Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Whorled And Warty

The other day my friend dropped off a bag of celeriac freshly dug from her vegetable garden, what a treat! Normally the only way to get our hands on the gnarly root vegetable is to drive across the stretch, and sometimes further. The knobbly orb seems to be more popular in the UK than here, I remember going to a party with my parents in the 70's and having celeriac remoulade for the first time, and fresh olives and paper thin ham wrapped around figs, and not a cheese and pineapple on a stick in sight! The partygoers seemed so exotic to me, the men were in brightly colored shirts, the women adorned with Indian jewelry and heavily embellished frocks, or were they smocks?

I grew up in a village which had a good helping of artists and those artists knew how to throw a party, usually the children had to be content with a packet of salt and vinegar crisps and a coca cola, during the shindigs. There was a shift in eating patterns in the 70's, in my village at least, at parties the vol au vent was being replaced by a big chunk of cheese and some crusty bread, it was all so wonderfully Elizabeth David, with copper pots hanging over the stove, and orange oven wear from France, and kilims hanging on the walls.....this is the stuff childhood memories are made of! 

This is what we did with our celeriac - pan fried some chopped onion with chopped garlic and bay leaf for about a minute, added cubed celeriac and some salt, poured in some chicken stock and cooked until liquid was absorbed, about 20 minutes, we had mashed potatoes from the night before, so we poured our celeriac on top of the warmed mashed spuds and then a sprinkling of walnut oil and sherry vinegar, this was a delicious surprise.......thank you Stephanie Alexander (again) and thank you my friend on the lake for giving me the whorled and warty delight, and for inspiring me to grow more!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Supper After Carols

Some potatoes, half a savoy cabbage, a chunk of brie, garlic cloves and a jug of milk.....I wanted to create a dish that I could leave in the oven while we trundled off to our local carol service, and these were the ingredients I had available to me on a cold sunday night and luckily I had a craving for rustic mountain food.

I didn't have the Reblochon (ha, trying getting that at the IGA) which is an essential ingredient for tartiflette, but as I started doing my recipe search I realized that Reblochon has only been around since the 1980's and the dish was created to promote Reblochon! Well in any case it's a delicious cheese and when I was in Saint Gervais a couple of years ago I contributed mightily to that cheese company and to my cholesterol level, hmmmm but there was the raclette, and the ham too......but really how can you go wrong with any combination of potato and cheese? That Christmas holiday spent in the Savoie region was one of the most memorable gastronomic experiences. I really would eat those dishes every night if it just wasn't so dangerous.

This was my gratin: I layered sliced potatoes and ribbons of savoy cabbage, the brie slices were in the middle of the layers, salt and pepper of course on each layer, I still have a lot of herbs in the veggie garden, so generous amounts of thyme, sage and parsley were sprinkled on each layer (very confused about parsley, have never had such a massive crop, and it's still going strong) I then covered my creation with milk and covered the dish with foil and put it in the oven on a low temp.

Our friend sang a solo, she made us cry, the NZ'er was wiping his tears away with the sleeve of his manly motorbike jacket. The lass has a voice that is so powerful, but she doesn't belt, and it's not sweet, but it is achingly beautiful and for about five minutes the audience was in raptures, at the end of the performance I woooohooooooed! I'm not much of a churchgoer but I do like a good carol.

We returned home to comforting aromas, the rustic mountain dish turned out pretty nice, the NZ'er really liked it with the chicken sausages and the festive looking cherry tomatoes and after a few mouthfuls he asked 'are there clams in this?' I think that's a good thing.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Made At Home

Christmas is only a few weeks away and I am thinking about the gifts that I am going to make and how much time I need. Last year I made a John Derian style plate for a friend, it took weeks to put the layers and layers of varnish on top of my decoupage, but it was so much fun to make a personalized plate and it did look rather beautiful, and my red headed friend from the Emerald Isle was tickled pink with her gift. The NZ'er has quite a collection of handmade gifts; a red and green tea cosy, an assortment of knitted scarfs, a quilt made out of his old t-shirts, many photo albums, and our favorite; a draft excluder that I made to look like our dog. 

I spent long holidays with my Grandparents, I called them Nanny and Poppy, they lived the ultimate self sufficient life, everything was made at home, Poppy had a large allotment where he grew all of their fruit and vegetables, he spent all day tending to his plot, Nanny would ring a big bell out of the window to get him in for mealtimes. Bread and cakes were baked, jam was made, vegetables were pickled, when they went food shopping the list was simple, flour, eggs, milk and butter. They recylced everything, old rags and shirts were made into tea cosies and draft excluders, and there were many draught excluders......no central heating and very draughty! 

Evenings were spent mending stuff, socks were darned, can you imagine anyone darning a sock these days? actually I do darn my favorites from Erica Tanov, they have the best socks and I want to keep them for a long time but I have very pointy feet and I make holes easily. Poppy had been a cobbler so he would fix up all of their old shoes, I think Nanny had the same pair of navy shoes for decades. They knitted and crocheted and sewed together, I will always remember the lovely crocheted milk jug covers with beads. They were resourceful because they had to be, they never went out to a restaurant, maybe once, with my family, I remember........they were a bit uncomfortable, picnics were more their style of 'eating out'. They had a huge influence on me and the way I live my life, I may not have appreciated it at the time especially the teen years, when my focus was on platform shoes, flares and disco, but the desire to 'make things' has always stayed with me and they taught me that those quiet times when you are so fully engrossed in the process of making stuff are the best times......the simple pleasures. 
My book (tee hee) is going to be called 'Living Like Nanny and Poppy'.

This is another draught excluder I made for friends last Christmas, I owe them a tail! 

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Feast With Friends

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, I haven't missed one in eighteen years, I enjoy this special time of the year when we celebrate the gift of food, warmth and good company. This year, as with most years, we are going to be celebrating with good friends, we will have a spectacular view of the ocean and our hosts will serve up a veritable feast, and then we will sing and dance. One year I decided I would treat everyone to a performance of Pokarekare Ana, unfortunately I only know the music, and not the words, so I did a terrible thing and made up Maori, nobody was any the wiser and I got a standing ovation, meanwhile the NZ'er just stared at me in horror.

Everyone brings a dish, haven't decided on mine yet, I am thinking maybe an apple and cauliflower puree (Dish magazine NZ) or a mushroom stew, I made the stew last year when we had TG at our house and everyone seemed to like it, that was the year I also served up Chinese dumplings as an appetizer, they weren't so popular, but I did make a spicy cranberry (hand picked) sauce to go with them, I thought it was a creative use of the ubiquitous cranberry sauce, come to think of it I still have some in the freezer, hmmm a little bit of chilli and a pinch of five spice powder. 

I am going to attempt to go cranberry picking tomorrow in the dunes, it may be a futile hunt, it's getting kind of late in the season, the pesky deer have probably scoffed bog loads, and I heard that someone is doing tours of the walking dunes and showing people where to pick cranberries! Our secret places revealed! Ooh, now I am starting to sound like a Montauk surfer. 

There's nothing quite like a day out groveling on your knees in the bogs, returning home with a bulging red bag of berries. My dear friend Hilary Ostlere took me on my first cranberry picking expedition about three years ago, she knew the spots, and she made a great cranberry pie, it was an old New England recipe, I must it dig it out again. Hilary was a Brit too and had lived here since 1961, she embraced every season out here at the very end of Long Island, and she would walk the beach at Ditch in all kinds of weather, I can see her now, sun behind her down by the cliffs; a confident dancers' stride and always a swing in her step.......we will go to Ditch on Thanksgiving day, a brisk walk is always good before the feast, and we'll remember the good friends that are no longer with us.....some of them brought so much to the party.

A fishing trip normally takes place on Thanksgiving day if weather allows, it can be chilly out there but once you start hooking up a bunch of herring on the sabiki rig things start to get exciting and with any luck there's a Striper for dinner, ahhhhh glorious Montauk, wouldn't want to be anywhere else. 

Got no check books, got no banks.  Still I'd like to express my thanks - I got the sun in the morning and the moon at night.  ~Irving Berlin

Monday, November 9, 2009

Fire Power

When it starts to get chilly out we pull out the woks along with the socks......couldn't resist, (we have a restaurant here called wok and roll......need I say more) Wok cooking brings a lot excitement to the kitchen; there's fire and steam and loud sizzling, heat is the key to good stir fries, we have two woks, one strictly for stir fries and one for more soupy dishes, I seasoned my woks with Chinese chives following the instructions from our favorite Chinese cookbook - The Breath of a Wok, written by Grace Young. I feel vey connected to my woks after preparing them for cooking using this ancient secret recipe, the subtitle of the book is 'unlocking the spirit of Chinese wok cooking through recipes and lore' and the book is so much more than a cookbook, Grace Young will take you on a captivating journey, I had the privilege of meeting her in New York, she is an expert and passionate guide.

Chinatown is one of my favorite spots to hit when I am in the city, I load up on bok choy and choy sum and the delicate Shanghai bok choy, and if I am lucky pea shoots ( dou miao ) from my secret stall. The curly tendrils are delicious stir fried with ginger and garlic, but they have such a fresh pea like flavor that I also like to serve them as a salad, just slightly wilted. They are considered a delicacy in Chinese cooking, and are often not listed on the English menus in Chinatown, you have to ask if they have 'dough meow'.

The dish in the pic is an adaptation (honestly there is something wrong when a person can't follow the recipe exactly!) of Mary Chau's Shanghai-style Snow Cabbage and Edamame, (from Breath of a Wok) my version was heavy on the five spice tofu. If you know someone who likes to cook Chinese food this would be a fabulous Christmas gift, I would have been over the moon if I had been given this book, (or anything by Madhur Jaffrey, hint, hint).

There are so many great restaurants to chose from in the bustling, strangely exotic and sometimes smelly corner of downtown, I have a feeling we might be hearing about Cobocan soon, I really hope not. One place I haven't tried but will next time I am city bound is Amazing 66 which I read about on serious eats. When I lived in  London we used to go to Wong Kei (we called it the wonkey, I'm ashamed to admit) for the best wonton noodle soup, the waiters were so exceptionally rude it was part of the experience of dining there.

A great place in Nolita with wok action is - Lovely Day - on Elizabeth Street, serving very fresh and flavorful food, AND it doesn't cost an arm and a leg. It's fun to sit in the red booths listening to the clatter and chatter and the occasional fiery burst from the kitchen. Ironically Lovely Day has been closed for over a year due to a fire in an apartment in the building, the regulars have been bereft without their 'Lovely' (including the NZ'er) but it's now open again, and they can take their places at the bar once more and enjoy the tasty delights. 

And another thing....if you're looking for good provisions and a one stop shop go to Dynasty Supermarket (I had a friend living on the Bowery, she called it Dienasty) I love this place, I get my black and white sesame seeds for my bread, and udon noodles (that are made in Australia..huh?) and a whole bunch of other weird and wonderful stuff that I bring home to my Montauk kitchen.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Snap! Crackle! Pop!

These strange but delicious squares are great served with champagne at a festive party, I like to make them for Thanksgiving; cranberries are such a big part of the celebration, and I like the addition of the dried bog berry in this recipe. Actually last year for Thanksgiving I made chinese dumplings as an hors d'oeuvres, it didn't go down well with some of my more traditional guests, I thought it was a creative use of the ubiquitous cranberry sauce, I spiced it up a bit with some five spice powder and ginger, AND I picked the cranberries. Hmmmm now I think about it though, dim sum was rather a strange choice, and we had Pavlova for dessert.

The other thing I like about these sticky treats is the sweet and savory element, I think I may have mentioned on numerous occasions that I am more savorily (is that a word? spellcheck thinks so) inclined, but when I make these I cannot stop scoffing them, I am not much of a snacker either, but I am like a crazy addicted fiend when these are in the house, it must be the combination of the sugar and the spice, the crunchy and chewy texture, the seed and the berry.

Curry Rice Krispie Squares

3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp curry powder
10oz package of marshmallows
6 cups puffed rice cereal
2 cups toasted, salted sunflower seeds
1 cup of dried cranberries

In a saucepan, melt butter. Add curry powder. Stir over low heat until fragrant. On medium heat melt in marshmallows. Slowly pour rice cereal and sunflower seeds into saucepan while stirring. Gently fold mixture with spatula unti rice cereal is coated. Pour directly into a buttered baking dish. Cut when cool.

Serves 20

This recipe was adapted from a recipe by Justin Large of The Violet Hour in Chicago,

I added the cranberries, and I've also been thinking about other versions with chopped dried apricots and almonds.

They really are exceptionally good with champagne, so get cracking and pop that cork!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Primary Colors

My garden is looking shabby, especially the vegetable garden; wilted tomato vines, shiso gone to seed, brown stalks where there used to be summer savory, a very unkempt plot of land, I am behind in my Fall clean-up - all those straggly, sticky, stalks, the untidiness is unbearable, there's no order out there anymore, it's a garden gone wild, a feral child with long thick, matted hair! Well, OK, I just need to get out there in my wellies and get 'stuck in' instead of just staring at the sloppy display.

Pockets of colorful life do exist in other corners of my garden; the Nicotiana (I stole the seeds from The Getty Museum) is still flowering a lovely chartreuse and my Emilia Javanica (NYBG) is still offering up a tiny orange firework display. I am not in the habit of sneeking seeds out of gardens, but I had been looking for Nicotiana Langsdorfii for the longest time and the Tassle Flower for longer......the first time I set eyes on the diminutive tassle was at Longwood Gardens, we lived for a few years in a 1920's house built for the orchid gardener at Longwood, right off Route 1, just before Kennet Square, a beautiful development of about 10 houses, just a few yards from the gardens. This is where I had my first American garden, my gardening experience at that point had been in temperate England, and now I had extreme temperatures, I learned a lot about gardening in my new and barren garden (the orchid gardener clearly didn't bring his work home) by visiting Longwood on a regular basis. I saw fireflies for the first time while living in Pennsylvania, a memorable balmy night sitting on our porch, the sound of ice chinking in our gin and tonics as we gazed across the fields and watched the magic show.

There's a duo in my garden right now making an outstandingly eye catching performance; Cerastotigma Plumbaginoides (leadwort) and Imperata (japanese blood grass), red and blue, one of my favoroite color combinations (header for blog) my NZ friend also loves it, she says that for her the two colors represent the Pohutukawa and the Pacific Ocean, for me it's the memory of a blue dress and shiny patent red shoes (yum) and the fish and chip shop sign, or was it those patriotic roundabout flower beds?

Monday, October 19, 2009


The smoker has been smoking overtime lately, bluefish mainly, now we are excited when we catch one, we used to be mildly despondent.... "oh no, another bluefish", but the greedy fighting fish smokes perfectly, and I discovered it works very well in one of my all time favorite breakfast dishes; kedgeree. The dish apparently originated in Scotland when the Scottish troops took their hearty breakfast with them to India during the British Raj, there it was made more exotic with the help of some curry powder, it then became a wildly popular breakfast dish in the United Kingdom during the Vicorian era.
Back in the 70's at my secondary school in England the domestic science class was not one of my favorites, it was the science part, all that exact measuring, also there was too much icing involved, and the making of sponges, like the victoria sandwich....not a happy day for me in the classroom; a ghastly creation of untidy jam and cream oozing out of overcooked sponges. But I was very proud of my kedgeree and was very excited to show my fish loving not fond of sweets and puddings either parents, but I tripped on the stairs on my way to the school bus, much laughter from pubescent children as I attempted to gather my rice and fish from the stairs that were mopped daily with disinfectant, that unforgettable school perfume. I do have happier memories of kedgeree; holidays in Scotland, old fashioned cosy hotels.....big old sideboards groaning under the weight of porridge, scotch pancakes, crumpets, homemade thick cut marmalade, Arbroath smokies and kedgeree, (I feel a very Scottish post brewing). Finnan Haddie (smoked haddock), is traditionally used but my bluefish was just grand, and you can use smoked salmon, you can probably use just about any smoked fish.
I have many kedgeree recipes including one from The Cook's Scrapbook a delightfully old-fashioned cookbook that my mother gave me, it has recipes like pickled samphire, hedgerow pie, grilled mackerel with gooseberry sauce........eyes are watering, sniff, now these are the things that make me feel homesick, well to be honest, Inspector Lewis and Rosemary and Thyme and Christmas Carols can do it too. This book is out of print now, if you ever spot one in a thrift store, grab it, it will warm the cockles of your heart.
 I like this recipe, it's simple, and it represents all of my recipes combined, but I am always (the contrary cook) experimenting, sometimes adding tomatoes, celery, using brown rice or basmati, sometimes curry powder sometimes garam masala.
Not many folks here in the US have heard of kedgeree, unless you're an expat of course, although there are gastro-pubs cropping up all over New York, I suspect it's on some of their menus, which reminds me; must go to the Spotted Pig next trip, I hope they are still doing a pint of cockles. I used to sit on the quay during the summer months in my quaint river-side town, with my father and eat cockles, sometimes whelks (only the brave) out of a paper cone, lots of vinegar and pepper to season, now I am weeping.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Twice Picked

We went looking for concord grapes near the lighthouse, and after some traipsing around we found bunches hanging high up on the vines, the deer must have eaten them or else some other picker got there before us, thankfully my long limbed picking companion could reach the very top bunches, if not for her my harvest would've been paltry. It was my second time this year picking grapes, the first time was in New Zealand in April, harvest time at our vineyard in Martinborough. Picking grapes on the vineyard is back breaking stuff, hunched over for hours on end, making sure that the tips of your fingers aren't part of the harvest, the snips (secateurs) are very sharp, but after a few hours I find I get into the 'picking zone' filling up the bins with those perfect bunches, glistening in the late autumn New Zealand sun.

We have 20 acres, it's small, we make Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.  In 2003 we planted the vines on what used to be farmland, on the edge of an old river bed, and in 2006 our first vintage was produced. The most frequently asked question is 'how can you run a vineyard in New Zealand, from Montauk?' There's surprisingly quite a lot we can do; weather can be monitored constantly, we can check the level of the water pump daily, and of course there are many phone calls on a regular basis at strange hours. We couldn't have embarked on this adventure without the help of two very tenacious parents who should've been relaxing with their feet up watching the telly (there's no such thing as a retired farmer). Over the past 7 years they have endured all the trials and tribulations that come with managing a vineyard, their story is an epic one, in a Robert Redford, river kind of way.

A passion for New Zealand, Martinborough, food and wine led us down this Dry River road, if we knew then....what we know now, but oh, what a thrill to be sitting in a New York restaurant and to see a bottle of our wine on the table......if they only knew about the frosts, the rain, the bottles that went missing on bottling day, the sheep that got in the vineyard. When we do our 'tastings' in the stores that carry our wine, people really do want to know the story behind that bottle of wine, and so, for example, my father-in-law at age 83 still drives the tractor up and down the vines, and my mother-in-law single handedly moved tons of rocks (greywacke) to create a spectacular entrance to the vineyard. Our vineyard is a real family vineyard, each family member plays a role, we don't have a rep, we make the sales calls, it really does qualify as 'boutique', wait, somebody pass me the soapbox....I read this somewhere 'a boutique wine is a quality wine made in limited quantity, under 5,000 cases a year' (we produce 2,000 cases) ok you can take the soapbox away (for the moment). We are proud of our wine and we are deeply connected to the land where our grapes grow, we intend to stay small and intensely focused on quality not quantity.

Anyway back here in Montauk, my jam is delicious, I used a simple recipe of sugar and grapes and lemon juice, sorry, didn't measure anything, just did it by taste, and then put the mixture through a sieve, wow, what an extraordinary flavor, I get......mmmmm, candy, bubblegum, strawberry, mmmmmmm, musty, barnyard, ok that's enough.

Two harvests in one year, does seem a bit greedy doesn't it?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Ladies, A Plate

I have never met a New Zealander who didn't have a sweet tooth, and my mate is no exception; jam and honey plastered on toast, afternoon tea with biscuits, a must, tarts and pies with lashings of cream. I don't have a sweet tooth, and I don't really enjoy the making of desserts as much as I enjoy creating the savory part of the meal. A hot steamy pudding though.....hmmm, yes, I do like to make a good pudding, bread and butter, rhubarb and ginger, plum and cardamom, cold climate puddings. In New Zealand the meal is not complete without a dessert, and when we visit friends, there is always something baking in the oven, there is nothing more welcoming than a home cooked biscuit or cake straight out of the oven and a cup of tea, made in a teapot, more often than not the teapot has a handmade tea cosy. Everyone bakes; our friends, our friends' children, and their children, (ooh that's scary) it's a nation of bakers, thank goodness somewhere in the world children are spending 'quality' time in the kitchen, baking the same sugary delights as their grandmothers before them. We brought Ladies, A Plate back with us from NZ (thanks again to the wonderful Miss W) and have been working our way through it. It is a collection of traditional NZ home baking recipes; Lamingtons, Afghans, Neenish Tarts......and so on. The NZ'er has done most of the baking, so far he has made; Bacon and Egg Pie, Gingernuts, Ginger Kisses, (the photo at top of page) Pikelets, and Apricot Shortcake, (Photo below) lucky for me eh? to have such a sweet natured partner in the kitchen, he makes a mean Pavlova too, which of course we all know was created in New Zealand.

Friday, October 2, 2009


I want to show that I am a blogger of my word.....the pork tenderloin? I said I was going to make it, well I did and twice in one week! I made a marinade of olive oil, sage and garlic and after about 4 hours it was grilled on the BBQ and served with the plum sauce, mashed yams and chunks of iceberg with a grainy mustard and sherry vinegar dressing. When I start cooking with sage it really feels as though fall has arrived and we should start collecting kindling in the yard and load up the wood pile, I will be using the robust herb until the frost takes it, but thankfully it is one of the last to go. I have quite a few sage bushes in the garden, too many really, sage has such an intense flavor that a light hand is required for most dishes, however with the tenderloin I almost wrap it in a coat of sage. This summer a lone tassle flower popped up in between the silvery foliage and made a striking orange display, I plan to plant more emilia javanica with the salvia officinalis, it was one of the most exciting color combinations in my garden this summer. 
The other night I made dinner for a lovely bunch of friends and made the pork tenderloin again, in the same way, but this time the menu looked like this;
grilled pork tenderloin with sage and garlic
cauliflower and apple mash
a medley of mushrooms (cooked with thyme, garlic and marsala) with orzo and parmiggiano
green beans with lemon zest
pan fried scallops with a tomato, celery, red pepper sauce (sort of like a provencal)
a plum clafoutis with cardamom cream
There are no photos of this dinner, I was really itching to take some, but while I think it's OK to make the NZ'er sit around, hungry, food getting cold, as I stand on stools and fiddle about with lamps, I just couldn't do it to my pals, so you'll have to take me at my word.
I have a very good stimulating tonic recipe made with sage leaves.......after an enjoyable dinner with great friends and wine, this comes in handy (for some of us) the next morning.
bunch of sage leaves
lemon juice
hot water
The latin name for sage, salvia, means "to heal".

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Plummy Scallops

I am still going to cook the pork tenderloin as mentioned in the previous post. The NZ'er loves pork, pork belly, pork chops, ribs, trotters, knuckle, head, (I can't say for sure about the head, but it wouldn't surprise me, he does eat the heads of fish). He once had a ten course pork dinner in the French Alps, and surprisingly has no signs of gout, yet. Anyway, I am still harping on about plums I used the excess juice from the sauce I made the other day, heated it up and sat my local, Long Island scallops atop, what a saucy surprise! a titillating union; plums and scallops, the words alone conjure up an image of a buxom, port town barmaid, skirt too short, lipstick too bright, yelling "last orders!" (childhood memories). My plummy scallops were dished up with green tea noodles, mingled with miso and wakame. Plump and juicy, sweet and salty, all of the flavors worked so well together I thought I had created a new umami (yummy in japanese), but plums and scallops have been keeping company for sometime, after making this dish I googled the pair, there's no shortage of recipes, I wished I had thought about using the shiso, I have a plentiful supply in my garden.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

No Prunus Maritima

We went in search of the dainty beach plum, in the dunes, on a perfect September morning, all bright and cheery, and returned home plumless. Probably a bit too late in the season to be looking for them and there wasn't enough sun early in the season to ripen the fruit, but we didn't spy one, not one! I have since learned of some secret spots (we weren't anywhere near them) so I will have to wait until next year to make beach plum jelly. Me and my foraging friend did, however see carpets, upon carpets of cranberries, so we'll be tramping back over those dunes in a few weeks. I am going to make a savory plum sauce (as I write) with these plums from the North Fork, it was a toss up between the sauce or a clafoutis, and as I am more savory in nature, the sauce won, but I do love a clafoutis and make sweet and savory versions. This recipe is a combination of Peter Gordon's Pickled Plums and Jane Grigson's Chinese Plum Sauce. 
a dozen plums cut in half and pitted 
1/2 cup of water
2/3 cup of sugar
1/3 cup of cider vinegar
1 cinnamon stick
4 star anise
1/2 red chili
1/4 cup of grated peeled ginger
Put everything in the pot and simmer for 3/4 hour, and as Jane Grigson instructs Taste and consider your sauce. If it is very thick, add a little water. If unbearably tart, add a little sugar.
My plum sauce is going to accompany grilled pork tenderloin, roasted sweet potatoes with lemon (a Peter Gordon recipe, he is another constant companion in my kitchen) and the last of the mesclun.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Brown Rice Risotto

I made a brown rice risotto with mushrooms, zucchini, celery and the ten fava beans, oooh if you look really closely you can see the wee fabaceae. I love fava beans, (broad beans in the UK) and try to grow them every year, with little success, and this year was no exception, but I will persevere, I am due for a glut. Risotto is another favorite, I love to cook it, I enjoy the fact that it needs my undivided attention and find it a very calming and meditative experience, the constant stirring and pouring of broth....hubble, bubble, toil and trouble, maybe it's the witch in me that finds it so appealing. One of the best risottos I ever had was at a friend of a friend's house in Eastbourne, (I know, hard to imagine) she was Italian, which made all the difference, it was a simple dish of broad beans, pecorino and lemon, unforgettable. I make a quick risotto, or pilaf on a regular basis using brown rice, I cook the rice until it is almost done and then add it to whatever mix I have with a little broth and finish cooking. I make it with spices such as cloves, cardamom and turmeric and toasted almonds, or with tomato and saffron, more like a paella, and other times with mushrooms and peas and a sprinkling of mint, the list is endless, rice dishes are so wonderfully adaptable. The truth is I would eat the starchy, creamy arborio ALL the time, with mountains of pecorino if my cholesterol would allow, but my brown rice version offers up a lovely nutty, wholesome alternative, and there is still a bit of stirring involved. We sliced the pears and ate them with ginger ice-cream.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Two Pears And Ten Fava Beans

Picked today......not sure what I am going to do with my bumper crop, nothing springs to mind using pears and fava beans together, a salad maybe, but there's a bit of a nip in the air tonight and I want something that has been cooked in a pot.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Good Company

As I mentioned in the last post, The Cook's Companion is a very trusty friend in my kitchen, it is very thorough, and extremely readable (thanks to my dear friend W in NZ for introducing me to it). Stephanie Alexander describes each ingredient in detail, the margins are crammed with recipes, with hints and tips on each page, this is my favorite part of the book....say for example you have a bowl full of plums, and you want to include them in a dinner, you go to the plum section and it gives you a long list of other ingredients that go well with plums, this feature encourages experimenting with ingredients.

I love the alphabetical listing on the contents page - apples, bugs, chervil, duck, eggs, figs, ginger, jerusalem artichokes, kangaroo, you get the idea, and even though the subtitle of the book is 'The complete book of ingredients for the Australian kitchen' I refer to it all the time here in the northern hemisphere at the very end of Long Island, most of the ingredients are universal, well maybe with the exception of kangaroo and wallaby (until quite recently one could get a plate of kangaroo tail at Public on Elizabeth Street in New York). Every recipe in the index is meticulously cross referenced, I love that, no, I really love that, I have a borderline obsession with recipe indexes, they are my preferred bedtime reading, ok maybe not borderline.

There are recipes in this book that have become part of my everyday cooking, like the cabbage salad with anchovy sauce, this is a fantastic dish that I cooked all summer long served hot and cold, with grilled lamb, chicken and fish. Stay tuned for cumquat marmalade, well yes, that is one of the more southern hemisphere recipes, but I do actually have a cumquat tree, have to bring it inside in the winter of course, and it's really quite tiny, but we still get to enjoy the highly perfumed blossom, I counted 8 dangling cumquats and it's just starting to flower again.

I lose myself in this book, I start with cabbage and before I know it I am in the walnut section, followed by the duck section, mmm roasted duck legs with eggplant (Long Island duck of course). Jam-packed with recipes, preparations and techniques, this book is so generous, it answers a million questions, it is precise, authoritative and friendly, a dear companion indeed.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Tumbleweed Tuesday Soup

It really does happen, every year, they leave, the people who come to our resort town for the summer and fill the restaurants, bars and beaches. Tumbleweed Tuesday marked the beginning of calmer days, and cooler nights and the bitter sweet realization that summer is over. The sweet thing is, the people leave and the fish arrive! Fall is fast approaching and the serious fishing will begin soon, time to get the old Aladdin Stanley flask out. I have been looking forward to making big hearty soups and stews again, and have even welcomed the idea of wearing socks. My Tumbleweed Tuesday soup was made with the leftovers of the 'end of summer potatoes' and as I was witchily, yes that's right witchily, stirring my bubbling brew, I looked out the kitchen window, the wind whipped up, the sky darkened, brrrrrrrrrrr, I closed some windows, and wondered when I might be tempted to put the heating on again.
The recipe I used was adapted from The Cooks' Companion by Stephanie Alexander this book has become my cooking companion, I refer to it every time I cook, it doesn't sit on a shelf, it's always on the table.
sweat a chopped onion with some garlic and 3 large diced potatoes in olive oil then cover with water, add a bay leaf and simmer until potato is tender (I used cooked potatoes) drop in a bunch of washed and stemmed spinach and simmer for 5 minutes, blend in a food processor, then season with salt, pepper and a pinch of roasted ground cumin, I added some wholewheat cheese quesadillas 

Thursday, September 10, 2009

End of Summer Potatoes and Little Fishes

Labor Day Monday we took the homemade net down to the bay and went 'whitebaiting' and got a bucket full of spearing, we deep fried them and they were ok, a bit of a weird gut taste, we did it earlier in the year and they were great, but not quite like the experience of eating New Zealand whitebait, a delicacy, a short lived affair in NZ, delicious in a fritter, I would choose it as my last meal. Here on the beautiful Long Island Sound the NZ'er goes out to shoulder height in the water, and I stand ankle deep by the shore, keeping the pole angled....much shouting from NZ'er, keep it down, keep it down! much heaving reveals jumping bright silver little fish. Our fishing friends think we are a bit strange to be eating 'bait fish' but we enjoy the wading, the haul, and the crunchy reward. I am reminded of eating deep fried sprats for teatime on the east coast of Old Blighty, in a relative's smoky kitchen, condensation on the windows, the NZ'er of whitebait fritters cooked in copious amounts of butter sandwiched between white bread also plastered with copious amounts of butter, and getting seriously sunburned.

Summer savory was the other star of my garden this year, I planted it as a border around the mesclun and tomatoes, it was also the prettiest herb in the garden, with its lovely diminutive pale lavender blue flower and frothy habit. It goes well with tomatoes (lucky you, if you have some) fish, chicken and mushrooms. I started my plants from seed, for some reason nurseries don't seem to stock it, it's just not the most popular herb on the plot, but it hasn't always had such a low profile, the Romans loved its strong flavor and believed it to be an aphrodisiac, it is a traditional ingredient in 'herbes de Provence' this summer I made my own mix, savory, oregano, lavender, marjoram, thyme and rosemary, rubbed on fish and chicken, a great marinade for grilling. Summer savory is the perfect herb for roasting potatoes, I picked big rustic handfuls and sat the spuds on top, sprinkled with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted for about 40 minutes, we were very greedy little piglets and scoffed them right out of the dish, alternating, potato, fish, potato, fish, Moose (the dog) also got some fish. The next day, tumbleweed tuesday, I made soup with the leftovers and the house was once again filled with a pleasant and lingering aroma. When the summer savory disappears, oooh hopefully not for a while, winter savory will appear, just in time for the stewpot.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Sally Grows Shiso By The Seashore

I want to get my shiso post in before summer is over! isn't that today? hopefully September will be balmy. There are so many summery things to with this exotic and striking herb, a little bit minty and a tad spicy. I put some plants in the vegetable garden 3 years ago, each spring they come back, and this year with a vengeance, I have been giving away plants like nobody's business, it's vigorous and plentiful, which sort of makes up for the poor performance of tomatoes this summer....dreaded blight. You can find shiso (aka perilla and aoshiso) in Asian markets, when I lived in the city I would by it from Sunrise Mart on Broome Street, a great japanese grocery store. Shiso is an interesting addition to the vegetable garden, a no fuss plant and the deer don't like it, hurrah!
Easy things to do with shiso

throw some littlenecks on the barbie and make a dipping sauce of chopped shiso, soy sauce sesame oil and mirin

grill some pork tenderloin, slice it into bite size pieces and wrap in shiso leaves

add chopped shiso to miso udon noodles

make a nectarine and tomato salsa with chopped shiso and olive oil

add a shiso leaf to a gin and tonic, or any cocktail, my favorite non-alcoholic drink this summer - in a jug put ruby grapefruit juice with tonic water add a bunch of shiso leaves and steep to release flavors, a refreshing change from iced tea

toss angel hair pasta with olive oil and chopped shiso

shiso summer roll
nectarine, tomato, cooked shrimp, chopped shiso, spring roll wrappers (rice paper rounds) cooked vermicelli noodles, ( I used green tea noodles, that was all I had, they turned out to be very tasty, and looked pretty too ) 

dipping sauce
1/4 cup of rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup of fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons sweet chilli sauce
2 teaspoons soy sauce

I have also made a sweet version of the summer roll, using grilled nectarines and slivers of shiso, served with ginger ice cream.

Use shiso as you would basil and mint with fresh raw foods or added at the end of cooking, too much heat will destroy the fragrant aromas. I think that's it for the lovely shiso, until next summer anyway.......

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Smoked Blues

The smoker that we purchased from a yard sale for 10 bucks was put to good use this past weekend, a bluefish was caught by the husband who loves to fish, of course he was really after a Striper, but he was having a blue day, although some nice chap gave him two huge bass heads, we had two dinners from those heads and very tasty they were too, nothing quite like a bit of pan fried cheek and jowl. After smoking, the bluefish was destined for pate, next time I must use the food processor to make it and not the blender gwenda...just wasn't enough liquid to get it going, strange smell in kitchen of smoked fish and smoking blender. Smoking the fish made me feel very connected to my salty seafaring ancestors, and to the fishing village in England where I grew up on winkle sandwiches, pints of cockles, pints of whelks, and Colchester oysters, they tasted so much better when shared with my dad who was the biggest saltiest sea dog of all. There are smokehouses dotted all over the East Anglian coast, trout, mackerel and eel are the most popular for smoking.

smoked bluefish pate

1 pound of smoked bluefish, skinless and boneless

60z cream cheese softened

1/2 teaspoon worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

2 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons mayonnaise


a splash of cognac

mix all together in a food processor

Have been eating this for breakfast, (very good on the divine bread, toasted) lunch and dinner.

A Simple Ceremony

I made this bread for the first time in April and have been making it every week ever since. For those of you who know Vogel's bread from New Zealand, this is the most Vogelly homemade bread there is, the recipe came from a baking friend in New Zealand and it's wonderfully simple to make. I had never made bread before thinking it took way too long and was too much of a fiddly process, therefore I have spent decades buying expensive loaves from gourmet stores, but that's ok, we do love our bread, and it was money well spent, but this bread has changed our lives! two loaves are baked each Thursday morning without fail, one loaf is devoured over the weekend, and the other gets us through the week, it's a joyful ritual and divine eating.

3 cups high grade white flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

3/4 cup seed mix, sesame, sunflower, flax

2 teaspoons sea salt

1/2 teaspoon of dried yeast, the stuff they use in bread making machines

2+ cups cold water...start with 2 and add a little more if needed

mix all this together, you want the dough to be really quite sticky and sloppy

cover and leave 15 - 20 hours, doesn't need to be in a hot place

pour the sticky bubbly mess into a 9 inch greased loaf tin (I use a spray cooking oil)

let settle about 30 mins while oven heats to 400f

cover with a little tent of foil that is sealed all around the top of the tin so loaf can rise in oven in its own little micro-environment (I also use the spray cooking oil on the foil as the bread can sometimes rise quite a bit)

bake 30 mins with tent in place, take off tent and bake for a further 25 mins to brown top 

It takes all of a few minutes to throw together