Thursday, 28 June 2012

Potato, Three Bean and Sesame Salad

I feel I should warn you I’m typing this with one eye on the telly watching Andy Murray playing Ivo Karlovic at Wimbledon; if I wander off into incoherency at least you’ll know why!

I thought you might like to see a pic of some of our ‘Swift’ potatoes which we dug up two days ago. The rest of the veg patch is still a bit hit and miss but at least the spuds have enjoyed the rain. Despite the recent awful weather we seem to be having three days of summer at the moment (I hope this isn’t all we get!) so a potato salad seemed like a good idea yesterday.

This one is based on a recipe by Michel Roux I saw mentioned on a messageboard, but I changed it around slightly; I was doubtful about the sesame dressing, but I thought this Michel bloke can cook a bit and probably knows what he’s about (ha!) so I decided to go with it. Good call…the dressing was fabulous; sweet, sharp and tangy all at once.

(Incidentally, Andy has just beaten Karlovic in four sets...good man!)

400g new potatoes
100g frozen edamame beans
100g frozen baby broad beans
100g fine green beans
½ a red onion, finely sliced
small handful fresh coriander leaves

2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard
1 tablespoon soy sauce
juice of 2 lemons
black pepper

Chop the potatoes into bite-size chunks and boil or steam until just tender; drain and plunge into cold water then drain again.

Top and tail the green beans and cut into thirds. Put all three types of bean in half an inch of boiling water in a small pan, bring them back to the boil and simmer for three minutes. Drain, plunge into cold water and drain again.

Put the potatoes, beans, red onion and half the coriander leaves in a large bowl. Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl, drizzle over the salad and mix gently with your hands so as not to break the potatoes.

Scatter the remaining coriander leaves over the salad before serving.

Served 2 for dinner with some left to have on the side with a sandwich next day.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Emma Bridgewater China

Regular readers will have noticed that I use Emma Bridgewater ‘Toast’ china; I like it a lot and have spent a small fortune on it – just ask Mr Simply Veg!

I’ve noticed the glaze cracking on some of the pieces recently; I don’t put my china in the oven or on a hot hob so I can’t see why it’s happening. I don’t think this is acceptable and have contacted the company to see what they have to say. Surely mugs and plates should last longer than 2½ years?

I’m not expecting much joy from them to be honest – they’ll probably say it’s my fault for daring to serve hot food on a dinner plate or for putting hot coffee in a coffee mug!

Does anyone else have this china and this problem?  I’d be very interested to hear of your experiences.

At the company’s request I’ve sent back three mugs for them to inspect to see if they’re faulty. I suspect I know what their reply will be but, who knows, I could be pleasantly surprised; I’ll let you know when I hear anything.

Update 12.7.12

Well, I have finally received three new mugs to replace the three I returned. Getting the replacements was a bit like pulling teeth and involved an exchange of no fewer than fourteen emails and one phone call...! I could have walked to the factory in Stoke-on-Trent and back in the time it took.

Sadly, there was no replacement for the three dinner plates and four mugs which have already gone to the great china dump in the sky; it should also be noted that in the last week the glaze has started cracking on another two mugs. Hmmm…here we go again.

I won’t be chucking all my Toast china in the bin just yet and buying a whole new set but, when I do, it most certainly won’t be from Emma Bridgewater. Their customer service leaves a hell of a lot to be desired – I had the distinct impression that they were trying to stonewall me, hoping I’d give up and go away. They clearly don't know me. This particular china was not worth the money and, frankly, for an outlay of well over £1000 I expect better.

I won't ever buy another piece of Emma Bridgewater china - it looks nice but looks aren't everything.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Garden Fruit and Vegetables

I was reading this piece in The Telegraph this morning and I have to say the strawberry growers have my sympathy. Our vegetable plot this year is looking as sick as a dog. The weather we’ve had recently has been awful – it’s been incredibly wet but, sadly, very little warm weather to go with it.  

I don't think some of our crops will recover, to be honest; most of the carrot seeds haven’t germinated, the tomato plants look pathetic, the courgette plants aren’t putting on any weight at all and the peas and French beans are doing a good impression of ground cover, bless ‘em! It’s a proper tale of woe because the fruit trees are also a sorry sight – I can actually count the apples on the tree....there are eight! Hopefully, underground, the onions, beetroot and potatoes will be alright, although I’m feeling a bit nervous because I can’t keep an eye on them! One tiny ray of light has been the salad leaves – I picked the first of our lollo rosso and rocket a couple of days ago; keep going lads, we’re depending on you!  

When I think back to this time last year they were practically giving away soft fruits on the market – it was so cheap I was making jam like it was going out of fashion; no such luck this year yet, most of the soft fruits available at the moment are imported and therefore much more expensive. I'm still living in hope of a few decent English strawberries whilst I watch Andy Murray get beaten again at Wimbledon, though.

Astonishingly it’s the Summer Solstice next week, after which the days start getting shorter again and the nights start drawing in!  Aargghh...!!! We haven’t had any summer yet!

If you’re attempting to grow your own this year I really hope you’re having better luck than us; if it all suddenly bursts into life I’ll let you know, but I’m not holding my breath…

Friday, 15 June 2012

Easy Buttermilk Scones

I only started making scones successfully last year after a lifetime of trying and failing but there’s no stopping me now – I can rattle off a batch of scones at the drop of a hat! One thing, however, has been bugging me: after stamping out the scones with a cutter you have to bring the dough together again and cut out another couple to finish up the dough – well, those last couple of scones are never as light and fluffy as the first ones. I needed to work out an answer to this conundrum….

Well, Mr Simply Veg and I were reminiscing the other day about corner shops (remember those?) that used to be near our homes when we were children (about a million years ago!) – he mentioned a shop he knew that was like Arkwright’s on ‘Open All Hours’ and I remembered a bakery where we used to buy warm Hot X Buns on Good Fridays…are you still with me? It came to me from the deep recesses of my memory that said bakery used to sell wedge shaped scones, presumably in order to avoid wasting any dough. There you have it, I found my answer – it’s scone wedges for me from now on!

It doesn’t answer the question, though, of why almost every recipe I have ever seen tells you to make round scones…it’ll just have to remain another one of life’s impenetrables.

225g self-raising flour

1 tsp baking powder
50g unsalted butter 
50g caster sugar
125ml buttermilk, approx

a little sugar for sprinkling

Sift the flour and baking powder together in a large bowl; rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar then mix in enough buttermilk to give you a soft but not sticky dough (I usually add 125ml then see how it feels and add another couple of teaspoonsful if it needs it).

Knead the dough very lightly then pat it out with your fingers on a lightly floured surface to a circle about 3cm deep.

Using a very sharp knife cut the dough into eight segments and transfer to a baking sheet. Sprinkle with a little sugar.

Bake at 200C for about 12 minutes. If the scones cosy up together a bit while they’re cooking, just pull them apart whilst they’re still warm.

Serve warm with plenty of butter, cream or jam (or possibly all three!)

Makes 8

Friday, 8 June 2012

Stuffed Baguettes

This is one of those ‘it shouldn’t work…. but it does’ recipes. I saw it on the now defunct BBC Messageboard ages ago (Msg #8) - thank you AlisonWright. It sounded interesting but I was a bit doubtful to be honest; I finally got round to giving it a go when we had my sister and brother-in-law round for a ‘kitchen-table’ type lunch a couple of weeks ago. Well, I'm happy to say, the baguettes went down a storm. The original recipe was far too meaty for my liking so a few adaptations were necessary but I kept to the basic recipe as much as possible.

They’re quite filling so you really only need a side salad to go with them or possibly some decent chutney and a few olives.

This recipe is definitely a keeper and will be making further appearances throughout the summer. Incidentally, I use the word ‘summer’ very loosely; it’s blowing a gale and throwing it down with rain here at the moment! (Don't tell anyone, but I've got the central heating on...!)

4 part-baked baguettes
1 large onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
10 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
½ tsp dried oregano
200g mature cheddar cheese, grated
2 tbsp chopped chives
1 tbsp chopped parsley
4 eggs
2 tsp Dijon mustard

Fry the onion in the olive oil until softened and golden; set aside to cool. Slice the tops off the baguettes lengthways and discard then tear the bread from the centres to leave you with four canoe shapes; leave the walls of the baguettes about 1cm thick – if you make them too thin they’ll collapse when you cook them….trust me, I know! Crumble this bread into a large bowl; mix in the sun-dried tomatoes, oregano, cheese, chopped herbs and cooled fried onion. Beat the eggs with the mustard and stir into the breadcrumb mix.

Spoon this mixture into the four bread shells and place on a baking sheet, making sure they’re level.

Bake for 15-20 mins at 180C until golden.

Cut into three wedges on the diagonal before serving with salad.