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Naples vegetable market

On Monday our plan is to embark on a Hugh F-W style meat-free month.  Armed with my trusty River Cottage Everyday Veg and numerous other recipe books and ‘old favourites’ I am quite looking forward to a meat-free month.  I’m not sure the same goes for my husband.

For most of my life I didn’t eat meat – I ate fish, and ate meat politely at other people’s houses, but at home we never had meat.  My mom claims it’s because I refused to eat meat as a child that they stopped eating it, but it’s all I’ve really known.

homegrown vegetables

Pop a steak in front of me and I’m not quite sure what to do with it, nor do I enjoy the taste or texture.  I have always had a weakness for bacon and cured meats like salami.  As a teenager boyfriends were also a sticking point which as a result I began to eat and try more kinds of meat.  I am at an unhappy place recently, however, where I struggle to think or dream up a meal which doesn’t contain a hint of meat, usually crispy bits of bacon.

But I don’t want to be like that, I don’t think I will ever stop eating meat or fish, but I want to eat them in small quantities and of the best quality and provenance when I do.  I certainly don’t want to continue in this default setting of adding a hint of something meaty to most dishes.

winter veg stir fry

So, like a number of people, I have been inspired by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to try and have a meat-free month.  I am really quite excited about it and have been busy tagging recipes we can try.  I also have a number of firm favourites that we have been eating recently, so I will defintiely be eating lots of them.

I am hoping to try hard to document every meal we eat, at least I’m hopefully one meal a day I can capture with a picture and share here.  If anyone else is trying this out (my lovely friend Caroline started at the beginning of January) I’d love to hear how you’re getting on and if you have any recipes to recommend.

It seems unlikely that I’ll be making cheese this year.  Perhaps not one for my New Year’s Resolution list, with barely enough time to do all the things I’ve already committed myself to, I think cheese making will stay firmly as a long term ‘to do’.

I have, however, been enjoying reading this blog by somebody who does have the time to make homemade cheese – and I’m extremely jealous.  I can also dream of the day when I might have the time…!

If, unlike me, you have plenty of time to spare, and cheesemaking takes your fancy, this blog is the place to start.  They’ve been making everything from blue cheese to ricotta, Cheddar to halloumi, and even Camembert style cheese!  Plus they give loads of details on how to do it yourself.

Image: the handyface blog

I have just created a brand new Recipe Index for the blog to help people find the recipes they want – and hopefully some others you’d like to try! 

I thought it would be a breeze to put it together…but in fact it turns out I’ve added rather a lot of recipes and took me a lot longer than I expected.

Hope you enjoy!

I think it’s about time I started to share links to some of the lovely recipes and food blogs that I come across on my internet travels.  I have two ‘favourites’ folders dedicated to food – one for food blogs, and another for particular recipes I like.

I have been on the hunt today for a recipe for strawberry jam, specifically (if it exists) for a Swedish recipe.  I am after a Swedish strawberry jam recipe because I’m not particular fond of the strawberry jam that we have in this country.

However, when we were in Sweden we stayed at a strawberry farm and I fell in love with their jam.  It was runnier, and just much more enjoyable in my opinion.  I might even try the strawberry jam from the farm’s website, just played around with a bit.

Anyway…getting back to sharing links.  I shall put something together on the blog I discovered today and the dish that inspired me to share it, and then try to do so regularly.

At the moment I am down in the Cotswolds with my family.  Today, me and the little sister are heading back north to spend a couple of days together – I can’t wait! 

Last night my mom, the little sister, and me watched a lovely film together – Waitress.  A bittersweet romantic comedy about a waitress who makes pies.  What could be better than a film about pie making and love?  The little sister and I fancy starting a pie shop now… 

She names the pies after the emotions she feels – like “Falling in Love Chocolate Mousse Pie”.  It turns out some fantastic person has written up some of the recipes.  Sadly, I have discovered that the director and co-actor was murdered just days after completing the film. 

My family lived in America for a while when I was 13, in a sleepy little down in Connecticut.  On the weekends we used to travel north to these beautiful lakes, and along the way we would often stop at The American Pie Company (I’m delighted to discover it still exists!).  My memories of eating there are not of pies (sadly), but of the best French onion soup.

I know I’ve been pretty terrible at posting recently – partly I have got the winter blues and partly I am exhausted by hectic workloads at both of my jobs.  I am so looking forward to Christmas – I am craving that cosy Christmas feeling and a good break – and a chance to eat great food.

We have been eating a mixed bunch of food recently – some good, some crap.  A couple of Friday’s ago we cooked a killer fish pie for friends…but we ate it before I had a chance to take a photo of its golden crusted gorgeousness. 

We are majoring on sausage casseroles full of root veg, tinned beans, and other leftovers. 

Last weekend we visited my family and cooked a pheasant casserole (my brother has become a beater and comes home with pheasants often at the moment).

I am just in the middle of cooking our dinner – Salami and Fennel Linguine – which I will endeavour to post tomorrow as I’m snapping pictures while I type – of course only if it tastes good – we’ve not made it before!  I also promise to try and get the second part of our Italy holiday food posted asap.  Watch this space.

naples

N and I got back from our week in Italy last night, having had a truly wonderful holiday in Naples and on the Amalfi Coast.  I have religiously kept a food diary of all the food we consumed and can’t wait to share the high’s and lo’s with you all.

I have also got over 400 photos (I know!) to go through so there will be a couple of installments over the next week or more, so please check back. 

Here’s a sneak peek in the meantime of some of the delicious food we found and ate on our travels in Italy…

italysneakpeek

Following on from yesterday’s post, mom cracked open a jar of the freshly made plum jam for breakfast today.  She spread a slice of organic white bread with some butter and topped it with a dollop of plum jam.

plumjam3

It was a gorgeous amber jelly, just holding together enough to be great for spreading.

plumjam4

We all had a nibble.  It was just sweet enough, with a soft and subtle plum taste.  Not too overpowering, with a lovely smooth, slippery texture.

plumjam5

My recommendation: find some local plums and get making your own homemade plum jam.  Perfect for Christmas presents, and in the depths of winter you’ll be pleased of a little slice of summer for breakfast.

N and I are spending a lovely weekend at home with my family in the Cotswolds.  Today my mom and I made plum jam from using plums from her garden.  She has a tree that is positively groaning under the weight of plums, many boughs almost touching the ground. 

With a large basketful we seated ourselves in a sunny spot in the garden and began the task of pitting all the plums. 

plumjam

The saucepan was laden down with nearly 7lbs of plums.  The saucepan was popped onto the hob and brought to a simmer.  This was then followed by long periods of checking to see whether the plums were turning into jam.

Once the jam had begun to set when smeared onto a plate, it was removed and placed into sterilised jars (they’d been put through the dishwasher).  We made about 13 jarfuls.  Not sure how it will taste – will have to let you know when we try it.

plumjam2

My mom insists I can’t share the recipe, not because it’s a closely guarded family secret, but because she’s not sure it’s very good.  Will let you know how it rates on a crusty piece of grain bread with a good layer of butter.

Yesterday two of our closest friends came round for lunch.  They are looking for a new house and had been to a viewing in a village nearby – they loved it, so fingers-crossed for them that it all works out.  I decided to go for a simple ploughman’s style lunch so that there was little preparation needed, but that would look and taste delicious.  There is something incredibly satisfying about meals that take little effort.

The one effort we did make was to whip up some homemade chicken liver pate on Friday night.  I have found a lovely little organic deli in Chorlton called Wild At Heart (http://www.wildatheart.uk.com) which sells very reasonably priced organic chicken livers.  This is a great recipe to make for friends and family because it’s simple to make, but looks great and people always seem to be impressed that you actually made pate.  Plus, it tastes fantastic.

We ate our pate on Kaiser Brot from the Barbakan Deli (www.barbakan-deli.co.uk) in Manchester. Our ploughmans included: chicken liver pate, bread, a hunk of Manchego cheese, gerkins, homemade pickled onions, Branston Pickle, pistachio nuts, and thick cut honey roast ham. This was all served with goat’s butter, and small dishes of Dijon and Wholegrain mustard.

homemade chicken liver pate - into the fridge to set

homemade chicken liver pate – into the fridge to set

Chicken Liver Pate

400g butter, softened
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
455g chicken livers, trimmed
1 small bunch of fresh thyme
1 large wineglass of brandy
olive oil
salt and pepper

*Pre-cooking notes: As I’ve probably mentioned before I work more with approximate amounts rather than exact, unless I feel a recipe would really go wrong without using exact measurements. So if you have a little over or under in weight of chicken livers, just bung it all in. I would, however, recommend using the ‘large’ wineglass of brandy – the first time we did, this time we didn’t, and although it still tasted lovely this time it didn’t have that extra kick and depth of flavour.*

In a small pan on a low heat gently melt 150g of the butter until it has melted. Turn off the heat and let it separate into the yellow clarified buter and the white milky liquid at the bottom – it should do this while you prepare the rest of the recipe.

Gently soften the finely chopped onion and garlic in a glug of olive oil in a large frying pan. Make sure it doesn’t brown. When it’s soften, remove to a plate or bowl and wipe the pan clean.

Turn up the heat, add a small glug of olive oil, the fresh thyme leaves and the livers. Make sure the livers cook on one layer until they are lightly coloured but still pink in the middle. If you overcook them you will end up with a grainy texture not smooth.

Next, pour in the brandy. If you are using a gas hob make sure long hair and eyebrows are well clear as it can flame – we had a serious fire ball the first time we made this pate! Simmer for a minute, then take off the heat.

Bung the livers and their juices into a processor along with the onion and garlic. Blitz until you have a smooth purée. Add the remaining softened butter and blitz again. Season the mixture well with salt and pepper, and then push it through a sieve twice before putting it into serving dishes.

Make sure that you smooth the pate out before carefully spooning over the yellow clarified butter from the pan – make sure you don’t get any of the white milkly liquid. I got a bit fancy and carefully arranged some fresh sprigs of thyme on the pate we were going to serve for lunch. Whilst this isn’t necessary, it’s quite fun and looks nice.

Put the pate in the fridge to set – this will take about an hour. The pate can be eaten straight away, or left a couple of days to let the flavours develop. If you don’t break the butter seal they will keep for up to two weeks.

This recipe is taken and slightly adapted from Jamie’s Kitchen by Jamie Oliver (www.jamieoliver.com).

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Eat the Earth

I love food, especially locally grown and seasonal food. This is my place to share my food finds and the food I like to eat.

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