21 July 2014

10 (+ 2) Commandments of Cooking Well

A while ago I wrote about how important  it is to learn to cook for all sorts of good reasons; not least that once you can cook you can eat exactly what you fancy whenever you like.  See here for the other good reasons.

I realise, however, that whilst for some happy reason cooking comes naturally to me it is quite daunting to many people so to help with this I recently wrote a short ebook “219 Cooking Tips & Techniques you might find useful”.  Download this for Free (see how helpful I am!) here.  Although it's in pdf there is also a useful link to convert it to kindle.

12 Important Commandments ...

1.            1.   Learn to use a knife.

Get a good sized chef’s knife, 8” is just about perfect.  I very much favour the kind of knife known as Santoku but the traditional shape may work better for you. Once you are adept at using it prep time will really speed up.

To learn how to use a knife have look here or search on YouTube.  With enough practice (say 30 years) you will able, like me, to slice onions like this without looking!

Whilst on the subject, do keep your knives sharp because they are safer that way!  It may seem a strange thing to say but with a sharp knife little pressure is needed and there is much less risk of the knife slipping.  Furthermore good knife skills removes the need for all sorts of kitchen gadgets and knick knacks, many of which are more than adequately replaced by said sharp knives.

2.           2.   Use Real Food if humanly possible (which of course it is)!

Use fresh fruit and vegetables (except perhaps peas which are actually great from frozen) whenever possible and certainly not tinned green veg, fruit, mushrooms or potatoes. Tinned beans such as chickpeas, kidney beans etc. are fine and so are tomatoes although I prefer these in a tetrapack or whatever it’s called as I don’t fancy the thought of acidy tomatoes reacting with the lining of the can. That’s not a commandment, however, just a thought.

Avoid processed stuff such as the American sliced “cheese” that goes on burgers, use butter rather than margarine, make your own salad dressing (see here), don’t compromise on quality.

3.       3.   Read and Understand a Recipe Before you start cooking it.

I haven’t got much else to say about this – just do it!

4.          4.   Know your weights and measures.

Recipes may well be written using metric or imperial measurements or the American cup system.  If you are not familiar with the scale used then avail yourself of Google and look it up before you start or there are several useful links under the appropriately named Useful Foodie (and drinkie!) Links in the side bar. Maybe print off a set of conversion charts and keep them in the kitchen.

5.            5.   Prepare everything possible in advance. 

This is known in the trade as "mise en place" which is actually French for establishment. To us cheffy types this means having ready and easily to hand all the ingredients, ready prepared, that are needed to cook whatever is planned. This includes cut, sliced, chopped veggies, trimmed pieces of meat, ground spices, washed and chopped herbs, weighed and measured items and so on.  This then enables you to cook quickly and smoothly once started, without interruption.

6.            6.   Always rest meats before serving.

By this I mean roast, grilled and pan fried meats, not stews. The reason is that whilst resting the meat relaxes, becomes more tender and any juices that have fled to the middle of the meat to escape the harsh heat flow back into the relaxed protein and make it juicier.  Rest roasts for up to half an hour (loosely covered with foil), steaks and chops for 5 minutes or so in a warm place.

7.             7 .   Waste nothing. 

This is very close to my heart.  Even the smallest leftover, scrap or trimming can usually be turned into a garnish or cook’s treat or perhaps added to a freezer collection.   

I love cooking with leftovers, if I have a bit of that, a tad of that and a smidgen of wotsit I can usually come up with something worth eating – actually that is why I started this blog.  I've even written a book about it ~  “The Leftovers Handbook: A-Z of Every Ingredient in Your Kitchen with Inspirational Ideas for Using Them”

8.            8.   Experiment ~ don’t be afraid of flavour.

            At dinner with friends recently I was surprised and impressed to see our host, Tony, divide his coleslaw into seven small portions to each of which he added a little something; lime juice, hot sauce, a pinch of sugar, lots of black pepper, 2 things I can’t remember and Malibu rum!  Now that’s the way to learn – respect!

            I suggest you do the same or something similar, the more you cook and eat the more you will learn about what goes with what – play with your food!

9.            9.    Baking is a science – don’t experiment!

Successful baking relies on chemical reaction in the presence of heat and should not be messed with unless you are very confident.  Stick to recipes here – you can, of course, play with fillings, toppings and accompaniments.

10.   Taste before serving.

Season at the start of cooking (salt steaks and roasted meats before cooking, add salt to potatoes before boiling, add seasonings according to the recipe and so) on but make bloody sure to taste the finished dish at the end before serving.  This is, in fact, why so many recipes end with the instruction “taste and season”!

Tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers.”
William Shakespeare

When at home I just bung my finger in the food and then lick it but in a professional kitchen or when cooking for others that is really, really not the way. To do the thing properly use a clean spoon each time you taste a dish OR 2 spoons; one for dipping, one for tasting OR drop a little of the food to be tasted onto the back of your hand and then lick it.  Then wash your hand.

Adjust the flavour to make you happy; maybe a little more salt or a touch of hot sauce, a pinch of sugar, a grind of black pepper or a squeeze of lemon.  Be guided by your palate.
                11.   Serve food attractively

Not only is this more pleasing but it actually stimulates the appetite. It's not necessary to arrange a plate to look like a Picasso but I am not averse to making sure the prettiest lettuce leaf is on top, cutting a nice shape or adding a suitable drizzle.

12.   Clean as you go. 

Um, I say this but, well ... do as I say not as I do! 

It is a good idea, especially in a small kitchen, to clean as you go so as to have a useable and pleasant working area.  I agree with this but, on the other hand, I tend to bung it all in my large sink and then wash up in the morning.  For me the evening meal marks the end of the day and the start of relaxation time and I have never, ever regretted leaving the washing up till morning.

Some or maybe even all of these suggestions are included in my aforementioned book “219 Cooking Tips & Techniques you might find useful” but that still leaves 207 other useful ideas so please feel free to download it here if you haven’t already!

I also have a Pinterest Board "Tips & Tricks" where I collect good ideas from around the web which might be of help. 

Tweetables ...

Please Click on the Links below ...

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10 July 2014

Lettuce ~ but why?!

I have just spent a lovely few days with my family who I don’t see nearly as much as I’d like due to living far apart. 

My sister, Maggie, is very foodie; we have run restaurants together and she together with her husband and my oldest niece (the lovely Jenny) now have a couple of  Art Cafés and a Cakehole

My brother, David, however is not at all this way inclined and he amused me many times with such comments as ...

“Lasagne – what’s all that about?”
“Rice – where’s the point in that?”

and my favourite, said in amazement ...

“Lettuce – why?”

He went on from this to query why anyone in their right mind would want to put “greasy oil” (of all things) on “wet tasteless lettuce” and it is this subject that I wish to address today although, knowing my bro, I don’t think I’ll convert him!

Of course people in their right mind rarely put just oil on their lettuce (although some particularly tasty evoo with a salty sprinkle can do the trick); they commonly make a vinaigrette and there is even a mathematical formula to help with this - 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar or other acidic ingredient such as lemon juice. To an extent this formula holds true but it can be varied a little to suit different ingredients or even different accompaniments for instance a slightly oilier dressing might be good if you are serving wine with the salad so that the meal is not too acidic.

A few Handy Hints and Info vis a vis Vinaigrettes

~   Probably the best way to make a vinaigrette dressing is to put the vinegar plus other ingredients such as mustard into a liquidiser and then gradually drizzle in the oil so that the mixture emulsifies, you can also do this by hand with a whisk or ...
~   A quicker and easier way is to put all the ingredients into a jam jar, seal with the lid and give it a jolly old shake. This is useful because unused dressing can be kept in the jar in the fridge and if it separates just shake again before use.

~   Having said that if the dressing is simply oil and vinegar it won’t hold together whatever you do as they don’t mix so you need an emulsifier such as a little Dijon mustard, garlic, cream, tomato paste, mayonnaise or maybe other ingredient which will not only add flavour but helps the oil and vinegar bind together.  Egg yolk is a great emulsifier but then we are getting into the realms of mayonnaise.
~   The vinaigrette will emulsify easiest if all ingredients are at room temperature.
~   Whilst in most cases olive oil is the norm and extra virgin olive oil is particularly good different vegetable oils can be used or maybe cut the richness of extra virgin with a light oil or add a touch of sesame or walnut oil as appropriate.
~   The best way to taste a vinaigrette prior to serving is to just dip a little lettuce leaf into it, shake off excess and bung it in your mouth.
~   However delicious the dressing don’t drown the salad; a light film of dressing is sufficient.
~   A simple vinaigrette containing no fresh ingredients will keep very well but if you add fresh garlic, herbs, shallot etc. then keep chilled and use within a couple of days.

Basic Vinaigrette Recipe

½ tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp vinegar – of your choice eg. red wine, balsamic or sherry vinegar
3 tbsp vegetable oil
pinch of salt

~   Liquidise, whisk or shake the ingredients as above.

Fairly obviously this makes a little over 4 tbsp, which is 60ml/2 fl oz/¼ cup, but make as much as you like so long as you stick to the same percentages.

Quick Additions

~   Add ½ tsp runny honey et voila; honey mustard vinaigrette – this goes extraordinary well with ham salad.
~   Mix in a little crushed garlic to taste.
~   Squeeze in some roasted garlic.
~   Mash in some black garlic – see here to read more about this fabulous ingredient. 
~   Fresh herbs – if making the vinaigrette in the liquidiser just add the herbs and they will chop right into it. Try fresh parsley in a lemony dressing.
~   Copious amounts of freshly ground black pepper – great if you use lemon juice instead of vinegar (also great if you don’t!)
~   This is an odd but good one – sauté a couple of chicken, crush with a fork and mix into a simple vinaigrette (or a complicated one if you prefer) to dress crunchy salad leaves.
~   Crumble in some blue cheese – particularly good with roasted garlic and black pepper too.
~   Scrape in the seeds from a fresh fig or two – lovely served with calves liver!
~   For Salade Niçoise – use lemon juice instead of vinegar and add 2 crushed anchovies and a crushed garlic or two.

In all cases, of course, taste and season before serving!

Slightly More Complicated

Fresh Tomato Vinaigrette

Good with mozzarealla and torn basil, for instance.

2 reasonably large (not beefsteak) ripe tomatoes
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
salt, pepper and a pinch of cayenne
possibly a little sugar

~   Quarter the tomatoes and coarsely grate them, cut side to the grater, right down to the skin.
~   Stir in the garlic and vinegar then whisk in the oil (or shake in a jar).
~   Taste and season, if too sharp add a little sugar.
This vinaigrette is not a great keeper – use within a day or two.

Baked Lemon Vinaigrette

2 heavy thin skinned lemons
(heavy and thin skinned means juicy!)
½ tbsp olive oil
2 tsp honey
another 3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

~   Preheat oven to 400ºF/200ºC/180C fan/gas 6.
~   Halve the lemons and put cut side up in a shallow ovenproof dish.
~   Drizzle the cut sides with the ½ tbsp olive oil.
~   Turn cut side down and bake for 25-30 minutes till just turning golden.
~   Cool and then squeeze out the juice.
~   Stir in the honey (plus any juices in the baking dish) and then whisk in the oil.
~   Taste and season.

Good additions to this are fresh herbs (parsley or thyme in particular) or a little chilli. Whatever you add, within reason, this is particularly good with seafood.

Warm Fennel Vinaigrette

3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper
fennel fronds – finely chopped

~   Remove the fennel fronds and set aside.
~   Finely chop the fennel bulb.
~   Gently cook the fennel in the olive oil till tender and golden.
~   Cool the fennel and oil for about 15 minutes then stir in the vinegar and lemon juice.
~   Taste and season.
~   Finely chop the fennel fronds and stir in just before serving.

This is a great sauce for fish – make it in advance if necessary and re-warm gently to serve. Or serve cold as a dressing for fishy salads.

Caesar Dressing Vinaigrette

Normally Caesar Salad is dressed with a garlicky anchovy mayonnaise but here is a good egg-free alternative.  This one is best made in a liquidiser although I’m sure you can manage if you haven’t got one.

1 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2-3 anchovy fillets
1-2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp lemon juice
6 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

~   Liquidise together the first 6 ingredients.
~   Gradually add the olive oil till emulsified.
~   Taste and season BUT be very careful about salt; it may not need any due to the saltiness of the anchovies.

Toasted Nut of your Choice Vinaigrette

You do need a liquidiser or food processor for this one.

60g nuts
1 garlic clove
60ml vinegar – sherry vinegar is good with nuts
180ml olive oil
salt and pepper

~   Toss the nuts in a dry pan over medium heat, shaking the pan till the nuts are lightly toasted and fragrant.
~   Put them in the liquidiser together with the garlic and pulverise them.
~   Add the vinegar and then, gradually, the oil till thick and creamy.
~   Taste and season.
~   If the mixture is too thick for your liking thin it with a little warm water.

This is not a good keeper – 2 days max.  Keep in the fridge but bring to room temperature before using.

As there has been such a load of words with no pics here for your entertainment is a HUGE lettuce I bought in France a few months ago, for perspective that is my size 5 foot beside it! 

Links to other vinaigrette recipes around Sudden Lunch!

~   Pear Vinaigrette – with cider vinegar and honey this is great with blue cheese salads. 
~   Burnt Orange Vinaigrette – try with scallops!
~   Bacon Balsamic Vinaigrette – lovely on grilled lettuce!
~   Sweet Chilli Dressing  – I like this with salmon.
~   Caramelised Red Wine Vinaigrette – cheese, obviously.
~   Lemon Poppyseed Dressing – seafood. 
~   Roasted Shallot Vinaigrette  cheese and/or beef salads, for instance, or grilled steak.
~   Roasted Carrot Vinaigrette – when I made this I first served it with sea bass, but it is quite a friendly flexible sort of dressing.   

Things to do with vinaigrettes other than dress a salad ...

~   Use as a dip for raw veggies or lovely bread like this Vicky’s bread which is my absolutely favourite.

~   Drizzle over things other than salads – maybe hummus (this confuses my brother too!) or appropriately flavoured soups.  Try a little Roasted Shallot Vinaigrette on steak or, as mentioned above, fig vinaigrette is delicious with calves’ liver
~   Sometimes a vinaigrette is good stirred through freshly cooked, and even hot if you like, vegetables – try a minty dressing with fresh peas, for instance.
~   Marinade meat or fish in a suitable vinaigrette to tenderise and flavour it.  Meats can be marinated for several hours but, in the case of fish, just a few minutes is fine – too long and the acid will actually “cook” the fish and you will have ceviche – nice, but not what you intended.

Famous Salad Dressing Quote

"It takes four men to dress a salad: a wise man for the salt, a madman for the pepper, a miser for the vinegar, and a spendthrift for the oil."
Anonymous (he said quite a lot of things actually!)

In Other News ...

~   In honour of National Ice Cream Month and summer in generalI have reduced the price of “100+ Luscious Ice Creams without a Machine – or much time or effort or having to mash the stuff as it freezes” – have a look inside here (or buy the bugger, its only £1.81!).
~   I have created an Author Website for myself in the hope this might help make me rich and famous – have a look here and see what you think of it..

Tweetables ...

 ~   A few Handy Hints, Recipes and Info vis a vis Vinaigrettes.
~   13+ Vinaigrette Recipes and other good ideas.
~   Lettuce ~ but why?!  A few good reasons here. 

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22 June 2014

Funny and Useful book on How to Lose Weight - Review

“A chilli a day
Keeps a fat arse at bay”
Jane Wenham-Jones

This is just a quick post for people who like eating as much as I do but who don’t want to pile on the pounds.

I have just, almost inadvertently, read a really good book by Jane Wenham-Jones that tackles this problem!  She writes for “Writing Magazine” to which I subscribe and I have read and enjoyed her “Wannabe a Writer?” so when I saw “100 Ways to Fight the Flab - and still have wine and chocolate” available on Kindle I thought I’d have a look, seeing as how I am a little heavier than I’d like to be.

Jane Wenham-Jones' writing style is easy and informal as if I was having a chat with a friend and it is also very jokey and fun but what she says is realistic, reassuring and actually very useful and, here’s the great bit ... since reading “100 Ways ...” and selecting which of the hundred ways I fancied (which isn’t difficult as many of them are very attractive) I have lost 4lb (which is 1.814 kg or about 7 cups for American readers!) in a couple of weeks!

No.1 in the "100 ways..." is Eat Chocolate, No. 2 is to cut out butter and quit drinking which happily is then immediately stated to be a joke! No 12 is the recommendation with which I started this post concerning chillies. The things is they are all seriously useful suggestions once you read on.

There is a loads more to the book than the aforementioned “100 ways ...” including chapters on dressing to look slim, losing weight fast, exercise (sorry about that), attitude and even a few recipes and a poem!  There is also an associated blog which might be of interest.

This is a light hearted, downright funny, interesting and useful book so there you have it,  I recommend ...

In other news ...

~  I have just set up a website for myself. Seemingly a writer should have more than a blog so here it is ... please, please have a look at it here and tell me what you think.
~  I shall be offering my sorbet book for free in a few days or so – please click on "219 Tips & Techniques" at the top of the page to get that one free and to be informed when Sorbets & Granitas is available or just keep an eye out on Twitter, Facebook etc.
~  Lovely solstice sunset last night!

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18 June 2014

Wonderful foods and a Motto for Life!

“Live more and eat very happily”
Olives et Al
 Now  that's what I call a Motto for Life!  Please Click to Tweet

About a week ago I received a parcel of goodies form Olive et Al and feel guilty that I have been a bit tardy in reviewing what they sent me. The truth of the matter is I have been overwhelmed with their wonderfulness!

First out the box was a jar of Sumac and this is what it says on the label ...

“Inspired by adventure we spent a year journeying across the Med on two motorbike collecting recipes everywhere we went.  Discover some of our stories –
and tell us yours ... olivesetal.co.uk.

So, of course I immediately visited their site and was beguiled for ages and ages, I suggest you do the same. There is so much to read, such a lot of useful information ranging from how to taste olive oil (it’s more complicated than I made it sound there!) to how to have shiny hair.  Lots of recipes, ideas and fabulous pictures and that’s not all; click on a fabulous picture and up comes an interesting little story that makes me want to wander off and see some more of our lovely World. This is just a snippet of their clickable pics, there are loads!

All this excitement  before I'd even tasted the products! 

Olives et Al sent me four interesting items and there is a lot to play with so this is a preliminary post with another one to follow when I've had a more thorough experiment.  Firstly ...


Now you might think me a bit of a doofus but despite having an inordinately huge interest in food and being quite well travelled myself (including North Africa and Greece) I had never tried sumac.

My first taste was a tentative dip and lick of the finger – hmm, lemony – and my second was using it to brighten the crust on some haddock.  I am very partial to panko crumbs so this time I mixed some sumac with them together with some Maldon sea salt “et wulla” (as they say in the States!) lovely crunchy, tangy, salty divine fish. 

The very next day I sprinkled sea salt and sumac onto salmon fillets before pan frying them and serving with oven baked sweet potato chips and a salad dressed with the lovely Mojo Pink Grapefruit Dressing and Marinade which was also in the parcel – see below for more details on this.

Olives et Al’s sumac is 100% pure crushed berries sourced from a Women’s Cooperative in the West Bank and is totally authentic.

I can’t believe I have waited so long (so very, very long!) to try this delightful spice and my mind is spinning with ideas so more in Part 2 (coming soon).

Mojo Pink Grapefruit Dressing & Marinade

Now this one says on the label ...

“Why are labels covered in photos?  Have a look at the website for the full story and loads more pics.  
Live more and eat very happily”"

I am glad they say “dressing and marinade” because I am always encouraging people to use various vinaigrette to marinate meat and fish before cooking and especially useful in this Time of the Barbecue.

The flavour of this dressing is quite powerful (and I’m not surprised as it contains garlic, cumin, Dijon mustard and oregano with loads of lovely black pepper heat) but in a good way! 

The recipe was apparently discovered in the Cayman Islands which is close to “home” for me.  I actually first tried mojo in the Canary islands where it is a garlicky, citrus and olive oil mixture often used as a dipping sauce (luckily I have some wonderful Vicky’s Bread on hand) and I believe it may be the Latin influence in the Caribbean that has caused the sauce to migrate.

Last night for dinner we ate up the remains of a roast chicken; my real man had ... another roast dinner whilst I ate a delicious salad of diced chicken, salad leaves, tomatoes and red onions tossed in Pink Grapefuit Mojo. We both had new potatoes that were only yesterday in our friend Carol’s garden – lucky us!  I  tossed mine in a little Preserved Lemon Butter.

Preserved Lemons

I've had preserved lemons before and am glad to be having them again! The first thing I did was cut a slice off one and the second I did was to scatter some of said slice over smoked salmon with sour cream.  Lovely (especially after I added lots of black pepper - not shown!).

Next I made Preserved Lemon and Black Pepper Butter (see here for lots of compound butter ideas because they are so useful) and inserted some under the skin of a chicken breast. It roasted up wonderfully, the skins was crisp, the flesh was fragrant and I roasted a few potatoes alongside which turned out well too.

Neat & Dirty Lemon Vodka Olives

According to Olives et Al this preserving of olives in alcohol is a world first – thank God someone got round to it at last!  

had a quick nibble, as one would, and have to say I approve.  I haven’t done anything more yet but will be reporting back.

So that is Part 1 of my post about Olives et Al – if you’d like to know when I write more about this lovely stuff then please signup here, get a FREE copy of “219 Cooking Tips and Techniques you might find useful” and I’ll alert you to my next post.  Actually you can opt out of future alerts and just have the tips if you prefer!

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15 June 2014

Picnic Recipes

“If ants are such busy workers, how come they find time to go to all the picnics?”
Marie Dressler.

Having just got over National Cucumber Week we now find ourselves in the throes of National Picnic Week.  Will it never end?

So here are a few suggestions if you are headed out to dine al fresco, en plein air, sur l'herbe or simply outdoors.

Soggy on Purpose Sandwich aka Pan Bagnat

This is traditionally made using a round flat country loaf but is also good using a chunk of baguette.

Here’s a sort of recipe!
5 lovely ripe tomatoes
60ml olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp minced garlic
2 baguettes cut into 3 pieces
a selection of ingredients you fancy such as ...
more tomatoes, marinated artichoke hearts, olives, anchovies, celery, onion, tuna, rocket, tapenade, goats’ cheese, etc.

~   Purée the five ripe tomatoes with oil, vinegar, garlic and a little seasoning.  
~   Cut the baguette pieces in half lengthways and scoop out some of the crumb to make room for goodies. (Obviously you will keep the scooped out bread for some other delicious purpose).
~   Brush the cut sides of the bread with the tomato mixture.
~   Layer your chosen fillings in one half of each piece of baguette, drizzling with any tomato mix you have left.
~   Press the tops on firmly, wrap tightly in cling film and chill for several hours, preferably with a weight on top.
~   Unwrap and slice thickly to serve.

Mrs. Beeton's Potted Beans

Mrs. B’s recipe is very odd calling as it does for ½ a pint of haricot beans baked in a slow oven with no liquid whatsoever, which must surely be an oversight, till tender. Here’s my variation ...
400g can of haricot beans – drained
60g (possibly leftover) wholemeal breadcrumbs
60g grated mature Cheddar cheese eg. Cornish Crackler
60g soft butter
seasonings of choice
60g or so more butter – melted
~   Basically pound everything together till you have a coarse pâté like thing!
~   Taste and season – Mrs. B favoured cayenne, nutmeg, salt and pepper and I have not argument with that.
~   Decant into a pot or pots and top with a little melted butter to seal.
~   Chill till needed.

If you feel like being more orthodox with your beans please see here for Hummus and other bean dips and purées. 

Pasties of some sort –I would say that!  How about these ...

Cornish Gouda and Leek Pasties – makes 2 large, 3 medium or 6 small pasties
15g butter
90g leeks, halved, sliced, washed and drained – like this
45g coarsely chopped crumby mature Cornish Gouda http://www.cornishgouda.co.uk/or similar tasty mature cheese
200g pastry
1 egg – beaten
sea salt – the crunchy kind

~   Gently melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat.
~   Stir in the prepared leeks.
~   Turn down the heat to low and press a piece of foil, baking parchment or a butter wrapper directly onto the leeks covering completely. Try not to burn yourself.
~   Cover the pan and cook gently for about 20 minutes till utterly tender and just starting to brown.
~   Set aside to cool a little.
~   Preheat the oven to 400ºF/200ºC/180C fan/gas 6.
~   Grease and line a baking tray.
~  Roll the pastry out fairly thinly and cut into 6 x 75mm or thereabouts circles, or whatever size you choose.
~   Stir the cheese into the leeks. I normally say “season to taste” at this point but the mixture was so delicious I’m not going to say it here.
~   Divide the filling between the pastry circles, fold in half and crimp the edges to seal.
~   Put onto the prepared baking tray.
~   Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with a little crunchy Cornish Sea Salt.
~   Bake for 20-30 minutes till golden and smelling gorgeous.

If you have any pastry over – how about some cheese straws

Salad of some sort – nothing too fragile, perhaps coleslaw and potato salad ...

Easy Impressive Potato Salad

~   Put a bunch of spring onions, coarsely chopped, in the food processor together with a couple of dollops of mayonnaise.
~   Use to dress warm, freshly cooked potatoes. If you can get ones with red skins these look fantastic!

Strawberry Scones - makes 6 normal scones or 4 embarrassingly large..

This is a good way to make a few strawberries go a long way.

225 g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
a pinch or two of salt
50 g cold butter or margarine
200g coarsely chopped strawberries
80 ml milk

~   Preheat the oven to 400ºF/200ºC/180C fan/gas 6.
~   Stir together the flour, baking powder and salt.
~   Add the butter or margarine and “rub in” with your fingers until a breadcrumb texture is achieved
~   Stir in the sugar and the strawberries.
~   Add the milk and mix in, by hand is easiest, till you have a soft dough.
~   Add a little more milk if too dry or a little more flour if too wet – you need a soft but not sticky dough.
~   Lightly knead just a few times to bring the dough together.
~   On a floured surface press or roll the dough out to about 2 cm thick and using a cookie cutter cut into rounds or other attractive shape.
~   Transfer the scones to a greased baking sheet, brush their tops with a little milk and bake in the oven till risen and golden – about 20 minutes.
~   Transfer to a cooling rack till cold.
~   Take some clotted cream with you.

Other good things to take include crisps, nuts, biccies, chocolate, cheese and good bread.

Remember ...

~   A picnic blanket or similar.
~   Kitchen roll and maybe some wet wipes.
~   A bag for rubbish.
~   Plates, knives, forks and, very important, wine glasses.
~   Salt and pepper and any pickles, sauces or relishes you fancy.
~   Something delicious and refreshing to drink – kept cold in a cooler.
~   Choose somewhere beautiful!

PS..  Hold yourself in readiness its Wrong Trousers Day on June 27th!

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