Pretty tasty

A few weeks ago the nice people at Kent & Fraser asked me if I wanted to try some of their gluten free biscuits.

Well, believe it or not I did. For two reasons.

First I’m a very lazy baker so the occasional free biscuit doesn’t go a miss.

Second my nephew is coeliac so we are always on the look out for things that might be nice for him to try.

So they sent me some Lemon Shortbread and some Stilton & Walnut.

I thought I’d like the savoury ones more being a bit of a cheese fanatic. 

But that proved not to be the case. The Stilton & Walnut were nice but a little to strong.

But the lemon butter, oh gosh the lemon butter. 

Melt in your mouth, light, crumbly, tart yet sweet at the same time.

When my nephew next visits I’ll be keeping the lemon ones all to myself gluten free on not ;0

Easy peasy BBQ baby chicken

Ahhhhhh its barbecue time of year and barbecue kind of weather: smell the grilling food, hear the chink of glasses, the laughter, the fun, the delicate aroma of firelighters, the burnt food, the lobster tinged neighbours. England, the summer.

But it’s be a shame not to join in with at least some of this, right? Correct.

BBQ PoussinHere’s the easy chicken (well poussin actually) we did last night:

2 poussin butterflied (dead simple this, lie it breast bone down, hold the parsons nose, cut along either side of the backbone and remove, flip it over, press down firmly on the breast to flatten, et voila. If stuck try YouTube for clips).

Marinade in lemon juice, zest, oil, garlic and rosemary for a couple of hours (use 50:50 juice to oil).

Light barbecue (using your preferred method: paper, firelighters, gas ignition) and wait for coals to be that delightful glowing cooking temperature.

Pop the poussin over the heat and cook for about 30 minutes turning regularly (cook it with skin side up more often than down, this way it cooks the meat from the inside without over cooking/burning the skin).

Meantime heat the remaining marinade in a saucepan and simmer hard to reduce to a nice glossy sauce.

Cut each poussin in half to make 4 portions. Eat with veg and carbs of your choice.

Lemony poussin, sourdough, broad beans, yoghurtWe had homemade sourdough bread to mop up the sauce/juices and broad beans tossed in minty yoghurt.


Coming together

I love it when things just seem to come together in the right way and its one of the things that I’m starting to love about blogging and tweeting. You swirl around the blogosphere, you play about on Twitter and suddenly a whole bunch of influences collide to make you spot a new dish that resonates for you or triggers fond memories of something you haven’t had in simply too long.


And so it was earlier this week that the influences of Browners’ National British Sandwich fun, Fran39’s watercress post and the #livelocal challenge came together to make me think of a lunch I hadn’t had in probably 10 years (yes really)  – chicken and watercress with mayo on really good bread.

So I plotted a treat, my husband is not a fan of watercress he pulls a face at the very word, the ideal opportunity was to have said sandwich on a day when I was working from home. Mmmmm. I made fresh bread rolls yesterday to have with burgers and I’d found some red watercress in the supermarket and at 11am I was roasting 2 chicken legs with a dousing of lemon and olive oil.

At the appointed lunch hour I moseyed to the kitchen, sliced open a couple of rolls, slathered them with my favourite mayo, piled in freshly roast chicken and topped with watercress, squidged on the top.

And tucked in. Heaven in a bun.

Making chocolate: an experiment

A few weeks back Julia at ‘A Slice of Cherry Pie‘ was offering 5 Mayan Magic Chocolate kits to food bloggers who promised to blog the experience. Sounded like fun and as I love chocolate I rushed in and bagged one. It arrived a few days later but it sat untouched for a while – I was busy and wanted to do it justice and also blog as much of each step as I could… here is what you get and do:

1. The kit:

2. What’s inside:

3. The butters:

4. The powders:

5. My chosen flavours (lavender, cardamom, lemon zest). I hardly used any of each:
6. The butter ready to melt in a bain marie (i.e. over hot water):

7. The powders after sieving (they needed it they had gone quite solid):

8. The melted butters:

9. Whisking in the powders (I added a little of the agave at the end for some sweetness but it didn’t need much):

10. Then I spilt it into 4 lots and added the flavours and kept one lot plain. I learnt here that you need to keep each lot warm else it cools so quickly you can’t pour it into the moulds properly and it becomes all mis-shapen (see later)

11. I poured (and pushed!) it into ice cube trays and got 4 ‘cubes’ per flavour so 16 cubes in total. Then it went into the fridge to set for 1.5 hours (or in my case overnight).

12. Next morning at coffee time so we popped the cubes from the trays.

13. Some worked:

14. Some looked a bit mangled:

And the taste:

The flavours were nice but over-powered any chocolatey-ness (and I only used a teeny bit of each), the plain version was okay but not brilliant.

The texture:

Very grainy/gritty and not smooth at all, disappointing. Alex over at ‘A Brit’s Dish a Day‘ had the same problem so I’m guessing that’s how it is rather than us getting it wrong.


A bit. But the instructions aren’t clear that it will cool so quickly and become difficult to pour into moulds. I made it hard for myself by doing 4 flavours with one kit – the instructions anticipate one flavour being added to the melted butters before the powder.

Would I buy one?

Having looked up the price (£14.25 plus shipping, as far as I can tell, for 150g of chocolate) I had to lie down. I can get 3 different flavored Rococo bars (70g each) for this money or about 14 Divine plain bars (100g each). I’m sorry to have to say that I wouldn’t buy this either for myself or as a gift. It wasn’t enough fun, its pricey and the taste/texture wasn’t the tops. 

Not currently a winner – it needs some re thinking I feel.

Lovely lavender biscuits

Reading several other blogs recently (particularly ‘Domestic Goddess in Training’ talking about Bara Brith) made me think it was about time I did a little bit of baking. And visitors scheduled for later this week clinched the deal. What better to offer with tea or coffee than homemade biscuits or perhaps a fruitcake?

First up the biscuits – I fancied cooking something that would have a hint of summer to come and so I hit on one of my favourite tried and tested recipes (and, I know, well liked by these particular guests). The recipe is from Sybil Kapoor’s Simply British – a lovely book of unusual recipes using classic British ingredients.

You will need:

4oz/115g softened butter (I prefer to use unsalted though it doesn’t specify that in the recipe)
2oz/55g caster sugar
zest 1 unwaxed lemon
3 teaspoons of lavender flowers stripped off the stem (hopefully ones from your own lavender bushes that you have dried and saved or I’ve found them online at Phytobotanica)

6oz/170g plain flour
caster sugar for dusting 

Heat the oven to Gas 2/150C/300F and have 2 greased baking sheets ready – you’ll get about 16 biscuits.

Cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest until it’s pale and light in texture. Then mix in the lavender flowers followed by the flour – use your hands as this will keep the butter warm and help incorporate the flour. You are aiming for a stiff but not too crumbly ball of dough – it will take a while to get to this stage (5 minutes or more). 

Then roll out the dough between two sheets of baking paper until it’s only a few millimetres thick. Cut out the biscuits in whatever shape pleases you (yesterday I had to use an unturned wine glass because I couldn’t find the cookie cutters – it still worked). Place the biscuits on the trays using a palette knife – they are quite fragile so take care. Obviously use up all the scraps of dough, which will mean a few odd shapes for the cook to try later. Bake in the centre of the oven for 25-30 minutes until lightly brown – I usually start checking after 20 minutes to see how things are going. Transfer to a cooling rack immediately and dust with caster sugar. 

They are wonderfully crumbly, melting in the mouth, the lavender flavour is quite rich and the lemon zest helps balance this nicely. Eat with abandon – though I defy you to manage more than 3 in a sitting.

Now lets just hope I haven’t eaten them all before my guests arrive……..

Lemon curd

Last week I mentioned lemon curd in my Labour of love post and one comment poster asked for a good recipe.

I’ve tried a few versions in the past – some come out fairly runny, some very thick. They all taste good but the texture and richness varies quite widely depending on the amount of butter and also egg yolks (some recipes use whole eggs some use a mix and some use only yolks). So there’s quite a lot of choices in picking a recipe.

I’m going to give you two recipes here – one for a good staple curd – not too runny not too rich and one very rich one.

First the good staple which comes from Hilare Walden’s Sensational Preserves book (with various of my comments added). I’ve made it a number of times always with great success.

You’ll need:

4 lemons (organic unwaxed for preference – the unwaxed bit is important, you’re going to be using the zest of the lemon and if its been waxed you’re going to have to scrub vigorously in hot soapy water and rinse before you can use them – what a chore)
4oz (115g) of unsalted butter
10oz (300g) of caster sugar – I like Billingtons Organic Unrefined Caster Sugar
4 medium size eggs
A heatproof bowl – e.g. a Pyrex mixing bowl
A saucepan that the bowl fits on but not in 

Grate the lemon zest – being careful not to end up with too much of the white (and bitter) pith and then juice the lemons. Put zest and juice in the bowl. Add the butter cut into about 1cm dice and the sugar.

Put around an inch of boiling water in the pan and then balance the bowl over the pan (the bottom of the bowl mustn’t touch the water) – this is called a ‘double boiler’ in case you see that phrase mentioned elsewhere. Keep the water just at simmering point and stir the mixture in the bowl as it dissolves.

Beat the eggs lightly and then add them to the mixture (most recipes tell you to strain the egg mix but I don’t think this is really necessary). And keep on stirring. For as long as it takes for the curd to thicken which might be anything from 15 to almost 40 minutes (dependent mainly on the amount of lemon juice, I think). Make sure the curd doesn’t get too hot and keep on stirring especially as it gets thicker or you’ll end up with curdled curd – not a good result.

Pour into warm, clean dry jars – straight from the dishwasher is a good way to achieve this and seal with wax paper disks if you have them and a lid. Putting the lid on while its all still warm helps create a vacuum and so the contents last for longer.

Store somewhere cool and dark and in the fridge once opened. It’ll last 2-3 weeks once opened – well it will if it doesn’t all get eaten before then. Makes about 1 ½ lb (a normal jam jar fits roughly 1lb). 

The richer (and it really is much richer almost too rich except in small quantities) comes from Gary Rhodes’ Complete Rhodes around Britain. It uses essentially the same technique but the ingredients are heavily weighted to butter and egg yolks. In fact it’s the kind of recipe where you need to have thought through what you are going to be doing with all the egg whites you end up with (e.g. make meringues).

You need:

3 lemons, 8oz (225g) unsalted butter (I told you it was rich), 8oz (225g) caster sugar and 5 (yes that FIVE) egg yolks. Proceed as above but spread more thinly when applying to toast. 

I’d recommend you try the Walden recipe first and then the Gary Rhodes if you fancy a rich lemony blow out experience at a later date. And if you think all that stirring is too much then try an upmarket ready made lemon curd – I most recently had the Duchy Originals one – very tasty, almost good enough to tempt you to scoop it out and put in your own labelled jar to pass off as your own ?

Labour of love

After the gardening bug bit me on Saturday I decided it was time to see how my lovely little lemon tree was doing.

It lives in the lean-to that we use as a utility room and often gets forgotten amongst the never-ending piles of washing (how exactly do 2 people create so much to be washed, its not like we wear three different outfits each day – well not normally any way!).

So off I pottered to check it out.


It had been hit by another bout of scale insect (ugh ugh ugh). These evil creatures don’t look much – rather like raised brown ovals along the leaf veins – they aren’t even moving – but boy are they hard to get rid of. There was nothing for it but to don rubber gloves and attack them with warm soapy water and an e-cloth (yes those magic cloths that are great for cleaning just about everything with no nasty chemicals and almost no need for elbow grease). This of course takes ages. Even on a small tree or shrub you need to clean every single leaf thoroughly on both sides, scraping away at the nasty bugs to get them off. So on my small lemon I reckon there are about 40 leaves at the moment and it took well over an hour to do.

But it was worth it because now, after spraying the tree with safe for vegetable and fruit tree bug killer stuff and keeping a vigilant watch over the coming weeks, the one solitary lemon that’s growing will hopefully get to full size and ripen up. Maybe I’ll get some new blossom and more fruits and then there’ll be the chance to make lemon curd.

And few things beat homemade lemon curd slathered on good white bread toast (extra thickly cut of course so its crispy on the outside and delightfully soft inside).