Something from the weekend: Mostly food

Despite still having lots to do as we settle into the house, we’ve been enjoying spending our weekends exploring our new locale….especially with the new added benefit of a car!

Adam finished work at lunch time on Friday as he had some time to take in lieu, so we drove to nearby Ilkley to walk the dogs down the river and scope out all that the town centre has to offer. We found lots of lovely shops, The Veggie cafe that we’re dying to try out, and our nearest Betty’s Tea Rooms which I hope to visit before long!

On Saturday we took an early morning walk on the gorgeous Otley Chevin, the foresty hill that overlooks the town. The dogs love it up there as there is lots to sniff and explore, and the views are just stunning on a gorgeous day like Saturday.

Lurcher at Otley Chevin

Cooper posing at the Chevin

After breakfast we drove to Kirkstall Abbey to meet my Brother-in-Law and Sister-in-Law and our little niece Clementine. There’s a monthly Deli Market there with dozens of wonderful food and drink stalls set up inside the beautiful ruins of the abbey. We did a circuit to see what we might like, then bought up lots of goodies….for our lunch we bought a yummy free range scotch egg and incredibly delicious pork and gammon pie from The Blue Pig (as well as some of their sausages for another day), plus some gruyere and rosemary straws. There was a huge amount of sweet stuff to choose from, and we came away with a Chai Spiced flapjack from Oat Cuisine (top prize for their punderful name!), a Vegan Columbian Coffee Tiffin from That Old Chestnut, fudge courtesy of Aunty Emily’s (another great name!), and our first ever Canadian Nanaimo bar from Fayre by Alley. We were also in need of marmalade, so we bought some amazing Orange and Cardamon Marmalade from Hummingbird Preserves. The abbey is well worth a visit in its own right, and I’m sure we’ll be back with our cameras…..and we’ll be no strangers to the Deli Market too I’d imagine!

Scoffing a scotch egg at Kirkstall Abbey Deli Market

Scoffing a scotch egg at Kirkstall Abbey Deli Market

We popped to Adam’s Brother’s for a cup of tea and niece cuddles, plus some fussing of their two gorgeous Staffies. Then we drove to nearby Arthington to look at a house for sale….we’re not strictly ready to move yet having only just arrived, but I’ve not stopped thinking about this place since Adam found it on Right Move and he eventually decided that the only way to shut me up was to take a look! I’m glad we did….it’s good practise for when we start viewing properly….but in reality it wasn’t quite the dream home I’d thought it was. We shall keep on looking though!

It being a month since we’ve moved here, we decided to celebrate with a meal out at a local vegetarian restaurant on Saturday night, then it was an early night for us after a busy day!

On Sunday we had our friends Craig and Shelley over for morning coffee….we’re delighted to be living so near to them now, and that we’ll get to see them more often. After a quick catch up we all walked to the Designer Craft Fair in the Otley Courthouse to peruse the pretty things, then made our way to the Farmers’ Market in the square. As usual there was lots to tempt us and we came away with full bags….Mornington House‘s scrumptious jams (strawberry, raspberry and damson), Butterscotch and Rocky Road slices from the amazing Yummy Yank, half a dozen huge free range duck eggs and a bun filled with delicious free range hog roast and stuffing from Happy Hogs to bring home for lunch.

Scrummy Rocky Road from The Yummy Yank

Scrummy Rocky Road from The Yummy Yank

After scoffing, Craig and Shelley headed home for some sort of sporting race or match or something, then shortly afterwards Adam’s Dad arrived as he’ll be staying with us this week. He and Adam’s Mum are also making the move up from Hitchin later this week (he’s meeting with builders and things whilst Liz sorts out the movers) and we drove over to their new place to have a little look around the nearby High Street in the afternoon.

I cooked up a roast leg of lamb with all the trimmings for supper, followed by a fruit crumble and custard. The perfect way to end a lovely weekend!

Hope you had a lovely weekend too!

Ems x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Foody Friday: Church Farm Ardeley and the Jolly Waggoner

A few months ago, on a drive into the countryside to visit friends, we passed Church Farm in Ardeley and our attention was grabbed….. a mixed, ecological farm, producing the widest range of meat, fruit and vegetables, Church Farm also serve fresh food from the farm at the Farm Butchery & Store, Farm Cafe and Jolly Waggoner Pub. We made a quick stop on our way back to explore the lovely little farm shop, buying up some amazing fresh eggs and other bits, and made a mental note to find out more about the place once back at home.

And we were so delighted we did! We soon discovered we could get a weekly delivery of vegetables from the farm and quickly placed our order….we now look forward to each delivery of amazingly fresh and carefully grown veg, not to mention cooking it and eating it! The produce tastes like things used to in my opinion….carrots have that wonderfully sweet and earthy fragrance, and cauliflowers have that great peppery taste. We used to have an Able and Cole box whilst we lived in London, but are finding the Church Farm box much more home-grown and honest, and it’s wonderful to know our food has barely travelled!

And it doesn’t end with the veggie stuff…. The free range livestock (and subsequent produce!) ticks all the boxes for us….They keep their animals in small extensive herds & flocks, using older slower growing traditional breeds to produce the best meat from healthy, happy animals. You can visit the animals to see for yourself, and the farm was set up with the advice and help of some of the UK’s foremost farm animal welfare experts.

“All the animals are kept extensively and allowed to mature before slaughter. All animals can and are seen everyday by our farmers, co-farmers, and visitors. Our mortality rates are very low and our animals live on average twice as long as those in more intensive farm systems. We have a fully qualified on-site vet and call upon the RVC/Westpoint vet partnership for support where needed. The only way we differ from the Soil Association husbandry guides for all species (the highest welfare standards in the UK) is that we buy local straw and silage feed from local farms which are not organic.”

Well how could we resist?! As a treat to ourselves then earlier this week, we visited the charming pub opposite the farm, The Jolly Waggoner, to sample some of the farm’s other produce. The menu totally spoiled us, with stacks of us-friendly meat choices, as well as several very tempting veggie options. Adam and I both opted for the lamb though, his Dad the fish and chips, and his Mum the pork belly. ALL the dishes were amazing! Our lamb was perfectly cooked and accompanied by delicious pommes Anna and a scrummy jus….the pork belly was laden with amazing crackling and the huge battered hake was just perfect.

Prone to temptation as we are, we all went on to relish a pudding of walnut cake with butterscotch sauce….this too was just to die for and left us all very jolly and contented indeed! They serve real ales too, with a selection of guest ales from local breweries, and the wine list is pretty impressive too. We are sure to be back in search of a Sunday Roast!

Church Farm also boasts a woodland play area, walking trails, tea rooms and a campsite! All in all, seriosuly worth a visit!

Ems x

Blog Every Day in May: Food Glorious Food!

“Share your favourite recipe. Talk about the best cocktail you’ve ever tasted. Or maybe share you fave restaurant experience. Lets talking about food!”

Whilst I was tempted to use this opportunity to share a recipe or restaurant recommendation, as I’ve been meaning to write about the way I eat for, like, ever, I thought I really ought to do just that! I touched on this yesterday in my Go Green post, but today I’m going to tell you all about my being (a rather ponsey sounding) Ethicurean.

I’ve always loved my food. I like to eat lots, eat well and then eat more. I used to be fussy as a child but my Mum did spoil me with really good home cooking (her roast dinners and pies are to die for!) but once I moved away from home I got to being more adventurous and now there’s hardly any type of food I won’t eat. If any. And Marmite isn’t a food by the way.

And whilst I toyed with the idea of vegetarianism as a teen, I’ve always happily enjoyed eating meat and animal products. Until about five years ago.

It was a TV show that changed my views on how I ate. Jamie Oliver’s Fowl Dinners on Channel Four, and the associated Chicken Out campaign spearheaded by the marvelous Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, offered an insight into the terrible standards in British chicken farming, and it alarmed me horribly. I very quickly decided that I would only eat free range chicken and free range eggs, as well as avoiding foods with eggs in (later it would become easier to find pasta which uses free range eggs, and when Hellman’s announced all their mayo was going to solely use free range eggs I think I cheered!). I was horrified how chickens were being treated, to get their eggs and to breed for their meat, and I just couldn’t stomach a meal that supported or encouraged that.

The following year there appeared another programme. Jamie was this time going to ‘Save our Bacon’ and in his TV show (also featuring the wonderful Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall) he revealed the desperately poor state of pig farming. I was beyond horrified this time. I remember crying and vowing never to eat meat again. I remember the cries and shrieks of pigs being pushed around between vile metal bars, and wondering how any person could do such a thing.

I very quickly went off my food entirely, and gave up meat altogether for a few months. I felt responsible for those poor suffering animals, and ashamed that I had supported an industry that could allow such abhorrent behaviour.

Once I’d had time to absorb all this though, I really did come to the decision that as a human being and born omnivore, I would like to try at eating meat again, and should be able to if I was mindful. Whilst the farming that I’d seen in the programmes disgusted me to the core, I knew that there were farms out there who care about their animals, and I wanted to support them. And at the end of the day, if we were all vegan there would be massive economic ramifications, not to mention a lack of lovely fields filled with sheep and cows and whatnot!

I knew though that if I was going to go back to eating animal products, that I had to be as sure as I possibly could be that I wasn’t eating any of those poorly treated animals. That meant an holistic approach…not just eating whatever free range meat I could find, but also being mindful of all the other animal products hiding in all manner of foods.

I personally don’t see the point in vegetarianism for this reason, unless you’re just veggie because you don’t *like* meat of course! I find pescetarianism even more baffling, not to mention people who call themselves vegetarian and eat fish! I know I won’t make any friends by being this opinionated, but I do feel very strongly about this….if you won’t eat meat because of the impact on animals and their environment, why will you eat animal products (I have known SO many veggies who will eat cheese with rennet, Worcestershire sauce, and sweets containing gelatin!!) that have probably come from just as bad a process of welfare, if not worse?! Loads of things contain animal products, and although it’s a bit of a minefield, I have certainly been able to adapt very well to this mantra.

The biggest impact it’s had is on the amount of meat I eat. Whilst I do believe humans should eat meat, I don’t believe we need it with every meal! A common excuse I hear for not eating more welfare conscious meat is ‘I can’t afford it.’ My simple answer is ‘eat less meat then’. I manage just fine on one or two meat meals a week (although sometimes less) and so having cut my meat bill in half, I can afford to spend twice as much on the meat I do buy. Simple! There are so many healthy, easy, quick and yummy dishes to make without using meat, so I just don’t buy that particular excuse!

Another big thing is eating out. Whilst ten years or so ago it was quite normal to be vegetarian, I rather feel that it’s gone out of fashion of late! I’ve lost count of the amount of times we’ve gone somewhere to eat out and been offered only one very poor vegetarian ‘choice’ (it’s not a choice if there’s only one!!). And often the veggie dishes are totally bland, not worth the money and incongruous with the rest of the menu…I feel like there ought to be a vegetarian and vegan module at catering college as most chefs clearly lack in imagination for such dishes!

And whilst you’d expect by now that lots of restaurants would have taken on board a free range and/or organic animal product policy, even the likes of Jamie Oliver himself seem reluctant to commit! (NB. I can find no evidence that Jamie’s Italian restaurants for example serve free range meat….I have contacted them though to check and will update when I get a response!)

The result of this is that we don’t often eat out, which is a shame as we’d like to support our local restaurants, but when my choices are limited so pitifully and I’m asked to subsidise meat eaters by paying the same for my curry with no meat in it as someone’s exact same curry but packed with lamb, I’m afraid I’d just rather eat at home!

Another thing that’s been tricky is actually knowing when a product meets my decided standards. I’ve spent hours researching all the criteria that give a product free range or organic status, and whilst I can rest relatively easy if something is marked as such, there are so many other confusing labels that it becomes a real pain! Most of our friends and family  know that we eat this way, but unfortunately they are very often taken in by the sneaky marketing the supermarkets have come up with to make people feel better about buying certain things, whilst still remaining competitively priced.

I am often told (when I ask politely in a restaurant if the dish is free range and/or organic) ‘yes, it’s British’. ‘Aaaand???’ I’ll say….that’s just where it comes from!!! Unfortunately ‘British’ doesn’t mean the same as free range or organic…and neither does ‘Freedom Foods’, ‘RSPCA Monitored’, ‘Red Tractor’, ‘Outdoor Bred’ or ‘Outdoor Reared’. And whilst Waitrose and Sainsburys are fairly good, just buying any meat from them doesn’t mean it’s free range either! I’m often unsure as to whether I’m more cross with people for being sucked in by these labels (if it was Organic, don’t you just think they’d call it that rather than coming up with a new name for it?!) or with the people who make them up to try and fool us. Either way, I would certainly welcome some legislation to stop this misleading rubbish!

Probably the best impact this has had on me though is my health. Too much meat isn’t good for you, and ensuring you have a well balanced diet (which I’m now more mindful of) is the best anyone can really be expected to do for themselves. Because I have to think about all animal products, I don’t eat a lot of processed food because I can’t be sure where the animal products in them come from, and we now eat organic dairy products to have the best chance of supporting the right kind of farming in that respect (it’s not all about meat!).

I now appreciate where all my food comes from, I’m knowledgeable about it and I care.

Now you’re either thinking ‘what a goody bloody two shoes’ about here, or ‘she can’t possibly stick to that!’ And you’re possibly right on either count….I do feel a bit smug that I put so much thought into my food, especially because I have given up things that I really love to eat (if someone opened an all free range KFC tomorrow I would eat nothing else for a month…don’t judge me!)….and I don’t want to mislead anyone by claiming that I am 100% virtuous. I do slip up from time to time, eating sweets offered to me without checking what’s in them, and allowing myself a little leeway when on holiday for example. I’m no Saint, but I do try bally hard!

I hope I’ve not come across as too aggressive in this…I’m aware this is not my usual happy post about bunting or glittery shoes…but I do feel extremely passionately about animal welfare and I’ve been very glad to have this push to finally get me to talk about it!

Now, at risk of tipping over the aggressive line, I’m going to share a video that I personally think it’s important for anyone who eats non-free range meat to watch, in order to understand where their food can come from. I can appreciate that this is very extreme and that it will more than likely upset people, but I just feel that one shouldn’t eat something they don’t know the possible origins of. Needless to say, this comes with a personal warning and I’d ask anyone particularly sensitive or anyone vegan not to watch it. I’m not sharing this because I want to upset anyone or preach to them. That said, I think it’s jolly important that such reports are made and that people are aware:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TFdHAnpTYI

Ems x

Something from the weekend…. A super day out in East London

After a tip off by Domestic Sluttery, the boyf and I decided to head out East on Saturday morning, and to the floating market on the Regent’s Canal in Mile End Park. I CAN’T BELIEVE I’ve never taken a stroll along the canal before…. I’ve been meaning to for ages, and I was so glad we did.

We hopped on a bus to get us down to the canal, and had a little bit of a wander in the wrong direction before getting on the right track. We didn’t mind at all though, as we were just so excited by the lovely environment around us….there were dozens of dragonflies and mayflies over the water, some huge fish, and lots of pretty flowers and plants along the water edge.

Finally heading in the right direction, we strolled along just soaking up the tranquility until we came across the Art Pavilion, which was showing Philip Pinchin‘s ‘Sleeping India’ exhibition. The photos are nearly all black and white and show some of the most diverse aspects of the country, as well as how it’s such common nature to take a nap right out in public. Adam found himself wanting to go back to India badly, recalling memories from his trips there, whilst I was reminded how much I want to go for the first time.

The Art Pavilion itself is a wonderful place, so bright and open, and surrounded by gorgeous ponds and gardens….

Just a little wander further and we found the Floating Market. Set up along the towpath are around a dozen narrow boats, all with something wonderful to share…. there are cafes, a hat emporium, jewellery shops, a bookshop, and artists…. in fact, plenty to while away an afternoon with. It’s been set up to coincide with the games and will move on to Little Venice in West London for the Paralympic Games. The towpath itself is an official Olympic walking and cycling route, and nearby Victoria Park is one of the official Live Sites showing highlight from the Games on big screens, so there’s quite a buzz there!

We took our ease for a while, at a little picnic table with a cute umbrella outside Rawlings cafe. With a generous mug of tea each we took on two of their wheat and dairy free cakes….. the sweet potato muffin was super gooey, and the banana loaf just divine. We also enjoyed the company of Jasper, a friendly dog who hangs out at the cafe. He was lovely.

Next we explored the floating bookshop, which was especially great because we got to go onboard! It’s filled with shelf upon shelf of second hand books of all sorts, and also has a beautiful tortoiseshell cat! There are more racks of books on the outside too, but I loved being on board and finding all the goodies stowed away so cleverly and tidily.

Further along we found the Chapeau Bateau, where there are stacks of lovely hats, as well as some ace 70s style sun glasses. After that, we found the Print Galley, where a suitcase full of old cameras caught my eye….. we ended up chatting to the shop keeper about lots of them, including a couple of awesome Super8 cameras and an incredible medium format camera. Elizabeth Hayley is a print maker and photographer, and is currently selling some of her work at the market. I immediately fell for her dreamy images, all of which have such amazing texture and luminosity.

By this time, we were practically at Victoria Park, and wanting to continue our stroll we decided to make our way to the World in London exhibition there. We entered the park via the Rose Gates, whereupon we found the most stunning roses I think either of us has ever seen. Each one seemed so perfectly formed and alike, and almost as though they were made from fine silk or tissue. Just gorgeous!

In our efforts to find the exhibition, we ended up wandering around the whole South side of the park, not realising that there is a much bigger end to the park over the road! It was gorgeous just to snoop about though, and the place smelled just amazing with all the beautiful flowers about. On our wanderings, we found the Pavilion Cafe, and got terribly excited as we learned that all the ingredients are ‘us friendly’, meaning everything is free range and organic! That was enough to remind us it was lunch time, and we chose seats overlooking the huge pond after ordering kippers with poached egg and potato cake (for me), and Eggs Benedict (for Adam). Both arrived in no time and were exceptionally good. The portions are a great size, and very good value I think (about £7 for each dish), and we enjoyed a really yummy iced coffee there too.

We will definitely be back to sample more of the menu…they have a wonderful sounding Full English Breakfast, and a yummy looking burger I want to try! It’s just such a glorious place to sit and eat when the sun is shining…there’s so much going on in the park so it’s really buzzing, but overlooking the water makes it seem tranquil at the same time.

For pudding Adam bought an ice cream from the van behind the Pavilion (I opted to steel the top off it rather than having a a whole one, having scoffed the cake earlier). It seemed that our summer had finally arrived as we walked through the balmy park with an ice cream!

Eventually we found the World in London exhibition, which is actually posted on the exterior wall to the BT London Live event which is showing parts of the games on big screens. An outdoor display of over 200 portraits blown up on large, glossy boards, it showcases a collection put together by the Photographers Gallery over the last three years. Coinciding with the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the project was created to show images of Londoners of all ages and walks of life, each originating from one of the competing nations. The photos are arranged alphabetically by country along one long wall, and are also being shown in Park House…. you can actually see all the images online too, here.

Despite having said we weren’t going to do too much over the weekend, we were having such a jolly time that we couldn’t bear to end our day of adventure. So, from the park we walked along to Bethnal Green, and on from there to Brick Lane. It was perhaps the quietest I’ve ever seen it, and at least in many years….I can’t imagine why anyone would want to be indoors on such a lush day, but I guess lots of people wanted to watch some of the Olympics events. I rather enjoyed being able to wander about in a more civilised way than usual though, and took in several of the little markets I love.

The Tea Rooms market is one of my favourites, and is filled with all kinds of lovely treasure….. there is an incredible stall selling loads and loads of beautiful vintage china and crystal decanters…. a cake stall…. loads of bric-a-brac and nick nacks…. and a wonderful collection of old cameras.

After a pootle about some of the other markets along Brick Lane, we headed to Old Spitalfields Market, although by then lots of stall holders were packing up. We zipped around though and took time to stop and take some photos of Adam with some of those crazy mascot things….

Then, pretty tired and with rather achey feet, we made our way home for cups of tea and a light (ish) supper of wholemeal penne with roasted butternut squash, pepper and broccoli. What an amazing day!

Hope you enjoyed a sunny Saturday!

Ems x

Things to see and do this weekend….. It’s still all happening in London

So everyone’s winding down after all the fun of the long Jubilee Weekend, but who wants to let the party spirit die?! There’s still plenty going on and a really fun vibe in London right now with all the extra visitors, bunting, and even sometimes a touch of sunshine! Here is my round up of suitably British activities for this weekend…..

Open Garden Squares Weekend

Originally set up as a way for the public to access private squares in central London, this event now includes a wonderful range of private institutional, commercial and communal gardens all over London. This is a lovely way to explore some of the little-known and hidden green spaces across the capital, with secret orchards, community horticultural projects and historical gardens on show. Tickets are £9 for the weekend and available here, as well as a list of all the participating gardens.

Hogarth’s House and Garden

London Green Fair

And on with the green theme….. The London Green Fair is London’s largest, free ‘green’ festival and takes place this weekend in Regent’s Park, from midday until 8.30pm on Saturday and from midday until 7.30pm on Sunday. The aim is to reflect the green aspirations and achievements of London, with diverse and free content. This year’s 20th anniversary line up includes contemporary live music, high-profile speakers, debates and forums, children’s activities, boutique market stalls and organic bars and food stalls. There will also be original events such as The London Permaculture area, an electric ‘Bikefest’ and an outdoor performance from an 80 piece dutch wind symphonic orchestra. Plus of course, you get to take in the beautiful surroundings of the park!

The Big Roof Top Tea and Golf Party

As part of their Big British Bang event, Selfridges has once again opened its legendary roof to launch The Big Rooftop Tea & Golf Party, transforming the space into a destination for a round of a crazy golf like no other and the highest afternoon tea on Oxford Street. The Daylesford Café will be open daily, from 12 noon until 10pm, serving up a specially designed menu of organic dishes in the pretty picnic setting. It’s not possible to book, so tables are allocated on a first come, first served basis. You can book from next week though for a ticket to play crazy golf on the roof….. The Bonpas and Parr crazy golf course is designed by British food architects, Sam Bompas and Harry Parr, with each of the 9 cake-based holes representing one of London’s most famous landmarks.

The Big Roof Top Tea and Golf Party at Selfridges

The British Biscuit Festival

Not enough sweet treats for you yet?…… This weekend the Brunswick Centre is hosting The British Biscuit Festival, the UK’s first festival totally dedicated to the nation’s much loved treat! For three days The Brunswick will be presenting biscuit building workshops, tea dances, The Terrific Biscuit Tin Tournament, The Tea and Biscuit Social, a farmers market and stalls, all as an ode to the modest but delicious British Biscuit!

The Tea and Biscuit Social

Free Range

This isn’t about food….. Free Range is an Old Truman Brewery special project set up by Tamsin O’Hanlon to provide new creative graduates with an amazing opportunity to showcase their work on an international level. Since it started in 2001, Free Range has become the number one platform for up and coming creatives to showcase their work to both the public and the design industry, and proudly presents the work of thousands of fashion designers, artists, graphic designers, photographers and interior designers. Taking place across the iconic Truman Brewery venue, there will be more than 60 exhibitions and it’s free to get in!

Free Range Art and Design Show

A Tuscan Spring in London

And back to food….. You may remember me waxing lyrical about my visit to The Backdoor Kitchen earlier in the year….. these clever chappies have set up a pop-up restaurant in their own home, to showcase top-notch Italian cuisine at an incredibly affordable price. It’s a unique experience and a brilliant way to try out new things, and this weekend they are hosting a ‘lost Tuscan cuisine’ themed supperclub, serving specially designed dishes such as Crema di Ribollita con Calamari all’olio alle erbe, Tonno Briaco con Melanzane Marinate and one of the chef’s creative desserts. You can read more about the concept and their menus on their blog, and make bookings at just £25 per person here.

Back Door Kitchen

Have a good one!

 

Ems x

Made with love: Super yummy salad with thanks to Abel and Cole

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So anyone who follows me on Twitter or Instagram will know how excited I’ve been about our new Abel and Cole food box deliveries. We are both very committed to our ‘ethicurean’ lifestyle and have been eating only Free Range meat for several years now. And so the idea of organic produce, from local (as far as possible) suppliers with great values has a massive appeal to us. Getting it delivered is just a bonus!

And so finally, after much deliberation and faffing, we ordered our first Abel and Cole boxes…. The medium gourmet veg box, the small fruit box, plus milk and butter and cheese and stuff. Last Monday our box arrived, and we opened the boxes excitedly, sniffing everything and quickly trying bits out. Along with the boxes came some little recipe idea cards, and in our box today we received a wonderful cook book. I love the style it’s written in, with ‘handfuls of this’ and ‘a mug or two of that’. It’s very much the way I like to cook, and I can’t wait to try out some of the ideas.

Today’s box contained lots of salad friendly things, so we decided to yum it up whilst fresh for lunch today…. It was absolutely delicious and Adam suggested I should share it here. So, here is what we made….

Ingredients enough to feed two

  • Half an avocado
  • About three fingers’ width of cucumber
  • Three or four cherry tomatoes
  • A small chunk of kohl rabi
  • A couple of handfuls of lamb’s lettuce
  • Two eggs
  • Three table spoons of rapeseed oil
  • One dessert spoon of lime juice
  • One dessert spoon of soy sauce

To make it

  1. Soft boil your eggs
  2. Whilst they are cooking, slice up your avocado, cucumber, tomatoes and kohl rabi into nice small chunks
  3. Pop half of the lettuce into each of two bowls and sprinkle the chopped veg on top
  4. Peel your egg shells off and quarter them, then pop them on top of the salad
  5. Mix up the oil, soy and juice then drizzle over the salad

Serve with some yummy bread to mop up the last of the dressing with. We had Waitrose’s red onion and gruyere fougasse which is amazing!

Enjoy!

Ems x

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Something from the weekend…… Treasure Hunting in Hertfordshire

With the weather set to put a damper on the weekend, I wasnt terribly convinced that I’d get up to much this weekend. And yet the shone shine just enough and our weekend out of London was very fruitful indeed.

Packing for the rainy weather ahead

Packing for the rainy weather ahead

Adam had managed to get the afternoon off on Friday, so at lunch time we made our way to Kings Cross to catch a train to Hitchin in Hertfordshire (Adam’s home town). It was the first time we’d used the new concourse, and we were wowed as we walked through to our platform under the stunning new ceiling…..

New entrance to Kings Cross station

We arrived just in time for a yummy lunch of Adam’s Mum’s home made Leek, Potato and Stilton soup, and then we were off for some treasure hunting right away! We headed down into town for the Friday afternoon flea market…. it wasn’t busy because of the rain and some of the stall holders were already getting ready to pack up. Still, I had a great chat about my stamp jewellery (and my collection of stamps that I use to make it) with a lovely chap on a stamp collectors stall, and I managed to catch the wonderful bead stall to get some supplies. Next, we popped into Tim’s for some art supplies…. it’s a wonderful, proper old fashioned art shop and has brilliant stock. We even met Tim himself (we think) who offered us tips and was very friendly!

Then it was around a few of the wonderful charity shops in Hitchin….. I find some great stuff there and lots for my crafting like old picture frames and odd brooches and charms. We even saw at one shop an amazing collection of old film cameras, including a Super 8 movie camera! I really wanted it (and Adam even offered to buy it for my birthday!) but I know how expensive it is to process the film and buy it in the first place, and I didn’t want to have it just to sit around doing nothing. Still, if I win the lottery I would definitely go back for it!

Hitchin's High Street

Awesome camera collection in a charity shop

For dinner we headed over to nearby Letchworth, and to the amazing Italian restaurant there. We’ve been to L’artista plenty but it still feels like a treat….. every dish I’ve had has been brilliant and they have delicious foccacias and the best tiramisu!

Risotto ai Funghi at L'artista

On Saturday morning it was back into Letchworth to snoop about their charity shops. I picked up a lovely new (although old!) table cloth to use for my craft stall. We also happened across a little farmers’ market which sold extremely yummy cakes and lots of free range meat! We bought up a load of Free Range smoked streaky bacon, as we struggle to get that even at Waitrose (it was a bargain too), as well as some scotch eggs (hardly ever get those now so snap up the Free Range ones when I see them!) and some Free Range herby sausages….. we actually ate them last night and they are INCREDIBLE! Will definitely be visiting the Farroby Farm shop and tea room on our next visit to try more of their stuff!

After that we took a pit stop back at the house to yum up some of our goodies, before heading back into town for that day’s market and some more charity shop shopping. On our way back, Adam took me a different route than usual, down the little lane that runs behind the house. It was lovely to hear about all the places that Adam used to play as a child, and a shame that lots of the open spaces (where he would pick blackberries and plant trees) are now built on with new houses.

Hitchin Market

Down the little lane behind the house

The little lane in front of the house

For dinner, we went over to Holly and Jamie’s, where we met a bunch of other friends too. Holly had made a delicious selection of Spanish dishes for a sort of Tapas meal….. some yummy fritatta…. Patatas Bravas…. olives…. butter bean stew….. We ate lots and lots, and drank some wine whilst chatting about nothing in particular. I also managed to show off some of the jewellery I’ve been making to boot!

On Sunday we decided to take a chance on the changeable weather and go for a nice walk with the dogs at Chick Sands. Adam has told me lots about how he loved going there as a child, adventuring in the woods. It’s a remarkable place, and in the ‘just rained’ light everything shone beautifully (and very photogenically!). We dawdled about, meeting other dog walkers, and finding treasure all the way…. before an approaching grey cloud of doom told us it was time to head back to the car and we just missed a down pour!

The path to Chick Sands

Amazing light in Chick Sands Woods

So many beautiful trees!

Dinosaur tooth / bark we found

We were due a rest after our adventure, so back at home we relaxed with cups of tea and home made flapjack, whilst I played around with double exposures of the photos I’d taken and surveyed the treasure we had found!

Playing with a double exposure app

Treasures from Chick Sands

Newton getting comfy for a well earned rest

There was still time before dinner, so looking out at the now sunny again sky, we decided to have one last wander about the market and shops (just in case there was any more treasure to be found). Unfortunately, all of the stall holders had already packed up by the time we got down there, so we opted instead for a nice walk around the church. It’s the largest in the county I believe, and exceptionally pretty. In fact the whole town centre is terribly idyllic if you can ignore the recent additions of chain coffee shops and Italian restaurants.

St Mary's Church, Hitchin

When we got to the market square, we began to hear some wonderful drum music from the far side….so we went to investigate….. There was a parade on its way towards us with a brilliant drum group, followed by hundreds of Scouts. I think it must have been a St George’s day parade. It was lovely to see all the children in uniform and marching along to the fabulous music. I love a drum group! (If anyone knows the name of the drumming group I would be much obliged to find out!)

Drumming parade

Lining up in the market square

After packing up our treasure and having a lovely supper of meatballs and chilli pasta, we began our way home. Or so we thought. We’d happened to check the trains from Hitchin to London and found out there was a broken down train stopping all the others getting through. So an hour’s worth of phone calls later we found out that we weren’t allowed to use our tickets to go from Luton on the other line instead, but we could pick up a train from Stevenage. But when we got to Stevenage the trains were far more delayed than we’d been told, and in fact we waited for an hour before giving up on the mythical train that the staff had no idea of an arrival time for. And so we called for a lift back, and no sooner had we left than a train arrived of course! Still, who knows how long it would have been delayed further (I feel awful for those marathon runners who got stuck and spent 8 hours getting home!), so we enjoyed another evening of relaxation before heading home on Monday morning.

What a weekend!

Waiting for a train at Stevenage.... double rainbow!

Some of the weekend's treasure..... lots of new beads, some old silver and gold chains, loads of vintage picture frames, lots of cool fabrics, mis-matched cutlery for the collection, and a lay figure for the stall!

Made with Love…… Chicken Tikka Biryani

Ems' Chicken Tikka Biryani

I am feeling rather smug with myself just now. I’ve just made the most amazing chicken tikka biryani I’ve had in aaaages. OK, so I had a biryani this weekend, and good it was too. But it wasn’t chickeny and I’ve had a craving for this for aaaaages.

I should probably explain a couple of things before I tell you about my recipe. First, I’m not a vegetarian as perhaps some of my posts may suggest. I do eat, and LOVE all kinds of meat, but I only eat free range meat and sustainably sourced, line-caught fish. Adam eats the same, and I have called our dietary preference ‘Ethicureanism’.

The other thing is that Adam is intolerant to chicken.

Cue major lack of chicken eating opportunities.

We manage to eat plenty of meat at home because Waitrose is so wonderful in providing us with Ems-approved products. And we even get to eat meat out someimes too, as great places like Smiths of Smithfield only serve free range meat. But I hardly ever get to eat chicken because it’s not what I’d go for first on a menu, and it’s not really worth the bother for one.

But I’ve been craving a chicken biryani for so long now, that this evening I decided enough was enough! And so, I got myself a nice free range chicken breast, and Adam a nice free range pork steak, and made one myself! Here is how……

Ingredients (to make enough for two)……

  • 1 chicken breast or pork steak per person, cut into 2cm chunks (ish)
  • 6 tbspn tikka curry paste (or whatever curry paste you like)
  • 1 large potato, cut into 1.5cm cubes (ish)
  • 1 large carrot, cut into 1.5cm cubes (ish)
  • 2 tbspn rapeseed oil
  • 1 large red onion, chopped finely
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 small chunk of ginger (about as big as your thumb), chopped finely
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped finely
  • 2 cups of basmati rice (I actually used Tilda’s basmati and wild rice mix, which I love)
  • 4 cups hot chicken stock
  • 1 tspn coriander seeds, ground together with…..
  • 1 tspn vanilla salt (or 1/2 tspn of rock salt if you can’t get it)
  • 1 tspn cumin seeds
  • 1 tspn dried parsley
  • 1/2 tspn chilli flakes
  • 4 cardomom pods, broken with the blade of a knife (carefully!)
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 small bay leaves
  • handful of flaked almonds (and/or sultanas)
  • a little creme fraiche to serve

How to make it……

  1. Marinade your meat in the curry paste for at least an hour. I used 1 chicken breast (for me) and 1 pork steak (for Adam), which I marinaded and cooked separately
  2. Boil the potatoes and carrots so that they are half cooked, then drain and set aside
  3. Heat half the oil in a large sauce pan and fry the onion, garlic and ginger
  4. Add the part cooked carrots and potato, and stir in, adding the pepper too
  5. Stir in the rice, adding a little oil if the mixture is a dry
  6. Pour over the hot stock and stir well, keeping the pan on a medium heat so that it simmers
  7. Add the salt and spices, stirring through and ensuring that the mix doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan
  8. Whilst the rice cooks, heat a shallow pan with a little more oil and cook the chicken or pork, keeping the marinade with it. I had two pans on the go to cook both my chicken and Adam’s pork
  9. The rice will take about 15 to 20 minutes, but keep stirring occasionally and checking to see if the rice and potatoes are tender. You may need to add a little extra water to ensure it’s all cooked
  10. Once the rice is cooked and the stock has all boiled away, tip the rice mixture into the shallow pan with the cooked meat
  11. Keep this on a medium heat whilst you stir, and until the rice starts to golden
  12. Mix in the almonds (and/or sultanas if you like) and serve with a dollop of creme fraiche

Enjoy!

Ems x

Made with love….. Adam’s Healthy (ish) Spaghetti Carbonara

In our flat, egg cooking is a man’s job. Mainly because Adam is so much better at cooking eggs than me. He cooks the most amazing poached eggs and omelettes, and his carbonara is something of a speciality too. I love this for a quick mid-week dinner alongside some garlic bread, or as a big weekend lunch (it’s excellent hang over food!).

Adam's Healthy (ish) Spaghetti Carbonara


Ingredients (serves 2):

  • 5 nests of tagliatelle
  • 3 Free Range eggs
  • 1 heaped table spoon (approx 100ml) crème fraiche
  • 4 rashers Free Range smoked back bacon, sliced into short strips
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • About 1 heaped table spoon of finely grated hard cheese, such as Pecorino or Parmesan
  • Knob of butter
  • Freshly milled salt and pepper

How to make it:

  1. Boil the pasta until it is cooked al dente
  2. In the mean time whisk together the eggs and then the crème fraiche
  3. Fry up the bacon in its own fat and a little olive oil if needed
  4. Stir the cheese into the egg mixture….. leave this for a minute to check there’s enough…. it should appear grainy so if it’s all disappeared into the mix you need to add more
  5. Drain the pasta and leave aside in a colander
  6. In the pasta pan, melt the butter on a medium heat and then pour in the egg mixture and stir
  7. As the mixture starts to thicken, add the bacon and reduce the heat
  8. Once the egg has started to cook, throw in the pasta and remove from the heat
  9. Give it all a really good stir then season as you like and serve

Hope you enjoy!

Ems x

A Pretentious fry up….. The Breakfast Stacker

The pretentious fry up

I’ve been making these for years, ever since I went on a post A-level girly holiday to Greece and got hooked on them on our blurry mornings at the pool side cafe. I love a fry up, like any good British girl does, but there is something about putting it all in a bun that both poshes it up a bit, and makes it all the more naughty!

Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t an every day thing, or even a once a month thing. This is a special, naughty, gluttonous breakfast of epic proportion, and must be reserved as a delicacy and a special treat.

The idea is simple….put all the usual ingredients of a proper English fry up in between two bits of bread. As tall as you might make it, it always looks like less food than when it’s all over your plate, and there’s the added bonus of the bread soaking up all that yummy egg yolk and bacony goodness. I can’t think of any way I’d rather eat a cooked breakfast, at home at least, and so when Adam suggested we incorporate a fry up into our slightly slobby weekend, I knew this was what we had to do.

Here is how I made ours today…..

  • Free Range Lancashire Sausages – 1 per person – grilled, so started these first…and once done sliced in half.
  • Birdseye Potato Waffles – 1 per person – I also like to home-make hash browns instead of this layer if I have chance (not on a slobby weekend though!).
  • Duchy Originals Oganic Free Range Smoked Back Bacon – 2 rashers per person – I like to fry these in the fat I trim off each rasher.
  • Chestnut mushrooms – 2 per person – sliced and fried in olive oil.
  • Heinz Baked Beans – 2 tablespoons per person – just warmed through as you would usually.
  • Free Range hen eggs – 1 per person – fried in the bacon pan last of all!
  • Duchy Originals incomparable English Muffin – 1 per person – sliced in half and buttered with Rachel’s Organic salted butter. The bottom half I spread with the amazing Wilkin and Sons Tomato Ketchup….the top half I spread with their delicious Brown Sauce.

So, once your fry up is cooked and ready, it’s time to build your stacker. It’s advisable to start with something nice and flat for your first layer….I like the bacon first, right on top of the tommy k….then the waffle, onto which I carefully pour the beans (waffles are great for this because they capture all the beans in the gaps!)….next, the sausage, then the egg, and finally the mushrooms, right next to the brown sauce. Yum!

If you really wanted to posh this up, I can recommend a stacker of hash brown, bacon, poached egg, black pudding, portobello mushroom and green pesto. In fact, as long as there are multiple layers, and the element of naughtiness in your ingredients, you’ll capture the spirit of this wonderfully sinful breakfast.