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Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Dalston Mill

Check out this brilliant instillation on at the moment in Dalston as part of the Barbican's Radical Nature: Art and Architecture exhibition - a fully operational bread mill and wheat field where you can bake your own bread or see a theatre show. Fun fun fun!

Monday, 27 July 2009

The Lake District: Quichey quichey ya ya da da

Quiche night: Kim, Fi and Oli

The hours before dinner have been blissful with the gang either in the lounge room or front garden enjoying some reading time with a nice cold beer. It's so quiet all you can hear the babbling of the brook running through the back of the house and the song of woodland birds. Then suddenly...


The fire alarm is going berserk. I race up to our bedroom to find Jasmine still sound asleep (I swear, once that girl actually gets to sleep not even a death metal band turned up to 11 can wake her)
I look out the window and there is smoke streaming out from the kitchen windows below. While the techies in our group try to figure out the code to turn the alarm off, everyone else races around the building opening windows and fanning the air with whatever comes to hand. I head down into ground zero - site of the burning quiche - and find Kim in the kitchen enjoying a fine glass of red, a picture of detached calm amid the chaos...

At some point the peace and quiet was restored, the smoke cleared and we enjoyed a delicious spread then played petanque until the midges and mosquitoes chased us back indoors.

Leek and Stilton quiche (from BBC food)

What you need
2 tbsp vegetable oil
25g/1oz butter
350g/12oz onions, finely sliced
675g/1lb leeks, shanks only, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped
2tsp soft thyme leaves
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tbsp plain flour
3 eggs
290ml/½ pint double cream
100g/4oz Stilton cheese, cubed
2 tbsp fresh grated parmesan
300g/12oz short crust pastry

The do
1. Line a 25cm/10in flan tin or dish with the pastry. Place in the refrigerator to chill.
2. Heat the oil and the butter in a pan until melted. Add the onions, leeks, sugar, garlic and thyme and cook gently until they have started to turn golden brown and are soft. Allow to cool slightly. Fold in the flour and add seasoning.
3. Beat the eggs and cream together and add to the onion mix. Fold in half the parmesan and the Stilton cheese.
4. Spoon the mixture into the flan case and sprinkle with the remaining parmesan. Bake in a preheated oven at 190C/375F/Gas 5 for about 50 minutes until golden brown and set.

Spinach, mushroom and ricotta quiche with sauteed spinach (from BBC food)

What you need
For the quiche
butter, for greasing
400g/14oz ready-made shortcrust pastry
350g/12oz flat mushrooms
3 sprigs thyme, leaves only
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
500g/1lb 2oz baby spinach leaves
freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
salt and freshly ground black pepper
250g/9oz ricotta cheese
1 tbsp grainy mustard
3 free-range egg yolks
300ml/11fl oz double cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the spinach
25g/1oz butter
1 garlic clove, lightly crushed
500g/1lb 2oz baby spinach leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper

The do
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/465F/Gas 4.
2. Grease a 25cm/10in loose-bottomed tart tin with butter.
3. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pastry to line the tart tin. Cover with cling film and place into the fridge to chill for 15 minutes.
4. Remove the pastry tart case from the fridge, cover with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans. Transfer to the oven and bake blind for 10-15 minutes.
5. Remove the beans and greaseproof paper and return the tart case to the oven to bake for a further 3-5 minutes, until golden and just cooked.
6. Turn the oven temperature up to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
7. Meanwhile, place the mushrooms onto a baking tray, sprinkle over the thyme, drizzle over one tablespoon of the olive oil and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place into the oven to bake for 5-6 minutes, or until the mushrooms are beginning to soften. Remove and set aside.
8. Heat a large frying pan until hot and add the remaining one tablespoon of olive oil and the spinach and cover with a lid. Cook until the spinach has just wilted, then remove from the pan and drain.
9. Season the spinach well with freshly grated nutmeg and salt and freshly ground black pepper.
10. Place the ricotta into a bowl. Add the grainy mustard, season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper and mix well.
11. Spoon the mustard and ricotta mixture into the bottom of the tart case, top with the wilted spinach, and carefully place the roasted mushrooms on top.
12. Place the egg yolks and cream into a bowl, season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper and whisk together. Pour the egg mixture into the tart case.
13. Transfer to the oven to bake for 40 minutes, or until golden-brown and bubbling. Remove and cool slightly before serving.
14. For the sautéed spinach, heat a frying pan until hot. Add the butter and swirl the garlic clove around to flavour the oil.
15. Remove the garlic clove, add the spinach and sauté until wilted down. Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
16. To serve, cut slices of quiche and place onto plates with a spoonful of sautéed spinach alongside.

Burning down the house Talking Heads

Sunday, 26 July 2009

I will not munch on your poussin

Australia, England... same language, same sort of culture, so why sometimes are things so bloody difficult? What, when you see poussin on a Sunday roast menu otherwise written entirely in English, might you think? No, not a fish, not a Russian president, not a vegetable, not a saucy vagina, a WHOLE FUCKING CHICKEN.

I didn't know that before three this afternoon. Now I do.

Thanks to the lovely bloke at Royal Inn on the Park who sweetly reversed my order after he arrived at the table and I almost freaked out as badly as the first time I ever saw steak tartare.

Why not just call it chicken, yeah?

Sunday market bonanza

The Lake District: The Old Mill

This is my second attempt at this post - frustratingly, the first one went AWOL - and so I don't lose the will to blog I've decided to break it up into parts, which is probably better anyway.

Earlier this month we escaped the "killer heatwave" and spent a week up North with some good mates living in a house, a very big house (with turrets!) in the country.

Why? To celebrate Kelly's 29th and Carter's (more significant) 40th birthday. If Carters had had his way we probably would have been forced to wear medieval costume for the whole week, but unfortunately there was limited luggage space.

We split into teams and took turns cooking dinner which is what the next few posts will be about...

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

The saturday ramble

My mate Kirsty K and I have totally embraced the English pastime of rambling. Not so much walking poles and maps wrapped in plastic as the joy of taking a very long stroll to a country pub for dinner.

One Saturday a little while back we took a train to Guildford in Hampshire then ambled through field, farm and forest to Liss. We enjoyed a halfway break at the Hawkley Arms getting smashed on the local cider but feared a come down deep in the woods so took the precaution of carrying four more pints in milk bottles to tide us over till we reached the next pub. Part two of the ramble was a bit woozy then but still remarkably beautiful; bright yellow canola fields and wooded tracks carpeted with pretty and pungent baby shoots of wild garlic.

When we finally got to Liss some seven hours after we set off, we were dozy and starving. I can't remember the name of the pub we stumbled into but the food was brilliant (in our experience the country pub kitchen can be a bit hit and miss if it is open at all). In that moment, a big bowl of mushrooms in a cheesy, mustardy, creamy sauce topped with buttery crumbs was the best thing I ever ate.