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Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Last weekend...


Just had the most glorious weekend - picnic under a nice shady tree on Parliament Hill on Saturday, then on Sunday a little trip to Arundel to see the castle and have a walk around.
If you ever find yourself hungry and thirsty in Arundel, check out The Black Rabbit - it's a cute pub on the River Arun, about 20-30 minutes walk from the station.
It was a very warm day, and after the walk to the pub all I felt like was a burger and a pint. But alas there was no veggie burger, the closest thing was a mozzarella muffin which turned out to be exactly that.


Half a sorry soggy supermarket English muffin underneath three small pieces of grilled veg with mozzarella melted over the top, accompanied with new potatoes, which I ended up swapping over for fries. As Ja'mie from Summer Heights High would say..."Random!"
I feel like I can't be too critical as the menu amazingly boasts six vegetarian options. It's just that mushroom stroganoff, lasagna, chilli and curry aren't dishes I fancy eating when I'm hot and bothered, but maybe that's just me. The ice cream on the other hand was deeeelicious. I was very, very pleased with my choice of honeycomb and strawberry.
Vegetarian food aside, the venue and service is lovely. They have a big outdoor seating area next to the river where you can enjoy some choice ales until it's time to walk back to the station and snooze it all off on the train ride back to the big smoke.

Les Perez touchdown in London

Some dear friends of ours are visiting from Australia and last night I cooked dinner for about eight of us. Congregating around a big table with old friends with plenty of food and booze is most definitely one of the nicer things in life - my kitchen is too small for me to go all Babette's Feast, so dinner had to be a very simple affair.

With my ice cream maker in storage somewhere in Cricklewood, this summer I've been getting into cheats homemade ice cream. My mum used to make this in the late 80s by mixing some cointreau and a smashed up Flake with shop bought vanilla ice cream.
I made two types using some of the alcohol collecting dust at the back of our liquor shelf - the more we drink now, the less Jasmine T will have to hand when she starts mixing up her own cocktails. I have some Frangelico which I'm going to mix with chopped hazelnuts and Drambuie which I'm going to soak some raisins in before adding to the ice cream.

Cheats ice cream

What you need
2 large flat plastic containers
2L shop vanilla ice-cream (best you can afford)
couple handfuls chopped roasted hazelnuts
couple handfuls of raisins
3 tablespoons Drambuie
3 tablespoons Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur)
ice cream cones (less washing up)

The do
Place raisins in a bowl and add the Drambuie, leave to soak for a couple of hours.
Take the ice cream out of the freezer and leave out for around 10 minutes. Transfer the ice cream into the plastic containers add the ingredients and mix in with a rubber spatula. Put the lids on and return to the freezer.
You can do this with anything - fruit, chocolate, nuts. Just bear in mind that adding too much alcohol will prevent your ice cream from freezing.

For dinner (serves 8): boil up two packs of angel hair pasta, then 3 minutes before the pasta is ready, throw in a bag of frozen peas and half a bag of broad beans. In a separate small pan, gently heat a big glug of olive oil with some thinly sliced garlic for a minute or so. When the pasta is done, drain it, add the garlic oil, then toss the whole lot with the juice of a lemon, a handful of chopped mint, a handful of torn basil, two handfuls of parmesan and two packs of crumbled feta cheese. Season with olive oil, salt and pepper and marvel at the quivering mountain of steaming pasta before you.

Alas I cannot swim Laura Marling

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Happy birthday to Carters and Kelly V


It was Carter's and Kelly V's birthday last Wednesday and to mark the occasion I whipped out my newly acquired copy of Delia's Book of Cakes for a fast simple no-faff sweet treat that I could take down to the pub without too much drama.
I decided to make her Chocolate fudge brownie recipe and as per usual I couldn't help meddling - I increased the chocolate and flour quantities and added orange blossom water and pistachios.

Things started to go a little pear shaped when I realised I didn't have the correct tin, I used the smallest one I had, but it was still waaaay too big. I ended up with brownies that looked like they'd been run over by a steam roller. In the end I sandwiched them with some hazelnut spread and it was all good. The moral of this story...use the right tin and all will be fine.


Chocolate, pistachio and orange blossom fudge brownies

What you need
A 18x28cm baking tin
90g dark cooking chocolate, preferably unsweetened, I used Green and Blacks cook's chocolate
110g butter
2 medium eggs
225g caster sugar
90g plain flour
1 level teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
110g pistachio nuts (hold back about 5 nuts for garnish)
1 tablespoon orange blossom water (you could add more, but taste as you go so it doesn't end up tasting like shower gel)

1 punnet of raspberries
Green and blacks Hazelnut chocolate spread

The do
Line a rectangular brownie tin (18x28cm) with silicone baking paper. allow the paper to come up a good 5cm above the rim of the tin.
Melt the butter and broken up chocolate pieces together in a heatproof glass bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Make sure the bowl doesn't touch the water. Stir in the remaining ingredients, then pour into the lined tin and bake for around 30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, divide into approx 15 squares and transfer back to wire rack.

Chop the remaining pistachios as finely as you can. Spread a little hazelnut spread on the top of each brownie, sprinkle with a little pistachio dust, then place a raspberry on top

Warning: these brownies are evil. Diabetics beware!


Post-hummus perfection


I have been trying to make perfect hummus for YEARS. Every incarnation has had some sort of problem - too thick, too much oil, too garlicky, too bland. I've tried various recipes and that yielded no success either. Last night I went completely off road and I finally stumbled on a winner - it's a total bastardisation of how hummus is usually made, but hey, it tastes good so who cares?

What you need
A hand blender with food processor attachment, or a food processor
1 can of chickpeas, drained
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 clove of garlic chopped
1 tablespoon tahini
olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
some boiled water

The do
In a frying pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil and fry the garlic for a 30 seconds on medium heat, throw in the spices and drained chickpeas. Fry for a little longer, moving the chickpeas around the pan coating them in the oil and spices. When it starts to smell nice and spicy, take off the heat and transfer into the food processor. Add the tahini, a generous pinch of salt, a glug of olive oil, lemon juice and a splash of boiled water and blitz until smooth, adding more water as needed to achieve the right consistency. Taste and add more salt if needed.

This is great with some salad, tomato and halloumi in a wholemeal pita pocket.

IRM Charlotte Gainsbourg