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Monday, 25 April 2011


I was away on a course on Thursday and Friday and stayed overnight at the Carrick Lodge Hotel .  I can highly recommend it, both my room and my colleague's room were of a high standard and the food was excellent.  I hadn't taken my camera so can't share my meal with you.  However, on the menu at breakfast there was 'Eggs Benedict', not something I would normally choose, but I just couldn't resist.  It was my Dad's favourite and is now one of my favourites too.

So, where is all this leading?   I have never made Hollandaise sauce and after my Eggs Benedict, I thought it was probably about time I had a go.  I know it has a reputation as being tricky but the recipe looked simple and I had everything I needed to make it.  We were having salmon fillets for dinner and some sauce would lift them to a real treat.

I could have chosen a recipe from any number of my collection of cookbooks but decided to have a look and see if Rachel Allen had one - and she did!  Right there at the back of  Home Cooking in a chapter entitled Basics.

Hollandaise Sauce
makes about 150ml (5fl oz)

2 egg yolks
110g (4oz) butter, diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Squeeze of lemon juice

1. Place a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water on a medium heat. Add the egg yolks and 1 tablespoon of cold water and whisk together.  Gradually add the butter, bit by bit until each addition has melted and emulsified as it is whisked in, before adding the next.

2. Once all the butter has been added, cook for a few minutes more, stirring regularly until the sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Taste and season with salt, pepper and lemon juice.

3. Remove from the heat and keep warm if necessary, by covering with clingfilm and leaving to sit over the warm water, until you're ready to serve.

Confession No. 1: The sauce made perfectly, until I put in the lemon juice and then the d**n thing split!  So on the basis that it is just hot mayonnaise,  I got another egg yolk and a clean bowl and gradually whisked the split sauce into the egg yolk over the simmering water. It worked a treat!

Confession No. 2: I served this to Mr Farmer, he tasted it and said what a nice CHEESE sauce it was,  I don't know why I bother sometimes - ha ha ha!

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Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Home Cooking

I know this isn't a new cook book, but it's one I didn't think I would ever buy.  I'd read the blurb on Amazon and other reviews and it seemed to me that it was a book for families for children, people who were not experienced cooks and I didn't think I needed to know how to roast a chicken or make shepherd's pie.

I take it all back!

We get a mobile library van and normally my MIL gets my books but every now and then I'm home when it is due to come and last time, I saw Home Cooking on the shelves and thought: "I've nothing to lose".  I had only had it in the house a couple of days when I decided that I had to own my own copy.

I made the sage and onion stuffing which I stuffed into a pork shoulder, it was superb. I've recently found a great farm shop with their own butchery and on Saturday past I stocked up on beef mince, cumberland sausages, a chicken, chicken breasts and a piece of brisket.  I froze most of the meat but kept some mince back,  I hadn't really thought about what I would make but as this book was on the table I flipped through and saw the recipe for Beefburgers with gherkin relish.

I didn't make the relish although I love gherkins, I will try it another time.  Here is the Beefburger recipe:

4tbsp olive oil
1 medium-large onion, peeled and chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
800g (1 3/4lb) minced beef
4 tbsp chopped mixed herbs, such as tarragon, chives, thyme and parsley
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed or grated
1 large egg, beaten
50g (2oz) fresh white breadcrumbs

1. Pour half the olive oil into a saucepan on a low heat, add the onion, season with salt and pepper, cover and sweat on a low heat for 10 minutes or until completely cooked and very soft but not browned.  Remove from the pan and allow to cool.

2. Put the cooled onion in a bowl and mix with the remaining ingredients.  Season with salt and pepper.  Shape the mixture into eight evenly sized burgers.  The burgers can be made to this stage in advance and kept in the fridge for up to 24 hours or frozen and then defrosted until ready to use.

3. Pour the remaining olive oil into a large frying pan on a medium heat and fry the burgers( in batches if necessary) for 8-10 minutes on each side or until well browned and cooked through.  Alternatively fry the burgers in an ovenproof pan for 304 minutes on each side until deep golden, then pop in the oven, preheated to 200C (400F) for 10 minutes until cooked.

Serve on a bun with mustard or relish and salad.

The burgers were just delicious, I will definitely make them like this again and the browning in the pan followed by finishing in the oven, meant the burgers were cooked properly all the way through without going hard on the outside.

More from Home Cooking coming soon...

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Saturday, 16 April 2011

Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb

Yes, the rhubarb season is well and truly upon us!  Loads of the stuff growing in the garden so you may be seeing quite a lot of recipes featuring those rosy stalks.  Today it is another version of a crumble, Rhubarb and Orange with Amaretti Crumble.

Peel about an inch off a clementine, scraped off the pith and diced it into tiny pieces.

Chop up about four stalks of rhubarb and put them into a dish with the orange zest. Add a tablespoon of granulated sugar (or to taste).

Take 8 - 10 amaretti biscuits and crush them with a rolling pin.

Mix the crushed amaretti with about 4-5 tablespoons of crumble mix.
Spoon the mixture over the rhubarb and bake in the oven at 160C for 30-40 minutes until the crumble is golden brown and the rhubarb is bubbling through.

Serve with custard (yes, it's Birds Custard again).  The hint of orange flavour brought out the rhubarb, and the almond flavour enhanced the crumble and gave it a bit of added texture too.

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Sunday, 10 April 2011

Name the Bouncing Easter Baby!

It's nearly Easter and, although it has an important religious meaning for many people, it is also a time when chocolate eggs are given to friends and family.  What better than to win a gorgeous choccie hamper from Hotel Chocolat!

This time the competiton is being run on Hotel Chocolat's Facebook page HERE  All you need to do name the baby egg and you could win a 'Be Pampered' chocolate hamper worth £75!

 Hotel Chocolat are brilliant at creating fun, quirky chocolate treats and they have done it again this Easter, just look at these:

You get five lovely little milk chocolate egg halves filled with yummy praline,  with the little 'fried egg' in the middle.
and five white chocolate 'soldiers' with a bit of 'dippy egg' on the end!

Serving suggestion - hee hee!

Enter the competition to win lots of Hotel Chocolat goodies


Sunday, 3 April 2011

Rhubarb, Pineapple and Ginger Crumble

Now this might seem like an unusual combination for a crumble, I have certainly never put pineapple in a crumble before, but Tesco had pineapples reduced price last weekend and I bought one, as you do.  Then I didn't use it, so it sat there in the fruit bowl, the outside of the skin drying out and going a funny colour.  I really didn't fancy eating it raw and I didn't want to make pineapple upside down cake.  At the same time, the rhubarb in the garden is coming along nicely but still not enough for a full on rhubarb crumble - do you see what happened here?

So I cut up the pineapple and cut off any brown looking bits on the outside (the flesh was actually perfectly fine and very juicy) chopped up the rhubarb and put them in the dish with a couple of tablespoons of sugar.  The I wondered what I could flavour the crumble with....ah, at the back of the fridge is half a jar of Ginger Conserve left over from Christmas, I was planning to make Nigella's ginger glazed chipolatas but never got around to it.

So I scooped on top of the fruit.  And so to the Crumble,  I could tell you that I rubbed the butter into the flour and added sugar, but that would be a lie.  Sometimes I make the crumble myself, but I like to have a bag of McDougalls Crumble Mix in the cupboard for speed.

I knew there was about 20g of ground almonds left to, so I threw that in wit the mix and also two tablespoons of the dessicated coconut that I got from those nice people at Healthy Supplies.

It all went into the bowl and was mixed through.

Into the oven at 180C for about 30 - 40 minutes, you should see the fruit bubbling up round the edges and the crumble should go golden brown.
Served with custard, not fancy, egg home-made custard, but made with Birds Custard Powder just like we always had as children!  I have to say that the combination was delicious and the pineapple flavour stood up well to being crumbled.

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Friday, 1 April 2011

Valvona and Crolla, Vin Caffe, Edinburgh

Today Mr Farmer and I went to Edinburgh with my friend Avril whose birthday was today.  You can find out why we were in Edinburgh on my other blog Serial Crafter but the foodie part of the story has to be told here!

Here are Avril and Brian (Mr Farmer) at Valvona and Crolla's Vin Caffe where we had our lunch.


Hummus with Crostini

We started with a selection of  Stuzzichini, we had the olives in a chilli mariade, foccacia and hummus with crostini.  The hummus was particularly good and had nice texture.

For my main course I decided, that after watching the Great British Food Revival programme about how we were not eating British Crab, I decided to have the LINGUINE CON GRANCHIO Pasta tossed with Crab meat lightly cooked with extra virgin olive oil, garlic, chilli and parsley.

It was a lovely plateful of food, really tasty crab and the portion size was just right.

Mr Farmer chose the  PESCE ARROSTO Fresh fillet of seabass panfried with extra virgin olive oil, white wine, garlic and fresh basil, served with wilted spinach and roast cherry tomatoes.  Being the good farmer that he is, he insisted on an accompaniment of potatoes!

PATATE ARROSTO Diced roast potatoes sautéed with extra virgin olive oil, seasoned with Maldon sea salt

 Avril chose TAGLIERINI CON SALMONE Campofilone egg pasta served with James Dickson’s Oak Smoked salmon and cream sauce

We all enjoyed our food and a glass of the house white, and other than there being no-one to greet us as we entered the restaurant, the service was good.  The ambience in the upstairs restaurant was relaxed, with a mixture of business people and shoppers taking time over their meal.  I would certainly return to eat there again for an informal but special lunch.

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