Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Lisbon Autumn 2015

Rooftop view, Lisbon

Lisbon in the last week of September.  Four days of pure blue skies, daytime temperatures around 28C, balmy evenings.  Were we lucky?  I suspect this was just what we should have expected. Where to start? Walking shoes on - a must for tackling Lisbon's seven hills and wonky pavements - and let's find lunch.

Sardines and Tuna
at Sol e Pesca, Lisbon

Sol e Pesca is a former fishing tackle shop and as unpretentious a dining space as you could get.  Little changed from the its earlier incarnation, this tiny space which spills out onto the pedestrianised street is all about showcasing Portugal's fantastic tinned fish - sardines, tuna, mussels, scallops and more.  Make your choices.  The original cabinets now display the catch rather than the means to catch.  The fish is decanted onto plates with simple garnishes - a lemon quarter and a sprig of dill, perhaps - and served up with decent bread to mop up the excellent olive oil.  I recommend the Pinhais Petingas Picantes sardines (small and spicy) as well as the outstanding Atum Galha Á Ré ventresca tuna from the Azores in extra virgin olive oil.  A tumbler or two of good Vinho Verde makes it perfect.    Expect to pay around Euros 10-15 each. Sol e Pesca is a not-to-be-missed joy. 

Traditional door style

Traditional Portuguese food is generous in its portions.  The execution, I think, can be a bit unrefined but if you want to experience good soups like Caldo Verde or Sopa Alho Francês and you're happy with simply grilled fish served with plain boiled potatoes and greens (though to my taste invariably over-cooked ones) then O Pitéu could be for you.  This simple restaurant serves speedy lunches to business folk in the Graça district, a stone's throw from the high tourist-count area of Alfama.  Just such a lunch with a glass of house wine and a coffee came to Euros 20 each on our visit.  It's a genuine traditional Lisbon lunch spot and you certainly won't leave hungry.

Arcade life

If you'd like a more wide-ranging menu, try O Taloh, close to São Sebastião Metro station.  The restaurant is a mix of traditional and modern informed by the extensive travels of the chef.  The fact this restaurant has its own butcher's shop makes it clear that meat is the main thing here.  Expect steaks and burgers along with dishes such as pasta with oxtail and mushrooms or a take on lamb tandoori accompanied by naan and lentils (but I've got to say, green lentils will never make an acceptable substitute for a creamy dhal!).  For pudding there may be a Thai-influenced lemongrass parfait or an Argentinian Dulce de Leche "flan" served with a lovely peanut butter ice-cream.  There is an amount of 'deconstruction' on the plates here.  The restaurant is fairly formal but unstuffy with very good service and wines.  Expect to pay around Euros 25-30 each  The chef proprietor, Kiko, has also recently opened a cevicheria at Principe Real.

Vaulted brick ceiling
at Landeau, Rua das Flores, Lisbon

Landeau chocolate and coffee shop is housed in a beautiful room on the Rua das Flores 70.  All creamy-white walls and warm brick vaulted ceilings, unlike at Sol e Pesca, this space bears no hint of its former use (a Lisbon brothel).  About half way up one of the City's numerous steeply-sloping streets in the Chiado district, it's a welcome pit-stop for coffee, tea or a cup of chocolate.  It also serves up one of the most exquisite chocolate cakes I've ever eaten.  

Coffee & Chocolate Cake
at Landeau, Lisbon 

If you want choice, go somewhere else.  This place does what it does beautifully and I like that.  There is another Landeau shop in the *LX Factory complex in Alcântara. 

'Dragonfly Woman by Lalique
at Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon

For me, the Museum Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian is not to be missed.  Close to SãSebastião Metro station, it has a very accessible wide-ranging collection including Eastern Islamic art, painting, sculpture and decorative arts plus a temporary exhibition space.  A separate building houses Modern Art.  The galleries exploit the beautiful setting with windows looking out into the surrounding park.

(taken at Mercado de Alvalade Norte), Lisbon

The Mercado da Ribeira (also known as Mercado 24 de Julio), just behind Cais do Sodré train station,  has been Lisbon's main food market since 1892.  The market still trades from 06.00-14.00 but now the draw seems to be Time Out Lisbon Magazine's development of the greater part of the building as a food (and drink) court.  Here you'll find "some of the city's most loved names in food and drink".  It's not really my kind of thing but it is open every day from 10.00 to at least midnight so it's a useful place to know about.

Espade Branco
at Mercado de Alvalade Norte, Lisbon

For a market that is less about immediate gratification and more about filling your food basket and feasting your eyes, I recommend a visit to Mercado de Alvalade Norte, close to Alvalade Metro station.  Here you'll find the freshest fish, bacalhau, meats and mainly local fruit and vegetables.  As is often found in Spain and Portugal, there is a supermarket attached to the main market for the other everyday necessities.

Tinned Sardines
at Loja Das conservas, Lisbon

If you were in any doubt how important tinned fish is to the Portuguese, a visit to Loja das Conservas  on Rua do Arsenal 130 in the Chiado district will make it clear.  The walls of this store are lined with a wholly Portuguese selection of the country's conservers of sardines, mussels, tuna and more.  There were no 'Pinhais' on my visit but these 'Millesimes' sardines came home with me.  If I hadn't shopped there, I'd probably have picked up a few tins of brand Tricana from Conserveira de Lisboa at Rua dos Bacalheiros.  The sardines are good, the package fabulous and the wrapping and tying is lovely to watch.

Pasteis de Nata
at Antiga Confeitaria de Belém, Lisbon

You're bound to want a Pasteis de Nata, the irresistible Portuguese custard tart. For the best in town (and the first , apparently) take advantage of Lisbon's great transport system and head for Antiga Confeitaria de Belém.  You'll need a No. 15 tram which runs from Praca do Comercio to Mosteiros dos Jeronimos in the Belém district.  The tram drops yous right outside the Confeitaria.  My advice is to go as early as you can (they open at 08.00) as later in the day the tourists arrive en-masse.  Instead of enjoying a Nata and coffee at the bar with locals, you'll find yourself in a scrum for a take-away and no coffee to go with it - the only way they can cope with the demand.  Behind the bar is a warren of rooms where you can eat in all day long if you prefer but you may have to queue.  It's worth a wander inside to see the kitchen where the pasteis are made and also the azulejos are worth a look.

Padrão dos DescobrimentosBelém, Lisbon

While in Belém, I'd take in the Mosteiros do Jeronimos and Museo Coleção Berardo, and you won't be able to miss the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries honouring Portuguese explorers).

Mirador Principe Real

Lisbon, being built on seven hills, offers plenty of spectacular views.  There are numerous Miradors (viewing areas) dotted around the city.  My favourite is at Principe Real where there is also a decent cafe to get a cooling glass of orange juice after the walk up.

Azulejo, Lisbon

Although we didn't go on this visit, Museu Nacional do Azulejo and Museu de Design e Moda (MUDE) are both well worth visiting.  I talked about both in my 'Loving Lisbon' review in 2012 (link at the bottom of this page).

Bolo de Arroz
 Balcao do Marquês, Lisbon

While a visit to Belem for Pasteis de Nata is a must, it's important to find somewhere close to hand.  That little place on the corner that we always hope we'll find when we visit an unfamiliar city.  This time we struck lucky with Balcao do Marquês, a friendly bakery/bar/cafe a few steps from our hotel on Avenida Duque de Loulé and similarly close to Metro station Marquês de Pombal.  You'll get a decent Bica (espresso) or um Garoto (with a dash of milk, like a Piccolo) and a very good Pasteis de Nata or Bolo de Arroz while you watch the morning ritual of the locals buzzing in and out on their way to work, like bees around a honey pot.

Jardim do Botanico, Lisbon

There's something melancholy about so many botanical gardens.  Once important and valued institutions, these days their underfunding is often all too evident.  The Jardim do Botanico in Lisbon certainly has a melancholy air, despite the fact in 2010 it was considered important enough to be designated a National Monument.  The number of dilapidated buildings surrounding its perimeter add to the atmosphere.  Occupying some 10 acres in the Principe Real district, alongside the National Museum of Natural History and Science, it boasts 18,000 species of sub-tropical vegetation.  It's a fantastic place to wander under the cooling trees away from the hustle and bustle of the city streets.  A dreamy interlude I always seek out.      

Aquifer, Lisbon

The Chafariz do Vinho Enoteca was intriguing.  The Chafariz da Mãe-de-Agua building it occupies sits at the bottom of two flights of steps leading up to Principe Real.  Through the building's vaulted galleries and stone aquaducts water once flowed, the street outside giving public access to the supply.  The restaurant is a useful place to choose from a list of 250 wines and enjoy a plate of above average Portuguese cheese and hams.  We were lucky to eat some of the last exceptionally sweet green "honey figs" served simply warmed with goats cheese and honey.  This place also has the advantage of being just moments from one of the top 100 jazz clubs in the world, Hot Club Portugal.  The club is a welcoming place with entry a mere Euros 7.50 and very reasonable drinks prices.  On our visit, Quarteto de César Cardoso proved to be a top class Portuguese jazz group led by saxophonist César Cardoso performing 2 sets.

* LX Factory
My biggest failure on this visit was running out of time to get to the LX Factory complex in Alcântara, about half way to Belém.  A group of 19th century abandoned warehouses, is now a creative hub for artists, designers and photographers, as well as home to fashion, music and publishing businesses and open to the public for shopping, exhibitions, theatre, cinema, shopping and eating.  I'd love to know whether this lives up to its promise so if any of you get there, or know it, I'd love to hear about it.

There's plenty of hotel choice in Lisbon.  We stayed at the H10 Duque de Loulé, opened earlier in 2015.  A good-sized room, very comfortable, reasonably priced, quiet, great staff and a rooftop bar with a view down to the Tagus in the distance meant it suited us. That said, next time I'd be inclined to rent an apartment to take advantage of the beautiful produce I saw at Mercado de Alvalade Norte.   

Useful to check:  Spotted by Locals, Lisbon

Link to my 2012 posting:  Loving Lisbon

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Fig Leaf Ice Cream

Brown Turkey Fig and fig leaves

The French and Italian figs which are coming to market are particularly good this year.  Here in the UK, unless you have a greenhouse or a very sheltered spot for your tree, fig growing can be a dispiriting activity for gardeners.  Varieties 'Brown Turkey', 'Brunswick' and 'Violetta' are the most reliable to try your hand at.  Even if fruiting is a hit and miss affair, they are beautiful to look at.  Their large sculptural, deeply lobed, leaves are even more beautiful on the underside with their pronounced veining.  So to be able to use these leaves in the kitchen makes up for the shyness in fruiting.

So many people have asked me for a recipe for fig leaf ice cream that I thought I ought to post one. It's based on a simple vanilla custard but even that, I realise, is not written in stone.  Some heat milk and cream, some add the cream at the end.  There is also more than one way to infuse a fig leaf.  I've seen at least one recipe where the leaves are submerged in the finished custard for a time before churning.  I like to immerse the leaves in the liquid that has been brought to a bare simmer.  As the mixture cools the leaves release their perfume just enough to add a distinctive fig flavour and, for me, coconut note to the finished ice cream.  You could, of course, make a fig ice cream but this is a frugal recipe that captures the particular fragrance of the fig.

Fig leaves infusing

I've made blackcurrant leaf ice cream in the same way and I have Kitty Travers of La Grotta Ices to thank for introducing me to the idea of fruit leaf ice creams.  She often infuses the leaves of fruit trees (after checking the leaves are not poisonous), sometimes she uses herbs like lemon verbena or thyme, to increase the depth of flavour or add another note to a fruit ice cream.  I'm not sure if Kitty uses exactly the same method as me for her Fig Leaf ice cream.  If she ever produces a book I'll be the first in line to get my hands on it.  In the meantime, I'm doing what feels right.

Blackberries and plums have been amongst my allotment hauls over the past few weeks and, last week, there were a few fig leaves too along with a single precious fig from a kind neighbour.  The fig we ate immediately, of course!  The fig leaf ice cream I made paired beautifully with a warm compote of blackberries and was delicious with a slice of just-out-of-the-oven plum pie.

Hot plum pie and cold fig leaf ice cream

Here's my ice cream recipe:

Fig Leaf Ice Cream
(Serves 8)

2-3 small-medium fig leaves, washed and dried
350ml whole milk
250ml whipping cream (UK)/heavy cream (USA)
1 vanilla pod, split
3 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
Pinch salt

Heat the milk, cream and vanilla pod (scrape out the seeds and add) until it's barely simmering.  Take off the heat, add the fig leaves and submerge them in the liquid.  Cover and leave to infuse for 30 minutes.
Remove the fig leaves from the pan and bring the mixture back to barely a simmer
Meanwhile, whisk the yolks, sugar and salt together until thoroughly combined.
Pour the contents of the pan over the egg yolk mixture in a steady stream, whisking continuously.
Return the mixture to the pan and heat gently, stirring, until the temperature reaches 85C.
Plunge the pan into an ice bath, stir from time to time over a period of 30 minutes to cool the custard as quickly as possible.  Refrigerate, preferably overnight but for at least 4 hours.
Remove the vanilla pod, whizz with an immersion blender or whisk to re-emulsify, then churn.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Spiced Courgette & Lemon Cake

Courgette plant Striato di Napoli

It's peak time for courgettes on my allotment. In order to keep everyone around the dining table interested it's necessary to pull out all the recipes I have and then look for more.  I've worked my way through risottos of diced courgette finished with their shredded flowers; fritters of grated courgette topped with a fried egg; dishes of Scapece with its vinegar and mint dressing; and courgette and onion tarts.  Courgettes make a surprisingly creamy soup; a light supper when sautéed and coloured with saffron (thank you Fern Verrow - a year of recipes from a farm and its kitchen); and their flowers, dipped in tempura batter, are delicious fried (more substantial if stuffed with soft cheese and herbs beforehand).  This year, we've had countless plates of Linguine con zucchine from Rachel Roddy's Five Quarters - Recipes and Notes from a Kitchen in Rome.  This summer my diners have never tired of that dish. We all need a recipe like that.

I vow not to let courgettes grow so large they effectively turn into marrows - the idea of stuffed marrow makes me shudder.  But when I'm bringing home armfuls of courgettes, they can find their way into cake.  I picked up a basic  recipe in the USA at least a decade ago.  Every summer since, out it comes to be tweaked a little according to what I have in the store cupboard. This year, in response to a request for the recipe, I've decided to share a version just in case you, too, are buckling under the weight of summer squashes.  It's worth mentioning that I've also successfully made this cake with crookneck squash.  If your courgettes are very watery, salt them after grating, leave them to sit for half an hour and then squeeze out the excess juice.  This recipe makes a pretty large cake but it does, quite easily, scale down to a 2-egg cake.

Spiced Courgette & Lemon Cake

Spiced Courgette & Lemon Cake
(makes a large cake 23cm x 13cm)

2 medium courgettes (about 450g/16oz), grated
180ml (6fl oz) groundnut oil
300g (10oz) caster sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
250g (9oz) soft plain flour
1½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons of ground allspice (or a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg and a little clove)
a pinch of salt
Zest of 1 lemon
115g (4oz) raisins or sultanas

60ml (2fl oz) lemon juice
60g (2 oz) granulated sugar

Pre-heat oven to 180C(fan 160C)/350F/Gas 4
Grease the loaf tin and line with greaseproof paper on the bottom and long sides to help with lifting out the baked cake.
Combine the oil and sugar and mix well until creamy.  Gradually beat in the eggs, mixing well between each addition.  Mix in the grated courgette and the vanilla extract.
In a separate bowl combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, spices, salt, lemon zest and raisins.  Stir into the creamed mixture until it is just amalgamated.  You should have a fairly loose batter.  Pour into the loaf pan and bake in the centre of the oven for about 65 minutes or until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and leave to stand for 5 minutes.
Gently heat the lemon juice and sugar until the sugar dissolves.
Pierce the loaf several times with a skewer. Spoon the hot syrup over the cake, covering all of the top.  Cool for 30 minutes before lifting out the cake with the help of the paper.

The cake tastes much better if you cool it completely, peel off the paper, and wrap it in fresh greaseproof paper or non-PVC food wrap  and leave overnight.  Keeps well for several days and actually becomes stickier and even better, I think.

More of my courgette recipes:
Courgette Soup
Courgette, lemon & thyme linguine

Thursday, 13 August 2015


Red over-wintered onion

This was the first over-wintered onion I lifted this year.  Its beauty transfixed me.  I took it home and placed it on the old wooden crate I keep on my little balcony and, of course, excitedly photographed it.  Out the shot went into the ether because, surely, everyone who saw it would admire it as much as I did.  I doubt anyone appreciated it quite so much, but this is what growing does to you.  You become ridiculously overwhelmed with your successes and their magnificence.  I harvested the onion early because of its immense size - well it was the biggest onion I'd ever grown - and monster veg is not my thing.  The need to grow for girth rather than taste - the biggest parsnip, the heaviest pumpkin, the plumpest gooseberry - is beyond my comprehension.  I think I was even a little scared by how big it had grown.  It was a meal in itself.

There the onion sat for 4 weeks, 'drying', even though I knew perfectly well it was a red overwintered onion; moist and perishable, they are most definitely not for keeping.  Bit by bit, the rest of the late-autumn planted sets have been brought into the kitchen and cooked enthusiastically, but this one remained on the box ageing with grace.  It could not go on.  So, today I took another 'still life with onion' (above) and chose a dish I hoped would do it justice.

In most cuisines the onion is reached for with astonishing regularity.  It's the vegetable that was top of my list to grow when I first took on my allotment.  Their ubiquity means they are cheap to buy but the satisfaction in harvesting a bed of onions, to be dried and squirrelled away for future use, is high.  All forms of allium are invaluable to my growing year: chives for delicacy; shallots for sweet pungency; leeks for a mild sweetness; garlic for punch; and onions for their fantastic versatility.

The Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda wrote a number of 'odes to common things', including:
Ode to the Onion
Onion, luminous flask, your beauty formed petal by petal ....." Read more 

Thank you Comeconella for the reminder.

It's easy to take the onion for granted but there are some dishes where it commands a starring role. Onion Soup, Roast Stuffed Onions, Onions a la Grecque and Onion Marmalade, to name a few.  For me, Simon Hopkinson's Onion Tart with Lancashire Cheese is a fine example; the Provençal onion tart, Pissaladière, another notable one.  But should a Pissaladière  include tomato or not?  Jane Grigson and Elizabeth David say yes; Alice Waters and Elizabeth Luard say No.  Waters specifies yellow onions; Grigson leaves the choice of strength to the cook.  Then there's the question of the base - bread dough or pastry?  And, if pastry, what kind?  No one seems to agree, least of all the French.


Personally, I don't want to stray into Italian Pizza territory, much as I like Pizza, so tomatoes are out along with the bread dough base.  Pissaladière gets its name from pissalat niçoise, a paste made of salt-cured anchovies pounded with olive oil, thyme and bay.  For me, it needs to be a rough-puff pastry base, spread with sweet onion perfumed with bay and thyme to contrast with salty anchovies and olives.  I prepare my onions the Alice Waters way, stewed slowly, the cooking juices drained off and used to pour over the tart just before serving.  

(Serves 4)

300g rough-puff pastry
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 medium sized onions, thinly sliced
2 plump cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 bayleaf
a few sprigs thyme
100g salted anchovies
A handful of black olives, preferably Niçoise, de-stoned
Salt and pepper

Roll the pastry to a rectangle, roughly 30cm x 20cm.  Place on a baking tray and create a narrow border to the pastry by cutting half-way into it all the way around. about 1cm from the edge (this allows the border to rise a little more than the centre)   Prick the base a few times with a fork.  Chill in the fridge.
Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan over a medium heat.  Add the onions, garlic and herbs, a pinch of salt and a grinding of pepper.  Stir then cover and stew for about 1 hour until they are completely soft (they should not brown). Strain and reserve the liquid.
Rinse and fillet the anchovies.  Halve the olives or leave whole if very small. 
Pre-heat the oven to 180C (Fan 16oC)/Gas 4.
Spread the onion mixture over the base of the pastry within the cut edge.  Top with the strips of anchovy and the olives.  Bake for 45 minutes.  Remove from the oven. Just before serving, use the reserved liquid from cooking the onions to pour over the filling.
Serve just warm or at room temperature.

Here's a tip from Jane Grigson for the frugal cook: "When your onions sprout towards the end of the winter, use the green shoots as if they were chives."

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Raspberry Clafoutis

Raspberry 'Clafoutis'

It's the way the word rolls off the tongue - c l a f o u t i s - that does it.  It's like a loving endearment or reassuring pat on the back.  So many times I've been seduced into taking a little slice of 'cherry clafoutis', hoping against hope that this will be the one to live up to all my expectations.  So many times my optimism has been rewarded with a stodgy or desiccated disappointment, made palatable only by pouring on copious amounts of cream.  Yet still, I search for the holy grail of the perfect 'clafoutis'.

The clue, I think, is in the usual description of 'clafoutis' as a "thick" batter pudding.  Personally I prefer my pudding to be thick, or dense, with fruit rather than flour so each year when the cherry season comes round I try again to find the recipe that's right for me.  The norm is to use cherries, unpitted so as to impart a little bitter almond-like flavour.  I've had a mirabelle plum version that was excellent, though some would say if it's not made with cherries then it's a 'flaugnarde'.  I'm perfectly happy to accept it as clafoutis.  I just wish I'd asked for the recipe.

With at least another couple of weeks of cherry picking to go, I haven't given up on this summer's quest for the cherry clafoutis of my dreams.  Meanwhile, here's a lighter batter pudding I came across last summer.  It offers not only a different treatment for the batter, but uses raspberries.  As I'm currently frantically harvesting berries from my allotment, I'm grateful to revisit it.  Nothing beats eating the fruit straight from the canes, warmed by the summer sun, but they're peaking now and so are destined for the kitchen.  If they are truly ripe, they travel badly.  This is when you need a recipe where looks matter less than taste and there's only so much jam, cordial and puree I can make - and take.

Summer Raspberries

CLAFOUTIS: from the verb CLAFIR 
meaning: 'TO FILL"

The delicacy of raspberries calls for light cooking.  This recipe is adapted from Second Helpings of Roast Chicken by Simon Hopkinson.  It's somewhere between a custard and a batter pudding.  He calls it a "clafoutis" and that's fine by me.

Raspberry Clafoutis
(Serves 4)

250ml whipping cream
a pinch of salt
1 vanilla pod
about 25g of softened butter
about 250g raspberries
1 whole egg + 2 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
1 teaspoon potato flour
a little icing sugar
a little raspberry eau de vie (optional)

Pour the cream into a pan.  Split the vanilla pod and run the back of a knife down the cut surfaces to extract the seeds.  Add pods and seeds to the pan along with the salt and stir.  Bring almost to the boil.  Take off the heat, cover and leave for 30 minutes.
Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/Gas 4.
Butter 4 shallow oven-proof dishes (or 1 large one).  Divide the raspberries evenly between the dishes and place them in a roasting tin.
Beat together the egg, egg yolks, sugar and potato flour.  Remove the vanilla pod from the cream and pour into the egg mixture, whisking gently.  Carefully pour the batter over the raspberries.  Sift the icing sugar over the surfaces.
Add hot water to the roasting tin to reach at least halfway up the sides of the dishes.  Place carefully in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes (about 35 minutes for a large one) until slightly puffed-up but still a little wobbly.  Turn off the oven and allow the puddings to settle for a few minutes.  Remove and serve when just warm sprinkled with a little eau de vie (if using) and some whipped cream.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Honey & Co The Baking Book

Page from Honey & Co The Baking Book
Baked Apricots with marzipan filling and almond crumble
Photograph by Patricia Niven ©

"Our days are governed by the rhythm of the pastry .... ".  For Honey & Co, this tiny restaurant in a London backstreet, it's the pastry section that provides the essential underpinning to their busy days, from breakfast to end of dinner treats.  Here is the book that has been so anticipated since last year's publication of Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich's much loved debut Honey & Co Food from the Middle East.  I wrote about the 2014 book here.  Where the first book concentrated mostly on savoury Middle-Eastern food, The Baking Book offers recipes for sweet and savoury bakes, with the emphasis on the sweet ones.

Baked apricots with marzipan filling and almond crumble
baked from Honey & Co The Baking Book

Cakes are a big part of the book, even though the original plan for Honey & Co the restaurant didn't include a single cake.  Finding premises with a big picture window changed all that.  Cakes were the lure to attract customers in - the swivel of the eyes as they pass by.  I've done it myself and can confirm how effective a hook that window display is.  Colour to draw the eye, spices, orange blossom and rose waters to make the nose twitch.  All heavenly stratagems are employed.  But there are no deceptions here.  The bakes live up to expectations.

Chocolate & pistachio cookies
baked from Honey & Co The Baking Book

If this was simply a book of recipes, it would be very good - how could it not be, when it covers all of the Honey & Co customer favourites.  But it's the look behind the scenes from 'Dead of night' and 'First light', through the long daily flow of staff and customers, to the snuffing out of the candles, that makes it very good indeed.  In this book Sarit takes centre stage, the driving force for the baking with Giorgia the pastry chef who "lights up when she talks about cakes".  The purple folder of recipes from Sarit's baking life is the starting point.  Then the creative and collaborative work begins - helped along by tastings by staff and regulars and the need to fulfil Itamar's pastry dreams.  The results find their way to table and counter and, now, into this book which "has our favourite recipes .... and the best of all of us".

Raspberry & lime jam
cooked from Honey & Co The Baking Book

Sarit's tips on 'How to be good at baking' are a fine start to the book, with guidance on the use of sugar, eggs, cream, butter/fats, nuts and seeds, as well as excellent advice on ingredients like chocolate, "if I don't want to steal a piece, I shouldn't be baking with it".  The 'Store cupboard' yields up the likes of Strawberry & rose and Black fig, cardamom & orange jams, Amalfi lemon & rosemary marmalade, Candied quince, sweet and savour spice mixes and sugars.  You can breakfast on sticky Fitzrovia Buns  with sour cherries and pistachios (a personal weakness); a dish of Shakshuka (eggs cooked in spicy tomato sauce); Burnt Aubergine burekas (pastry parcels); or buttery Kubaneh, one of the intriguing "three strange Yemeni breads".  Mid-morning could have you feasting on Feta and courgette muffins or Fig, orange & walnut cake.  But then again there is Tahini & white chocolate plait and Pear, ginger and olive oil cake to consider.  Lunch could be a Balkan cheese bread; a spicy Pigeon pastilla; or Leek & goats' cheese pie with an out of the ordinary cheese pastry.  And suddenly it's teatime and we're at page 179 which doesn't even bear a recipe.  What it has is one of my favourite pages of writing in the book as it gives a flavour of the restaurant routine at that particular time of day.  But turn the page for Blood orange & pistachio cakesOrange blossom & marmalade cakesBlueberry, hazelnut & ricotta cake; and Chocolate sandwich cookies filled with tahini cream.  'After Dark' we have sweet, salty, crispy Knafe fragrant with cardamom and orange blossom water; Poached peaches with rose jelly & crystallised rose petals; and, maybe, some pistachio and rose petal Halva.

Peach, vanilla & fennel seed loaf
baked from Honey & Co The Baking Book

I can never write a review without first trying out some of the recipes.  What did I make?  A ruby-red Raspberry & lime jam with citrus and spice notes from the use of fresh and dried limes; soft, yielding Chocolate & pistachio cookies; fragrant Peach, vanilla & fennel seed cake; and a luscious dish of floral, lightly-spiced Baked apricots with marzipan filling & almond crumble.  I made Honey & Co's recipe for Marzipan with orange blossom water for the filling and I swear I will never buy ready-made again.

Slice of Peach, vanilla & fennel seed loaf
baked from Honey & Co The Baking Book

This is a book for those who like a good read along with their cake.  A true taste of Honey & Co the restaurant, a place I know well.  The photography, by Patricia Niven, is every bit as beautiful as her photos in the first book.  This is a Baking Book well worth the wait.

Honey & Co The Baking Book

Book courtesy of Salt Yard Books, an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Spring into Summer with peas, beans and garlic

Broad beans, garlic and Florence Red onions

Every potato has sprouted into a canopy providing much needed shade to the tubers you just know are growing abundantly.  Bright spots of luscious red mark the strawberry bed where healthy plants poke through weed-suppressing cover and are guarded by a mesh-covered frame.  Evenly-spaced raspberry canes are already fruiting nearby and rows of broad beans stand to attention,  straight-backed  and regimented.  Sadly, not my plot but my east-side allotment neighbour.  Ex-army? There's something about Ray's disciplined plot that makes me think so.  Every area seems to be organised and considered, from the raised nursery bed to the onions, which, needless to say, are enormous.  Ex-Royal Engineers?  Whatever, clearly I need to make friends.

How different from my own plot.  I am a stranger to straight lines, instinctive in my practices, a firefighter rather than a planner.  Sometimes things work out, sometimes they don't.  One year the courgette crop will be fantastic, the next a disaster.  Onions will sulk their way through one spring and grow to the size of cricket balls the next.  I am a philosophical gardener and I try not to let size matter.  Yet I keep straying over to check on Ray's plot.  There must, I reasoned, be something that's not quite working out.  Then I spotted the blackfly, thickly massed around the growing tips of those uniform broad beans.  At last, a chink in Ray's armour.

I couldn't get back to my own broad beans quickly enough to check them.  Sure enough, there the blackfly squatted, farmer-ants keeping them in their place and milking them for their sweet honeydew secretions.  Normally, pinching out the growing tip is sufficient to stop the colony in its tracks.  But not this year.  Onward they have marched, shepherded by their guardians, down the length of the stem and onto the bean pods.  And it hasn't stopped their, barely germinated runner beans are being ambushed, even spinach and chard have been blitzed.  Each visit, battle is joined here on plot 45.  My weapon of choice the soap-spray, has been enhanced with a garlic brew and success, I'm convinced, will be mine.

Ray, on the other hand, is not a firefighter.  Those stately broad bean plants now stand stunted, their crop overwhelmed.  The strawberry plants he gave me are doing well in their ramshackle housing on plot 45.  I think I need to offer him some broad beans in exchange.  I'll try not to be triumphalist, honestly I will.

Peas in the pod

Lifting my first garlic in early summer coincides with the pea and broad bean harvest.  Here's a dish I always make at this time of year to celebrate the real start to harvesting.  If the peas and beans are cropping earlier, I'll also add a few asparagus tips from the market.

Pappardelle with peas, broad beans & new season garlic
(serves 4)

200g (8oz) 'OO' flour
2 large eggs
pinch of salt
A little extra flour or polenta to help prevent sticking to the worktop 
60g (2oz) unsalted butter
About 1kg mix of broad beans and peas in their pods
1-2 cloves of fresh garlic, thinly sliced
150ml (5 fl oz) vegetable stock
A small handful of mint, roughly torn or chopped

Put the flour and salt in a bowl.  Maker a well and add the eggs.  Mix to bring the ingredients together. Either knead in a mixer with a dough hook for 2 minutes or on a work surface, by hand, for 10 minutes.  If you use a machine, knead the dough by hand on the worktop for a further half minute (the warmth of your hands finishes it off perfectly). You will now have a smooth firm dough. Wrap it in cling film and allow to rest in the fridge for at least half an hour.

Pod the beans and peas and cook in boiling, salted water for 30 seconds.  Plunge them into cold water, drain and pop the broad beans out of their skins.  Keep the peas and beans to one side.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and salt the water (correctly it should be 1 litre of water to 10g of salt and for this quantity of pasta you should use at least 2 litres/20g).  As the water comes to the boil, feed the pasta dough through the pasta machine on its lowest setting. Fold the dough and repeat 3 more times. Increasing the setting by one mark each time, feed the dough through the machine once until you reach the penultimate setting (if you are as short of kitchen space as I am you'll want to cut your rolled pasta in half, or into thirds, part way through the rolling to make it more manageable, so you end up with 2 or 3 sheets of pasta).   Lay the sheets on the floured work surface and cut into wide pappardelle strips (1.5-2cm).  

Heat 30g of the butter gently in a large pan and add the garlic.  Cook until just softened.  Add the stock and boil to reduce a little.  Turn down the heat to a simmer and add the broad beans and peas to heat through for a couple of minutes while you cook the pasta in the salted water for 2 minutes.  

Season the vegetables and add the rest of the butter, cut into dice, shaking the pan to emulsify. Take off the heat.  Add the drained pasta and 2-3 tablespoon of cooking water to loosen if necessary.  Add the mint and serve with lots of parmesan.

NB.  The excellent book, Five Quarters by Rachel Roddy has a section on pasta which has changed my own pasta-making habits.  I highly recommend it.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Five Quarters - Recipes and Notes from a Kitchen in Rome by Rachel Roddy

Five Quarters - Recipes and Notes from a Kitchen in Rome
by Rachel Roddy

I've watched Rachel Roddy's writing develop from her Rachel Eats blog, which she started in 2008, so I couldn't wait to get my hands on her first book.  As always,  I endeavour to be objective in my review and I loved the writing which feels so familiar.

Five Quarters may seem a strange title but it's easily explained.  The number five recurs as the book goes along but Quinto Quarto (the Fifth Quarter) is the name of the distinctive style of cooking created by the workers at the Testaccio slaughterhouse towards the end of the 19th century.  Wages were partly paid in-kind with offal.  This being a quarter of the animals weight, it was known as the 'fifth quarter'.  The slaughterhouse is long gone and, no, this is not a book about offal, but it is firmly rooted in the Testaccio quarter of the city of Rome which this Englishwoman calls home.

The "notes" referred to in the sub-title are as delicious as the "recipes".  Arriving in Rome, almost by accident, the tourist decided to stay a while in a tiny flat above a bakery, next to the "coarse and chaotic" old food market.  As she began to get under the skin of this "straightforward, traditional, ordinary" part of Rome, a sense of guilt that she was part of the gentrification taking place in the area led her to resolve to buy local and truly embrace the life of this quarter and its "fierce sense of community".  A daily presence at the next-door market with its families of traders, negotiating the "clusters of chattering signore" in the streets she drinks coffee in the same bar every morning.  And then she fell in love with Vincenzo, a Sicilian with beautiful, strong hands.  A golden-haired baby boy, Luca, arrived in 2012, anchoring her ever more strongly as she became truly a Testaccio local.

This is not a book about 'my beautiful life in Rome'.  The reality is, life is as messy as the food market at the heart of the book.  Certainly it's about hauling bags of produce home to cook in a tiny apartment kitchen. It's also about the life of Testaccio, particularly the market, and the people who make it possible to live in the chaos of a city. There's the Sartor family butchery, Mauro the fishmonger, Gianluca and Giancarlo the fruit and veg sellers, Augusto at Trattoria La Torricella and the numerous independent shop-owners of the quarter.  Friends, neighbours, acquaintances, and even strangers are ever-willing to offer advice. It's about forgetting what you thought you knew about 'Italian' food and watching, listening, questioning and cooking dishes again and again to re-learn how to cook it, here, in this extraordinary place.  For nine years she gradually gathered understanding along with ingredients.  She began to notice the differences, and the similarities, with English food; particularly with the simply prepared food of her roots in Northern England - slow braising of cheaper cuts of meat, the use of offal and the love of jam tarts and of spiced fruit cakes.

Cooked and photographed in real time, the recipes are based on a year in this "Kitchen in Rome". Pleasingly, there are five chapters, just as there should be five course to an Italian meal.  Each chapter is enticingly seasoned with helpful advice, observation and anecdote and spiced with a little Roman history.  There's also a generous sprinkling of good sense.  Advice and useful information, which can only come from someone who has cooked the same recipes over and over again, comes thick and fast yet it feels like a two-way conversation.  It's far from 'preachy' or 'know-it-all' but is generous and sharing.

Linguine con zucchine (Linguine with courgettes, eggs and parmesan)
cooked from Five Quarters - Recipes and Notes from a Kitchen in Rome

The Italian names for the dishes in the book are far more poetic, but here I use English titles for brevity.  Chapter 1 - Antipasti - starts, as the Romans frequently do, with Broad Beans and Pecorino, simply a pile of young fresh beans to be podded at the table alongside a chunk of, preferably, sharp sheep's milk cheese.  There's Deep Fried Artichokes, Ricotta and Spinach Fritters and Panzanella.  Octopus and potato salad features with instructions for how to cook your octopus - and how, based on much advice, trial and error, not to cook your octopus!

Chapter 2 covers Soup & Pasta.  We learn that the soup, or minestre can be simple or complex and is one of the few foods that Romans do not have a definitive recipe for, rather minestre is a dish you make your own; "the embodiment of childhood nourishment and comfort".   Here is Fettucine with rich meat sauce, Spaghetti with clams and how to make Potato dumplings (Gnocchi).

A chapter on Meat & Fish reminds that "Good Roman cooking, like any good, popular cooking, is homely and rooted in tradition..... makes virtue out of necessity and makes things taste as good as they possibly can".  Making a little go a long way, particularly when it comes to meat, is a Northern England virtue as well as a Roman one.  There's Meatballs in tomato sauce or Roman-style tripe. Fish is introduced by a story familiar to most of us, the quest for a good fishmonger.  There's a Pot of musselsSalt cod with tomatoes, raisins and pine nuts, and a Roman Jewish dish of Miriam's bream baked with potatoes.

Chapter 4 is the Vegetable course.  Mostly treated as a separate course in Rome, though, served in larger portions, they can also take the place of the meat or fish course.  Many of the dishes can be prepared ahead, and some benefit from doing so, and with the addition of bread, eggs or cheese, they become a meal in themselves.  If I'd had this book a few weeks ago I would not have been confused by the large, hairy green Italian leaves at my London market that turned out to be borage - so different from our English borage which we tend to value more for its electric blue flowers.  It's in this chapter that Rachel's favourite English writers continue to influence her cooking in Rome, but when it's the likes of Jane Grigson and Simon Hopkinson, it's no wonder.  There are recipes for Greens with garlic and chilli, adaptable to whatever greens you can get; Eggs in sauce, Roman-style artichokes; and Fennel baked with Parmesan.

To finish with there's Dolci.  Often it's seasonal fruit.  Wedges of pellucid, ruby-red,  watermelon; Pale green figs with, "if you're lucky, a teardrop of nectar at the tip of the stalk"; fragrant cantaloupe melons; apricots, peaches, nespole or cherries and plums.  Here you'll find a recipe for Spiced quinces in syrup, wobbly Panna Cotta; slushy, coarse-textured Granita di melone; Kitty's vanilla ice-cream scented with citrus; and Cherry jam tart.  If you're hungry for more, there are delicious crisp little Ring biscuits with wine and fennel seeds and Angel Wings and much, much more.

Pangiallo (Spiced fruit cake with saffron)
cooked from Five Quarters - Recipes and Notes from a Kitchen in Rome

I have already cooked four recipes from this book.  There is, mercifully, no striving for novelty in them.  If you are looking for innovation, you are missing the point of the book.  Instead, expect tried and tested dishes, recipes that really work and dishes that are delicious to eat.  You'll learn a lot along the way and enjoy a damn fine read.  This is a book which will stay in my kitchen.

Most of the photography in the book is by the author.  This reinforces its authenticity as the cooking and photography was done in real time - shop, cook, eat.  The photographs are also very, very good. Additional photography by Nicholas Seaton beautifully captures the atmosphere of the Testaccio quarter and its inhabitants.

2015 is already proving to be a very good year for food writing, and this book is right up there with the best.  Now, I'm off to make Linguine con zucchine again, just to make sure I really have unlearned what I thought I knew, and because it's a delicious recipe.

Five Quarters - Recipes and Notes from a Kitchen in Rome by Rachel Roddy

Book courtesy of Salt Yard Books

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Rhubarb Grapefruit Preserve

Rhubarb & grapefruit

I've previously mentioned Jane Grigson's declaration that only "pink" rhubarb is worth eating. She was, of course, referring to the 'forced' kind where the plant is grown under cover of a pot or in the gloom of a candlelit forcing shed.  Forced rhubarb is very different from outdoor grown rhubarb and, generally, I have agreed with Jane Grigson's sentiments.  Certainly if you are looking for a beautifully evenly coloured compote with delicate flavour it's worth buying the early, forced, kind. However, this growing-year has made me appreciate the merits of the more robust and vigorous form of the plant.

A member of the Rheum genus of plants, rhubarb is related to both sorrel and buckwheat.  We add sugar to rhubarb to make its natural astringency more palatable and it's easy to forget it's actually a vegetable.  In Persian cooking, rhubarb is used in lamb dishes as a tenderiser.  In Europe, barely sweetened, it's used as a foil for oily fish like mackerel or fatty meats like pork.  In the UK in particular, rhubarb is enjoyed in compotes, crumbles and pies, in much the same way as we use gooseberries.  Both share a mouth-puckering sourness before tempering with sugars and flavourings.    

Rhubarb Grapefruit Preserve
Batch 1

I felt like the laughing-stock of the allotment group, as the only person unable to get a decent crop of rhubarb.  Then, last year, I split the crown of my plant into four sections.  Replanting each in a new location has rewarded me this year with a spectacularly good crop.  There's nothing so guaranteed to make you appreciate a vegetable as a bumper harvest.  So what to do with all that bounty?  Personally I find rhubarb releases far too much water to ever make a good pie but, thanks to the Fern Verrow - A year of recipes from a farm and its kitchen, we've been enjoying bowls of Rhubarb custard fool and bottling up Rhubarb cordial for summer's promise of glasses of Rhubarb gin fizz, Pink lemonade and Rhubarb Bellini.

But it's a recipe for jam I want to share with you here.  A recipe for Rhubarb Grapefruit Preserve from Alice Waters' Chez Panisse Fruit book (no, not the Chez Panisse Vegetable book).  It's not a combination that would normally have caught my attention.  Maybe it was because I'm in the midst of reading Bitter by Jennifer McLagan, which goes into the subject of bitter foods in forensic detail.  Though grapefruit is clearly a "bitter" food in her view, indeed the fruit was the starting point for her taking on the subject, opinions she sought were divided as to whether the flavour is bitter or merely sour.  Personally, I go with bitter and the idea of pairing grapefruit with sour rhubarb seemed a bit of a leap of faith.  Maybe it's something about the British palate, as inhabitants of the North American continent seem to have a taste for citrus with their rhubarb.  And then I looked at Grigson again - "... with citrus fruits it makes a delightful jam".  Sugar can transform the bitterest citrus into delectable marmalade, and the sourest rhubarb into luscious compote, so I swallowed my scepticism and I'm so glad I did.

Rhubarb Grapefruit Preserve
Batch 2

The first time I made this preserve, I took it a degree or two over jam set-point.  The colour changed from jewel-like to reddish-brown in the blink of an eye.  If this happens to you, what you lose in colour you'll gain in a delicious marmalade quality to the taste.  Stopping the cooking at exactly jam set point will give you a ruby-red preserve with the rhubarb flavour to the fore.  I'm still not sure which batch I prefer, so really you can't go wrong in my view.

Rhubarb Grapefruit Preserve (adapted from Chez Panisse Fruit by Alice Waters)
(makes 40 oz/1.125 kg)

2 lbs (900g) Rhubarb, washed, dried and cut into 1cm dice
2 grapefruit (I use red)
4 cups (900g) granulated sugar

Place the rhubarb in a large heavy-based stainless steel pan.
Peel the grapefruits, slice the peel thinly and juice the flesh.  Add the zest and juice to the pan of rhubarb along with the sugar.
Let the mixture stand for at least 30 minutes for the rhubarb to release its juices and the sugar to dissolve.
Sterilise your jars and lids.  Put a small plate in the freezer for testing the jam.
Over a high heat, bring the pan of mixture to the boil, stirring to make sure it doesn't stick.  The mixture will bubble high up the pan.  Skim off any foam around the edges.  Soon the mixture will subside and bubble thickly.  Stir frequently and start testing with a sugar thermometer and/or by using the cold plate for the 'wrinkle' test.  When it has reached set point, take the pan off the heat and pot up the jam.  Will keep for up to 1 year in properly sterilised jars.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Fern Verrow - A year of recipes from a farm and its kitchen

Fern Verrow - A year of recipes
from a farm and its kitchen

Let me say from the outset that I know the authors of this book, in as much as I've bought produce grown on their farm ever since they started to load up a van and bring it down to London for sale most Saturdays.  Last Saturday they slipped some copies of the book on the back of the van so I was able to buy a copy a few days before publication date.  I grow some of my own fruit and veg so I know a little bit about where this book is coming from. I'm an enthusiast, but that's not the reason I found this book difficult to put down.   The Fern Verrow land is farmed  biodynamically, but this is not a book only for those of us who embrace the methods of Rudolf Steiner.  If you care about how your food is grown and how it's cooked you'll love how this book draws you in with its rhythmic prose and page after page of recipes for simple seasonal food that honours the ingredients.  This is food that you really want to eat.

'Verrow' comes from an old French term for a split in the land around which water flows.  It describes perfectly the lie-of-the-land on the Herefordshire border with Wales in which the farm, Fern Verrow, sits.  Lindsay Sekulowicz's hand-drawn map at the front of the book gives the reader a wonderful orientation to the land being described.  Here is the acreage where Jane Scotter and Harry Astley raised a family while turning the land into the farm of their dreams.  Here, in one of the most unspoiled areas of England, they have laboured long and hard, learning "to adapt and to live with the rhythms and cycles of the year" working in "partnership" with the land.  This book concentrates on how they work and cook from "the engine room of the farm", the kitchen, where every day starts and ends and where they always find time for cooking.  Many books of recipes claim to be 'seasonal'.  The writers of this book know the true meaning of the word.  In their words, this book "is a place to pass on our recipes, as well as the understanding of food and its cultivation that we have developed over the years.  It is a celebration of what nature provides.  It encourages imagination and consideration in the kitchen, and the pleasures of cooking well, with an appreciation of the different vegetables, fruit and meat as they arrive at our tables throughout the course of the year."

Fern Verrow, the book, like the farm is tied to the 4 seasons, here represented by the classical elements of Earth - Winter, where everything starts, from the ground up; Water - Spring, bringing the sprouting of life; Air Summer, light and flowering; and Fire -Autumn, fruiting and transformation.  The book gives you insights into 'Working with the soil' "our most valuable resource"; 'Working with the sun', which dictates the pattern of the day; 'Working with the moon', whose effects on water and tides and on reproductive cycles is well known, and 'Building fertility' of the soil.  There's just enough about biodynamics to spark your interest, and there's a Further Reading section at the back if you want to know more.

Fern Verrow
Working with the soil

Winter, for Jane and Harry is a time to think and plan for the coming twelve months.  Recipes for this time include Braised chicory and bacon enriched with double cream, Beef stew with parsley dumplings, to make the most of what is around and counter the season's icy blasts.  There's Apple and lemon crumble, Carrot and almond cake and Parsnip and hazelnut oat biscuits.  Spring brings birdsong, light and colour, along with new life in the greenhouse, the barn, the fields and the woodlands.  For those of us who grow it also brings the 'hungry gap' when winter brassicas have gone to seed and 'spring' veg is slow to get going.  But there are herbs, foraged leaves and flowers. There's wild garlic, dandelion, Jack-by-the-hedge and buttercup - heat and pungency, needing only a simple dressing to make a bowlful sing.  Here are recipes for Lovage and potato soup, Spring fritters with wild garlic mayonnaise, Herb butters and Rhubarb puddings.  For later in Spring there's Fried duck egg with asparagus, sage and parmesan and then Elderflower cake.

Early Summer on the farm brings cultivated salad leaves and the first of the soft fruit in the form of gooseberries.  These are swiftly followed by currants, strawberries, raspberries, jostaberries and more.  The bees are busy and the farm is looking its best.  Weather becomes an obsession - too hot, too wet, too something - and can make for testing times.  The table is laid with Fresh pea and mint soup, Barbecued chicken with sweetcorn and lime leaf relish, a Blackcurrant pie or a spectacular Summer fruit trifle.  Come Autumn outward growth slows and activities turn more often to preserving late berries, plums, apples, pears and quince.  Then the kitchen table bears Borlotti bean, chorizo and tomato stew, Red Florence onion Tatin, and Braised rabbit with juniper berries. Desserts are fragrant Quince and ginger upside-down cake and Steamed greengage pudding.

And, all too soon, the twelve month cycle is over.

"Our relationship with the farm continues to feed us, 
the work never ceases, our lives are played out on this plot of land".  
... "The gifts of the year have come full circle, 
transforming the  past into the seeds of the future".  
Jane Scotter and Harry Astley

The book benefits hugely from the stunning photography of Tessa Traeger.  But, most of all, it's the pictures painted by the prose that stay with you.  I found the book difficult to put down.  Some of us paddle around the edges of biodynamics, never fully getting our feet wet - it's not for the faint-hearted.  A few hard working people, like Jane Scotter and Harry Astley, live the life.  Caution -  reading this book may make you want to go in search of your own acreage.

As is my way with book reviews, I had to try at least one recipe.  It had to be seasonal, of course, and, having pulled some sticks of rhubarb this morning, I chose Rhubarb and custard fool.  Silky, creamy custard and sweet/tart fruit.  Ringing the changes with a little fresh ginger root or orange zest is suggested.  I added a little rosewater to the rhubarb at the end of cooking.  A perfect Spring recipe.  If you want to see it beautifully styled and photographed, go to page 124.  Meanwhile, here's a serving:

Rhubarb and custard fool
from a recipe in
Fern Verrow - A year of recipes from a farm and its kitchen

Fern Verrow - A year of recipes from a farm and its kitchen by Jane Scotter and Harry Astley
First published by Quadrille 21 May 2015