Monday, 31 March 2014

Mother's Day Weekend

Mother's Day is such a great excuse to treat your wonderful mum and gran... to your presence. In the grand tradition, my sister (#2), brother and I descended on my parents' house in Herefordshire, which is my absolute favourite place to be.

Can you blame me? 

Alice was pretty excited too. 

After giving over our pressies and flowers, we went to visit the chickens and collect the eggs. Despite my being 28, this never gets old. There's something about being at my parents' that turns back the clocks and even the littlest things are exciting again. It's a great antidote to London's cynicism.

Aren't their fluffy trousers adorable? This is Yvette, she's a babe. 
All my parents' chickens are named after female politicians with a twist - Angelayer Merkel is the leader, then there's Yvette Coop, Eggwina Currie and Theresa Lay. It's a wonder I grew up anywhere near normal. 

She and her mates are pretty handy when you want an omelette, too. 

This is Yorick - my parents dug him up in the garden. Don't worry, he's not real - he's pretty realistic though!

But the biggest babes at home are these guys, my 'Dire Wolf' Connor and 'Faithful Hound' Frankie. They're both rescue dogs and are my absolute faves. And our neighbours? These guys! 

I don't know their names but I might make some up. 

One of the best things about being in the middle of nowhere are the super-bright stars and strange, other-worldly animal sounds that happen when the sun goes down. The best way to enjoy them? With a glass of red next to the chiminea.

The next morning, I woke up ridiculously late (can anyone else handle the clocks going forward?).

After a restorative coffee while enjoying the view, it was time to get cooking because if there's one day a mother should get to put her feet up with a glass of something frosty, it's Mother's Day. 
I did a full roast for six people, in an Aga. Pretty proud, TBH. 

Before and after. I adore roast chicken, but I think having your legs trussed up while someone shoves onions and lemons up your bum is a pretty crap afterlife. 

Gluten-free yorkshires made with my pancake recipe. Not my best attempt, it has to be said, but unfamiliar ovens and all that. 


And Alice's creme brulees for afters. Deeeeelish. 

Happy Mother's Day, mum! You're a legend. 

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Gluten-Free Pancakes

I am one of those unlucky people who can't eat wheat gluten. I'm not going to lie, it's pretty annoying, especially when you're out and about and can't just grab a sandwich or eat pizza like a normal person.

However, at home when I'm cooking for myself, I've started experimenting with some alternatives to things I miss most and I've managed to nail one thing in particular – gluten-free pancakes.

Honestly, I defy anyone to be able to tell these are gluten free – they look, cook, smell, feel and taste just like a wheat crepe but are lighter so you can eat more. Bonus! Plus, the mix makes amazing Yorkshire puds, too, which has improved my enjoyment of a Sunday roast about a trillion times since becoming GF.

Pancake day may only happen once a year, but you can definitely indulge in these bad boys all year round. I had a hankering yesterday, so made a huge pile – I'm ashamed/proud to say I ate them all myself.

You need to make up a base mix from a few separate exotic flours, but they go a long way and when you've bought them you can make pancakes to your heart's content. I get mine from Sous Chef – it's an amazing website full of hard-to-find ingredients for Asian cooking and the like, with a GF section. And your order comes beautifully packaged, with monogrammed tissue paper – I'm a sucker for pretty packaging.

To make six largish crepes (enough for two, or one greedyguts), you will need:
100g GF pancake mix – 40g tapioca flour, 30g potato starch, 30g cornflour
160ml milk
2 eggs
pinch of salt

You make them just like an ordinary pancake. Combine your flours and salt in a large bowl – you can also do this in one large batch by scaling up the amounts and then have your mix ready to go for next time. These are very fine, powdery flours and the potato starch tends to clump, but don't worry, it'll all come out in the mix.

Measure out your milk and beat the two eggs into it. Make a well in your flour and pour in the eggy milk mixture, whisking as you go to prevent lumps.

This mix feels claggy when the milk first goes in but keep whisking and it'll loosen to a thinnish, silky batter.

I like to use a non-stick frying pan and minimise the amount of oil I use by heating it (you need your pan to be blistering hot for pancakes by the way – no one likes a heavy, anaemic, greasy crepe), then pouring it off the pan again into a mug. It gives you just a very light coating of oil, you can reuse it for each pancake, and it's already heated.

Pour in just enough batter to thinly coat the bottom of the pan, and roll your pan around a little to fill any gaps. The crepe should go opaque and set within about 30 seconds to a minute, then you can flip it. I'm terrible at this so I use a spatula but go wild with it if you're more coordinated!

Cook for a further 30 secs/1 min until those lovely little brown speckles have appeared on the underside, then flip it out onto a plate. Repeat until all your batter's gone and you have yourself a stack of gorgeous, soft, crispy-at-the-edges crepes.

I ate mine with lashings of chocolate spread, because, well, why wouldn't you?!

Monday, 17 March 2014

Abel & Cole

I don't really do New Year's resolutions.

I never seem to keep them, and they're always thought up in an abitrary way on NYE after a few too many cocktails when someone asks me for them. I also don't do Lent, not being religious, and not having the requisite willpower to give anything up for no reason.

But summer is fast approaching and one glance down at my sun-deprived, wobbly body (who wants to go for a morning run in January darkness or February rain?), while suffering a cataclysmic two-day hangover, showed I should maybe think about sorting my life out.

I'm bored of going to the supermarket every night for near sell-by, overpriced veg imported from Kenya, so me and T decided to sign up for Abel & Cole's small (two-person) weekly box.

I love post and I love posh things – this encapsulates both. Getting home on Tuesday to find a delicious box full of good for me, organic veg on my doorstep was frankly ace, and they even send you a free cookbook with your first one.

(I love cookbooks – they're just so pretty, with amazing typography and pics. They even smell nice. I'd love to produce one. Just me?)

I think it's slightly more than we'd usually spend purely on veg per week (£10.50, plus 99p delivery and an extra item to make it up to the minimum spend of £12.50 – we chose eggs) but we've vowed to eat less meat to make up the shortfall, which is something I've been intending to do anyway. I always need something to force my arm. And we're both convinced it tastes better than usual – wishful thinking? Who knows. Anyway, I'm pleased so far. Tonight we're having sausage casserole with mash from their delish potatoes, broccoli and courgettes. And I had salad for lunch. Yum.

Family Kersh do London – part 2

What do north Londoners do on a sunny Sunday? Go to the pub for a roast, of course!

There's such a wealth of amazing pubs in my pretty little corner of London, but we decided to go to an old fave, The Bull. They never disappoint.

We whetted our appetites with a stroll through Waterlow Park, where the blossoms are suddenly in bloom. I love blossom with a passion - ridiculously pretty, delicate and short-lived, it always signals the coming of sunny days and looks amazing silhouetted against a bright blue spring sky.

I love this twisted fig tree that grows across the path. Such a rebel.

This wall, which edges the gardens of Lauderdale House, is my favourite wall. Is it weird to have a favourite wall? Well, I do. I love the ancient, wonky walls and kitchen gardens of old houses – I think it's down to a childhood obsession with Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden.

Then it was time for food, and lots of it. I love nothing better than getting a big group of friends and family together for some decent grub - I think it's what Sundays are really for. That, and reading a good book with a proper coffee, then watching murder mysteries on TV in the evening, of course.

The sea bream with crushed new potatoes tempted me away from my intended pile of roast beef, an it was totally worth it. Just look at that!

It was too sunny to stay indoors for long, though, so we headed back to the park for a coffee on the grass, before wandering home, full and happy.

Hello, sunshine - please stay awhile. London loves you.