what's in season: september

English apples - by Phil Eldon
From the dew-soaked hedge creeps a crawly caterpillar
When the dawn begins to crack
It's all part of my autumn almanac.

Ray Davis - Autumn Almanac

September is the pinnacle of perfection in terms of the vegetable patch; a truly excellent month for fruit and veg such as sweetcorn, broccoli, apples, blackberries, damsons and early pears. Glorious salad vegetables such as peppers and juicy tomatoes are still around and I am still working out what to do with a glut of courgettes. It is definitely time to start thinking about preserving this embarrassment of riches in chutneys, jams and my favourite fruit vodkas.

romesco sauce

romesco sauce
Romesco is a lovely word - there is something beautifully rounded about it. I like the way it sounds when I say it, as it rolls around my mouth. I think it is one of those words that looks rather beautiful on the page, whether printed or in my somewhat reubenesque handwriting. The Catalan sauce, Romesco, has a rather fulsome round beauty too. 

tapas: garlic mushrooms

garlic mushrooms
I am pretty mad about mushrooms. I love their intense meaty flavours and have rarely met a mushroom I didn't like. Although I can't much be bothered with those anaemic white button mushrooms so beloved by supermarkets. Always, always go for the brown (chestnut) mushrooms: they actually taste of something and if using in soups or stews, impart a spicy mossy flavour. 

This is delicious with some good rustic bread, to mop up all the buttery garlic cooking juices.

tapas: spanish tortilla (tortilla española)

tortilla espagnola (Spanish egg and potato omelette)
This ubiquitous tapa is served all over Spain. It is also a fabulous lunch dish; a great way of using any leftover boiled potatoes and both cheap and easy to make. 
While it is a rather forgiving recipe and you can use any vegetables such as peppers or courgettes as you like, so long as they are chopped to the same size and you need to keep the proportion of eggs to vegetables the same (basically one egg to one potato). You could also use leftover scraps of ham too. I am rather fond of peas in mine. (Although in my mind, every day is Pea Day!) 

tapas: marinated cracked green olives

cracked marinated green olives
Spanish cuisine from the Andalusian region has been much influenced by its Arab history, (the Moors and Berbers of north Africa) using spices such as cumin, paprika, saffron, rice, citrus fruit and lots of olives.
These olives are full of herbs and spices; the longer they marinate, the tastier they become.

tapas: meatballs in tomato sauce (albondigas en salsa)

albondigas en salsa
Meatballs are one of my favourite tapa, but equally delicious as a main course, with noodles or rice. These tapas are from the La Mancha region of Spain, and are made with a mixture of minced meat, such as beef and pork. Although you could use veal or lamb (or a mixture of all). I serve them with a classic tomato sauce (there are always tubs of this in my freezer).

This is a great recipe to make with children; (they do love getting their little paws dirty!) The meatball mixture also freezes easily, so is good to make in advance for a party, or to freeze any leftovers, (not that I imagine you would have any, these are deliciously moreish!)

a taste of tapas: small plates of something delicious

a selection of tapas
"I love anything that involves getting to eat seven different kinds of food in a single sitting"

So says the character Ellie Hatcher in Alafair Burke's City of Fear referring to her love of tapas. A woman of impeccable taste, I suspect.

To me tapas mean several things - simple food cooked really well; a myriad of gorgeous flavours; a gathering of friends - convivial and ever-so slightly bibulous; of Spanish holidays and the ultimate taste of summer. Tapas is the perfect food for hot summer days when traditional British stodge just won't cut it; when you want something that is full of profoundly Mediterranean flavours.

courgettes with parsley, garlic and breadcrumbs

courgettes with parsley, garlic and breadcrumbs
We had this to accompany last Sunday's roast; I have a glut of courgettes to use up, about the only thing in my garden that seems to have grown well this year. 

It would also make a great light lunch with a tomato salad and some good rustic bread and a large glass of chilled white wine. Another perfect summer meal. 

when life gives you lemons . . . make lemons awesome!

heathcliffe's mead
Let me introduce my guest blogger, Heathcliffe's, first post. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. (Yay, Heath!)

This week I've made mead and a fridge.

See, the big problem here is that I've just moved into a new flat and, right now, I have no appliances and no money left. I have an Argos catalogue shining out from my lone bookshelf like a beacon of all my life could be, but my bank account says no. So I figure a plan is in order.

So when life gives you lemons . . . let's make lemons awesome.

sunday roast: spiced roast pork shoulder

My love for the pig is conditional. I don't hate pigs. In fact I rather like them in their natural habitat; a mob of rambunctious piglets playing in a field is guaranteed to make me smile. I'm just not that keen on the pig on my plate.

Perhaps I am more of an Anglo Saxon than I had realised. When England was invaded by the Normans, as the elite, they appropriated all the best cuts of meat for themselves. Those mean invading Normans would have been welcome to my pork loin or shoulder. I am happy with bacon. I have never met a sausage I didn't like. (Please feel free to insert your own Carry On joke here).  

the great tunnock teacake mystery

the Tunnock Teacake mystery!
I was walking into Kentish Town a few weeks ago, along Leighton Road; a modest street of narrow pavements, lined with London Plane trees and boxy Victorian villas. This is not a road that shouts "mystery" or even "excitement". In fact, Leighton Road is a rather typical, if dull, north London street of mixed housing, a couple of corner shops, a dodgy pub and a curry house. Although I do get my knickers in a bit of a proverbial twist every time a rather famous actor smiles and says hello to me. But apart from an occasional rise in my blood pressure, and a flurry of hormonal activity, this is not a road I find particularly thrilling. It is merely a way of getting me from home to somewhere else and back again. 

So I was surprised to see boxes of Tunnock Teacakes, nestling at the base of several of the trees along the road. One box for each chosen tree and one teacake removed from each box. It was as if a rather demented Goldilocks had tasted her way along the road for flavour, quality and consistency. I was intrigued.

it's all gone a bit jackson pollock! (or when food photography goes wrong . . .)

our Jackson Pollock moment!
It was going so well - Heathcliffe's birthday drinks party, food prepped and we moved the nibbles to the balcony to catch the late afternoon summer sun. I wanted to take some photographs for this blog.
It all went a bit Pete Tong as they say.

sausages roasted with honey and mustard dressing

honey mustard sausages
Cocktail sausages baked with a honey and mustard dressing have a lovely sticky, tangy flavour. Another good nibble for a drinks party, although I sometimes take leftovers into work, with a light cucumber salad. I am usually forced to sharpen my elbows to fend off marauding colleagues!

party food on a stick: cherry tomatoes, mozzarella and pesto

cherry tomatoes stuffed with pesto and mozzarella (without their sticks!)
This is ideal party food - intensely savoury, yet slightly sweet, mouthfuls of deliciousness. On a stick. Use the sweetest cherry tomatoes or baby plum tomatoes that you find. I would say make your own pesto, but failing that, buy pesto from a deli or from the deli counter of your supermarket. (Please don't use that stuff in jars that has a strangely subdued colour and a distinct flavour of rancid cheese). So make your own, it's a revelation.

summer pea soup

summery pea and ham soup
A rather nice soup for spring or summer, whether using young sweet peas, floury late summer peas or even frozen peas, (which because they are frozen at source retain their natural sweetness). It is delicious served hot or cold and you can use just about any green herb, such as thyme, chives or even coriander with a bit of green chilli. I stick to mint, which traditionally enhances the English pea.

this being a tale of serendipity and liquid enchantment: the velvet slipper cocktail

velvet slipper cocktail
It sounds like such a small thing but I am feeling a little serendipitous; ("serendipity" is one of my favourite words, if you're interested and my only claim to fame is that I got it mentioned as "The Word of the Day" on the Words for Life website).

So why serendipity? Well a few days ago, I had restored an old CD full of ancient files I haven't looked at in years, because I had thought that the CD was damaged beyond repair. On it I rediscovered this fabulous cocktail, the recipe for which I had also assumed lost for good.

mezze: herby courgette and feta fritters

herby courgette and feta fritters
A friend's birthday drinks and nibbles and we are eating and drinking on his roof terrace on a balmy summer night. These fritters were perfect; a little bit of the eastern Mediterranean came to east London.

turkish-style stuffed tomatoes

On my mission to be frugal I had decided not to throw out some leftover rice, intending to make a Turkish or Greek rice stuffing for some kind of vegetable. I would decide on which vegetable to use when I actually got to the market and saw what was available. Of course all my frugal intentions went out the window when I saw (actually smelt first) a beautiful mound of the plumpest most scarlet tomatoes I have ever seen.

Still on the vine, you could smell their intense green clove-like aroma from about 30 feet away. I had to have them. At all costs. This turned out to be the debt of a small sovereign nation) All my frugal intentions went out the window. Well life is not too short to stuff a tomato!

who’s that man?

Heathcliffe: my favourite geius!
You may have noticed that recently in this blog, I have mentioned a friend of mine, called Heathcliffe. Since he has agreed to be a guest blogger at Marmaduke Scarlet, I thought I should really introduce you to him, so you can see him through my eyes before he actually opens his mouth (so to speak!)

To begin with let’s start with some History; I love it, Heathcliffe doesn’t. But in the same way that I use his brain to help me understand Science, he will tap my brain for historical context. So here is some of that historical context!

tip: making breadcrumbs

a simple loaf of white bread
I suppose I am lucky that I've always got a loaf "on the go". I make my own bread and if a loaf doesn't turn out so well then it is sacrificed to the altar of thrift. When life gives you a bread disaster, you make breadcrumbs! 

tunisian salad (salade meshouiwa)

Tunisian salad (without the egg and tuna!)
I thought I would start August's recipes with this gorgeous refreshing salad, perfect for this week's heatwave, perfect for the summer; it is a sort of North African equivalent of a Salad Nicoise and makes a great accompaniment to grilled or barbecued meat and fish. 

Tunisian cooking is a very rich and quite complex cuisine, with culinary influences both ancient and relatively modern, from Rome, Carthage and the Ottoman Empire, to the Middle East and North Africa. It really is a delightful combination of Mediterranean and Arab cuisine with a strong Italian and French influences, a sort of big hello from the other side of the Mediterranean.

what's in season: august

a glut of tomatoes preserved in
olive oil
August Heat
In August
When the days are hot
I like to find a shady spot
And hardly move a single bit
And sit
And sit
And sit
And sit.

I am rather fond of August, particularly when the sun comes out. It the perfect time to eat outdoors - preferably with an interesting selection of tapas or mezze, little nibbles of something amazing, under the vine-laden pergola while swigging lashings of cold white wine. Well a girl can dream!