love bug

IMG_7193

love bug biccies

I’m not much of a baker and although I used to love it as a teenager, I don’t have much time for it these days. There is always something I’d rather be doing if I was honest.

a plate of bugs

a plate of bugs

But Valentines Day is a tricky calendar event when it comes to us girls getting for our boys.

fizz and love bugs

fizz and love bugs

My plan was to make some romantic sweet biscuits for JC.  So, I thought I’d spend friday evening making these cute little love bug biscuits.

It was quite therapeutic and fun too although I am clearly short of certain tools such as icing bag and nozzles which meant the icing bug head, tail and spots are painted on with a brush.

half finished love bugs (I like these and will make them like this next time)

half finished love bugs (I like these and will make them like this next time)

Not my best artistic endeavours but they are tasty and look really cute.

shadows of the heart cut outs

shadows of the heart cut outs

Might have to rethink next year though as I’m not sure they went down quite as I had planned. LOL.

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foraging for fungi

field mushroom harvest

field mushroom harvest

I have expressed my desire to learn more about identifying fungi before and I still haven’t done the course that was a present from hubby christmas 2011. I really must! If only to broaden our menu and save us from inevitable tummy ache.

freshly cut with ring in tact

freshly cut horse mushroom with ring in tact

It hasn’t, however, stopped my foraging this week. There is a field where we walk at the weekends that has a small but productive crop of enormous and delicious horse mushrooms. I haven’t seen them there before but they are certainly there now and boy are they tasty looking.

The fields are still very green and the bright white beacon of deliciousness that these wonderful wild food sources are is clear to see in the middle of the field.

bright edible domes amongst the grass

bright edible domes amongst the grass

I couldn’t help but notice them and after clearing it with the farm I collected only those that had been knocked off their stems by the ponies in the field.  Each morning, though, the ones that were tiny the day before had become monsters and so I couldn’t resist and picked some of those still growing.

the smallest of these is about 100mm across

the smallest of these is about 100mm across

Picking them properly is important (always use a sharp knife and cut off at stem, never pull them out with the whole stem) and you should never harvest an entire field.

Always leave plenty behind. There may be others who want to enjoy natures larder too but it is also important to maintain the crop to ensure they grow another year.

shades of pink and brown gills

shades of pink and brown gills

There are lots and lots left that will come to maturity over the next few weeks so we should see them again next year.

cider vinegar, thyme, salt and pepper

cider vinegar, thyme, salt and pepper

Preparing them is nearly as important.  Never wash them. Clean off any dirt or insects and then brush the outside clean. I’m a great believer that a bit of muck and interest adds to the flavour but if you prefer, the skins can be peeled to remove any possibility of unwanted flavourings (whatever form that might take!!).

I love mushrooms. I love their meatiness which makes them a great substitute for meat in a vegetarian dish. I especially love risotto, chicken and mushroom pie and I particularly love fried mushrooms on a thick slice of thoroughly toasted wholemeal or artisan bread.

What a wonderful autumn gift.

We had Chicken and mushroom pie on Saturday night but we ran out of time for any other mushroom dishes this weekend. In order to continue to enjoy the taste and waste nothing, I have gifted some, dried some and preserved some for later when the crop has finished.  Loving them fresh as I do, I have held back a few of today’s harvest to go into a mushroom based dish (whatever it ends up being) that I will conjure up later in the week.

horse mushrooms preserved in oil

horse mushrooms preserved in oil

The dried ones have a much stronger smell now they are jarred and I understand that drying enhances the flavour. I can’t wait to use them in a nice juicy dish in the middle of the winter when they are no longer available.

The others I have preserved in oil and vinegar from a recipe in the preserving book I bought some time ago. The flavours in the oil say to me that they should be eaten straight from the jar  raw but we will see as I have never used mushrooms in oil before. New things are great!!

dried mushrooms

dried mushrooms

The smell of freshly picked wild mushrooms is amazing. It is rich and earthy and reminds me very much of being a child. We always came home with field mushrooms or something edible and free when we had been raking around the open countryside for as much of the day as we could squeeze out of it.

It brings to mind people like my grandparents and my gran particularly who loved a bit of free food and a forage. I’m sure it is her tasks to us kids to bring home something tasty that fuels my interest in hedgerow eating. I realised the other day when I looked at a photo of me holding the mushrooms that I picked that I have her hands…. almost identical!

dried and preserved

dried and preserved

 


love thy neighbourhood

breads

My relationship with london changes daily. I’ve been here most of my life from 18 years old.This has only been punctuated by a short move to the Oxfordshire countryside, an art foundation course in Banbury and then art college in Newcastle but apart from that, London is my adopted home.

During the week when I am suffering at the hands of rude and smelly tube users, I loath London and consider it at best a necessary evil. It is at these moments I really wish I could get away.

Even then, I manage to appreciate it’s multi cultural side, the fact that it has EVERYTHING and it gets it first. This is further eased by the fact that I think where we live has a lot going for it and we have the greatest friends most of whom live nearby.

cheese straw

When I’m not fighting with commuters and take the time to see what is around me, I feel much better about the place and I have time to realise that it is just outright splendid.

Take today.

freerange eggs, salami & vine tomatoes

Today has been one of those special days in London for me. I met 2 of my close friends out walking the dog and stretched my usual hour to two hours so I could spend a bit more unexpected time with them. I bumped into one of them again as she was taking her little son to meet friends while JC & I were striding out to enjoy what was on offer at a local Sunday Market. I saw the other friend again while we were at the market but this time with her husband..

breads etcetera

We hadn’t known about the market until we saw a small notice for it on a nearby ‘for sale’ sign and having asked what people thought of it decided we had to give it a try.

It is set in the playground of a local junior school and although the number of stalls there today were diminished due to half term and possibly the sudden turn in the temperature, it was excellent.

carrot cake

We got a fabulous coffee and mini cinnamon swirl to kick start us (we were at a boozy birthday celebration last night and although we weren’t feeling dreadful, coffee and cake always helps). We bought meat direct from a farm on Romney Marshes, italian sausage from a local italian, some amazing flavoured breads, vine tomatoes, eggs, and cake. There was so much more on offer such as cheeses, baked goods, Thai wraps, fish finger sandwiches (yes, fish finger sandwiches!!), jams, pickles, burgers, curries and much, much more.

eggs and salami

The stall holders were all lovely and incredibly chatty which is as much a part of the experience for me as the sampling and buying; the freshness in the air was blessed with sunshine and it really couldn’t have been better.

We won’t abandon our local butcher or the delights of the Green Lanes shops completely but we will be doing a good part of our main meat and veg shopping here every week now. It makes the job of food shopping so much more pleasant and fun.

 

salami, vine toms & duck eggs

It is days like today when I remember that I love london, and I love my neighbourhood!!


cooking up a storm

Dinner for Dogs

Our little terrier is on a raw diet to keep him fit and well and in an attempt to help with this atopic skin.  Well technically, he’s on immunotherapy injections for his atopic skin but we are always hopeful that another route will prove effective. So to help with this, we feed him a completely unprocessed diet of raw meat and raw veg with added omega 3 & 6 and some vitamins. As close as possible to what he would eat in the wild I suppose. His treats are dried liver or Canine Connoisseur’s natural liver and cheese treats.

I have long been suspicious of shop bought, mass produced dog foods; even those that purport to be holistic, organic or completely natural.

about vegetables

The Furry One (Max to his general public) seems to do ok on his raw diet and we’re hopeful that it helps his poor skin. He certainly seems heathy enough on it and his gnashers are lovely and clean from the bones that form a key part of this diet.  He might get a bit bored with it, even though it is very varied – lamb, beef, venison and oily fish).

Lily’s Kitchen is one of the only processed foods that we consider acceptable for Max. It is a great story of how a range of food and a shop have developed from the need to feed a small Border Terrier a good, gentle and wholesome diet (and it has plenty of vegetables in it).

white flesh sweet potatoes and carrots chopped and ready for the pot

Like all small but developing businesses that are bound to succeed, Lily’s Kitchen was born of care and passion. Lily, who is the Border Terrier, wasn’t eating so Henrietta Morrison, who is her loving and owner, started feeding her home made food. All based on sound nutritional information, a range of tinned foods and dry treats evolved.

Max LOVES Lily’s Kitchen food. I can’t remember how we found out about Lily’s Kitchen but we’ve been fans for as long as I ever knew it existed and eventually our vet was selling Lily’s food so Max has benefitted quite a bit from it and it is our default food if raw isn’t possible.

Imagine my delight when an email from Amazon popped into my in box with a recommendation for a book that I might find interesting – Lily’s Kitchen Dinners for Dogs. A guide to good eating for dogs and a collection of recipes to try.

kibble spread onto baking parchment ready for baking

We ordered it immediately and it arrived in time for us to ‘digest’ it before the weekend. After a farmers market shop and a busy day, I started cooking from the recipes last night.

They all sound so tasty (good enough to eat!!!) that picking one alone is almost impossible. So, I made it easy on myself and started at the beginning which meant the Kibble.

Lily’s kibble

Kibble is potentially one of the worst processed foods on the market as it often contains salt, meat derivatives and goodness knows what else to fill our poor dog’s tummies. A potentially great source of nutrition and fuel but it can be so damaging if it isn’t right.

That Max likes Lily’s Kitchen food isn’t being tested here but my cooking IS so I was hoping that all my efforts wouldn’t be wasted since he is now very accustomed to his raw diet!!!!

Wonderful One Pot ingredients waiting for the meat and the blueberries

Why was I concerned? There is obviously a built in ‘success’ ingredient in every single recipe and I got my first inckling of this when Max started hanging around the kitchen door while I was preparing. As I started cooking, he crept closer and became a real nuisance as he was completely under my feet. Eternal optimism is one of the things I love so much about dogs!!

Wonderful One Pot ready to eat

The kibble recipe IS incredibly tasty, I know, I’ve tasted it.   There is nothing added to give it flavour like we would do with salt etc. The ingredients are simply what make it delicious. Not to leave Max’s vigilance and hopeful loitering unrewarded, I gave him a little of the kibble mix before it was baked and he just about licked off my fingerprints before he was happy that he’d got all that was on offer! A success so far, I was hopeful that baking it wouldn’t change his enjoyment of it.

On a roll, I decided to do the Wonderful One Pot dish too!

a blueberry left in the bowl…….

He had the Wonderful One Pot for his breakfast this morning and loved it. There was a moment when the blueberry was left behind but after a rethink, down it went!!

An all round canine culinary success and we have about 10 days worth of food for Max as well as a biscuit tin of kibble that we will use for treats on his walks.

When these have all been eaten up, we will try some of the other recipes but in the meantime, thank you very much Lily and Henrietta.


south holland food festival 2012

lots of lovely baked goods

we went to the south holland food festival in the sleepy tulip parade town of spalding today and it was surprisingly good.

I had few, if any expectations if I was honest as we have not found much by way of culinary delight in the area but reality was that visiting the food producers was fantastic.

leek and curry savoury snack loaf

we had coffee and bought beans from www.azorieblue.com as well as having a sit down and a really good gnatter with the stallholder. That was our first stop and we could have stayed there drinking their lovely coffee in the shade but onward we pressed.

we had crisps and dips and bought a handful of the flavours from the clumber chilli co

bottled fire

we bought spicy rubs from the gourmet spice company and enjoyed a very nice chat with the chap on the stand who was incredibly enthusiastic, knowledgeable and a treat to meet.

magic BBQ dust

we bought a trio of delicious and interestingly flavoured balsamic vinegars from the same producer having sampled more than what really constitutes sampling.

we bought bread to dip in the balsamic from Thierry Daugeron who I am now also following on twitter because of the festival.

a trio of deliciousness

we bought baked goods, home made lemonade and a huge tub of spiced garlic cloves.

flavoured balsamic for dipping

we bought gallons of local cider from a bloke who calls himself cider trev.  He brews his ciders from wind fall apples that he collects on his travels around the county. He has a full time job but has acquired good will from people whose garden or neglected free range orchards needed ‘tidying up’ and he has developed a lucrative hobby for himself.  He is also a thoroughly nice man who is prepared to help us with our own failed attempts at brewing cider when we next have a go!

more flavours for dipping

we bought heckington 8 sail beer, curry spices from Mrs Shah, local freshly picked raspberries, strawberries and our lunch.

round one!!!

JC had a goat meat curry from nkono which is cameroon curry in a banana leaf cone and then went back for second helpings in the form of their provincial beef curry. He liked it that much!!!

empty and off he goes for seconds!!

I had the creamiest, cheesiest, meatiest slice of freshly made quiche that was so deep filled and had such a huge overlapping edge of pastry to the top of it that it just about qualified as a pie. Suits me, I love a bit of meaty pie!!

ocean deep filled quiche

We did lots of tasting and I KNOW we had more food than is appropriate for a lunchtime but we thoroughly enjoyed it. We probably enjoyed it more than expected because we had absolutely no idea how good it was going to be and were honestly prepared for it to be a bit rubbish.

It is set in the absolutely gorgeous grounds of Ascoughee Hall which is a museum and open gardens that are both free to enter.

the ornamental pond at Ascoughee Hall gardens

We are gently working our way through cider trev’s selection of  6 different types of cider and will let you know what happens when we get to ‘head wrecker’!!

It is on again tomorrow so it’s not too late.  Go on, go along, you will find something delicious that you weren’t expecting!!!!

And it is in our diary for next year!!!