good things come in small packages! mini victoria sponge cakes

mini Victoria Sponge cakes with strawberry jam
I love a good Victoria Sponge cake. It is both simple and delicious and perfectly suits my less-than-sweet tooth. I don't know when I first noticed miniature Victoria Sponge cakes. I suspect they only properly registered in my mind last year, watching lovely Jo Wheatley (and deserved champion) on The Great British Bake Off produce these delectably pretty teatime treats. This of course set me off wondering how she managed to get the perfect straight sides and shape to the cakes, because they were clearly not made in cupcake papers.

jam today! strawberry jam

summer strawberry jam
I am trying to convince myself that food has magical properties and that by making food that sings of an English summer, that perhaps I can hold the rain at bay, with such summer lovelies as strawberry jam and scones and other teatime treats.

I have often made chutneys and other savoury preserves. I have even made fruit compote but I had never made strawberry jam before. It was surprisingly simple and the results delicious.

rain, rain, go away! remember the sunshine with a taste of jerk chicken, rice 'n peas

jerk chicken with rice 'n peas
A classic Caribbean meal and a taste of sunshine, something we here in the UK can only dream about right now! I swear to god, at the moment it has been raining so much, I think I am half duck. Any more rain and I shall have to surf into town.

But seriously, this is a fiery dish of fragrant and warm, sweet, smoky spice flavours, fuelled by the fabulous allspice berry which tastes of a bewitching combination of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. Allspice is reputed to have digestive benefits, but all I know is that my tummy feels very happy after eating jerk chicken!

get ready for bbq season, she says optimistically: a tasty and aromatic jerk paste

jerk paste
I once had a boyfriend whose Jamaican grandmother opened one of the first West Indian restaurants in London. He and I had met because he had overheard me bragging to friends about how good my jerk chicken was.

Who the hell did I think I was? This was fighting talk indeed and I conceded that I may have been exaggerating a little bit. But I guess it intrigued him enough to pursue the acquaintance. Fortunately, while my jerk chicken may not have been as good as his Nan’s, it definitely won a place in his heart! 

an alternative celebration: Zanzibar Day!

my dear papa!
My father, Henry, is a born story teller. He doesn't tell jokes, but he does tell tales of the places he's been, what he has seen and the people he has met. Since it is Fathers' Day today, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to share one of my favourite tales. I often talk about my father. Obviously he has been a big influence on me, not least in some of my tastes in food and drink. So this, as they say, is Henry's story; his celebration. It is not strictly about food, but drink was most definitely involved.  

an open mind to the awful weather gave me broad bean hummus!

broad bean hummus
Deciding what to cook for Sunday lunch, I decided I wanted something fresh and summer-tasting, on the basis that is actually summer and the sun had come out. I bought a shoulder of lamb to stuff with something suitably summery; I hadn't quite decided but was plumping for feta, fresh oregano and mi cuit tomatoes and planning on serving the whole dish with my herby tomato and mint sauce. I was rather looking forward to what I thought might be a winning combination.

what do you do when everything tastes of varnish? find a fabulous restaurant. Babur!

prawn salad with green papaya
What do you do when everything tastes of varnish? Well, your first thought might be why the hell is everything tasting of varnish? It is a fair question and I am happy to tell you that it is not another disastrous cooking experience. It is merely that we have had the kitchen floor re-sanded and varnished. But despite all the windows and doors being left to air the house everything smells of varnish.

noises off: out of the kitchen and off to the theatre . . .

Gypsy: Everything's coming up roses!
Are you interested in the theatre? Fancy a trip to London's West End but not sure what to see? Can I recommend the theatre blog, Theatre Focus? In the interests of full disclosure I have to confess that this is my cousin Abby's website and I am filled with envy (and not a little pride) at her confident approach and accomplished writing in all things theatrical.

i love my lunch! my favourite roast chicken sandwich

leftover roast chicken and salad sandwich
These days I think that my middle name might be "Thrifty" unlike the more pedestrian "Emma" that my parents saw fit to bestow on me. But I am all about trying to save money, especially when it comes to food budgeting.

As I have mentioned before, a really good way to do this is to roast a chicken for Sunday lunch and think of delicious ways to use up the leftovers. One of my favourite things to do is to make a roast chicken salad sandwich to take to work as a packed lunch. The tangy, smoky mayo dressing goes beautifully with the chicken and adding a little (or in my case a lot) of salad, makes this quite a substantial meal.

looking on the bright side of life: barbecue sauce - sweet, sour and very sticky!

chicken wings in barbecue marinade
One of the most delicious side effects of the awful economic climate is the rise of street food and pop-up restaurants in London. There is a definitely an increase in young and creative chefs prepared to test the waters with food trucks, vans and market stalls (rather than the precariousness of opening a restaurant) serving fabulous street food from around the world. The street food scene here in London is vibrant and exciting and I say hurrah for that!

Two of my favourites are Pitt Cue Co, which has now actually opened a restaurant in Soho, and Anna Mae's Smokehouse, which can be found across London, including Kings Cross. They are bringing the joys of good American-style barbecue to a cruelly underserved British public.

a jubilicious victoria sponge and the day I almost met the queen

jubilicious Victoria Sponge
I don't want to sound all bah-humbug about the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Clearly sixty years in a job that frankly would have most people running screaming for a way out, should be congratulated. Our young queen promised loyalty, service and to do her duty and she quite clearly has achieved all of that and more. It's not her fault that I became an anti monarchist at eight years old. It is all the fault of Jane Brewer.

what's in season: june - bring out the bunting!

up close and personal
with strawberries
June is probably may favourite month, for no better reason than it is my birthday month, the days are getting longer and as a child I was firmly convinced of June’s magical properties; Mid Summer Day was full of faeries, enchantment and stories of future loves and I had no reason to disbelieve this. On my sixteenth birthday,  I was given a bottle of homemade wine as a present, with a beautifully designed label entitled “Rachel’s Midsummer Magic” and I have been trying to maintain this feeling of enchantment ever since!