Friday 22 July 2011


The computer drama continues and, on top of the grey screen/flashing folder/no entry sign issues, our hard disk is now apparently making the click of death. Oh good.

So, last night we dealt with the problem in the best, or only, possible way. We went to our local, we drank four large bottles of German beer, we ate pickled onion flavour crisps. It helped. Briefly.

But now it's Friday, we have an appointment with a genius on Sunday, there are Scottish strawberries waiting patiently to be made into jam and, with just an iphone photo snapped before dinner, this. A few small links and a very simple salad.

my favourite German beer

pickled onion crisps (a recent addiction)

pretzel m&ms (I miss them)

Fruit, the new River Cottage handbook

A Cook's Year in a Welsh Farmhouse

this potato salad which I will be making now that I have Old Bay seasoning in the cupboard

a green bean salad from David Tanis' Heart of the Artichoke which we made for dinner on Wednesday night, eating vinegary beans alongside mustardy chicken breasts

Green Bean Salad with Pickled Shallots

3 large shallots
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 pounds small green beans, topped and tailed
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon finely slivered chives

Peel the shallots and slice crosswise. Put them in a small bowl, season well with salt and pepper, add the vinegar. let sit for a half hour.

Boil the green beans in a large pot of salted water for 3 to 5 minutes, until just past crunchy. Spread them out to cool. Just before you serve the salad, put the green beans in a bowl and season well with salt and pepper. Whisk the olive oil into the shallots and vinegar, then add the dressed shallots to the beans. Toss well, transfer to a platter or serving bowl, and sprinkle with chives.

Tuesday 19 July 2011


Our computer has died. Maybe. There's a grey screen and a no entry symbol. We're not sure what it's doing but we know it isn't good. And, in the midst of googling 'mac grey screen', this morning I realised that if I didn't write about this cake now and waited until we have visited the genius bar and handed over wodges of cash for aforementioned genius to fix the computer and return it to us with everything intact and no harm done (that's how it works, right?) then there was probably no point until I could try it with different berries or until strawberries come back and if I wait that long I think we all know that you will never hear about it so all that to say that I can manage a post but not photos, for those you'll have to look at the original recipe and trust me when I say that a slice of this cake with topped with double cream is a very pretty thing.

The day we got home from holiday (two weeks ago now, sigh) I spoke to Mum, we chatted about what we had done and what they had done and she asked me whether we had plans for my birthday, for turning 32. I would be taking the day off but as Chris needed to work I had planned a quiet day. Maybe a manicure, maybe a film. The next morning, as I tried to keep my eyes open at work, Mum texted to say was I still free, was I sure we hadn't made plans, did I think it would be a good idea for her to fly up the day before my birthday and stay until the day after, could she stay at our flat. Obviously I said yes, yes, yes and, of course, yes.

After a Saturday spent listening to thunder and watching the rain I woke up on Sunday with a plan for dinner and a plan for pudding and headed out. Mum arrived later that afternoon and we headed to a bar for gin and tonic and a chat. We walked home and I started to make dinner, the poached chicken I have mentioned before, its soft comfort perfect for days when the raindrops bounce and the thunder has made you jump. And then there was pudding, a sweet plain cake with halved strawberries placed, cut side down, on top and sugar sprinkled over. A cake to eat plain or, as we did, dolloped with thick Jersey double cream.

Strawberry Summer Cake (from Smitten Kitchen)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for the tin
1 1/2 cups (188 grams) plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 cup (200 grams) plus 2 tablespoons (25 grams) caster sugar*
1 large egg
1/2 cup (118 ml) milk
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1 pound (450 grams) strawberries, hulled and halved

*I reduced the cup of sugar by about a tablespoon following Deb's suggestion that the cake was a little too sweet for her

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C and butter a 9-inch springform cake tin (you could also use a 10-inch pie plate or 9-inch deep-dish pie plate).

Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl. In a larger bowl, beat the butter and 1 cup of the sugar until pale and fluffy with an electric mixer, about 3 minutes. Mix in the egg, milk and vanilla until just combined. Add the dry mixture gradually, mixing until just smooth.

Pour into the prepared tin and arrange the strawberries, cut side down, on top of the batter, as closely as possible in a single layer. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar over the berries.

Bake the cake for 10 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 325°F/165°C and bake the cake until it is golden brown on top and a tester comes out free of wet batter, about 50 minutes to 60 minutes. (Gooey strawberries on the tester are a given.) Let it cool in the tin on a rack. Cut into wedges and serve with cream, either lightly whipped or double and dolloped.

Friday 8 July 2011


We arrived back home on Tuesday, high on life from 16 nights of Seattle, Portland and New York. In love with the Pacific Northwest and jealous, jealous, jealous of the markets, the restaurants, the skies, the water.

We started our time in Seattle with jet lag, oysters, cocktails, and pizza. We finished with pastries and a train journey. Along the way were lunches and dinners, strawberry shortcake and shrimp, a day on the boat, an unexpected wave, a moccasin full of water, a picnic, and, happily, more pizza. There were walks and cuddles with a small dog, time on the deck, around the table. There was a raccoon, a bald eagle, and even a dinosaur (can you spot it?).

I suspected that I would fall hard for Seattle.

I did.