Saturday, 13 June 2009

a little piggy... and a special bar of chocolate

I have always loved food. I was especially known for it at university, where my passion for puddings in particular was, erm, legendary. (Perhaps I should rename this blog?) As a result, the p-i-g word was sometimes bandied around by my dear friends from time to time. I exacted my revenge by swiping their desserts. And no, nobody took offence. Those were the days. Happy, innocent, student days.

These days, I can't eat the quantities I used to, so I focus on the quality instead. (No sniggering at the back there, please.) And for those of you who have been following this blog for a while (thank you, btw), you'll know that great chocolate has been my most recent obsession.

So it won't come as any surprise to you to learn that I've been back to lovely Rococo again, this time for a 'learn how to make the best chocolate mousse ever' workshop. And I did.

The stupid thing is that I didn't take my camera. Which was all the more stupid given that Rococo's owner, and goddess of all things chocolate, Chantal Coady, and I got into a conversation about pocket digital cameras and macro lenses.

But anyway...

I came away, having had another great time, with 2 tubs full of mousse - one made with dark chocolate and eggs, and the other made with milk chocolate and cream. Both delicious in their different ways, with very different textures to boot. I also got a quick lesson from Laurent (Prof Choc) in how to make accompanying almond tuiles, and took a tub of my tuile 'mix' from the day home, too. At some point in the next few weeks, I shall organise a chocolate-pudding guzzling party, and get the whole lot out. I shall, of course, be the only invitee. ;-)

But no visit to Rococo is complete without taking away some chocolate.

So, to fit the mood, I bought...

rococo pig

Apt, no?

And the bar in the foreground? Well, that's something very special indeed. Let me show you just how special...

gold frankincense and myrrh bar

Arguably more appropriate at Christmas, but some things just aren't worth being pedantic about.

I should really add a rave review at this point, but I haven't had the chance to try it yet. But I will, I promise. Soon. And I'll let you know.

In the meantime, there'll be a slight pause here. I'm off on holiday for a couple of weeks, and won't have access to technology.

But I'll be back as soon as I'm back. If you see what I mean.

AFoS xx

Sunday, 7 June 2009

warm broad bean, chorizo and courgette salad - the stuff of summer...

I keep getting this seasonal food stuff wrong. I get out salad - it rains. I make curry - it's blazing hot.

And so it proved again with this dish.

'It's June', I thought. 'Time for warm salads, packed with my favourite summer veg and herbs! And a bottle of chilled white boozy stuff! Hell, we might even eat al fresco!'

But whoever decideth the weather said NO. You shalt not have sun. You shall not even have warmth. You shalt have a typical English summer's day. Damp, cold, and windy. But you're going to have to go ahead with your salad now anyway, 'cos you've bought the stuff for it.

'Fine', I said. So I madeth my warm salad. And lo, it was good.

It's one of my not-really-a-recipe 'recipes', but more a put-some-yummy-things-together ensemble.

So - saute some courgettes on a very low heat for about 20 mins until softened and slightly caramlised. Meanwhile, in a separate pan, fry off some chorizo (no need to add oil for this - the chorizo has plenty of its own) until cooked through and beginning to catch. Put to one side.

When the courgettes are nearly ready, add a couple of cloves of garlic to the pan, and continue sauteeing until the garlic is cooked through. Next, throw some new season broad beans into some hot water, bring to boil, and keep them on a rolling boil for about 3 minutes. Drain. There's really no need to skin them when they're this young and small.

Chop a generous handful of mint, basil, and lemon thyme. Add to the courgettes. Finally, add the broad beans and chorizo to the courgettes and garlic. Season. Add a glug of your best olive oil.

Serve with anything you like. On this occasion, I opted for buttered and minted Jersey royals, plus tomatoes and lettuce from the garden (yay!). Not necessarily a classic combo, but it was all very tasty anyhow (even if we did have to eat it inside), so who cares?

broad bean chorizo meal

yes, that IS a bottle of chilled white.

broad bean chorizo salad

mmm... chorizo and broad beans...

Who says it isn't summer?

Monday, 1 June 2009

a tour of the garden... and the first leaves of summer

I will get over myself soon, I promise. But I'm just loving watching all the herbs and veggies grow in the meantime. If there's one big tangible positive from all the credit crunch stuff, it's that lots of people, like me, are rediscovering the joys of growing your own. Long may it continue. The joys of growing your own, that is - not the credit crunch, obvy.

You've seen the veggies. Now, enter stage left - the herbs:


a mess of thyme, nasturtiums, rosemary, and lovage. More about the lovage soon.

And right on their tail, (l-r), the invisible (as yet) spring onions, radishes, and sorrel:

radishes and sorrel

For the keen-eyed, behind are (l-r) lemon thyme, straggly chives, and mint.

And while we're at it, a quick check on the monster courgettes/aspiring triffids:

monster courgettes

I swear they're growing about 10cm a day. Mostly when I'm not looking.

And a glance at the veg patch again, 'cos I'm just showing off now:

the veg patch

(l-r) lettuce, lollo rosso, chard, cauliflower, leeks, parsnips, more lettuce (don't ask), and calabrese

And then, at last, the first leaves of summer, with some vine tomatoes, and topped very simply with a cold roast leg of chicken:

chicken and new lettuce

No, the chicken didn't come from the garden.

Yes, I know - nothing flash at all about that. I just wanted to properly taste the lettuce. And you know what? It was bl**dy good, even though I say so myself. Young, succulent leaves - from soil to plate in less than five minutes. Served with a bowl of home-made, home-baked chips (yes, I forgot to put them in the picture. I was in a hurry, ok?). What could be more perfect?

Bottle of chilled white, anyone?