Sunday, 31 October 2010

A Little Something for Teatime

Last weekend, R came back to run a few errands in Hereford and stayed a couple of nights with us to play Axis and Allies war games with L.
R, our favourite pharmacist has gone back to his university city, to the hospital he trained in to do a diploma and further his career. Since being there, he has been eating considerably healthier, taking more exercise and looks better for it. He claims that now he is not doing locum work in Morrisons, he is no longer tempted by endless aisles of cakes and croissants; and as a result, not a single pastry has past his lips.

M has not been eating lately, we suspect a tooth or two is about it rear its little white head; and I wanted to make something comforting for her with lots of fruit in to try to convince myself that she was getting something healthy other than milk into her system.
You can guess what happened - M didn't eat one, just picked out the dried blueberries; and R had a few, iced and un-iced, and indulged in one or two or three chocolate mousses from the restaurant that were going begging and perhaps taking the 'Do try one' instruction a little bit too far. Don't tell the girlfriend!


These little loaves were delightfully moist with banana, studded with little pieces of white chocolate and dried blueberries, which are incidentally my new favourite snack. I found the little bakeable loaf papers in Sainsburys a few months ago and they have been sitting patiently on the shelf waiting for a recipe just like this one. They were great with tea the same day, but a few uneaten iced ones found their way into the fridge (so that the icing wouldn't melt) and they made a breakfast/brunch so delicious that next time, I will deliberately make them for such a meal. 

Banana, White Chocolate and Bluberry Cakes with Orange Icing (makes 10 loaves)

For the cakes
125g unsalted butter
175g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 small ripe bananas
50ml sour cream
2 large eggs
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2tsp baking powder
300g plain flour
50g dried blueberries
50g roughly chopped white chocolate
For the icing
zest two oranges
juice 1 orange
75g icing sugar
300g soft cheese (philadelphia or mascarpone are best)

For the cakes
Preheat the oven to gas mark 5/180C. Place the paper loaf cases, 5 to a tray, into two baking trays with low sides, allowing sapce between each.
Melt the butter in a sauce pan. Add the sugar, vanilla and soft bananas and mash with a potato masher in the pan.
Add the eggs and sour cream and mash until well incorporated.
Next add the bicarb amd baking powder, mix again.
Finally, beat in the flour, blueberries and white chocolate.
When the mixture has come together divide amongst the paper loaf cases and cook for 30mins until golden and a cake skewer comes out clean.
Place the loaves onto a cooling rack and leave to cool.
For the icing
Place the orange zest, juice and cream cheese into a bowl.
Sift in the icing sugar and beat well to combine.
Spread onto the top of each cooled cake using a palette knife.
Store any leftover cakes in and airtight container in the fridge for freshness.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

A Coincidental Masterclass with Michel Roux Jr

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

Are you as excited by Masterchef the Professionals as I am?
I am backing Alice and Clare for now. The fact that those are also my names is not important. I also believe that it's about time that a girl won the competition.
Part of becoming the masterchef of course, involves several gruelling tasks. One round is to recreate a classic French dish that Michel Roux Jr showcases beforehand.
Can you believe that the day before my nervous hands were to attempt some doughnuts, that the French classic recreation round was to make perfect doughnuts with 3 sauces? I could not believe it either. It was as if I was having my own class with the Roux genius himself and I have to say, I think it made me feel much better about making them.

They were fun and surprisingly easy to make.

Even better to eat.

I made two styles of doughnut. Some Italian apple zeppole and a more traditional tiramisu inspired one with a chocolate and coffee dough, dipped in an amaretto-mascarpone glaze.
L has now challenged me to make some plain jam filled doughnuts, so watch this space!

Apple Zeppole
This is a lovely recipe, but a little wet, so I found it easier to drop smaller spoons of the mixture in to get little doughnut ribbons.

1 large apple, peeled and grated (about 1 1/2 cups)

1/4 cup sugar
1 stick butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
1 cup flour
4 eggs
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar, plus more for dusting

1 teaspoon cinnamon

In a medium saucepan combine the butter, salt, sugar, and water over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Take pan off the heat and stir in the flour. Return the pan to medium heat and stir continuously until mixture forms a ball, about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the flour mixture to a medium bowl. Using an electric hand mixer on low speed, add eggs, one at a time, incorporating each egg completely before adding the next. Beat until smooth. Add the grated apple and stir to combine. If not frying immediately, cover with plastic wrap and reserve in the refrigerator.

Meanwhile, pour enough oil into a large frying pan to reach a depth of 2 inches. Heat the oil over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 325 degrees F.
Using a small ice-cream scooper or 2 small spoons, carefully drop about a rounded tablespoon of the dough into the hot olive oil. Turn the zeppole once or twice, and cook until golden and puffed up, about 4 minutes. Fry the zeppole in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan. Drain on paper towels. Transfer the zeppole to a serving dish and sprinkle with powdered sugar mixed with the cinnamon using a small sieve.

Tiramisu Doughnuts

Put these in the fridge (if you dont eat them all as soon as they're glazed) to keep the mascarpone from melting

1/3 cup + 1 Tablespoon Water, Lukewarm
10g Active Dry Yeast
22.5 ml Honey
420g plain flour
2 tbsp sifted cocoa powder
2 tbsp ground coffee
3 tbsp milk
6 large egg yolks
74g White Granulated Sugar + more for rolling
pinch salt
42g Butter, Unsalted
Canola Oil 3 cup / 720 ml / (Or any other flavorless oil used for frying)
3 tbsp mascarpone cheese
1 tbsp amaretto
1 tbsp icing sugar

  1. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, mix the water, yeast, honey,  and 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (160 gm) of the flour. (Alternatively, whisk the ingredients by hand.) Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature until foamy, about 1 hour.
  2. Return the bowl to the mixer, fitted with a dough hook. Add the remaining 1 ¾ cups plus 2 tablespoons (260 gm) of flour, along with the milk, egg yolks, cocoa powder, ground coffee, 1/3 cup of granulated sugar and the salt. Mix at low speed until blended, then add the butter and knead at medium speed until silky but sticky, about 5 minutes; the dough will not pull away from the side of the bowl.
  3. Using an oiled spatula, scrape the dough into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.
  4. In a large saucepan, heat the canola oil to 360°F/180°C. Line a rack with paper towels. Fill a shallow bowl with 1/2 inch (12 mm)of granulated sugar. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough a scant 1/2 inch (12 mm) thick. Using a 2-inch (50 mm) round biscuit cutter, stamp out rounds. The original recipe said to not re-roll the dough, but I did and found it to be fine. Fry the rounds, 4 to 5 at a time, until they are browned, about 4 minutes (mine only took about a minute each – try to go more by sight). Be sure to keep the oil between 360°F and 375°F 180°C and 190°C. Drain the bomboloni on paper towels.
  5. Roll them in the granulated sugar and leave to cool.
  6. Whisk together the mascarpone, icing sugar and amaretto to a smooth paste.
  7. Dip the cooled doughnuts into the mascarpone (and then into some chocolate sprinkles as I did) and leave for a moment to set.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

A little Something for the Prince Regent

Doesnt' he look dashing?


Not the cake, the Hugh Laurie as the Prince Regent, obviously!

For L and me, nothing comes close the comedy greatness of Blackadder. In the BBCs classic show, there is a little something for everyone; not least of all food jokes. Let's see if I can stir your memories of the show with a couple of our favourite food quotes:

'One thing that puzzles me Baldrick, how did you manage to get so much custard from such a small cat?'

'Whoops Mrs Miggins, you're sitting on my artichokes!'

'Well cover me in eggs and flour and bake me in the oven for 40 minutes.'

And my personal favourite...

Blackadder Baldrick, fix us some coffee, will you ... and try and make it taste slightly less like mud this time.
Baldrick Not easy, I'm afraid, Captain.
Blackadder And why is that?
Baldrick Because it is mud. We ran out of coffee thirteen months ago.
Blackadder So every time I've drunk your coffee since, I have in fact been drinking hot mud.
Baldrick With sugar.
Blackadder Which of course makes all the difference.
Baldrick Well, it would do if we had any sugar. But we ran out New Year's Eve 1915, since when I've been using sugar substitute.
Blackadder Which is?
Baldrick Dandruff.
Blackadder Brilliant.
Baldrick Still, I could add some milk this time - well, saliva.
Blackadder No, thanks, Baldrick. Call me Mr Picky, but I've decided to cancel the coffee.

It will come as no surprise to you to know that not only do we have the box set, but that we can pretty much recite several episodes by heart. Call me sad, but I bet you can do the same for something or other!

My favourite episode is probably ''Captain Cook' from 'Blackadder goes Forth' in which Blackadder volunteers to become the official war artist and is sent out into No Man's Land to sketch the enemy lines. To avoid being ordered to go over the top, Blackadder, Baldrick and George become a trio of Italian chefs and cook up a feast for the General and Captain Darling.

My favourite series however, is Blackadder the Third. I love the lavish costumes, the actors and the upstairs-downstairs theme.

I imagine a prince as silly as the Prince Regent to sit around most of the day entertaining guests and future conquests whilst drinking endless cups of tea and enjoynig the latest fashion in cakes.
Perhaps Battenburg was one of them?

Miniature Battenburg Cakes (adapted from Indulge by Claire Clark)

240g soft unsalted butter
240g caster sugar
4 medium eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
240g plain flour
10g baking powder
yellow and red food colourings
2/3 jar apricot preserve
75g icing sugar
500g yellow marzipan


Preheat the oven to gas mark 3/170C. Grease and line two 25cm x 25cm square tins.
Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Whisk in the vanilla extract.
Beat the eggs in one at a time with a spoonful of flour with each addition.
Sift the flour and baking powder before folding into the butter mixture in the three stages, trying not to overmix the batter.
Divide the batter evenly between two bowls, weighing them for accuracy.
Add a drop of yellow food colouring to one, and a drop of red food colouring to the other and gently fold each colour in.
Pour the mixtures into each prepared cake tin and bake for 40 - 45 minutes until the cake is golden brown and a skewer comes out clean.
Cool the cakes in the tin.
Once cooled, refridgerate the cakes for at least an hour to firm up a little to be easier for cutting.
Remove the cakes from their tins and peel away the baking paper. Carefully, using a large serrated knife, level the top of the cakes off, making sure that each cake is the same height - mine were 1.5cm high.
Save your cake trimmings for making cake pops at a later date. In the meantime, they will freeze for up to one month in a sealed freezer bag.
Bring the apricot jam to the boil in a small pan and pass it through a sieve to remove any fruit pieces.
Brush the bottom surface of each cake with a little apricot preserve and sandwich together. Trim the four ends off to neaten them up.
Cut the cake into strips to match the height of each cake. As you do this,flip each strip over so that the cut side is up and the sides that were the top and bottom of the cake are either side of the cut section, which will be yellow and pink. Lay the pieces together so that they touch; pink, yellow, pink, yellow. They should all be equal heights and widths at this stage.
Brush hot apricot preserve over the entire surface of the laid out strips. Flip one section over onto the next section to create the four squares. Repeat until all the cake mixture is used up. Cut each long strip in half to create the miniature battenburgs. Trim off the ends so they are nice and tidy.
Dust a work surface with sifted icing sugar and roll out the marzipan to about 3mm thick. Brush the marzipan with the apricot preserve.
Place a sandwiched block of cake close to the edge. Roll the marzipan around the cake and trim to neatly fit the cake. Repeat with all the other miniatures.
To clean the cakes up, take a dry pastry brush and brush off the excess sugar.
Serve with tea to your very poshest friends!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

The Last Warm Weekend of the Year

This weekend was predicted as the last BBQ weekend of the year. Saturday was a little dismal and overcast, but by 11 a.m. on sunday, the sun beams were visible through a hazy blue sky and we bundled M and a picnic into the car and drove into Wales.

Our destinations were Raglan and Usk castles, about 40 miles away. 

L and I had previously visited the fortress that is Raglan, but we were delighted to take M for a run around the curtain walls. Raglan has a vast hexagonal keep with a water filled moat and upon painting all the features to M, she repeated 'Moo' for moat. It is lovely to hear children's interpretations of words and I'm sure those of you with children will remember the excitement fondly.

Usk castle is privately owned. The grounds of the ruin are almost littered with hippish ornaments and deliberately placed plants. As you walk up to the castle gate, a sign warns of two geese on guard, and sure enough, as we pushed it open, there they were.
We found a bench, laid out the picnic blanket and began to dish out our sandwiches. The rustling of L's crisp bag awakened a second castle garrision and we suddenly realised that three chickens and their cockerel king were rushing towards us as if they were a stampede of elephants. It could not have been more ironic that the lunch they were so interested in included egg sandwiches and we felt cruel shaking the rug out once we had hurriedly eaten. They were terribly persistant, harrassing our every mouthful and one even took bread straight from M's hand. Perhaps it didn't help that she was practically offering her food to the hen.

We were subsequently stalked around the castle and although M was excited to run around somewhere new, a quick glance over her shoulder reminded her that this was not her domain and a cold stare from a chicken left her a little over whelmed and we left soon afterwards.

Exhausted from our our travels and an early morning wake up from the baby, we arrived at home wanting little more than a cup of tea and light evening meal followed by an early night.

Goat's cheese crostini with herbed orchard fruits

100g ripe goat's cheese log
1 small pain flute
1 apple
1 pear
2tbsp agave nectar
1 sprig fresh rosemary

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5.
Slice the pain flute into slanted rounds and place them on a baking tray. Set aside.
Wash the apple and the pear and pat dry.
Slice the fruits as thinly as you can, use a mandolin if you prefer, so they are no more than 3mm thick. Repeat the process on both sides until you reach the pips.
Scatter the fruit into a second baking tray with a rim.
Drizzle the agave nectar over and strip the rosemary twig over the fruits.
Cook the fruit on the topshelf in the oven for 10mins until soft and some are just beginning to crisp. Place the slices of bread on the lower shelf to warm through and turn after five minutes.
Slice the goats cheese into rounds.
When cooked, remove the bread to plates and place a cheese disk on top of each.
Transfer some of the cooked fruits onto the top of the cheese with rosemary and any juices that may have formed.
Serve immediately with a simply dressed crisp green salad.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Dorset Apple Cake

Don't let the fact that I left this cake a little too long in the oven put you off. It was sweet, juicy and wholesome to the point that a second slice left you feeling as if you'd eaten a bowl of hot stew. I've never eaten a cake that filled me up like that before.

It was also a little bit of a struggle to get L to stand for a photo:

'I'm going to look stupid.'
'No, you won't, you're not going to be in the photo.'
'Then why do you want me to hold the cake?'
'I want the photo toinclude oven gloves swaddling the cake fresh from the oven.'
'You're not going to put my face up on the internet are you? You know I hate that. Especially facebook, please don't put me up on facebook.'

And so ensued another rant about the evils of facebook and how L will never, ever, ever join it. Ever.

Okay, okay, I get it.
But I am still fundamentally pro-facebook. I have reconnected with so many friends both from my Oxford childhood and my Hereford teenage/young adult years. It has been great fun to see where we have all ended up and if it was where we all thought we would be.
However, I can see why some people are against it. I have seen facebook bullying and some offensive photos on the website, but at least you can block people who upset you. Perhaps it will take a bad experience to change my opinion.

Back to the hot apple cake in hand, L's hands that is. After he had finally posed for me, we made the short journey to my parent's house for M to be babysat that evening while we were at work. The cake came with us and we enjoyed it with tea fresh from the pot.

Dorset Apple Cake (serves 10)

120ml rapeseed oil (or other flavourless oil)
100g caster sugar
125g soft brown sugar
275g wholemeal self raising flour
3 medium eggs
zest one orange
3 eating apples; peeled, cored and roughly chopped into 1cm pieces
175g sultanas
2 tsp mixed spice

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5/170C and line a loaf tin with greasproof paper.
Using a freestanding mixerm whisk together the oil, sugars, eggs and orange zest until light and foamy.
Sift together the flour and spices into a medium sized bowl and briefly combine with the apple pieces and sultanas.
Add the dry mixture to the wet one and beat until well mixed.
Spoon the cake batter into the lined cake tin and level the top with the back of a spoon.
Bake in the centre of the oven for 45 minutes until golden brown and a metal skewer comes out clean.
Cool in the tin for five minutes before turning out to eat or cool further.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Second Wedding Anniversary: Part Three

We did not find it hard to decide on Italy for a honeymoon.
We are both comfortable with the language and are not interested in just lazing by the pool all day and getting a tan. We love our city breaks; exploring the history and culture of wherever we are and finding a good little bar and restaurant that we will eat in most days of our holiday.

We stayed in Via Julia in a boutique hotel which had a veru nice, but very pricey, restaurant. Cappuccini every morning with a delightful selection of pastries, eggs, continental meats, fruit. The breakfast was second only to The Ambassor Hotel in Bloomsbury, London.

Rome has some of the most wonderful ruins I have ever seen. The Colosseum, Palatine Hill and the Forum are all incredible and make for a very enjoyable day of walking underneath the hot Roman sun. We walked down a street off Piazza Navona and found a maze of restaurant after restaurant and were stunned by the fact that each was full to bursting. We ate some wonderful meals there. Our favourite spot for drinks was just around the corner from our hotel at Bar Baccanal. L enjoyed a daily Peroni and I, a daily Peach Daquiri with a plate of Fiore di Zucca (a must try dish if you ever get the chance).
We also saw the Pantheon, the Trevi fountain, the Spanish Steps (so overrated!), and the amazing Santa Maria della Concezione; a crypt decorated with the bones of Monks who once lived at the church.

On sunday we went to St Peter's square to see the Pope. He was away visiting Sardinia but the number of people who went to watch his mass on the video screens was astonding. We took a turn around the Vatican museums, were shushed in the Sistine Chapel and were awed by some of the art from antiquity and the renaissance that are housed in the seemingly endless corridors.
L's favourite place was Castel Sant'Angelo. Hadrians Maussoleum that became a fortress and last stronghold for the Popes. It was exciting to see how the different layers of history were built on top of one another. At the very top, there is a terrace bar where we sat and, almost happily, paid 8euros for a beer whilst enjoying panoramic views of Rome and the seven hills.

And so to dessert. You'd think after gourging on baked Camembert, soup and warm homemade bread, that we would be full.

You're right. We were full.

But we managed pudding anyway. It was sickly sweet with three layers based on caramel and chocolate and a shortbread base. I dread to think how calorific these were but that was the last thing on our minds as we made our way through them.

Millionaires Shortbread Desserts (makes four)

For the caramel syrup
200g caster sugar
50g water
115g water
For the shortbread
60g unsalted butter
25g caster sugar
90g plain flour
 For the caramel mousse
130g caster sugar
240ml double cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract with seeds
75ml caramel syrup (made above)
For the the caramel-chocolate ganache
50g milk chocolate
100g double cream
small knob butter
50g cooled caramel syrup
For the chocolate ganache
40ml double cream
100g plain chocolate
small knob butter

For the caramel syrup

In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, mix 50g water and 200g sugar together, then turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until mixture is amber, stirring only once or twice.

When an amber color is achieved, cover the saucepan with tin foil and make a small hole in the cover. Pour the remaining 115g of water through the hole. After the caramel stops exploding, whisk over medium heat until the consistency is even and syrup has reduced slightly. Set aside and allow to cool.
For the shortbread

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 and lighty grease a 23cm cake tin.
Beat the butter and sugar together in a bowl until they are smooth.
Stir in the flour to make a dough.
Gently press the dough into the greased cake tin. Don't worry about making it neat and tidy. Once cooked, you are going to break it all up again.
Cook for about 15 minutes until golden. Cool for 5 minutes in the tray before dividing the mixture amoungst four glasses or serving dishes and pressing down until lightly compacted.
For the caramel mousse
Whip the cream and sugar for the caramel with the vanilla extract to soft peaks.
Fold in the cooled caramel syrup gently until well combined.
Pour the mixture into the serving dishes on top of the shortbread layer and put in the fridge for a couple of hours until set.
For the the caramel-chocolate ganache
Roughly chop the chocolate up and tip into a medium sized bowl.
In a small pan, heat the cream and butter together until warm.
Reheat the caramel syrup until just bubbling. Make another foil lid with a hole in and place over the caramel pan. Carefully pour the warmed cream through the hole and allow any bubbling to subside before removing the lid and whisking the contents of the pan until well combined.
Pour this into the chocolate bowl and whisk until the ganache has formed.
Once cool, pour as much or as little of the ganache onto the top of each mousse layer as you like, before replacing in the fridge to set for another hour.
For the chocolate ganache
Roughly chop the chocolate and place into a medium sized bowl.
Heat the cream and butter together over a medium heat until just beginning to boil.
Immediately pour the cream over the chocolate and leave to stand for 5 minutes.
Stir with a whisk to mix and ensure all the chocolate has melted.
Pour over the top of the chocolate-caramel ganache layer and leave to set for another 30 minutes before serving.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Second Wedding Anniversary: Part Two

I like to think that I did not become a bridezilla (God, how I hate that term) in the run up to the wedding. The only thing I became slighty paranoid about was the small issue of the cake.

Small issue indeed.

As soon as L and I surprised people with news of our engagement, my mind turned to cake. We are both absolute sticklers for tradition; so there was no question that ours would be a cake dense with alcohol plumped fruits, covered in thick homemade marzipan and royal icing with a simple design of small icing flowers cascading down the cake.

I remember speaking to my mother one day about wedding cakes and what we had in mind. She stopped me mid-sentence with a ''Hold on a moment'' and returned with a green book. As she fanned quickly through the leaves, a browned piece of newspaper appeared and she presented it to me. It was from  'The Times' in 1982 and excitingly, it was the recipe that she and daddy had had for their wedding cake. I wonder if I'll be able to do a similar thing for M or any other children we might have one day........

So it was agreed that as part of my parents wedding present to us would be their making the cake. I was especially happy, as I got to ice it in the days leading up to the wedding.
After I had done my fun little part towards the cake, it was L's turn. He and two friends who were coming to the wedding were given the task of transporting the cake 26 long miles to Ludlow.

I really wish now that we had weighed the cake. Three tiers of dried fruit, sugar and eggs is fantastically heavy. I know that my constant ''Be careful with the cake'', ''If so much as one of the icing flowers falls off, I will kill you'', and ''Don't forget to hold it exactly like, not like that, like this'' were all unneccessary, and the cake arrived at the reception hotel in one piece.


To continue where the last post left off; as a main course I decided that a soup would be most appropriate. Eating lots ofoozing, melting cheese is all very well, but with a filling pudding on the way we really needed to have something healthy.
I wanted to do something completely different to any soup I'd made for us before, and one without potato so as not to fill us up too much. Although, at the last minute I decided to make some bread and so we had to have a break between courses anyway.

Cannellini Bean Soup with Fresh Basil Pesto (soup adapted from BBC Good Food)

We enjoyed our soup with some freshly made Semelle bread rolls, a Florentine bread, but I was so busy eating that I forgot to take a photo. Ooops!

3 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 leek, finely sliced
2 sticks celery, roughly chopped
400g can cannellini beans, drained

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and tip in the onion, garlic, leek and celery. Cover and sweat the vegetables over a low heat for 8-10 mins until softened.

Add the beans, stock and bay leaf, then season and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, then simmer, covered, for 20-25 mins until the vegetables are completely softened. Allow to cool slightly.
Whizz with a stick blender until smooth and re-heat. The soup can be refrigerated or frozen at this point.
Serve with freshly made basil pesto.

Basil Pesto
large bunch fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic, peeled
50g pine kernels
50g grated parmesan
150ml olive oil

Put all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and whizz until roughly pureed. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Second Wedding Anniversary: Part One

Friday September 24th saw us celebrate our second wedding anniversary. We can't really believe that it has been two years since we found ourselves at Ludlow castle taking our vows in front of our family. We were lucky; nothing went wrong and the weather was beautiful (no need for that huge white umbrella to go with the photos, though really I mustn't grumble, it has served me very well since). We honeymooned in Rome and Florence and enjoyed sensational food and immersing ourselves in history and each other for 8 blissful days.

Us in Ludlow Castle's Chapel; Bar Castel Sant'Angelo;
Wall fountain in the Vatican Museum gardens; Rooftops of Rome
Of course, the highlight of our marriage so far is M, but we have enjoyed many a happy moment and know that there are still plenty more to come.
Last year, with a 2 month old in tow, we drove out to Skenfrith to see the castle and have a meal at The Bell. This year, it was my turn to treat L for our anniversary and chatting one day over dinner, we realised that going out for a three course meal with M was not going to be possible. She is a good little eater, but doesn't like to stay in her highchair if there is no food in front of her. I suggested that I would cook for us and L agreed.

The next week, saw me scouring the supermarket and farmers market for ideas and interesting ingredients. L is a pudding man, so a simple starter and main course would be followed by an intricate dessert that had to be started the day before our little meal. Since I prepared four different dishes, I'll have to spread them out over a couple of posts in order to prevent repetative strain injury in my hands from typing all of the recipes.
Today, I present our appetizer and starter. We washed them down with some delicious pink prosecco, which is one of our favourite drinks at the moment.

Marinated Olives

400g can black olives in brine
200g can green olives in brine
1 red chilli
1 orange
small handful fresh thyme
150ml olive oil

Zest the orange into a bowl or jar and strip the thyme leaves on top of it.
Thinly slice as much of the chilli as you like (I used two thirds of mine), seeds included, and put them with the orange and thyme.
Pour the olive oil on top of the flavourings and set aside for half a day to start the oil infusion.
Drain the olives, shaking off any excess brine and tumble them into the marinade. Leave covered for up to three days before you want to eat them.

Baked Camembert with crudites

1 whole camembert in a wooden box
1 sprig rosemary
3 garlic cloves

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5.
Remove the plastic wrapper from the camembert and replace the cheese in the base of the box.
Peel and slice the garlic into a couple of thick slices. Insert a knife into the camembert and push the garlic in before gently removing the knife.
Repeat with the rosemary sprigs.
Put the stuffed cheese into a small ovenproof dish and cook in the centre of the oven for 20 - 25 minutes until the cheese is just golden on the outside.
Serve with crudites of your choice and some freshly baked bread.