Category Archives: summer
The summer has been a busy one – rich with creative opportunities for me. A highlight of the past few weeks was shooting the images for the stunning online magazine, The Foodie Bugle. Alongside Silvana de Soissons, the visionary Editor/Publisher, I worked on making a set of photographs to illustrate the magazine over the coming seasons. I would like to share a small selection of these with you. Below is a portrait of Silvana – her artistry as a cook and stylist is supreme. She is a perfectionist; a curator of all things glorious, quirky or simply beautiful. Above all, she is one who nourishes, both with ideas and food. Rarely do I eat anything during a food shoot – I am concentrating too much on the photography or I just don’t feel like eating. This wasn’t the case on location in Silvana’s country farmhouse. I was fed from morning to evening, and the food was immensely delicious and simply impossible to resist!
Shall I tell you about the food? Above is the mid morning snack that Silvana set out for me: warm from the oven bread rolls, with home grown fruit jam and a drink of elderflower cordial. We had some exquisite Italian almond biscuits with our tea. And then on to some work. Look at these quails’ eggs, one of nature’s works of art.
Making these sparkling scarlett Prosecco cocktails was lots of fun. At least I abstained from drinking these, as tempting as they were.
I have never tasted a tomato soup quite so vibrant and intense as this. You’ll have to beg Silvana for the recipe. And a dish of chicken, marinated in herbs and baked in the oven with sweet garlic and silvery sage leaves. This is just a little glimpse of our day. There was more, much more.
I hope you will spend some time pouring over the wealth of food writing, photography and stories featured on the pages of The Foodie Bugle – these are always moments well spent! http://thefoodiebugle.com
I don’t think I am alone in finding the summer holidays have flashed past. Do you feel that too?
The September new year is underway, all back to school with shiny shoes and anticipation. I love this time of year – that zest for getting on with projects and the hint of Autumn around the corner – heightened by a tinge of wistfulness for the end of summer.
Thanks for visiting, please leave me a comment if you feel in the mood – I love to hear your thoughts. P
Perhaps you are feeling as I do – just not quite ready to say goodbye to summer. Yes, the gardens are past their best. The flowers giving a last brave encore but their edges are crumpling and their glory quietly fading. Yes, the children are back at school, smart and crisp in slightly too big uniforms. And yes, the wind is bringing a distinctive autumnal note. But it’s not over yet! We can still celebrate the lasting colours and brightness, and some fairy cakes are just the thing for that. As a surprise treasure found in a September lunchbox, a little cake always brings a smile!
Turn on the oven and heat to 180 degrees centigrade. Choose 12 pretty fairy cake – or small cupcake – liners and place them in a fairy cake/muffin tin.
150g butter, softened
150g caster sugar
150g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2-3 tablespoons of milk
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs. Mix in the vanilla essence. Stir in the flour swiftly and with a light touch. Don’t overmix. Listen to something nice on the radio instead. Add a couple of spoons of milk to keep the mix from being too thick and dense. It should just about drop off a spoon. Working quickly, fill the cake liners. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cakes are nicely risen and golden. Don’t keep opening the oven but just keep a watch through the oven window (if it has one) after about 15 minutes.
Take the cakes out and let them cool on a rack.
Simple fondant icing
300g icing sugar, sifted
3 tablespoons water (you can replace 1 or 2 spoons with lemon juice if your want lemony icing)
Mix the water into the icing sugar and give it a good stir until it is smooth and glossy. If you wish, you can add a few drops of food colour to tint the icing.
Decorating is especially fun and satisfying. Flowers, glitter, icing sugar, sprinkles, berries…
We still have lots of village teas happening, the last of the cricket teas, and cake sales – fairy cakes always go down well. Or give a little box of them wrapped in tissue and ribbon as a lovely present. Or you could just eat them, with a cup of tea, relaxing in the garden with a good book.
Let me know what you think. Any nice ideas for decorations? I love to hear from you so please drop me a comment if you have a moment! P.
Rain, rain, rain! Vivid shocking green is the landscape – and dashed are the plans for long lazy afternoons in the sun. Our summer took a decidedly wet turn over the past week or so. At least it’s not cold, my mother points out, to cheer me up. She knows I am a sunshine girl. I thought I would bring a little of the Mediterranean into my kitchen by baking some fragrant, warmly spiced filo pastries. What do you think? It worked!
These crispy, flaky pastries are generously laced with melted butter and filled with sharp feta and smoky grilled aubergines. Or eggplant, as I also like to say. Sweet fried onions and a hint of North African spice too. I can eat far too many of these – good thing my little boy loves them as well.
Of course if you know me, you will be expecting what I will say next. The recipe that I share to make these pastries is infinitely variable. I think that the filo, feta cheese and butter are the only constants. If you don’t like aubergine, or you prefer spinach, or you have some cooked chicken you would like to add – well go ahead! I often add a few raisins because I love the sweet and salty feta combination. Toasted pine nuts also give an amazing burst of flavour. Essentially, a tasty mixture wrapped in buttery filo pastry will always be uplifting and delicious. Even when the sun is hiding.
Filo and Feta Cheese Pastries
1 onion, finely chopped
1 aubergine, sliced
1 package (200g) feta cheese
1 teaspoon of mixed dried herbs, such as herbes de Provence, or thyme and oregano. Fresh herbs lovely too. You choose.
1 teaspoon of mixed spices, such as cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, pepper. I have a North African blend for couscous which is great for this. These spices are heady and strong so use with care or leave out if you prefer.
Optional – a handful of raisins, toasted pine nuts
100 g of butter, melted
1 package, about 10 sheets of filo pastry
Fry the onions in a little olive oil until soft and slightly caramelised. Remove from heat. Meanwhile, rub the aubergine slices with some olive oil and grill on both sides until golden. Dice the grilled aubergine into smallish bits and add to the onions. Crumble the feta cheese into the onion mix, along with the herbs and spices. Melt the butter in a separate small bowl or pan. Set aside the melted butter and the filling for a moment and get ready to deal with the filo pastry.
Take the filo sheets from their packaging, unroll them gently and lay them out flat, covered with a clean teacloth. These sheets can dry out quickly (unless you live in super rainy England!) so you need to work fairly briskly.
Brush the top sheet of filo with butter. Put two to three tablespoons of filling towards the edge of the narrow side. Roll it up cigar style once or twice, then flap the sides over, and then roll up the the rest of the way. Crikey – does that make sense? Let me know if I can make it clearer. Continue with the rest of your sheets and filling.
Put the rolls on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Bake in 180 degree centigrade oven for about twenty minutes, until the pastries are all golden and crispy.
Try and let them cool a bit before tucking in. Drop me a comment and let me know what you think – I love to hear from you.
I’ll leave you with a picture of the rain drenched pears outside my cottage. We’re off to jump in some puddles now!