Riverfood

It’s summertime, so the blogosphere is humming with delicious holiday snaps – pictures of ripe fruits straight from the tree, local village cheeses or fragrant sweets from exotic markets…

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…for the most part I’ll be at home in London, not really known for its fresh produce…although I did rob a bit of elderflower from someone’s garden the other week, ooh and there’s a fig tree near the bus stop (might, also be in someone else’s garden).

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So, when I received an invitation to the launch event for Coopers Restaurant Consultants, on a boat, where all the food was going to be predominantly sourced from the Thames I was excited and dubious in equal proportions.

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We arrived at Festival pier on the Southbank to board the MV Royalty for the #riverfood event. It was a boiling hot but choppy day and the boat rocked enthusiastically from side to side. Once aboard, making our way towards the complementary cocktails I began to recall a sense of wobbly unease, like walking across one of those rope bridges at the adventure playground with your big brother jumping up and down on it at the opposite end.
As Richard and I carefully sipped grapefruit margaritas and watermelon Mojitos we were both unsure how we were going to cope with the seafood based menu should sea sickness fully take hold.

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To our surprise we set sail along the river and even more surprisingly this helped settle us and with wafts of London’s approximation of fresh air drifting in through the windows, we even started to feel hungry.

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Coopers had arranged for some really lovely waiting staff who shuffled along in precarious zigzags carrying huge platters of canapés. The first were Hollowshore Oysters with shallot vinegar and Tabasco jelly followed by a seemingly endless supply of freshly shucked ones. Both were delicious.

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Next we were presented with some zingy Green Tomato Soup with Pickled Whelks served in small painted sake cups.

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Here’s the Estuary Smoked Kipper with Egg & Cress that came next…

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…and I had seconds of the Old father Thames Smoked Pike.

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We snuck out onto the deck to watch the chef in action, barbecuing some zander which was served with smoked bacon, white onions and bay.

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So as well as a pile of fantastic fresh riverfood, I ate my words. London has some wonderful fresh produce, so, fellow staycationers, if the MV Royalty #riverfood ship sets sail again soon get yourselves down to the Thames x

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Foodie Penpals pt. 4

For my July pen pal adventure I got a parcel from Lucia from Lulabella’s Kitchen.
I was away at my cousins wedding when it arrived, but I knew the postman had been because I got a message from my housemate frantically cleaning oil from everything. It appeared the sorting office had been a bit too keen to hurl my parcel to London and in so doing a jar of olives in olive oil had leaked.
This was by no means a disaster (although I think it’s my turn to buy the kitchen paper this week) and it meant that I could legitimately eat ALL of the olives straight away. I ate half of them whilst finishing some of the illustrations for my book (shameless plug!) and the rest went into a tapenade which I served with tomatoes and courgette ribbons.

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After the delicious olives I went straight for the strawberry chocolate. I did this because I had planned to get into shape and start eating much healthier from the following day (recipe testing has basically gone straight to my hips!) and thought it best to eat it all in one go so that I wouldn’t be tempted by it during the week. This is possibly the silliest logic ever. Done now. Anyway, it was thoroughly enjoyed whilst watching The Sweetest Thing – hmm eating chocolate and watching Cameron Diaz films, turns out I’m still 15!

The rest of the parcel contained some whole grain crispbread things which are amazing, a bottle of Polish soup seasoning which I can’t wait to try and some Lebanese sweets. She also included chilli salsa, chilli shot, coffee and to get me drinking milk; some milkshake haribo which I thought was hilarious!

What a smashing parcel with ace illustrations. Oh AND she also does private catering, clearly a sister-from-another-mister!
Thanks Lucia you’re a star!

If you want to see what I sent out for July just head over here

And if you would also like to be a foodie penpal then what the hell are you waiting for:

FOODIE PENPALS UK & EUROPE: HTTP://THISISROCKSALT.COM/FOODIE-PENPALS/

FOODIE PENPALS US: HTTP://WWW.THELEANGREENBEAN.COM/FOODIE-PENPALS/

xx

Foodie Penpals pt. 3

Eek, bit late with this one, sorry dudes! Firstly a big thank you to Georgina from www.whatpegmade.blogspot.co.uk for the really lovely foodie penpal parcel this month including super cute handmade card. lovely handmade card! foodie pen pal gifts

The tea shelf is now very happy with its new additions and I made swift work of the nãkd bars. They’re pretty low guilt as they’re mostly made of squished up nuts and dates so deffo need to have a go at making cereal bars this way.

foodie goodies!

I umm-ed and ahh-ed about what to do with the chocolate because it seemed too exciting to just munch as is…but didn’t want to go too elaborate either because I’d hate to detract from the geranium.

So, after much deliberation here is a very, very simple recipe for chocolate florentines. These fancy chocolate buttons are possibly the easiest chocolates to make and look lovely in a box of handmade truffles or as a super gift to take to a last minute dinner party.

Chocolate Florentines

Chocolate Florentines.

Ingredients

100g of chocolate (I used Montezuma’s Dark Chocolate with Orange & Geranium, but any chocolate you like including white chocolate would be fine)
Handful of mixed nuts, seeds, edible flowers and dried fruits

Method
1. Gently melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water.
2. Lay a large piece of tin foil flat on a work surface or large chopping board, preferably in a cool place.
3. Carefully drop teaspoonfuls of chocolate onto the foil and spread out so they are just slightly bigger than a £2 coin.
4. Decorate each one with a few nuts, dried fruit etc. It looks really smart if they all look the same.

Decorated with sultanas, hazelnuts, lavender and elderflowers
5. Leave to set hard somewhere cool and serve. They’re really nice with coffee or as and edible decoration to a simple dessert.

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If you would also like to be a foodie penpal then what the hell are you waiting for:

FOODIE PENPALS UK & EUROPE: HTTP://THISISROCKSALT.COM/FOODIE-PENPALS/

FOODIE PENPALS US: HTTP://WWW.THELEANGREENBEAN.COM/FOODIE-PENPALS/

xx

Bring Back Jam Tarts!

Tangerine and Raspberry Tarts
Ok, so Jam Tarts haven’t disappeared completely, but as cake trends go…they’re no macaron right now.

Well, take a hike cupcakes and cake pops, move over oversized meringues and make room for the Jam Tart because…

  • Firstly, Jam tarts are easy to make – comprising of only 4 ingredients
  • They’re cheap to make – one of the 4 ingredients is water and another could be any old jam at the back of the cupboard!
  • Speedy, too – needing only 15 minutes in the oven!
  • and they’re a bit magic – well not actually magic but there’s definitely something very exciting and totally delicious that occurs when jam is baked in pastry

Yes they’re simple, but some of the best things are. You really don’t need to spend all day in the kitchen to bake these and the house will get that wonderful homely smell without so much as a balloon whisk in sight.

Jam Tarts

Makes 12 small tarts

Ingredients

100g plain flour (plus a little extra for rolling out)
50g butter
cold water to bind
Jam, marmalade or fruit curd of your choice

Method

1) Rub the butter into the flour until the butter is well incorporated and the texture is sandy or like fresh bread crumbs

2) Mix in enough cold water to bring the mixture together to make a smooth dough which picks up all the flour in the bowl – I used about 3/4 of an espresso cup full of water…if that helps 🙂

3) Leave the dough in the fridge to rest. You can leave it in there for about 30 minutes but I don’t usually time it. Instead, I just leave it in there until I’ve preheated the oven to 180°C, cleaned and floured the surface, found my rolling pin and pastry cutters and greased a 12 hole bun tin.

4) When you’re ready, roll out the dough onto the floured surface til it’s about 2-3mm thick and cut out 12 circles.

5) Line the prepared bun tin with the pastry discs and fill each one with a level teaspoon of jam

Making Jam Tarts

6) Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes or until the pastry is cooked through and the jam is bubbling (just enough time to put away the rolling pin and get the coffee on)

7) Once baked, let them cool in the tin before transferring to a wire rack to go completely cold.

If you’re still not convinced that Jam Tarts are snazzy enough for your fanciest of guests, then do go ahead and add an arty drizzle of chocolate, dusting of icing sugar, scatter a few slivers of lemon zest or use any leftover pastry to well, tart up your tarts!

x

Chocolate Drizzle I heart Jam Tarts Jam Tart with Pastry SpotsJam Tart with Pastry Lattice Tarted up Tarts!

Are there any old fashioned foods you’d like to bring back, or any trends you could do without? Let me know – I’d love to hear from you. x

Kiosk

Lunch!

Beth

In an unassuming corner of Sherwood, just over the hill from Nottingham city centre, something very exiting is happening. This is Beth (pictured above). Around 9 months ago Beth turned her pop up supper clubs into “Kiosk” a small café/bistro tucked away next to the Winchester Street car park.

Lunch - breaded mozzarella skewers

Lunch – breaded mozzarella skewers

Mint Tea with LunchThe food that her and her team whip-up from scratch every day could easily rival anything that Islington High Street or Broadway Market have to offer, and all this from a kitchen the size of a broom cupboard. Inspired by the work of Yotam Ottolenghi and Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall; fresh herbs, pulses and vegetables form the basis of their culinary creations. They cook whatever they like using ingredients sourced locally, which I thought would be tricky in a city but the only thing Beth struggles to get hold of is good artisan bread (get on it East Midlands bakers!!)

Counter

Kiosk team

Kiosk Team

Cake

watering can

More Lunch

More Lunch

Coffee

Drinks board

Shelves

I know Beth through a mutual friend (who thought we would get along) and we have been following each other’s recipe pictures via various social media platforms, but had never actually met in person… until now! Through Facebook and instagram I had a good idea of what Beth, her food and the new outside seating area (made from an adapted shipping container) would look like, but it was all so much better in real life. The delicious smell of toasting hazelnuts, spices and the large pan of tomatoes simmering away on the hob was a wonderful welcome. Anyone who has ever even considered starting a business will be bowled over with the achievements she has made when the venture is not yet a year old.

Beth talking plans

There are exciting plans for these

There are exciting plans for these

Beth’s creativity and passion for great food has generated a well needed positive buzz in a city where the recession has claimed far too many good independent businesses.

Kiosk feels so much better than a restaurant. It feels like Beth has cooked a delicious lunch and wants to share it with you.

Book a day off, take the train to Nottingham, climb the hill to Sherwood, eat at Kiosk and be inspired.

Kiosk, 1 Winchester St, Sherwood, Nottingham NG5 4AH

Beth’s blog: Don’t forget to turn the oven on

Twelfth Night

twelfth-night-poster

In case you don’t know my fella is actor Richard Kiess…although this month he’s been out so much I’m finding it difficult to remember what he looks like. By day he’s rehearsing for a show that’s going to Edinburgh this summer and by night he’s performing in Twelfth Night at the Lion & Unicorn. When we do see each other I get to help him with his lines (which is tremendous fun, especially when I get to do silly voices) and he has become an intrepid and knowledgable tester of my recipes…even if it means sitting outside in the freezing cold to eat a plastic plateful of artichokes (sneak peek to next week’s post!).

I know I’m biased but this Made in Chelsea inspired performance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is well worth a look (plug plug!) plus it’s great because each time he’s in something I get to meet the cast and go to the after show parties! It’s a very cool job but it’s full-on…this leads me seamlessly into a recipe for cereal bars! Richard assures me cereal is great at any time of day and I was interested to discover that actors consume lots of energy bars and sports drinks – not surprising having seen how physically demanding some roles can be.

Packed full of oats, very dark chocolate, pine nuts and dried cherries I hoped this homemade snack would at least make a change from boost bars & mountain dew.

Twelfth Night Bars

twelfth night bars

Ingredients

100g of oats

75g dried cherries

50g of pine nuts (toasted in a dry pan)

50g walnuts

1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

100g fair trade dark chocolate (70-80% cocoa), roughly chopped

100g golden syrup

10og butter

100g light brown sugar

Method

1) Line a loaf tin with grease-proof paper.

2) Put the oats, cherries, toasted pine nuts, walnuts and cinnamon in a large heat-proof bowl and mix together.

3) In a saucepan heat the golden syrup, butter and sugar over a medium heat until the butter has melted, the sugar has dissolved and it’s starting to simmer.

4) Quickly pour the melted syrup mixture over the oats and nuts etc. and stir well. Throw in the chopped chocolate last and briefly mix it in (don’t stir too long otherwise the chocolate will totally melt and you want a few chunks in the finished bars).

4) Tip everything into the prepared tin and press the mixture down using the back of a metal spoon so that it gets into all the corners and is level on the top.

5) Leave to set for 2 hours or overnight and then slice into bars (makes about 12).

6) Wrap them up in foil and tissue paper and hand them out to hungry actors 🙂

foil & tissue paper

All wrapped up

Rich very kindly took a few snaps on his phone of the cast and crew backstage munching on the cereal bars…or posing with them…perhaps a bit of both!
the cast

Twelfth Night is on at the Lion & Unicorn until the 23rd of February but tickets are selling out so if you can’t get a seat there then they’re doing some extra nights at Canada Water Culture Space from the 26th of February – 1st of March 2013

x

Homemade Burgers

In a change to my planned blog post this week about Soup; here are two recipes for Homemade Burgers! This comes in reaction to the news that the DNA from pigs and horses has been found in supermarket beef burgers in the UK and Ireland – eek!

I’m not going to dwell on this too much but the label should tell you what the product contains. I would (and have) tried many different foods but I was always knew what I was eating before hand (except the first time I had calamari, I thought they were onion rings and got a bit of a chewy surprise!).

Moving on; firstly the beef burgers. This recipe is super easy so do have a bash.

beef burger

Beef Burgers

Serves 2

Ingredients

250g of lean steak mince

olive oil

salt & pepper

Method

1) Squish the mince together with your hands and then squash them into either 2 large burgers or 4 small ones.

2) Season the burgers both sides with salt and freshly ground black pepper

3) Fry in olive oil over a high heat (turning frequently) until they start to caramelise on the outside.

4) Take the pan off the heat and cover with either a lid or tin foil. Allow them to rest for a good 5 minutes or so.

5) Serve in burger buns, with or without cheese, sauces and salad. We had dijon mustard, cheese, cherry tomatoes and rocket.

If you’re vegetarian or are generally feeling a bit squeamish about the whole thing – try these veggie burgers, which pretty much contain everything except meat!

veggie burger

Veggie Burgers

Serves 4

Ingredients

200g of potatoes

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 carrot, finely grated

1 small turnip, finely grated

40g cheese, grated

1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg

1 egg

handful of frozen peas

large pinch of chopped fresh parsley

50g breadcrumbs

vegetable oil

salt & pepper

Method

1) Peel the potatoes and boil for 15-20 minutes.

2) While the potatoes are cooking, gently fry the onion in a tablespoon of oil until soft and translucent. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the grated carrot and turnip to soften in the residual heat.

3) Once the potatoes are cooked, drain them and mash.

4) Put the onion and vegetable mixture in a large bowl and add the mashed potato, nutmeg, parsley, cheese, egg, and frozen peas then season well with salt and pepper. Mix everything in thoroughly.

5) Tip the breadcrumbs into a shallow bowl or dish. Divide the burger mixture into 4 portions and shape into patties. If the mixture is too wet either add a little flour or drop spoonfuls of the mixture into the bowl of breadcrumbs and turn them in the crumbs to coat them using a spoon. They will be much easier to shape and fry once coated.

6) Shallow fry in vegetable oil until golden brown. Serve in buns with trimmings – we had rocket and mustard mayonnaise in ours.

Experiment with different vegetables in these burgers – they’re also great for using up leftover mash and other cooked veggies.

x

“Puttin’ on the Ritz”

Last week it was my Mum’s Birthday. Normally it’s quite tricky to think of nice things to do – my Mum is a very busy lady and doesn’t really like a lot of fuss; a spa day or manicure would actually be her worst nightmare.

In December I was hooked on watching “Inside Claridges” on BBC2 but there was no time to pop back to London let alone book a table anywhere. Instead I spied a jolly looking tea set in the dresser and decided to make a swish afternoon tea for her at home.

Mum's Birthday Tea

Mum’s Birthday Tea

Designing the menu didn’t take too long. She much prefers classic, simple flavours so I went with cheese & tomato and cucumber & cream cheese sandwiches. But, just for good measure I cut the crusts off and made them lengthways like they do at those fancy hotels – well that’s what I think it said in the documentary and in this lovely little book on Afternoon Tea from the Ritz.

Sarnies

She also likes a cake called “Morning Buns” which they only make at Jarrold‘s restaurant but I didn’t have the required 6 hours for the round trip to Norwich either and I suspect the recipe is a closely guarded secret! In their place I made some rock cakes from a Dan Lepard recipe and they turned out brilliantly and very close to what I wanted (I used 160g of sultanas and a dash of vanilla extract in my batch).

Rock Cakes

For a splash of colour I made some mini fruit tarts. I only had about an hour to make everything (so whipping up a batch of Crème Pâtissière was not an option). Instead I made a little bit of vanilla butter cream to put into the bottom of the tart shells – just enough to prevent the fruit from falling out! There wasn’t quite enough time to sieve the apricot jam or wash up the pastry brush after the egg washing either so I just encouraged the warmed, lumpy jam to vaguely cover the fruit with a teaspoon (ssshhh, I hope there are no Roux brothers reading this!). I think I got away with it, they tasted lovely and took a fraction of the time of the real thing:

Fresh Fruit TartsFruit Tarts

Makes 12

150g plain flour

75g of unsalted butter, diced

1 egg beaten

1 teaspoon of caster sugar

2-3 drops of vanilla extract

cold water to bind

For the buttercream:

50g of unsalted butter at room temperature

icing sugar to taste

2-3 drops of vanilla extract

For the topping:

1 tablespoon of apricot jam

2 kiwi fruits

handful of grapes (or any berry fruit you prefer)

1) Place the flour and the butter in a bowl and rub together with your finger tips until the mixture looks like fresh breadcrumbs and the butter is evenly distributed.

2) Stir in the sugar, vanilla and half of the beaten egg.

3) Slowly, adding a little at a time, pour in some cold water. Mix until the dough comes together.

4) Wrap the pastry in cling film and place in the fridge until you are ready to use it and to allow it to rest a little.

5) Dust the work surface with flour and then roll out the dough to about 5mm thickness and cut into circles using a fluted cutter.

6) When all the tart cases are ready for baking brush them with the remaining egg wash and bake at 150-170°C for 15-20minutes or until lightly golden.

7) Place them on a wire rack to cool while you make the butter cream and slice the fresh fruit.

8) Mix the butter with a fork as you add dessertspoonfuls of icing sugar (I used about 2) and beat well after each addition until smooth. Taste it to check it is sweet enough and then mix in the vanilla extract.

9) When the pastry shells are cool place a small amount of the butter cream (about 1/2 a teaspoonful) into each one and then top with the sliced fruits.

10) Gently warm the jam (and sieve it if you have time) and brush the jam over the fruit to glaze.

11) Serve immediately

Fruit Tarts

Finally; the Birthday cake. Mum and Dad are still swamped in festive leftovers, there’s over half a Christmas cake still knocking around so I thought making a whole sponge cake would be decidedly unhelpful at this point. Instead I made individual muffin sized sponges, flavoured with caraway seeds and topped with lemon icing. A single candle in each one signified the celebration.

Seed Cake Birthday Cake!

Everything was washed down with lashings of tea from a proper pot and afterwards we escaped to St. Mary Mead by watching Miss Marple DVDs… but now I’m thinking we should have been watching Jeeves and Wooster instead – check this out Mum you’ll love it:


Boxing Day Sandwich Designer of the Year 2012!

Boxing Day Sandwich Design Competition 2012Firstly; THANK YOU!!! to everyone who entered this competition, we had some amazing designs and it was very difficult to choose the winner.

Another big thank you also goes to all of you who watched and shared the YouTube video, liked and shared Facebook reminders and for all your wonderful RTs on Twitter – without you social media dudes we wouldn’t have been able to do it. xxx

So, without further ado….I am pleased to announce that the miriamnice.com Boxing Day Sandwich Designer of the Year Award 2012 goes to:

Zara

Zara Gardner

who won with her “Merry Mushroom Melty” Sandwich

Congratulations!

Zara

What the judges said: “Sounds really tasty”, “would like to be at Zara’s house where there’s leftover ale and homemade bread!”

Well done Zara! I’m totally gonna make one of these this week!

We had some smashing runners up too:

Sarah

Sarah

Runner Up: Sarah’s “Euro Teaser”

Raj

Raj

Runner Up: Raj’s “Turkey Tikka”

Hayley

Hayley

Runner Up: Hayley’s “The Fabulous Vegetarian Tree Topped Roll”

Congratulations to the winners and runners up and thank you again to everyone who sent in designs, here are a few more delicious ideas:

Bradley

Bradley’s “Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich”

Helen

Helen’s “Big Boxing Basco Bagel”

Jon

Jon’s “Raiders of the Lost Fridge Bagel”

Richard

Richard’s “Nice to Meat you”

I ran this competition in association with Total Greek Yoghurt (who very kindly donated the prizes and tweeted like mad on our behalf!) to raise awareness of my chosen charity Action Against Hunger. The competition was centered around using up leftovers from all of our wonderful yuletide feasting so it felt right to set up a page on Just Giving to ask people to donate to those for whom leftovers aren’t really a thing. Please do give what you can by clicking on the “sponsor me” button below. And here is some more information on how Action Against Hunger use your donations.

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Trick or Treat?

I felt strangely obliged to bake the treats for the trick or treaters this year instead of just picking up a pack of something at the shops. This was in part, due to the fact that I felt as a food writer I should make everything myself (one of many self inflicted pressures) but also the guilt I still feel for the year I completely forgot about it and had to resort to giving the kids unripe plums from the fruit bowl whilst fiercely crossing my fingers that the front of our house would escape a thorough egging!

The recipe I chose was this one for Sugar Cookies. It’s a great, basic biscuit recipe that makes a really large quantity from just 1 egg. The biscuits can be flavoured with nuts, fruit or chocolate chips before baking if you like and if you cut them out with fancy cookie cutters they hold their shape really well. Be warned, they are incredibly sweet so make sure you’ve got loads of people round to share them with.

Sugar Cookies

200 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
400 g plain flour

280 g caster sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
a pinch of salt
½ teaspoon cream of tartar

1) Rub the flour and the butter together with your fingers until it all looks like fresh breadcrumbs.

2) Mix the egg and the sugar together in another in a bowl with a fork and when it is really well combined add it to the flour mixture.

3) Add all the other ingredients and knead together with your hands to form a smooth dough.

4) Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface with a rolling pin until it is about ½ a centimetre thick. Cut into shapes.

5) Place your biscuits on a baking sheet lined with a piece of greaseproof paper/baking parchment and bake at 150° C for about 15 minutes (until they are lightly golden at the edges – keep an eye on them).

6) Let them cool in the tin for a few minutes before carefully transferring them to a wire rack.

7) Decorate with icing or sandwich together with butter-cream.

I decorated mine with plain and coloured icing then topped with spooky decorations. To make the spiders and creepy crawlies pipe small “v’s” onto a piece of tin foil using melted chocolate to make the legs and leave to set hard. Ice the biscuits and set aside until almost dry. Top with a jelly sweet for insects or a chocolate for spiders and carefully peel the chocolate legs off the tin foil and stick into the biscuit.

It felt like a continuous stream of knocks and shouts all evening. After a rough count up I think gave out about 50 biscuits (which I had not anticipated) so I had to keep running to the kitchen to ice and decorate more to satisfy the seemingly ravenous ghouls and ghosts at the door. I finally collapsed on the sofa with a glass of wine at about 9 o’clock and considered possible holiday destinations for next Hallowe’en!