Recipes that are delicious and that always work!

You know these recipes are delicious because if I didn't think that they were fabulous . . . I wouldn't be showing them to you. You can also be sure that these recipes work for the same reason! The rest is simply a matter of taste.

Sunday, 31 May 2009

The Grand Launch, a Great Giveaway and Organic Foods

For a long time now, I have wanted to do a blog that was about nothing but food. No special thoughts, no poetry, no artsy fartsy stuff . . . just plain good food and plenty of it. Welcome to the grand launch of that very thing,
An English Kitchen
. I want this page to be about exploring all the delicious flavours and wonderful things that the British Isles have to offer those of us who are lucky enough to live here. I want to present recipes in an appealing way, both topically and seasonally. This is going to be a wonderfully exciting journey for me, and I hope you'll all want to come along on it with me.

A few weeks back, I was approached by someone representing an Organic Vegetable box scheme company called Abel & Cole. She wanted to know if I would be interested in receiving a free Organic mixed vegetable and fruit box from the company.

A few years ago, I had opted in to get an Organic vegetable box scheme from another company, and I have to admit it had not been a very good experience. To be honest, the whole experience had left a bad taste in my mouth. (no pun intended) Not only had it been ultra expensive for what I received, but my box had been delivered several days late and when it did arrive, the vegetables in it were tired and old and, in all truth, looked like the tail ends of what they had put out for the week. Actually, I think my box had gotten overlooked, and when I had inquired about it, they threw together whatever they had left, and shipped it out poste haste. Big mistake. I was really disappointed, and I did not order another one. I remained very skeptical about Organic Box schemes and quite gun shy at giving another company a try. In my mind if organic meant yucky looking tired and unappealing, i didn't want any part of it.

When you are offered something for free though, that's a different story, and so I jumped at the chance to receive one of Abel & Cole's boxes. After looking at their site, I was actually quite looking forward to it. Their web page was very well done and it looked quite promising.

I was not disappointed and, in fact, I was well impressed with what landed at my door last Wednesday afternoon. A beautiful sturdy (and recyclable) cardboard box, filled to the brim, with what looked like high quality produce. There were delicious looking apples and oranges, (not a blemish on any of them.) Beautiful fair trade organic bananas. Lovely red radishes, a cucumber, cherry tomatoes, a beautiful head of lettuce, some spring greens, some delicious looking mushrooms, and a lovely bunch of new potatoes. Not only did everything arrive exactly when I was told to expect it, but everything was fresh, Fresh, FRESH! Looking at their page everything is quite reasonably priced as well. What more could you ask for? Fresh, Organic, great quality, reasonably priced, and delivered right to your door!

That night I cooked us a lovely spring green, pancetta and mushroom frittata along with a pretty tasty new potato, cheese and chive crush. Never have I tasted potatoes that were so sweet and delicate. Surely it must be that they were freshly picked within days of me receiving them and were free from any pesticides etc. They truly were wonderful. Since then, I have made us a delicious Greek Chicken salad, using the lettuce, cucumber, etc. It was fantastic too!

Best of all, my previous scepticism has been replaced with trust. Not only is their produce fresh and of good quality. It all arrived in perfect condition and at the time agreed upon. If you check out their site, and I hope that you do, you will see that they also offer quality organic meats, poultry and other kitchen sundries and gifts. In fact one other thing that they sent me was one of their cookery books and I was well impressed with that as well, so much so that I went out and purchased another one to give to one of my lucky readers.

Yes!! To help me celebrate the launch of The English Kitchen I am giving away to one reader this lovely cookery book, The Abel & Cole Cookbook Paperback (deemed a kitchen essential by Country Living!) It's full of lovely innovative recipes using the best of what Britain has to offer in the way of produce, meats, poultry and fish. In order to be in on the giveaway, just leave a comment at the end of this post and sign up as one of my followers. The follower list is in the left hand column, just over there
See it?

I'll be picking the winner on Friday of this week, so you only have a few days to get in on it! Spread the news, and let me know, for every post linking back to this post I'll give you an extra chance on the giveaway. If you comment and become a follower, two chances. Post about this giveaway and newest venture of mine, giveaway, two chances. What are you waiting for?

I hope that you will enjoy this new page of mine, and that I will be able to keep your interest with wonderfully tasty recipes and innovative ideas, ideas from "this English Kitchen" of mine, here at Oak Cottage. I really do hope that you will come along and take the journey with me. (no fears, I will continue to do my daily posts over on Oak Cottage with food for the eyes, soul and body!)

This is the delicious salad that I made yesterday using some of that lovely produce from my Organic box. It was wonderful and quite healthy, well . . . except for the bacon that is, but what the heck, a little bit of what's naughty is quite alright once in awhile!

*Greek Chicken Salad*

Serves 4
Printable Recipe

I subscribe to a cookery magazine each month called Delicious. This was one of the recipes featured in the June 2009 issue. I adapted it a bit to our own tastes, and you know what ???? It was delicious!

3 free range chicken breasts
the juice and finely grated zest of one lemon
a handful of chopped fresh oregano
3 TBS olive oil
1 fat clove of garlic peeled and crushed
6 rashers of free range dry cured smokey bacon, cooked until crisp and cut into 3 pieces each
70g of fresh salad leaves
50 g of black olives, preferably kalamata, but I used those lovely dry cured black olives and they were wonderful
1/2 of a small cucumber, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, seeded and sliced into half moons
12 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
100g of thick Greek Yogurt
the finely grated zest and juice of another small lemon
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 190*C/375*F. Place your chicken breasts in a shallow glass baking dish. Squeeze the juice of the first lemon over the chicken. Add the lemon zest, chopped oregano, garlic, and half of the olive oil. Rub all of this into the breasts. Season to taste with some sea salt and the black pepper. Set aside to marinate for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, place in the oven and roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until done and the juices run clear. Don't overcook, as dry chicken tastes nasty. Start checking at 15 minutes.

Place the salad leaves, olives, cucumber and tomatoes in a bowl and toss with the bacon pieces.

In another bowl, whisk together the yoghurt, second clove of garlic, the rest of the olive oil, the zest and juice of the second lemon and some salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. (If you find this too thick, you can thin with a bit of water. I didn't feel this was necessary myself. I loved the consistency.)

Divide the salad amongst 4 chilled plates. Slice the roasted chicken and divide it equally amongst the plates and serve each with some of the dressing drizzled over top. Pass any remaining dressing at the table. (In fact I would double the dressing ingredients so that there is plenty to go around. It's delicious, and if you use the no fat Greek yoghurt, it's not too bad for yo

Fish and Chips at the Seaside

Yesterday was a spectacular day here in the Southeast of England. The sun was shining, the temperature got up into the double digits, and we did what any self respecting Brit would do that lives within driving distance of the coast. We hopped into the car, and headed down to Eastbourne, where the cooling sea breeze called to us from afar. We always park at the very edge of the seafront, where the parking is free, and then we spend the whole day walking the whole length of it, some 1 1/2 miles up . . . and another 1 1/2 miles back. It's great exercise, and somehow helps to justify the calorie splurge of a tasty seaside treat of fish and chips.

I mean . . . what's the point of going to the seaside and not eating in fish and chips??? It's just not British not to indulge! It's a crime against our nature or something!

Every other time we have gone down there, we have treated ourselves to fish and chips on the pier. Sadly, each time we have been disappointed . . . greasy and expensive, they always left us wanting. Actually, since moving down here from Chester, we have always been hugely disappointed in the fish and chips on offer locally, and at the coast. Somehow they have never quite come up to the standard we were pretty much used to.

This time, we decided to phone my friend Jo, who pretty much grew up in this area. She and her husband live in Broadstairs now, but when they did live here, they often took themselves down to Eastbourne for some fish and chips. I knew that if anyone had knowledge of where to find the best . . . she did. Sure enough, a quick text later, and an even quicker text back from her, gave us exact directions to what she claimed were the best.

Yes, that's Harry Ramsden's Fish and Chips, right on the corner of Terminus Road and the main sea front road, just down a bit and across from the pier. Claiming to have the best fish and chips in the world, we decided to give them a try.

Here's what they say on their menu:

"When it comes to fish & chips, Harry’s are true aficionados. Our fish is expertly prepared in our kitchens daily and coated with our unique secret recipe batter to guarantee that distinctive Harry Ramsden’s flavour - a flavour that’s revered the world over. Whichever fish you choose, it will be served gloriously golden, consistently light and perfectly crisp every time... or we’re not the world famous Harry Ramsden’s!"

I don't know about you, but I think that's an awful lot to live up to. We managed to get in before the huge lunch time queue started, right at 12 noon bang on, and pretty much had our choice of seating. It wasn't long after we sat down though that the place really began to fill up. I looked at Todd and boasted about our luck at having gotten in there early.

Wide and spacious and clean, there was also an area outside for eating, but we chose to sit indoors as I didn't really fancy fighting off the gulls. (Trust me when I say that gulls at seasides can be very bold and audacious. One swooped down and stole the fish right out of my American friend Eliza's hand once!)

The menu had on offer a variety of starters, including soup, prawns and mushrooms and there were several varieties of fish for mains . . . cod, haddock, scampi, plaice, prawns, and a selection of whiting coley or pollack. (Depending on what was available on any given day) There were also burgers, sausage and chicken for those who are squeamish about fish. We weren't interested in any of those, however. We were there for the fish, and absolutely the cod!!

Our waitress was very attentive and helpful and I can say with all honesty it was not even a 10 minute wait and our meal was sitting before us. Crispy battered cod, with hand cut chips, tartar sauce, mushy peas (how can you not have mushy peas??) and plates of buttered bread. One thing that was a real plus for me was that the skin had been removed from the fish before frying. Skin on battered fish has always grossed me out and, in my opinion, renders at least half of the batter inedible and a waste no matter how you cut it. I have found that 99% of the time down here in the Southeast, they leave the skin on the fish, which is a big let down for me.

The batter on the cod was crisp and light, and not greasy in the least. The fish inside was flaky, moist and perfectly cooked. The chips were not the best I've ever had, but neither were they the worst. They were not greasy either, which was a bonus. The mushy peas were great, the tartar sauce . . . so so . . . my homemade is much better, but then again, you would expect that with homemade. All in all, we were quite pleased with our meal. Was it the best in the world? I think that's a tall order for anyone to meet, but it was quite good, and certainly one of the better ones we have had down here. Would I go again? Most probably. Am I still on the search for GREAT fish and chips? Absolutely.

A meal for two, including drinks and a regular order of cod and chips, including mushy peas, and bread and butter came to £20.20. Not cheap by a long stretch, but quite satisfying and well worth the 3 mile walk.

Here's my own recipe for tartar sauce. This is what I used to make when I started off my career as a pastry chef in a big hotel back home in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia where I come from originally. I defy any store bought or restaurant sauce to come up to it's standard!

*Marie's Tartar Sauce*
Makes approx 4 servings
Printable Recipe

Once you taste this you'll never eat tartar sauce from a squeeze bottle or jar again. This is the best.

1 stalk of celery, chopped fine
2 TBS finely chopped cornichons
1 TBS prepared horseradish
2 TBS coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley
1/2 tsp dry mustard powder
6 TBS good quality mayonnaise
1 tsp lemon juice
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl, mixing well together. Serve with fish. If not using right away, cover and chill in the refrigerator. I always like to make this a few hours ahead of time in order for the flavours to really meld well together.

On a side note . . . what would fish and chips and bread and butter be without having the added treat of a chip buttie. Yes, buttered bread stogged full of hot chips that have been sprinkled with salt and malt vinegar, the heat from the chips melting the butter all around the chips and rendering it all most delicious. A treat from the North West, perhaps an acquired taste, but scrumptious nonetheless.

Don't forget to come back tomorrow for my grand opening of An English Kitchen. There will be lots on offer including a lovely giveway. And Angie? The followers list is in the far left hand column!!

Monday, 25 May 2009

Rainy Days and Mondays . . .

After a weekend full of beautiful sun and warmth the rain comes. It coats every bloom in the garden, and dances on every branch. It is a growing balm for every thirsty leaf and petal. I know that when the sun comes again the garden will move forward in leaps and bounds, and so I sigh and make new plans . . .

This is the perfect day for a lunch of light soup and a sandwich . . . No . . . not a plain sandwich, but perhaps a Stromboli . . . it's yeasty and fragrant dough wrapped around a cheese, pesto and sundried tomato filling.

Yes . . . I could do meat, but . . . today my soul hungers for cheese and herbs. It is the perfect way to use up the last of the oven dried plum tomatoes I put up last autumn, encased like jewels in olive oil and herbs . . . it is spring and I enjoy a taste of late summer from a year just passed . . .

Herb and Tomato Stromboli
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

1 batch of pizza dough (See below)
1/2 cup of fresh basil pesto
(from the chiller cabinet at the store)
100g ball of buffalo mozzarella, torn
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, soaked in oil, drained and chopped
1 egg, beaten

Pre-heat the oven to 200*C/400*F. Line a flat baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Roll out your pizza dough to a rectangle, measuring about 10 by 16 inches. Spread this with the pesto to within 1/2 inch of the edge all around. Scatter the torn mozzarella over and the chopped sun dried tomatoes. Roll up tightly as if for a jelly roll. Place onto the baking sheet and shape into a rough circle, folding the ends to fit together. Slash into 8 equal pieces around the edge, almost all the way through from the top down, but leaving joined at the inner edge. Fan out. Brush with some of the beaten egg.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until nicely browned and the cheese is melted and bubbling.

Serve warm.

Thirty Minute Pizza Dough
Makes enough for two crusts, or one stromboli
Printable Recipe

1 cup warm water
1 tsp yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 TBS olive oil
2 1/2 cups strong flour
1 tsp salt

Place the warm water in a large bowl. Stir in the sugar and sprinkle the yeast over top. Allow to sit for several minutes to proof the yeast. (about 5) Whisk the flour and salt together. Stir the yeast to dissolve and then stir in the flour mixture and the olive oil. Mix together well, at first with a wooden spoon and then with your hands. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 to 6 minutes. Place in a lightly oiled clean bowl, turning once to coat it with the oil. Cover and allow to rise for 20 minutes before knocking down and proceeding.