Thursday, 3 October 2013

Plate Lickers August Party

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Summer is starting to feel like a distant memory but I wanted to share the menu & photos from our end of summer Plate Lickers party. The incredibly generous Justine & Matt of the Flying Pig pub let us take over the beer garden on a Saturday afternoon & we were even lucky enough to get an appearance from the sun. Not only were we celebrating Jo's exciting news but my mum's 60th birthday so it was lovely, if not a little nerve racking being surrounded by so many familiar faces. 

Cambridge Cropshare also very kindly shared with us some of their fantastic end of summer crop. The cucumbers were pickled with chilli and sesame, and we had lots of fun frying up the beetroot crisps.


Watermelon Margarita Ice Lollies
Courgette & Blue cheese Arancini
Jerk & Coconut Corn on the Cob
Mexican Spiced Spatchcock Chicken with Quinoa, Black Bean & Mango, Cropshare lettuce & pickled cucumber
Champagne Jelly & Macaron
Baked Vanilla Cheesecake with Black Pepper Fig Compote

Last but not least, thank you to my dad for taking these fab photos. You can see more of his photos on his flickr account

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Blank Box Coffee Giveaway

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I don't think you guys understand just how happy I am to be partnering up with Blank Box coffee this month to give away 5 Boxes of coffee!

I signed up to Blank Box 3 months ago because I loved what they offered. For those that don't know here is the breakdown. For £10 a month you receive 2x 150g bags of coffee. Every bag  is sourced by the team from small, artisanal roasteries from around the country (and this month even from Paris). The bags arrive with 2 different stamps on so you have the option to go onto their website and find out the origin of the coffee, the variety of the bean and even the altitude it was grown at. You also receive tasting notes so that you can compare them to your own. Now, I love coffee, but all of this information has always baffled me slightly. I found BlankBox to be the perfect way to learn more about coffee in general and of course also to stay stocked up with lovingly roasted coffee. I also love how fresh the coffee arrives, sometimes you may even need to rest it for an extra day or 2 before you can start brewing & I enjoy being part of the process. I personally get my beans whole and grind them as I need but you can have them delivered ready ground for whichever brewing method you use at home. I currently love my aeropress but am contemplating treating myself to a Clever coffee dripper because I just need to fill my kitchen with even more gadgets!

So, in order to be in with a chance of winning one of 5 boxes of coffee simply follow the instructions below! Winners will be chosen at random on the 4th October, just in time for the October boxes of coffee. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I have not been paid to run this competition, I am purely doing it out of love for what they do.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Umbria & Tuscany part 2

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As I mentioned in in the first post, we stayed on an Agriturismo during our time in Italy. The thing that really drew us to the farm was that it was self sufficient and that there was chance to do some hands on learning in the kitchen. On our last night Louisa let us into her kitchen and taught us to make fettuccine. I have made pasta a couple of times at home but it was much more fun learning straight from a an Italian.

 Once the pasta had a chance to dry Louisa & Francesco served us dinner under the stars where we ate our pasta with a basil & ricotta pesto washed down with their home made wine, brandy & walnut liqueur. We were even joined by some fireflies which for a moment made me think I had maybe had a glass of wine too many. The star of the show for me was their aged Pecorino, nothing like I had eaten before. They clean the casing of the cheese every day and brush it with olive oil. The red is a completely natural reaction but apparently some people cheat and brush the cheese with tomato to give it that colour. We were lucky enough to be able to into their cellar and have a look at the cheese at all the different stages.

During dinner we got talking about the sheep and before we knew it had volunteered ourselves up to get up early & help milk them the following morning.

Breakfast consisted of espresso & figs eaten straight off the tree, out of the whole holiday this is what I miss the most on a daily basis. The sheep were incredibly friendly and inquisitive and didn't seem to be bothered by the milking as were distracted by their breakfast of muesli (I will never look at my breakfast the same way again). Louisa made it look so easy, but then again she does this every morning without fail. After all the sheep had been fed and milked we followed Louisa to the kitchen. Here she showed us how she makes the pecorino using vegetarian rennet. The milk has to be brought up to a certain temperature before the rennet is added and the curds scooped out by hand into the colanders. With the remaining liquid ricotta is made. Ricotta meaning twice cooked as the milk is brought up to temperature for the second time. This is poured into a finer colander with the whey being saved to feed the animals. I thoroughly recommend going to stay with Francesco and Louisa if you fancy getting away from life's stresses and experiencing their self sufficient lifestyle.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Pine Nut Semi Freddo

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On Saturday we decided to combine our frozen course & pudding together bringing in some of our favourite Italian flavours. Jo baked the most delicious olive oil & peach cake (if you ask her extra nicely she may share the recipe) and I made a pine nut semi freddo to accompany it. Semi Freddo means half cold in Italian and is a great way of making something similar to ice-cream but without having to churn it. After trying pine nut gelato in Italy I was hooked & desperate to recreate at home.

This recipe makes enough to fill 1 loaf tin & about 8-10 portions depending on how thick you wish to slice it.
You will need

  • 50g caster sugar
  • 4 large, free range eggs
  • 500ml double cream
  • large handful of pine nuts, toasted till lightly golden
To begin, lightly oil your loaf tin and then line with cling film.

Next up separate your eggs into 2 large bowls before pouring the cream into a 3rd, medium sized bowl. If you do the whisking in this order you won't need to wash the beaters between each bowl. Begin by whisking your egg whites with a small pinch of salt till you get stiff peaks. Set aside.

Next add the sugar to the egg yolks and beat together till the mixture has almost doubled in size and is super creamy and light in colour. Set aside again.

Finally whisk the cream till soft peaks begin to form but don't over beat. Fold the cream into the egg yolk mixture and then adding 1/2 at a time fold in the egg whites. Pour around a 1/3 of the mixture into your lined tin before folding the pine nuts into the remaining mixture. Pour this in on top before gently laying an extra sheet of clingfilm on top of it all. Finally freeze for around 4 hours or till frozen solid. To serve, take the semi freddo out of the freezer about 20 minutes before serving. Turn out onto a board and slice into portions. Alternatively you could scoop it out but then it may be better to either mix the pine nuts through the whole mixture or to to sprinkle them on top after serving.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Cucumber, Mint, Apple & Lime Ice Lollies

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As promised, heres the recipe for the Cucumber, Mint, Apple & Lime Ice Lolly from the Summoning the Summer Plate Lickers event.

This recipe makes enough for 10 ice lolly moulds. I bought mine through the American Amazon as I couldn't find it anywhere in the UK but you may have better luck so its worth having a look around. I'd also recommend making a smaller batch and freezing in an ice cube tray & serving in a jug of Pimms & Lemonade.

You will need
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 300ml water
  • 170g peeled & cubed cucumber
  • 350ml apple juice
  • Handful of chopped mint leaves
  • Zest & Juice from 1 lime
Begin by making the syrup. Combine the caster sugar and water in a saucepan & simmer till the sugar dissolves. Set aside to cool completely.

In a food processor combine the cucumber, mint & lime zest & juice then pulse till pureed. Next add the apple juice & syrup & pulse till combined. Pour into your lolly moulds and freeze. Its as easy as that!

Monday, 22 July 2013

Umbria & Tuscany part 1

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I didn't quite realise just how many photos I took before I began uploading them on here. So much so that I think I ought to split this trip into at least 3 posts. I can't believe just how much we managed to fit into those 5 days and I can't believe how it already feels as though I have been back for ages.

We booked our agriturismo through airbnb (this one) and we found the best priced flights were to Pisa so we hired a car and set the navigation to take us the scenic route. Our first stop was Cecina on the coast for a dip in the sea and although the coastline wasn't the prettiest, it was a much needed stop to cool off and prepare ourselves for the cross country drive.

Our route took us through the rolling hills passing Volterra & Sienna, every turn being a breathtaking view filled with fields of sunflowers, olive groves & vineyards. When we eventually arrived at Citta Della Pieve our hosts Francesco & Luisa welcomed us with opened arms and showed us to our apartment. After a quick unpack we headed to a tratoria 'Serenella' on our hosts recommendation . This place felt like a real locals place and we got stared down when we entered. After nervously asking for a table for 2 we were seated and asked Trattoria or Pizza. We went for trattoria before being told 5 menu options. We went for pici con ragu & lasagna bianco. I think that ragu was one of the best I've ever eaten not overly meaty but the sauce was just incredible. I could have eaten 4 more bowls of it. The lasagna bianco was a mixture of 4 cheeses, incredibly indulgent and the cause of my cheese dreams that night. Unfortunately I didn't get any photos of this place as I just wanted to enjoy the moment and I didn't think the old lady serving us would understand. We finished the meal off with gelato at a local gelateria (photo above)

After our meal we headed to the local supermarket & went to town at the deli counter. I love how you don't even have to ask for samples, they are just constantly being offered over to you. After sampling a variety of different aged pecorinos we went home with a bag of spek, pecorino, gorgonzola, tomatoes & the sweetest peaches I've ever eaten.
The next morning I headed out for a morning horse ride around the hills where we were staying. It was one of those moments that will stay with me forever. Riding through olive groves with the morning sun blazing and the sound of cicadas and sheep surrounding me.

On my return we set about making breakfast using eggs from the farm. Crumbling pecorino into a quick omelette & serving with a nice strong espresso & speck. Over breakfast we planned out our day and decided to head to Montepulciano. Being one of my favourite grapes I was eager to get wine tasting.

Montepulciano was breathtaking. A beautiful little town and best of all, not full of tourists. We visited a couple of wine shops where we got to sample there wares. After a walk through one of the wine caves we headed for lunch on recommendation from the shop where we bought some wine. We discovered the most beautiful terrace looking out over the hills below the town where we shared a few dishes.
First up pappa al pomadoro which is made using stale bread, tomatoes & garlic. A delicious stew like dish that I can imagine being really tasty cold too. Next up, a selection of cold cuts of meat. The most melt in the mouth prosciutto and Tuscany's legendary fennel salami. Finally the star of the show, baked baked pecorino drizzled with honey and sprinkled with walnuts.

After being baked by the sun we were relieved to discover road signs to a public swimming pool and with Jo's fantastic idea of keeping a bag with our swimming gear in in the boot we tootled off for a relaxing afternoon soaking up the sun, cooling off with a dip and reading our books.

En route home we decided to pop into Citta Della Pieve to pick up a couple of essentials (read food) and were thrilled to discover a market in full swing. Although the majority of it was pretty disappointing we stumbled by an old chap selling truffles. Jo dug her fingers into my arm so hard that I'm pretty sure I still have indents a week later. We quickly did the deal securing 2 truffles €20 before rushing home to store our wares.
We returned that evening to another restaurant in Citta Della Pieve that we had spotted the previous day. Here we sat on a roof terrace as the sun went down and we got stuck into yet more food. First up some crostini with the delicious fennel salami making another appearance followed by lamb served alongside polenta & radicchio and a bresaola & smoked pecorino salad.

We decided the following day to make the 2 hour drive north to Florence but before we set off we lined our stomachs with a slightly random but delicious breakfast of Tuscan quesadilla which we cooked on the hob with a variety of treats we had bought the previous days.
I had done a bunch of research before heading out to Italy and had discovered the fantastic blog of Emiko Davies. She has lots of great reads on food in Tuscany and especially Florence and I was thrilled to discover her foodie picnic tour of Florence on Every Trail. We used it as a rough guide as we knew we couldn't fit all of Florence into 1 trip. We started off at the Sant'Ambrogio Market where we parked. Taking in the sights & smells of the delicious fruit, vegetables, fish & meat on offer before stopping off for a quick espresso at a stand up coffee bar.

We spent the next few hours taking in the sights that Florence had to offer but the huge mass of tourists scared us off a little so we ran for shelter in a gelateria no less. Caramelised fig & marscapone and a Aztec chocolate gelato was the perfect saviour and energy boost to help us battle through the crowds yet again. This stop wasn't on Emiko's list but the gelato was just too good to pass up.
The next stop of Cantinetta dei Varrazzano which is a cafe come bakery come wine bar. Still full from our gelato but unable to resist their offerings we decided to share a slice of the courgette flower & mozzarella topped focaccia. A deliciously salty snack that I plan on recreating.

The final stop for us was the lampredotto stand. Tuscany is well known for its use of tripe & lampredotto (or the cow's 4th stomach) is a very popular street food in Florence. I had read quite a lot about it and really wanted to see what all the fuss was about. The lampredotto is just cooked up in a simple vegetable broth. When ordered, the vendor takes a piece out of the broth, cuts it up into small chunks before placing on a bread roll. He then tops it with salsa verde, a little bit of spice and then dips the top half of the bread roll into the broth before assembling it all. We were both pleasantly surprised with the flavour, something along the lines of warm pate. Just be sure not to look too close at the chunks of 'meat' and just enjoy it for the flavour.

Our last stop that day was to.. you've guess it, another public swimming pool. The perfect way to cool off and relax before our drive home and to a simple home cooked dinner of Pici & a quick gorgonzola sauce.

To be continued....
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