Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Quick Blackberry Jam

There are blackberries abound here in London. Along the riverbanks, lining the footpaths, twirling and twining in the underbrush. And, they are ripe and ready for the picking. 

I have been walking around the city with my eyes to the edges, the peripheral view, scouting & taking stock. Last weekend I hit the jackpot - a brier of blackberries in beautiful sunny spot with big juicy, perfectly formed berries laden on the vines. 
I find it remarkable just how many things grow here, flower and produce fruit. It is so pleasant to see apples, pears and plums dangling from the tips of branches hanging above concrete, iron and brick. It is a simple pleasure but softens the hard corners of such a big city. 

Making small batch jams are great because they are the perfect place to play and experiment with flavors without requiring large amounts of time or ingredients. So, I wanted to share this recipe as more of a guideline, a jumping off point for flavors. This is a quickly made jam or compote using honey, sugar & vinegar as the preservatives. I chose rich dark spices to compliment the sweet deep flavor of the berries and fresh thyme to elevate the brightness of the fruit. The jam brings a little of the city's bounty to my table and is delicious spread on thick slices of toast, stirred through a breakfast porridge or topping yogurt. It is equally delightful dolloped over a scoop of vanilla ice cream, served alongside a creamy goats cheese or paired with a nutty gruyere. It should keep nicely in an airtight container in the fridge for 7-10 days. 



Blackberry Jam

4 pints of wild blackberries (washed and picked through) 
1 small black cardamom pod 
peel from 1/2 medium orange, excluding white pith  
3 or 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
3 tbsp red wine vinegar 
1 tsp salt
1/4 c honey (more or less to your taste)
1/2 C water


place the water, orange peel & black cardamom pod in a large sauce pan.  Bring it up to a brisk simmer and once there, sir in the honey until dissolved. 

Then add the blackberries, salt & thyme. Bring the mixture up to a boil and add the red wine vinegar. Boil for 3 minutes more, then reduce to a simmer. 

Simmer down until most of the liquid is absorbed & has reached your desired thickness. It should coat the back of a spoon quite thickly. I like mine on the thick side. 30-45 mins should do the trick. 

Keep an eye on the pot, you don't want the berries to break down too much - it is nice to have some fully formed for great texture. Remember, it will thicken as it cools. 

Remove the cardamom & thyme sprigs, place in an airtight jar and store in the fridge for about a week. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Beet & Plum Salad

I love the change of seasons. That gentle, nearly imperceptible shift from summer to autumn is my favorite. 
It comes in, barely noticeable, on the tops of the warm summer breezes, chasing at their heels. A coolness, the smell of earth, the little changes in the light ~ 

My neighborhood farmers market starts not too early every Sunday morning. And there isn't anywhere else I would rather be, coffee in hand, pick over produce for the coming week. Its become a ritual I've come to cherish. 
Apples, fennel, cob nuts, the most gorgeous colored beets and sweet plums have been first on my shopping list of late. 
They bridge the gap between the light sweet flavors of summer and darker earthier flavors of autumn. 
This salad mixes some of those early flavors of autumn with some of the last bits of summer lightness. Rich jewel tone beets, sweet english plums, toasted shallots, and creamy goat cheese ricotta. 

Poach the beets covered in a baking dish in the oven with a bit of red wine vinegar and water to really release their sweetness. The skin should be tender enough that you won't need to peel them just make sure to scrub each really well before putting them in the oven. Use the freshest ricotta or better yet, make some! Its really very easy and super satisfying. Bring a pint of goat's milk and a dash of salt up to just boiling, take it off the heat, stir in 3 tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice, stir once or twice and let it stand for 5 minutes. Then pour the mixture into a strainer lined with cheesecloth. I like to keep the whey that runs off and use it in smoothies! After about an hour the ricotta should be ready.

Beet & Plum Salad 

1lb of beets. mixed colors but roughly the same size. scrub well and place in a shallow baking dish with 1 cup water and 1/4cup red wine vinegar, cover with foil and bake aprox 1 hour at 200C/400F until tender. When they are cool slice, rough chop into various sizes - the different textures are wonderful. keep lighter color beets away from the darker red if you want to keep their color. 

1/4 lb of plums. washed and chopped 

1 large leek sliced very thin and toasted over a low heat with a knob of ghee until tender add in 1 clove crushed garlic and  1 tsp grated fresh ginger and cook another few minutes until fragrant.

For the dressing, whisk together in a bowl the juice of 1 lemon, 1 lime 1 tbsp honey 1 tbsp chopped fresh dill a pinch of sea salt and a grind or two of black pepper. Then whisk in the cooked leeks & ginger. discard the garlic clove. 

sautee a few shallots in ghee over a very low heat until lightly browned and crisp. transfer to a paper towel to drain and cool. should make some leftovers which will keep in an airtight container for a few days.  

Mix chopped beets & plums through half the dressing (reserve some to drizzle over the top), stir through until everything is well coated. 


Plate the beets along with any golden beets, if using, and a large dollop of the ricotta. drizzle with some of the remaining dressing and sprinkle with a generous handful of crispy shallots 




Monday, August 4, 2014

broad bean summer salad & a trip to the seaside

I am finding a feeling of connectedness to England through the food - not that that should come as any surprise - and more specifically the produce. England's offerings are impressive and yet simple. Berries, pears and apples grow wild here, yours for the picking. Beans, courgettes and tomatoes have ushered in a summer style of eating that is raw, clean, and simple.
 London seems to play everything close to the chest. I have really had to work hard here to discover the good markets, butchers, fish mongers and spice stalls, but I am finding them! - finally.  
A good part of this summer has been about the broad bean (favas as they would be called at home). Their bright green color and tender creamy texture is so easy to love. They have gone into risottos, been made into spreads and hummus, but my favorite has been this simple salad. 
Simple has been some what of a theme around here. Both of us are working hectic full-time jobs that required late hours and long days. Weekends have been precious and, in an effort to maximize those two days we have been taking simple, easy going excursions to some of Britain's seaside towns. 

They are the perfect getaway. Accessible by train, cups of coffee in the morning, a late breakfast in a new city & home to bed after dinner. 
Brighton was a recent day trip - nostalgic, slightly faded beach front and a vibrant little town waiting just up the hill. 

Up the hill from a sleepy beach front is a young, lively town full of winding streets, outdoor markets, shops and restaurants. 
Sitting for a while to take it all in - live music being played and big inviting picnic tables on which to sit, rich second cups coffee. Poking through shops and keeping an eye out for the perfect lunch spot - it was a carefree & easy day & just as summer should be 



for the salad
serves 2
about 1 1/2 cups of blanched, shelled broad beans
1 very small red onion or shallot 
3 tablespoons of muscat vinegar 
1 small head of romanesco broken into very small pieces 
3 or 4 strips of lemon peel, cut very finely into strips 
2 big handfuls of pea shoots - or other micro greens
10 or so small - medium mint leaves 
10 or so sprigs of flat leaf parsley 
olive oil (i used a beautiful orange infused oil - go for one that has sweet floral notes)
the freshest ricotta 
salt & pepper 


chop an extra small red onion (or shallot) very finely, just cover with muscat vinegar and set to the side 

peal and blanch the broad beans (there is something nearly therapeutic in this task). after blanching, i like to remove the tough light green outer pod to reveal the gorgeous colors you see below. 

break apart the romanesco into very small pieces - they are sweet and crunchy and raw in this salad - 

assemble the pea shoots, romaesco, lemon zest fronds, broad beans, flat leaf parsley &  mint leaves on each of the plates. 

into the onion mixture add a pinch of salt and whisk in the olive oil. 

dollop on your ricotta, as much or as little as you like really and then drizzle the entire salad with the dressing. 

finish with a few grinds of black pepper 








Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Winter Couscous Salad

Six months since the last post, and it feels like it has flown.

2013 was a crazy year, a trans-continental move, a wedding, styling my first cookbook, getting settled in this big new city. It was a whirlwind, although fun. 2014 has already been more grounded and I feel like I am finding my stride here.
There have been lots of new things to discover and lots to adapt to. One of the biggest changes has been the food. In San Francisco we shopped the farmers market every Saturday and had some of the worlds freshest, most diverse and beautiful produce within easy reach. In London I have struggled to find such variety and quality and our diets have become more seasonal. But, being a New England-er by birth, many of the option available to me here aren't so very different from the foods I grew up with. 

Nuts, whole grains, dried fruits and hearty root vegetables have been staples and I have been playing a lot in the kitchen with different flavors and combinations. The exposure to more middle eastern flavors and cooking has a been a welcome new experience. I have been carrying this cookbook with me everywhere. 
This Winter Couscous Salad has also been making quite a few appearances at our table. Its great on its own or with some winter greens in the bottom of a bowl. It also works well as a side with chicken or lamb. I have been roasting up baby cauliflowers I found at the market, but thick roasted slices of full sized cauliflower works too.  


Winter Couscous Salad
Large couscous (2 cups dry). I used whole wheat here but any will do. 
1 lemon  - slice off two round slices  
3 cloves garlic (crushed)
1 bay leaf
2 cups stock
cinnamon (half a stick or 1/4 teaspoon if using ground)
Olive oil 
walnuts (1/2 cup) toasted - throw them in with the cauliflower for about 8 mins.
parsley - aprox 1/2 cup, chopped.  
feta cheese (100 grams) cut into 1/2" cubes
green olives - 100 grams. sliced in half. The olives I use are stuffed with orange peel 
salt & pepper
Cauliflower or other protein.
If using cauliflower,
slice a medium head laterally from top to bottom in 4 slices. toss with olive oil, salt & pepper roast on a baking sheet at 350/180 until tender (aprox 20 mins) flip halfway through. Add walnuts (aprox 8 mins) at the end to toast. 
For the salad:
Put tbsp of olive oil in a heavy bottom sauce pan.
Drop in cinnamon - toast for 30 seconds or until fragrant
add 3 crushed garlic cloves and lemon slices & bay leaf - toast for another 30 seconds
Add couscous and toast over medium high heat until lightly browned. Add 1.5 cups of stock and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer until done, you may need to add more stock. I leave a very little bit unabsorbed to keep couscous from drying out in the salad. But drain if too much liquid remains 
Discard the lemon slices, cinnamon stick, bay leaf & garlic cloves. Let the couscous cool 
Mix in feta, olives, walnuts & parsley. Squeeze remaining lemon juice over the mixture and fresh cracked black pepper. Mix well.

Serve with cauliflower on the side. 
serves 4.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Monday Mood Board


Saturday was my first trip to a flea market here in London. It was fun to spend a morning poking around, talking to people about their items and making a few purchases. I am particularly excited about an antique ceramic plate that was once part of a weighing scale. It has a gorgeous brown makers stamp on it and will make the perfect cheese board!

I noticed that there were many pieces decorated with a sort of faux tortoise shell look. It immediately started seeing it everywhere and I think its just lovely. Super chic and bit earthy and very elegant. 

So this Monday's mood board is inspired by my trip to the flea market this weekend and my new found love of tortoise shell. 


images: lamps, dining room, clutch, flats, earrings, sunglasses, tumblers, knives.