Waffly Good Breakfast where the Old Countries Meet the New

Hello again, we are back from our holiday, the school term has started and cake orders are coming in again after the summer break.

We have been lucky enough to have seen this:

Had a go on this :

Eaten massive sandwiches looking like this:

and seen plenty of these:

Fantastic!!

And of course. maple leaves are on the flag for a reason and vats of syrup have been consumed and transported back to blighty. I feel a few maple syrup recipes coming on!

For starters how about this:

Waffles with mascarpone cheese, fruit, toasted nuts and maple syrup.

Child two has been eating toasted waffles like they have been going out of fashion. Here in the UK we don’t seem to sell the frozen boxfuls like they do in North America, however we do sell them fresh in packets or if you are feeling really virtuous you can buy a waffle maker and do it yourself. We ate breakfast at a diner called Tutti Frutti and as the name would suggest anything you ordered came with a huge pile of fruit, so inspired by Child two and Tutti Frutti, I made the following, (serves one):

2 or 3 waffles (warmed), 2 or 3 tbsp of mascarpone cheese (light or regular) or a mixture of mascarpone cheese and 0%fat Greek yoghurt, fruit of your choice, I used a banana, sliced, a nectarine, sliced and a handful of blueberries, a sprinkling of toasted nuts (almond, pecan, whatever you want) and a drizzling of maple syrup.  Pile it all up on the plate and off you go.

(Europe is referred to as the old countries by Canadians and the recipe fuses Italian and Spanish ingredients with Canadian; oh and these waffles were Belgian!).

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Beach Hut Food (or almost half a dozen things to do with Tortilla Chips)

Despite the distinctly mediocre weather we have been experiencing this week, we have found our collective stiff upper lip and pressed on with our half term/Jubilee plans regardless. We like to book a beach hut on Studland beach for a week each year and this week has been the appointed one. The weather on the Isle of Purbeck can frequently render national forecasts useless and certainly for part of the time I think we have managed to suffer far less rain than some. Sunday tea time we returned from a very pleasant afternoon at the beach, switched on the TV, to find the National Anthem in full flow on the River Thames and a bedraggled choir trying to look cheerful notwithstanding the driving rain. Nightmare.

Kitchen for the week

So during a typical week, we like to cook at the beach as much as possible and over the years we have developed Beach Hut Food. This can easily be regarded as camping food and so with the camping/glamping/festival season upon us some might find the following useful. I’m not really suggesting anything very revelatory just jogging memories I suspect.

The return of the 5 layer dip; the original recipe is here but an easier or possibly more child friendly version would be as follows:

Small tin of refried beans spread on the bottom of  the bowl/saucepan/suitable receptacle.

A layer of sweetcorn from a small tin to cover the beans or a layer of guacamole from a ‘ready to eat’ tub

A layer of tomato salsa, strength to your taste

A layer of half fat soured cream

A layer of grated cheese

Arrange the tortilla chips around the bowl as illustrated. This is really good as an accompaniment to a barbecue. N.B. Doritos are not very strong and therefore not good for scooping. Sainsburys Basics Tortilla Chips are much much better in this regard.

Tortilla Soup; British summers being what they are, soup is still a must even in July at times. Cuppa soup Cream of Tomato or a tin of Heinz Tomato can be pepped up with a few drops of Tabasco sauce and tortilla chips to dip with.

Camp style Caesar Salad; this is adapted from a Nigella recipe so she deserves all the credit. Arrange some salad leaves (Little Gem are good here) in a bowl and dress with Caesar salad dressing (we like the Pizza Express Light variety). Add to that handfuls of tortilla chips and grated Parmesan or any grated cheese.

Tortilla chip sandwiches; if you are at the beach, the ‘do I have sand in my sandwich’ concern can be offset by adding tortilla chips to the filling. The crunchy sensation they provide will mask any actual sand. Again grated cheese, a drop of Tabasco and chips work well and should you have these ingredients around because you made the 5 layer dip, will help with using stuff up.

As it was Jubilee weekend, we really pushed the boat out however and had my favourite sandwich of all, baguette with smoked salmon, lots of dill, lemon juice and black pepper and whilst barbecuing constructed this user-friendly arrangement.

Frozen raw King Prawns can defrost throughout the day in a cool box. Thread onto the skewers as the barbecue is lit to finish defrosting if necessary. Fill a fish holder with the skewers and cherry tomatoes for ease of handling.

The fish holder is often filled with Bream stuffed with dill. If you have sea air up your nostrils, this barbecue dish has to be one of life’s great pleasures.

Warming up for Wimbledon

Cutest Cakes loose in London: Food, Furries, Pharoahs, Falafel and Feathers.

We have had a Bank Holiday here in England and unusually we managed to get away for a few nights. Child 2’s school has an annual May Fayre on the Bank Holiday Monday and typically this precludes time away as cakes must be baked and bunting must be hung etc. etc.

London and it’s environs was the destination and so I think a round-up of pictures is the most amusing way to illustrate a lovely weekend with the fam.

We began with Friday night is Pizza night,

a Child 2 special:

½ Margherita, ½ Pepperoni,                                whereas I’m more into rustic style

I found this printed across my napkin and I think it sums up my world view:

The following morning we set off for Whipsnade Zoo, which is part of London Zoo despite its location north of the M25! We had a ball and due to freezing conditions the crowds were kept to a minimum and the wildlife was up and about:

European Bears

Melman and Co.

A family favourite: RED PANDA on the move!!!!

Lightening quick picnic lunch due to the temperatures – cheese sandwiches with homemade bread, strawberries and left over volcano cake (don’t ask: a long story)

Then the highlight – Macaws and Timbo the bonkers African Grey Parrot (flew so fast couldn’t get a pic)

Sea Lions, Elephants, Rhinos, Pod camping WITH Rhinos, Linx, Lions – it was all going on.

Next day we were in London proper – oh yeah, London baby! I just love it: the energy, the scale of it all, the food, the brick colour. I adore the place.

Coffee is always high on my list of priorities: this was a good one

We had mini croissant style confections filled with a kind of butter icing or Nutella!

On to The British Museum

Rameses II?

These are actual Gold Medals that will actually be handed out in August!

and then on to a Cake Shop via Tube, Taxi and muggle magic….

At this point I shall pause as cake is involved. For anyone who is following The Cutest Cakes on Facebook, you may have noticed that I ‘like’ Violet Cakes. The owner is an American and used to be a pastry chef in the US. She now has a shop and café and although she was not around I was thrilled to have made it to her glorious bakery.

We had salted caramel cupcakes, rhubarb crumble, almond polenta muffins, cheese toasties and take-out Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Goats Cheese Tart. Divine and much food for thought as well as tummies. A few pics…

The place was simple, nostalgic and inspirational. On the way back to our hotel we picked up some gigantic falafel in Camden – these formed the local street food – awesome.

Enough Flavour to Keep it Simple

A good friend of mine has just returned from her first trip to Italy. First trip to Italy. It’s like some adolescent awakening a first trip to Italy. You will never be the same again.

My Mother will probably disagree here but I regard my time spend working as an au pair in Milan, at the age of 19, as my culinary awakening and the way I think about food now is defined by lingering memories and habits formed at that time. I saw a great quote on another blog site where the author remarked ‘well I’m off to make more food from food’. I think the author is American, but that sentiment would apply to the British too. Sufficient flavour in some foods can be an issue and the contrast if you are lucky enough to be eating in Italy is marked.

Now I know that the situation here has improved a lot over the last 10-15 years say but the Italian fruit, vegetables, cheese, cured meats and wine, all those deli items which can make a delicious lunch, have a depth of flavour which is hard to match except possibly by the French. One of the reasons for this is I suspect is the ambient temperature. Fruit and vegetables ripening on the plants, the intensity of the sun, storage methods, coupled with better collective culinary know-how, it all makes a difference. Before the restrictions on transporting liquids a few bottles of red wine would be heaved onto the plane as carry-on, you remember? In our case it was cases of the red in the car as we drove the 1,500 miles back up through France to the ferry at breakneck speed. Once home the wine would be presented as a rarefied object at some special event and it was supposed to transport us all back to our holiday. It didn’t really work though, England is too cold. It’s even worse with Languedoc Rosé, what was fruity and thirst quenching down in the South-West of France, seemed more like paint stripper in Blighty. It was always very disappointing.

Cheeses, salad ingredients and cured meats also travel about as well as the French Rugby Team. We in the UK tend to keep everything in the fridge and don’t let the food even warm up to our ambient temperatures before we consume it. Tomatoes are a case in point. Virtually tasteless straight from the fridge, yet given a couple of hours at room temperature, sliced and drizzled with Olive Oil and the merest pinch of salt they are transformed.

So when you catch those moments when you achieve a flash of those heady delicious Mediterranean lunches it’s always a surprise as much as a treat. Believe it or not a trip to Tesco recently produced such a lunch. Bread, cheese and tomato was about the size of it. However due to the fact that I had been shopping, the deliciously ripe looking beef tomatoes weren’t fridged anyway, the Spanish Manchego cheese out of the chiller for long enough and my new basil plant emitting the most pungent aroma, I felt compelled to assemble the following:

The tomatoes were sliced and oil, from a long since eaten jar of artichokes, drizzled over them (I do store such remnants in the fridge for such moments). A few torn basil leaves topped the dish off. The Manchego (ewe’s milk cheese, nutty and delicious) was in slices too and the Panini, Tesco own brand which I toasted, released a faint smell of Olive Oil. Pear, from the veg box and just ripe, has an affinity with sheep’s milk cheese, something understood by the Italians of Pienza, the home of Pecorino and some pear based jelly like condiment I can’t remember the name of……

Child 2 was with me and chose a grilled ham and cheese Panini. It is mildly irritating to me that he hates tomatoes.

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