Category Archives: Cooking
Is anything as uplifting and joyful as that first exuberant burst of blossom in early Spring? My spirit soars when I meander down the village lanes accompanied by clouds of gentle blossom – and new buds giving the promise of more to come. My appreciation of the seasons seems to intensify each year since we came to live in the English countryside. And of all the seasonal changes, the colour and light of Spring is especially welcome. Walking to the village school with our son and his little friends each morning, I point out all the little blooms and buds. But little boys are really much more interested in discussing Lego and trains!
Never mind, on the walk back home I can linger a bit, perhaps with my camera, and perhaps to find a blossom or two to make a Spring posy.
When the sun is shining, I love to take my lunch out into the garden. What to cook? I think some classic fishcakes are just the thing, with a fresh salad on the side. Golden and crispy, delicate yet satisfying. I made these with Haddock, but you can use any firm white fish (without bones) or if you are feeling indulgent, with crab or little prawns. All delicious!
Out comes the trusty folding table. It’s actually a decorating table that’s never been used for wallpapering – much more useful to pop open for an impromptu lunch! A bit of white lace, my jar of flowers … and it’s ready for service.
Things have been quite busy of late and I have lots of projects on the go. And getting to know this new garden is one of those projects. All sorts of surprises are emerging – little primroses dotting the grass like jewels, cheerful daffodils, tulips and the first signs of peonies. It’s very exciting.(To me!)
More soon. x
Did you know that the official month of cherries (at least according to the cherry promoters in the lovely state of Michigan) is February? I know, it’s a bit surprising for all of us in the northern hemisphere, clad in the endless, dull vestiges of winter. Yes, the cherry – that gorgeous, vibrant little stone fruit that is so evocative of sunshine, of light dappled leafy trees – is feted with a national month in February. But why not? I thought about it and it makes sense. We need a hit of cherry, of brightness and delight at this time of year. It’s true it is not the time for home grown seasonal cherries, but cherries do preserve very well and a jar of cherry sauce made from summer fruit can deliver that vibrance right to our winter kitchens. Just when we need it most.
Our youngest child is always asking me to make (with his help, of course) two particular things in the kitchen. One is pasta. He’s crazy about that hand crank pasta machine. The other is ice cream. And it’s never too chilly for ice cream according to him. So why not use some cherries (cherry puree or sauce) to swirl in with a yummy soft frozen white chocolate cream – a semifreddo. Delicious.
Do you like these roses? Amazing colour. A strong peachy orange when I got them, they lasted for ages fading into lovely pinky shades. I actually found their faded petals most beautiful of all.
Since I began with the ice cream and these photographs, a few days have ticked us over into March. It feels like the green shoots of spring are all over and I am very excited about that. Little bulbs emerging, even some glowy sunlight today.
I’ll be back soon, with lots of springtime inspiration.
Please drop me a comment – if you would like to -when you visit. And send me a link to your site or blog as I love to see what you are cooking and making too.
Apricots are truly splendid – draped in their vibrant, velvety skins and with a fragrance of pure sunshine they instantly lift the spirit. Even their name is pleasing. But it is the unique, intense flavour of the apricot that most delights. During the English summertime we turn much of our attention to all the lovely ripe berries, and rightly so. But I think we shouldn’t neglect the other gorgeous fruits around, especially apricots.
For me, apricots taste especially delicious when cooked. As a child, I loved apricot jam above all others. It’s the combination of cooking and a bit of sugar that intensifies the aroma and balances the acidity into that deliciousness. Sometimes I add a touch of vanilla too. I keep a jar of vanilla infused sugar in my kitchen and use that, or otherwise a few drops of vanilla essence. I do think it’s important to use a good quality brand of vanilla essence – it makes a real difference. This morning I made a quick apricot and brown sugar compote, highlighted with a dash of vanilla.
Apricot and Brown Sugar Compote
6-7 apricots, (250g) halved and stones removed
half a cup (100g) brown sugar. I use gorgeous Barbados sugar.
a few drops of vanilla essence
In a heavy pan, melt the sugar with a tablespoon of water and allow to bubble in the pan for a couple of minutes over high heat. Be careful that it doesn’t scorch. Add the apricots and let them soften in the bubbling brown sugar for a few more minutes. I just let them cook down a little until they are very vibrant in colour and just losing their shape. That’s it. Add a few drops of vanilla essence if you wish.
This compote is lovely to eat just as it is, cooled a little. Or with some yogurt or ice cream. Or with a slice of sponge cake. Outside on the steps in the sunshine…thinking about Provence and market stalls laden with summer fruits, lavender and honey!