Sunday, 13 April 2014

Yorkshire puddings with wild garlic

Just a quick idea, as it's Sunday and you might be making your yorkies later for the roast.
Mix your normal yorkshire pudding batter mix.*
Rinse a handful of wild garlic (ramson) leaves under the tap and squeeze the water out.  Finely chop and add them to the batter.
 Cook as normal.  Yum!
This was an experiment as I wasn't at all sure whether the garlic would burn during the cooking process or whether the flavour would work but it was a success.  As I love garlic and don't have meat for my roasts I'd put these with anything but I'd imagine them working well with a chicken roast, and maybe lamb.
*My regular go to batter mix is 4oz plain flour, 0.5 pint milk and one egg.  There's been a lot in the media over the last year suggesting that actually these quantities should all be the same. IE by volume - crack the egg into a measuring jug and add the same amount of milk and flour (not sure how you do the flour?).  Yorkshire chef Brian Turner advocates the addition of a little vinegar for a good rise; and in fact explains the 'measure the same method' by using a cup.  (Video here.)  Pretty much all the recipes (including my own) recommend a resting period for the batter mix before cooking. Although not Queen Delia!  In fact there's a whole lot of discussion and arguing on the 'perfect' Yorkshire pudding.  See here for a little more info.
Anyway, I like to mix mine up a little by adding herbs to the batter, or try a little hard full-flavoured cheese, or wholegrain mustard.  I guess horseradish could work for accompanying a beef roast - try it and let me know!

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Food swap - pasta with salmon and capers paste from Pantelleria

Manu from the beautiful Cooking Manu blog had the great idea of hosting a food swap for bloggers and non-bloggers alike.
I was partnered with Silvia (co-incidentally Manu's sister in law) who is based in Milan, Italy.  I sent her some local Devon wholegrain honey mustard.  I'm intrigued to see what she comes up with for that!
She sent me something new to me - capers paste.  It's from Pantelleria which she explained is an island in Sicily.  (There's a very interesting post about why capers from that region are so special here.)
Now, I was supposed to have posted a recipe using her ingredient by the 31st March but with typical 'Ruth-time' I'm just a little bit late - oops!
I played with various ideas in my head before deciding to use it in a fairly simple pasta dish.  As I'd never used it before I wanted to get a feel for the strength and depth of flavour first time round.

This made a large meal (with leftovers) for 2.

1 bag fresh pasta
2 salmon fillets (mine happened to be hot smoked ones with peppercorns)
1 onion
2 cloves garlic*
1 tsp+ dried basil
1tsp+ dried oregano
1tbsp+ capers paste (pasta di capperi)
Handful calabrese florets
Handful wild garlic (ramsons) leaves*
Little grated strong cheese, if liked
Black pepper
*Use less garlic if you're not a fan.  I am so it tends to go in everything!

Heat a splosh of EVOO over a low heat in a decent size frying pan.
Finely mince the garlic and add to the pan once the oil is warming up.
Finely chop the onion and add it to the pan.  Sweat down for several minutes.
Get a large pan of water boiling for the pasta.  Once it comes to the boil add a generous pinch of salt and the pasta.  Fresh pasta generally only takes 3-4 minutes so keep an eye on the time.
Add the herbs to the onion pan and stir well.  If you feel the mix is drying out now or at any point you may want to add a little water - nab some from the pasta pan if so.
Add the capers paste a little at a time, stirring in well each time and giving it a minute to cook in then tasting.  Bear in mind that the plain pasta will soak up a lot of flavour.
Drain off the pasta once it's done, reserving a little of the cooking water.
Cook the salmon fillets in the pan with the onions and garlic, flake them up as they cook through.
Throw in a handful of calabrese cut into small florets and 4 or 5 minced ramson leaves.  Add a little of the pasta water now to steam the veg.
Grind in black pepper to taste and stir into the pasta.  Add a little grated cheese if liked, I felt the dish needed that extra flavour to balance the salty umami notes from the capers and the strength of the garlic.
Serve and enjoy.
 This was delish and gave me a good idea of how the capers paste works in a dish.  It certainly has a big flavour but also seems invaluable for the umami notes.  I can see this having an incredible affinity with good tomatoes and black olive tapenade on some fantastic bread...Mmmmm...

Sunday, 6 April 2014

#100HAPPYDAYS - the first 2 weeks.

Well I did only say I'd post the pics on here weekly-ish, right?  I'm keeping up with the challenge of finding a happy moment to post each day so far.  Mostly these are small things but I think that's part of the ethos behind the challenge; recognising the happiness to be found in everyday moments as well a 'big' events.  More info on the 100 happy days site.
So without further ado, here're my moments so far...
Day 1: Can’t remember the last time I used this when it wasn't absolutely necessary.  My trousers are falling off me. 
Day 2 - Happy Friday! Good night with good friends and fine ales.  
Day 3: I fit back in my fave jeans - whoop!!!! This has made me a happy bunny indeed. 

Day 4: Very early! Bar dancing with my new bar 'family'.
Day 5: This beautiful magnolia stellata is on my route to and from work. I love seeing it each spring. Cheered up my walk home in the cold and rain tonight.
Day 6: Lovely bag full of Ramsons for wild garlic pesto later. Nomalicious!!!
Day 7: Happy guinness at a friend's birthday.
Day 8, which also happens to be my lucky number. Getting home to my furry faced love after what feels like a veeerrrrryyyy loooooonnnnggg couple of days. (PS - like most cats he takes a shit pic though.  )
Day 9: That patch of blue which prisoners call the sky... The sun coming out on a Friday afternoon at work when it seems like the rest of the week it's rained every afternoon / evening.
Day 10: Spending all day in bed because you can and not feeling even a tiny bit guilty about it.
Day 11 - Watching the rather spiffing Aunt Fanny's Handbag laying down some chillaxed Sunday arvo vibes. Oh, and the greatest old couple ever, dancing their hearts out to it - she was being chucked up in the air and everything! 
Day 12 - Playing all the top old tunes you'd forgotten about on an unplanned jukebox marathon. They even had a couple of Ned's tracks!!!! Then I had to educate as to who Ned's were of course...
Day 13: I won free chocolate! Nuff said, right?  Small pleasures.
Day 14
Day 15 - Finding I can fit back in some trousers I haven't worn for 2 years, that are a size smaller than all my current clothes, and evidently I can fit into them without bothering to undo the zip. I believe 'Woot' is the appropriate word at this juncture. 

Day 16 - Leaving the office on a Friday in the SUN to be greeted by this display of beauty by nature. *breathe*
Day 17: You lot. Yes YOU. Realising I have some truly wonderful friends both new and old who care and seem to know just the right things to say when I need it. I thank you, you wonderful people you.

So that's as far as I am, tune in next week(ish) for the next thrilling installment...

Friday, 21 March 2014

Spring and happiness

Well it's been some time since my last post.  Much stuff has been happening, not the least of which is that the Chap and I have gone our separate ways.  Whilst this saddened me, such is the way of life.  Onwards!  As it was a good 6 weeks back now I'm getting on with moving on.  More of that later.  Maybe.  ;-)
Yesterday was International Day of Happiness and also (apparently) the first day of spring.  (I thought that was today the 21st myself, but there you go.)  I've been mulling over taking up the 100 Happy Days challenge for some time and decided to start it yesterday.  The idea behind this is that for 100 days you make the time in the day to focus on something that has made you happy, no matter how large or small.  You take a pic and post it with the tag #100HAPPYDAYS.  Hopefully the outcome is that you can nurture a more positive outlook in yourself, get in the habit of noticing the happy stuff and generally feel happier in yourself.  I'm posting my pics daily on facebook but once a week-ish I'll post the pics on here too.  Just to keep it in the forefront of my mind, and in case anyone out there is interested too.  So far 71% of the people attempting the challenge haven't made it to the 100 days; citing lack of time as the most common reason, so I'm interested to see how I do.
As it's the start of spring it seems an appropriate time to make some changes and to this end I've decided to focus my efforts on a proper de-clutter at home.  Frankly there's a whole small bedroom that's unusable as it's piled up with boxes and crates so it's time it all went.  I've long had a plan for that room to be my library (I own a lot of books) and computer room so I really need to be able to actually see the walls!  I also have a bunch of the Chaps stuff hanging about the place that I keep being told is being collected 'soon'.  That needs to go as I'm getting an exercise bike and it won't fit in the spare room until he takes his stuff out of it.
The spring flowers are a welcome sight after the long months of storms and rain.  The joyous presence of crocuses, daffodils and primroses do a lot to lift my spirits on the daily walk to and from work as they burst forth from the hedgerows and gardens.  All helped by the sudden (finally) arrival of the wild garlic.
This has gone mad in the last week or so and I'm lucky enough to have great swathes of it growing on campus just behind the building I work in as well as along the local river banks a few minutes from  my home.  I'm planning on making my first batch of 2014's wild garlic pesto this weekend.  I can almost smell it now...  :-)

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Food adventures - a new shop!

I recently came across a new world food shop at the opposite end of Exeter to the one I usually frequent.  I think it's nominally Turkish / Persian but I didn't get a chance to have a proper look inside.  However I did snatch these quick photos on my phone - not sure what all these things are but I'm excited to have a proper look around inside!

Friday, 31 January 2014

Picture test

Some pictures, apropos of nothing, just to test the layout functions.  Which means I need a sight more text than this.  What can I treat you to...
"In his best-known work, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Adams explained the supreme utility of the towel in intergalactic travel:
“…it has great practical value – you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head 
to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you – daft as a bush, but very, very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.”

Adams’ artistic sensibility is both specific and elusive. He can go from distraught to delighted in the space of a modifier. He combines Gary Larson’s irony, Bill Watterson’s wistful idealism, Oscar Wilde’s keen social observation, and Dorothy Parker’s mischievousness. But set in space. In short, he is a genre all to himself."
Excerpt from

Frankly you can never fault a bit of Hitchhikers to keep you amused and educate.  :-)  Ok - I'm just a tad of a geek about Douglas Adams...  :-)

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Random Recipe - New Year, New Book - 'Spring' pasta without Wild Garlic

January’s  Random Recipe challenge set by the lovely Dom over at Belleau Kitchen tasked us with picking a recipe from a book we’d received for christmas.  I got a fair selection as you can see.  It included the rather wonderful ‘A Curious Cookbook’  - a look at historical recipes from some of the earliest cookery books on record (14th C) right up to wartime (sparrows on toast anyone?) 
Given my record in past Random Recipe challenges (rabbit leg, stuffed carrots &c) I thought I was sure to get that book but my random number generator (the Chap) thankfully picked one of the other books he got me – the Herbs installment of the River Cottage handbook series.  These books always have the recipe section at the back so I flipped it open at that end and got… Spring Pasta with Wild Garlic and Purple Sprouting Broccoli.
Now, although we managed to get some ramsons (wild garlic) on Jan 27th last year I thought that one week into 2014 would be pushing my luck rather.  That's not spring in the UK by any stretch of the imagination.  However, I duly went for a riverside potter on one of the few non-rainy days we had around the middle of the month and found....shoots.  Teeny tiny shoots, that was all so far.  Not a massive surprise.  I gathered the tiniest ‘handful’ (midget hands you understand) of the shoots to give an edge of the garlicky flavour and resigned myself to using the suggested chives that the book mentions can be substituted if you have no wild garlic.
The recipe also uses purple sprouting broccoli.  I’m afraid I have to admit to completely forgetting about that detail so this got made with regular calabrese, a substitution that is also mentioned in the book itself.
Overall I found this a bit too rich with creamy goats cheese smothering everything and an additional grating of parmesan on top.  I find it hard to believe that I’m actually going to type this but, I think it was a little too cheesy.  [Too cheesy!  I know what you’re thinking – how can something ever be too cheesy huh?]  It was too rich from all the cheese, rather than the flavour, is what I think I’m trying to say.  It certainly needed a good squeeze of lemon juice or something to cut through it and lift the flavour a bit; it was all rather samey.  That said I imagine this would be a very different beast with actual wild garlic in it.
It was a nice quick dinner to knock up though and one that's pretty frugal if you make it with regular calabrese and Aldi's goat cheese. :-)
It warrants remembering for when the ramsons finally do unfurl their leaves out of the overflowing river Exe.
The clever ones amongst you will have noticed that I mention the middle of the month earlier in the post yet the date of writing is the somewhat later 30th.  Yep - I actually made my random recipe in good time this month but still didn't get it up before the cut off.  Please let me join in Dom, please...