Sunday, 29 July 2007

Little Foodies Sweden

I think we may have to re-visit the Caribbean, the weather just isn't cutting it. Hubby explained something about a gulf stream, something or other weather front. It was completely lost on me but wish I'd paid more attention so that I could recall it now.

So we're moving on, our next virtual visit (before our holiday) will be Sweden. I grew up with a friend whose dear Mum (Lilian) is from Sweden and I've tasted many a home cooked Swedish dish. Thankfully now that we've moved nearer to where I grew up they're not very far away and I will be able to call on them this week to pick Lilian's brains.

I made the tortuous journey to Ikea and hit the food section where I stocked up on a few bits and pieces. Little mitts got on the Anna's Pepparkakkor (spicy biscuits) within an hour of them being in the house, there are a few broken pieces left in the bottom of the tin. It's a lovely tin though, one which we will keep and re-use.
Not sure I should say this but the family also taught me how not to be embarrassed about bodies. In England, as I'm sure in lots of places around the world, you go into any changing rooms and you will see lots of females hiding behind whatever they can, flushed red to be in a state of undress infront of other people, even other females. Lilian made me see that, though different, we are all very similar and should not hide or be ashamed of our bodies, they're just bodies... Very free thinking but something I'm grateful for. I should just point out..... I don't advocate parading around in the noddy and you will never see me on a nudist beach - there is a limit!

Looking forward to Swedish meatballs. We're going to do a taste test between our own homemade ones and bought ones (organic from Waitrose). Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Little Foodies Caribbean

This week we've had marlin, tilapia and a West Indies inspired lamb stew. As we're still having torrential rain and flooding throughout the UK the weather has not matched the food, but at least the food had a kick, which has been a welcome warmer, if only for the tastebuds.

Marlin with spicy tomato and onion sauce, with a little white rum, served with potatoes and carrots from the garden and fried plantain. I griddled the marlin steaks, no seasoning, nothing. The spicy tomato sauce was great and we had the leftovers another evening with some salmon steaks from the freezer.
For the spicy tomato and onion sauce with a little white rum...
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped, 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped, 4 large very ripe tomatoes, 1 tin of plum tomatoes, 3 teaspoons of jamaican jerk seasoning, a glug of white rum.
Sweat the onions and garlic, add a glug of white rum and heat on high for a minute or so, add the jerk seasoning and stir through, add the fresh tomatoes. Cook on a medium heat for 5 minutes then add the tinned tomatoes. Cook for about 10 minutes. (If you're using tinned tomatoes with lots of juice either drain the juice off or cook for longer, until the sauce has thickened). Little and Small found this sauce a bit too hot so they didn't have much of it.

West Indies inspired Lamb Stew (Serves 4 plus plenty for leftovers)
1 kilo of diced lamb
2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 large yam, peeled and roughly chopped (2cm chunks)
1 large sweet potato, peeled and roughly chopped
2 teaspoons of jamaican jerk seasoning
(Don't go mad - 1 beef and 1 chicken stock cube)
2 pints of boiling hot water
Salt and Pepper to taste

Brown the meat in a little oil then take out and put to one side.
Gently fry the onions for 5 minutes, add a mug of boiling hot water then the sweet potato and yam, cook on high for 5 minutes. Most of the liquid will have evaporated and if it starts to go completely dry you need to add a little more (don't let it dry so much it all starts to catch on the bottom). Add the lamb back to the pan with the garlic, jerk seasoning and stock cubes and cook for a few minutes. Add the rest of the water and then cook in a low to medium heat oven for approx 1.5 - 2 hours until the lamb is meltingly tender.

We had this as is, no bread or potatoes. The yam had the texture of soft dumplings, delicious! Little and Small devoured this and had seconds.

No pics of the tilapia. I'm quite glad really as I thought it would look beautiful but after I'd cooked it, well, it just didn't look good at all. I baked it in the oven on a bed of sliced onions and then let it cool. The boys had it cold the next day, shredded on a salad. Little was over the moon to be picking so much fish. He's always loved the fish counter, as soon as he was able to talk he would beg to be taken to the fish counter. I was amazed and still very pleased that he's never lost that. Small doesn't show the same enthusiasm for it but he will eat fish. I think his taste for fish will be a developing one.

We also had a snack of some plantain, it was very green so I peeled it then chopped it into pieces, boiled it for 10 minutes, drained, dried, then fried. Sprinkled with salt - very good!

Edit: Sunday evening - We're not going to be around for a few days so catch up with you all when I return. x

Monday, 16 July 2007

Little Foodies Caribbean

Finally - we made a decision. We're going to be learning about the Caribbean Islands and their cuisine. I have been very fortunate to holiday on a few of the islands and 18 months ago we went to Barbados as a family (Hubby, Little, Small and me). Little remembers it but Small was very small so he doesn't remember it at all. They both loved the food though!

The islands snake from Florida to Venezuela. Each island is different in shape and size and what it has to offer. They are an ideal holiday destination for me with verdant green landscapes, golden yellow sands and warm turquoise seas. When I think of the Caribbean I picture dancing in the sand until the early hours, swimming in the sea with turtles, the friendly, happy people and how laid back they are, all I'm sure comes from living in such sunny climes. If you've never been, and you ever get the chance to go, jump at it!

While we learn about the Caribbean, we'll take a definite dip into my friend Cynthia's blog Tastes Like Home (Cynthia is from Guyana but lives in Barbados). To start us off though I thought I'd share this recipe which is a West Indies inspired curry... It was another of my cheating curries...

Chicken & Plantain Caribbean Curry (serves 2)
2 chicken breasts (cut into 2cm cubes)
1 large plantain (peeled and sliced)
1 medium size onion (finely chopped)
1 tin of creamed coconut milk
2 tablespoons of medium curry paste (I used Patak's)
1 heaped teaspoon of cinammon powder

First fry the onion until opaque, take them out (keep to side) add plantain to pan and fry on each side until starting to colour (about 4 mins each side) Take out and keep to side. Then fry the chicken for 2-3 minutes sprinkle the cinammon over and fry for further 2 minutes. Add the curry paste, plantain and onion back to the pan and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the cocunut milk and cook for 5-10 minutes. Serve with basmati rice or rice of your choosing. (L & S had a few mouthfuls of this on their way to bed, just prior to teeth brushing ofcourse, and see below for how they had it slightly changed the next day - either way it was great!)

EDIT - Note: Since I made this Cynthia gave me the following advice about plantain. Peel the green ones then boil before fryingt. (I've tried this since and it works well.) The very ripe ones, peel, slice and fry. When it is mid-ripe, it is boiled in its skin and then sliced and served.

Leftovers - If you have any leftover sauce and plantain like we did... this worked a treat as supper for the boys the next day. I cooked 2 chicken breasts. I then added some cream and mango chutney to the leftover plantain and sauce cooked it through for about 5 minutes then poured it over the cooked chicken breasts. Served with some of the leftover rice as I always have plenty of that (I make enough for 10 people)! Little and Small loved it!

I have a little phrase book called Chat Jamaican and we've already started to practice... Yeah mon!

Happy Birthday Mum

Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday dear Mum,
Happy Birthday to you!

Little and Small are making you a cake, which of course they will eat. Have a lovely day!! xxxxxxx

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Little Foodies America - Pecan Pie and it's all about MeMe

I wish!

Pecan Pie (or Peecan Pyyy)
Enough shortcrust pastry to line an 18cm (7inch) flan/pie tin.
2 eggs
4 tablespoons of golden syrup
2 tablespoons of soft brown sugar
2 tablespoons of melted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
250g pecans (could have used a lot less)

Line the pie tin with the pastry and bake blind in the oven (220C/450F/gas mark 8) for 8 minutes. Take it out and let it cool a little.
In a bowl beat together the eggs, golden syrup, sugar, melted butter and vanilla essence.
Arrange the pecans in the pastry shell. You could easily get away with using 100g / 4oz pecans.
Pour the syrupy mix over the top and bake in the oven on high for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to about 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 and cook for a further 25 minutes.

We really could have used a lot less pecans but Little suggested it would taste so much better if we tipped the whole 250g packet in. Having never made or eaten pecan pie I don't know if he's right about it tasting better but it certainly does taste very good.

It's all about Meme...

I've been tagged by two lovely ladies Nora of Life's Smorgasbord and Margaret at Kitchen Delights. So here goes...

1. I've said that I will sort out the food for the evening reception at my cousin's wedding in France (in under a month). That's fine there will only be 72 people! Eeeeeek!

2. Ever since, I've been surfing the internet for ideas of traditional French wedding food and festivities. I've unearthed all sorts of traditions such as the bride and groom should drink from a double handled goblet that has been engraved with their names, etc. but not really anything about food.

3. We're driving and I'm not that keen on being in the car with 2 small children for what may seem like forever. As we're going on to Spain afterwards I fear that we may fall out several times before we return home.

4. My dad's friend taught me to ride my bike without stabilisers when I was about 5 years old. He held the back of the bike and said he was still holding it when in actual fact he'd let go about 50 metres before hand. I turned round to see I was riding by myself and immediately fell off! My dad says he was too scared to do this as he thought I'd hurt myself. (Work that one out!)

5. My childhood was far from conventional - and would make a good TV drama. With a mix of madness, sadness, happiness, love, laughter, rich timesand poor times. It did however teach me that laughter does indeed nourish the soul. It's something I do often, every single day. It's also in stark contrast to my husband's childhood and to now with my own family (Little, Small, Hubby and me).

6. My hair desperately needs cutting!

7. One of my favourite holidays was one I thought would end my relationship with my then boyfriend (now husband) and involved driving from England to Spain in a very old MG Midget. I'm hoping the fears I have about our upcoming driving holiday will turn out the same - unfounded.

I don't know who to tag as so many blogs have been tagged already, so perhaps I'll just tag them too (I know it's a cop out!)
Little and Small at Boys Can Cook Too, (lovely well brought up boys - teehee! who will only participate if I actually do it for them.)
Mum at TOC Aromatherapy, (lovely well brought up Mummy, it's taken me a while (36years) but she's getting there!)
Janet at Janet is Hungry, (fellow mummy - tagged already).
Kelly-Jane at Cooking the Books, (lovely blogging friend who I've tagged before but she's been tagged by Margaret and agreed to do it so sorry KJ but as you were doing it anyway!)
Truffle at What's on my plate (lovely blogging friend who is kind and generous! Currently on a tour of Europe soon to return with lots of wonderful stories I'm sure - tagged already).
Ros at Living to Eat (great blog and as she'll be starting a new job in September, we may see less of her so read while you can - tagged already.)
Patricia at Technicolor Kitchen (absolute sweetheart, also tagged already.)

Meme's - They could be likened to those celebrity magazines that are often trashed but secretly read by many. (I've personally weaned myself off them... celebrity magazines that is.) Take part only if you wish to.

I have a busy few days ahead. End of year school mum's night out today, hen night tomorrow, then Saturday will be the first time ever the boys will be away from us for the whole night. Possibly wont see any of you for a few days.. but plenty to read with the blogs above.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

A quick dip in North Africa with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

It's not often that I am away from the children but this last Sunday I was out for the whole day. I gave hubby a kiss goodbye and mentioned that I'd love him to have dinner ready for when I got home. He delivered and very nicely. I'm not sure what I'd been expecting. Maybe a chicken thrown in the oven, but he'd cut the chicken up and made the most wonderful chicken dish from his favourite book The River Cottage Meat Book (loosely based on HFW's Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Olives - pg 313). I say loosely as we didn't have any preserved lemons or fresh coriander. Hubby almost followed it, except the lemon and fresh coriander part which is probably rather crucial to Hugh's version but Hubby's version was delicious and we had leftovers for dinner last night. In the book HF-W says. If you find yourself hankering after the bitter/salty/spicy tastes of North African cooking, this simple recipe really hits the spot. He is so right. (I'm not sure what the rules are about re-producing the recipe, so I found a rough copy from the Guardian here, if you wanted to give it a try.

He served it with mashed potatoes and carrots, both picked fresh from the garden. I can't remember what variety the carrots are but they're golden yellow. When I see the pictures of all that we've had from the veg patch I feel rather good about it and realise that we haven't done too badly, and we have learned such a lot.

We're going to surf in and out of a few countries (or continents) for the next week while we decide which country we're going to spend more time learning about... How lucky are we?! You could be too.

Monday, 9 July 2007


... funch, munch, crunch..

I was tagged a while ago by madman Paul at Writing at the Kitchen Table. I'm sure he wont mind me calling him that, we are afterall very fond of Freya and Paul. Besides he is a man and madness does feature. Nothing wrong with a little madness, I've done very well on it for years.

The tag was brunch and it started with Rosa of Rosa's Yummy Yums... The deadline has long since passed but I still felt I needed to give a nod in Rosa's direction. Rosa has a yummy blog indeed, based in Switzerland. Take a look for some great food and stunning scenery shots, some cute cats too.

I don't really do breakfast, especially during the week. A well kept secret from my children, as trying to be a good mummy, I lead them to believe that breakfast is fabulous and must be eaten to start the day well. Best meal of the day and all that.
Personally breakfast too early makes me gag and I'd much rather have a good cup of coffee and if I'm feeling really good or virtuous then a glass of water or fruit juice too. Luckily the boys seem to be the opposite. They can quite happily polish off a bowl of cereal at 6.30 in the morning and then graze on fruit, toast and whatever else they can get their hands on (whole cucumbers and carrots) until the next meal.

Now brunch is something entirely different. I love it. Mostly because it's generally served at a much more civil time. Nearly every weekend we have a brunch of sorts. Often a cardiac arrest inducing type affair with bacon and sausages featuring heavily, sometimes just a light poached egg with some toast. As we've been doing America I made some American style pancakes on Saturday (using Nigella's recipe). Little and Small love these pancakes smothered in maple syrup.
What's not to love? Hubby insisted we also squeeze some lime juice on top of the maple syrup this time. It was quite nice...

I wont tag anyone, as, like I said the deadline has been and gone but brunch it was...

Also you may aswell know that I have agreed to try and always attend the breakfast table and force something down just for the sake of keeping up appearances and because finally it does seem to be sinking in about it kick starting your metabolism and my metabolism certainly needs a kickstart.

Friday, 6 July 2007

Little Foodies Veg Patch News

Hmmm. The veg patch. Hubby, Little and Small are being very resiliant. There doesn't seem to be the same emotional turmoil that they were experiencing in the very beginning. I think this is because there have been so many lows that it's now just par for the course. I don't think the rain is helping. Summer - what Summer? Ah yes, the thing we had in Spring this year. Thought I'd sneak some pics of the cats in as they're very much a part of the family too...

Qualities you need when growing your own fruit and veg for the first time.
The patience of a saint
The calm of a buddhist monk
The resolve not to be beaten by super slugs
The resolve not to be beaten by continuous rain
The ability to congratulate yourself for trying even though your harvest is exceptionally poor for the amount of work and initial outlay (of £'s, many, many of them).

If children are involved you need a steadier resolve than any of the above.

Our successes so far have included...
The sum total of about 32 broad beans. I don't mean 32 full pods, that would have been wonderful. I mean 32 actual beans.
A handful of cherry tomatoes, most of which have rings around the top - who knows why?
A handful of blueberries (whoopdeedooo!)
1 courgette.
3 strawberries (2 of which went mouldy overnight. We'd left them on top of the fireplace to show the boys in the morning!)
A few meals that have included rocket.
A lovely load of potatoes which did 2 meals. This was our favourite success so far.

Some of the lows have included losing a courgette plant which snapped at the base. Overcrowding of the carrots which has meant they are not getting good growth on them. They do however have beautiful big bushy green tops. I think this gives us a clue as to part of the problem. Not realising that you have to put purple sprouting in way before we did. The slug patrol which seem to have trained with the SAS, they are able to outwit us but we're taking notes and will come up with a much smarter defense plan for next year. If there will be a veg patch next year that is... HA! What am I saying. Of course there will be a veg patch next year.

As most people know England seems be under some sort of cloud at the moment. Literally, and it's not just one cloud there are thousands of them and they leak a lot! Hubby mentioned last night that there may still be a hosepipe ban this summer. I can't actually write what I want to about this because it includes a lot of expletives. But if they do then I think we'll put the house on the market and move to another country, because, well just because.

As a friend of mine used to say "if you can't change something troubling you, change how you feel about it..." Wise words...

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Little Foodies America - Happy Independence Day

Our July 4th 2007 Menu

Rack of Ribs oven roasted with homemade bbq sauce
served with
Homemade Coleslaw, Buttery Corn on the Cob and Anya Potatoes, boiled in their skins.

Raspberries, Blueberries and Vanilla Ice Cream...

I did think of making a key lime pie or a pecan pie. I love the name pecan pie it always reminds me of the film When Harry Met Sally when they start talking in silly voices peeecan pyyyyyy.... So I guess I have to make this before we move on to another country.

Hubby, Little and Small are loving all of this meat but I'm feeling a little over indulged in the meat department. Our next country is going to need careful consideration, I want lean and fresh. For a start my cousin is getting married in France in just over a month, we'll be there and then we're heading off down to Spain for a few weeks so I am rather desperate to be feeling a little slimmer. Note, I didn't say to actually be slimmer, just to feel it!

Little Foodies Homemade BBQ Sauce (I hadn't realised the time. I'll post the recipe later as off for a drink in my favourite country pub.)

6.20pm 5 July 07 - Where was I... yes the BBQ Sauce we made this time included...
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon english mustard
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon runny honey
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon teriyaki sauce
2 cloves of garlic crushed or crushed with a knife and a sprinkle of salt to make a paste
4 tablespoons tomato ketchup or 2 tablespoons of tomato puree
2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
Mix all together in a medium size bowl and then pour over your chosen food ready to cook.
If you're going to be using this to marinade and cook with don't bother cooking it. However, if you want it as a dipping sauce you need to put it in a pan and cook on a medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes. Until it changes colour to a deeper red/brown colour.

I like to play with bbq sauce. I've made it with just sugar, mustard, tomato puree and vinegar and I've made it with an even longer list of ingredients to what you see above... The one above was very nice smothered over the ribs but I realise it's a lot of ingredients.

Happy July 4th - Happy Independence Day!

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Link Love

A while ago I discovered a really lovely, brilliant blog. The Cottage Smallholder. I read it nearly every day. This morning, it set me up for the day, despite the rubbish weather, that is anything but summer like. Do read The Cottage Smallholder - it will make you smile, sometimes even laugh out loud!

I made a fantastic West Indies inspired curry last night which I changed and tweaked some of the leftovers so Little and Small could eat it today, they dovoured it too. I'll blog about that later in the week and tomorrow of course we will be celebrating Independence Day - I got a huge rack of ribs from the butcher today so for tomorrow Happy Independence Day to all our American family and to any American people who read this.

We'll be eating the ribs with homemade coleslaw, corn on the cob, potatoes, picked fresh from the garden and followed by a lovely red, white and blue dessert which we still haven't decided on...

In the meantime check out this post by The Cottage Smallholder.

Monday, 2 July 2007

Little Foodies America - Southern Fried Chicken & Cherry Pie

Southern Fried Chicken (our version).
3 eggs, 60ml water, 1/3 bottle of Nando's peri-peri BBQ sauce, 2 cups self raising flour, a good few grinds of black pepper, 4 teaspoons salt, 2 teaspoons black pepper, 2 teaspoons garlic granules, 4 chicken drumsticks, 4 chicken thighs.

First mix the garlic granules, black pepper and salt.
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and water and mix in the bbq sauce.
In a separate bowl mix the flour and a few grinds of black pepper.
Pre-heat the oven to 180C to finish cooking the chicken.
We used the large Le Creuset pan and filled it one third full of sunflower oil. We tested it was hot enough by dropping a piece of rocket in which sizzled.
Sprinkle a little of the garlic granules, pepper and salt mix over the chicken pieces (you wont use it all so keep any that you don't use for seasoning something else). Dip the chicken in the egg mix and then coat well with the flour. Place in the hot oil, turning after a couple of minutes. After 5 minutes frying place in an ovenproof bowl and finish cooking in the oven for about 25 minutes. Test the chicken is cooked through before serving.

We saw a few recipes for this which called for hot red pepper sauce and various versions of the pepper and salt seasoning mix. We thought the hot sauce might be too hot for the boys so decided to use bbq sauce instead. It worked well. We served with fine green beans and boiled new potatoes picked fresh from the garden - YIPPPEEEE! Even better my husband cooked it all!

Cheat's Cherry Pie
1 packet of ready rolled puff pastry.
1 tin of Waitrose red cherry fruit filling.
1 jar of Ambrosia custard
Pre-heat oven to 180C
We used a medium size pyrex flan dish. Rolled the pastry over the dish and gently push around the sides. Sliced off any excess around the top of sides. Poured the tin of red cherry fruit filling over the pastry. We cut out little stars from the leftover pastry and placed on top of the fruit filling. Baked in the oven for approx 20-25 minutes, until the pastry was cooked. Served with Ambrosia custard....

Totally cheating, not as tasty as fresh cherries or homemade pastry but we had ready made pastry that needed using up and the tin of cherry filling in the cupboard so it had to be done.


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