Saturday, October 30, 2010

Total Greek Yoghurt and the perfect Afternoon Cake

There are a handful of great food magazines available at the moment, but one of my favourites is Australian Gourmet Traveller. I've been a devoted reader for a number if years and I must admit I cant help but get excited every time I collect a new edition. It’s a great magazine, glossy, inspirational, totally indulgent and while I admit that the recipes aren’t always practical, every now and again when you have the time and the desire to be impractical you’ll find it’s well worth the effort!

I recently discovered a fantastic recipe from the January 2010 edition: Yoghurt and Almond cake. This recipe was an attractive option as Greek yoghurt and ground almonds are two things always found in my shopping trolley. The Greek Yoghurt used in this cake provides a substantial and velvety finish that when combined with caramel nectarines makes the perfect ending to an Autumnal mid-day feast with friends!    

I chose to use Total Greek Yoghurt. Its been a favourite for a while, the appeal being that it has many variants - Full Fat, 2% or even 0% - so its perfect if you love the decadence of Greek Yoghurt yet don't want the guilt of full fat!!

Yoghurt and Almond Cake

140 grams Self-raising flour
4 eggs, separated
110 grams white sugar
210 grams Total Greek Yoghurt (I used full fat)
80 mls Olive Oil
Juice and rind of 1 lemon
70 grams of ground Almonds
110 grams of caster sugar

Preheat oven to 180C. Sift flour into a bowl and set aside. Whisk yolks and white sugar in an electric mixer until pale and creamy (5-7 minutes). Add yoghurt, olive oil, rind and juice, stir to combine, then fold in flour and ground almonds and set aside. Whisk eggwhite in an electric mixer until soft peaks form (2-4 minutes), then gradually add caster sugar and whisk until firm peaks form (1-2 minutes). Fold eggwhite mixture through yoghurt mixture, pour into a buttered, floured and base-lined 23cm-diameter springform cake tin and bake until golden and a skewer withdraws clean (35-40 minutes). Cool in tin on a wire rack. 

Caramel Nectarines*

3 Nectaries, cut in wedges and stones discarded
200 grams white sugar
juice of 1 orange

Place nectarines in a heatproof bowl and set aside. Combine sugar and 60ml water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar and brushing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to remove sugar crystals, then cook until caramel (8-10 minutes). Add orange juice (be careful as mixture may spit), stir to dissolve. Pour over nectarines stir to combine and set aside for 1 hour, then spoon over cake, scatter with shaved almonds and serve with vanilla ice cream ... or more Greek yoghurt


Sunday, October 03, 2010

Discover the Origin
I have never been much of a port fan. Currants, sultanas and raisins are about the only foods I don't eat, and all the ports I've tasted in the past seem to have had a definite 'curranty' flavour. However recently I discovered a gem in the port world... Ruby (or pink) Port. Served chilled and accompanied by nuts,chunks of parmigiano or green and blacks dark ginger chocolate, Ruby Port is a stunning alternative ending to any meal.

The Douro region of Portugal has been producing port, including the Ruby variety, for 2000 years. Yet I had never heard of it. In fact I went to Portugal a few years ago and I am ashamed to admit that I only realised Portugal had such a proud heritage of Port production, because so much of it was for sale in the Duty Free section of the airport! 

I never would have found Ruby Port (let alone fallen in love with it), had it not been for Discover the Origin - a campaign designed to raise awareness around five key European products:
  • Parma Ham
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese
  • Burgundy Wines
  • Douro Valley Wines
  • Port
The concept of the campaign is one that I feel I can really get behind. Its all about knowing where the food and drink you consume comes from. Its about understanding the rich cultural backgrounds of some of Europe's oldest food and wine producing areas, and crediting these regions for giving birth to these products. 

This is especially important when you live in a city that imports products from all over the world through-out the year. In our superstore dependant state its possible to forget that food has a point of origin beyond Sainsburys or Tescos!

The campaign promotes good eating and sociable living by encouraging consumers to shop for specialist products, where possible, and enjoy well prepared foods matched with exceptional wine. Doing so with friends and family, despite the hectic pace of modern life!   

This was demonstrated perfectly when Discover the Origin hosted an event at La Cucina Caldesi. Watching reputable London Restaurateur Katie Caldesi effortlessly prepare and cook white bean crostini, pasta al forno and pan fried duck breast with blackberry sauce was a treat in itself. Getting to taste wines and ports from the above mentioned region while Katie cooked was truly the cherry on top. The evening was proof that it really is worth the effort to Discover the Origin of what we eat!

For more information on Discover the Origin see: 

Picture credits - My encouraging South African supporter and Chief Recipe taster!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Petersham Nurseries and Tipico Lodigiano

A few months ago I visited the Petersham Nurseries for the first time... and it was wonderful!

The cafe is the handy work of Australian Chef, Skye Gyngell, the backdrop of which is a fully functioning nursery that features all the things you would expect from a nursery - gardening tools, wellington boots, fresh herbs and potted plants, along side a vast range of the unexpected - luxury bath and body products and decadent scented candles!  

The meal we ate was superb. It started with a glass of Petersham rose petal prosecco, featured favorites like osso bucco and pan fried sea bass, was accompanied with a delicate Rose and a full bodied red, and ended triumphantly with deliciously unique range of desserts and cheese.

We were talking about the cheese plate for days after. The cheese was called Tipico Lodigiano, described as a young Parmesan, and was served with something called Mustard fruits. It sparked my interest so much that I goggled it, and found my way to La Ludesana and a meeting with Attilio (Tito) Bergamaschi.

La Ludesana is run by Tito and his wife Helen. They import a select variety of cheese and wine from the Lombardy region of Italy and the Tipico is from a little town called Lodi (which is the town  Tito is from). Tipico Lodigiano actually means 'typical from Lodi'.

After an exchange of emails I purchased a great big wedge of this cheese to share with the friends who had accompanied me to Petersham. Graciously, Tito trekked all the way to North West London to deliver it to me and to chat to me about La Ludesana. 

Tito and Helen are passionate and knowledgeable about their products and the food and wine industry. It's with good reason too, as they both have impressive food CVs. Both  previously worked at La Fromaggerie London, and Tito is now a chef at the Petersham Nurseries. Helen grew up on a farm in New Zealand and her Father was a cheese maker. She previously worked at Jamie Oliver's restaurant Fifteen (it was here that she learned the magic of pairing food with the perfect wine) and she has also worked at the River Cafe.  

Tito described Helens prowess in the cheese arena in detail, attributing her skills to the years of tasting and working with cheese at the above mentioned restaurants and their various trips to Italian farms and vineyards. They have both become adept in identifying the region (and in some cases the particular farm) a cheese comes from, just from the initial taste! Impressive indeed!

We spoke at length about the importance of food seasonality and regionality (i.e. eating locally produced food that is in season). This is something I have come across on many trips to Italy, especially in villages without supermarkets where, if you want to eat, you have to eat whatever is available according to the month you are visiting. Tito and I agreed this was the ideal, however not always practical or convenient in the modern world and in our busy city.  

Despite Tito's expertise and his familiarity with some of London's most respected food establishments, one of his most appealing qualities was his love of simple food - pasta, risotto, bruschetta. In my humble opinion that is the mark of a true foodie - someone who is surrounded by wonderful foods and ingredients and in possession of exceptional food related skills - but who still chooses the simple pleasure of a home cooked pasta and an ice cold glass of beer on a hot day!

I asked Tito a few International Foodie questions and here's how he answered:

IF: 3 things always in your shopping trolley
T: Pasta, Tomato, Garlic (and fresh Herbs)

IF: Signature dish
T: Risotto with Grappa and peas or a courgette bruschetta

IF: Red or white wine
T: Red at the moment

IF: Last supper
T: Pasta with fresh tomatoes, capers and garlic

IF: Starter or dessert
T: Definitely dessert (im a real sweet tooth)

IF: Most important cooking tip?
T: Always make sure food is properly seasoned using salt, pepper, herbs (mostly fresh) and lemon

IF:  Any other food tips?
T: Keep an eye out for Southern Italian wines - especially Sicilian and Sicilian olive oil 

IF: Best way to serve the Tipico Lodigiano?
T: Crumble some of the cheese into chunks and shave some of it as well. It makes for a more pleasant experience when you create a variety of textures. Leave it in the fridge for about 10 minutes just before serving and pair it with green tomato mostarda, or fresh ripe pears or simply with a glass of Prosecco. (NOT crackers!)

It was a thoroughly pleasant meeting that ended with me walking away with the largest, most impressive wedge of cheese you've ever seen! A few weeks later my sister arrived in London for a holiday and to celebrate I took Tito's advice - I crumbled and shaved pieces of the Tipico and served it with a bottle of Scandolera Brut Prosecco. The only bad thing was that it was the beginning of the end of that wonderful wedge of cheese that is 'Typical from Lodi'!

For more information on La Ludesana and their products see or email 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Summer, Stone fruit and Good to the Grain

Summer 2010 has been great for stone fruits - cherries, white peaches, nectarines, apricots and plums have been available everywhere and I don't know if its my summer 'goggles' talking but the crop of stone fruits available in my local area has been a little cheaper and a lot sweeter than usual! I decided to whip up a batch of cherry and apricot tarts after one successful trip to the market left me with an abundance of both.

I would suggest using any tart pastry that you like. I chose to experiment with a pastry recipe from Good to the Grain - an exceptional book that explores the use of alternative grains in baking. It features recipes using Kamut, Amaranth, Quinoa, Spelt and Teff flour, to name a few! The cover photograph is a mouthwatering tray of rhubarb tarts made with a cornflour based pastry that look, in my opinion, totally irresistible. So I swapped the rhubarb compote for one made with cherries and apricots and away I went. 

Cherry and Apricot Compote (this is my own recipe.. and if Im honest was just cobbled together... but it seems to work!)

250g fresh Apricots and 200g fresh Cherries (weight was taken before I de-seeded the fruit)
2 tablespoons of water
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla
2 tablespoons of light brown sugar
juice of half a lemon
a good slurp of good quality maple syrup (between 2-4 tablespoons depending on the sweetness of the fruit)

De-seed the fruit and chop the cherries into small rough chunks and slice the apricots into skinny wedges. Place into a saucepan with the water, vanilla and brown sugar. Bring to the boil and  reduce the heat allowing the fruit to simmer for about 30 minutes. Add lemon juice and maple syrup and leave on the heat for another 10 minutes. Take off the heat and allow to cool. The mixture should still be quite fluid (but when baked in the tart turns quite sticky or tacky). You can then spoon the compote into your pastry shells and bake accordingly.   

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tuna Carpaccio and Memories of Croatia 

On our recent trip to Croatia, Chief Recipe Taster and I stumbled upon a beautiful little restaurant in the Island of Korcula. We were walking along a promenade packed with restaurants and had just been talking about how, as a tourist, do you choose a restaurant when you are so spoiled for choice but have no prior knowledge the area?

In this case, the answer was obvious. As we approached Lesic-Dimitri a few things stood out. It was one of the smallest places we had seen and it was empty - usually a very bad sign, especially when the surrounding establishments were buzzing with patrons. However, Lesic-Dimitri had two things which really made me swoon... the tables were dressed with crisp white linen cloths and topped off with beautiful long stem wine glasses. Like a bird drawn to a shiny object I couldn't resist and thus proceeded one of the highlights of our trip.

As we sat we were warmly greeted by Drazen, the sommelier and head waiter who spoke with such confidence and passion about their local wine list we immediately agreed  that if we chose our food he could choose the wine to match... and we were not disappointed.

Our meal started with crostini topped with red onion marmalade or white bean puree, to which Drazen matched an exceptional local Rose. Next came a sea-bass carpaccio dressed in a light olive oil and lemon dressing, expertly paired with a Posip Intrada 2008, a white wine from the peninsular opposite the island of Korcula. As we moved into the main courses of grilled lamb with yogurt dressing and a grilled pork salad with caramelized walnuts, the red wines were brought out to further dazzle us. One of the best reds I've ever had proved to be the headliner of the night, the Postup Mare 2006 - of which Drazen had only a handful of the last bottles left from this particular harvest.

We had been so impressed with the wines we had tried, that as a thank-you Drazen then brought out 3 new bottles of red and we finished the evening tasting these and listening to tales of that areas local wine production. We finished the evening satisfied and happy and left weighed down with bottles of Croatian wine, one of which was a present for being such 'enthusiastic dinners!'. As we wandered off, Lesic Dimitri had begun to fill with new patrons all vying for Drazen's attention, and I felt happy that we had managed to miss the rush and enjoy such an intimate introduction to Croatia's wine industry.

One of the bottles of wine we brought back to the UK was the Posip Intrada 2008, that we had enjoyed with the sea bass carpaccio. Last week while the sun shone brightly in London, I decided to pair this bottle of wine with a carpaccio of my own making. It was a wonderful combination for a summer afternoon, and would be lovely with any bottle of white wine you like!

Tuna Carpaccio with Orange and Sesame Dressing - I used 2 medium tuna steaks and this fed 4 people as an appetizer. I haven't put quantities as I made the dressing to taste and can easily be adjusted to cater for a larger quantities of tuna.

Rice Vinegar
Sesame Oil
Juice of one large orange, with the left over flesh chopped into small chunks
Salad onions, thinly sliced 
Fresh Tuna Steaks (preferably sashimi grade - however will work with any tuna steak as long as it is very fresh) 
Black Pepper, to taste

(Important Note: you need to make this directly before eating as it needs to be served fresh and cold. Its a good idea to keep the tuna on ice for about 20 minutes before preparing)

Take a large empty plate or platter and dress with a couple of generous shakes each of the vinegar, oil and orange juice. The idea is that you want to lay the slices of tuna onto the already dressed plate or platter.  

Slice the tuna into the thinnest slices you possibly can (you will need a very shape, flexible knife for this), and then arrange the slices onto the plate or platter. Dress the tuna once again with a couple of generous shakes each of the vinegar, oil and orange juice and top with the slices of salad onion, orange chunks and black pepper.  

Friday, July 09, 2010

Post Holiday Cleanse 
Last week we returned to the UK after a wonderful holiday in Croatia - truly a gem in the Adriatic! I've posted a few 'point and shoot' snaps of this wonderful destination and next week I will come back with some notes and recommendations. However, for the moment I thought I'd post a couple of 'post holiday cleanse' suggestions...

I am an all or nothing kind of a girl. I can do deprivation no problems (for a few weeks at least) but what I can't do is moderation! Therefore, after a few weeks of extreme holiday indulgence my body has begun to ‘cry out’ for a break. So this week I put the cork back in the bottle, put on my running shoes and started the working week with renewed zeal to be good and make up for my holiday excesses!

Generally when I'm being good I try to eat evening meals that are simple and quick to prepare and cook, include lots of fresh fruit and vegetables but exclude red meat, dairy, grains, refined sugars and I keep condiments to a minimum. Never the less I can assure you that the suggestions below are delicious and satisfying! (Quantities are to serve 2).   

Broccoli Mash with Orange, Dill and Garlic Salmon 

1 medium brown onion, finely chopped
1 floret of broccoli, roughly chopped (keep at least a 1/4 of the steam)
1 tablespoon of olive oil

Cook broccoli (either boil or steam, whichever you prefer) until tender but still bright green. Mash or break apart using a wooden spoon until you are left with small chunks. In a separate pan soften the onion until it starts to brown slightly, then add the broccoli. Mix through until combined well and season to taste. Set aside until ready to serve.

Orange, Dill and Garlic Salmon

1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 handful of fresh dill, chopped
Juice of 1 large orange
2 salmon fillets

Place the tablespoon of oil into a medium pan and once it is quite hot add the garlic and cook for about 2-3 minutes until the garlic and oil start to bubble. Place the salmon fillets in the pan and sprinkle with half the dill. Cook for a couple of minutes and flip. Sprinkle with the rest of the dill,  pour half the orange juice over the fish and after a few minutes flip once again. Pour in the rest of the orange juice and continue to cook the fish until its golden brown (can be a little blackened if you like it this way). Once the orange juice and garlic start to caramelise its ready.

Lemon Dressing

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
Juice from one lemon
2 teaspoons of maple syrup
1 teaspoon of English mustard (Dijon would be great as well)

Put all ingredients into a jar and shake until combined well. 

This dressing works well with both fish or chicken and can make an uninteresting combination (like chicken and salad) palatable and exciting!!

Last night I grilled some chicken and made a salad with leaves, cucumber, spring onions, a few tomatoes, an avocado and dressed the whole dish with the above. It was the perfect thing for a balmy summer evening and just so I didn't feel too deprived I opened a bottle of de-Alcoholised Sohnlien sparkling wine! So delicious and Chief Recipe Taster was suitably impressed!  

After a week of eating along these lines I'm feeling great and ready for the weekend ... when I shall once again indulge in all the things I've been depriving myself of this week!!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Food at 52

A foodie friend of mine recently arranged a day out at Food at 52, a hands on cookery school based in WC1 run by enthusiastic foodie, John Benbow. Despite being a furniture maker by trade his family recognized his cooking prowess and encouraged him to swap the hammer for the wooden spoon and start a cookery school.  

John teaches with enthusiasm, passion and humor and really knows his stuff. The course is taught at a comfortable pace and all the course notes are emailed to participants so you can concentrate on the practical aspect as opposed to note taking. The courses on offer are many and varied and run through-out the year. My foodie friend and I decided on the fish course as we both needed a little seafood inspiration!

The set up is fantastic. The ‘cooking room’ feels more like a warm, well stocked family kitchen as opposed to a formal cooking school. A long table runs down the middle of the room that comfortably allows at least 10 people enough room to prepare and cook. The kitchen features a fantastic stove/oven combo, best described as an aga with a gas top stove and nifty little deep fryer (at one time this stove was housed in a convent, and it was one of the main reasons John chose this particular house as he knew the space would cope with this monolithic stove). Peppered around the room are gadgets and utensils for all food preparation needs. Citrus squeezers, a collection of authentic Moroccan Tagines (some were purchased for a meagre £3.00 during a recent trip to Morocco and carried  back into the UK in Johns Kids hand luggage!), diamond wet stone knife sharpeners and a few gas camping stove tops used so that participants can cook at the table rather than having to huddle around the convent cooker!

Johns helper is the lovely Bibi - who can only be described as kitchen assistant extradionaire! She moves with effeciency around the kitchen cleaning up after participants so that utensils and chopping boards are cleaned even before you realised a mess has been made! She also makes a wicked espresso, and we all agreed that every home should have a Bibi - although I'm yet to find one on Amazon!

The quality of ingredients John sources is second to none. The fish is delivered from Billingsgate Market the morning of the course and even the breadcrumbs used are from a local Italian bakery. The material covered is equally as impressive.    

Participants are introduced to fish preparation by learning how to fillet mackerel for Sashimi – which is delicious. (Fresh mackerel is surprisingly different to the mackerel you buy in the supermarkets as the flavour changes as the fish gets older. Delicate in flavour and so fresh it seems to melt like butter I encourage everyone to try Mackerel like this).

Next is how to fillet sea bream for both goujons, and pan frying. The goujons are light and crisp and better than any crumbed fish I’ve eaten. John teaches how to make tarter sauce from scratch, fresh fish stock using the skeletons from the recently filleted sea bream, how to clean and prepare squid for salt and pepper squid and for main course a beautifully indulgent pan fried sea bream fillet with a mussel and saffron sauce (using the afore mentioned fish stock to create a wonderfully balanced sauce). The most impressive thing is how easy everything is as key to success is good organisation and good instruction. 

I asked John a few general 'foodie' questions and here is what he had to say:

IF: Name three things always found in your shopping trolley

JB: Burford brown eggs, pomegranate molasses, Flat leaf parsley

IF: Greatest food influence and why?

JB: Probably Rick Stein, a bit mainstream I know, but he's a west country boy like myself and has a passion for good food with few pretentions, and his love of eastern cuisine and infusing it into his own is right up my street. Great cook school too.

IF: Wine Recommendation

JB: A really good Gamay if we're on red and the most expensive Marlborough sauvignon you can afford if white. Cloudy Bay if your pockets are deep enough!

IF: Favourite Dinner Party soundtrack

JB: Well, what's the event? For me and a few friends it could be 'Sea Sick Steve' followed by the ipod genius. But for something more sophisticated I'd probably start with Ray Lamontagne or Nina Simone. My sound track is always on shuffle and meanders between 1930 and 2010.

IF: Signature dish

JB: I love knocking up a lobster bouillabaisse with fresh fennel and Pernod when I'm feeling flush (break out the Cloudy Bay!).

IF: Last supper

JB: A good curry.

The course was excellent value – You get the tuition in a great setting, all the recipes and  a comprehensive gadget page - just incase you're like me and ALWAYS need more kitchen utensils. But perhaps one of the best things - when the clock strikes 12 the wine starts flowing!

If you are looking for a day out with friends, and want to pick up some new cooking skills or brush up on existing ones I thoroughly recommend Food at 52 – its well worth the fee and you will definately come away enlightened, satisfied and completely entertained.

For more information (including course availability, dates and prices) please visit or email John at

Saturday, June 12, 2010

When you are a foodie its always fun meeting other foodies. Conversing with other food enthusiasts reaffirms you own love of food, and the subject provides reason for an instant connection or bond. When you are a food blogger and you meet other food bloggers the experience is considerably amplified! 

Last weekend I had a chance to test this out, as London played host to the 2010 Food Blogger Connect conference, held at the wonderfully chic Hempel HotelThe whole weekend was dedicated to food blogging and for a self confessed food nerd it seriously doesn't get any better than this.

Finally I met a group of people who understood and even shared my cookbook obsession, who could relate to my compulsion to exhaust all the space in my small London flat with volumes of cookbooks and piles of cooking magazines. What a relief it was to be amongst a group who also get excited about things like getting a Joseph chopping board, or a Chasseur Crepe pan or a Le Creuset Tagine. Who shared the views that shopping for food is an almost euphoric experience and that if you only had a few dollars left it would be spent on a bottle of good olive oil and a wedge of Tippico Lodigiano

Blogs for all food inclinations were represented, all with their own gems to impart. 

Feast with Bron inspired me to shop at my local farmers market, as markets can be perfectly economical as well as ensuring high quality produce. Alkaline Sisters highlighted that its possible to be health conscious, and open to new food ideas while staying true to the inner 'foodie' calling (as demonstrated by the 4 visits to Ottolenghi in less than a week ... only a proper foodie would do that!). Sparkling Ink was a reminder of how well Scandinavia partners immaculate design and beautiful photography with deliciously pleasing food, and Cook Sister was wonderfully evocative of all things South African - both with her recipes and her wit! What's in a name? proved to be a poignant question, with Dirty Kitchen Secrets and Peanut butter and Jealous proving that the reward for being curious about a name leads to a wealth of inspiring recipes and entertaining foodie stories. 

A Slice of Cherry Pie advised of the realities on the path to publication. Mowielicious, Whatsforlunchhoney and Saffron and Blueberry provided much needed insight into the worlds of food styling and photography. Simply Zesty gave us a very entertaining presentation (via skype) on social networking and blog monetisation ... all the while reminding us of the woes of travelling (or not travelling!) with Ryanair...booo....

With all that excitement I came home on Sunday and celebrated my new found enthusiasm by creating a feast for four. My Chief Recipe Taster (who doubles as BBQ King in the sumer) had the headliner of the night - a perfectly roasted leg of lamb (delivered effortlessly with the help of the newest addition to our family - the Webber BBQ!). Accompanying this triumphant joint of meat was a fresh cucumber, parsley and tomato salad, roasted rosemary potatoes, BBQ Grilled flat breads, a homemade Greek yogurt dressing with lemon juice and ginger mint and a bottle of Rose!

The perfect way to end a wonderful weekend! Thanks to Beth and Co for making this weekend truly memorable, and for starting the countdown to next years event! For all the attendees and their respective blogs check out the links below ... 

Warning: Do not read on an empty stomach as the list makes for delicious reading!!