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{ finger lickin’ } no kneed loaf…

Ah the wondrous serendipity of the internet. I love the ‘down the rabbit hole’ feeling you can get when you start clicking and get whisked off into territories unknown.
No kneed bread is probably not a revelation to all of you, but for me, it had somehow managed to pass me by completely. So, when I did stumble across it on Sunday morning while I was exploring wonderland from my bed with hot tea and toast with marmalade, I resolved to try it at once.
So, last night, I got started, putting my bowl of very wet bread dough into a cold oven to protect it from any draughts (ah the joys of open-plan living).  This morning, the remaining steps were followed to the letter, and by lunchtime, after minimal effort, I had myself a perfect loaf. 
And I mean PERFECT.

Golden crust, crisp and at the same time deliciously chewy with a very open texture inside with proper flavour.  The recipe I used (below for your baking pleasure) was by way of The Sullivan Street Bakery, and the only tweak I would make to the ingredients is a smidge more salt.
And next time, I will NOT be resting it on a cotton cloth. The dough is very sticky and despite vigorous flouring, I just ended up with a dough covered teat towel!
{ click image to enlarge for printing }
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{ finger lickin’ } a crumbly confession…

I have something I need to get off my chest, and those that know me might want to look away now.
Today, I bought a packet mix. And then I cooked with it. And then I ate it. And it was GOOD!
Considering that aeons ago I used to be a pastry chef of sorts, it’s slightly shameful that I’m generally too lazy to make crumble topping. I love poached fruit and I love crumbles, but since I don’t have a food processor, all that rubbing in of butter just winds me up and I end up never making any. 
So today, when I wandered into M&S for no real reason at all, I was as surprised as anyone when I walked out with a packet of ‘Terribly Clever Oaty Crumble’.
Skip to this evening, and I simply mixed half the packet (which is comprised of ingredients you would naturally add to a crumble, no nasties hiding in there) with some melted butter, spread it over the top of some stewed blackberries and apples and popped it in the oven. Et voila! Golden, crunchy buttery goodness. A splash of double cream and all was well with the world.
Best of all, I feel no shame. Not one buttery ounce of it!
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{ finger lickin’ } the ‘office" christmas party…

No “Night Out With” today folks. Mainly because I failed to get my act together, but it will be back next week!
In it’s place, let’s have a look at Bob Bob Ricard, where I shall be enjoying my Office Christmas Party (OK, so I’m self-employed, so really it’s just going to be me and the sister getting dressed up and tipsy)

I will be starting with their signature cocktail – Rhubarb Gin & Tonic (mouth watering just thinking about it) and the sister will be getting trigger happy with the “Press for Champagne” buttons that they have on each table. That’s just how she rolls.

I will then have the Rabbit, Fois Gras and Date Terrine, and even though she’ll want the same, I’ll make the Tinker order the Venison Tartar with Raw Quails Egg, so that we can share.
We’ll follow that with a 2lb Grilled Lobster with Garlic Butter & Chips (I’ll ask for mayo on the side, because that’s how I roll ) and maybe a burger too? Yes? OK, but we’ll share right? Of course. Because that’s what sisters are for.

The sister will press the button again.
We’ll finish with Chocolate Raspberry Trifle and the Cheese. 
And maybe another press of the button…
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{ finger lickin’ } mmmmmmmm, lunch…

Garden Pea, leek & Potato soup, with some of these and a sprinkling of parmesan on top.
In my favourite yellow bistro bowls from Anthropologie.
Toasted brown soda bread with cream cheese, on my great-grandmother’s blue and white china.
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{ finger lickin’ } souper soup…

Eurgh. Flu season. Is there anything worse (or more grotesque!) I was grossing myself out last night with my sniffling and coughing while trying to get to sleep. Grim.
At times like this, there really is only one answer, chicken soup. But not just any chicken soup, the ultimate, kick-that-cold’s-ass chicken soup, courtesy of the BBC’s Grow Your Own Drugs…
Goji berry and chicken soup for colds and flu
{aka the easiest and most delicious soup you’ll ever make}
2 tbsp dried echinacea root
200 ml water, freshly boiled
5 tbsp goji berries, fresh or dried
2 litres chicken stock (homemade or from stock cubes)
3 chicken thighs or drumsticks (preferably organic)
2 large onions, peeled and sliced
12 shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
10 cm root ginger, peeled and shredded
2 fresh medium-sized chillies, finely sliced
8 garlic cloves,chopped
extra sliced ginger and chillis, to serve
1. Combine the dried echinacea root with the water in a bowl to make a simple infusion. In another bowl, pour just enough cold water over the goji berries to cover, and leave to rehydrate. Set the echinacea and goji berries aside and leave to stand.
2. Place the stock and chicken pieces in a large pan or slow cooker. Add the sliced onions, mushrooms, ginger and chillies and place around the chicken in the pan. On a very low heat, simmer gently for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, or until the chicken is tender and falls apart. Take off the heat.
3. Five minutes before serving, add the goji berries and chopped garlic. Finally, strain the echinacea infusion and add this to the soup, reheating if necessary.
4. Serve by ladling into bowls and garnishing with sliced ginger and chilli for an extra kick.
I often serve mine with noodles, I’m pretty sure the slurping makes you feel even better-er.
I also often make this soup regardless of my phlegm levels.
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{ vanity fair } going to seed…

When it comes to “health foods” (or the “super” or “whole” kind for that matter) I am woefully unmotivated. I try, I’m just way too faddy with my eating to make sure I get my daily doses of vitamins, minerals, veg, fruit, whole grains, proteins, omegas, fibre etc. And supplements aren’t much good either, I make the effort for a week or two, but soon lose the jar or will to continue. It’s a wonder really that I’m still alive.

Apart from the very obvious health benefits, it suddenly occurred to me the other day that my rosacea could be improved with the right foods. I’ve only been suffering from bouts of the ugly redness for a couple of years, and since I didn’t fancy the steroid or antibiotic treatment options had decided to just live with it. 
So, when I recently popped into my local (and extremely good) health food store for some Lavender oil, I stopped to have a look at some bags of “dust” on the shelf. And this one caught my eye. To be perfectly honest, you could put the words “healthy skin, hair & nails” on anything and I’d probably buy it, but I thought this one may merit the claim considering it’s components – a mixture of milled flax, sunflower, pumpkin & sesame seeds and goji berries. Upon opening it I discovered not dust, but a yummy, moist mealy mixture (packed with Zinc, Iron, Vitamin B12 and Vitamin E). I’ve since been sprinkling it on any and everything and I have to say that not only is it delicious, but I’m pretty sure it’s living up to it’s claim of improving the health of my skin. It’s early days yet, so let’s file this one as a preliminary report, but all results point to clearer and softer skin.
The great thing is that it doesn’t really have a distinctive taste, neither sweet nor savoury, it’s just nutty yumminess. So far, it has been enjoyed sprinkled on soups, stews, rye bread & hummus, yoghurt with cinnamon & honey, soda bread and cream cheese, garlic mushrooms, scrambled eggs, blackberry and apple crumble… I thought that eating 2 dessert spoons full a day would be a slog, but turns out it’s really quite easy!

Linwoods website sells it for £8 per bag, but I only paid £5 something in my local shop, so it’s worth shopping around if you fancy trying some.

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{ finger lickin’ } hot chocolate…

Never normally one for just parrotting other’s blog posts, I had to make an exception and share this one with you…
Victoria at Skinny Latte is quickly becoming my official London Tour Guide. I’ve lived in London for 11 years but am embarrassingly slack at getting out and about to discover new places. Victoria has no such hesitation, and is always posting about new foodie discoveries that go on the rapidly growing list in my Molskine of places I will visit SOON.
And this place just jumped right to the front of the cue!
There’s bit of running joke in my family that revolves around coffee shops. I hate coffee. And I am also very impatient, and don’t understand why we have to all get ready, leave the house, travel for an hour to go shopping, (be it high street, Borough Market, whatever), and then as soon as we get there we all have to stop, sit down and have coffee. WHY?!?!?! It drives me mad!! Why couldn’t they just have a coffee at home before we left?! My family think it’s hilarious and while I’ll never talk my mum and stepdad out of the habit, my sister is now kind enough to get a take out coffee and drink it while we shop. (She has to keep me on side or I wont pick pretty things for her to buy!)
I’m pretty sure I’ve ranted about this on the blog before, but I’ll shut up now and get to the point. Which is this, dear family, next time we go to Borough Market we’re going to The Rabot Estate instead, and I’m going to have a hug hot chocolate and that there chocolate mousse and make you all sit there waiting while I eat it at a painfully slow pace, slower than Liza!
So there.
Be sure to check out Victoria’s blog, it really is a treat for the sense, and even though she’s a vegetarian (not a bad thing at all, just a contrast to my meat loving ways!) I always want to go and eat at the places she discovers.
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{ finger lickin’ } say cheese…

You may have noticed that there’s been a glut of “I want” posts of late. I think the change of weather has me lusting after new season clothes and day dreaming about crisp autumn days. But, just in case you thought that all I’ve been doing is sitting at home staring at Net-a-Porter all day, I thought I might share with you some of my recent adventures in, ummmmmm…cheese.
My friends & family might be reading this slightly incredulously, after all, I don’t like cheese. Well, I like some cheese – cream cheese, parmesan, ricotta, cheddar – beginners cheese basically. I’m not one of those weird people who can just pick up a chunk of cheese and chow down while declaring it to be delicious. Eurgh. At least I didn’t used to be…
 { Sunday Suppers cheese table, where cheeses are paired with chocolate, honey, walnuts & membrillo }
I think it all started 18 months ago, when I visited a restaurant in France with my parents. The meal had been sublime, but when it came to the cheese course, I was decidedly uninterested until they wheeled out the cheese trolley. It all looked so delicious, with fruit piled high, jars of plump dried fruits and nuts, a jar of golden glistening honey, stacks of rough oatcakes. In the interests of pleasing my family, and saving myself from the usual “you don’t know what you’re missing” lecture, I got stuck in. Me oh my it was good! I did pick the mildest of cheeses, but it was a turning point.
My sister brought home from a friend’s house, the idea of eating cheese at the beginning of a meal, instead of at the end, and instead of the usual crisps & dips or starter, she served a couple of really good cheeses, some prosciutto or similar and some thin slices of sourdough/soda/rye bread.

This has now become a bit of a family trend, my take on it is to serve a big wedge of Manchego or Peccorino with slices of spicy chorizo and a bowl of roasted & salted almonds, the perfect accompaniment to a glass of chilled crisp white wine or a cold dry sherry.
Last week, I hit my local bars with a couple of friends. After closing time at the pub, we wandered past the restaurant at the end of the street, and, not wanting to go home just yet, we stopped in for some additional cocktails. After describing all of our cocktail likes and dislikes to the (very talented) barman, we sat back to await delivery of our custom mixed drinks, and as we did so, spotted the cheese board at the end of the bar. This was the mother of all cheese boards with 15 different cheeses to choose from. We let Toby, the restaurant manager, talk us through the selection and then we ummmed and ahhhhed over which to pick. We ended up with 5 cheeses, the most divine of which was a ewe’s milk cheese from Corsica called Petit Pecurinu. Oh my god it was good, served with a little dish of lavender honey (I don’t like honey either, but that didn’t seem to matter here) and some thin wheat biscuits. We wee in heaven, we cajoled Toby into giving us an extra slice. We floated home on a cheesy high (OK, the wine & gin might have helped too…) and I am now determined to take everyone I know to Manson to eat cheese and be merry.

All I need to do now is convince myself to enjoy blue cheese, gooey brie type cheeses and goat’s cheese….

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{ finger lickin’ } cool as a cucumber…

 { can’t find source – sorry!}
It’s a funny old world. You wait for hours and hours for a bus and then three cucumbers come along at once. No? Too English?
My point being, that cucumbers have suddenly become the vegetable (fruit) du jour.
cut cuke by niznoz.
{ pic }
As a kid, when we went to the market with our mum on a Friday, she would buy my sister and I a cucumber each to snack on, and we’d wander around, holding our cucumbers like popsicles, chomping away. Odd really, my mum hates cucumbers.
I love ’em. My favourite room/linen spray is a Kiehls cucumber perfume (which they don’t seem to sell anymore), and I love a stick of cucumber in my gin & tonic instead of lime (and let’s not forget a cucumber martini or collins, yummy).  My current ‘thing’ is to peel a whole cucumber and put it in the blender with a teaspoon of honey, a squeeze of lime and the blitz. Poured over ice and topped up with sparking water it’s the most refreshing drink in this humid London heat.
And now the Cool Hunter brings us Mr Q.Cumber… 


And a recipe for mixing it with Gin (good works boys).

And if you’re still not convinced of how awesomely brilliant the humble cucumber is then this round up of it’s amazing properties may just convince you (thanks Lilee!).

And let’s not forget the humble cucumber sandwich, as delicious as it is simple.

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{ finger lickin’ } rhubarb, rhubarb…

Rhubarb Syrup
{ Tony Cenicola/The New York Times }
Last year, two very talented chefs I know conjured up a rather staggering spread for a friend’s wedding.
There was a home built smoker for the smoked mackerel pate,  home made ricotta for the lentil salad, bulging summer puddings, a cheese board to die for.. I could go on….
But my favourite part was the drinks (some people will not be surprised by this!) Home made lemonade and ginger ale for the kids (and drivers) and for the grown ups, rhubarb & vanilla syrup topped with sparkling wine. I cannot begin to tell you how delicious it was, pure rhubarb-i-ness in a glass. 
So, thank you Toby Cecchini of the New York Times for reminding me how scrumptious it was and that I need to make it for my next party in a couple of weeks.
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