chicken with chilli, lemon and mint

chicken with chilli, lemon and mint
This Easter weekend in April was so warm it felt like summer. Ah, the joys of English weather. Not surprisingly a barbecue party was in order. It was perfect weather and I had good friends who are more than happy to let me do the food.
The first thing I prepared was some grilled chicken. This is one of my favourite barbecue dishes. But it is equally easy to do under the grill and while it is infinitely nicer served warm, but it also works well at ambient temperature; the flavours are strong yet subtle enough to fill your mouth with glorious Moroccan flavours.

basil pesto sauce

basil pesto sauce
While a pesto made with basil isn't strictly a seasonal recipe, I had made a bucket-load last weekend. I was cooking for several picnics over the Easter holiday and the weather was divine, as good as you could hope for. (London was apparently hotter than the Sahara!) So while my basil plants are still little more than seedlings, a trip to my local Middle Eastern deli, The Phoenicia in Kentish Town, armed me with bags of the stuff at a very reasonable price indeed.  

This is my preferred pesto sauce recipe, taken from one Anna Del Conte’s Amaretto, Apple Cake and Artichokes book. She is one of my favourite food writers, who together with another Italian food writer, Marcella Hazan, beautifully evoke the glorious flavours of Italy.

mezze: roasted feta with thyme honey

roasted feta with thyme honey
A lovely salad, perfect for a meal of mezze or just a summer picnic. Use one of the monofloral honeys such as thyme honey, which comes from Greece or New Zealand. It's slight herby flavour compliments the fresh herbs in this recipe.

Monofloral honeys are honeys which are from the nectar from largely one plant species. (Although you can appreciate that it can't be exclusively one species!) These honeys tend to have a distinctive flavour, depending on which plant the bees have been foraging.

oh! my darling spuds! (my perfect potato salad)

my perfect potato salad
This is for George, who unwittingly set in chain a process of events that made me realise that I loved to cook, write and share it all and led to me setting up this blog. Yup, Bat Boy (sorry, private joke) it is all your fault. But thank you anyway!  

There are times when I can be quite impulsive, but other times when I like to go away to think about things. .. for years . . . and years. It is a real case of the penny not actually dropping, as it is slowly edging along in miniscule increments that is my glacial ability to slowly mull things over.

If any of that doesn’t make much sense, what I am trying to say is that I had never made the connection between my love of cooking, my nerdy need to track down the “perfect” recipe (or the version that tasted best to me) my pleasure in the pleasure of others and my enjoyment of writing about it.

bacon froise - an interesting breakfast!

bacon froise with tomatoes and mushrooms
A friend of mine who is a "furriner" is intrigued by the names the British give some of their more traditional dishes and I delight in feeding him the ones that are less likely to appear on a restaurant menu. So when he popped round on Saturday afternoon, I had thought to make an easy standby - "toad-in-the-hole", which is essentially just sausages cooked in a savoury pudding batter and served with gravy. Sadly I had forgotten to buy any bangers, so decided to revert to a "froise" instead, the name if nothing else, being delightfully cosy.

demerara, almond and lemon drizzle cake (another winning Nigel Slater recipe)

Nigel Slater's Demerara Lemon Cake
As I have previously mentioned, I am not much of a baker. However, I am slowly improving and I do learn from my (numerous) mistakes. This is probably one of the easiest of cakes I have ever baked, so long as I remember that baking is a science and not a case of wetting my finger, putting it in the air, seeing which way the wind is blowing and hoping for the best. Although sometimes when all else fails that seems to work as well.

I always have a strong idea of what I want either my food or my photographs to look like. It is clear in my imagination. Sadly, the reality is very different. What I wanted was something a bit like Dom at Belleau Kitchen’s gorgeous Lemon and Marmalade cake, but with added lemon. (Can you feel my envy oozing out of this post?) Good, that was the intention.

good things of england: oh happy days!

Good Things in England
There is a particular joy of celebrating a glorious spring day with the purchase of a new (and soon to be treasured) cookery book. Yesterday, the daffodils outside my front door were jostling for position like footballers inside the penalty box as a grey wind sent them skittering in the early morning gloom. A day later and the sun is shining. The daffs are beaming beatifically and my mood is definitely sunny. I have finally got my hands on Florence White's Good Things of England. It's enough to bring a smile to any lover of food and history. 

Florence White was interested in retaining all of that culinary knowledge (both foods and techniques) that was in danger of being lost as a result of new fashions and technology. Sound familiar?

rhubarb & ginger bombay sapphire cocktail

As you can probably tell, I do like fruit flavoured cocktails. Let's face it, it is one of the few ways that I will actually eat fruit . . . with copious amounts of alcohol.

I am planning on celebrating the spring season by making some rhubarb liqueur, but while it is waiting to mature, I am giving you this fabulous cocktail for rhubarb lovers everywhere. It was originally created by mixologist Flavio Lorenzo, (from Nobu Berkeley), for the Bombay Sapphire pop-up bar at Somerset House, in the glorious summer of 2009. Hic!

what's in season: april

favourite spring flowers!
The sun was warm but the wind was chill.   
You know how it is with an April day.
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You're one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud come over the sunlit arch,
And wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you're two months back in the middle of March.

Robert Frost - Two Tramps in Mud Time - 1926

April is known as a "cruel month", not least becauseit is rather lean in terms of seasonal British produce. Stores of British fruit and vegetables are coming to an end and the new crops of vegetables are not up to maximum strength yet. Fortunately all the greens are beginning to appear, such as lettuce and watercress
as well as spinach and broccoli, so it’s not all doom and gloom.