nav-left cat-right
cat-right

Vermicelli With Lemon Sauce and Capers...

Vermicelli With Lemon Sauce and Capers

This time of year I find that I indulge a little too much in festive treats and comfort food. I’m not sure whether it’s the martinis that are festive and the mashed potatoes comforting – or the other way around. In any case I do like to ease up a bit and have some meals that are a little lighter and less intense then a bowl full of mash. I have always had a fondness for Vermicelli or Angel Hair Pasta as it is known across the pond and this recipe sounded too good not to try.

The recipe I based this on is by Kyle Phillips and I found it on About.com. It is a real winner and I feel it works perfectly on a cold winters day. It brings a little bit of sunshine to your dinner plate. I pretty much followed the recipe but I didn’t remove the garlic from the cream (and I used a lot more garlic – I am after all a garlic-oholic) and at the end I added a Tbsp or so of capers. Yummy!

You can find Kyle’s original recipe here

Vermicelli With Lemon Sauce and Capers (serves 4)

Ingredients

1 pound Vermicelli

Zest of 1 lemon (make sure to used unwaxed lemons if you can)

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 clove garlic (I used 3 large cloves)

1 cup cream

1 cup grated Parmigiano (I used Grana Padano)

1 Tbsp of capers

Salt & pepper to taste

Directions

Set slightly salted pasta water on to boil

In a large pot sauté the garlic in the butter and when it browns discard it (I didn’t let the garlic brown and I didn’t discard it. I had it minced quite finely and didn’t find it too overpowering)

Add half the cream and all the zest from the lemon – keep the sauce warm

When the water boils cook the pasta till it’s al dente and drain it

Stir the pasta into the sauce and toss it for a minute or two over moderate heat (at this point I added about 3/4 of the Grana Padano cheese)

Make sure to stir in sufficient cream to keep the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pan (with the final few tosses I added the Tbsp of capers)

After a minute or so scoop the vermicelli into a serving bowl

Serve at once with the rest of the grated cheese

Get stuck in and enjoy with a side of garlic bread!

Banana, Apple and Cointreau Bundt Cake...

Although it’s been ages since my last post I have still been busy in the kitchen. Life just seemed to get out of hand for a while – it does that sometimes. My sister came to visit in mid-September, which was great. We explored many pubs (perhaps too many pubs), ate oysters in Whitstable, had fancy coffee at Badger Hill Farm and Cidery (then bought a keg of cider), did some gluten-free baking and had a few walks in Shorne Woods Country Park.

After my sister went back to Toronto my husband and I had the bedroom and utility room re-decorated. A 5-day job went on for 2 weeks. This is an old property and there were…..issues….. but all is well now. I can tell you that Nutmeg was getting pretty fed up at being cut off from the bedroom.

I also changed jobs and am so much happier for it, but it has taken some getting used to. I am now able to dedicate much more time to my other passions; Aromatherapy and Reflexology as well as to writing. My children’s picture book is almost finished – so watch this space!

However the down side of all this activity was that I came down with some sort of coughing lurgy that lasted for almost 8 weeks. After several prescriptions that offered no relief it eventually made its way out of my system – but it left me feeling pretty exhausted. Anyway enough rambling – let’s move on to the cake.

Last week a lovely client of mine gave me a big bag of windfall apples. I wanted to do something different so I decided to make up my own recipe for a Bundt cake. A bit daring I know! In any case it was a success and I am now feeling ever so slightly more confident in my baking abilities. O.K I used cake mix – but give me a break at least it’s a start! The bananas and apple chunks give extra moistness while the Cointreau adds a lovely spicy citrus flavour. This is really good with a pot of freshly brewed coffee.

Luna Raye’s Banana, Apple and Cointreau Bundt Cake

(I based this on the Sherry Bundt Cake recipe my cousin gave me)

Ingredients

4 room temperature eggs (you can put them in a bowl of warm water to warm them up if you don’t have time to let them sit out)

3 medium-sized ripe bananas, mashed

2 apples cored, peeled and chopped into bite sized chunks

3/4-cup olive oil

1/2 cup Cointreau

1 package yellow cake mix (I used a Madeira cake mix)

1 package instant vanilla pudding (I still haven’t tried using Angel Delight (see my ‘Best Sherry Cake Ever!‘ post) Fortunately my sister arrived with several packs of my favourite Vanilla Jell-O Instant Pudding. Size wise the Jell-O is 102g, which is what you would need for the recipe. Don’t make the pudding up – just add the powder straight to the bowl!

1 Tbsp allspice

½ tsp vanilla essence

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a small bowl mash the ripe bananas with a fork

In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, oil and Cointreau

Gradually add the cake mix, pudding mix and the allspice (I always use a sifter to avoid lumps)

When the mixture has been well blended (no lumps) add the mashed bananas, vanilla essence and apple chunks

Place the batter in a well-greased tube or Bundt pan (a pan that is round, deep with hole in the middle)

Bake for 45 minutes

Remove from pan immediately

Allow the cake to cool cake for 10 minutes before placing it on large plate or large chopping board covered with aluminium / tin foil or parchment paper

Sprinkle icing sugar over the top and dig in

The cake is just as lovely cold but I always like the treat of having it slightly warm from the oven

Enjoy!

Panzanella (Italian Bread Salad) With Homegrown To...

“It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.”
Lewis Grizzard

We are up to our ears in tomatoes and we love it!

At the start of April we bought tomato seedlings in the hopes we would have the pleasure of a few homegrown tomatoes over the summer. Last year’s efforts were a bit grim so our expectations were not high. I am delighted to report that this has been the best tomato harvest we have ever had in the 3 years of growing our own.

Panzanella is a wonderful way to use up stale bread and hi-light the beautiful flavour of fresh tomatoes – preferably picked straight off the vine! We have a fantastic selection of tomatoes including Roma, Citrina, Sungold and Green Zebra. Nothing hits the spot like a freshly made salad full of Mediterranean flavours and tomatoes you have grown yourself.

Normally panzanella uses stale bread but if you don’t have any on hand you can always use fresh. Just cut it into bite-sized chunks and place on a baking tray in a low temperature oven. You don’t want to toast the bread – just dry it out a little.

Here is my recipe for summer in a bowl.

Luna Raye’s Panzanella or Italian Bread Salad
(Serves 2-3)

Ingredients

3 cups of stale bread (I used a baguette)

A generous handful of tomatoes halved (approx ¾ of a cup) Use a mixture of tomatoes if you can (I used Citrina, Roma and Sungold)

1 small red pepper diced

¼ Spanish onion finely sliced

3 cloves of garlic (I am a garlicoholic so use fewer cloves if you prefer)

1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil

3-4 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar

Handful of basil leaves roughly torn

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Add the bread chunks to a large bowl

In a separate bowl add the tomatoes red pepper, onion, garlic, pinch of salt, about ½ the basil and mix well

Add the tomato mixture to the bread chunks and toss so everything is gently mixed

Drizzle the olive oil and balsamic mixture over the top and add a touch more salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper

Cover and leave for 45 minutes to an hour (you can put it in the fridge but I left mine on the counter top – I find the flavours come out better when it is a little warm)

Just before you serve add the remaining basil and toss everything again. Check to make sure you are happy with the seasoning

The bread should have soaked up all the oil, vinegar and tomato juices so it should be moist but not soggy

Serve up and Enjoy!

Panzanella

Bush Spiced Polenta with Baked Beetroot and Fennel...

Just over a year ago my husband and I were in Queensland, Australia visiting my parents. We had a wonderful time drinking martinis while watching Huey’s Kitchen, going for long (slightly scary) walks in National Parks and making the most of local farmer’s markets and food fairs.

It was at one of these food fairs that I bought a selection of Australian spices. The Oz Tukka pack contains Wattle Seed, Tasmanian Pepper Leaf, Artesian Salt, Lemon Myrtle and Bush Tomato. Lots of great spices to have fun and experiment with.

Of all the spices the bush tomato was one I really fell in love with. It is similar in taste to caramelized sun dried tomatoes which you can use in substitution if you’re unable to get ahold of bush tomato. The spice pack came with some great recipe ideas and so far this salad has been one of our favourites. It is perfect as a starter or light lunch / dinner. The flavours blend really well together and despite all the different components it is quite simple to make.

The recipe serves 6 people but I made this for the 2 of us and it was plenty for a hearty and healthy dinner.

Here is the original Oz Tukka recipe.

Bush Spiced Polenta with Baked Beetroot and Fennel Salad (serves 6)

Ingredients

For the polenta:

250ml polenta

1 Tbsp Oz Tukka Bush Tomato, finely chopped

1 1/2 Oz Tukka Tasmanian Pepper Leaf

For the salad:

6 small beetroots

2 small fennel

4 Tbsp pine nuts, roasted (I used toasted sunflower seeds which were not only delicious they were also much cheaper)

80g feta cheese

Rocket leaves (enough for 6 small salads – I used a good sized handful each for 2 salads)

For the dressing:

2 tsp Dijon mustard

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 Tbsp Oz Tukka macadamia oil or olive oil (I used olive oil)

1/4 tsp Oz Tukka lemon myrtle

Directions

To make polenta follow instructions on polenta pack. Add spices towards end of cooking. Wet a square dish or container, press polenta into dish, levelling the top and allow to cool

NOTE: I had to adapt this slightly as I was only able to get pre-made polenta. Instead of adding the spices into the mix I added them to the pan with a small pat of butter while grilling the polenta

Roast the beetroot and fennel in a moderate oven until cooked. Allow to cool

Slice polenta into 1cm thick slices and grill until golden brown

Arrange on plates

Mix dressing ingredients

Chop fennel and beetroot into large chunks

Drizzle some of the dressing over the beetroot and keep separate

Toss fennel with rocket and remaining dressing

Serve on top of polenta with beetroot, sprinkle with pine nuts and crumbled feta

Enjoy!

If you’re interested in more recipes and information please visit the Oz Tukka website.

Many thanks to my husband Paul who took such a lovely photo!

Cinnamon Basil And Lime Icebox Cookies...

Cinnamon Basil and Lime Cookies

Awhile back I was researching recipes that called for cinnamon basil. This one for icebox cookies caught my eye. I said I was going to make these – and I did. Boy, are they good!

I didn’t really know what icebox cookies were when I saw the recipe. Basically the dough is shaped into a log and is refrigerated. The dough will usually keep for up to a week in the fridge or it can be well wrapped and frozen for much longer.

Chilling the dough makes it a lot easier to work with. It’s also a great way to bake only the cookies you want at any one time. There is nothing quite like hot fresh cookies straight from the oven.

Icebox Cookie Dough

Here is the recipe from the Epicurious website submitted by smtodd

Cinnamon Basil and Lime Icebox Cookies

Ingredients

2 cups all purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

3 tablespoons fresh cinnamon basil leaves, chopped

1 tablespoon grated lime zest

1 cup slivered almonds or pistachios, chopped (I went for the pistachio option)

Parchment or wax paper for wrapping dough

Directions

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside

Cream the butter, sugar and egg together in mixer until light and fluffy. (I did mine by hand)

Add vanilla extract, nutmeg, lime zest, cinnamon basil and almonds or pistachios and mix until thoroughly combined

Add flour mixture in three or four parts, making sure that flour is completely mixed in before next addition

Gently roll dough into an even log about 3 inches in diameter, lightly flour hands and work surface if dough is sticky

Wrap rolled dough in parchment / wax paper and chill at least 2 hours until completely firm or store for up to one week in the refrigerator. This dough can also be frozen for up to 2 months
Preheat oven to 375 degrees, slice dough in roll 1/8 thick straight out of the refrigerator or after about 6 hours of thawing in fridge if using frozen dough

Place cookies about 2 inches apart on a sheet pan and bake 8-10 minutes until edges are lightly golden brown

Icebox Cookies Ready For The Oven

Remove from sheet pan immediately and cool on a wire rack

Enjoy!

Runner Beans With Toasted Almonds and Lemon Thyme...

Back at the end of April my husband and I took a trip to West Malling Kent to walk around Manor Country Park and visit the local farmers market. While strolling through the lovely little streets we spotted a plant sale. We were on the look out for tomato plants but it was the runner bean seedlings that caught our eye. There were only 4 left so we bought the lot! They cost us a whopping £2.40. Not a bad considering we are already on our 4th crop of runner beans.

As it was our wedding anniversary a few weeks ago I wanted to make a really special meal. I sautéed the runner beans in butter and added some minced garlic and lemon thyme from our garden. I added toasted flaked almonds toward the end of cooking and sprinkled a few on top just before serving. We had this as a side to dish to grilled fillet steak and a jacket potato.

Luna Raye’s Runner Beans With Toasted Almonds and Lemon Thyme
(serves 2 as a side dish)

Ingredients

Handful of fresh runner beans (ideally from your own garden!)

1 Tbsp salted butter

1 clove garlic minced

1Tbsp chopped lemon thyme

2-3 Tbsp toasted flaked almonds

Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In a small pan add the flaked almonds and gently toast them over a low heat (this should take 2-4 minutes)

When the almonds are toasted set them to one side

Wash and trim the ends off runner beans (My beans didn’t need to be de-stringed but if you need to de-string your beans use a sharp knife and carefully go down each side of the bean)
Slice the beans diagonally into thirds (or bite sized pieces)

Melt butter over moderate heat in a frying pan or wok and add the beans

Toss the beans around in the butter so they are coated

Add the minced garlic and chopped lemon thyme

Toss everything around again and stir occasionally for 6-8 minutes

Add ¾ of the toasted almonds and stir again

When everything is mixed together, add to a serving dish and top with the remaining toasted almonds

Enjoy!

Runner Beans With Toasted Almonds and Lemon Thyme

NOTE: I learned something very important about runner beans (and all beans in general) I had no idea that they should NEVER BE EATEN RAW. Thanks to this very informative post I have put an end to my practice of nibbling the beans straight from the vine. Always always cook your beans! They contain a poisonous lectin called Phytohaemagglutinin which can cause nausea, vomiting, severe diarrhea and in some cases even affect blood pressure and breathing.

Coffee–Molasses Marinated Pork Chops...

‘Pork chops and apple sauce…ain’t that swell’
Peter Brady: The Brady Bunch, Television series 1969–1974

Pork chops and applesauce certainly are ‘swell’ – they are a classic combination after all. The two go together like peanut butter and jam, bacon and eggs or strawberries and cream.

Last night I decided to put the applesauce to one side and try a different approach to pork chops. Over the past few months my eye had been drawn to several recipes for pork chops with a coffee-molasses marinade. There was a half empty jar of molasses kicking around so I thought, why not?

I was missing some of the ingredients so a few substitutions needed to be made. I don’t think this affected the final outcome of the dish – it was delicious! Peter Brady would approve. In fact he may have even called it… ‘swell’.

Here is the recipe I used from the Taste of Home website. We served these with boiled new potatoes and butter braised Savoy cabbage.

Coffee–Molasses Marinated Pork Chops (serves 4)

Ingredients

• 1 cup strong brewed coffee

• 1/4 cup molasses

• 6 fresh thyme sprigs (I used lemon thyme from our garden)

• 2 tablespoons cider vinegar (I used tarragon vinegar)

• 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (I used mustard powder)

• 2 garlic cloves, minced

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 1/2 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning (I used lemon myrtle and lots of freshly ground black pepper)

• 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

• 4 bone-in pork loin chops (1 inch thick)

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the first nine ingredients

Pour 1/2 cup marinade into a large re-sealable plastic bag; add the pork chops. Seal bag and turn to coat; refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Cover and refrigerate remaining coffee mixture until ready to cook

NOTE: I used a large Pyrex oven dish and covered the pork chops in ALL the marinade as in Alton Brown’s recipe for coffee-molasses marinated pork chops from the Food Network website. When it came time to make the glaze I once again used ALL the marinade. I poured it through a fine sieve first and reduced it to about ¼ of a cup so it was much thicker in consistency than the Taste of Home recipe

For glaze, place remaining coffee mixture in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; cook until liquid is reduced to about 1/2 cup

Drain and discard marinade covering the pork chops

Using long-handled tongs, moisten a paper towel with cooking oil and lightly coat the grill rack.

Grill chops, covered, over medium heat or broil 4 in. from the heat for 4-5 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer reads 160°

NOTE: We used our Creuset grill pan to cook the chops and gave them a slightly longer cooking time of 6-7 mins

Spoon glaze over chops

Enjoy

Carrot And Coconut Halwa...

Carrot and Coconut Halwa

Halwa is a popular sweet across India, the Middle East, North Africa and Eastern Europe. There are different types of halwa. Some use flour or nut butters as a base but my all time favourite are the halwa that use carrots, pumpkins or yams (sweet potato).

Over the weekend I was looking for something to accompany my large mug of tea and decided it was time to try Gordon Ramsay’s recipe for carrot and coconut halwa.

It ended up being a bit more labour intensive for me then I would have liked for a Sunday afternoon but as I sit here tucking into my 3rd halwa of the day I am delighted I made the effort.

The main work is grating all the carrots. After working my way through 1kg of carrots I made the decision to halve the recipe. I was seriously in danger of never wanting to see another carrot again. (I halved everything but the toasted pistachios and almonds but strangely I still ended up with 20 halwa)

Once the grating is done the recipe is easy but you do need time to let everything cook down. My timing was off somewhere as it took me almost triple the amount of time and still the liquid hadn’t completely evaporated. It hasn’t affected the taste or texture of the halwa though so I must have done something right.

If you have never tried halwa please do give it a try. It really is a wonderful delicacy and with all those carrots it has to be good for you!

Here is Gordon Ramsay’s recipe from his book World Kitchen

Carrot and Coconut Halwa (makes 18-20)

Ingredients

2kg carrot, peeled

500ml evaporated milk

500g granulated sugar

50g unsalted butter

2 cardamom pods, seeds extracted and finely crushed

25g toasted pistachio nuts, finely chopped

25g toasted almonds, finely chopped

50g desiccated coconut, lightly toasted

Directions

Coarsely grate the carrots and put them into a large heavy-based sauce pan with the evaporated milk and granulated sugar

Bring to the boil and then lower the heat to a simmer

Cook for 35-45 minutes, stirring frequently, until all the milk has evaporated and the carrot is quite dry (This didn’t happen for me)

Add the butter to the sauce pan and increase the heat slightly to roast the grated carrots (my carrots ended up being stewed rather than roasted)

Cook for a further 25-30 minutes, stirring frequently, until the mixture is dry

When it leaves the sides of the pan clean, take off the heat and stir in the crushed cardamom seeds and chopped nuts

Transfer the mixture to a wide dish and leave to cool completely, then chill for at least an hour to allow it to firm up more

With wet hands, roll the mixture into neat round balls, then roll each ball in the toasted coconut to coat all over

The halwa are now ready to serve

They will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week

Enjoy!

If you don’t have a copy of Gordon Ramsay’s World Kitchen I highly recommend it. There are a wide variety of inspirational dishes from around the world. The photos by Chris Terry are stunning and the recipes are easy to follow.

Cinnamon Basil and Cantaloupe...

Cinnamon Basil

In May I went a bit crazy at the Detling Garden Show and bought a load of plants. I am happy to report they are all thriving despite the ever present threat of snails. Even though I have invested heavily in copper snail tape I know I must remain vigilant – especially around my basil plants.

One of the stall holders had a vast array of interesting herbs including at least 10 varieties of basil. Most of these I had never heard of and I was keen to try some of them out. I smelled them all and gave each one a little taste (when the stall holder wasn’t looking of course). The one that really stole my heart was Cinnamon Basil.

It has a strong spicy aroma and it actually tastes just like cinnamon. I adore this herb!

Never having used it before I wasn’t really sure whether you could cook with it or what other ingredients you could put with it. After lots of exploring I found some brilliant sites and recipes that I will try.

First of all Ramona Werst has an absolutely amazing website dedicated to her love of basil (and what’s not to love about basil!) Please check out her site, Ramona’s Basil Garden here. I fully intend to try many of her recipes but first on my list is her recipe for Cinnamon Basil & Lime Icebox Cookies.

Another recipe I can’t wait to try is Steamed Mediterranean Mussels With Cinnamon Basil Ouzo And Feta Cheese from the i.food.tv website. My mouth is watering already.

Last night I was in need of a quick and simple dessert. A forlorn looking cantaloupe was beginning to languish in the back of my fridge (thank you Dr. Weil for reminding me it was there).

I had a few slices with plain Greek yoghurt and cinnamon basil on top. This was actually the first time I had used the basil so it was nice to have it in such a simple way. The flavour really came through – it’s actually quite addictive.

Cantaloupe with Greek Yoghurt and Cinnamon Basil

Now I am looking forward to using the basil in all sorts of recipes. I will keep you posted!

Oh and as for the cantaloupe seeds – I am drying them out alongside my apple seeds and will try growing them as well!

Cantaloupe Seeds

Natural Ways To Control Snails And Slugs...

“I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Ûdun. Go back to the Shadow! You…shall not…PASS!”

— Gandalf, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

It may sound strange being a gardener who likes snails – but I do. I don’t want to kill them but over these past few weeks I have had to admit to myself that they are becoming a real issue. After a very wet weekend I finally managed to get out in the garden. To my dismay I was greeted by chewed up leaves, half eaten tomatoes and a million slime trails. Something needed to be done.

Ok, so I didn’t don my wizard robes and brandish my staff but I did do the next best thing. I bought some copper tape. Apparently it gives snails and slugs a wee electrical zap and they quickly lose interest in tender young leaves and head for the hills.

Copper slug and snail tape

There are a wide variety of ways to control slugs and snails in your garden without resorting to harmful chemicals. Keep in mind that birds, frogs and other wildlife (including pets) could eat snails and slugs that have been poisoned. Dogs and cats have also been known to eat snail and slug pellets as they look very similar to their own kibble – that is very bad news for them and their owners.

Metaldehyde is a common ingredient in many commercially produced slug / snail baits. It will not only kill the slugs and snails but it will also kill or seriously harm whatever eats them. In the UK there is also some concern that metaldehyde has been found in drinking water – but this is being downplayed. Why is this stuff still being used?

I will not use chemicals in my garden. For the past 3 years I have been looking at different ways to safely keep snails away from my plants.

• Plucking them off the plants and out of the pots every morning and evening worked for awhile. I would walk them down to the end of the garden – but of course they always came back! Not an ideal solution

• Last summer a friend suggested using egg shells. Whenever you have eggs set the shells aside and give them a wash. Place them on parchment paper on a cookie sheet and heat them slowly in a low temperature oven. When they have dried out (approx 1 – 1.5 hours) break them up a bit more and layer them around the base of your plants. Snails and slugs don’t like crawling over them. I did try this but it didn’t work for me although I do know people who swear by this method

• Beer poured into pie plates or shallow dishes and left in the ground will slow them down. I always thought they drowned but apparently it just makes them dozy and drunk. They lay around in a stupor while birds and other predators feast on them

• Other methods include spraying a coffee mixture on leaves and soil or spreading a thick layer of uncooked porridge oats around the base of the plant. I haven’t tried these methods but this site on Sustainable Gardening Tips had some great ideas including these ones

• The Wake Up Your Garden For Wildlife Study Day I participated in at the start of June was really helpful. It makes sense that if you make your garden friendly for wildlife they will create their own natural balance. Frogs, toads, snakes and birds will eat snails and slugs so why not welcome them into your garden? I have created a small water feature in the hopes of attracting some frogs. They will certainly have plenty to eat in my garden

You Shall NOT Pass!

I really believe in the importance of finding natural and environmentally friendly ways to control pests. O.k it may take awhile to find out what works for you but if you love your garden then isn’t it worth the time and commitment to work in harmony with it?

Please feel free to share your own tips and techniques for dealing with slugs, snails or other garden pests. I would love to hear about them.

Happy Gardening!

Luna x

« Previous Entries Next Entries »