Archive for March, 2008

A RECIPE: Porridge with instant raspberry jam


Being English, this is what I know about breakfast. A cooked breakfast includes any or either of the following: a soft boiled egg with soldiers, a fried egg with back bacon, sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes, fried bread and optional baked beans . A standard breakfast would entail museli/cereal with milk, toast with honey, marmite or jam, porridge and on Sundays you may be witness to a Croissant at the table. Pancakes of the scotch variety are eaten with butter at tea-time (because everyone knows that the clock stops at 4pm in England, so everyone can sit down for high-tea) and crepes are eaten on Pancake (Shrove) Tuesday or at the local school fair. Waffles are eaten for dessert or from a street vendor and French toast is made sans sucre, appropriately renamed eggy-bread and you may eat it for breakfast, but more likely for supper.

To cut a whole lot of waffling short, breakfast in England is savoury and what Americans’ choose for breakfast we eat for tea or pudding. A few weeks ago at work we had a recipe for creme brulee french toast– country white bread, soaked over night in sweetened cream and Grand Marnier mixture sat on top of a butter and brown sugar sauce. My stubborn British palette nearly had a taste-bud fit when I realised that this recipe was intended for breakfast! Call me crazy, but this recipe had all the components of a decadent bread & butter pudding, minus the custard to serve. It’s not because I lack a sweet tooth that I found this shocking- on the contrary, I have a reputation for looking at the dessert menu before the dinner menu. But I grew up believing that sweet things came only after you had finished what was on your plate and breakfast was savoury- perhaps with sweet accompaniments but savoury nevertheless. And of course, all this talk of breakfast got me thinking about my favourite meal of the day. Some girls daydream about new shoes or the cute boy in their office but for me- I daydream about breakfast (and that makes getting up in the morning a whole lot easier).

I get fixated on breakfasts in an obsessive compulsive sort of way- so much so that I’m looking forward to the next days breakfast before I’ve even finished the one I’m eating. My latest breakfast craze is porridge, a breakfast that I think is so frequently overlooked because it’s either been made with cheap oats and water or because its made so carelessly it looks like gruel. Obviously, for those of us porridge-connosieurs out there, we know that porridge is more than just add-hot-water-and-stir. Oh, yes, there is technique and proportions involved in making good porridge- I’m suprised Delia hasn’t caught on to this already. The key is to use Rolled oats. Yes, they take longer to cook, but we’re talking a matter minutes and you’ll make up those minutes because they’ll fill you up for much longer and you won’t be thinking about your lunch an hour after breakfast. I also recommend using some milk (soy or rice will do), there’s something in the milk that makes the oats less gluey and more creamy and flavourful. Now, how many more hours are there to go until breakfast? Continue reading ‘A RECIPE: Porridge with instant raspberry jam’

A Recipe: Nut & seed refrigerator bars


It seems to me that a large majority of my family and friends have eating intolerances/allergies/diets that frequently give way to them sucking their teeth followed by “Ooo…does it have wheat/dairy/eggs/cheese/nuts/carbs/meat/shellfish/fat/salt/sugar/calories in it?” when I offer them samples. Usually I reluctantly respond yes and then take it as a personal offense to my cooking. When I was in school and college, none of my friends vilified food groups this way- an allergy was when you broke out in hives and your tongue swelled so much that you couldn’t talk and an intolerance was when you spent the night in agony on the loo praying that the toilet wouldn’t overflow when you flushed it for the fifteenth time”. I’m sure that these more recently developed dietary predispositions are highly credible – (I can speak from first hand involvement of Don’s dairy drawbacks) but they do make cooking dinner a painstakingly, infuriating process. “What do you mean you don’t eat pork anymore?!”

On the positive side, however, a series of intolerant guests has caused the little elves in my brain to start cranking the the creative juices again. Trust me, you have the elves too, they just have a tendency to only come out when you’re in dire straights. These are desperate times. Don thinks that these same elves clean the house and hang up his bathroom towels, but I assure you, that’s all me. And so it is that I’ve been trying to put more thought into my recipes to avoid putting wheat/dairy/eggs/cheese/nuts/carbs/meat/shellfish/fat/salt/sugar/calories in without creating the sense that you’re biting into cardboard. Baking, is of course the biggest challenge of all- but I am pleased to report that I am making slow headway.

Continue reading ‘A Recipe: Nut & seed refrigerator bars’

20 Reasons British food ain’t half bad

1. Marmite (not just yeast extract on toast)

2. Heinz baked beans (canned food has never tasted this good)

3. Birds custard mix (foolproof and fail safe. There’s no other way to eat crumble)

4. Atora vegetable suet (you can’t make a steamed pudding without it)

5. Anchor butter (toast, crumpets, scones you name it, it goes with it)

6. Cotswold Legbar eggs (beautiful tinted blue shells and a yolk so yellow it’s orange)

7. Jamie Oliver (bringing sexy back to cooking)

8. Green & Blacks Chocolate (take a seat Hershey’s, you never stood a chance)

9. The Metric System (grams are more accurate than ounces. period.)

10. Bubble and Squeak (the only way to use up Sundays leftovers)

11. Sunday Pub Lunch (booze, roasties and football- what better ways are there to spend Sundays?)

12. Back bacon (more meat, less fat- isn’t that what we all want?)

13. McVities Hobnobs (perhaps the greatest biscuit of all time)

14. Porridge (oats, milk and water = cheap, healthy and satisfying breakfast)

15. Hula hoops (what other crisp can you nibble off of your fingers?)

16. Sausages (hands down better than any American Weener)

17. Jam Doughnuts (firstly, the spelling is better and secondly the jam)

18. PG-tips tea (voted Englands best tea served with milk, I travel with bags of the stuff)

19. Waitrose (the finest supermarket shopping experience you will ever have)

20. Maldon Sea Salt (crispy flakes of salt that melt in your mouth)

A RECIPE: South African rusks


I came across this recipe whilst sorting through stacks of scribbled papers headed for the recycle collection last July. I then proceeded to spend the rest of the warm months (which are quite a bit longer on this side of the pond than I’m used to) longing for the cooler months to arrive if only so that I could leave the oven on all night in order to bake these crunchy little South African biscuits. Now of course I’m desperate for the summer months to break the cold so that I can buy decent tomatoes again and discard my North Face Eskimo-style coat. I put the recipe in a ‘safe’ place but low and behold it managed to get lost in the wire-works a second time during our move in November. I tore my hair out(and the little that Don has) over what disorganised lives we lead and in doing having torn through every notebook and file I own, I noticed it right in front of me- posted to my pin board. Fortunately, this was prior to my recent lovers tiff with my oven, which resulted in its tragic and untimely death by cookies I managed try this recipe for rusks (phew). I can only urge you to do the same before the summer comes or worse yet your oven has enough of all the hard work it does and ups and leaves you too.

Don’t be deceived by the name, which makes these biscuits sound like something you would eat to get your bowels moving and I assure you they are not (healthy that is- I won’t comment on the results of their fiber content). Think of them as the biscotti of Africa- though a little less sweet and rough at the edges. Of course, you can add more sugar, raisins and nuts but for me plain and simple dunked into a steaming cup of PG tips is the best way. The recipe was given to me by the chef at the Tuningi lodge we stayed in in Madikwe Game Reserve, who I haranged all week in order to get a copy. The measurements were a little funny so I simplified them and I cannot tell you how smug I felt when these came out tasting just how I had remembered them! For some reason my Thai and Indian culinary ventures haven’t come out with the quite the same authenticity. Continue reading ‘A RECIPE: South African rusks’

Eyeballs Anyone?

I have dared on many occasions to eat outside my comfort zone. Such occasions included but have not been limited to: Chinese shark fin soup, Thai stir-fried squirrel and deep-fried crickets with a dash of salt and vinegar. But there are times when the look/idea/thought of putting something bizarre into my mouth actually puts me off my food all together. The wrinkling of the nose, screwing shut of the eyelids and pouting of the lips is the tell-tale warning sign that I shant be eating what has been placed before me.

It was only a few weeks ago that I listened to a rather amusing but ultimately a nose-wrinkling-eyelid shutting- lip pouting story about lutefisk. Little did I know that this same Scandinavian delicacy of air-dried and then lye soaked white fish would arrive at work to be cooked for a segment a couple of weeks later. If you’ve never seen lutefisk before then imagine fish that looks like Jelly (that’s Jello for all you Americans). Alongside, this highly potent gelatinous excuse for a cod fillet) was to be served, baked giant water bugs, fried scorpians, civet coffee- anybody retching yet? No? Then I’ll continue- boiled eels (garnished with diced tomatoes and olive oil), roasted lambs head (seasoned with Maldon sea salt and the finest olive oil), eyeballs included.

You may not be retching yet but I am now typing with my eyes screwed shut just thinking about it. So much so does this make my stomach that I have no pictures to show you of the final dishes. Cooking these little treats was traumatizing enough for me. But I am told that the venturesome Andrew Zimmern thoroughly enjoyed popping a lambs eyeball at 7:42 am in front of millions of viewers who had previously been enjoying their breakfasts. If I had not already been at work, I might would not have made it in.

With all the hungry people in the world, I’m ashamed to write anything scathing on matters pertaining to food and had I grown up in a household where our Sunday roast had been lambs head, I’m sure I would still to this day be fighting with my siblings over who got to pop the eyeballs. Squabling over wishbones suddenly sounds so tame. It is for this very reason (my unadventurous culinary childhood) that perhaps I shall never have a taste for some of the worlds signature delicacies; Twinkies included.

A RECIPE: Choc-full fridge cake


Chocolate refrigerator cake is not usually something that I would offer to do the washing-up for. This has mystified me based on the following argument: 1/ I like biscuits 2/ I like Chocolate 3/ I like biscuits covered in chocolate 4/ I like the word cake. Prior to my ovens unpredicted breakdown I had not spared a thought that a chocolate refrigerator cake might make it into the recipe archives of my blog. However, unable to bake with an oven other than the microwaveable variety this past Saturday morning- meant that I would have to either a/ find another activity or b/ bake without an oven. Unable to think of how I could possibly bake without an oven I opted for a- find another activity.

After visiting a couple of my favourite blogs (thank you Monica and Little Britainer) this other activity turned out to be cleaning out the kitchen cupboards. How exciting Saturday mornings can be! This was something that desperately needed to be done and included a spattering of the following appropriately edited phrases: “oh! I didn’t know this was in here” and “Ooooh! this should not still be in here!”. By the end of the clear-out I was left face to face with a handful of the dreaded opened, half-used, mostly used and nearly empty packets of ingredients that I would on any normal day bung into a batch of cookies and be pleased with myself that nothing had been wasted.

A lack of oven forced me to activate my brain (which only happens on the rarest of occasions) to find the perfect solution to use up the opened contents of my cupboard. At first I discarded my idea for a fridge cake- how could I put something in my blog that isn’t totally fabulous? But of course I had gone to the effort of activating my brain so I thought about it a little longer and concluded that why I never thought fridge cake was fabulous was because of the addition of dried fruit. I like raisins and I like chocolate but the two combined are not in my mind a happy couple- even when I’m not thinking. I wanted my fridge cake to have the best quality chocolate and stuffed full of crunch. Don thought perhaps I was a touch too liberal with my crunchy additions but I wanted a nut in every bite and that’s what I got! In any case, you could do any combinations of fruit, nuts, biscuits- Jamie even uses crushed meringue nests. Who knew a cake of all things could be so flexible? Baking has never been so easy.

Continue reading ‘A RECIPE: Choc-full fridge cake’

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