Saturday, 31 May 2014

Rhubarb, ginger and white chocolate muffins

I started my blogging career with a trio of muffin recipes. Lemon and white chocolate, rhubarb muffins and Quality Street muffins. For a while it looked like I should have called the blog InvisiblePinkMuffins. Since then the muffin recipe frequency on the blog has taken a nosedive. Time to do something about that! I wanted to make an extra special muffin to take with me to work to celebrate my birthday last week. And everyone knows the way to pimp up a muffin is to add more goodies into them. Fresh rhubarb form the garden was a must, it's only rhubarb season once a year. Some white chocolate and candied ginger for a bit of sweet and spice. And maybe throw in a zesty icing, just to make sure there's enough things going on.

For the recipe, I went back to my trusty basic muffin recipe from Kinuskikissa (the Finnish baking blog I've mentioned a time or two or seventeen...). What can I say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it, it's such a quick and easy one bowl recipe. Muffins are also perfect to take along somewhere. You can leave some of them with your friendly ladies at reception, and take the rest along to your office. You can't do that with a cake. You can also try out a few in advance at home just to make sure they turned out good enough to take to work. With a cake all you can do is hope for the best. And if you really plan it right, you actually make one and a half times the recipe which means you have plenty of muffins to take to work *and* to have several left to snack on at home as well. Sneaky!

Just a note, the original recipe gives volume measurements in deciliters (100 milliliters) which is the normal volumetric unit of measurement for recipes back home. I have converted to approximate cups and weights using online calculators and I believe they should be close enough to work but have not tested so use at your own risk. Don't blame me that the cup measurements are quite whacky!

Rhubarb, ginger and white chocolate muffins (makes 12):
150 g butter
150 ml or 2/3 cups minus one tbsp or 128g sugar
2 eggs
400 ml or 1 2/3 cups minus one tbsp or 260 g all purpose flour 
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
150 ml or 2/3 cups minus one tbsp  milk
3-4 tender spring stems of rhubarb
50 g white chocolate chips
3-4 pieces of candied ginger

about 250 ml or 1 cup icing sugar
zest and juice from 1 lemon

The howto:
Bring the butter, eggs and milk to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C (392 F or gas mark 6). Using a handheld electric mixer, whisk together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Keep whisking and add eggs one at a time. Add the flour, baking powder, vanilla paste and vanilla paste and mix once or twice. Add the milk and only mix enough to bring the batter together, careful not to over mix. Finely chop the rhubarb and ginger, and fold it into the batter. Divide into 12 muffin cases. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

After removing the muffins from the oven, let them cool for a few minutes while making the icing. Put the icing sugar in a small bowl, and add lemon zest to taste (a whole lemon will give a very mouth puckering zingy icing, use less if you prefer a more subtle flavour). Add lemon juice until desired consistency, you can add a bit of water if needed. Put into a piping bag and pipe a zigzag pattern on the muffins. If you don't have a piping bag, just make your icing a bit more runny and use a spoon to drizzle over the muffins. The muffins keep quite well for a few days in an airtight container if needed, but are best on the day of baking.

The verdict:
I think the combo of rhubarb, ginger, white chocolate and lemon worked very well. Although the muffins are quite sweet, the zestiness of the rhubarb and lemon counter the sweetness very well, and the ginger brings in some nice, spicy flavours. They seemed to go down a treat with the colleagues and I really enjoyed them. This is such a perfect easy and quick recipe that gives perfect muffins every time. 

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Brunch mushroom

I think I'm suffering from post-birthday depression. Or maybe it's just the miserable weather. Or the fact that the roads were really congested today when I was trying to get home. Or maybe the fact that my crafting mojo is gone and no-where to be found except for a few half-forced cards. I just think it's one of those days, or weeks. But hopefully the sun will return soon along with Mr Mojo and all will be well in the world again. I should be excited about my upcoming holiday, and plan holiday clothes and places to see and things to do. But to be honest, I think both me and Sis are looking forward to a really relaxing holiday with nothing to do but slouch poolside or on the beach, eat too much and read a ridiculous amount of books while going to bed early and sleeping in late. Which brings me to the big question - should I get a Kindle? Usually I read all my books on my iPad, but it's not very good in sunlight. But is it worth getting a Kindle just for a holiday? The Nook is a more reasonable price, but the books are so expensive. Choices, choices... Maybe I'll just go old school and buy paper, but I hate accumulating stuff. Well, at least other than crafting stuff. After having moved from one country to another you have a newfound appreciation for digital books, music and movies. If you could only get digital cookware as well...

Ok, enough rambling, and on to the main star of the show. As usual I wanted to cook something special for our weekend brunch. I had spied this recipe during the week and just had to try it. Anything with an egg in it will get a go in the InvisiblePinkKitchen. This recipe is slightly modified from the original, which can be found on a blog called This Gal Cooks. I added onion and bacon as I happened to have some lying around. I also replaced all the dried herbs with fresh ones from my garden. By the way, just to assure you, we do eat other things beside brunches from time to time in this house. One day I will post a dinner or lunch recipe, just to prove a point... But not next time, next time it's all about baking again (oooh, what a cliffhanger, eh?).

Sausage and sweet potato filled mushroom (serves 2):
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 red onion
1 small sweet potato
sausage meat from 1 sausage
1 rasher of bacon
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp black pepper

2 portobello mushrooms with stems removed
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp grated parmesan
2 eggs 

The howto:
Preheat oven to 190 degrees C. Chop the sweet potato into small cubes and slice the bacon. Heat up the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the onion and cook for a few minutes until it starts to soften. Add the sweet potato, sausage and bacon, and cook until cooked through. Break up the sausage while cooking, to the consistency of minced meat. Add the finely chopped herbs and pepper and cook for another few minutes. Take off the heat. 

Brush the oil on the top of the mushrooms and sprinkle lightly with salt (can be omitted). Turn the mushrooms around (i.e. tops down) and spoon the filling into the caps. Make a well in the middle of the filling and sprinkle generously with parmesan. Gently crack the egg into the well. Cook in the oven for about 15-20 minutes depending on how runny you like your yolk. Mine were perfect after 15 minutes.

The verdict:
I thought this looked rather good when I saw the recipe, but I wasn't quite sure if it would really work with the sweet potato in there. Well, trust me, it does. It makes a really delicious brunch or lunch. I particularly liked the fact that the mushroom was cooked through, but the egg yolk was still lovely and runny. It was a bit tricky to try and get the egg to stay in the well in the stuffing, make sure to slide the egg into the well very slowly to increase your chance of success.

I actually prepared a good double serving of the filling, and made four mushrooms. Two for brunch and two as sides with dinner the next day (yes, it works for that as well. If you feel too weird to have an egg with dinner, just leave it out). And I still had some stuffing left over, so I took it with me to work for lunch the next day. That is good value from one cooking session and from relatively cheap ingredients as well.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Blueberry and lemon quick buns

We have reached the end of bank holiday season. It's been so wonderful to have Easter and the two May bank holidays so close together, so many short working weeks has made this spring just fly by. And now it's almost the end of May, I swear someone robbed me of at least two weeks as the month has just flown by. May is such a special month to me, it's my birthday as well as the birthday of many good friends. This year I have preponed (not even Google seems to be sure if this is a real word or not...) my birthday to today, as the UK has been so rude as not to have a bank holiday on my actual birthday. I feel very resentful about this, as I enjoyed my bank holiday birthday last year. So I decided to make myself a delicious birthday breakfast today instead.

I think coming up to a birthday will give you the right to muse a bit about your life so far. In fact, two short birthdays ago my life was very different. My birthday fell on a Sunday, and I decided to bake some blueberry and strawberry scones to celebrate. The scones turned out to be a complete disaster as I forgot to turn the heat on in the oven, I had only turned on the lamp, and after 20 minutes of nothing happening with the scones in the oven, I suspected something was wrong. When I finally managed to bake the scones they were rather ugly blobs. There I was sitting in my tiny shoebox penthouse apartment all alone with not the slightest idea in the world that my life was about to change. Back in those days I still worked at the Wellcome Trust, and my bestest friend lived in the same city with me. A month later I went on the first date with the Culinary Consultant. Exactly a year later, I had finished my job contract, was about to start a new job and was cleaning out my apartment as I moved in together with the Culinary Consultant in his bachelor pad. In fact, last year's bank holiday Monday was the last day I spent in my old place. Since then I have changed jobs again and I'm rather happy I did. Last July we moved from the tiny bachelor pad to our countryside home, which to me is a dream come true. And we can still put up with the sight of each other. As I'm enjoying my slightly early birthday breakfast, I can't help but think I might be one of the luckiest people alive.

The recipe for my yummy breakfast is from the ever so deliciously looking The English Kitchen blog. I know I end up making so many recipes from that blog, but what can you do, her taste is really close to mine in so many things! This is what I love about blogging and following blogs, it takes a while of reading a blog until you know whether you want to follow it or not. And after a while you get curious about the people who write the blog. And they have all these amazing stories and experiences and you almost feel like you know them. The lady writing The English Kitchen seems like one of those people you could just sit down and have tea with and she would be the most lovely person on the world. And her recipes are always delicious, and every time I have tried them they turn out perfect.

Blueberry and lemon quick breakfast buns (serves 6-8):
250 g all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
pinch of salt
3 tbsp sugar
40 g butter
1 large egg
75 ml buttermilk (I made my own by adding a tsp of vinegar to milk)
a splash of buttermilk for brushing

For the filling:
12 tbsp sugar (I only used 8 as it seemed enough...)
55 g butter 
zest from 1 lemon
250 g blueberries

For the glaze
195 g icing sugar
grated zest from 1/2 lemon
juice from 1 lemon
15 g softened butter
a splash of milk

The howto:
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C and butter a oven proof dish. The original recipe says oval dish 12 inches and 8 inches at it's widest. I used a rectangular 10x6.5 in dish, which left a bit of room between the buns, but they expanded to fill that extra room. Mix the flour, baking powder, grated lemon zest, salt and sugar in a bowl. Using your fingers, mix in the butter until the consistency of coarse sand. Mix the egg and buttermilk, and mix into the dough. Only mix until the dough has just come together. If needed, add another splash of milk if the dough is too dry.

To prepare the filling, mix the sugar, butter and lemon zest in small bowl, and rub everything together using your fingers.

Knead the dough once or twice on the table. Then pat the dough out into a rectangle about 8 times 12 inches and 1/2 in thick. I did this on a parchment sheet to help the upcoming rolling step. Spread the flavoured butter on the dough and add the blueberries, gently pressing the filling into to dough. Use the parchment paper to roll the dough into a tight roll along the long side. Pinch the dough together at the seam to ensure that the filling stays in the roll. Cut the roll into eight slices using a sharp knife and place in the oven proof dish. Brush with buttermilk and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden and bubbling. 

While the buns are baking, prepare the glaze. Mix the ingredients for the glaze, adding enough milk to make it a runny consistency. Spread onto the buns when they come out of the oven, and let stand for a few minutes. Serve warm.

The verdict:
These quick buns are amazing. I had one for breakfast, and then picked away at a few during the day as I couldn't pass the dish with the buns without having a spoonful or two. They are the easy way out if you love buns for breakfast but don't want to wait for the yeasted kind to proof as you once again forgot to pre-make the dough the previous evening. They are sweet and juicy. And the lemon goes really well with the blueberries. Often recipes that are named "lemon" something only have a very faint flavour of lemon. This recipe has enough lemon so that you can taste it. I thought the scone dough would be difficult to work with, but it was really easy to roll and kept it's shape really well during baking. There is quite a lot of glaze, so you might want to consider only making half of it if you are a fan of light glazes, although I think the glaze is the crowning glory, so I was happy to have loads of it.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Garden update

It's time for another garden update. Everything is growing like crazy! I have already dried a few batches of herbs, and there will be plenty more of that to come. I'm excited to see when the first tomatoes will ripen and how much courgettes our numerous courgette plants will churn out. Expect a courgette recipe or two if everything goes to plan.

Lets start in the greenhouse:
It's a jungle, there's hardly room to move around anymore.
Courgette season has kicked off.
Fist cucumber in the making.
However the cucumber managed to grow a tentacle all the way to that cane I don't know. It will henceforth be known as Spiderman cucumber.
Broccoli waiting to be transplanted outside. 
The first tomato has been spotted.
 Next the trees:

I hope this means it will be a good season for apples.
This is apparently Black Lace Elderflower. I can't remember it having any fruit last year, but I may have overlooked it as I didn't know what it was. This year I'll definitely make something out of it.

Loads of new bay leaves coming along.
Outside in the garden:
Can't wait for these babies to turn red.
Chives - not only tasty, but very pretty too!
The goosberry bush is heavy with fruit.
Potatoes are coming along nicely.
And as usual, I'll end with some random very pretty flowers:

Saturday, 24 May 2014


Yesterday was just one of those days... It all started out well and good with light traffic so I made good time on the commute to work, got some unfinished business finished, our study donors both showed up and everything went well. I headed home early to avoid the bank holiday weekend rush hour traffic... Or so I thought. And then I was stuck on the A14 standing still in a massive congestion due to a three car accident a few exits up the road. People, be carful out there! I don't understand why everyone gets so aggressive when driving a car, it's all about speeding and making risky manoeuvres to overtake and then boom! And no-one can get anywhere. And there I sat for an hour on the road, wishing to get home. 

But when I finally got home (after passing another accident in one of the accident-prone big roundabouts), I get home to the water softener leaking water all over the place due to a worn down pipe that was leaking. The cupboard under the kitchen sink was full of water and it had leaked onto the floor under the kitchen cupboards... So we had to pull out the skirting board under the cupboards and blast the heating to get it to start to dry. I guess our kitchen will look like a construction zone for the next week or so until it has all dried out. Thankfully we detected the problem quite soon, so I am hoping there is no major damage and we can get it all to dry out, but this miserable cold and wet weather is doing nothing to help. 

So currently we only have water in the kitchen tap, and I'm waiting for the Culinary Consultant to make it out of bed, head off to get a new pipe and install it so I can get a shower, flush the toilets (ewwwww!!) and clean the house before our weekend guests arrive. Oh the joys of owning your own house. Although I have to admit, having a very handy boyfriend is... well... very handy, as I would have had no idea what to do about this whole business of a geysir under my sink. And I'm so worried it won't dry out properly and then we get all sorts of problems with mould and whatnot. Here is to hoping that was the last domestic crisis for a while. And could someone please do something about this miserable weather! I know it's tropical summer in Finland while it's monsoon season here. How unfair is that? It is just literally pouring down right now, here is to the bank holiday weekend...

A day like this calls for some good food. Maybe food from a more sunny place. As I have been posting nothing but brunch recipes for quite a while (and expect a few more to come), I thought I would interrupt the theme for one post by posting this paella we made a while ago. And as I'm on the theme of complaining, let me do one more. Why, oh why, is the paella rice not with all the other rice in our grocery store, but in a completely different isle? I would think if you want rice, you would go look for it in the rice section. But hey, that would be too easy wouldn't it? Ok, I'm all done now, I hope you all are having a better weekend out there!!

Paella (serves 4):
1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions
3 cloves of garlic
1 green pepper
2 tbsp paella spice
2 tbsp smoked paprika (I used a mix of spicy and mild)
black pepper
300 g paella rice
1.2 l vegetable broth
3 tbsp marsala wine (should have been sherry, but we didn't have any)
150 g sliced chorizo (the one I used was smoked paprika and garlic)
350 g cooked seafood mix (the one I used had mussels, squid and prawns)
1/2 cup sweetcorn (or peas, but we didn't have any peas)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

To serve: lemon wedges and parsley

The howto:
Slice the onions, chop the garlic and green pepper. In a large frying pan, cook the onion in the oil until starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and green pepper and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the paella spice, smoked paprika and black pepper. Add the rice and cook for a few minutes. Add the vegetable stock and let cook until the rice is cooked, about 30-40 minutes. Add the marsala, chorizo, seafood mix, sweetcorn and parsley and let cook for a few more minutes to make sure everything is heated through. Serve with a sprinkling of parsley and a lemon wedge on top.

The verdict:
I thought making paella would be time consuming but it turned out to be rather easy. Unlike risotto, you can add all the liquid into the rice at once and just leave it to slowly cook, just stirring every once in a while to make sure it doesn't stick to the pan. The paella spice we bought on our trip to Tenerife last year was nice, it had a lot of flavour, as did the marsala wine. Don't skip the marsala wine! I really enjoyed the paella, with a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice on top it was a great dinner with very different flavours to what we usually eat. It was also still good to re-heat for lunch the next day, although the mussels do tend to get a bit chewy when re-heated.

Monday, 19 May 2014

BLT waffles

What a glorious weekend we have had, I hope it has been as lovely for you wherever you are. I enjoyed the sun with a glass of ice cold Pimms in my hand. I really like the new blackberry and elderflower flavour. Our garden is perfect for slouching in the sun as it gets sunlight pretty much all through the day, although I did have to move into the shade of the plum tree for a while when it got a bit too hot for my delicate tastes.

We also had our first al fresco brunch on Saturday with the Culinary Consultant, enjoying these amazing BLT waffles. My family will come and visit in July, so I have been working very hard (what a chore it is, poor me!) to identify acceptable brunch recipes. So far I have found way too many, and this one will go onto the ever growing list. And there was another great one this weekend as well, watch this space...

Brunch in the garden
On a completely different note, am I the only person who can't understand why computer games have to be so incredibly loud? Most of the sound effects are just soooo annoying. I can't understand how the other inhabitant in this house can stand them for hours and hours on end. Either the sound of fighting, shooting and grunting or car chases and sirens. Luckily the house is large enough so there are places to go where the noise doesn't follow (perchance the craft room...), but I can't imagine listening to it non-stop for two days. Just goes to show the male brain is wired differently.

Today's recipe for our al fresco brunch is from Joy The Baker, and the photos over there are just amazing so pop over and have a look! As soon as I saw this recipe, I knew Claude (the waffle maker, aka. the love of my life) would come out of the closet this weekend. But even with my less impressive photos, these waffles are still amazing. I adore a good weekend brunch, usually we go and get the weekly grocery shop done and then I make something delicious for us to eat and get the weekend started for real.

Cheddar and buttermilk BLT waffles (makes 6):
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
pinch of black pepper
1 tbsp sugar
1/3 cup (75 g) melted unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup grated cheddar (I added a few tbsp of grated parmesan as well)

For the sandwiches:
Mayonnaise (I used a cracked pepper and garlic mayonnaise)
Cooked bacon

The howto:
Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. In another bowl, mix the butter, eggs and buttermilk. Mix all ingredients together and add the cheese. Or if you are lazy like me, mix all the ingredients together in one bowl, seemed to work well enough and saves time and washing up. 

Let the batter rest while the waffle maker is heating up. Cook according to instructions. For me that meant six minutes on 2/3 of the maximum heat. The batter makes six large waffles. Keep the waffles hot in the oven while cooking the rest of them. While the waffles are cooking, cook the bacon either in the oven or in a pan depending on your preference.
I didn't make proper waffle "sandwiches", just topped the waffles with mayonnaise, tomato, lettuce straight from our own greenhouse and a few slices of bacon.

The verdict:
This waffle recipe was really great. It has enough butter to give the waffles that slightly crispy crust after you let them rest for a minute or two on a wire rack after cooking. But there isn't too much butter to make them too buttery. (As a sideline, why on earth do all US recipes give butter measurements in cups? Would you really just melt a random amount of butter and then measure up 1/3 cup? I wouldn't! I certainly want to have my butter measures in weight, not volume to avoid any waste of perfectly good butter). The cheddar brings loads of flavour. I think out of all the savoury waffles I have made, so far these are my favourites. I also love BLTs so no wonder I loved this brunch. They went down a treat with the Culinary Consultant as well. I guess you could always add a bit of scrambled egg or an egg sunny side up if you wanted, but for us this was a substantial enough brunch on it's own. I popped a few of the leftover waffles in the freezer and took the last leftover waffle to work and enjoyed as my Monday morning breakfast treat. It sure made the start of the week better!

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Rhubarb kissel and semolina pudding

This is another post where I have learned something new about some of my childhood foods. When we were children, we would often have oatmeal for breakfast. Every now and then we would have porridge deluxe, i.e. semolina porridge. It was such a treat. In Finnish semolina is called "manna", and I had no idea what it was called in English, so I just assumed you couldn't get it over here. However through some coincidence or other I learned that it was called semolina and that you could get in pretty much any supermarket. So I got myself a large bag of coarse semolina (it's still not quite the same as the Finnish "manna" but works well enough) and have enjoyed the occasional treat of semolina porridge (or pudding, as I think it's called over here. But basically it's just a porridge!)

Another food I had always assumed was pretty much Finnish was the "kiisseli". I haven't found anything resembling it in the UK. However, for this post, I decided to do some research, and lo and behold, I have learned that "kiisseli", called kissel in English (thank you Wikipedia) is a Slavic dish, and the name (which I always thought was a "real" Finnish word) comes from the Slavic word for sour. I have also learned that according to Wikipedia kissel is a "viscous fruit dish". Basically, it's fruit or berries cooked in a bit of water (with sugar) and then thickened with cornstarch, potato starch or arrowroot. As a child, I remember when I was in daycare, we used to have it a lot as a dessert. Strawberry kissel, rhubarb kissel, blueberry kissel. It's a nice dessert or breakfast, it can be enjoyed with porridge, ice cream, custard or just as is. I really love rhubarb kissel, it's not too sweet (and you can adjust the amount of sugar to make it exactly how you like it) and  it just tastes of summer. It's also ridiculously easy and quick to make.

Semolina pudding (serves 4-6):
1l milk
1 1/4 dl (1/2 cup) semolina
pinch of salt

Rhubarb kissel (serves 6-8):
500 g rhubarb
400 ml water
100 ml sugar
2 tbsp corn- or potato starch
1/2 tsp vanilla syrup

The HowTo:
For the semolina pudding, bring the milk to a boil in a large saucepan (preferably non-stick if you have one, but any saucepan will work). Add the semolina and salt, cook until the pudding thickens, about 15-20 minutes.

For the rhubarb kissel, chop the rhubarb into about 1/2 inch thick pieces. Put the rhubarb, water and sugar in a saucepan, bring to a boil and let cook for a few minutes until the rhubarb has softened. Mix the starch with a tablespoon or two of water. Take the rhubarb mixture off the hob, very slowly pour in the starch and water mixture, while stirring. Put the mixture back onto the hob, and bring to a gentle boil for another minute or so to thicken the kissel. You can serve the kissel and pudding warm (not hot) or cold.

The verdict:
I'm  sorry for choosing another one of those foods that just isn't photogenic at all. And I need to get some glass bowls for photography... But as usual, it's not the looks that counts, and I wouldn't blog about it unless I loved it. This is comfort food at it's best. It's perfect for breakfast or pudding. Or why not a light lunch. You can have the semolina pudding on it's own or with jam or fresh fruit. You can have the kissel on it's own, or with ice cream or custard. And with rhubarb season in full swing, this is definitely worth a try! 

Sunday, 11 May 2014

CAU Cambridge

I don't usually do restaurant reviews. Mostly because I don't eat out very much. I also find most restaurants pretty much the same, I enjoy the food but its not special enough to knock my socks off. Recently me, Sis and the Culinary Consultant headed to CAU Cambridge for a celebratory meal. And I have to admit I was rather impressed. I also apologise for having only a few pictures and them being bad quality, I only decided to write this review after all food had already been sampled and by that time I was so absorbed in the experience of eating that taking pictures was far from my mind.

CAU is part of a chain of restaurants inspired by Buenos Aires cuisine. And that, my friends, means meat. Not just any meat, very nice meat cooked to absolute perfection. There are vegetarian dishes on the menu as well, and while they were very nice (my Sis sampled quite a few of them), in my opinion there is no point in going to CAU if you aren't planning on having meat.

We started our meal with drinks and the bread basket which is served with chipotle butter while we were perusing the menu. The breads were nice and fresh, but I was a bit worried about the chipotle butter as I don't do spicy. However, it was very mild and perfect for me. In fact, I think I fell in love with that butter! It was so good, I had to restrain myself from using my finger to wipe off the leftover butter from the little ramekin when we had finished the bread!

Sis chose to have several of the small plates and sides, and the Culinary Consultant had one of the huge steaks with chips and causlaw (as the menu says, "it's like coleslaw but better"). But although I say it myself, I think my selection was definitely the winner of the night. Tapa de cuadril, thinly sliced beef grilled in a way I have never had meat before. It was the most tender meat I have ever had, I swear it melted in my mouth without chewing. Although the meat was thinly sliced, it was still beautifully pink in the middle of the thin slices. When I had my first bite, I just couldn't believe meat could be this good! I had my meat with crunchy, golden, beautiful (and triple fried) chunky chips and some more of the chipotle butter. Healthy? Not even close! Delicious? Understatement of the century!!!

In addition to the good food, the service was very friendly and relatively quick although it was a Saturday evening (but we dined right at the start of the evening, before the mad rush). The food was reasonably priced in relation to the quality, but certainly not a cheap meal. I will definitely go back, for some more of that lovely meat but also to try the CAU cornflake ice cream Sundae which I was sadly deprived of as my fellow diners didn't feel like having dessert. I watched a gentleman in the table next to us have it, and let me say, I just have to have one for myself!

Disclaimer, I have not been asked for, or compensated in any way for this review. It's just my opinion of a restaurant I thought was very nice.


Garden update

I thought it would be time for another garden update as it's been a while. I'm still cut off the Interwebs, so I'm blogging from my iPad which gets just enough of a signal on 3G for me to be able to post, but don't expect much text as typing on a virtual keypad is not all too much fun. But at least I'm not completely cut off from the outside world. The Culinary Consultant is on the phone yet again to the ISP, but they are useless as usual.

Anyhows, on to better things than dysfunctional Internet connections. This week the garden is all about the fruit trees. You can already see lots of fruit developing, I'm excitedly keeping track of everything. If all goes well, there will be quite a bit of cherries, pears and plums again this year. There is even a few apricots developing, last year we didn't get a single apricot and I'm hoping the birds won't eat all this year, so we would at least get a small taster.

Let's start out in the greenhouse:

Tomato plants are turning into a jungle!
The lettuce and coriander are doing well, the basil got eaten by slugs, so I planted some more basil in pots where they hopefully can't reach it.

Courgettes are going through quite a growth spurt

Baby grapes!

Then a look outside in the garden:

The engineer in the house built a support frame for the corn

Garlic shoots and some leeks In the background

Hopefully this means there will be plenty of strawberries this year

And then the fruit trees:

Plenty of plums

The fine figs

Cheerful cherries

Amazing apricots

And to finish, a few non-edible garden delights:


Saturday, 10 May 2014

Chimichurri tomato salad with halloumi

It's been a while since my last post. It wasn't supposed to be that long... Life got a bit hectic this week. All good hectic, but no time for crafting, cooking or blogging. I saw friends, did pilates, and I can't even remember what I did on Tuesday and why I didn't have time to blog then, but it was something I'm sure. I was so tired last night I couldn't even be bothered to plan the weekend's cooking so we are going to have roast chicken this weekend. Again. Sigh. I am a failure as a food blogger! However, this morning I had a browse through the blogosphere and found this amazing recipe for chimichurri tomato salad on Tartelette. It looked so amazing that I had to try it out immediately!

Our own tomato season is still far away, although the tomato plants in the greenhouse are growing at lighting speed and a few flowers have already been spotted. Luckily the tomatoes in the grocery store have started to look red instead of that pale orange-y colour they have been all winter. So I bought myself a bunch of tomatoes and picked the herbs for the chimichurri right out of my own garden for this refreshing salad which is exploding with taste. The original recipe consists of the salad served with battered halloumi. I thougth I would keep it a bit healthier and just serve the halloumi lightly grilled without the panko crust, but hop over to the original blog post for a look for the crusted alternative.

Chimichurri tomato salad with halloumi (serves 2 as main or 4 as appetizer):
For the chimichurri:
1 cup parsley
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 cloves of garlic
1/3 cup chives
juice of one lemon
1/4 cup olive oil

For the salad:
1 lb (450 g) tomatoes
1/4 to 1/3 cup chimichurri
1/2 red onion
1 cup micro greens
1 lb (450 g) halloumi

The howto:
Take all the ingredients for the chimichurri and blitz them in a food processor until finely chopped. For the salad, slice the tomatoes and finely slice the onion. Mix all ingredients apart from the halloumi. Slice the halloumi into thick slices and pan fry over medium heat for a few minutes per side until it has turned golden. Serve immediately.

The verdict:
This is a super easy and quick salad. I think the chimichurri which is exploding with flavours from the parsley, chives and garlic goes really well with the salty halloumi. I served the salad with a bit of bacon on the side as well to appease the meat-eater in the house (and we had a few slices of bacon which needed using up so I thought why not). I was afraid that the combination of the salty bacon and halloumi would be to much, but it was well balanced by the strong flavours of the chimichurri and the sweet tomatoes. I can't wait to make this from my own tomatoes, which will be even more sweeter than the store bought ones. 

I have to admit, the measures in the recipe above are directly from the Tartlette recipe. When I made my salad, I couldn't be bothered to measure anything, just used what I thought would be a good amount of the ingredients and made a serving for two (I used 3 big red tomatoes and 4 medium sized yellow tomatoes, 2 cloves of garlic, 125 g halloumi and the rest of the ingredients to taste). If you have any chimichurri left after making the salad, it keeps for a day or two in the fridge and goes great with grilled beef