Tuesday, 6 July 2010

I've Moved!!!

Please come and visit me at my new home. It's the same Extra-Relish but with a fresh look and a new address:

Please take a look and let me know what you think.

Moving has been a longer-than-expected and agonising process. Just like moving house. (We've also done that in the past month!)
So you will understand why I've been so quiet recently. But I've just created a new post over at the new site. Looking forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Half Term Happiness

12 Ice Cream 2009-05-13
School's out, the sun is shining and we are rejoicing with the prospect of a riverside picnic. The magnificent Thames River courses through the glorious countryside near where we live. Here the river is at its rural best - peaceful and idyllic and home to an abundance of wildlife. On a bright, early summer's day, the riverbanks provide a perfect picnic setting.
16 Marlow 2009-06-20
Sandwiches, fruit, cheese, and fresh Cornish ice cream - always ice cream - make for a delicious feast.
13 Sandwiches (1)

13 Marlow 2009-06-20

34 Dale Heybrook Garden 2009-06-29

41 Cheese 2009-05-13

We've had a very busy few weeks since our return from Barbados. Not simply catching up with routine after our lovely (extended) holiday, but moving home as well. We didn't move far, just to another house in the village, but the sorting and packing seemed as exhausting as moving across the seas! A day by the river - away from the boxes and tidying - is the most welcome and calming tonic for the soul.

10 Pastries & Fruit
15 Sandwiches (1)

Friday, 23 April 2010

Caribbean Banana Rum Cake

75 Banana Rum Cake 2010-04-21

53 Banana Rum Cake 2010-04-21

As far as places to be stranded go, I think Barbados has to be one of the best. We were due to fly back to England last weekend, but Iceland's volcano interrupted that plan. So here we are, for a few more precious, unexpected days. What to do? I am cooking, and taking photographs - with the pure delight in the vibrant colours and vivid flavours, and the inspiration that this beautiful island provides.



We had lots of bananas getting riper, plenty of gorgeous amber Barbados sugar, and rum. Of course rum. Musing on these ingredients at sunset, I decided to get up early next morning - before the heat of the day - to bake some Banana Cake. So the sun and I got up together and I set about making our breakfast.


Here is my recipe - Banana Rum Cake. It is roughly measured as I don't have exact equipment here, but the recipe is very forgiving.

1 block of butter, 250g
1 and half cups of sugar
5 small eggs
a quarter cup of dark rum
one tablespoon of vanilla extract
4-7 bananas, depending on their size (I used 7 quite small ones)
4 cups of self raising flour

Heat oven to 180 degrees centigrade. Lightly butter and dust with flour three loaf tins. Cream together the sugar and butter, by hand or with a mixer. Add the eggs, rum and vanilla and beat well for a few minutes. Add the bananas, roughly mashed, and mix well together. Gently stir in the flour. Divide into three loaf tins. Bake for 50-60 minutes.

60 Banana Rum Cake 2010-04-21

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Barbados for Easter


We are back in Barbados for a lovely long Easter visit. After a seemingly endless, chilly winter in England we were longing for the warmth and beauty of this beautiful little island. So wonderful also to catch up with old friends and family. Easter is a great time to be here with plenty of time for long lazy beach parties, egg hunts for the children, and the traditional kite flying fun. The colours in the Caribbean never fail to delight and startle me with their vibrancy. It's like the intensity of life is turned up a few notches.
Barbados flowers

Easter Sunday began with an Easter egg hunt. It's great to search around the mango and banana trees.


I've been doing some cooking here but not found much time to photograph the dishes - will post some recipes next time. I love the peppers, seasonings and limes.

Then we set off with a group of friends - families in convoy - for an island road trip and beach picnic. Can there be a nicer way to celebrate Easter?

The older generations teach the little ones the tricks of flying kites.



Chocolate is extra melty and messy in this climate!


End of the day. Beautiful Barbados - so happy to be here.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Mother's Day


_DSC1000 - Version 2

Motherhood is so rich with delight, laughter and challenge and I feel deeply grateful for all of it. We celebrated the day with sunshine and a spring lunch. What could be better! The spring flowers are blooming all over, bringing colour and vibrancy beneath the breezy blue skies.
Playing in the garden - accompanied by a glass of something sparkly - we anticipated a springtime lunch of slow roasted lamb, crispy potatoes and an abundance of vegetables.




Slow Roasted Shoulder of Lamb
This is such an easy dish to prepare and so incredibly delicious. It takes quite a long time in the oven, but only a few minutes to put together. It then just cooks itself and all you have to do is add some crispy roasted potatoes and some steamed vegetables or lovely bowl of salad greens to make a gorgeous lazy lunch.

One shoulder of lamb
a large onion, sliced
6-7 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
a few sprigs of mixed herbs, rosemary, thyme or savoury (or a good sprinkling of mixed dried herbs)
salt and pepper
a drizzle of olive oil
a small glass of white wine (or water if you like)

Use a heavy, large casserole pan that can be covered and will go in the oven. Put the sliced onions and a garlic cloves in the pan and place the lamb on top. Season the lamb with the salt, pepper and herbs. Drizzle over a little olive oil and pour the wine around the meat. Cover tightly and bake in a medium low oven (160 degrees C) for about 3 hours. At this point the lamb will be meltingly soft. Depending on your pan, you may need to let the meat roast uncovered for about twenty minutes at the end so that it gets a lovely burnished browning which really enhances the flavour.( I use a shallow cast iron pan which has a lid - it is like an oven within the oven and the meat slowly browns as it bakes covered.)
While the lamb is slowly roasting you can get the rest of your lunch ready, and still have lots of time to relax and have fun with the family.

Here's to all mothers, daughters, sisters, aunties, grandma's, stepmothers, godmothers...Happy Mother's Day!

Monday, 1 March 2010

St. David's Day


Today is St. David's Day and it's a day that I truly celebrate. I love daffodils, and leeks, and most especially my darling husband named David! In France people make a fuss of someone on their name/saint's day just like a birthday. So that is reason enough to celebrate. But I also rejoice at the herald of Spring and once March arrives, I feel that the worst of the dreary, lingering winter is past. All of a sudden, the snowdrops raise their heads along with crocuses and daffodils. And today, even the sun made an appearance!


With a bright start and breakfast (actually, I don't eat eggs but I still love the way they look and their symbolism) I set off for a walk in the fresh air. It's muddy! This is the Buckinghamshire countryside not far from my home. This apple orchard below is being restored and the trees getting pruned - within a few weeks they will be covered in blossom.



The snowdrops have just appeared in my garden.


Happy St. David's Day!

Monday, 22 February 2010

King Cabbage...and thinking about the vegetable garden

9 January King Cabbage
As I write this, snowflakes are swirling wildly around the windows and it's a cold hard vista beyond. It's hardly inviting to step out into the garden and thoughts of digging, planting, tending seem far away. Still, winter is on the final stretch -  the days are growing gradually longer every day and subtle hints of spring are appearing. It is just the moment to start dreaming about a gorgeous, abundant vegetable garden or allotment. In the fields behind our house there are several smallholdings and allotments. I frequently walk among them and feel such admiration for what my neighbours create with their wonderful productive plots. Sometimes I am lucky enough to receive a gift of the bounty - a fat creamy cauliflower, or a cabbage as beautiful as a flower.
I would love to create my own kitchen garden but really need a bit of guidance. A couple of weeks ago I received a copy of New Urban Farmer by Celia Brooks Brown and I cannot imagine there is much about growing food that isn't included. This book is crammed with all the facts and tips for a successful year on the allotment.
urban farmer book
New Urban Farmer - From Plot to Plate is Celia's new book, recently published by Quadrille. Growing your own vegetables and fruit has become very popular over the past few years and waiting lists for allotments are groaning. For those who get to the top of the list and are ready to start their plot - or those with garden space - this book provides the tips and knowledge to make a success of it. Celia is an accomplished cook and food writer and she really has the expertise and perspective of a food lover. The book is written as a sort of journal, over the course of the seasons, with notes and inspiring recipes packed throughout.
I am so looking forward to some warmer days, and getting out in the garden. I'll let you know how it goes!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Winter Sunshine

Vin d'Orange1
Vin d'Orange2

Don't you think that people fit into seasons, rather like fruits and flowers? I am definitely a sunshine person. Each of the seasons has its own special magic and beauty, but I find at this time of year when the days are short and dark, and the weather so often dull, I really miss the vibrant colours and bright glow of the sun. I start dreaming of warm places and that inspires me to think of food and recipes to bring a bit of sunshine into my kitchen.

For a few short weeks - from mid January to early February - we get these wonderful Seville oranges in the shops. They are so fragrant, full of flavour, and very sour. They remind me of the sour oranges that you get in the Caribbean. We use to use them regularly for marinating fish and making cocktails. So I decided to try making a West Indian version of a vin d'orange. When we would take little weekend trips to Martinique, I fell in love with the French influenced cuisine, the spices and the rums. We often came across a drink of rum that was steeped with spice and sun dried orange peel. So this recipe is inspired by that. I also used the traditional Caribbean technique of deeply caramelising the sugar which gives a wonderful colour and flavour.

Vin d"orange3

How to make my West Indian Vin d'Orange

3 Seville or sour oranges, washed and cut roughly
1 bottle of white wine
150ml dark rum
200g demerera, or golden caster sugar. (I use lovely amber sugar from Barbados!)
1 vanilla pod
Nutmeg, a small teaspoon, freshly ground
Black peppercorns, a large teaspoonful, or so

Put the cut oranges in a large bowl together with the vanilla and spices. In a small heavy pan, allow the sugar to melt over medium heat and let it bubble until it is dark and nicely caramelised. (See picture below.) Carefully pour the sugar syrup over the oranges. Then, also with care, pour the wine over the oranges and add the rum. Mix it all up. The sugar syrup will form into hard bits in the liquid but not to worry, just leave it for a bit and they will soon dissolve. Give it all a few more stirs and then pour it all into a large jar or airtight container that you can keep in the fridge. Glass is best - don't use metal or plastic as these can have strange reactions. Leave to infuse for 3 to 4 weeks. Strain into a nice bottle and keep it chilled for drinking.

Well I am now waiting to drink my vin d'orange. This is the difficult part for me, I am so impatient! And it would be just the thing to enjoy by the fire on these chilly winter evenings...

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Winter's Day

I have lived most of my life in warm countries, and many places with barely perceptable changes of season. That has all changed. Living in the English countryside, the nuances of seasonal change are evident - and dramatic shifts too. Since we moved to England, the past couple of winters have been grey and drizzly but not especially cold. This winter is a proper one - frosty, icy, and today great billowing falls of snow all around. It is lovely to see the landscape draped in such a beautiful cloak of glittering white. Before the big snowfalls last night, we have had some amazingly lovely days, pale blue skies with an icing of frost. It makes up a bit for leaving the beautiful colours of the Caribbean.

After a bracing walk in the chilly countyside, a warming soup of celeriac and potatoes is just the thing.

Celeriac is a misunderstood and often maligned vegetable. We get organic veggie bags through our little boy's school, and I frequently hear other parents complain about how often we get the celeriac and that they don't know what to do with them. Well I love it. It has such a sweet creamy and nutty flavour and makes the most yummy gratins and soups. Here is a recipe for a simple and nourishing soup, garnished with a little crispy pancetta or bacon and some fresh herbs from the windowsill.

Celeriac, potato and onion soup

2 medium onions
1 clove garlic
knob of butter
1 large potato, peeled and roughly diced
1 medium celeriac, peeled and roughly diced
6-8 cups of chicken or veggie stock (can use a good quality cube)
dash of cream (optional)

crisply fried pancetta or bacon and some fresh herbs to enliven the presentation and tastebuds!

Gently sautee the onions and garlic in  the butter in a medium pot. When they are soft and very slightly golden, add the potato, celeriac and stock. Simmer for about half and hour until all the vegies are tender.
Whiz up with a blender (if it is too thick add a little more water or stock) and add a dash of cream and a grind of black pepper if you like. Sprinkle over some crispy bacon and fresh herbs and serve with a good crusty bread.

Frosty walk