Thursday, 29 April 2010

a little bit about Lincolnshire

I thought i'd write a little bit about Lincolnshire, as a way to ground my blog in a time and place.

For those of you who are map-deficient or even those of you who tend to get nose bleeds anywhere north of Camden Town, Lincolnshire is the UK's second largest county (was the largest until a few grumpy people in Humberside (quite...) decided they wanted their own county and Lincolnshire was unceremoniously split at The Humber.  Should you chose to look for us on a map you'll find us in the middle and to the east of the country, above Norfolk.  There is no major motorway (a blessing and a curse) yet boasts the most caravan sites and static caravans in the UK!

It's one of those county's that tends to get ignored by the media and therefore the general public have a very sketchy idea of it... if we get mentioned by the weatherman during the news, we usually tend to whoop and holler at the television and call all our relatives!

Most peoples perception of Lincolnshire is flat arable farm-land and whilst this is true to a certain extent there is a large unspoilt hilly area that stretches up the county known as The Lincolnshire Wolds (a wold is a hill in old English.)  Belleau is a small hamlet nestled in the wolds, not far from a beautiful market town called Louth.

Lincolnshire boasts many famous sons and daughters and landmarks... (too many to name here but I will quickly mention John Smith, one of the founding forefathers of America, Jennifer Saunders, Alfred Lord Tennyson and Isaac Newton....)  and the capital of the county is Lincoln which has the most incredible cathedral, identical to Westminster Abbey and was in fact used as a double for the Abbey during the filming of The Da Vinci Code.  Lincoln also has a medieval castle and the fabulous Steep Hill, which, as the name suggests is a steep cobbled street that run's from the new shopping area at the bottom, up to the older part of the town with the Cathedral at the top and is lined with quant shops and tea-rooms.

We also have some of the most incredible, clean, quiet and large beaches in the UK which stretch from Skegness in the south up to Cleethorpes in the north.

When I first came to Lincolnshire I had no preconceptions about what I would find but I didn't expect to fall totally in love with the place.  It's funny because it's not chocolate-box pretty like Devon or the Cotswolds yet there are some vistas that take your breath away.

As far as food goes you definitely get the feel that it is working, farming land... in fact I believe that Lincolnshire produces the highest percentage of the UK's vegetables and we also have one of Europe's largest fishing ports in Grimsby, our cattle is noted for it's fine beef and lamb, we have plenty of fresh trout rivers and we even have Ostrich farms, yet although we're surrounded by all this incredible fresh produce there is nothing here like the food culture that has grown up around the southern counties.  I guess this is good old working class stock; food is fuel.  It has taken a while (and an influx of Southern posh types) for the food landscape to change... and change it has!  In the 12 or so years i've been coming here Lincolnshire has come out of it's shy, work-a-day boots and stepped out into the sun to show off in all it's glory.  We now have The Taste of Lincolnshire scheme, which celebrates great, locally sourced produce and encourages restaurants, pubs and shops to stock items it endorses.

We have local working windmills grinding organic flour, gastro pubs, tea rooms and celebrity chefs to rival the best the UK has to offer... and this is why I love it here.

It is unspoilt and every day i feel like i'm discovering something new and wonderful... I am totally enchanted and if I can share just a little of this with you then i'm happy.

Monday, 26 April 2010

wobbly fairy cakes for Ruth's 81st birthday

Today it's Ruth's birthday and I felt I needed to find the time to squeeze in a little Belleau Kitchen home baking and make her some light and fluffy fairy cakes.  I made a classic butter icing with cocoa powder in some and pink food colouring in the other!

Ruth is amazing... she the most senior of citizens in our little hamlet, yet she's still as sprightly as the rest of us up here.  She wouldn't let a double hip replacement get in her way and a couple of years ago she was up and about in double time...  She's a good friend to all and last year we celebrated her big 80th with a garden party up at the Manor House, we had such a laugh and she was the life and soul of the party!

She has a very sweet tooth and will polish these off by herself, today... let there be no doubt!

For the cakes:

120g butter at room temperature
120g caster sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
half a teaspoon vanilla extract
120g self-raising flour

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas mark 3. 
Line a 12-hole cupcake pan with paper cases. (I couldn't find my cupcake pan as you can see they are all wobbly...)
Using a  food processor or a good old fashioned bowl and wooden spoon cream the butter and  sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla extract.
Gradually add the eggs with a little flour and beat until smooth.
Divide the mixture equally between the paper cases.
Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and springy to the touch.

For the icing:

125g butter at room temperature
250g icing sugar
2 teaspoons hot milk
flavourings, toppings and colourings of your choice

Beat the butter in a bowl until light and fluffy then stir in the icing sugar, milk and colouring / flavouring until smooth.

Eat and of course, enjoy!

Sweet-Potato Dahl

Believe it or not this was my first proper home-made Indian dish...  and I suppose it's not really Indian but it was interesting to make and tasted delicious... and anyway, it had all my favourite ingredients in it, so how could it go wrong?

The house filled with the most fragrant and exotic aromas and our mouths were watering well before it was ready!

In fact I've never even cooked lentils before, which some of you may find a big surprise seeing that The Viking is a vegetarian, but he's always preferred the fake meat type foods, rather than the hippie dippie type of affair... give him the choice between a tofu burger and a 'fake beast' burger and he'll go for Linda every time! For him there's nothing worse than the nasty tomato baked goo that most veggies get offered these days... and don't get him started on Goat's Cheese... but that's another story for another time.

anyhoo, the lentils, i think, collapsed on me rather too much but they still tasted great, I just need to get the hand of not over boiling them...

Here's what and how:

1 medium onion - chopped or sliced
4 sticks of spring onion - sliced
handful of mushrooms - sliced
1 small red chilli
fresh ginger - grated
2 cloves garlic

garam masala - freshly made or store bought...but let's face it, make it from fresh, it's so easy!)

90g of red lentils
half a bag of fresh spinach

4 sweet potatoes

First cut the sweet potatoes into wedges, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in the oven on high for at least 30mins, until sticky and crisp.

In a casserole dish or a pan, fry the onions in plenty of butter and olive oil, until translucent, then add the finely chopped chilli, ginger and garlic, and sweat till tender, then add the garam masala and coat the whole lot together, keep the heat low so as not to burn and let the spices mellow into the onions...

Add the mushrooms to the mix and with the lid on and again a very low heat, let them sweat in all the juices.

Meanwhile prepare the lentils as per the instructions on the packet.  I added some hot chilli powder to mine as it boiled, which gave it an extra kick!

Once the lentils are ready add the spinach to them and with a lid on and the heat off, let them wilt into the pot.  Then add the lentils to the onion mix and stir it all together to create a fragrant and scrumptious Dahl.

To serve, spoon the dahl into a bowl and place the roasted sweet potatoes onto the top, with some fresh coriander to finish.

eat and of course, enjoy!

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Strawberries and Goosberries

We finished building the lesser great fence of Belleau yesterday... well I say 'we' but in fact The Viking and I pretty much shouted at each other for 4 hours and it wasn't until Nigel, our lovely neighbour, came home, that the fence actually went up!  More about the fence another day...

I planted a pot of Strawberries and a pot with a Goosberry bush in it, which is very exciting as i've grown neither before.

I have seen a couple of very tasting recipes using both in pies and jams so it'll be something to look forward to...

Thinking about making a curry tonight... watch this space.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Sweetcorn Chowder and crusty loaf

Memories of The Ivy at the shore in Santa Monica... the sun is glorious again today and i've been working on the upper terrace, we're in 'new business' mode at The Persuaders and i'm furiously sending out our show-reel to prospective clients (you have been warned...)

We're also working on the front garden, which The Viking is turning into a cottage garden (was originally a very dull basic lawn) and we're digging a little picket fence in for the flowers to clamber over.

The veg that I planted a couple of weeks ago are starting to show signs of life... well the radish are shooting but that's it... still it's an exciting hint at the glory to come...!

Meanwhile dreaming of sweet and unctuous (sorry to use this word again) sweetcorn chowder.

Looks a bit pale and insipid in this photo but it is a lovely pale yellow, like a bowl of Spring.

It's my recipe, inspired by Sophie Dahl.

1 medium onion - chopped
3 sticks celery - chopped
4 small potatoes - chopped
half a leek - chopped (just had it in the fridge - not in original recipe)
lemon thyme
3 cups of frozen sweetcorn (or fresh cut from the cob if your local supermarket can be bothered!)

Saute all the veg (except for the sweetcorn) in a large soup pan with the lemon thyme...
put the lid on and sweat until tender (10mins)
add the sweetcorn and sweat again for a further 5mins
add the stock and simmer gently with the lid on for 20 mins

then part blitz with a hand blender... you want some bits in it.

Serve with a home made crusty loaf

eat and of course enjoy...

A full English... in honour of St George

Veggie sausages and veggie bacon for The Viking but other than that, glorious scrambled eggs, beans and mushrooms.... the perfect dragon slaying starter to any day!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Delicious plans for the week ahead...

I've been inspired by the Delicious Miss Dahl on the TV tonight... she beautifully cooked up some 'escapism' food, the type of food that took her away from the humdrum of life to her past... or holidays...

she has such a wonderfully languid approach to her style of cooking and whilst it does slightly come across a little contrived, I suppose that's all part of the entertainment... anyway it got me hooked and i've been thinking about the type of food I like to escape to... my grandma's green soup... my mum's chocolate roulade...  breakfast on the balcony in Puerto Pollensa... margaritas in Sonoma... Alejandro's 7 course gastronomic feast in Almeria... sweet sticky ribs in Aspen... the list goes on...

However, I think i'll start tomorrow with a simple sweet-corn chowder, inspired by Miss Dahl's Clam Chowder... it reminds me of a bizarre night at The Ivy in Santa Monica with friends...

I ordered the chowder, which, of course came in a huge bowl, (so I was truly stuffed even before my main course came) followed by the 'fish and chips' which, in true Californian style, was EVERY type of fish that ever was, deep fried and served with french fries... halfway through the meal, our dear friend Susie got a call from her son to say that her dog had just died, so we spent the rest of this surreal evening consoling her on Santa Monica pier, with the lights of the ferris wheel sparkling in the background and the sweet and marvelous taste of the chowder still in my memory... (i'll leave out the bit about a certain someone crouching down to a squat and peeing in the sand...)

Anyway, mouth is watering... recipe coming tomorrow with pics...

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Roast Chicken with Rhubarb

part of the complicated skills of being an event producer means that I have to research potential clients... this week its a publication group and whilst researching their top titles, I found this interesting recipe in Good Housekeeping magazine! (yes ladies and gents, I am slowly turning into Delia Smith...)

what a chore.. poor me...

it fits nicely with rhubarb day, although it may seem bizarre, i'm hoping it turns out nice and sweet, in a Moroccan type of way...

the recipe in the magazine suggested roasting joints of chicken seasoned with salt and pepper for 30 mins, then adding sugar sprinkled slices of rhubarb for a further 15mins...clearly i've adapted this slightly.

i roasted my chicken with slices of onion and celery, the celery has the same texture as the rhubarb and the subtle aniseed flavour comes out and compliments the rhubarb perfectly.

eat... and of course, enjoy!

Rhubarb and Plum jam crumble

totally the most glorious day of the year so far... don't know if it's to do with the lack of air traffic but the sky is blue blue blue!

I'm working outside today, preparing a massive presentation for some important new (hopefully) clients on Monday.  The Viking is gardening like a madman and Holly Golightly is shadow bathing, slowly following the shadows around the garden... she looks up occasionally to make sure we haven't forgotten it may be time for her dinner... and I suddenly had the urge to cook (not that I need an excuse of course.)

our lovely neighbour Tracey has an abundance of rhubarb, so i'm going to try two recipes, one traditional and one slightly off to the left...

The traditional is a crumble. (recipe below)  I love the really tart, sharpness of the rhubarb combined with the sticky sweetness of the jam and sugar.  I like to eat mine cold with cream but I know most people like it hot with custard. (common eating culture can't be helped here...I even had a discussion with Russell last week about how common he thought tiramasu is... something about it being on every menu in every restaurant and only common people order it thinking they're being exotic!)

The non traditional dish is chicken with rhubarb... but more of that later...

here's the recipe for the crumble:

under the crumble:
4 stick of lovely Tracey's rhubarb (just pop round... she'll happily let you pick some...)
3 tablspoons of sugar
3 tablespoons of homemade plum jam
1 table spoon of honey

the crumble:
8oz plain flour (you could use wholemeal)
3oz butter
4oz brown sugar
bag of mixed nuts (optional) roughly chopped up using a handheld whizzer

So easy to make cos I don't pre cook the rhubarb...what's the point?... you just end up with stewed fruit and I like it when the rhubarb still has some bite and holds its shape.

slice the rhubarb into chunks place it in a large bowl and add the sugar, jam and honey and then mix it all up. (you could add any combination of jams or fruit (raspberries are an excellent bedfellow with rhubarb)

place the mixture into your crumble dish.

now rub the butter into the flour... but not too much, leave it a bit lumpy and then add the sugar and nuts.

spoon the crumble onto the rhubarb and press down firmly so the whole thing is nice and packed in tight.

bake in the oven on 180 until golden brown (30-45mins)

and of course, enjoy!

Rhubarb Day in Belleau Kitchen

recipes coming shortly... just got to cook it all first!

Friday, 16 April 2010

Dom's folded spinach and mushroom quiche pie thingy

Better name coming soon...

Friends, who will remain nameless, were supposed to come for the weekend and I had lots of cooking planned...but they cancelled at the last minute due to a weird brain/diary i've got all this stuff to make. The Viking and I will just have to endure...

Well... this was supposed to be a spinach and feta filo pie but because our 'local' supermarkets don't believe anyone would want to bake with filo pastry unless its Christmas, I had to improvise, i'm not that keen on feta, so I've adapted my mum's fabulous quiche recipe which uses cottage cheese and eggs and have come up with this...

I made my shortcrust pastry and after 30 mins in the fridge I rolled it out and grated cheese onto it, folded it and grated more cheese and carried on this way until it became light and airy.

Here's the ingredients for the pie:

1 medium onion - finely chopped
1 medium leek - finely chopped
handful of mushrooms - sliced
bag of spinach

1 tub of cottage cheese (I know this ingredient may sound bizarre but believe me it has a sourness that is welcome and the lumps melt away once it's cooked...)
2 eggs - beaten

s&p and rosemary

So, make your pastry and place it in the fridge. (refer to someone you love for the recipe)

Next, in a deep pan (one you have a lid for) saute the onions and leeks in butter, then when soft add the mushrooms and saute till tender.  Add salt and plenty of pepper.  Then add the whole bag of spinach and place the lid on the pan with the heat down, so the spinach can wilt.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, add the cottage cheese to the beaten the eggs and mix together.  Once the veg have cooled slightly, add them to the eggs and cheese and stir it all up.

Roll out your pastry (do the grated cheese thing if you fancy - I used strong cheddar but you could use gruyere which would be marvelous...or just keep it plain) and place it into a well greased flan or pie dish.  Make sure the pastry is about twice the size of the dish because once you add the mixture, you want to fold the excess pastry back onto the pie, to create a folded lid.

Brush with beaten egg and bake in the oven for 20 - 30 mins.

Let it cool and set slightly before you eat....I'm serving it with an oven roasted tomato salad...

...then send pics of you eating it to those poor fools with the brain/diary thingy... ha!

Monday, 12 April 2010

pea soup

working from home today so needed something green to keep the creative juices flowing... (well, how else do you expect an international event producer to keep on his toes?)

This soup took less time to make than if I had to go to the homogenised high-street shops and buy a sandwich or 'home-made' soup plus of-course it means I know exactly what went into it!

ive used leek and celery but I would normally add carrots but The Viking fed the last of the carrots to the donkeys this morning! I guess you could use any variation of veg.

some butter and olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 leek, finely chopped
3 sticks of celery, finely chopped
3 cups of frozen garden peas
2 pints of veg stock

on a low heat melt the butter and oil in the pan and saute the onions first till translucent.
then add the leek and celery and put the lid on the pan whilst the veg sweat for 5 mins.
add salt and pepper and let them sweat for a further 5 mins.
add the peas and the stock and then turn the heat up to medium with the lid on for 20 mins.
blitz with a handheld and serve with some freshly chopped basil and a swirl of cream (or if it's a lovely hot day, put it in the fridge and serve cold later...)

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Breakfast for Suzie and Jet

So i didn't officially 'make' anything for the donkey's but they came to the back fence to say hi, so I fed them a carrot each for breakfast.

Earlier, The Viking noticed that Suzie (the brown one with the funky fringe) was laying down in the field and all the jackdaws were standing on her, pecking at her. It was rather disturbing as she's very old and was unwell when she was rescued from her life carrying children up and down the beach at Mablethorpe... but she suddenly stood up and walked away... clearly it's exhausting being a rescue donkey and she just needed a lie down.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Brunch with Sarah and Si

Over indulgence last night plus an impromptu visit from Sarah and Si meant a delayed breakfast at 2pm... not that we ever need an excuse to eat brinner (breakfast for dinner) it is after-all the best and most important meal of the day.

Scrambled eggs, mushrooms, bacon, beans.. the works. All eaten outside on the upper terrace, taking in the views...bliss!

Friday, 9 April 2010

Chicken Risotto Casserole

This is a favourite because it's so easy to make, cheap and so tasty...

I make it a lot but it's nice and healthy and hearty and it works all year round; in the winter its warming and unctuous with winter veg and melting chicken juices oozing into the globes of pearly rice... and in the summer I add wedges of lemon to the dish which pep the whole thing up making it zingy and alive with flavours.

We spent the day widening the boarders in the front garden to create more of a cottage garden look, so we're both knackered and well deserved of this delicious grub.

Again, a veggie version for The Viking. Just substituted the chicken for some Quorn fillets and i'm using white wine and a Bouillon vegetable stock for both anyway...

Ingredients: (all rough's how you like it)

4 x Chicken Thighs (or veggie substitute)
2 carrots
2 onions
3 sticks of celery
frozen peas
olive oil / s&p
glass of white wine
good risotto rice (arborio or similar)
veg stock

- roughly chop all the veg and place in a casserole dish or pie dish, season and drizzle with oil, lay the chicken thighs on top and season again.
- cover and roast for 30 mins or till tender.
- remove foil and add a pint of stock and roast for a further 15mins
- add a handful of rice and roast again until rice is al dente (25mins?)

I throw a handful of frozen peas in at the end to freshen it all up.


Thursday, 8 April 2010

weird banana scone cakes

The Viking insisted on something sweet at 9:30pm ... who am I to deny him? So I rustled up these strange banana scones. Same recipe as before but just add a mashed banana instead of the sultanas or raisins. They come out quite gloopy so just cut them into shapes (the cookie cutter wont work here) but they turn out lovely once they're been baked.

They smell AMAZING... warm sweet banana, they taste intensely sweet but light.

Belleau Kitchen becomes Belleau Garden...

planted the veg out today...

what a glorious spring day, fabulous sunshine all day! Took Holly down to the bluebell wood for a walk (bluebells not out yet) and then onto the local for lunch (does our world revolve around food?) and then onto the garden centre to pick up some natty new containers.

We've used peat-free organic compost and i've added some veg plant food so hopefully we'll get a bumper crop like last year.

I've planted 2 types of miniature salad leaves, radish, beetroot, carrots and spring onions...can't wait.

Last year we roasted the beetroot in balsamic vinegar, rosemary and olive oil and they kept in the fridge for weeks, chopping them up and adding them to salads. With the carrots we made soup. The salad leaves went on for weeks and weeks and I cannot begin to tell you about the wonderful satisfaction of growing your own... delicious!

Monday, 5 April 2010

Easter Monday chicken casserole

we were so hungry I forgot to photograph the food!

Essentially it was a chicken casserole with carrots, onions, swede and cauliflower. So easy to make with free-range thighs and legs (nice and cheap and the most tasty bit of the bird.)

Just chop everything up nice and chunky, a slug of olive oil, some rosemary and garlic and s & p and then roast in the oven for an hour or so. I poured in a glass of white wine and a little stock and covered in foil for the first half hour.

I made a veggie version for The Viking (i like alliteration in my food) which was exactly the same but I chopped up cauldron veggie sausages instead of the chicken... so easy.

Served with roast potatoes and steamed cabbage..mmmmmm everyone happy!

Second Loaf

This one came out so much better, it tasted sweet and slightly cakey... I used olive oil instead of butter and I added egg to the milk, so the whole thing came out like a challa bread, which was very nice... toasted up a treat!

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Scones for Sheila's 80th

Here's the recipe... it's Delia's, which may be a little dull but it's fail-safe every time. The trick is not to roll the dough out too thin, in fact i keep it to the thickness off the pastry cutter and then they always rise perfectly...

i'm making 40 mini ones, so doubling the recipe.

8oz (225g) self raising flour (organic from the Alford 5 sailed windmill)
1 1/2 oz (40g) butter or marg at room temp (using butter today... i'm sure the old dear can take it!)
1 1/2 tablesppons caster sugar
handfull of raisins
pinch salt
5 fl oz milk (skimmed)

put flour and salt in bowl, work the butter into it until it's like breadcrumbs, then add the sugar and raisins and stir it up, add the milk bit by bit, stirring with a knife. (I never use all the milk... I think Delia likes her scones sticky?) Once it's all together, get your hands in and form a dough. (bowl should be clean from flour after this stage) You should do this quickly and lightly (with a song in your heart)

Then pat out onto a floured board and cut into little scones and bake for 15 mins or until golden on 220c (although my crappy oven only goes up to 200c... but it's never failed me yet!)

ta da!...

Friday, 2 April 2010

My First Loaf

Friday 2nd April 2010 and it's Good Friday.

A perfect long weekend to bake.

So as an intro to my kitchen I decided to bake a plaited loaf, something i've never done before... sure i've got a breadmaker and it makes amazing bread, but to truly christen the blog and the start of this new venture I thought i'd go for something i've never done!

I bought the flour from our local windmill, it's organic and ground on site, not 4 miles from my kitchen!

Here's the recipe and photo's of the result:

Preparation: 35 minutes, plus rising Cooking: 35-40 minutes

Makes 1 loaf

15g butter

290ml milk

15g fresh yeast

1 teaspoon caster sugar

450g strong white flour

1 medium egg, beaten milk to glaze

1 Melt the butter in the milk in a small pan. Cool until tepid. Cream the yeast and sugar together in a small bowl.

2 Sift the flour into a large bowl with 1 teaspoon salt and make a well in the centre. Mix together the butter, milk, egg and yeast and pour into the well. Quickly mix together to form a soft but not too sticky dough.

3 Turn on to a lightly floured worktop and knead for 10-15 minutes until smooth and elastic. Put into a clean, very lightly oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave in a warm place for about 1 hour until doubled in size.

4 Heat the oven to 200ºC (180ºC fan oven) gas mark 6. Divide the dough into three pieces. Knead, then roll each piece into a sausage shape about 10cm long.

5 Put two pieces parallel to each other and the third across, threading it under the left hand piece and over the right-hand. Starting from the middle, plait one end, then turn over and plait the other end. Tuck in the ends and put on a lightly greased baking sheet. Cover and leave to rise for 15 minutes.

6 Brush with milk and bake for 25 minutes until the loaf is golden and sounds hollow when tapped on the base. Cool on a wire rack.

If you can't get hold of fresh yeast, use 2 teaspoons fast-action dried yeast and stir into the flour before adding liquid.



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