consuming and difficult was the spun sugar that James recommends for the top of the cake. I got as far as making the caramel and decided to pour it on in 'streaks', but as it hit the icing sugar it rolled into little balls and flew all over the top! I also omitted the diamond pattern on top as I couldn't get the skewers hot enough in the time I had.

If you are an expert at making spun sugar, putting it on top and doing the diamond pattern with the skewer will give this cake the 'wow' factor.

strawberry cream cake 1

Strawberry Cream Cake
Adapted from James Martin

1 large ready-made sponge or flan case
750ml/1¼ pints double cream
25g/1oz caster sugar
1 shot of orange liqueur
200ml/7fl oz ready-made custard

75g/2½oz caster sugar - for the spun sugar, optional
2-3 punnets strawberries, hulled and halved length-ways; leave about ten small ones whole, to garnish
50g/2oz icing sugar
oil, for greasing

To serve:
large handful mixed berries, such as redcurrants, blueberries and blackberries
few sprigs fresh mint

In a large clean bowl, whip the double cream with 25g/1oz of the caster sugar and the orange liqueur until the mixture holds soft peaks. Fold in the custard, then place into the fridge to chill.

Using a 20-25cm/8-10in stainless steel cake ring, or the outside ring of a spring form cake tin, cut out the centre of the sponge/flan case. Using a sharp bread knife, carefully cut the sponge in half horizontally to make two thin layers. Place the ring onto a large serving plate and place one of the sponge layers inside to line the base.

Line the ring with the largest of the strawberry halves, cut-side facing outwards against the ring. Slice the remaining strawberry halves and lay in the centre of the ring. Then top with the cream mixture and smooth the top with a knife. Place the remaining sponge layer on top of the cream and dust heavily with the icing sugar.

Carefully remove the cake ring, if you have trouble you can warm the edges with a hot cloth or a mini-blowtorch and then lift it off.

Place the remaining 75g/2½oz caster sugar into a very clean pan and heat gently until it caramelises, then remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

While the caramel is cooling, carefully heat a metal skewer until red hot by holding it over a hot hob, then use the hot skewer to score the top of the cake in lines to create a diamond pattern.

Lightly oil a metal steel and shake spoonfuls of the caramel back and forth over the steel to make thin strands of caramel. Gather them up to make a loose ball.

To serve, top the cake with the reserved small strawberries and the mixed berries. Garnish with mint sprigs and top with the spun sugar.

(Printable Recipe)


DMBLGIT - Thank You!

I was so excited to see that one of my photos was a winner in the 'originality' category of the July DMBLGIT event, hosted by Sara at Food and Paper.

There were some really creative, beautiful entries and as this photo was one of the first ones I took with my new camera, I was even more thrilled. So thank you to the judges and to Sara for hosting the event. Make sure you see all the rest of the winning entries here!

Raspberry truffles 2

Chocolate Covered Raspberry Truffles

Saturday, 4 August 2007

Garden Tagging

garden bird bath
from my kitchen window - how cute is this?

I have been 'tagged' again, this time by Celia of Purple Podded Peas. Celia is an illustrator, printmaker and book designer, who works from her home studio attached to a beautiful walled garden where she loves to grow fruit and vegetables.

This time it's random things about me and the garden, which is really going to get me thinking as although we have a gorgeous, large garden, I'm not much of a gardener - my husband does most of it, thank goodness. The best bit for me is to cook the fruit and vegetables he has grown and potter about in the greenhouse.

garden robin
my little garden helper

Anyway, here goes:
  1. It takes me 2 hours just to mow 'my' bits of the lawns.
  2. I love growing fresh herbs in the garden.
  3. There are 3 varieties of apples in our garden, but I don't know which varieties they are.
  4. You might have already guessed, from number 3, that I'm useless when it comes to the names of plants, and have to rely on my mum for help with identification.
  5. I would love to discover a way to keep the brambles out of the garden - for good.
  6. There's nothing better than to go out and pick your own produce and eat it the same day.
  7. I hate weeding - so come on over Celia and do mine for me!!
I won't be tagging anyone this time because it seems that most blogs have already been tagged, but if anyone reading this hasn't and wants to join in - please do!

garden lillies 1
my lilies

Rockin' Girl Blogger
I forgot to mention that Marie over at Marie's Muses gave me a Rockin' Girl Blogger award last month. Marie - I am honoured that you even thought of giving me this, as I am still new to blogging and there are many other blogs more worthy of this than mine - thank you.

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Foodie Blog Roll
I've joined the 'foodie blog roll', which was created by Jenn, The Left Over Queen and aims to bring fellow food bloggers together.
You can join too if you have a food blog - just click on the link in the sidebar at the right of this page to go there.