Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Green Tomato Chutney

I promised Color Chic that I would post a green tomato chutney recipe after I commented on her blog about her tomato recipes. So, here is that recipe:

The truth is that I referred to one of my favoutite recipe archive sites for this recipe and that is The Cottage Smallholder. I am going to repeat their recipe here after a jolly photo of my homegrown tomatoes. Nice huh ?

Green tomato chutney

As usual, I tampered with the recipe and will indicate what I did instead, in italics.

1 kilo of green tomatoes (chopped)
35g of red onion (chopped) I think I used a little  more - I like onion.
1 lemon quartered (skin on), sliced finely
100g of sultanas
250g of pale brown sugar
10g of fresh ginger (skinned and finely chopped) I used my jar minced ginger which keeps in the fridge.
10g of fresh garlic (peeled and finely chopped)
10g of green chilli pepper (deseeded and sliced fine) I didn't have any green chilli pepper, so put in some tabasco instead - it's chilli no ?
The juice from one small orange (mine weighed 150g) I used a splash of carton orange juice - about 3tbsp.
250ml of white wine vinegar
2 cloves I had these - I was amazed !
5 cardamom pods (just the seeds) and these !
1 small star anise None of this tho...
Half a heaped tsp of allspice berries  nor this..
1 tsp of mixed peppercorns ..and I only had black peppercorns
1 heaped tsp of coriander seeds
2 heaped tsp of coriander powder
2 heaped tsp of turmeric powder
Half a tsp of ground white pepper - I used black pepper instead..
Half a tsp of yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp of cayenne pepper I think I used chilli pepper. ...


1. Put all of the above in a big pot. I doubled  (or was it tripled?) the recipe and this is what it looked like:

I love the colour of this - stunning.
As you will see from my post on Courgette chutney the idea is that you have to basically mix all the ingredients and then boil it, then you have to turn it down to a simmer (lid off) for a good few hours, and maybe a few more hours after that....

This is a photo of it as it comes to the first boil:

I still think it looks great - so garishly green ! (My favourite colour btw, well green, not the garish bit....)
Although the chutney may still smell a little vinegary by the time it is ready to bottle, it should have lost that acrid vinegar smell that it had when it first started to boil. The chutney, when it is ready should look like chutney and have a jam-like, thick chutney texture. It will thicken a little more on cooling - but not loads.. When, you run a spoon through the mix, you should be able to see the metal of the pan (like you would with a jam).

After a while (eg a couple of hours) cooking, the chutney looked like this:

You can see where the vinegar has evaporated. So, what you struggled to fit into one pot, will eventually disappear... all that lovely, condensed flavour, yum ! You can also see that there is still vinegar / liquid on the top there that still needs to be evaporated off, so this is nowhere near ready at this stage - still a fair bit of simmering to do yet ..

This is the finished article: (photo to follow)

NOTE: Although this can take quite a few hours, you don't need to stand over the oven stirring - it ain't risotto ! Just leave it on a lowish simmer and give it a little stir as you're passing. It will (obviously) need more attention the longer it simmers away for, but for the quantity listed above, for the first hour the odd stir is fine. If it is still very watery/vinegary you need to turn the heat up on the gas and get a faster simmer going.

As with most chutneys this is best left to mature for four weeks in a cool, dry place so if you get started now it will be delicious in time for Christmas ! Once opened, keep refrigerated (although personally, I hate fridge-cold chutney, and prefer it a little warmer...)

Enjoy !

Update: December 2010, here's a photo of a jar ready to present as a lovely homemade gift. I think it looks lovely !


Monday, October 18, 2010

I am British ... or am I ??

I've just been described as 'perky, cheerful, happy-go-lucky, and probably American' and you dear reader - and, she-who-shall-remain-nameless could not know how happy this makes me feel.

I'm not American, but I had an Austrian Jewish grandfather who lived the last 35 years of his life in the US having fled from Vienna (via London) and marrying (and divorcing) my Granny along the way. The US was his saviour. Suffice to say, his mother (Florence) and sister were killed in the Holocaust. Anyway, Grandfather Harry was a great man and when we were together in New York people would question what this young English girl was doing with this foreigner in New York. Cool.  We used to laugh at that.

I have had other interactions with American people over the years, and by and large have found Americans to be warm, friendly people. So there ! For example, the beautiful Candace, we were *thrust* together by a friend of mine, and Candace's mother. I was 'tasked' with showing Candace London. Well, that was the beginning of a beautiful and long friendship. Candace, as only a corny person (Brit or American)  would say 'I love you and I'm glad you are in my life'. One of my best holidays was spent at a wedding in Michigan as I watched an English Rose marry her Septic Tank. Michigan is a beautiful state. I would love to go back there, and what a ball I had in Florida and Miami on a girlie road trip all those years ago.

More recently, (although not that recently actually) we ventured to San Fransisco. I want to go back there RIGHT NOW ! So different to all the other parts of the US I have visited. I also enjoyed a trip to South Carolina, although that was even longer ago still. Washington is still beckoning... One day my Washington friends, one day.... and then there's my good friend in Atlanta who I keep saying I will go and see. I doubt I will go back to New York without my Grandad there any more, well... enough said. Although, I know I have a great aunt in Florida, (who I have never met). Yes, I should go there next ! :o)

I guess (that's an Americanism isn't it ?? I guess) one of the overwhelming features of the American people that I have gained generally is a sense of optimism, a positive outlook and the, ironic as it sounds, the pursuance of the American Dream. Let's face it, us Brits carry around the burden of the world on our shoulders, and have a very pessimistic view of the world. Basically, I grew up 'depressed' and as my mother would say 'moody'. How miserable is that ? Well, I'll tell you, at times I felt like I spent my days walking round with someone holding a black, grey cloud over my head, that was reserved especially for me. It was invisible to others, but I was forced to wear it like a garish costume and I could feel the weight of it at times like a ton of lead. I can happily say that I have seen the back of that in the last few years. That grey cloud has been replaced more frequently by flashes of blue sky, and dare I even say it .... sunshine.

You know what, I'm not American but if over the years their ways have rubbed off on me a little, and I am now more optimistic, and 'perky, cheerful, and happy-go-lucky' then I can only say that I am the better for it.

God Bless America :o)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Honeycomb aka Cinder Toffee

Cupcake had been going on at me for ages to buy her some chocolate-coated Honeycomb which they had in a UK clothes store, temptingly placed near the tills. One day I gave in and said 'OK'... '... you can have the honeycomb', the cashier rang the register.. that's £3.50. 'Sorry Cupcake I said, you can't have the honeycomb'. There was no way I was paying that amount of money for something that in the supermarket would cost £1.50, or, even better, something I could possibly make myself.

Anyway, I've wanted to make my own honeycomb for a while. I already knew it was sugar, syrup and bicarbonate of soda and that's it. Sounds easy. You can cover it in chocolate if you like .. or not.

So, I looked up the recipe on-line, gathered the ingredients, followed the instructions and ta-da !! Honeycomb. See photo below.

Lots of it isn't there !!

Here's what I did:

Recipe courtesy of:  http://www.robertprice.co.uk/

I doubled up the original recipe. (I knew it would disappear super quick !)


200gr caster sugar (I used golden unrefined)
6 tablespoons of Golden Syrup
2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda


1. Mix the caster sugar and golden syrup together in a saucepan
2. Put the saucepan on a low heat
3. Slowly stir with a sugar thermometer until it reaches about 300F. This is known as 'Hard Crack'. If you don't have a sugar thermometer, you can test the mix is at 'hard crack' stage by dropping a little bit of the mix into a glass of cold water. Then dig out the little bit of sugar and it should be crunchy and hard, not soft and like fudge.
4. At this point, add the bicarbonate of soda and stir quickly and very well. If you don't stir you could be left with a salty taste to the honeycomb... Enough said. I did find that I wasn't quite sure when I had stirred 'enough' ... I assumed that you didn't wait or mix all of the bubbles out of the mix otherwise then you wouldn't have honeycomb...

5. When you think you've stirred enough... Pour the mix onto a baking tray and leave to cool.

6. You will be able to break up the honeycomb...and eat !!

Cupcake was super-pleased with the results.
If you are going to cover the honeycomb in chocolate, I suggest you tip the melted chocolate over the poured honeycomb when the honeycomb is cool, and then leave the chocolate and honeycomb to cool further, and then chop. I made the mistake of chopping the honeycomb first and then 'painting' bits of honeycomb with chocolate, and I made a mess...

NOTE: The second time I made this I used the wrong measuring spoon. I used a teaspoon instead of a tablespoon for the syrup. Silly me! Then I tried to 'guestimate' what the syrup shortfall might be... and added a few more spoonfuls. I carried on with the recipe, poured it out etc and well, it was more like toffee than honeycomb, tasted salty and was, well... inedible. Biscuit Boy joked that he the only thing he could think to do with it was to use it to glue down the kitchen floor (which we are currently laying..) Cheeky beggar !

This post is linked to Prairie Story - Recipe Swap Thursday
and Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tag.. I'm it too !

I just got tagged by Alison of  http://prairiestory.blogspot.com/ to answer the following eight questions in this fun game.

It works like this, you get asked to answer eight questions, you then tag a further eight bloggers to answer your selected questions. I like the sound of this already! Deep breath, and here goes...

1) What inspired you to start a blog?

Well, I'm quite a chatterbox and I have a few areas of interest - cooking , sport and reading for example ... and I also enjoy writing, but don't get to write much, so I thought how can I combine those interests?? A blog seemed to be the answer. I could try and write a book, I guess, but I lack the imagination to come up with an interesting, funny story line and I prefer to write about what I know. Saying that, the blog does seem to be a juxtaposition  of the very different things that inspire me and I guess the swinging between subjects could be a little disconcerting. I'm still working on that one, that and linking this to Facebook and Twitter etc; but so far, I'm really enjoying my blog journey and the folks I am meeting along the way...

2) What is your all time favorite food to eat?

There are so MANY things !!! It's really difficult to choose just one ! If I was really pushed it is probably Cha gio (nems) which are vietnamese crispy spring rolls served with an acidic dipping sauce which always has chopped carrot in it. I have yet to see these in the UK, I'm sure they're to be found in a supermarket somewhere here, but I haven't found it yet... so I only get to eat these when in my beloved France. When answering this I wanted to answer with something that I could happily eat every day for the rest of my life ... and yes, even I am surprised by my answer.

If you want to take a look, I found what looks like a good recipe for Cha gio here:


3) If you could take a trip any where in the world where would it be?


I would really like to explore the spiritual side of 'me' in more depth (whatever that means). No, I know what I mean, I want to practise yoga, I want to meditate, I want to see all of the beautiful (and not so beautiful) things in the country. I want to smell the spices in the Indian markets, and eat street food. I could go on and on, but I will stop there. Suffice to say, that other than a bit of yoga and meditation and a little bit of Indian cookery that's all I've managed so far...

I would also take Cupcake with me, at just nine years old she is infatuated with India and has a full sari and for her birthday we went to see the show 'The Merchants of Bollywood' in London. I know she would love it, as would I. Maybe when she is older we will go...

4) Who would play you in a movie of your life?

Probably Honor Blackman, but only because I have a friend who says I look like her...

5) What has been your worst kitchen or cooking disaster?

The one that springs to mind is when I was eighteen and my parents were away and I decided to cook Paella for my boyfriend. My Mom isn't really into recipe books, and I think I must have found the recipe in a 'Microwave Recipe book'. Cut a long story short, I overcooked it,in the microwave, big time ! I  had spent an absolute, absolute fortune on the ingredients and it was inedible. Looking back, I should have stuck the lot in a pot and tried to hydrate it, but at the time there was no one to tell me that, so the whole thing went in the bin. I was gutted. Paella is still one of my favourite things to eat, but interestingly I have NEVER since that day cooked it myself.

6) What is your favorite restaurant?

This is easy. It has to be L'Entrecote in France. This is a chain of restaurants. There is now one in London (in Marylebone) although I have never eaten there. I have eaten at the one in Paris and the one in Toulouse. I first went to the restaurant when I was either 20 or 21 and living in France. The beauty of the restaurant is it's simplicity. This is how it goes:

Starter: Green salad and walnuts, dressed with the most amazing dressing.
Main: Steak with French fries served with the most amazing 'secret' sauce, which is a herby/cheesy/buttery just divine sauce
Dessert: Chocolate Profiteroles or Chocolate mousse

It is the same menu in every restaurant. There is no other choice, and people queue round the block to go there. I haven't been for a number of years, but I am going to take Biscuit Boy to the one in London or the one in Paris one of these days - and I've been saying that for ages....

Check them out here: http://www.relaisdevenise.com/ 
Having just looked at the web site I see there is a branch in New York now too.

7) What will you do for yourself today?

This sounds odd perhaps, but write this blog. It's my 'creative outlet'.

8) What will you do today to "pay something forward" or "random act of kindness"?

This is going to sound funny, but today, by chance, I managed to find a whole lot of discounted kitchenware for my kitchen in France. I like to think this is paying something forward as I am so looking forward to cooking for all of my .friends and neighbours in France. They have made us some lovely meals over the years whilst we have had no kitchen, and I will finally be able to give something back. In fact, I think my first repertoire is going to be a 'Curry challenge' with my Indian neighbour (who lives in Brussels, but has a house in France) that is planned for this Christmas holiday. Saying that, we still haven't fitted the oven yet. (That's later this month...). 

Here are my eight questions:

1) What do you most enjoy about blogging ?
2) What is your personal acheivement or moment that sticks in your mind and why ?
3) What is your favourite party drink ?
4) If you could go on holiday tomorrow, where would you go ?
5) What is the most unusual ingredient in your store cupboard right now ?
6) What do you do in your 'free' time ?
7) What is the name of the last restaurant you went to ?
8) What is your favourite style of cooking to eat out (rather than cook yourself) ?

and here are the people I am going to tag:

The Cottage Smallholder
The Idiot Gardener
Recipe Rifle
Appetite for Good
Susi's Kochen und Backen
Caveman Cooking

Please leave me a comment to let me know once you've answered the questions! Lastly, I understand that you might not want to play, so if you choose not to do this, that's alright!

Enjoy !

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Coffee Walnut Cake

A while ago now I did a post about Nigella Lawson's new book 'KITCHEN' - and what a wonderful book it is. At the time, I remember coming across the Coffee and Walnut cake recipe and thinking 'That's a keeper' and making a mental note of the ingredients. Specifically, espresso powder which I knew I had run out of. You might be thinking, is espresso powder not just coffee ? Well, it's similar, but different and as Cupcake would say, 'the clue's in the name'. This is a lot stronger than normal coffee; eg like espresso and it is also a smooth powder rather than the instant granules. Espresso powder is used in a lot of coffee recipes for that depth of taste, and probably for it's powder rather than grainy texture.

So, why was I making coffee cake ? Well, Biscuit Boy and I (and Cupcake too) love going out for coffee and cake at the weekend. There is a really pretty garden center, really near to where we sometimes go for a jog on the weekend, as we did this weekend, and so we usually find ourselves in there eating coffee cake and drinking large mocha coffees. Bliss after a chilly run. This cake tastes good, it's also more that £2.00 per slice which is rather expensive. Of course, I love a challenge so I wanted to make a coffee cake that would rival the one from the Garden Center, not only on  cost but also on taste too.

For once, I followed the recipe to the letter.. well, kind of, I only changed two things. Firstly, I didn't have 2 cake tins, well I did, but the bottom from one of my 'loose-bottomed' tins no longer fit the tin... It had somehow warped and would not fit in the bottom. So, I resorted to plan B and put all of the cake mixture into one big tin and then extended the cooking time. I also chopped the large cake through the middle once cool to make my two halves. My other problem was that I had no baking powder and as you will see the recipe calls for two and a half teaspoons of the stuff... What to do ?? So I looked online for an alternative and learned that you can make it using Cream of Tartar and Bicarbonate of Soda, or you could if you had some Cream of Tartar, which I didn't. I did find some Liquid Glucose and some Stem Ginger that I'd forgotten about though. Anyway, I'm rambling, what I did was add an extra teaspoon of bicarb and I also added another two tablespoons of self-raising flour, as I know this contains baking powder... and then I just kind of crossed my fingers..

As I had no idea how long the cake would take to cook, I did keep opening and closing the oven door and every time I did that I was sure I was jinxing my cake into coming out as flat as a pancake, but to my total pleasure it rose considerably and also did not deflate the minute it came out of the oven. Excellent.

Here is the recipe.

Coffee and Walnut Layer Cake
For the sponge:

50gr walnut pieces
225gr caster sugar
225gr soft unsalted butter (I used margarine), plus some for greasing
200gr plain flour
4tsp instant espresso powder
2.5 tsp baking powder
0.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 eggs
1-2 x 15ml tbsp milk

For the frosting:

350gr icing sugar
175gr soft unsalted butter (I used 'utterly butterly  - a lower fat buttery margarine - it worked well)
2.5 tsp instant espresso powder dissolved in 1 x 15ml  boiling water
25gr walnut halves to decorate (I used the rest of the packet of walnut pieces as I didn't have any halves..)

2 x 20 cm sandwich tins (or one large cake tin  - as I used)


1. Preheat the oven to 180 deg c/gas mark 4.
2. Butter the cake tin(s) and line the base with baking parchment if you wish - I didn't..
3. Put the walnut pieces and sugar into a food processor and whizz to a nutty powder. Add the butter, flour, espresso powder, baking powder, bicarb and eggs and process until all mixed.
4. Add the milk, pouring it down the funnel and pulse the food processor to loosen the mixture.
5. Divide the mixture between the two tins (or put in one tin, as I did).
6. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, or until the top is springy. (If you use one tin, the cake will take a lot longer to cook, check it after 30 minutes, and every 5-10 minutes after that. Again, until springy to the touch.)
7. Cool the cakes on a wire rack.

... and now for the buttercream

1. Pulse the icing sugar in the food processor (to get rid of any lumps).
2. Add the butter and pulse until you have a smooth icing.
3. Add the coffee that has been dissoved in the boiling water to the processor, and pulse again to mix.
4. Do not frost the cake until it is cool. (Otherwise the frosting seeps into the sponge, which actually I quite like.. :o))
5. Take one of the cake, (or cut the one cake in half horizontally, as I did) and add about half of the frosting to one half of the sandwich. Place the other half of the cake on the top of the frosted one.
6. Spread the remaining frosting over the top of the cake in a rustic, swirly pattern.
7. Press walnut halves (or pieces) into the top of the cake.
8. My sponge was a little warm, so I put it all in a cool place to cool down nicely.

Serve and Enjoy !!

I also made this cake as a bribe to Biscuit Boy to lay the kitchen flooring. Trouble is the cake is now all gone and he is refusing to continue with it until I make another cake. I am refusing to make a cake until the floor is done.... and so the Circle of Life and Love continues...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

My French kitchen

When we went to France this year, we already knew we would be facing phase three of 'Project Kitchen - France'. We had already tried to start the project back at Christmas (yes, nearly a year ago !!!) but our plans were thwarted when the hire van that we were due to collect Christmas Eve just didn't happen - can you remember that far back ? Most of London was covered in snow or slush, I was nursing a most, completely horrendous cold and I remember having to get out of my sick bed to collect Biscuit Boy from the train station as he was travelling home by public transport - and not in the hire van !!! Man alive, we were m.a.d !

And so, the result of this was that the kitchen was taken over piecemeal, several units at Christmas (in our new car-not in a van), the washing machine and more cupboards at Easter, and the dishwasher and the rest of the units last month). Ironically, when we arrived back after taking the washing machine at Easter, the washing machine in the UK broke. Of course, guess what happened after we took the dishwasher out in August ? Yes, correct, the dishwasher in the UK broke - would you believe it ?? If it hadn't actually happened to me, I wouldn't believe it myself !!

Now it's nearly October. Over a period of two weeks in August we started and finished that kitchen. We're out there again later this month to fit the oven and hob in the chimney breast that once housed the wood burner. Actually, the hob arrived today ! Yippee !

Meanwhile, we are still finishing off the updates that we started to the kitchen here in the UK earlier this summer, and today Biscuit Boy started laying the wood for the floor that will be laid over the top of that. I am VERY excited by all this. I can feel that progress is being made in my favourite room of the house. Result !
PS> The kitchen cupboards came from Magnet (a UK-based company), the worktop was bought in France and the tiles were taken over from the UK too. Sockets were bought in France (obviously) :o) Oh yes, and the ceramic sink was bought in France, and the taps we took with us from the UK. (And yes, it felt like I did take everything but the kitchen sink !)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Falafel Kerfuffle

I was SO excited about finally making falafel. I had been planning it for ages. I bought some of those lovely, nutty chickpeas back from France which I planned to soak specifically for making my falafel.

And so, what recipe to use ? Although I love Moroccan and Middle Eastern cooking, I had no recipe for falafel, so online I went and I found this one at Foodie in NY web site: http://www.londonfoodieny.com/2010/06/03/edamame-chickpea-falafal/

Of course I modified the recipe slightly (when don't I ?) So, for me, it went as follows. I knew I would be making the falafel so I put the chickpeas in cold water to soak a few days before. I left the peas to soak and soak, and soak a little bit more...Actually until Biscuit Boy pointed out that there was a kind of 'foam' forming on the top of the water, and he questioned whether they were really still safe to eat. I looked up online and checked that the beans were 'safe' - and I soon put Biscuit Boy right !

This is what I used:
175gr chickpeas
275g frozen edamame beans
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 chopped picked red chillies (this was instead of red pepper flakes)
handful chopped parsley
handful chopped coriander (cilantro)

2 tbsp chickpea (besan) flour (this was instead of plain flour-I wanted to stay on the chickpea theme)
1tsp ras el hanout spiece mix
1tsp cumin
1tsp ground coriander
1 preserved lemon (chopped) (added this for extra 'depth of taste' ?? yeh I know - I'm not sure what I mean either !)

This is what I did:

1. Preheat the oven to 200 deg. c.
2. Put all of the ingredients in the food processor.
3. Form the mix into falafel style balls...

.. but hold on !!! My mixture is TOTALLY NOT forming into balls. Actually, it is doing the actual most opposite of that, it is completely falling apart in my hands, There is NO WAY this is forming into balls. But, why or what has happened ?? What have I done wrong ??? AND THEN IT DAWNED ON ME.

I had forgot to cook, to boil the blinking-flipping chickpeas. Oh damn and blast, and every bad word I can absolutely think of but not type. So, what to do now ??? My beautiful 'soaked-for-days' chickpeas, all of those lovely ingredients. I wanted to cry. But I didn't. So, I thought to myself I only need to boil the chickpeas, why don't I do that ! This is what I did next:

4. Tipped all of the mix out of the food processor into a saucepan. Added enough boiled water to cover the peas (and of course everything else !) added a lid and set to boil for ten minutes.

5. After ten minutes I kept checking until the water had been absorbed by the peas, of course my peas had already been whizzed up in the food processor so they had gone quite mushy - as they are supposed to, and as I didn't want them to dry out too much, I drained them and kept them on the 'mushier' side.

6. To dry them out a little before forming them into balls, I added 1tbsp chickpea (besan) flour, 2tsp lemon juice, salt, pepper, and a half teaspoon of cumin. I added this because I felt the boiling of those lovely herbs, spices ans juices had made them a little bland and it all needed a bit of a resurrection.

7. I then did as I should have done earlier (!!!) and formed them into balls which I then pressed flat to make little disks. I placed these on a oiled baking sheet and baked for 20 mins until browned and smelling lovely.

NOTE: Do check your falafel after 15 minutes as the amount of time needed to cook really does depend on their size. Big balls take longer than little ones.

I served these in pitta with all the usual salad items. Yum ! As usual, disaster averted and photos to follow ....