February 16, 2010, 12:01 pm
Filed under: yummy in the tummy

Happy Pancake Day!  AKA Shrove Tuesday, AKA Mardi Gras…  Apparently, the tradition comes from the need to use up yummy larder staples like butter, sugar and eggs before the ritual fasting associated with Lent.   Sort of like the homier (is that a word?) version of drinking yourself silly at a Mardi Gras celebration?  I’d never heard of this tradition at home in the States, but it’s big news here in the UK.  Which is ironic to me, because the way that pancakes are usually made here, they seem to me to be more crepes than pancakes.

Ergo, my pancake recipe, for PROPER American pancakes, albeit with a healthy/yummy twist of course.  Granted, some restaurants here — usually the ones that make an attempt at brunch rather than just a full English breakfast — do have “American style pancakes” on their menus.  But the ones I’ve tried are rather — hmm, how to put this nicely? — leaden.  I’m not sure why — too much flour?  too much mixing?

Ironically, I didn’t know much about making pancakes before moving here, since ours was a Bisquick kind of family.   But, as with ranch dressing and mac and cheese and sponge cake, I’ve learned that — despite a lifelong affinity for these pretty packages, which are next to impossible to find here — some many most everything is better if you make it yourself.   (OK, OK, I confess to little splurges at Partridges now and then, only for the sake of nostalgia of course.  And that I probably was marginally happier before I realized that homemade buttercream frosting was in fact just a lot of butter, and cream, and even more sugar.  But this is good for me right?  I mean to know, not to eat…sigh.)

Without further ado, here is my current go-to pancake recipe, adapted from the Blueberry Cornmeal pancakes recipe from the classic Better Homes & Gardens cookbook .

YIELD:  About nine 4-inch pancakes

2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
2 T cornmeal
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/4 t cinnamon
1 beaten egg
1 cup buttermilk {or 1T lemon + milk to make 1 cup; stand 5 minutes before using}
2 T vegetable oil

Mix the dry ingredients and make a well in the centre.  Mix the wet ingredients and then add all at once to the dry ingredients; stir until *just* blended.  The batter will be lumpy — leave it this way because if you keep mixing your pancakes will be too heavy.

Heat a griddle or large, heavy nonstick pan on medium/medium low until a drop of water sizzles; melt a dab of butter to coat.  Pour batter into three- to four-inch pools on the griddle.  {Note, if you want to add blueberries or another fruit, now is the time — doing it now rather than adding to the main bowl of batter will keep your pancakes from turning completely blueberry-coloured.}  Cook gently until bubbles form and the surface of each pancake just lightly starts to glaze over, about 2-3 minutes.  Flip and cook another 1-2 minutes.

Serve warm with butter and REAL maple syrup (not the other kind — you know what I mean — which is not common here and is one thing I definitely don’t miss from home), and fruit, of course.


January 13, 2010, 4:20 pm
Filed under: inspiration, yummy in the tummy

So, silly me, I’ve decided to try a detox to ring in the new year.  It’s not that bad, really, lots and lots of veggies and fruit.  And then more veggies and fruit — and no dairy, sugar, wheat or caffeine.  Thank goodness it’s only a week — deprivation is not really my style.  What I really really miss, though, is my morning coffee.  I don’t know if it’s the caffeine or the ritual (ok, ok, it’s probably the caffeine, says the raging headache I get every afternoon, but I do so love the scent of brewing coffee in the morning…).  An ode…

a long-ago morning chez moi

January 5, 2010, 5:17 pm
Filed under: yummy in the tummy

For so many reasons — it’s time to get back to a daily routine, post-holiday excess calls for something a little healthy, cold days need a fortifying start, dark  mornings require a reward for peeling back the toasty flannel sheets — I thought now would be a good time to share with you the recipe for my daily granola.  It’s adapted from the lovely Orangette (so glad you are back!) who adapted it from the luscious Nigella.  What follows below is how I’ve come to use the recipe.

750g rolled oats/porridge flakes/oatmeal (I use this muesli base of mostly mixed flakes and a few seeds)
400g mixed nuts (Brazil nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, whatever you like)
250g mixed seeds
4 cups puffed wheat and/or rice cereal (preferably the health food kind)
2 tsp salt, or more to taste
3 tsp cinnamon, or more to taste
2 tsp ground ginger, or more to taste
1 tsp ground nutmeg, or more to taste
500ml (1 cup) apple sauce/puree
3 Tbsp vegetable oil (sunflower, grapeseed)
1 cup agave nectar, honey or brown rice syrup (tastes will vary slightly but all are nice; agave is the mildest)

Set the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat oven to 300F.  Prepare two rimmed baking sheets by lining with parchment paper or silicone mats and leave them nearby (prepare four sheets if your oven can accommodate them all at once).

Combine all of the dry ingredients and mix well, dividing them evenly over two large bowls (you are making a lot of granola!).  Combine all the wet ingredients and stir to mix well.  Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients, dividing evenly between the two large bowls.  Mix well with your hands and spread half of it evenly over the two baking sheets (or, if you can use four sheets at once, divide the whole batch evenly over the four sheets).

Set the sheets in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, give the granola a stir, taking care to move the quicker-cooking granola from the outsides into the center of the sheets and vice versa.  Return to the oven, rotating the positions of your baking sheets if one part of your oven is hotter than the rest, like mine is.

Repeat until the granola has baked for about 40 minutes.  It will still feel a little soft after 40 minutes, but it will crisp as it cools.  Repeat with the second half of the batch if needed.

Stay near the kitchen whilst it’s baking so you can enjoy the lovely scent.  And be warned that your hair will smell of this lovely scent until its next shampooing!

Store the granola in an airtight container.  It takes me about two months to use up a batch and the last bit is always as good as the first.

December 18, 2009, 12:18 pm
Filed under: london lovin', yummy in the tummy

So remember when I banished food colouring from my decorative baking adventures?  I must confess, I’ve had a bit of a relapse…

Last night, with a friend I took a holiday cookie decorating (well, it was called biscuit decorating, but they mean cookies!) class at the lovely Make Lounge in London’s Islington.  It was great fun to play with the shapes and colours, enjoy with a little edible bling (my goodness is Christmas sparkly in the UK) and learn a few tips and tricks…

But I can’t help feeling, as I did with my summer birthday cupcakes — what’s in that coloured fondant and Royal Icing anyway?  OK, I know there’s not really much to offend (sugar, water, egg whites), but why put something that really doesn’t taste very nice on top of that gorgeous gingerbread cookie??

The colours are certainly pretty, and while I like a little glitter as much as the next girl (well, maybe not quite as much), I think I’d rather my food look like food…

I had a peek at my *favourite* cupcake shop for inspiration and, happily, they didn’t disappoint.  I think I’ll be doing a batch of gingerbread cookies and a batch of sugar cookies to take with me to our festive gatherings on Christmas Day, and inspired by the Enjoy Cupcakes holiday menu, they might be adorned with spices and sugar, stem ginger, candied nuts, dried cranberries and crushed candy canes (OK, OK, that one’s not so natural, but what a fun idea, no?).  And maybe a bit of icing, but maybe buttercream instead of Royal (bringing it along so people can ice for themselves?), and maybe flavoured with vanilla, maple, or orange…

Check back post-Christmas for photos of the results of my experiment!

And in the meantime, my mom’s recipe (originally from Better Homes & Gardens, the recipe card says) for my favourite cookies, at Christmastime or any time of the year…


1 cup butter, softened (I use unsalted organic)
2 cups sugar (I use unrefined)
2 eggs (free range and/or organic if possible)
1/4 cup milk (using whole instead of skim is slightly yummier)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 3/4 cups all-purpose/plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
(optional:  1 cup chopped nuts — I never use these though!)

Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy (several minutes in my Kitchen Aid, I find).  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.  Blend in milk and vanilla.  Thoroughly stir together flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt; stir into the creamed mixture until just blended.

Form dough into 1-inch balls. (Roll each ball in a mixture of 3/4 cup Demerara sugar, 2+ teaspoons cinnamon and 1/2+ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg.)  Place balls 2 inches apart on cookie sheet (greased, or lined with silicone liner).  Flatten with the sugared bottom of a tumbler.

Bake 10-12 minutes in preheated 375 degree oven.

(Cookies will keep for several days in an airtight container, but after about the second day they benefit hugely from 10 seconds in the microwave before eating.)

{Makes about 5 dozen cookies.}

November 25, 2009, 6:08 pm
Filed under: home base, inspiration, somewhere out there, yummy in the tummy

top photos:  100 layer cake | smitten kitchen | flickr: lynchburgvirginia | sunday suppers

bottom photos:  flickr: wdwbarber | flickr: alreadygrace | flickr: ambadale | 100 layer cake

November 3, 2009, 4:39 pm
Filed under: making nice, yummy in the tummy



I love to read.

So of course, once upon a time I belonged to a book club.  Admittedly, it was not the most serious of book clubs — though the one I was in before this one was.  But alas, a few babies and new jobs amongst our members later, and fewer and fewer of us can commit to reading the same book every few weeks anymore.

But, we still want to see each other and drink wine.  So what were we girls to do but make a little trade — the book club has now become a supper club.  Well actually, its trial run was for Sunday lunch — even better than supper in some ways.  It’s OK with me, it means more opportunities to cook for a crowd AND a chance to make my way through the stash of books on my shelf that never seemed to make it to the book club list.

The idea of the new club is that each time we meet, the host chooses a theme and cooks the main dish.  Everyone else brings a complementary side or dessert, and that’s that.  Oh, and boys are allowed now too, when we want them.

I was the first host and thought, what better way to usher in a busy autumn but with a comfort food theme?  So we were comforted by fish pie, cauliflower cheese and carrot cake – YUM.  I didn’t eat till the next day’s lunch!

From Tana Ramsay’s Family Kitchen


For the pie:
300g cod, skinless and boneless
300g Salmon, skinless and boneless
400ml Milk
1 large Onion, finely chopped
6 baby Leeks, finely sliced
1 tbsp Olive oil
5 large Potatoes
2 tbsp double cream
knob Butter
4 tbsp Cheddar cheese

For the white sauce:
45g Butter
45g Flour
450ml full-fat Milk

1. Put the fish in a pan and cover with the milk. Bring to a gentle simmer and poach the fish. This takes about 10 minutes. Remove the fish with a slotted spoon.
2. Fry the onion and the leeks in a little olive oil until softened. Remove from the heat and flake the fish into the onion and leeks, and mix gently together.
3. Peel and cut the potatoes into large chunks and put in a pan of cold water. Bring to the boil and cook until tender. Drain and put back into the saucepan. Add the cream and a knob of butter, season and mash.
4.    For the white sauce: melt the butter in a small saucepan. Stir in the flour, mixing to a paste, then stir for 1-2 minutes over a medium heat taking care not to let it catch on the bottom. Add the milk gradually, and whisk constantly until it starts to simmer. Leave it to cook over a very low heat, stirring every couple of minutes until it thickens.
5.    Preheat oven to 190C/Gas 5.
6. Mix the white sauce with the fish, onion and leeks and put this mixture into the bottom of an ovenproof dish. Spoon the mash over the top of the fish and vegetables and sprinkle with the cheese.
7. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes until bubbling, then put under a preheated grill for a couple of minutes to crisp and brown the top. Serve.

I also add chopped carrots (2-3) in with the onions and leeks in step 2.  And a cup or so of frozen peas in step 6.  You can use semi-skimmed milk where it calls for full fat/cream.  And you can mix up the kinds of fish you use.  Frozen fish works beautifully here — I promise — particularly if you are feeding a crowd.  I used a mix of frozen cod and haddock.

I served this in individual pie dishes, sourced on one of my favourite “off the beaten path” resources, Nisbets Catering, which I learned about in this lovely book and is great for bulk entertaining needs.

August 25, 2009, 8:51 pm
Filed under: yummy in the tummy

Here in England, the strawberries have gotten their second wind.  Of course, we first see them in June, in time for Wimbledon and its attendant strawberries and cream.  After waiting all winter for them, it’s easy to gobble them endlessly, and simply.

After a brief pause in July to catch their breath, the strawberries are back now, for one grand finale before autumn.  But for me, it’s a dilemma.  I eagerly eat my fill when they first arrive in early summer.  And now, I’d like to do the same — especially since, while strawberries are abundant here, many late summer fruits like peaches and melons are not to be found locally, and also since, well, winter is coming eventually — but, somehow, I’m, oooooh, I can hardly write it!, a little tired of them.

So I am loving two recipes I’ve found this year that put a sneaky twist on strawberries and will keep me craving them till their chilly end.

Strawberry Compote
I saw this this morning on a favorite blog of mine and immediately went to the kitchen to address the two punnets of strawberries that I really should have eaten at breakfast, but…  Its original creator called this quick strawberry jam, but to me it seems more of a compote, so compote it shall be here.  I *love* a fruit compote because it does so much more to dress up my morning yogurt and granola than plain fresh fruit.  So simple, but so yummy.

1 pound hulled strawberries
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

In a food processor or with a potato masher, process strawberries until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a large skillet and stir in sugar and lemon juice. Cook over medium-high, stirring frequently, until jam is thickened and bubbles completely cover surface, 9 to 10 minutes. Transfer jam to a jar and let cool to room temperature. (To store, seal jar and refrigerate, up to 10 days).


Savoury Strawberry Salad
I don’t remember where on the Internet I originally saw this link earlier this summer, but I love #8 on this list of 10 things to do with strawberries.  It moves strawberries away from the sweet domain of breakfast and dessert.

Make a mixed green salad — try to include some sharp-tasting greens like rocket/arugula.  Add chopped strawberries, at a ratio of about 1 part strawberries to 3-4 parts greens.  Garnish with a crumbled, tangy cheese, such as blue, goat or feta, and toasted sliced almonds.

The vinaigrette ties it all together beautifully:  combine 1/4 cup white wine vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard, 1 teaspoon garlic salt (yes, really) and 3 tablespoons diced red onion in a medium bowl; stir to combine and whisk in 3/4 cup vegetable oil or olive oil (extra-virgin preferred). Add freshly ground black pepper to taste.