Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Vital equipment

It's been a while since I talked about equipment, so I thought I would take a moment to talk about one of the greatest additions to my kitchen. It's a cookbook stand. I've had it a few months now, but find it hard to imagine how I coped without it. It is always out in the kitchen, and always with a cookbook in it, partly because there is exactly enough space on the shelves for all but one of my books at a time, and partly because I am always working on something; bread, baking, etc. It's nothing fancy, just a moulded piece of perspex that you slot your book behind. It serves not only to hold the books upright for easy reading while you're frantically throwing ingredients together (vital for someone like me who rarely reads all the way through before starting a project if I bake on a whim and who's eyesight isn't exactly the best, even with the glasses) but it also protects your books (well most of them, it's not actually tall enough to cover the whole page) from splashes. Having managed to squirt tomato puree across the kitchen only a few nights ago, and having a penchant for being a slightly messy baker this is key to keeping my cookbooks readable.

Basically if you bake or cook from books or notes regularly this is the perfect piece of equipment. Well, until this becomes readily available at least!

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Ruby Muffins

The rhubarb plant in our garden has been the one reliable thing so far this year. It was a gift from friend who's own plant was beginning to take over the place. Who'd have thought that chilly January weekend when we escorted it back from Kent, wrapped in a plastic bag, that it was going to settle in so well. It took us a couple of weeks to get it planted in a large half barrel, and I wondered whether it was going to survive. It was quiet through most of the winter, a small unassuming plant nestled on the edge of the top section of the decking. We watered and feed and waited, watching the wide green leaves and pink stalks, hoping for the best.

Suddenly at the end of May, when we weren't looking, we got it. An abundance of lovely tall stalks just aching to be picked and used. Who was I to argue!

Fortunately not only do N and I both love rhubarb, but the plant just kept on giving. So this month with the British strawberry season in full swing I decided to try a combination of flavours that loads of people have been telling me is lovely, strawberry and rhubarb, a red juicy combination of sweetness and tartness that wonderfully balance each other.

One evening we had them simply roasted together, and yes, it was indeed wonderful, the fruits condensing to produce a rich juicy dish packed with flavour. I immediately wanted to try the combination again. But how, I didn't have enough rhubarb for a pie or crumble. I suddenly remembered a muffin recipe I'd seen that used the fruits. Since I have been making batches of muffins for N to take to work for breakfast it seemed perfect. I could make a batch on Friday, have one for Saturday's late breakfast whilst listening to the cricket, and pop the rest in the freezer for N to indulge in during the week.

I cut down the sugar in the recipe because the strawberries were so ripe and sweet. I also exchanged the butter for apple puree in order to cut out the fat. The result was a light fruity muffin that wasn't too sweet. They were perhaps slightly too sticky, but that could be rectified by a few more minutes in the oven, and leaving them out for a little while after they'd cooled. All in all I was pretty pleased with them, and happily eat them for my breakfast twice over the weekend!

I've called them ruby muffins because the golden batter of the muffins was interrupted by the bursts of bright red and pink of the fruit, which was juicy and shining like jewels.

Ruby Muffins - Adapted from Diane Boneparte's "Mad about Bread" (Makes 12)

300g plain flour
15g baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
140g golden caster sugar
100g Apple puree
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
30g sultanas
100g rhubarb, chopped
200g strawberries, chopped

Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan oven) and line a two six cup muffin pans with papers

sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Combine the eggs, milk and vanilla together in a small bowl, and then add them, and the apple puree to the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined (don't over mix - lumps are good in muffins). Add the fruit and gently fold into the batter. Spoon the batter into the muffin trays, as high as you can in the cups to get the true risen muffin top. Bake for 25-30mins, until golden and risen and they spring back when lightly pressed.

Cool before eating. Can be frozen to avoid that tendency to eat them all at once!

Our new resolution

We are going to stop shopping at supermarkets. That's right, no Tesco, no Sainsbury's, no Waitrose. Just local shops, small producers, farmer's markets and of course our weekly Abel and Cole delivery.

We decided this a couple of weeks ago after a long discussion one evening about how both of us feel about the large conglomerate companies that are monopolising the market, homogenizing the high streets, driving out small independent shops and tricking us all into thinking that food should be cheap, when actually it takes time, effort and care to grow and make good produce and prices should reflect that. We are also a household that are increasingly concerned about the ethical and environmental impact of our lives, and want to know that what we buy reflects this.

We are in a position to make positive choices about how and where we shop. There is a local farmer's market where we can buy fruit and vegetables, cheeses, preserves and breads direct from local produces, Abel and Cole provide not only our weekly stables in fresh produce, but also organic wines, pantry goods and almost anything else you could wish for in the food, drink and household line. There is a health food shop two streets away that stocks the flour, soya and slightly more difficult to source organic or veggie goods we like. Our local shop, knows as "Friendly man" (because it is run by a very nice friendly man), has all sorts of goodness packed away in the tardis of his shop, and for other things (such as the difficult to find organic baking powder and agave syrup that I bought today) there are places like Planet Organic.

Our last online Tesco shop arrived yesterday and so from now on we're hanging up the loyalty cards.

Here begins a new stage in our food adventures. It's really very exciting!

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

A photo essay: reasons to go to Italy (one of the many of course)


Whilst on our "Rock 'n' Roll road trip" across the desert we discovered this;

It's a mango margarita, or as we have christened it (after a few of them had hit the spot), a "mangarita." It was wonderful. We were pointed in it's direction by the manager of the motel we were staying. We'd just turned up hoping he had rooms, and he did. He then asked us if we like Mexican food and pointed us to his favourite place, adding that "they have the best mango margarita there, and it's staggering distance so you won't have to worry about how many you have." That sounded like a dangerous challenge to us. So off we went, across the street to the back of the darkened mall, and there indeed was a very nice looking local Mexican place. We put together a selection of their veggie stuff (mostly starters, hence our combination in an attempt to make sure we had enough food - we should have learnt about American portions, there was definitely enough!) and ordered our "mangaritas." We're not usually the types who order cocktails, pre- post- or during a meal. We're more a bottle of wine of beer folks. But
mango is probably N's favourite fruit, and to add alcohol to it just seemed too much like a good idea to pass up. Oh they were so good. They were not too thick, but not too thin, a good proper alcoholic kick, but without loosing the mango taste. We ordered more, staggered back to the motel room very smug and full and spent the rest of the holiday (especially the three nights in Mexico) frantically looking for more mangaritas on menus.

Alas it wasn't to be. So as soon as we got home we started looking around for recipes, we picked on and I put it in my scrapbook and there it has been lying, dormant, waiting for us to try it. How it's taken us this long I don't know, we've been back well over a month and have certainly had some hot days that would easily help justify a cocktail. Finally this week I hunted out three overripe mangoes and sent N out for tequilla. This was the result:

Our very own mangaritas! They were probably slightly too watery, as the recipe said to blend the mango with some water which upon reflection - and tasting - was definitely not needed. They weren't quite as good as those from the desert, but with a little honing and plenty more trying I think we'll get it right!

How did we serve them? With a slice of lime and a game of chocolate scrabble! A perfect end to a Sunday evening.

Mangaritas (makes enough for about 4-6 drinks depending on the size)

3-4 ripe mangoes
sugar to taste
4 ounces of tequilla
2 ounces triple sec (we used this, but decided it probably isn't necessary so will probably leave it out next time)
1 1/2 cups ice
lime to garnish

prepare the flesh of the mangos, place in a blender and whizz until smooth, adding sugar to taste (baring in mind the tequilla will make the drink slightly bitter, so despite the sweetness of mangoes a little sugar will probably be needed). This will form the base of the cocktail.

mix three cups of the above mango mix in a blender with the ice, tequilla and triple sec, blend until smooth. Divide between four cocktail glasses and add a slice of lime.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

"It's a damn fine exponant of the genre"

On Wednesday evening that I discovered N's favourite biscuits are milk chocolate hobnobs. It was a toss up between these and jaffa cakes, but N wasn't sure how far the "biscuit" definition could be stretched. Milk chocolate covered hobnobs won out. I was more than a little concerned that it's taken me this long to discover this vital piece of information. How can I fully satisfy his gastronomic needs without this crucial knowledge. It was so shocking because in the whole time I've known N I don't think I've ever seen a milk chocolate covered hobnob pass his lips! This conversation itself was triggered by the fact that earlier in the week N admitted that Cadbury's flake was probably his second favourite type of chocolate. Honestly how do men - or rather, how does my man - not think to impart these details as soon as possible!

So being a dutiful girlfriend, whilst out shopping for cherry tomatoes and strawberries, I also picked up a small packed of aforementioned biscuits.

My doing this however was not simply for N, but also to broaden the biscuit horizons of Sniff. Absurd, I know, but Sniff has become rather taken with digestives, and will happily accept any donations while you're attempting to dunk one in your tea, and by "happily accept" I mean demand loudly. As it happens, he's predictably fond of milk chocolate hobnobs too.

He's not the only one who's biscuit horizons have been broadened. I too am now on the biscuit-bandwagon. I had been rather shocked when N expressed a preference for the milk, rather than dark, chocolate covering. Surely dark chocolate is always superior, the dark chocolate covered digestive being a case in point. Milk chocolate covered is so, so wrong and thoroughly ruins a decent digestive, dark chocolate on the other hand is a different matter, and serves to raise the digestive to another level. So I was sceptical about this milk chocolate covered malarkey. But he was right, so right. I really should learn to trust him such things, as he does have impeccable taste. There is something about the combination of the oaty biscuit and the milk chocolate covering that works so so well, helped by the fact that they get the thickness of the coating just right: not too thick to detract from the biscuit, not too thin as to be stingy.

As N so rightly pointed out only a few minutes ago the milk chocolate covered hobnob is "a damn fine exponant of the genre."

I heartily agree.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Salad fit for a bloke

"Salad isn't a meal, it's an accompaniment"

That's what N has told me on repeated occasions. Then whilst in LA we encountered some pretty uber salads and I began to sense N coming round to the idea that perhaps, just perhaps, some salads, if large and wholesome enough, might work as a main meal, although usually when accompanied with a large amount of bread.

I've been trying to find salads that will convince N that they are a main meal in their own right. I'm a big fan of salad, but think that much of the time, in this country at least, it gets a bad name. It is so often interpreted as a few limp lettuce leaves, a slice or two of cucumber and old mushy to
matoes and a horridly sweet, or acidic "dressing." This is NOT salad, this is a bad way of using up things that should have been used three or four days ago.

Salad should be a joyful celebration of great leaves, fantastically fresh fruit and veg, pulses, nuts, seeds, and all sorts of other lovely things. This was exactly what I was going for with my roasted beetroot and feta salad with mango and bulgar wheat. We had a bunch of beetroot arrive in our vegetable box, and a mango perfectly ripe from the previous week and I wanted to used both of them at their peak. I've been reading "The Kitchen Diaries" by Nigel Slater, and two of the things he mentioned had caught my eye: roasted beetroot and feta, and bulgar wheat and mango. They both sounded so wonderful, and I thought, why not combine the two. I figured that the earthy flavour of the beets and the salty cheese would match perfectly with the fresh sweetness of a rope mango. Turns out I was right!

The great thing was that N agreed! He had a huge bowl of it, and with a small portion of strawberries and cream for dessert it certainly made a meal.

Roasted beetroot and feta salad with mango and bulgar wheat (adapted from "The Kitchen Diaries" by Nigel Slater.

Serves two as a main course.

2 large fresh beetroot (about the size of apples)
Feta cheese (amount varies on how much you want - you could also use goats cheese)
1 ripe mango
bulgar wheat (again, amount depends on how much you want to add, I think I used aprox 100g)
fresh mint, chopped
fresh mixed salad leaves of your choice, washed and drained.
red wine vinegar

Wash the beetroot and place them whole in a roasting tin and drizzle with oil. Roast at 200C for anywhere between 45-90 mins. It well depend on the freshness and size of your beetroot. Mine took about an hour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly, then cut into quarters sprinkle with a little salt and drizzle with red wine vinegar and leave to cool.

Whilst the beetroot is cooking you can prepare the rest of the salad. Place the bulgar wheat in a bowl with a few sprigs of mint. Cover with boiling water and leave for 30mins. Then drain any excess water off, shaking well to remove as much moisture as possible, then run a fork through it to fluff and separate the grains. Skin and chop the mango into bite-sized pieces and toss in with bulgar wheat, adding more chopped fresh mint to taste.

Choose and wash your salad leaves, drain well and divide between two bowls, then add the mango and bulgar wheat mix. Cut the skins of the cooled beetroot quarters and chop into bite-sized pieces and divide between the bowls, then top with as much feta as you wish.

Now that's a salad!

Ed's note: I also made a honey mustard dressing for ours to add a little more kick. Use two parts wholegrain mustard to one clear runny honey, the juice of half a lemon and a teaspoon of red wine vinegar. (you can adjust the amounts to suit your own taste of course).

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Oh yes, I could live by bread alone.

It's been glorious in London the last few days. Hot, sunny, with slight breezes, everything you could want from summer. It can't last, this is Britain! But while it does I can't help but want simple light summery foods: breads, salads and of course lashing of British strawberries and cream.

On Sunday we spent pretty much the whole time in the garden. The test match finished by lunch and it gave us no more excuses. We left Sniff curled up on the sofa soaking up some vitamin D and finally did all the bits and pieces jobs we'd been meaning to do for ages. I potted up plants, put copper defenses on pots to ward of the pesky, and persistent slugs and snails and made sure everything had a feed. Meanwhile N cleared out the gutters, striped the weeds from the wall and dispatched any and every lurking slimey pest he could find. It was pretty hot and exhausting work, but very satisfying indeed, especially as we too got a nice vitamin D fix, a bit of colour on our skin, and in N's case a heavy dose of high pollen count induced wheezing. Oops.

After all this work I couldn't face cooking, and having had a baking day cupcake with a cup of tea neither of us wanted a particularly heavy meal. So I opted for my most favourite of all meals ever: "bread and stuff". This meal can never let you down, as long as you get one thing straight; the bread has to be good. Get the bread right and you're sorted. I threw together a half batch of my usual focaccia dough knowing it would rest and prove faster than usual due to the heat and humidity. I then went a bit off piste and sliced half a red onion, and soaked it in balsamic vinegar to add to the topping in addition to the rosemary and rock salt. It was a total winner, adding just a bit more depth to the bread.

Red onion and herb focaccia, adapted from "Dough" by Richard Bertinet.
Makes one big slab (I halved this recipe)

500g Strong white flour
20g coarse semolina
15g yeast
10g salt
50g olive oil
320g water.

one red onion, sliced and marinated in balsamic vinegar
fresh rosemary
rock salt.

Place the yeast in a large bowl, followed by the flour, semolina and salt and mix. Then add the olive oil and water and mix well until you have a slightly sticky, but workable dough. Leave to rest for an hour, or until doubled in size. oil a baking tray and place the dough on it, slowly pushing it until it fills the tray. Leave to rest for five minutes, glaze with oil and then leave to prove for an hour. Sprinkle with rock salt and rosemary and then carefully place the onions evenly over the surface, being careful not to depress the air from the dough. Bake at 200C until the top is golden. I did mine for 25mins, but a large loaf will probably need 35mins. Remove from the tray to cool slightly, cut into chunks and serve. Best just dipped into oil and vinegar.

We had it simply with oil and vinegar, a little salt and some salad. Va Bene!


I thought it was about time for a totally out of character, non-food, non-cat related post! Shocking eh? (okay, I will throw some food and cat mentions in for good measure, as nothing on this blog could ever be completely food or cat free).

Basically I wanted to explain the little additions to the blog layout, the "currently scoffing" and "currently reading" lists. I've been reading a whole bunch of blogs recently, and really like the way some of the include things like what they are reading, what they are listening to etc. Since, aside from N and Sniff, reading and food are two of the great loves in my life I thought it would be nice to give you a little bit of insight into the books and foods I am currently reading and enjoying. The "currently scoffing" should not be taken too literally. I will not be literally stuffing my face with these things whilst writing! Rather they are the foodstuffs and drinkstuffs that I am currently really into. As for the reading, it will no doubt always be a mix of work, pleasure and food porn!

I have also included a little list of things Sniff is currently enjoying as he was feeling rather left out. His list may include activities as well as edibles, often with them being one and the same.

Crazy cat lady? Me? Whatever makes you think that!

Sunday, 8 June 2008

A photo essay: North London Veg Garden update

No kitchen garden would be complete without it's herbs. In the barrel are mint, rosemary, coriander, sage, thyme and bay, in the little pot is oregano.

The greenhouse is serving us well. Despite a snail invasion we have some strong tomato vine (back row) and are attempting a second batch of pepper (front row) having killed the first lot off in the colder weather earlier in the year.

Hanging basket "Tumbling Tom" tomatoes on the top of the boiler cupboard (and to the far left our resurgent lemon tree)

Pots of courgette and pumpkins currently sitting on the table to keep the slugs at bay until we get more copper tape

In the foreground our butternut squash, one of which is doing so well it flowered today! In the background our uber potato "tree"!

Our collection of berry fruits. (L-R) Raspberry, blackberry and blackcurrant.

Despite being harvested once our rhubarb is well on the way for another crop.

What to do with a mountain of broccoli

I like broccoli. I'd be a pretty rubbish vegetarian if I didn't, however, having three bunches of it in the fridge needing to be used poses quite a challenge. It is a good vegetable, a superfood in fact, but there is only so much of it you can eat steamed, or chopped into a pasta sauce, and when you need to use up so much at once it's rather a daunting prospect.

Enter the wonderful Ottolenghi cookbook. I really can't praise this new addition to my growing food library enough. It's packed with amazing recipes and I know our summer is going to involve basically working our way through them. Whilst browsing it yesterday in front of the test match I came across the recipe for Chargrilled broccoli with chilli and garlic. It sounded like the perfect thing to try with loads of broccoli sitting around, a nice exciting way to use the veg and when placed with another salady type dish would make the perfect light dinner after all the baked goods. I decided to couple if with an invention of my own, spiced veggie sausages with chickpeas and sultanas.

I don't have a griddle pan (yet! hehe) and so just had to dry fry the broccoli and hope for the best. Fortunately it worked fine. I think the griddle would definitely be
preferable as it would give a proper chargrilled taste, but frying is certainly an okay solution.

Spiced veggie sausage with chickpeas and sultanas. (serves 4 as a side, 2 as a main)

4oog tin chickpeas
5 veggie sausages
handful of sultanas

In the water left over from the broccoli cook the chickpeas for five minutes of so until just going soft. Meanwhile chop the sausages and douse in ras al hanut. In a deep frying pan heat a small amount of chili flavoured olive oil. Throw the sausages, with all the spice and fry for a few minutes on a high heat until the sausages begin to brown. turn down the heat and add the chickpeas and sultanas. Cook slowly until the broccoli dish above is ready, stirring constantly so that the chickpeas and sultanas cook and get covered in the spices from the sausages. Serve immediately with the broccoli.

A photo essay: Sunday breakfast time

I may not be as good at this as this site, but I'm getting there.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Baking Day! (June): brownies, cupcakes and biscuits

Although there have been bits and pieces of baking going on, it feels like a very long time indeed since the last baking day. In the end it turned into rather a mammoth day, with me making not one, but three things! Clearly I had been feeling deprived.

I've been craving brownies all week for some reason. I'm not sure why because they are rarely something I think
about eating of baking. Perhaps I just felt the need for a pure chocolate hit. So whatever was going to happen brownies would be made. However, I also wanted to make some biscuits. Ages ago I bought a moose-shaped cookie cutter and still hadn't gotten around to using it. N kept reminding me of it, and this week my new hoodie arrived in the post, complete with moose design and "mooses like peanut butter too..." slogan. So I knew I had to get the cutter out and give it ago, moose shaped peanut butter biscuits it had to be!

But, then I was faced with a real dilemma. I already had to things I wanted to make, but three new cookbooks on my reading pile. It felt rude not to try something from them, particularly as the Ottolenghi has such an impressive and extensive baking section. Also, N had commented in a cafe recently that their chocolate cake looked really good, and that he reckoned the only reason he thought so was because it was decorated with bits of Cadbury's Flake! I of course, replied with a sarcastic comment about now having to top anything I baked for him with Flake to make it appetising. Another challenge for my baking day, I had to make something I could stick a bit of flake on to continue the joke.

It occurred to me that I also hadn't indulged my cupcake love for a while too, and what would be more perfect than cute little cakes topped with flake. Fortunately Ottolenghi not only includes two cupcake recipes in his book, but I had all the ingredients for one of them.

Thus began the baking day adventures. My mission, to make low-fat brownies, peanut butter cut-out biscuits and hazelnut cupcakes topped with flake!

The brownie recipe came from Baking Bites, a blog I not only read twice a day (because she manages to update so often) but rate really highly. It not only talks about recipes, but reviews products and give tips and advice. It really is everything you'd want from a food blog. There had been a post on their previously about double chocolate brownies, that looked great, but then a few days later she posted about low-fat brownies. Now what with needing as low fat a diet as possible because of my back this immediately caught my eye, especially as her comments said that it didn't lack anything taste and texture wise die to being low fat. I eager
ly copied down the recipe and decided to give it a go. The batter was really thick, and hard to spread in a parchment lined baking tray (I had to get N to hold the paper in place while I struggled with the spatula) but it did settle out whilst baking. I wasn't sure what the result would be like, especially as I managed to overcook it slightly and so it didn't come out as gooey as I had hoped. However, the taste was great. Rich and cakey (due to overbaking, next time I'd baked for less time to get it fudgey) and with a nice chocolate flavour that wasn't too sweet. Plus you definitely wouldn't know it was low fat.

Low-fat chocolate brownies (makes 8)

preheat the oven to 180C and grease/line a 10" by 6" baking tin

3/4 cup plain flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt
2oz dark chocolate
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp fromage frais of low-fat yoghurt
1 egg
1 egg white
1tsp vanilla essence

Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl melt together the butter and chocolate. Whisk this mixture with the sugars and yoghurt and when combined whisk in the eggs and vanilla. Gently mix in the flour. The batter will be really thick. Bake for about 20mins until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs. Allow to cool then cut into eight.

The peanut butter biscuits posed slightly more of a problem. I couldn't find a recipe anywhere for a peanut butter cookie recipe that you could roll out and cut shapes with. In the end I decided to just experiment. It could go horridly wrong, but that was a risk that would be worth taking! I used a basic recipe for cut-out biscuits and used peanut butter rather than butter. I also only used an egg yolk, since I had one left from the brownies. This meant the dough didn't really come together, so I had to add a bit of water, but in the end it rolled out fine and made some nice biscuits, not too sweet with a subtle peanut flavour. I glazed them with some of the icing I was going to use on the cupcakes.

Moosey peanut butter biscuits. (Makes 8-10 large biscuits)

Preheat oven to 190C and line/grease a baking sheet

125g plain flour
63g peanut butter
63g brown sugar
1 egg yolk (or 1/2 beaten egg)
water to make up to a dough

Beat the butter and the sugar and add the egg. Sieve the flour into the mixture and mix into a dough, gradually adding enough water to make it roll-able. Roll out and cut into shapes. Bake on a high shelf for aprox. 15 mins.

Finally I made the hazelnut cupcakes. I halved the recipe to make only six since there was already a rather large amount of baked goods in the house. Instead of using the cream cheese icing suggested in the book I used a whipped chocolate ganache, and plonked a hunk of flake on top.

Now you have all these delicious goodies, settle down in front of the cricket with a cup of tea and enjoy!

Thursday, 5 June 2008

A thank you, and a promise of things to come.

My Mum's amazing. Look what arrived for me in the post this morning! She's also rather naughty. We were innocently having a discussion on the phone a few nights ago about the cookbooks I'd seen on Amazon, when suddenly she asks me to confirm my postcode with her. I ask why, slightly suspiciously, and she says, because those books will be on their way. See, wonderful, amazing, but very naughty indeed - not entirely unlike her mother!

Thanks to her never-ending generosity and indulgence of her daughters obsessive book/baking/cooking habits, I now own the new Ottolenghi cookbook, the Nigel Slater "Kitchen Diaries", and Locatelli's "Made in Italy." The first will help my not only my veggie repertoire, but will add some great ideas to baking days, the second will prompt me in the right direction whilst continuing my seasonal cookery, and the final one will make me yearn for Italy even more than I already am, and will hopefully help cure my cravings with great food and stories. All three books are beautiful aesthetically too - which to me is important in all books, but particularly books about something as aesthetically pleasing as good food - and no doubt will become favourites for bedtime (and test match) reading very soon indeed.

So this is a public thank you to my Mum for the wonderful new additions to my ever-growing cookbook collection and a promise that all subsequent food adventures from them will dutifully be posted, and quite possible even be carried to the North when I go and visit.

Thank you Mum, you're the bestest.

A photo essay: Sniff gets up close and personal with the test match

Wait a minute, this bread is cake

There seems to always be a glut of kiwi fruit in this house. I'm not really sure how it happens, we get them in our Abel and Cole box every so often but I swear they multiply in the fruit bowl. N has renounced them as a lunch box fruit after I insisted on packed them for him every day for about three weeks. This is acceptable for bananas, but not kiwi fruit apparently. I try and do my bit, eating them as "dessert" after my lunch, but somehow they still build up.

Last week I decided to try and do something different with them, and stem the glut, at least for a week. So I searched the Abel and Cole recipes, kindly provided on their website, and found one for kiwi fruit bread. Perfect, I thought, I can use up the excess and overripe fruit and at the same time produce some bread for lunch. I quickly wrote the recipe up into my scrapbook, not really paying attention to it, and put it aside for later in the week when our bread ran out.

Then, on Saturday morning, I got up, donned my apron, fished out the recipe and began to assemble the ingredients. "kiwi fruit, walnuts, raisins, sugar, honey, mixed spice, flour, eggs..." hang on a minute, that sounds an awful lot like cake! Oops. What the recipe was for really was kiwi loaf, like apricot loaf, you know the "loaf" that is actually just a long shaped cake. So much for my virtuous attempts to use up some leftover fruit.

Oh well, I decided to make it anyway, we'd just have to cope somehow!

It was rather nice in the end. Not as sweet as I'd expected, and with a definite kiwi tang, and slight crunch from the seeds. It went rather well with strong cheese and salad. We just had to remember that it was actually cake and so eat less of it at a time. Yeah, right!

Here's the recipe. From the Abel and Cole website, but adapted slightly by me. It's certainly a winning way to use up all those sneaky kiwi fruit that end up lazing at the bottom of the fruit bowl. But it's not really bread!

* 1/4 cup liquid honey (I cut this down ever so slighty)
* 1/3 cup vegetable oil (I didn't have quite enough so just used what I had)
* 1 egg
* 1&1/2 cups wholewheat flour
* 1 teaspoon cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon mixed spice (I used this rather the
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* dash salt
* 1 cup raisins
* 1 cup chopped walnuts
* 1 cup kiwifruit pulp ( about 3 or 4 kiwis)

Beat the honey, oil and egg well. Sift the flour, spices and bakng powder and salt and add to oil mixture. Lightly stir in remaining ingredients. Spoon into an 8-inch oiled loaf tin and bake at 350°F / 180°C for 40-45 minutes and allow to cool before serving.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Fair weather cat

Sniff is definitely a fair weather cat. After two days of moping about in the study curled up on his "hug-chair" scowling at the sound of the rain on the roof, he has emerged to re-stake his claim on the sofa.

He's so like his owners, we're so proud!

I am aware that recently the blog has been more like "From a North London Cat Obsessive" than a North London Kitchen, but no fear, recipes and updates to come. I have been experimenting, it's just the pictures of Sniff are so much cuter than my pictures of the food!