raspberries and greens from the garden

How does your garden grow?

raspberries and greens from the garden

Here’s this morning’s garden haul: raspberries; courgette and some courgette flowers; apples and runner beans.

I can’t quite believe how many raspberries are still growing, seeing as it’s now officially Autumn. Though I’m not complaining as there’s nothing quite like having raspberries on tap (they are my favourite berry after all) – but I’m running out of ideas for what to do with them! I’ve made compotes, jam, cakes and crumbles; had them with pancakes, yoghurt, eton mess; and at breakfast, lunch and dinner…. you name it, I’ve tried it. At least I think I have! I’d love to hear your ideas or suggestions for how I could use/eat/preserve them – let me know using the comment box below.

I keep picking the courgette flowers with every intention of eating them, but short of stuffing them I’m not sure how else to use them. They keep going to waste, so if anyone has any ideas or tips, let me know.

We also have a glut of runner beans and, thanks to our lovely neighbours, more apples than you can shake a stick at. Luckily I’m a sucker for apple cake, crumble, compote, strudel, sauce……

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Review: 59 New Street, Chelmsford

IMG_3258Having wanted to visit 59 New Street since it opened, I finally found an excuse to go last weekend: Mother’s Day! I took my Mum on Friday and it more than surpassed our expectations. Everything was better than I thought it would be; in fact I’d go so far as to say 59 New Street is exactly what Chelmsford has been missing.

Let’s start with the menu: short, to the point, perfection. We got a delicious bottle of viognier for £24, and the service was impeccable to say the least. Nothing was too much trouble. When Mum mentioned her nut allergy, the chef served her ham hock terrine with homemade toasted brioche instead of the nut crostinis it was meant to come with. Some places would just serve it without anything, so that was a really nice touch.

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Anyway, on to the food itself… Each course was simplicity personified. Not too many ingredients on the plate, but each one cooked and seasoned perfectly, as well as being beautifully presented. Fine dining in the best possible way! So to start I had the squid salad (see above), served with rocket and a yummy dressing; Mum had the terrine with fresh piccalilli and the aforementioned brioche! Both were excellent and the viognier we’d chosen perfectly complemented both dishes.

On to the main event: there was no way we couldn’t have the steak (see top picture). We weren’t disappointed; it was sublime! Perfectly pink, juicy and caramelised on the outside. All the sides were perfect too: large flat mushroom, with garlic, salty chips, grilled tomatoes and peppercorn sauce. Yum.

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Because I’m greedy, I found room for dessert. I ordered the citrus mess (see above), which was a lovely palate cleanser to finish the meal on, made up of a creamy mousse, lemon-infused meringues, scorched lime and a tuille biscuit. Mum, on the other hand is not so greedy, instead of a traditional dessert she opted for a ‘dessert martini’, namely the vanilla espresso option (see below). I don’t like coffee too much and even I thought it was divine. Next time, I am 100% trying the chocolate and raspberry one. What’s not to love?

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I couldn’t finish without mentioning how good the refurbishment is. For somewhere that used to be dark, dingy and have Barbie-themed ladies’ toilets (not that they didn’t have a special place in my heart), the transformation is remarkable. It feels light and bright and the plethora of signed photographs on the wall is impressive to say the least! If you’re looking for somewhere new to go, then make sure you check it out. It’s by far one of the best dining experiences I’ve had outside of London.

Ratings

Food – 9/10 – I think it would have been a 10 if I’d opted for the pork belly starter.
Drinks – 10/10 – I’d like to go back and sample some cocktails, the selection of spirits behind the bar was impressive!
Service – 10/10 – can’t fault it.
Value – 9/10 – All in all it was £120 for the bill, plus we gave our waitress (who was so lovely!) a £20 cash tip; for a treat not bad at all.
Atmosphere – 9/10 – really buzzy, but not too loud i.e. we could still have a conversation!

Overall – 9.5/10

Simple things…

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Sometimes the simple things provide the most pleasure. This is definitely true of this delicious, quick and, most of all, healthy breakfast.

On mornings when I wake up hungrier than normal, I like to indulge in a nice creamy bowl of porridge. But, recently I have decided to cut down on dairy for multiple reasons.  I was worried my morning porridge would become mundane and tasteless, but I was wrong… Coconut milk (not the stuff you put in curries, but free-from milk alternative) and raspberries to the rescue!

I love raspberries an inordinate amount and decided they’d taste great cooked into porridge. I wasn’t wrong. They break down and become almost jam-like. Yum. Oh and I did I mention this recipe is vegan friendly, filling and full of goodness? Try it for yourself and see…

Ingredients

  • Organic porridge oats
  • Any milk alternative – I personally like coconut milk, but you could use soy or nut milks – plus water to cook the oats
  • Handful of raspberries per person
  • A few tablespoons of chia seeds
  • Cinnamon and agave syrup to serve

Method

  1. Cook your porridge oats as normal, with the coconut milk and water
  2. Add the raspberries and chia seeds half-way through (when the porridge begins to bubble)
  3. When it is creamy, turn off the heat and serve into bowls
  4. Sprinkle cinnamon liberally (it has many health benefits!) and squirt on agave syrup to taste (this is what keeps it vegan) – et voila, quick and delish brekkie!

 

 

Review: Jamie’s Fifteen, London

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Since the TV programme all those years ago, Fifteen has been on my hit list (I’m also a huge fan of Jamie Oliver, being from Essex it’s a given!). I love the whole premise of the place – the mission statement is printed on the menu: “All profits allow Fifteen to use the magic of food to give unemployed young people a chance to have a better future”.

As you can imagine I was really happy to get a Red Letter Day at Christmas for a “tasting menu for two at Jamie’s Fifteen”. So, me and the boyfriend went on Saturday (1st March) and I was not disappointed – the cocktails were particularly good (the marmalade was DIVINE); though the service and attention to detail was a bit disappointing.

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Anyway, on to the most important bit: the food. Unfortunately for us the first three courses on the tasting menu were fish-based and happened to be the three fish/shellfish neither of us particularly like. Although, in fairness neither of us had tried an oyster before – it was okay; but I don’t understand what the fuss is all about. Give me mussels any day.

Next the smoked anchovy with hens egg. This surprised me – I’m not a massive fan of anchovies but it was lovely, the egg was perfectly cooked and the squid ink crackers it came with were a triumph. The cured salmon with black radish and herb vinaigrette was nice, but it didn’t really float my boat. I just don’t really get why people rave about salmon it has always been at the bottom of my list when it comes to fish.

The middle dish – spelt risotto with goat curds was lovely. We practically inhaled it after three mediocre dishes beforehand. By this point we just wanted the meat to arrive, stat. And it was more than worth the wait. I thought my favorite would be the short rib, but the duck and prune cannelloni was unbelievably delicious. If I was to go again, that would certainly me my choice of main course.  I was also suitably impressed with the lovely glass of Tempranillo I had to accompany the meats (expensive though at £9 for a 175ml glass!).

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Dessert couldn’t have worked out better. He had the velvety vanilla ice-cream and I got the chocolate malt mousse which was essentially a fancy take on a Malteser. The creamiest milk chocolate mousse, topped with a malt creamy foam, burnt sugar shards and chunks of bitter dark chocolate. I scoffed the lot.

So, while it was a lovely gift the lack of attentiveness really disappointed us, when it was quite obvious any one with a Red Letter Day booking would have received it as a gift! We were seated 30 minutes late while four couples who arrived way after us got seated before us. Luckily we got two drinks knocked-off the bill, which slightly made up for it.

I accept it was a very busy Saturday night, but I think they should have offered us the tour (seeing as it was part of the deal) and given us our free prosecco on arrival. Or maybe they just shouldn’t accept Red Letter Day bookings on a Saturday night if they’re too busy to fulfill all of the deal.

So my advice to anyone who wants to try Fifteen would be, go, but don’t bother with a Red Letter Day or any other deal – you won’t get any special treatment. And you won’t get the best dishes on the menu; in fact you’ll spend your whole two hours watching rotisserie chickens go out to other tables, wishing you had one. Though the duck cannelloni is a MUST try if you go, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Ratings:

Food: 8/10
Drinks 10/10
Service: 6.5/10
Value: 7/10 – the deal was £150, I think you could have had a cheaper and better meal if you just had a normal booking
Atmosphere: 7.5/10 – nice background music (think AiM), but quite dark and the tables are VERY close together
Overall 8/10 

An ode to avocadoes

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Oh avocado, let me count the ways. My love is by no means new, but it is most definitely growing by the day. The silky, soft texture is a delight on the palate. Sometimes sweet and always buttery: it never fails to make me smile. No matter how it’s served, whether in a sandwich or salad, hot or cold, it’s all good. I’m not fussy.

So, I thought I’d share some of my favourite combos with you… If you’re not already on the bandwagon, hopefully one of these ideas will persuade you!

1)   Use slices of avocado to take a humble bacon sandwich from simply ordinary to divine… The saltiness of bacon is the perfect match for the creaminess of avocado. I would suggest some yummy spelt or granary bread (preferably homemade or from a nice bakery) or some crusty white, spread with REAL butter with half an avocado sliced up plus 2-3 rashers of smoked sweet cure bacon. Perfection.
2)   GUACAMOLE – not the weird processed stuff in a jar or a bottle, but the real, delicious, homemade concoction that takes about 5 minutes to knock up. You can use a pestle and mortar, blender or just chop into cubes, mash half and stir the other half through (if you like it chunky, otherwise mash it all up, using a fork). Any combination of ingredients can be added, depending on your personal preference. I like a lot of chili, garlic, coriander, pepper, spring onions and sometimes diced tomatoes too. It’s so good for you and goes with so many things, why not try it with fish tacos or pulled pork and a bowl of slaw.
3)   Baked. Yes, that’s right baked. It’s not something I’ve tried many times, but it is delish. Scoop out the flesh mix with ingredients of your choosing (unsurprisingly bacon featured in my trial), scatter with some cheese et voila. Half each with a little salad is a great starter – and it may be something your guests haven’t tried before!
4)   On toast. One of the quickest and most filling breakfasts of all time. You can either baked the avocado and spread it on, or my preferred method is to roughly mash half an avocado onto a piece of top, squeeze over some lemon, plus tobasco and black pepper. Perfect, every time.
5)   This list wouldn’t be complete without my ultimate favourite – avocado plus eggs; whether poached, scrambled or fried. It simply doesn’t matter. A bit of tobasco or cayenne and some black pepper doesn’t go amiss, whatever way you choose to do your eggs.

And one that I will hopefully soon be adding to this list is raw chocolate mousse… Yep avocadoes can even be used to make vegan (healthy!!) desserts. The recipe I intend to use is from Honestly Healthy, which is an alkaline diet and one of the most interesting food books – I couldn’t recommend it more!

So, there you have it. Avocadoes are simply amazing; if you’re not already a fan, try something different… you may just be converted.

Spiced banana pancakes

Spiced banana pancakes

These pancakes are my go-to delicious treat brunch. Takes less than five minutes to make the batter and three minutes to cook; what more can a girl want? I’ve had them with bacon and maple syrup and today with berry compote and creme fraiche. Banging.

The recipe is on BBC Good Food – all I had is 1/2 tsp of cinnamon and 1/4 tsp of all spice to the batter. Trust me, it’s delicious. So go on, treat yourself…it’s Friday, why the hell not.

Butternut squash and coconut soup

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When it’s cold outside, there’s nothing more satisfying than a bowl of homemade soup for lunch or dinner. This is a new-ish recipe of mine, incorporating two of my favourite things: roasted butternut squash (you could useany delicious squash!) and coconut milk. Yum. The beauty of it is you can choose which spices to use each time – you could go for Thai or Indian influences – this time I chose Carribean.

The other reason why I love this recipe is due to how little effort is required for maximum taste. Other than preparing the squash (I find using a big sushi style knife or cleaver – make sure it’s sharp – is most effective), it really doesn’t take too long.

Anyway, on to the prep… As I said, the squash is the most labour intensive part. Once you’ve got this roasting in the oven, all you need to do is sweat the onions, carrots and spices in a pan until softened, add the stock and coconut milk and make sure the seasoning is right.

When the squash is nicely cooked (after about 35-40 mins) add this to the pan, blend and taste again. Et voila! You should end up with a lovely creamy, velvety soup with flecks of chili running through it. If you wanted to make it even smoother, you could pass it through a fine sieve – I don’t have one of those, so had to settle for some minor lumps. Luckily, lumps don’t offend me.

This soup is so lovely and suitable for vegans, vegetarians and Coeliacs (as long as you make sure your stock cube is gluten and lactose free – if you decided to use Thai flavourings, make sure you use gluten free soy etc.). It would also make a nice starter at a dinner party and maybe even Christmas dinner. Let me know if you try it out! Ingredients and method are listed below. Happy cooking.

Ingredients (makes enough for 4-6 servings depending on size of your squash)

For the butternut squash:
1 butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and cut into inch size cubes (roughly!)
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground allspice
Sprinkle of ground cinnamon
½ tsp of all purpose seasoning (it has various things in it, my friend gave it to me – it’s from Jamaica!)
Sunflower oil (good coating) for roasting the squash

For the base of the soup:

1 medium white onion, diced
1-2 carrots, diced
1-2 cloves of garlic
1 red chili or scotch bonnet
½ tsp turmeric
1 tin of coconut milk
1 vegetarian stock cube (I use Kallo organic – surprisingly cheap and good!)
Fresh coriander and coconut cream or yoghurt to serve (optional)

Method

1) Preheat the oven to 180 (200 fan / gas mark 4-5)
2) Prepare your butternut squash – this takes a little while
3) Lay it out on a baking tray, sprinkle over your spices (coriander, thyme, cumin, allspice and cinnamon) and oil. Make sure the cubes are evenly coated – I use my hands to mix it up! You could do this in a bowl first but unnecessary washing up if you ask me.
4) Put in oven and bake for 35 mins.
5) While these are baking, place a big pan (I used a heavy casserole type pot that can go in the oven too!) on your smallest ring on a medium heat.
6) Add your onion, carrots, chopped chili and garlic and turmeric. Sweat till translucent/cooked through.
7) Add the stock cube and the tin of coconut milk plus a tin’s worth of water, leave to infuse with the heat off.
8) Check your butternut squash they should be cooked through and slightly caramelised; add to the pan, stir and taste the broth, checking for seasoning.
9) Next you need to blend it until nice and smooth.
10) To make it extra shiny and smooth you could pass it through a sieve and stir through some cubes of cold butter (I didn’t bother with this as the coconut milk makes it very silky and small flecks of chili etc don’t offend me!).
11) Turn the heat back on and simmer for 10 minutes or so. Taste and check seasoning it may need salt and pepper, creamed coconut etc.
12) Serve into bowls, eat and enjoy