Thursday, 30 September 2010


if it wasn't for my dear friend and patient neighbour Tracey we'd be wearing black, standing around a hole in the ground and thinking about what the future could have brought us... poor, neglected, Lucretia... damn work commitments!

... so fortunate for me that Tracey has been feeding our dear sour friend... she went into the fridge last Thursday as she had reached stage three which is a nice, bubbly, frothy consistency... and now she simply needs to be fed once a week and I can start to bake with her... just think of the joy to come... and I promise you, dear Lucretia, that I will treat you well and care for you tenderly from now on...

Saturday, 25 September 2010

best birthday ever....

I feel totally privileged and honoured that I have such wonderful friends who all gathered at The Railway Tavern with me and The Viking (who shares the same birthday as me... believe it or not!) for dinner to celebrate my 40th birthday last night...

... we had a stonking time, the food was excellent... I worked with Dawn, the landlady to design my own menu with a choice of sausage and mash, chicken and mushroom pie or roast vegetable pie, followed by a choice of syrup sponge or apple crumble both served with custard of course... oh and 2 cakes made for us by our local friend Roz...

... everyone was very merry and apart from us being 30 minutes late for our own birthday party it all just happened more perfectly than I could have wished for... oh and we both got some AMAZING gifts as well... plenty of cookbooks, including some direct from the Women's Institute so I can gen up for next years village show... some wonderful Le cruset, a marvelous silver ceramic 'mock' pie-dish and a WHOLE Lincolnshire Poacher cheese... fab!

a very late night was had by all and apart from visiting some local Alpacas I've been busy baking some cupcakes for Nigel's 50th tonight... oh YES... birthday weekend continues tonight...

the recipe for these came from my new Martha Stewart Cupcakes recipe book given to me by my lovely cousin Caroline... but I adapted them of course as I used raspberries instead of pineapple as I had been inspired by Choclette over at Chocolate Log Blog... thank you...

Mother' Day Hummingbird Cupcakes

recipe... oh who am I kidding... i'm way too tired to write out the recipe today so just look it up here

eat and of course enjoy!... oh and thank you for all your very kind birthday wishes x

Friday, 24 September 2010

40 40 40 40

Happy Birthday to me!!!!

Monday, 20 September 2010

Sausage and make-shift Mash

we're very, very tired, The Viking and I... they say that jet-lag takes one day per hour of time difference from the place you flew... so expect 8 days of moaning about fatigue... but I guess the last thing you need to hear about is how tired I am after such a wonderful holiday... and apparently there are food items I can eat to help, such as avocado... but I don't know how true this is.

So in the meantime I felt the need for the ultimate comfort food and turned to a locally made and locally reared Lincolnshire Sausage with a make-shift mash... not that the sausage was locally reared my friends, just the pig from whence it came and make-shift because all I had was a sweet-potato, a parsnip and a small cauliflower... and of course some cheaters home-made onion gravy... always a winner.

for the sausages
place in an oven-proof dish and roast in the oven until perfect

for the mash
1. once the sausages are half cooked... cut all the veg into large chunks and steam until tender
2. remove from heat and take away from the water source and let them drain for 5 mins (keep the water for the gravy)
3. place into bowl, with butter and some olive oil and whizz with the hand-held until smooth-ish
4. spoon into an oven-proof dish, season and bake in the oven until the sausages are done

for the gravy
1. finely slice a large onion
2. saute in a pan with butter until golden and caramelised
3. turn the heat up and add a glass of red wine to the onions and let it reduce
4. using the water from the veg steamer, make up just over half a pint of gravy with your favourite gravy powder and a teaspoon of bullion... I use Bisto... I can hear you but I simply don't care... i've never tasted better gravy than this...
5. add the gravy to the onions in the pan and let it almost cook like a soup for 5 minutes.
6. serve

... in the meantime I have to go down to London to do some work (i know) so I fed my sourdough pet early today.... and have entrusted her with my dear neighbour Tracey... she has named her Lucretia... I was going to have a sourdough naming competition but I feel Lucretia works rather well..., so there you go....  Hopefully once i'm back on Thursday Lucretia will have blossomed and I should have birthday bread on Friday!!... I shall update you when I know more...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Sourdough... the starter of a new relationship

... did you see what i did there?... i'm hilarious!... starter indeed!

In Part 1 of what I like to call 'food what we ate in California' I thought i'd start with a sourdough loaf.  I'm a bit dumb and keep referring to it as soda bread but this is a bread quite far from soda bread... in fact we all have to go on a little journey to make this loaf... don't panic, it's SUPER easy, it just takes a little time and love...

in basic terms you need to make a starter, which lives, like a living creature, in your fridge... for ever.  It is your fridge pet and I am told that if you treat it well, it will provide you with sourdough everyday... for ever... a little creepy... but I do believe that even though it's alive it's not going to turn into a giant amorphous blob and eat you whilst you sleep... I mean, for a start, how's it going to open the fridge from the inside...?

... let us rewind one moment to Boudin's Sourdough bakery on Fishermans Wharf in San Francisco where we sampled some fabulous, if not quirky sourdough... they've been baking since 1849 with the original 'mother dough' kept in a safe...

... let us begin... i'm going to do this step by step, so we can all feed the starter together, in real time...

... and all we need to do in stage one is add one cup of warm water to one cup of strong white bread flour, place it in a wide mouthed glass jar, cover loosely with a lid so the air can still get in, (one of those rubber-necked jars is good) put it in a warm place and leave it to work its magic for 24 hours... no yeast should be needed... you make this with 'air-yeast'... but you can add a little yeast if you feel the urge (although sourdough purists will turn their noses up at you.)

... this recipe is also excellent because it gives me an excuse to use my fabulous new Matryoshka Dolls measuring cups!... are these not the MOST genius things for the kitchen you ever did see?  i picked them up a quant little shop in Cambria on our road trip and i've been dying to show them to you and use them in a recipe... these totally fulfill my design/work ethic of fierce design and absolute functionality... i needed some measuring cups... they look fabulous... I bought them... no better algebra!

... for those of you who may not be able to keep up with the daily blog... stage 2 tomorrow involves throwing half the starter away and adding half a cup of fresh flour and half a cup of warm water... you continue to feed it this way every 24 hours until it begins to bubble and smell like beer... this can take up to a week or as little time as 3 days... and then your starter is done.  Again... I am told the culture you are growing here is next to impossible to kill, other than baking it... the only thing that may appear odd is an occasional brown liquid which settles on the top... this can simply be stirred back into the mix.

At this point you transfer it to the fridge and continue to feed it only once a week... and of course we can also start to cook with it... but let's not get ahead of ourselves shall we?

... see you tomorrow for the first feed.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Sonoma part 3 - coming home

... last day of the holiday always looms like the last Sunday evening before a new school year... it helps a bit when there's a lovely swimming pool and the Californian sun beating down on you but it's painful none the less.

our last evening was spent at a picnic at the Sonoma market, a weekly ritual for Sonoma locals who gather on the lawns of the village square, surrounded by fabulous fresh produce market stalls and a live band serenading our sandwiches... they just do Farmers Markets so well and oh so enticing!

we took our own sandwiches but for desert bought these delicious apple and blackberry galettes from one of the market stalls, they were very simple wrapped pastry tarts with a struesel topping... totally scrummy.

... and of course we could leave town without visiting the infamous Sonoma Dog Bakery for some 'pupcakes' for little Miss Golightly...

... it was a great holiday, with many lovely memories of many wonderful days, great meals with the best people... and I will take a lot of ideas back to the kitchen with me... soda bread, tomato galette, the perfect omelette, and not forgetting the basic but oh so American stacked sandwich!

... time to start cooking...

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Sonoma part 2 - wine tasting Sonoma style

I know as a foodie, I should be more into wine than I am but there's an ugly snobbery to the wine world that I find alienating and I've always thought that if you like something, that should be good enough... it takes a certain amount of OCD to truly appreciate which grape from which region and which year produces what kind of taste... it's all too much like mathematics for me...  and being drunk shouldn't be such hard work!

... however... I know what I like and armed with a little knowledge I can happily ask for a Pinot Grigio without blushing (there's a joke in there somewhere...)

the tasting table

... so it was with amusement and slight trepidation that The Viking and I accepted an invite with my Dad and Jette to go to their monthly wine tasting / gathering of friends as we knew the wines being tasted this month were red, which we both dislike...

Jette's tomato and leek galette

... it's a great way for friends to gather... a different host home each month... each invited couple brings food and also a bottle of the chosen grape.  This month the wines were Pinot Noir from Russian River Valley... the bottles are wrapped in foil to disguise their labels and then the blind tasting begins... obviously this is all done in the most laid-back Californian style... outside on the terrace in the fading warmth of the Sonoma night... we all had to sample the wine and then make written comments plus choose our favourite, runner up and least favourite... they had also hidden a French wine in the mix to throw us off the scent.

... some of us emptied our glasses into the central spittoon... you can tell by the volume of the spittoon how much wine went around the table... others drank each glass... we were all sozzled!

...of course I was more interested in the food... our host Charlotte had prepared two jumbo shrimp dishes which were delicious, plus there were some stunning cheeses and Jette made a tomato and sauteed leek galette which was delightful...

... all in all we met some lovely people and it was a thoroughly excellent way to be introduced into the world of Sonoma wine.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Sonoma part 1

Sonoma is a town about 40 miles north of San Francisco... my dad lives here with my step-mum Jette, brother Max and sister Matti...oh and not forgetting the Esther Williams of the dog world, Lilly the Golden Retriever... they live in one of those perfect, white picket fence type houses that you only ever see in the movies, except they live here for real and it all really does exist... its all very Martha Stewart meets Desperate Housewives... it's totally lovely...

... it's also famous for being part of Northern California's Wine Country... a big super-bonus!

... they also have fruit wot grows on trees wot we only get in supermarkets...

I love the fact that wherever you go in the world they have their local fruit trees... and what may seem totally exotic to us is really rather ordinary to them... but kiwi's... on trees... hanging over the swimming pool!... and peaches that you think... 'ooh, I fancy a peach' and open the front door, reach out, pluck a peach from a tree and eat it... and it tastes of peach and I mean PEACH!!!.... bliss.


Friday, 10 September 2010

welcome to Gilroy... Garlic Capital of the World

... so we're driving up the Pacific Coast Highway from LA to San Francisco and we blow a tyre... all very exciting, particularly when Jane, the very small but bossy lady who lives in the Sat Nav directs us to the nearest Auto Repair place which just happens to be in a nowhere town called Gilroy, home of Garlic World (a museum dedicated to the garlic) and the cutest mural proclaiming that Gilroy is indeed the Garlic Capital of the World... how profoundly perfect for a food blogger... did we stay to look around and discover Garlic World and all it had to offer?.... did we hell...

... previous to this we stopped at the quantest town in the world (my moniker, not theirs)... a place called Cambria...

... it's a very small town split in half by the PCH... on one side it has the beach and about 10 streets of delightful, wood-clad houses, all rambling up the side of the hill and all with the most incredible views of the coast and on the other side is Main Street which has a row of quant little Bed and Breakfast homes and chocolate-box style restaurants and cafes and a smattering of galleries and shops offering delightful and charming quirky gifts and home-made goods, such as Linn's who serve locally grown and baked on the premises, Olallieberry pies....(FYI the Olallieberry is a cross between a loganberry and a youngberry... it looks like a giant loganberry and tastes devine!) ... and The Garden Shed where Abner the cat sat proud amongst the whimsical signs and antiquated plant pots...

... the local architecture is American Victorian which essentially means all the houses look like they're made from gingerbread and anything new built has to blend in... including the car wash!

... we stayed a couple of nights and ate really well, particularly at the Italian restaurant where I had a huge bowl of pasta and meatballs that was so fabulously a perfect representation of traditional american food and quite frankly delicious.

... it was hard to say goodbye to the delights of Cambria but we had to continue our drive up the PCH towards San Francisco... the PCH hugs the coast as it climbs up and down through nature reserves and pine forests... passing little towns such as Carmel and San Simeon as well as larger cities such as Monterey... we've done the drive before but never in such misty conditions... they've had a bad summer on the west coast this year and we've been through a lot of it!

... the first time we did this drive, about 10 years ago, we happened across a wonderful restaurant called Nepenthe, in Big Sur... this redwood, hand-built building, erected in the 50's is a place of folklore and legend, with tales of hippies, film stars, artists and food... 'Nepenthe' in Greek means 'Isle of no care' and it truly is a place to stop, to dream and to lift a cup of kindness...

.... shrouded in mist, with (when visible) stunning views of the ocean, I liken it more to the mythical town of Brigadoon which appears only once every hundred years... it holds a special place in my heart, as the second time we did the drive we couldn't find the place... but this time we did and i'm so glad we re-discovered their HUGE basket of fench fries!  (on our first visit I had just finished a year on the dreaded Atkins diet and these were the first potatoes I had eaten since I had lost 2 stone... so you can imagine how much I enjoyed them!...)

... this visit I had their special of the day which was a roast brisket sandwich with a red-cabbage coleslaw... oh so packed with that intense brisket beef flavour... and  The Big V had the Vegetarian Burger, a clever grilled tofu pattie, served with all the trimmings... it truly was one of the best meals we've eaten and we savoured every moment...

... it was after this lunch stop-over that we blew our tyre and had the mini visit to Gilroy... it was then on to San Francisco for a very brief day and night of more food and fun... dinner and even more pie at The Grove restaurant in Pacific Heights and a funky manga themed hotel in Japan Town called Tomo

blackberry pie at The Grove

... we also visited the infamous Fisherman's Wharf.... totally tacky but well worth the visit... the Americans really seem to know how to do the tourist stuff well, everything is so perfectly 'disneyfied' from the boardwalk to the quant chocolate shops... but even the sandwich emporiums and food they have to offer are better quality than we would do it in the UK... Boudin's, famous for it's sourdough, whilst packed with tourists, was still baking fresh bread on the premises (in the shape of sea creatures) and its clam chowder in a bread bowl looked very tempting!... and finally the sun came out too! 

what a cool and clever way to serve take out

love this... only in America!

boudin bakery lobster sourdough

The final part of our road trip begins today as we're off to visit my dad and family... it's wine country so i'm off to stock up on hangover pills now!

Monday, 6 September 2010

'i've made you a STAR man... i've made you a STAR!'

... or so said Erik the really cool surfer-dude at Rudy's Barber Shop on Main Street in Santa Monica, who cut my hair last week... and he totally did... best looking hair I've ever had.

... he also told me of some great places to visit and more importantly made some wonderful suggestions for places to eat... an insiders view of any city is always worth listening to and this guy was no exception, plus he was so totally amazing looking I think I would have taken his advice had he told me to eat at McDonald's!

... I guess this holiday could be split into three, so seeing that this first portion of the trip is coming to an end I thought I'd find the time to up-date you all on our fabulous Californian vacation... so whilst I sit here in the lobby of The Delfina in Santa Monica at 7am in the morning I am reminded of some of the highlights...

... it mainly revolves around breakfast... they just do it so well... and with so many options... and it's so filling... eggs come fried (sunny side up or over-easy), scrambled or as an omelet (egg white only, should you be so inclined)... bread comes white, sour-dough, rye, wheat... and you know, I'm the kind of guy that has to try it all... I swear to god my stomach is hanging ever so slightly larger than this time last week!

eggs Benedict at The Figtree

... we discovered The Fig Tree cafe the first time we were fortunate enough to come here for work and it's remained a favourite for breakfast ever since... and what's not to love?... situated on the beachfront in Venice, it's a short stroll past the crazy LA morning joggers, roller-bladers, surfer-dudes, hippies, muscle queens and general madness that is Venice to this breakfast joint that comes with a Mexican twist.  Omelets are served with a chili sauce and all the food comes with spicy fried potatoes...

... other highlights include a stunning birthday dinner at The Little Door, a French/Moroccan restaurant where I had a succulent roasted duck leg which was, quite literally to die for!... Toast, a very trendy little spot in Hollywood where I had a splendid Cob Salad.... the Intelligentsia Cafe which served the MOST pretentious (but delicious) coffee I've ever drunk anywhere in the world, served by the MOST pretentious staff in the world... ever... and we can't forget the pretzel pizzas at 3 Squared, situated on our new favourite street Abbot Kinney.

I love the styling and shape of this lemonade bottle
plus the bottle top (see above) has the coolest message

coffee from intelligentsia

pretentious... moi?

We also had an impromptu mezze at the home of our dear friend Danelle (and her lovely partner Ken)... a simple dish of Goats Cheese served with a sliced cured meat, some delicious heirloom tomatoes, salted and dripping with olive oil and some incredible ricotta buffalo mozzarella... this dish has totally inspired me and I will be serving and blogging this on my return to the UK.

cake stands anyone?

Clearly there's too much to go into in one post so I will leave some of the details till I return... next on our tour is the road trip up the coast to San Fran... we plan to stay in some cute B and B's en-route and I'll report back once we're eating somewhere fabulous on the road!

until then, wish my stomach good luck!



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