Archive for the ‘spring’ Category

Oh my, what a successful festive season. As if feeding family and friends weren’t reward enough, along came the snowstorms forcing us to subsist on remnants and remainders while awaiting the thaw.   But all that idle time made for some goodly innovations and as a result I hereby declare the Stilton and walnut dumpling fare fit for a king.   I had snapped up Marks and Spencer’s irresistible offer before Christmas but never thought we’d get through a whole kilo of Stilton – even of Tuxford & Tebbutt creamery”s sumptuous standard for a ridiculous £4.99 – but we did!

Having bought in a battalion’s worth of supplies the cold spell caused us quite the opposite of hardship; sheer semi-hibernational bliss rather.  Broccoli and Stilton soup having become a bit of a cliché, albeit delicious, with a cheeseboard theme in mind we swung with celery bisque, not entirely successfully I might add.   Next time I’ll use a more concentrated stock, celeriac and celery salt to boost the flavour and I won’t add cream either.  That’s if I make a celery soup at all: following Ed Baines‘ flavour lead I rather fancy making a beef consommé and letting these feather-light cheese’n’nut nuggets grab the limelight, they’re fabulous.  And meaningful employment for a couple of the usual suspects in the leftovers league.

For the dumplings

250g self-raising flour (or same amount of plain with a tablespoon or so of baking powder)
125g suet, shredded (I use vegetarian)
a pinch of salt
150g Stilton cheese, crumbled
50g finely chopped walnuts (do it yourself with a knife)

Sift the flour with the salt (and baking powder if using).  Add the suet, Stilton and walnuts and toss gently to distribute evenly.  Using fingertips, start to work this into a dough by adding a tablespoon of cold water at a time (2or 3 maximum): stop before you think you need to and form the dumplings into balls by lightly pressing the mixture together. Add them to your soup hot in its pot, replace lid and cook for 20-30 minutes, either at a very gentle stove-top simmer or in a low-medium oven.

Ed Baines original recipe in The Independent newspaper.

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Am I nuts? This short clip was taken over a year ago, and in the depths of winter, yet it still reminds me of sunnier climes. I’m just getting excited about getting back to Vieux Nice: next trip I’ll try to snap some sultry summertime footage.

Might be an idea to turn down the sound thanks to the blustery Mistral…or Tramontana…not sure which wind was blowing at the time but either way it made a horrible noise!

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sanguine bloody sanguines

sanguine And then I tried the Maltese sanguines: smaller and cheaper by 50p, sharper and less fragrant.  A much milder thrill than the stunning Sicilian Tarocco, but a welcome dose of sunshine all the same.

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Treat time at Waitrose: Tarocco “blush” oranges are on the shelves again, it’s Blood Orange season!tarocco

Much as I disapprove in theory, I do understand blood oranges’ rebranding to something a little less daunting; I remember as a child when presented with a carefully peeled and segmented Blood Orange I used to wonder if it really might be blood I was eating, and if so, whose, and how did it get there and how did they die – and then losing my appetite.  It’s a hard sell to the impressionable.

Blush might not be original nor evoke the sunshine blazing from the heart of each fruit, but if it means we can still get hold of these sparkling gems of the citrus world then I’m all for it, and as wrote Shakespeare for Juliet,

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

And the Tarocco is certainly sweet:   it’s one of the world’s most popular oranges, apparently, thanks to its sweetness, juciness AND glorious subtleties of flavour.    I’m told it also happens to contain the highest Vitamin C content of any orange variety grown in the world, PLUS a bucketful of anthocyanin antioxidants (thanks to the red bits).  As if that weren’t temptation enough the wonderful Tarocco is seedless and its thin skin is easy to peel – very little pith too.

It’s also pretty right-on, what with having its own AOC – or is that IGT – or DOP?  Not sure, but it’s EU protected, its production having been under threat from the ubiquitous and frankly dull in comparison Navel and Valencia oranges (of no fixed abode).  BBC Radio 4’s Food Programme about blood/blush orange growing in Sicily is excellent, full of information and an aural evocation of sunny Sicily, most welcome with our bleak British winter as yet unwilling to relinquish its icy grip: listen again and again…

I don’t advocate doing anything with a Tarocco during its short season of availability other than devouring it raw and alone (the orange, that is).  You could admire its rosy beauty in a salad with chicory or fennel with a strew of black olives, but don’t waste the exuberance of its flavour and fragrance by cooking a Tarocco – better buy a Seville for that.

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Sunday afternoon in the woodland at the end of the lane.  We were hunting for wild garlic and found an ocean of it nestled in among countless bluebells.  The sun wasn’t shining but as good were circles in the stream from the rain drops.

We didn’t harvest any of this garlic as the day before had acquired a hearty bunch elsewhere (leaving plenty in situ, natch).  This patch was suffering some kind of blight as the leaves were yellowing and their undersides held tiny circles of orange dust.  Many of the flowers were still in bud so I don’t think they were due to age.  Some leaves were starting to rot, though – I’ll try to visit in a week when they’re all at it, just to take in the glorious stink!

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