A few years ago samphire started to become a fashionable ingredient and featured on a number of recipes by various celebrity chefs. I have only eaten it once and that was when it came in a jar of posh olives I bought from Tesco.
Yesterday I was walking along the Kent estuary near Arnside when I spotted some growing near the path. This was the first time I had actually seen it 'in the wild' so I made a note of the location and today I went back with a carrier bag and picked some.
Since I have never cooked with it before, I'm going to have to look up some recipes first.
The meatballs were our usual recipe (turkey mince, breadcrumbs, minced onion, seasoning). The pasta sauce contained leeks, garlic, passata and cream cheese.
The recipe came from the Joy the Baker website.
We followed the recipe exactly as written but we had ordinary bakers yeast instead of 'active dried yeast' so ours took a little longer to rise.
Emma texted me to say she had bought something special for our tea but I wasn't expecting take away sushi. We shared 3 take-away boxes. It was a very nice surprise and the first time I'd had actual slices of sashimi, instead of having small amounts rolled up in sushi.
The lasagne came about because we had some fresh lasagne sheets in the fridge. The meatballs in the sauce meant the lasagne was a bit tricky to eat but the mixture of quail eggs and meatballs meant that each mouthful tasted different.
The meatballs contained turkey mince, grated cheese and seasoning. The tomato sauce was cooked down for a couple of hours to concentrate the flavours.
Last year I grew some pepper plants from seed. They weren't very successful and I only managed to get a few ripe peppers from them before the season finished. I had read that it is possible to keep the plants alive over the winter and this will give them a head start in the spring.
I had one pot with 2 small pepper plants which I kept in the front room. One of the plants started flowering around february and has just given us our first ripe pepper of the season.
It's fairly small and I haven't eaten it yet so I don't know whether it is any good or not. Last years peppers were all slightly bitter and under-ripe tasting no matter how long I left them to ripen. Since none of the pepper seeds have germinated this year, the only home-grown peppers I'll be getting will be from the one year old plants.
We have some Fat Hen growing in the garden, courtesy of the 'Edible Leaves, Roots and Shoots' seed pack which came from Garden Organic at Ryton. Most of the plants in the pack are mainly considered weeds so I had sprinkled the seeds in a potato planter in an attempt to stop the plants from spreading too far in the garden. The most prominent leaves at the moment look like they could be Fat Hen so I read through my copy of the River Cottage 'Hedgerow' book by John Wright to see what I could do with it.
The most promising suggestion was to deep fry it and make a type of crispy seaweed. I washed and shredded the leaves then tried a couple of different versions. First I simply fried the leaves in some hot olive oil. The texture was very similar to crispy seaweed and olive-oil flavour gave it a nice edge. Restaurant seaweed often has a sweet & salty flavour so the 2nd attempt was marinated in soy sauce for a few minute before being fried. It was then sprinkled with a mixture of salt and brown sugar. This was much closer to 'real' seaweed. Since we have a lot of fat hen in the garden, it's good to know that we have a good recipe for it, and after tonight's tea we have 2 recipes.
Tonight we ate at Bombay Joe's on Walsgrave Road. We were walking up the road looking at the different restaurants looking for one to eat in.
We started with the traditional poppadoms with chutneys. For the main course we shared a South Indian Garlic Chilli with chicken and a Chicken Dansak. For side dishes we had pilau rice, chilli naan bread and Tarka Dahl. The curries were both very nice - the first was one of the restaurant 'specials' and had huge pieces of garlic in the sauce. The Dansak was described as 'sour and sweet and fairly hot' and we hoped the heat would offset any sweetness. The end result was well balanced without any obvious sweet or sour flavours. The Dahl was very smooth and buttery - we would never dare to add that much ghee into a meal but somehow when you eat out it seems ok.
As usual in Indian restaurants, the portions were well sized and we were both feeling rather full when we left. Recommended and worth visiting again.
We tried a couple of new recipes at the weekend. On friday we did rustic roast cod. It was ok but took much longer to cook than the recipe suggested, possibly because our roasting tray completely fills our tiny oven and the heat doesn't get around it properly. Last nights recipe was completely new: Baked chicory with chicken. It's not very often that we try a new ingredient and neither of us had cooked with chicory before. We didn't have any dijon mustard but we had wasabi paste (which is similar...) and some yellow mustard seeds, so they went in instead. We think it worked well, we could probably make the recipe again using different veg depending on what we had in the house.
It is the monthly cake day in work tomorrow. Normally it is held on the last friday of the month but it's been moved to coincide with Comic Relief day and the cakes are going to be sold for charity.
Since I like lemon drizzle cake I decided to have a go at making an Orange Drizzle Cake, based on the recipe in the Daily Mail. I followed the recipe fairly closely and only made a couple of small changes: I used granulated sugar instead of the caster and icing sugar and I reduced the amount of sugar used in the syrup because my oranges weren't very juicy.
I made one full-sized cake for tomorrow and two small 'samplers' in bun cases for us to try tonight. The cake turned out well - definitely a recipe I'd recommend.
Emma recently bought some professional quality food colouring. She made some 'practice cupcakes' before making a full sized cake.
The first cakes were made by adding the different coloured cake batter to the cake cases.
The colours had settled a bit in the cup cakes.
The full sized cake was built up from several thin cakes which were made individually then assembled.
The rice cake was made using a mixture of wild and long grain rice, with a beaten egg, grated cheese and chopped chilli added. I fried the rice cake on one side for a few minutes until it was firm enough to slide onto a baking tray to finish cooking in the oven. The hot-smoked trout was heated through in the oven while the courgettes and leek slices were fried in a little butter.
This afternoon we had a go at making profiteroles. The choux pastry recipe came from a home baking book and wasn't as difficult as we expected. One thing we did learn is that the profiteroles rise better if we cook them one tray at a time instead of putting two trays in the oven and swapping them over.
Profiterole stuffed with cream cheese
A traditional profiterole with cream filling and chocolate sauce poured over the top.
The profiterole ring, fresh from the oven.
The profiterole ring after adding the cream and chocolate.
Tonight's meal was from the Marks & Spencer's 'eat-in' range. For Valentine's weekend they did a version which cost £20 but included starter, main, side dish, dessert, sparkling wine and chocolates.
Our starter was the mini dressed crab which we served with a mixed-leaf salad.
The main course was Sea Bass with chilli and coriander butter. The fish was simply baked then the skin and backbone needed to be removed before serving. It was a little bit fiddly but the fish was very good. We chose the mixed vegetable layer for side-dish, which contains peas, shredded courgette, cabbage and broad beans.
The Strawberry and Champagne souffle was a posh trifle. The jelly contained large pieces of strawberry, topped with a thick layer of fluffy champagne flavoured cream.
The Rosado Cava we picked turned out to be a particularly good example of a cava. It was dry but with a discernible fruity flavour.
The deal also included chocolates but at the time of writing we haven't eaten those yet.
I made sloe gin again last year, starting with a similar recipe to the one I used earlier. I froze the sloes first which helps to split the skins and softens the fruit, which helps extract the flavour. After a few weeks in the freezer I put the sloes and sugar in a pan and warmed them through before putting everything in a jug.
When it came to straining the sloes, there was a lot more sediment than normal. I ended up with one bottle of clear sloe gin and one bottle of alcoholic sloe smoothie, which will probably work well with a mixer or fruit juice. The sloe gin was quite sweet so I poured some more gin on the sloes, without any sugar, to extract a bit more flavour. I gave this a few weeks then strained it and blended it with the first bottle. The end result was quite good but was more work than the old method.
I won't bother warming the sloes again. It results in too much sediment and is more hard work in the end, I'll stick to just freezing then infusing in gin.