Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hearty Lentil Soup for a Chilly Winter's Day


I'm sorry to go on about the weather but with the temperature plummeting and yet another threat of snow, I felt I had no choice but to make a large, hearty pot of lentil soup. I love the French de Puy lentils, they're almost "meaty" in texture.
I find I'm warmed through and filled up with the benefit of feeling virtuous in feeding my family such a healthy soup. Served with some warm bread and perhaps a nice fresh side salad, this makes a great lunch (or a bolstering snack guzzled out of a thermos in the back seat of the car by a cold, wet child after swim practice).
  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 3 sticks of celery, washed and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1-2 teaspoons of cumin
  • 1 cup of French de Puy lentils
  • 4 cups of organic chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons of fresh parsley.
  • In a large soup pot heat the olive oil and add the onion, saute on medium low heat for 5 minutes. Add the celery, carrots and parsnips and continue to cook for another 3-4 minutes, add the minced garlic, cook for a further 2 minutes, making sure everything is soft but not browned.
  • Stir in the cumin, (I absolutely LOVE the smell of the cumin as it hits the hot pan, it sends me to the moon!) then add the lentils. Stir them around well so they are lightly covered with the oil and veggies, then add 1 tablespoon of the chopped parsley, stock, tomato paste and bay leaves.
  • Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and partially cover. Let the soup simmer away on the stove for approximately 30 minutes or until the lentils are nice and tender. Remove from heat and add the red wine vinegar, remainder of the parsley and remove the bay leaves.
  • My daughters like this served with an enormous helping of grated parmesan cheese stirred in for good measure. I don't blame them.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spaghetti with Zucchini, Tomatoes and Fresh Herbs

Who doesn't love pasta? I came up with this dish last summer when we were overgrown by oregano. It always makes me feel warm and like sun is shining. Which, in fact it is today. Everyone likes this dish, perhaps one or two of the girls try to fish out the zucchini and feed it to the dog on the quiet, but usually by the end of the meal the bowl is clean.
  • 1 box of spaghetti
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • olive oil
  • 3 zucchini's washed and chopped
  • A good handful of grape or cherry tomatoes, washed and halved
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • A shake of red pepper flakes
  • The juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup of toasted pine nuts
  • 1-2 tablespoon of heavy cream (optional)
  • A couple of handfuls of your favorite herbs (oregano, basi or even parsley is great with this)
  • 4 oz of feta cheese
  • Fill a large pan with water and put it on to boil. When boiling cook the spaghetti using the directions of the package.
  • Toast the pine nuts in a pan over the stove. When beautifully golden, remove from heat and set aside. You can put them in a baking tray and toast in the oven. I don't recommend this as I invariably forget about them, then they burn, set off the smoke detector and the whole house smells of burnt pine nuts. Not the aroma we are going for.
  • Meanwhile prepare the vegetables. Pour a tablespoon or so of olive oil into a large saute pan. Add the chopped onion and cook gently, while it's cooking cut the zucchini in half length ways and then again, then chop into chunks. Add this to the onion, then add the garlic and pepper flakes. Let the veggies cook for about 5 minutes until the zucchini is soft and just a little golden, be careful not to let the garlic burn.
  • Add the tomatoes and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. When all the veggies are cooked through remove from heat and place in a large bowl.
  • When the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the bowl with the veggies. At this stage add the cream, if desired. Toss gently, add the lemon juice and zest, pine nuts and more fresh herbs. Season with salt and pepper and then add the feta cheese.
  • Serve, hopefully sitting outside in the garden in the sun pretending you're in Capri!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Shepherd's Pie

Of course you can't possibly have a British kitchen without a Shepherd's Pie. If you make a big enough one, it may even last you for two meals. Being thoroughly British, I serve this with lashings of tomato ketchup. Sorry, but it's just what you do. This can be made with minced lamb instead of beef, but I understand this technically makes it a Cottage Pie. I'm not quite sure about this, is anyone else??
                      • FOR THE MASHED POTATO
                      • 6 medium to large peeled potatoes, quartered
                      • 2-4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
                      • 4 oz of cheddar cheese
                      • A couple of tablespoon of milk
                      • Salt and Pepper
                      • FOR THE MEAT SAUCE
                      • 1- 1 1/2 lbs of minced beef
                      • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
                      • 4 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
                      • 4 sticks of celery, finely chopped
                      • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
                      • Olive oil Salt and Pepper
                      • 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley
                      • 2 cups of beef or chicken stock
                      • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
                      • A good couple of gulgs of Worcestershire Sauce
                      • 8 oz of frozen peas
                      • 2 bay leaves
                      • Fill a large pan with water, add the potatoes and bring to the boil. Cook for approximately 15 minutes until soft.
                      • Drain water, add milk, butter, grated cheese and salt and pepper. Mash, adding more milk if necessary to get a fairly light consistency. Set aside.
                      • To get on with the meat sauce, pour a couple of tablespoon of olive oil into a large pan. Add the onion and leave to soften on a medium to low heat for 5 minutes, then add the celery, carrots and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, cook for a further 5 minutes until soft but not brown.
                      • Add the meat to the pan and brown, drain off any excess fat. Add the stock, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, chopped parsley and 2 bay leaves. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer and partially cover. Cook for a further 10 minutes, then add the frozen peas, cook for a further 5 minutes.
                      • If the consistency is too thin, mix a tablespoon of soft butter with 2 teaspoons of cornstarch. Add a tablespoon of the sauce to the cornstarch and mix to a paste. Add this to the sauce and stir in until the sauce has thickened. Remove the bay leaves.
                      • Pour the sauce into an oven proof dish and top with the mashed potato. Pop under the broiler (grill) until golden brown, but PLEASE keep an eye on it, I have cried over burnt Shepherd's Pie!
                      Serve with ketchup of course, and yes, a nice fresh salad if you feel you should.

                      Monday, March 28, 2011

                      Good Morning Granola and Fresh Berry Parfait!

                      I love this breakfast, it's just what's needed when everyone is rushing to find their sneakers, lacrosse sticks and last nights homework. If you serve it in a pretty little glass everyone feels special and looked after. I have a large jar of this granola on my kitchen counter and the level goes down at an alarming rate, so be sure to make a lot. I should point out that although I stick strictly to the berries, you should feel free to substitute or add whatever fruit you desire, how about papaya or bananas??
                      ALMOND, CHERRY AND VANILLA GRANOLA
                      Heat the oven to 300 F
                      4 cups old fashioned oats
                      1 cup raw sunflower seeds
                      1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
                      1 1/2 cups of raw, organic almonds
                      1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
                      1/2 cup of organic canola oil
                      1/3 cup agave nectar or maple syrup
                      1 teaspoon of best quality vanilla extract
                      Pinch of sea salt
                      1 cup of dried cherries
                      • mix the oats, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and almonds on a large baking sheet.

                      • In a bowl mix the oil, agave nectar or maple syrup, vanilla extract, cinnamon and salt together.

                      • Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry and mix together thoroughly.

                      • Bake in the oven for 30 - 40 minutes, with the timer set every 10 minutes when you should stir the ingredients around to make sure everything is cooking and browning consistently.

                      • When you return to the oven for the last 10 minutes, mix in the dried cherries. The granola is done when it's lightly browned. Remove from the oven and cool. When it's cool store in an airtight container. It will keep for at least a week, but I doubt it will last that long.

                      FOR THE BERRY MIXTURE

                      1 cup of blueberries

                      1 cup of raspberries

                      1 cup of strawberries, washed and quartered

                      1 teaspoon of sugar

                      Juice and zest of a lemon

                      Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and let rest for 10 minutes or so before using.

                      To assemble the parfait, start with a layer of yogurt, then berries, then granola, repeat ending with a dollop of yogurt (I use Greek) and few berries and a sprig of mint.

                      Enjoy and feel virtuous!

                      Thursday, March 24, 2011

                      Chocolate Cupcakes

                      Yes, this is the second chocolate post of the week, it must be something to do with the snow. It does seem a slight indulgence, but I just couldn't resist. These are such little treasures. It wasn't actually anyone's birthday, but the candles looked so festive.
                      2 cups of all purpose flour
                      1/2 cup of cocoa powder
                      1 teaspoon of baking powder
                      1 teaspoon of baking soda
                      Pinch of salt
                      1 cup of buttermilk
                      1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
                      4 oz (1 stick) of butter
                      1 cup of sugar
                      2 eggs
                      GLAZE
                      1 cup of dark chocolate
                      1 cup of heavy cream
                      1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
                      Heat the oven to 350 F
                      • Cream the butter and sugar in a mixer until really light and fluffy.
                      • Add the eggs one at a time and scrape down after each addition. Add the vanilla and beat well.
                      • Measure the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a bowl. Pour the buttermilk into a measuring jug.
                      • Add half the flour mixture stirring gently, followed by the buttermilk, finishing with the rest of the flour. Mix until combined. Try not to over mix.
                      • Line a cupcake pan with paper holders. Each cupcake holder should be filled approximately two thirds full.
                      • Place in the oven and bake for approximately 25 minutes or until risen and springy to the touch.
                      • Remove the baked cupcakes to a wire rack and cool thoroughly.
                      • To make the glaze, combine the chocolate, cream and vanilla in a small pan and heat until the chocolate has melted. Stir gently until combined and do not let it boil.
                      • To glaze the cupcakes, gently tip the domes into the warm chocolate mixture and set them aside to firm up before serving (if you can resist).
                      Have a wonderful weekend!

                      Marbella Chicken

                      When my children ask me "what's for dinner?" and I reply "chicken" and they roll their eyes and say "of course, what else," I present them with Chicken Marbella. This puts them in a tricky situation, because although they beg "NO MORE CHICKEN!!" they just can't resist this! It's sweet, tangy and really succulent. Combined with some warm doughy bread, they're really hooked. Try it, you'll see!
                      Heat the oven to 375F
                      4 split chicken breasts, bone in, skin on (cut in half, so you have 8 pieces of chicken)
                      THE MARINADE 1 tablespoon of BROWN sugar, 1 tablespoon of country Dijon mustard, Juice of an orange, Zest of an orange, 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar, 7 tablespoon of olive oil, Salt and pepper,

                      FOR ROASTING 3/4 cup of green olives, 1 cup of prunes, 1/4 cup of capers, 2 lemons or oranges, 1/2 cup of white wine, Parsley,
                      • Mix the marinade in a bowl and pour into a gallon zip lock bag. Add the chicken and put into the refrigerator for at least 2-3 hours or if your organized, overnight.
                      • When ready to roast, pour the chicken and marinade into a large baking dish, scatter the prunes, olives, capers and a few orange or lemon wedges among the chicken. Bake for approximately 50 minutes to an hour until the chicken is golden brown.
                      • Remove from the oven and place the chicken, olives, prunes, capers and citrus wedges to a warm serving platter and cover.
                      • Place the baking dish on the stove on a low heat and add the wine, stir and let simmer for 5 minutes or so until slightly thickened.
                      • Pour the juices over the chicken, sprinkle with parsley, add a few more citrus wedges and serve.
                      YUM
                      What is your families number one favorite dish?? or are there too many??

                      Wednesday, March 23, 2011

                      Winter Roasted Borscht


                      Our second day into the official start of Spring brought yet more snow. Surely this is not the plan. I have trouble with snow, I can accept it in January and February, but quite honestly I am now thoroughly ready for daffodils, tulips, blue skies and SUN. With the forecast threatening another day of "wintery mix" I turned to the comfort of a steaming bowl of borscht.
                      I have to say, I have not had much experience with beets, which is odd really as they are used quite extensively in British cooking. I found a beautiful bunch at the grocery store the other day just begging to be made into Borscht. The only word I can use to describe the color of this soup (as my photo skills are somewhat lacking) is GLORIOUS. It really is. I'm told this is chock full of iron among other wonderful nutritents, it's simply got to be good for you, just look at the ingredient list.
                      Heat oven to 425F
                      Olive oil
                      Salt and pepper
                      4-5 beets, trimmed, peeled and cut into chunks
                      2-3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
                      2 large red skinned potatoes, skin left on, washed and cut into chunks
                      1 1/2 cups of red cabbage, thinly sliced
                      1 onion, diced
                      3 cups of organic beef or chicken stock
                      1 scant tablespoon of red wine vinegar
                      1/2 cup of sour cream
                      Parsley for serving
                      • Place the cut up beets, carrots and potatoes on a baking tray, drizzle over a tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in the oven and roast for 45 minutes. If the vegetables are getting too crisp, cover with aluminium foil until soft.
                      • Meanwhile saute the onion and red cabbage in a pan for about 10 minutes until nice and soft but not browned. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
                      • When the vegetables are ready, transfer to the blender and add the broth. You will have to do this in batches. Blend until smooth, or leave a little chunky, whatever is your preference. Add the red wine vinegar.
                      • Gently stir in the sour cream and check the seasonings. Gently heat and serve with an additional dollop of sour cream if wished and a sprinkle of parsely.
                      If you had to pick, what is your all time top winter soup??

                      Tuesday, March 22, 2011

                      An Essential Chocolate Cake


                      There are times in one's life when a good chocolate cake recipe is indispensable. When you're in the mood for chocolate cake, you don't want a lot of fiddling about. You want to know that in an hour or so, you will be sitting down with a nice cup of tea and a hefty slice of dark, rich, crumbly cake with a smooth, glistening chocolate glaze that will soothe any troubled soul.
                      I found this recipe in one of my absolute FAVORITE cookbooks, the Tea and Sympathy Cookbook. I've changed it around rather a lot, taking out the boiling water and putting in sour cream and adding a dash of coffee among other things. It's become almost like a brownie cake, absolutely delicious. Tea and Sympathy is a WONDERFUL British restaurant in Greenwich Village which my family and I LOVE. If you find yourself in NYC and you need a good cup of tea and a proper British meal, look no further. http://teaandsympathynewyork.com/
                      Heat oven to 350 F
                      Butter and flour 2 8inch cake pans
                      1 cup of semi sweet baking chocolate, melted
                      8 oz unsalted butter
                      1 1/2 cups of sugar
                      3 eggs
                      1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
                      1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
                      1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
                      1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
                      Pinch of salt
                      3/4 cup of sour cream
                      1/4 cup of brewed coffee
                      FOR THE FILLING AND GLAZE
                      1 cup of chocolate
                      1 cup of cream
                      1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
                      • Heat the chocolate in the microwave until melted. Set aside to cool.
                      • Cream the butter and the sugar until beautifully light and fluffy.
                      • Add the eggs one at a time and scrape down after each addition.
                      • Add the tablespoon of vanilla extract and beat in.
                      • Mix the sour cream and coffee together in a bowl.
                      • Combine the flour, baking powder, soda and salt in a bowl.
                      • Mix in half the flour mixture, then the sour cream mixture and finish off with the rest of the flour until just combined.
                      • Pour into the two pans and bake in the oven for approximately 30-40 minutes until cooked through.
                      To make the glaze, which I also use for the filling:
                      • Combine the chocolate and cream in a small pan and heat until the chocolate has melted.
                      • Stir gently until you have a lovely thick chocolate mixture that coats the spoon.
                      • Try not to eat it before you fill and frost the cake.
                      Serve with a cup of tea, or vanilla ice cream or whipped cream OR just perfectly by itself!

                      Sunday, March 20, 2011

                      Everyone's Favorite Paella


                      On Saturday afternoon I found myself aimlessly wandering around the grocery store, trying in vain to find inspiration over "what on earth am I going to cook for dinner tonight?" I have to confess I was feeling a touch of self pity. I mean one of my children doesn't eat fish, one has given up red meat for Lent, one thinks she's a vegetarian but doesn't like vegetables and the other has refused to eat another piece of chicken in her life - what's a British Mum to do?
                      Then on my third loop past the fish counter I had a stroke of brilliance! Paella!!! No really, it's a great idea, there's something for everyone. Chorizo for the meat eaters, clams, mussels and shrimp for the fish eaters, chicken for the chicken eaters and rice for the vegetarian, throw in a few vegetables and everyone is happy. A stroke of brilliance? I think so.
                      If you want that distinct yellow rice look and saffron is a little on the expensive side, add 1/2 -3/4 teaspoon of turmeric to the chicken stock and stir.
                      I displayed my lovely meal on a rather pretty platter and sprinkled the paella with chopped herbs and wedges of oranges and lemons. At the end of dinner there was not a grain of rice left, not a shrimp to be had. Everyone was indeed happy.
                      Serves 6
                      Heat oven to 375F
                      2 large split chicken breasts, skin on and bone in. Cut these in half so you have 4 pieces of chicken.
                      2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
                      salt and pepper
                      Zest and juice of 1 lemon
                      Pinch of paprika
                      FOR THE VEGETABLES AND SEAFOOD.
                      1 medium to large onion
                      3 sticks of celery
                      1 large red pepper
                      2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
                      salt and pepper
                      1/2 glass of white wine
                      1 1/2 cups of rice (I used brown basmati)
                      3 cups of organic chicken stock
                      6- 8 mussels (well scrubbed and rinsed)
                      6-8 clams (well cleaned)
                      1 /2 lb of cleaned shrimp
                      6 0z of frozen peas
                      Fresh parsley for garnish
                      Lemon and orange wedges for serving.
                      • In a baking pan place the 4 pieces of chicken. Mix the olive oil with the lemon zest, juice, salt and pepper and paprika and rub the mixture over the chicken. Put in the oven and cook until golden and cooked through, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven, cover and set aside.
                      • In a large saute pan with a well fitting lid, heat the olive oil and add the onions, cook gently for about 5 minutes, add the celery, red pepper and garlic, cook for a further 4-5 minutes until soft, being careful not to brown the vegetables.
                      • Season with salt and pepper, add the rice stirring well so the grains are lightly covered in the oil. Add a nice splash of white wine, about 1/2 a glass (I'm not adverse to the option of you consuming the rest of the glass if you should feel the need). Add the chicken stock, cover immediately and turn down the heat to a simmer until the rice is ALMOST cooked, start checking after about 15 minutes.
                      • Add the clams, mussels, shrimps and peas and cover again. After about 6-10 minutes all the clams and mussels should have opened their shells, if any refuse to open, discard them. Check that the shrimp is cooked through.
                      • Spoon the paella onto a large warm platter. Take the skin off the chicken, pull it off the bone and tear into chunks, add to the paella and gently mix in. Garnish with chopped parsley, lemon and orange wedges, squeeze a little lemon juice over and proudly serve.
                      I hope your family loves this as much as mine did.

                      Friday, March 18, 2011

                      Noah's Ark Salmon


                      I first ate this on a visit to England at a lovely pub called The Noah's Ark in West Sussex. http://www.noahsarkinn.co.uk/ It was one of those perfect, lazy English summer days, you know the sort, all blue skies and sun (yes, they do exist). This is my attempt to recreate their humdinger of a dish.
                      1 packet of bacon (preferably without any nitrites, Appplegate is a great brand)
                      4, fillets of fresh wild salmon
                      Olive oil Salt and pepper
                      Zest and juice of a lemon
                      5 oz of frozen peas
                      1 ripe avocado, sliced
                      1 bunch of watercress
                      Lettuce greens
                      1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
                      Good squeeze of lemon
                      Salt and pepper
                      1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
                      6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
                      First cook the bacon, make sure it's cooked well but not burnt. Remove to paper towels to drain and cool. Take any fat left on and discard, crumble or chop the remaining bacon. Set aside.
                      Place the frozen peas into a microwaveable dish and give them a blast until nice and bright green. Rinse and set aside to cool.
                      Rub the salmon fillets with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Heat a non stick pan until pretty hot and lay the fillets top side down (skin side up) in the pan. Let it cook for 3-4 minutes developing a nice crust on the top of the salmon. Turn over and cook for a further 2-3 minutes to cook through. Remove to a warm plate and cover. You can finish cooking the fish through in the oven if needed at a temperature of 350F.
                      To make the vinaigrette mix the mustard, 1/2 the juice of the lemon and zest, salt and pepper and vinegar in a bowl. Gradually whisk in the olive oil. Taste for further seasoning.
                      Arrange a selection of watercress, salad greens, sliced avocado, the peas and a sprinkle of bacon bits and lightly dress with the vinaigrette. Lay a piece of salmon on the top, squeeze little more lemon juice over and perhaps a tiny flake or two of Maldon sea salt.
                      What is your best fish dish ever??
                      SWFNKF9FHJVC

                      Wednesday, March 16, 2011

                      Chicken Pot Pie


                      I find this dish particularly helpful precisely BECAUSE it has quite a few STEPS. The beauty is, you don't have to do it all at once, which is brilliant when you need to do a hundred other things and just have to run out to the post offic. Make the pastry, put it in the fridge and forget about it for a while, make the sauce early in the day and you're two steps ahead, I love anything that makes me feel like I'm two steps ahead.
                      I use left over roast chicken from a previous meal. Quite often I roast a couple of extra split breasts to use for soup or this pie. At a pinch you could use a rotisserie chicken from the super market.
                      Pastry
                      1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour 6 tablespoons of cold, diced, unsalted butter
                      1/4 cup of cold water with 1 egg yolk beaten in it
                      1 tablespoon of minced rosemary
                      Pinch of salt
                      I'm afraid I am so lazy I only make pastry in the food processor. Pour in the flour, salt and minced herbs and pulse a couple of times. Add the diced butter in batches of 3-4 and pulse a couple of times with each batch to mix them in. Add the cold water and egg yolk with the processor on and continue until it looks like it is coming together. DON'T OVER DO THIS!! stop BEFORE it gets to a ball. Dump it out onto a floured surface and bring together gently using the heal of your hand. Shape into a disk and place onto a sheet of plastic wrap, wrap up and pop in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
                      Sauce
                      4 tablespoons butter 4 tablespoons of flour 1 cup of milk 1/4 cup white wine 3/4 cup of chicken stock bay leaf salt and pepper 1 1/2lbs of cooked chicken Meanwhile, get on with the sauce. In a medium sized saucepan melt 4 tablespoons of butter, add 4 tablespoons of flour and mix. In a measuring jug combine 1 cup of milk, 1/4 white wine and 3/4 organic chicken stock and the zest of a lemon. Gradually add to the butter and flour stirring gently with each addition until all the liquid is absorbed. Add a bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Let the sauce simmer very gently. Vegetables Olive oil 1 onion, diced 3 sticks of celery, diced 1 leek, finely chopped 3 carrots, peeled and diced 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped In a saute pan add the olive oil, diced onion, celery and carrots. Saute gently for approximately 6-8 minutes until soft but not browned, add the garlic and cook for another few minutes. Skin the chicken and tear into chunks. Add the chicken to the sauce and then add the cooked vegetables. Stir and pour into an ovenproof dish. Roll out the pastry and place on top of the chicken sauce, crimp the edges and cut 4-5 small slits on the top to let the steam out. Beat the egg and egg wash the pastry so it will brown beautifully in the oven. Place the dish onto a baking sheet and pop into the oven for approximately 50 minutes or until crisp and brown. Let the pie cool for 10-15 minutes before serving.

                      Tuesday, March 15, 2011

                      Bean and Vegetable Soup

                      What is more comforting than a steaming bowl of soup, brimming with goodness and vitality, filled with strengthening root vegetables and leafy greens. This is the perfect winter soup, it will buck you up and warm you through. It's also very accommodating as this is more an outline than a strict recipe. Pick your favorite veggies, almost anything that needs using up will do. I love the robust flavors of rosemary and sage in this, but parsley and oregano is good too. Ingredients: 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil 1 medium onion, diced 1-2 leeks and/or 3-4 stalks of celery, diced 2-3 carrots, diced 2-3 cloves of garlic, mashed Fresh herbs of your choice, finely chopped Salt and pepper 2, 14oz cans of organic cannellini beans 2 medium potatoes and/or sweet potatoes chopped (skins left on the white potatoes) 4-6 cups of organic chicken stock (depending on how thick you like your soup) 1 tablespoon of tomato puree 1 small - medium bunch of leafy greens, finely chopped (such as kale or swiss chard) Parmesan cheese for sprinkling 1 tablespoon of pesto sauce (optional) store bought or homemade Method
                      In a good size stock pot or dutch oven saute the onion, leeks, celery and carrot on a low heat for about 10 minutes until soft but not browned, add the garlic and saute for a further 2-3 minutes. Add the chopped herbs and give them a toss around. Drain and rinse the beans and add them to the pot. Add the chopped potatoes, then pour in the chicken stock, add 1 tablespoon of tomato puree and stir gently. Bring the soup to a boil and turn down to a simmer for approx 15 minutes or until the potatoes start feeling cooked. Add the chopped greens and cook for a further 10 minutes. Just before serving, I often add 1 or 2 tablespoons of pesto to the soup for an extra lift. Check for seasonings and serve with some crusty wholewheat bread, olive oil and parmesan cheese. Anyone have any favorite soups??

                      Sunday, March 13, 2011

                      Lucky Me!

                      I know this is a cooking blog and tulips and camellia's are not edible, BUT these gorgeous flowers are now proudly sitting on my kitchen window sill. They are SO lovely that I wanted to share them. My husband walked into the kitchen with them yesterday. I'm not entirely sure what I had done to deserve them, but happily took possession. My grandmother's home in England was called Camellia Cottage and indeed it was covered in the prettiest white and pink camellias, it was beautiful - happy days. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

                      Friday, March 11, 2011

                      Pear and Raspberry Crumble


                      I grew up on my mother's blackberry and apple crumble (apples picked from the garden and blackberries picked from the hedgerows). I've grown into a bit of a crumble queen, and who can blame me, it's SO easy and QUICK. Although I would love to spend all day pottering around the kitchen in a state of domestic bliss, reality is a very different picture. I've got lacrosse practices, singing lessons, gymnastic meets and multiple piles of homework to contend with, and when I'm busy contending, crumbles are ENORMOUSLY forgiving.
                      You can use just about any fruit you've got hanging around and you can prepare the bottom and the top in advance, so all you need to do is sprinkle the crumble topping on before baking. Or just bake the whole thing in advance and be done with it. It warms up beautifully. Honestly, what's not to LOVE about a crumble. This combination is my current favourite. My children eat this for breakfast (think about all that healthy fruit they're getting) and my husband asks for this instead of a chocolate birthday cake - imagine! Heat the oven to 375 Fruit Mixture 4-5 ripe pears, Bosc or Bartlett would be fine
                      1, 10z package of organic frozen raspberries
                      1/3 cup of brown sugar (I use sucanant)
                      Zest and juice of 1 lemon
                      1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
                      1 tablespoon of all purpose flour Topping
                      6 oz of butter, diced
                      1 cup of oats
                      1 /14 cup of all purpose flour
                      1/3 cup of brown sugar (sucanant)
                      pinch of salt
                      Combine the fruit mixture ingredients into a large bowl, stir and let sit while you prepare the topping.
                      In another large bowl mix the oats, flour, sugar and salt and then rub in the diced butter until the mixture looks like large breadcrumbs, make sure the mixture is well rubbed in, even if your fingers start to ache, otherwise your topping will be floury and not uniformly buttery and delicious. Pour the fruit mixture into a baking dish, I use an oval about 10"x 8"x 2 1/2. Place the dish on a baking tray (this is important as the juices will probably bubble over the side and you don't want them burning in your oven). Bake for 45 minutes - 1 hour until golden and crisp. Cool for at least 10 minutes and serve alone, with vanilla ice cream, custard or a drizzle of cream. What are your favourite fruit crumble combinations??

                      Thursday, March 3, 2011

                      A Promise of Spring

                      With yet another snow storm lingering in our memories, I craved a promise of Spring. A chickpea salad seemed just the ticket. Fresh and crunchy, zingy from the lemon juice and just enough creaminess from the delicious feta, I could close my eyes and pretend I was in the Mediterranean. It seems an odd post for a British kitchen but this English rose is finding the North American winters alittle too extreme. Chickpea Salad 14oz can of organic chickpeas 1 English cucumber, seeded and diced 4-6 Roma tomatoes, depending on size, seeded and diced Fresh herbs (whatever you have, parsley, oregano or basil would be good) Juice of 2 lemons 1 teaspoon of dijon mustard 6-8 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar Really good feta cheese, crumbled or diced as you like Sea salt and a good grinding of black pepper Drain and rinse chickpeas, place in a good sized serving dish. Add diced cucumbers and tomatoes. Whisk together red wine vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour over the chickpeas, cucumber and tomatoes, add the feta and chopped herbs and toss. Check for additional salt and pepper. Enjoy with warm pita bread.