Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cassava Chips

These are delicious.
These are DELICIOUS.
These are D E L I C I O U S

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

"Such a doddle!"

I only want to bring attention to this phrase "such a doddle" because it's so cute and because, so far as I can tell, only one person in the world uses it. That person is Nigella Lawson ~ just one of many UK chefs hosting their own food show. "Such a doddle" is how she describes the ease with which she can create something incredibly delicious. hmmmmm.

Okay, I googled it. I was wrong. Mrs. Stevens from Southampton also uses that phrase in an article from The (London) Times in which she gives us a recipe for fairy cakes. I love what she has to say:
There are two things I don't understand about the modern obsession with fairy cakes, writes Mrs Stevens, from Southampton. First, since when did we start calling them cup cakes? And two, why do people buy them from overpriced bakeries when they are such a doddle to make?

I don't know; I'm just finding that funny. I've never heard of fairy cakes until we came here and it took me quite some time to figure out that they were the same thing as cupcakes.

Monday, June 28, 2010


We were too late getting to Braddylls Arms yesterday (not knowing that they didn't serve food after 4pm) and missed the Gooseberry Crumble. So instead of going home and making eggs and grits, we drove on to the Farmhouse (almost always open) where the locals were drowning their sorrows (having lost a World Cup football match that afternoon).

I ordered the scampi. I expected what you see in the photo above. Nice large shrimp sautéed in garlic and served with linguine. YUM.

Instead I got something breaded and fried (it might have been shrimp), served with chips (fries) and mushy peas. Still quite yummy.

Leftover strawberry and rhubarb pie at home!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Spicy Lentil Soup

One of the reasons why I write this blog, well, actually, the only reason I write this blog, is to remind myself of the wonderful food and interesting food-related experiences that I've had here in Cumbria.

So, this is a note to myself. Don't make Spicy Lentil Soup again.

1 medium sized onion
3 medium carrots and potatoes
1 red pepper
125g red lentils (soak for 1 hour prior to cooking)
1 teaspoon of paprika
1 teaspoon of turmeric
A pinch of cinnamon
A pinch of cayenne pepper
A 400g can of tomatoes
750ml of water or vegetable stock
1 teaspoon of basil
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper

My cupboard was lacking the paprika, turmeric, and basil. I had everything else and prepared the recipe according to instructions. The soup was barely edible. We ate it but the leftovers were added to the compost pile. I'm thinking it was the carrots. Way too many carrots for me.

Well, I'll not be making this one again.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

In anticipation of Gooseberry Crumble

June, co-proprieter of OFP (our favorite pub), informed me that Gooseberry Crumble in on Sunday's menu.

Guess where we'll be dining on Sunday?

Friday, June 25, 2010

No Coupons

One of the reasons why I subscribe to a daily newspaper is to check out what's on sale at the grocery store. You know, as I'm writing out my shopping list and thinking about what to cook for dinner for the next week, I like to note that, for instance, there's a special on salmon and wouldn't that be nice for when we have dinner guests? But, now that I think about it, none of the three papers that we subscribe to here in Cumbria have supermarket inserts. Even the store advertisements (of which there are few) don't have exhaustive listings of items on sale.

It almost seems uncivilized.

When I go grocery shopping, there are "offers" in the store. Meaning, selected items are "on sale". But the only way I've found to figure out what's on sale before you get to the store is to check out each store's website.

Here's one for Booths and another for Morrisons.

It's such a hassle.

I guess it does save on paper. Heaven knows how much of that stuff I threw away every week back in the US. Sale ads for Stop & Shop, Shop Rite, Job Lot, Big Y, Christmas Tree Shops, Bobs Discount Furniture ~ you name it.

No longer do I have to cut out little coupons from the paper or from Good Housekeeping and organize them all into meaningful categories and arrange them in the same order as the route I take through my favorite store and use them before they expire. Oh, I'm getting a little teary-eyed for those good old days.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Morrisons Best Scones

Alas, there were no packages of Morrisons Best Scones to be found, anywhere, making this morning's grocery shopping traumatic.

I am seriously addicted.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Butter Lemon Cheese

Dave spotted this in the grocery store the other day just about the same time I did. We both did a double-take and found the sight quite amusing. Imagine: butter, lemon, and cheese all in one convenient package!

It's really lemon curd. Delicious on toasted crumpets (though not quite as delicious as Nutella). Crumpets, I need to explain, look like what Americans call "English Muffins" but they're not. Crumpets are quite spongy and need to be toasted (at least, I think so). So, crumpets and lemon curd. I don't remember ever seeing either one in the U.S. so mark this down as real British food!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Marsh Samphire

"There's nothing in the house to eat for dinner" was a good excuse to visit OFP (our favorite pub). They were short-staffed so June was helping out in the kitchen and Gary was waiting on tables. I was a bit worried about being not-dressed-up -- just wearing the usual jeans and flannel shirt -- conveniently forgetting that most women put on a skirt or perhaps even lipstick when they go out.

I shouldn't have worried. Gary was waiting on tables wearing a white tee-shirt. I guess that's one reason we like the place so much.

As it was Fish Friday, we both had seafood dishes. Mine was bay scallops and they were the tiniest little things but quite delicious. June came over to say hello and I asked her about something she'd said recently ... something about gathering samphire from the shores of the bay for the evening's meals.

Marsh Samphire (aka Common Glasswort)

Marsh Samphire

Samphire. It sounds so exotic. June told us that folks in this area go down to the bay outside Bardsea and gather it this time of year - it's only available for 5 or 6 weeks - and then use it either raw or gently sautéed in olive oil.

Over the weekend, that's just what we did. Took the dogs for a walk along the shoreline until we found patches of the plant sprouting from the wet sand. It pulls up quite easily though next time I think I'll just pinch it at the base and leave the sand and roots behind. In just a few minutes we collected quite a haul, gave it a good washing when we got home, and the results are pictured above.

Marsh Samphire (aka Common Glasswort)

Samphire just waiting to be pulled

We ate about half of these right away, in lieu of chips as an appetizer. Then we sautéed the rest with olive oil, minched garlic, and fresh spinach. It was simply wonderful.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Mac & Cheese

Today we ignore the dreaded cheese rule (that is to say, cheese is usually not a welcome ingredient) and present my version of Mac & Cheese.

The last time I made this, the sauce split and the result was very, very greasy. It wasn't pleasant. This time, I paid more attention to what I was doing.

Serves 2
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes

1/2 bag of pasta spirals (about 250g) (Buitoni's Eliche)
1 tbsp butter
1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup milk
200g cheddar cheese ("Cathedral City")
1 tin of chopped tomatoes (400g)
1/4 tsp sage
1/4 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp oregano
3 drops of tabasco sauce
1 cup crushed corn flakes
another 1/2 tsp oregano

1. Prep
Preheat oven to 190°C.
Lightly grease a deep-dish glass pie plate.
Slice the cheese into thin, short strips.
Pour the corn flakes into a gallon-sized plastic bag, add 1/2 tsp oregano, and crush.

2. Stovetop - large pot
Gently put pasta into boiling water and simmer for 9 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Stovetop - saucepan
While the pasta is simmering, melt butter in small saucepan on low heat.
Add flour and stir until creamy.
Slowly add milk, stirring constantly, until thick.
Add cheese slices and stir until melted. You should have a very thick sauce.

4. Combine - large pot
Assuming the pasta is in the same pot that it was cooked in, but now drained, add the cheese sauce and stir until the pasta is coated. Spoon it into the greased pie plate.

5. Oven - deep-dish glass pie plate
Layer the crushed corn flakes onto the top of the mac & cheese.
Bake for 30 minutes.

6. Stovetop - saucepan
Ten minutes before the mac & cheese is done, dump the tin of tomatoes into a saucepan.
Add sage, thyme, remaining oregano, and tabasco sauce.
Simmer for 10 minutes.

7. Serve mac & cheese with the stewed tomatoes and some spinach salad. Enjoy!

Note to self: The cap to the tabasco sauce is missing. If you must shake the bottle, please remember to seal the top with your finger tip.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Last year, it took me months to clear the stinging nettles from the back garden. This year, they're back and, with long sleeves, jeans, and heavily gloved hands, I'm attacking them again.

Stinging nettles, in my opinion, top the chart of plants-to-avoid-at-all-costs. Well, no, poison ivy is first on that list but stinging nettles is a close second. If you so much as brush against one, just by accident, you don't notice at first and then ... within a few seconds, you feel the tingle, the sting, the agonizing pain ... and then an ache slowly develops and settles into your bones. This agony takes hours and hours to go away.

So imagine my surprise when I glimpse a television show about making nettle soup. !!! Can you imagine?!? No, I didn't make it. I'm not ever going to make it. But here's a link to all things nettle edible.
Good luck and God bless!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

UK habits

Beer. This seems to be just a UK habit for Dave and me. Every afternoon, when he gets home from work, we sit down and split a pint. Lately we've been keeping a case of John Smith's on hand but sometimes we'll pick up a couple of bottles of something different, something locally brewed. It's all good.

When we went home recently for 3 weeks, I wondered if that habit would continue. We picked up a six-pack and it was awful. It reminded me of what I'd always heard: "This beer tastes like piss." I never quite knew what that meant but now I do.

Dessert. The other habit we seem to have here is eating dessert. Usually cookies (McVitie's or Yorkshire Tea ginger biscuits) or, if I'm ambitious, a fresh fruit pie (blackberries, apples, or pears baked in puff pastry). We're not big cookie eaters at home; I suppose we do have more ice cream in the US - and rarely have that here in the UK.

Salmon. This one is also surprising. The salmon here is delicious; well, it is at home too. Perhaps that it's also much less expensive so we seem to have it for dinner at least once a week.

Scones. I try to resist but I *love* Morrison's scones that come in a 4-pack. Again, nothing quite as good is available in the US.

Jus-Rol puff pastry. I use this for fruit pies, meat pies, and sometimes I'll spread some with butter and sugar/cinnamon and bake until golden brown.

"Go Bananas" flavor of Options hot chocolate mix. Less than 45 calories per mug. I never really liked hot chocolate until now.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Chicken with lemon and capers

I had a serious hankering for capers but we just had salmon so what to do? I found this awesome recipe from a site that I'm not really recommending because of the pop-up advertisements.

The result was quite a tasty dinner. The flavors were a bit sharp as you might expect with capers and lemon but refreshing. Certainly not the usual thing I cook but it filled my need for something different.

Serves 2
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes

4 chicken breasts (about 600g)
1/2 cup flour
4 tbsp vegetable oil
Juice of 2 lemons
50 ml white vermouth ("Noilly Prat")
2 tbsp capers
2 tbsp fresh finely-chopped parsley
salt and pepper

1. Prep
Slice the chicken breasts into strips.
Dump the flour into a gallon-sized plastic bag.
Season the flour with salt and pepper and whatever else you have (like oregano).
Chop the parsley.

2. Stovetop - frying pan
Heat the vegetable oil.
Put half of the chicken strips into the bag with the flour mixture and shake.
Put the coated chicken strips into the pan, turning often, for 5 minutes (or until golden brown).
Move cooked strips to a bowl and repeat with the remaining chicken.
Let the pan cool off a bit and then pour in the vermouth and swirl.
Add the lemon juice and stir well for 4-5 minutes. Let it cook down and thicken.
Stir in the capers and chopped parsley; cook for another 2-3 minutes.
Finally, stir in the cooked chicken strips.

4. Serve with rice and cooked spinach. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


"Jelly" is another one of those puzzling words where you think you know what it is and yet ...

Here in the UK, "jelly" apparently refers to that dessert made with gelatin. The fruit flavored jiggly stuff that has no imaginable nutritional value except that [possibly an old wives tale] it's good for your nails. Red-blooded Americans know this to be "Jello" as "jelly" is jam without all of the chunky bits of fruit. It's best served with peanut butter between two slices of white Wonder bread. If you're adventurous, you might layer in some potato chips [aka "crisps"]. And if you're Elvis Presley, you might add a couple of sizzling bacon strips. No - wait - Elvis loved peanut butter, *banana*, and bacon sandwiches.

I can't imagine eating jelly for dessert; just as I'm sure the British can't imagine eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.