I recommend you try this simple winter drink. Hot wine is delicious and warming on a winter evening. It’s a drink I offer anyone that pops in and my kitchen smells of the wonderful warming spices. As soon as you come in through the front door the aroma makes you think of Christmas!
For Hot Wine you need:
1 bottle red wine
1 sachet wine spices (allspice, cloves, cinnamon)
3 tbs brown sugar
2 slices of orange
2 slices of lemon
Heat all the above in a large saucepan. Bring to a slow boil, simmer for 5 mins.
Serve in heat proof glasses.
It’s that simple and tastes delicious. I think you will be making more than one batch of this hot wine once your friends have tasted it. They will definitely want seconds!
How lucky we were to have a nice Bank Holiday weekend. A BBQ on Saturday evening was not the wash-out we had all been dreading. The sun shone until later than expected and, we all ended up sat around an improvised camp fire. It was the perfect way to keep any late evening shivers at bay.
When I have visitors I try to be organised. It doesn’t always go to plan, especially when a little wine tasting is involved. I do however keep things simple. A freshly made Tomato Tart is the perfect quick starter or appetiser. It can be on your table in 25 minutes straight from the oven or, prepare it in advance and serve when you fancy it.
Hot or cold it is delicious and tastes of sunshine!
You will need:
1 x sheet puff pastry
3-4 fresh tomatoes
1-2 cloves garlic crushed
large bunch fresh basil leaves chopped
Roll out puff pastry and place it on baking paper and a baking tray. Mark the pastry with a knife line, 1cm in from the edges all the way around. Do not cut right through the pastry, it just needs an indent. The helps the edge to puff up and gives the tart a nice finish.
Mix the crushed garlic and chopped basil leaves with a little oil. Spread this mixture over the pastry, keeping inside the knife line. Slice the tomatoes and arrange neatly on top of the basil. Season the top with a little salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
Bake for 20 mins, med oven 170-180C until golden brown with crisp puff pastry edges.
I like to serve this tart on a board, so guests can help themselves.
Even I have days when I don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen preparing a meal. Today is one of those days. There are also days when you don’t know what you really want to eat. Today is exactly like that. When I want to cook something quickly pasta always springs to mind and, that’s what happened today. Something with pasta?
With loads of basil growing in the greenhouse and it needed using, I thought I’d make fresh pesto. Quick, fresh and tasty for supper.
I knew I had olive oil, Parmesan and pine nuts to make the pesto. I tend to use brown pasta at home as it’s the healthy option. Before I get cooking, I like to have everything to hand. Frustratingly, I couldn’t find the pine nuts, I knew I’d bought some, I just couldn’t find them. I emptied cupboards, storage boxes, drawers and shopping bags……no where to be found!
Ok, no problem. Change to plan ‘B’…… Pistou instead of Pesto. Pistou is still a great tasting sauce for pasta, it’s the French version, leaving out the Parmesan and pine nuts.
I don’t know about you but, at the end of the day, especially a Friday and when I’m cooking, I enjoy a glass of wine. That said, I grabbed a glass went to the fridge to get the chilling wine. There they were, the pine nuts!! In the fridge, don’t ask me why and it doesn’t matter why. I really did think I was going bonkers……. I was smiling to myself, thinking in a ‘hello, hello’ frenchy accent, ‘you stupid women, why did you put those in the fridge’! And poured myself a large white wine!
I returned to plan ‘A’… Pesto, with brown spaghetti.
PESTO; for 2-4 pasta portions
Large bunch fresh basil
1 clove garlic
30g pine nuts
30g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper
All the above need to be blended, either with a pestle and mortar or in a mini blender. Leave the grated cheese out, add this in at the end and stir it in. Season with a little salt and pepper. If it’s a bit thick, just add a little water to loosen it.
Cook your pasta, take the hot pasta to the sauce and mix in a large bowl while it is still warm. Finish with a little more Parmesan and black pepper.
Pesto will keep in a jar in the fridge for 2-3 weeks. Keep the top of the sauce covered with some olive oil.
The French version is very similar, without pine nuts and Parmesan. It’s a very Provençal sauce from the south of France. Served with grilled meats and fish. They also add it to soups to add another layer of flavour. There are many different versions using different herbs and fresh lemon zest or juice.
I think this is one of those sauces you can easily experiment with and, make it your own. Use any herbs or rocket, watercress any aromatic herbs you have growing in your garden or use what’s in your fridge.
If you want to dish up a quick tasty supper with no fuss, this is it! The fresh flavour is a party in your mouth.
Bruschetta, a delicious summer lunch or starter.
Don’t waste your leftover bread! Toast it, then rib it lightly with a little garlic. Chop fresh tomatoes and fresh basil leaves, mix them together in a bowl. Add a little salt and pepper and some olive oil.
spoon over the toasted bread. Finish with a little grated Parmesan cheese.
Deliciousness for a light lunch!
You may have noticed it’s been a little quiet on my blog for a couple of weeks.
No I’m not away on holiday, although to be honest, most days feel like a holiday. I have however, had some problems with my computer! And, even now they are not resolved. With some help from my computer guru, I can still post without my well worn computer for the time being.
Today is a good day to write on my blog. I wanted to send Birthday wishes to my good friend Juli, who I know is having a wonderful birthday in Italy.
I also want to say a massive ‘Happy Birthday’ to our neighbour Bernard, 80 today!
Bernard is amazing, I call him Peter Pan due to his youthful looks and his activity levels. He rides his bike several miles most days, he dances 3 times a week and is always helping others with their gardens. Bernard is our mole catcher, if he didn’t keep them under control we would be over run with them. He has told us that he never married, doesn’t have children and his sister is in a home and doesn’t know him anymore.
We couldn’t let his 80 birthday pass without a small celebration. We invited him to come to us for cake and fizz. Along with his other neighbours, they’ve know each other since they were at school in 1940s, we organised a small English style tea party.
I can’t wait to see Bernard’s face when we serve up his English style birthday cake.
This is my recipe for a quick no fuss Victoria Sponge cake:-
4 large eggs
220g SR flour
220g caster sugar
220g soft butter
1 tsp baking power
1 tsp vanilla extract
In a large bowl, add all the ingredients. Beat everything together with a hand mixer, until you have a smooth, dropping mixture. This takes 2-3 mins. Divide the mixture between 2 x 8inch cake tins, lined and greased.
Bake in a med oven 180C/170C fan. For 20-25 mins. Press the top of the sponge lightly with your finger, if it springs back and is golden in colour, it is cooked.
Cool completely on a wire rack. Fill with jam or fruit and a butter cream or fresh cream.
Finish with a sprinkle of caster or icing sugar and, enjoy this lovely light cake with a nice cup of tea or a chilled glass of fizz!
Summer fruits are ripening quicker than we can pick them.
Then unexpectedly, a kind person brings you some more fruit to eat!
………what can I do with these plums?
I can’t throw them away, I hate waste. We can’t eat them all there’s just too many!
The freezer is filling fast and, I have enough jam already to take us through two winters.
It will have to be fruit jelly for a change. Last year I made apple and mint jelly and it was a great hit with friends and family. I love eating fruit jelly with roast chicken, lamb or spicy sausages and ribs cooked on the BBQ.
Fruit jelly it is, I need to use up the fresh sweet plums as soon as possible.
Plum and lavender is a taste of the country and summer. This jelly is easy to make and, the lavender flavour is subtle. It would be nice with pancakes and ice cream! I can’t stop thinking of all things I could eat it with……
It is delicious served with roast chicken, turkey or lamb, or add a spoonful to your gravy. Just like redcurrant jelly it will add a touch of sweetness. Or simply spread it on homemade bread and butter, or scones, with thick cream or crème fraiche…..
Delicious and yummy, a great store cupboard ingredient and homemade. I made 4 jars and, all this jelly cost me was a bag of sugar and ½ a lemon. The plums and lavender were free. Each jar cost about 54p, a bargain!
Recipe: approx 4 jars
1kg jam sugar
Juice from ½ lemon
4 sprigs lavender, plus extra sprigs to put in the jelly for setting (optional)
4 table spoons water
Put plums and water in to a heavy bottom pan.
Bring to the boil. Allow the plums to cook on a medium heat without boiling over for about 20 mins. Add the jam sugar, lemon juice and sprigs of lavender, stir. Turn to high heat and boil for 5 mins. Cool for 5 mins.
Now pour into a muslin cloth lined inside a colander, over another large pan or bowl. Be very careful, this mixture will be very hot.
Now gather up the cloth and tie with string and hang over the second pan. Leave to drain until all the juices have passed through the cloth. You don’t have to worry about the skins, stones or lavender; everything is captured in the muslin cloth.
Pour the clear juice into sterilized jars, add a small sprig of lavender (optional, it looks pretty) and leave to set.
Store in a cool larder and enjoy at your leisure.
A little treat made for a few pennies ……….
I know this is a controversial subject, but I still wonder why we don’t eat more veal.
Veal is not a popular meat in the UK, unlike most of Europe, where is it readily available and eaten the same way as pork.
The on going debate surrounding this product I will leave to those in the farming and meat industry.
My stand point is; as long as I use milk and dairy products I will buy veal from my local independent butcher. We all need to understand that Veal is a consequence of us wanting milk, cream, cheese and many other dairy products. I do feel sad that the young males are surplus to the milk farmers needs, but I also feel responsible if I don’t use the meat that our milking cows produce. That’s why I ask the question, why don’t we eat more veal? Maybe people don’t realise the connection to the milk industry? I don’t feel bad that I like it and, from time to time I will continue to buy and eat veal.
Veal sticky ribs; one way I enjoy this meat is cooked on the BBQ. Or if you want to spend 2 hours in the garden or pop to the shops while dinner is cooking, the ribs can be slow cooked in the oven. Either way they taste delicious.
You can easily find veal short ribs in France and Italy. In the UK you will probably have to ask your local butcher. Don’t bother to try and find them in the supermarkets, they won’t have them. Alternatively, you can use pork or beef.
I can honestly say, everyone I have cooked these for, has really enjoyed them. I always tell my guests it’s a veal dish. I would not want anyone to eat something they’re not comfortable with. Several have never eaten veal before and were happy to try them. They didn’t realise how nice veal is and I’m happy to say, they also plan to cook veal themselves.
3-4 short ribs per person
Marinade Sauce for 2 people – 8 short ribs; just double up everything for more.
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp runny honey
1 tbsp wine vinegar
1 crushed clove garlic
1 tbsp oil
½ tsp chilli flakes
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp salt
For the BBQ;
Place the ribs into a pan of water and bring to a slow simmer. Half cover the pan and simmer for 1 hour. This helps to keep them moist.
Mix all the marinade ingredients in a bowl.
Take the ribs of the heat and drain. Allow the ribs to cool for 5 mins.
Pour over the marinade and leave for a least an hour but, they will be better if you can chill them over night.
These are now ready for the BBQ. Place on the hot grill for 10-12 mins turning two or three times, basting with the surplus sauce.
For slow cooking in the oven;
If you want to slow cook these ribs.
Add a tin of chopped tomatoes and a finely chopped red onion to the marinade and cook on a med heat – 150C in the over for 2-2 ½ hours. They will be delicious with a bowl of buttered new potatoes.
I made a brown rice and vegetable salad, served on a bed of green salad and baby beetroot leaves.
It is always really exciting for me, to get back to our garden In France.
The sun has been blazing and it hasn’t stopped shining yet…….I’ve probably spoken too soon!
We planted out as much as we could before we left, hoping we would have some produce during the summer. Kind neighbours have regularly watered and, kept everything going until our return. The vegetables look amazing. A big thank you to them all!
Everything has doubled in size and looks very healthy.
Early summer is a wonderful time in the garden. The first of the summer salads and herbs are at their best. The potatoes are flowering, almost ready to give up their delicious white gems. At this time of year, there’s really nothing better than a bowl of cooked, home grown new potatoes with a knob of butter,. We just need to be patient for a few more days, my mouth is watering just thinking about them.
The simple things in life can be the most rewarding!
Today I dug up some ‘Chioggia’, an Italian beetroot, they are ready for eating. Beetroots are very versatile; they can be enjoyed raw, roasted and pickled. And don’t forget to use the young baby leaves, put them in with your mixed salad leaves.
I love it grated raw, with fresh grated carrot and a little grated ginger.
It is fresh tasting and delicious when you just add a little soy sauce, oil and a dash of vinegar.
If you prefer, grate cooked beets and make it the same way.
Leave it to chill a little before serving.
Roast beets are simple to cook. Wash beetroots before roasting, leave skins on. Cut in halves or quarters (keep them the same size). Put in foil with some oil, garlic and thyme. Wrap the foil up tightly.
Roast on a medium heat of 40-45 mins or pop on the BBQ and keep turning every 10 mins. These roasted beets are a simple vegetable dish and taste wonderful with roast lamb or BBQ fish.
You can use any variety of beetroot but, sometimes it’s nice to try something different!
There seems to be a bit of a baby boom at the moment in Oxfordshire.
A few of my friends are becoming Grandparents for the first time and it is a very exciting time for them. I think 5 new babies are expected between now and August!
All this baby news has inspired me to make a simple quilt for one of the new borns, due this month.
I thought it would make a lovely cot cover or play mat.
I’m pleased it is very popular to have homemade things in the home. Crafts like sewing and knitting are back in ‘trend’ or is it ‘on trend’?? must be my age, we used to say things were ‘trendy’ back in 1970s….yes I guess it is my age, God I’m sounding like my Mother!
Personally, I didn’t think home crafts had died. I have always made things. I’m one of the lucky ones, I had a Grandma and Mother who taught me how to sew, knit, crochet and cook. We had to make things as we couldn’t afford to go out and buy things as cheaply as you can today. I can even remember one time, crocheting a clutch bag because I couldn’t afford to buy one!
I think giving a handmade gift, which is unique, is always special, especially for a new born baby. Call me ‘old fashioned’ but, I still love to receive a homemade gift. I think, how wonderful someone has put their time and love into making that for me. It makes me feel very special!
Easy Quilt for Baby;
If you have access to a sewing machine this quilt can be made very quickly.
Materials: 2 x pieces of fabric (equal sizes) example; 600cm x 600cm
1 x piece light wadding (same size as fabric).
Cotton & binding.
Cut out fabric to equal sizes, cut wadding to fit between fabric pieces.
Tack wadding inside fabric.
Tack a straight line from one corner, diagonally across to opposite corner. Use this line to guide your first machine top stitching line. Now move the line left of the first centre line, about 2 inches. Stitch the next diagonal machine top stitching line. Continue to machine stitch each line equally (2ins apart) across the fabric. Now repeat on the right side of the centre line.
Now turn the fabric around and machine stitch in the opposite direction, in the same way as above. This final stitching will make the quilted diamond pattern.
Finish the edging with bias binding or a contrasting fabric.
Machine stitch or hand stitch the contrast edging for a neat finish.
I hope I may have inspred you to make something special too?!