Friday, 28 February 2014

Salmon in aspic à la Russe

There are literally hundreds of recipes for fish in aspic in the Russian cuisine, made of all kinds of fish and with different ingredients. I have consulted a few of my Russian cook books, and then proceeded to make my own version. I needed to clear space in the freezer and it was time to cook the salmon heads I bought just after Christmas for less than a pound (thinking of making the fish stock).

Salmon in aspic à la Russe
2 salmon heads (about 900g)
150g salmon fillet
1 onion
1 carrot
1 lemon
peppercorn, bay leaves, cloves
a handful of fresh coriander (or parsley)
1 sachet of Dr Oetker gelatine
a handful of pomegranate seeds
1/2tsp Schwartz Perfect Shake Fish herb & spice blend

First prepare the fish stock, which will be the base for the aspic. Place two salmon heads in a big pan with 1 onion and 1 peeled carrot. Add all the spices and salt. Pour enough water to cover the fish. Cook for about an hour. Discard the onion (this is one of the foods that makes me gag, a boiled onion. I like the flavour in soups, but cannot eat the onion itself). Cook the salmon fillet in the same pan for the last 10 minutes, just put it on top of the heads, sprinkle with Schwartz herb & spice blend, cover the pan with the lid. Squeeze at least half a lemon into the stock.
In a measuring jug, add 100ml of hot boiling fish stock and pour the contents of Dr Oetker gelatine pouch in, stir well until all the gelatine is dissolved. Add more fish stock, to make 500ml of liquid.
Take a jelly mould or a big oval dish. Scatter the pomegranate seeds on the bottom and carefully pour some of the stock, about 1cm in height. Slice the carrot into little circles and add a few in the mould. You might cut flower or star shapes with the mini-cutters, if you like.
Place the mould in the fridge for about 15 minutes. Once the jelly starts to set, take the dish/mould out.
Flake the salmon fillet. Open the salmon heads, remove the skin and bones, use the flesh bits including the cheeks (not sure of that's the right term). Place about 1/3 of all fish in the mould, add some thin lemon slices, more coriander and carrot stars. Pour the stock with gelatine over. Place the mould in the fridge.

Once starting to set, repeat until all the fish and stock is used.
The fish will be set in a couple of hours, but best left to set for a few hours. Let's say, cook it all before lunch to have for dinner. The result was quite pretty, very delicate and tasty

Now the fish stock I prepared was not as clear as I wanted it to be. I think if you strain it through a clean muslin it might get clearer. Salmon is quite a fatty fish, so the stock was very rich.

Whenever I cook the fish soup or stock, I mentally salute to my great grandma Alexandra.
She worked as a cook in the baron's household before the Revolution of 1917, and used to say that when they prepared the fish stock, they cleared it by throwing a handful of caviar in the pot for a few minutes, which seemed to do the trick. The caviar sort of coagulated all the bits together. Then the caviar was discarded.

Great grandma Alexandra

I am not in the same profligate category like the cooks of the old days, and don't have spare caviar anyway.

I was also trying to find an old photo of my parents, sitting in the garden, with a big bucket of freshly caught fish and cleaning it for whatever dish they were cooking. In that photo they were just newlyweds and looked so happy in each other's company. I searched high and low for a copy of the photo but couldn't find it (I really should ask my Mum to make a copy). My Dad was an avid fisherman, and whenever we visited our family in the south, he used to go fishing.
The smell of the freshly cooked fish is forever associated in my mind with my childhood, and long summer days, when my Mum cooked the tasty dishes in the open-air summer kitchen.

Fish in aspic is not a dish they used to cook often, it was mostly reserved for celebrations like New Year's eve, 8th of March and other Soviet holidays. It brings back memories of many a party, with lots of friends and a table groaning under the weight of different platters of food.
This recipe is special for me, as it binds together my past and present.

As my foodie blogger friend Chris from Cooking Around the World has been "visiting" Russia this month, I am adding this recipe to his linky.

This post is an entry into the Foodies100/Schwartz Flavour of Together challenge.

If you have your own flavour story to share, visit Schwartz page.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Ryvita crackerbread

Are you stuck for ideas for healthy snacks that don't taste like made of cardboard? Following my 5:2 diet, I had my feel of boring rice cakes which taste of nothing much, and only serve to fill you in, but they are so dull-dull-dull. But of course, low-cal snacks don't have to be boring or flavourless. My latest addition to the list of products I can use on fasting days is Ryvita Crackerbread. This range from the well known and much loved Ryvita has two new delicious flavours: Pepper and Cheese. They taste lovely and what's even better, each crackerbread is only 19kcal, how fab is that?!

Ryvita crackerbread with babaganoush and roasted sweet pepper

Pepper Crackerbread from Ryvita is light and crispy, and is a perfect base for all kinds of healthy (or not so healthy, if you don't count the calories) toppings. These crispy snacks surely melt in your mouth.
Loved them, my kids loved them, especially the little man.

These crackerbreads are low in fat and have no nasties in them like artificial colours or preservatives. When you are feeling peckish, add a topping of your choice and enjoy: from virtuous low fat cottage cheese with coriander to more naughty guacamole or babaganoush.

Ryvita crackerbread with low fat cottage cheese and coriander

Cheese Crackerbread is the second new variety, with the same low count of calories.
Make your own guacamole:
Mash the ripe avocado with a dash of Tabasco or some chilli flakes. half a teaspoon of garlic puree, a teaspoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice, and top up with sliced cherry toms. For being a fruit, avocados are pretty high in calories (160kcal per 100g), it is a healthy food, which helps to lower cholesterol due to most of its fat being mono-saturated.

Ryvita with guacamole

For today's lunch, I had a couple of Ryvita crackerbreads with the chicken leftovers and some roasted garlic on low-fat hummus.

Babaganoush is another delicious dip which is easy to prepare. For the authentic smoky flavour, you need to blacken the skin of the aubergine over the hot flame or on the grill. Then wrap the aubergine in foil and cook at 180C for about 40 minutes or more, until soft. Once not too hot to handle, remove the skin and mash the flesh with a fork. Add 1tbsp of tahini, 2tbsp of olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and crushed garlic clove or two. To be honest, I could eat the whole lot, it is so tasty. But not on my fasting days. Add some grilled sweet pepper and radishes, and enjoy.

Ryvita with babaganoush.

For more recipes and ideas visit Ryvita Recipes page.

Disclosure: I received two packs of Ryvita for the purposes of testing and reviewing. All opinions are mine.

Win tickets to Grub pop-up restaurant (ends 2 March 2014 NOW CLOSED)

Are you brave and adventurous when it comes to food? Then this competition might be perfect for you!
One of my lucky blog readers has a chance to win two tickets to Grub pop-up restaurant sponsored by Chang Beer for Wednesday 5th March – Saturday 8th March 2014

"Chang Beer is offering one lucky reader the chance to win a pair of tickets to Grub’s first London pop-up next month! Suppliers of premium, edible insects, Grub is bringing tasty and nutritional dishes to British plates. The winner and a friend will be treated to a seven-course experience of traditional Thai dishes with a twist, including Chang tempura grasshoppers, soy-roasted cricket miang wrapped in betel leaf, washed down with a free bottle of Chang Beer, the perfect accompaniment to Asian cuisine.

To enter, just answer the following question:

What does Chang mean in Thai?


Healthy, sustainable and delicious, let Grub convert you to the insect revolution. Grub are leading the way for the next generation of foodies and trend-setters by incorporating insects into flavoursome dishes that not only taste great but also pack a serious protein punch. To try it first hand, visit the Grub pop-up restaurant, sponsored by Chang, which will be taking over Monikers in Hoxton Square for four days, kicking off on Wednesday 5th March 2014. Tantalise your taste buds and come on a journey of discovery with Grub’s insect inspired Thai street food feast – even the most sceptical will be converted.

There will be two seatings each night, 6-8pm and 8:30-10:30pm, and tickets are £36.50 each.

For more information on the pop-up restaurant including how to secure a spot or to buy some quality insects from Grub, visit Grub online
or follow the brand on Twitter @EatGrubOfficial or at EatGrubOfficial on Facebook.

To find out more about Chang Beer visit their webpage Chang beer, or follow ChangBeerUK on Twitter and Instagram".

One entry per person
Open to the UK residents only.
The competition ends on 2 March at midnight.
The winner will be selected from all entries on Monday morning with the Raffleking, I will email the winner and would need the reply on the same day.
The tickets will be reserved for the winner at the restaurant.
I will pass the details of the winner to the promoter.

Good luck!

Wow! Lots of brave and adventurous people around!
The winner as chosen by Raffleking is Rebecca U. Well done, Rebecca! Please get in touch with as soon as possible.
Thank you all for taking part and keep an eye on my blog for more giveaways to come.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Eggs Baked in Tomatoes

Last week, tired after digging in the garden before lunch, Eddie and I came back home and fancied something light and easy for lunch. The day before I bought some lovely big tomatoes. Why don't we prepare Eggs Baked in Tomatoes. My recipe is adapted from Nigel Slater's dish (Real Fast Food), which he in his turn has adapted from Margaret Costa.
BritMums have challenged the parenting bloggers to share quick family meals using eggs. They say: "Coming up with tasty, healthy meals for the family every day is a challenge, but eggs can save the day - they're a fridge staple that help make meals in minutes!"

Eggs baked in tomatoes (serves 2)
2 big tomatoes
2 medium or small eggs
1 tsp of Luchito Smoked chilli honey (optional)
2tbsp single cream
2tsp grated parmesan
to serve with toasted bread, pickles, cheese

Cut the tops (hats) off the tomatoes and using a teaspoon, scoop out the seeds and fleshy bits from inside, so that you get containers. Tip them over for the juice to run out. Use the seeds and liquid later for a sauce for another dish.
Add half a teaspoon of Luchito smoked chilli honey to the bottom of each tomato container. You can certainly add more, but my version is child-friendly, unless you have little fire-eaters who don't mind the heat of the chillis. Carefully break eggs into the tomatoes, you might need to leave some of the egg white out, as you need some space for the single cream which goes on top of the egg.
Season with salt. Place the tomatoes in a small size ceramic dish or roasting dish. Bake them for about 15-20 minutes in the oven preheated to 180C. Sprinkle with the grated parmesan for the last five minutes of baking.
Toast the multiseeded bread and cut into triangles or soldiers for dipping in the eggy inside.

As my little man loves pickled cornichons and Babybel cheese, he insisted on having them with his lunch. I had my baked egg with a bit of rocket salad.

This would have been a vegetarian dish with a different cheese, but you can easily substitute it for any other hard cheese.
As a variation of the popular egg and soldiers is was definitely a big success with my son.

This post is an entry for the #ShortcutEggsperts Linky Challenge sponsored by British Lion Eggs. Learn more and find recipes at

Monday, 24 February 2014

Special K granola (review + giveaway c/d 18 March NOW CLOSED)

"Mama, may I have some more please?" (Eddie)

Are you struggling to keep your New Year's resolutions to eat healthy (and maybe even lose a bit of weight?). I have been on 5:2 diet this year, and while in January I was very enthusiastic about it, losing just 1.6kg slightly dampened my enthusiasm. Though I continue fasting, there were a couple of times, when I succumbed to the temptation. I blame my husband, of course, who brought a huge box of Belgian chocolates from one of his recent trips. I am eager to try new food products that would help me to stay on track, and was pleased to find out that Kellogg's Special K has launched new Special K Granola in two varieties: Raisins and Red Apples as well as Cranberry, Pumpkin Seeds and Almonds.

Special K granola muffins

Special K porridge is now one of my fasting days' staples, and it is exciting that Special K has expanded its range to accommodate the tastes of slimmers and health-conscious eaters.
New Special K Granola with its five grain recipe consists of Oats, Barley, Wheat, Spelt and Rye, and is 30% less fat than most other granolas.
It comes in convenient pouches, which are easy to open and reseal for freshness. Each pouch contains 8 servings (45g). Typical values per serving: 174kcal, 3.4g fat, 7.7g sugar. It is also fortified with six vitamins and iron.

The first granola we tried was Special K Granola with Cranberries, Pumpkin Seeds and Almonds.
My children love pumpkin seeds, they eat them as snacks very often, and I also use them widely in salads and in baking.

My guys also tend to eat cereals and granolas without milk, just like a snack (hence the photo with the red Peppa Pig bowl).

I added milk to my portion. It is a lovely granola, with plenty of seeds and a variety of textures, from crispy to crunchy and chewy. 45g might not sound like a big amount, but actually it is quite filling, especially with milk. It does keep you going until lunch without snacking (though I did have a small cup of diet coffee at eleven).

Special K Granola With Raisins and red apples is the second variety of the granola, made from wholegrain cereals with the added goodness of raisins and dried apples. Each 45g serving has 175kcal. It looks very appetizing, with big pieces of dried apples.

I can easily see this granola becoming another product to add to my 5:2 diet fastng days' list.
As of this month, Special K granola is available in all major supermarkets at £2.99 per 370g bag.

Two bags of granola which I received for testing and reviewing were delivered with a pretty tea towel (illustration by Charlotte Farmer), which has a recipe for Special K granola muffins printed on it.
Of course, I wanted to try the recipe.

The muffins were lovely, even if they looked a bit like Hairy Bikers with pieces of granola on the top like the unruly hair.
Top marks for Special K granola in our household, both from the slimmers (aka myself) and kids who munched on granola as tasty snacks.

For more information please visit Special K.

I have 2 cases (one of each flavour) of Special K granola to give away for one of my lucky readers.
To be in with a chance of winning, please fill in the Rafflecopter widget.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Only the first step is mandatory: all you need is to answer the question by leaving a comment (there is no right or wrong answer)
(if you login as Anonymous, please leave your Twitter name or FB name, so that I could identify you, I do not suggest leaving the email address in the comment)

All the other steps are optional, you don't have to do them all. All it takes to win is just one entry.

Only one entry per person is allowed (however, you can tweet daily to increase your chances).
The giveaway is open to the UK residents only.
Once the Rafflecopter picks the winner, I will check if the winner has done what was requested. I will contact the winner, if they do not reply within a week, the prize will be allocated to another person.

If you haven't used the Rafflecopter before, you might want to watch this simple video.
The giveaway will close on 18 March at midnight (night from the 17th to 18th).

Good luck! 

Many thanks to you all! The Rafflecopter has selected the winner. It is Alexandra B. Big well done! I have tweeted to you. Please respond to me by Direct Message with your address details.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

How not to cook tuna steaks and other cooking disasters

Yes, you read that right: how NOT to cook tuna steaks.
As a food blogger, I do have my share of cooking mistakes, failures, disappointments and total disasters, and today I am going to tell you about one of my latest flops.
If you read my blog regularly, you might know that I have been given a set of sous vide cooking gadgets on loan for a month for testing and reviewing. I have been enjoying playing with my new toys, and had a few very successful dinners to report.
The other day I was planning to prepare some tuna steaks. There is a recipe for a cured cod in Sous Vide The art of precision cooking book, as well as a tempting confit of tuna belly, both of which suggest dry curing the fish for a few hours. I bought a couple of pricey tuna steaks for my experimental cooking, and decided to dry cure them. I planned to do a meticulous step-by-step, showing how I make it (yeah, yeah, life is a long lesson in humility indeed).
Once I made the dry cure (50g sea salt, 50g demerara sugar, 6 cloves, orange zest), I put it all over the tuna steaks, wrapped them in cling film and put the weight on top. So far, so good. After all, I often make my own cured salmon and herring, and they always turn out lovely. It couldn't go wrong, could it? It was supposed to be cured for 3 hours. Then rummaging through the fridge, I realised I had some leftovers from the day before, which needed to be eaten. So, what do I do? why don't I cook the tuna steaks the next day instead?! I should have taken the tuna and rinsed the cure off with the cold water but I didn't. That was my big mistake. The next evening, when I unwrapped the cling film and rinsed the fish, it looked suspiciously hard and flattened.

Well, I am still going to cook it, it should be fine. Right? wrong! Sealed tuna steaks with the orange zest and thyme were put in the bath.

After the steaks were cooked in the bath for 50 minutes at 52C, I opened the pouch.
I also cooked some mashed potatoes as well as pied mutton mushrooms in single cream, dreaming of a kind of a fishy tuna Stroganoff steak.
Let's try the tuna! Drat, it was as hard as old boots and tasted probably the same, very salty and quite horrible. What a waste of the tuna steaks! Thankfully, my husband is in Italy these days and escaped a "treat".

Today I thought I'd try to rescue the second steak by soaking it in strong tea. Did it work? No, it didn't, it still tasted horribly salty.
That's one lesson learnt. What works well for salmon (i.e. curing for days), doesn't work for tuna.

To cheer up myself, I asked my blogging friends if they dared to share their culinary disasters, and they kindly obliged. Their stories definitely made me smile. To quote Jane from Onions and Paper, it is "very comforting to know things go wrong for other people too!".

Jane from Onions and Paper kindly shared her story about gnasty gnocchi, read all about them in her post A hit and miss. Jane confessed to another culinary "triumph": I once made a pineapple upside down cake (so long ago it was still fashionable and not retro) where I sieved the flour in a sieve that hadn't been washed well enough after straining a very garlicky tomato sauce. It turned out to be pineapple and garlic upside down cake. I wish I had photos of the faces of my guests that night!"
And one more story offered by adventurous cook Jane - the sauce for Beancurd Satay didn't look too appetizing (but check out her own recipe for satay sauce, I soo want to try it!).

Cheryl from Madhouse Family Reviews also blogs about her cooking disasters (though to be fair, they are more of imperfections rather than outright disasters), see her blog posts Stork easy to mix baking liquid review and Renshaw's Limited Edition Great British Icing pack review.

Jo from Given to Distracting Others tells her geyser of hot fat story in One Pot Roast Chicken AKA Saddened Chicken (I'm sure the chicken tasted great, even if the kitchen needed some help from Kim and Aggie).

Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog told of her baking accident in Lemon and Apple Curd Cake Disaster (I would have loved some broken bits of that cake).

Have you got any kitchen disaster stories you'd dare to share?

How to cook a sous vide cod

Sous cooking is all about experimentation, or so the Sous Vide The Art of Precision Cooking claims. As a novice at sous vide cooking, I am a bit less adventurous when it comes to experimenting. I do use the book for the recipe ideas and cooking times and temperatures as my guide. Sous Vide Cod with shiitake mushrooms was a lovely discovery, a very tasty dish, but just yesterday I had a major disaster (I am going to blog about it separately, if you fancy to have a giggle at my inability to cook).

Sous Vide Cod with Shiitake Mushrooms
2 cod portions (about 275g)
150g shiitake mushrooms
1tbsp olive oil
1 tomato
soy sauce (I like Kikkoman)
zest of 1 blood orange
1tbsp garlic puree
1tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
Schwartz Thai 7 Spice (depends on how hot you like your food)

First chop the shiitake mushrooms roughly and give them a quick fry with the olive oil and chopped tomato. Squeeze the lemon juice in the mushrooms, stir well. Add the garlic puree and spices as well as the dash of soy sauce. Once the sauce gets thick, add it to the cod portions placed inside the plastic pouch. Add the ribbon of blood orange zest. As the season of blood oranges is not finished yet, I am enjoying them as much as possible and quite probably going overboard by adding their zest and juice to almost anything and everything. If you don't have blood oranges, a standard orange, or lemon will do.
Seal the pouch, using your vacuum sealer. I use PolyScience Vacuum Sealer. Place the sealed pouch in the bath.

Cook for 50 minutes at 52C setting. Open the pouch and serve hot.

The cod was cooked perfectly, it was flaking beautifully, and the earthy flavours of shiitake mushrooms complemented it really nicely. The blood orange zest added a citrus note to the overall dish.

I love cod, and this way of cooking it elevated this well known and much loved fish into a perfect dish.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Brian Cox's Wonders of Life App (review + giveaway NOW CLOSED)

If you always wanted to discover what the cyanobacteria is, or find out more about the hearing ability of scorpions among many other nature facts and data, Professor Brian Cox will be your personal tour guide to Wonders of Life. This app is a follow-up to the most popular book and TV series. Together with Andrew Cohen, the BBC Head of Science, Professor Cox takes you on a breathtaking tour.
Brian Cox's Wonders of Life app from HarperCollins Publishers Ltd is available from the itunes Store at £3.99. It requires iOS7.

As it contains over 2 hours of HD videos and over 1000 high-res images, I haven't had a chance to explore the app in its entirety. If anything, what I have seen so far, is only a tip of the iceberg. But what I have seen, is very impressive. The photos and videos are dazzling and vibrant.

Swipe to look around the globe and visit the continents, by tapping the labels to explore. Pick the desired location from a 3D satellite view of the globe, zooming into it.
If something catches your attention, drag the thumbnails to read or watch the video documentaries produced by the BBC. Scroll down to read the short essays on the topics.
There is a top navigation bar which allows you to jump from one geographical location to another.

The app page promises:
"From the vast networks of subterranean freshwater caverns of the Yukatan peninsula to the Great White Sharks haunting the South Neptune islands, from the Hermit Crabs of Christmas Island to the Red Kangaroo of Western Australia, this app will help you uncover the secrets of life in the most unexpected locations and in the most stunning detail. Explore the vision of the Kangaroo, the DNA of the Chameleon or the hearing of the Mohave Desert Sand Scorpion in its natural habitat in scintillating 3D detail, delving deep down variously into the detail of microbial life, the inner eye, the second law of thermodynamics and more...
Along the way you'll learn how everything on Earth, from the smallest microbe to the largest giraffe, is constructed from the same fundamental building blocks and is subject to the same laws of nature".

Apps like these make science a cool subject. I wish we had something like this, when I was at school. As it happened, I yawned at my geography lessons and hated the biology. I envy the modern generations with all their access to technology which didn't exist when I grew up.
This is a whole brave new world, open for exploring.

Images refer to © BBC

If you enjoy nature shows and apps, I have a lovely surprise for you.

One of my lucky winners will win a new Brian Cox's Wonders of Life app and a book Wonders of Life, which accompanied the TV series.

If you would like to win the app + book bundle, please answer the question (leave a comment below):

Have you watched the BBC documentary series Wonders of Life and which episode did you find the most fascinating? (If you haven't had a chance to watch it, what was the last nature programme on TV you enjoyed?)

For a bonus entry please Like HarperCollins on Facebook, and leave a separate comment telling me so (including the name you Liked it as).

the giveaway is open to the UK residents only.
One entry per person.
Please leave some means of contacting you: either your Twitter username or email..
Once the winner is selected, using the Raffleking, I will contact them by email or Twitter, and announce on my blog. If the winner does't respond in one week, another winner will be selected.
I will then email the winner's details to HarperCollins representative. Please keep in mind, I am not responsible for the prize dispatch.
The giveaway ends on 11 March midnight, the winner will be selected the next day.

Good luck!


Many thanks to everyone who entered! The Raffleking has selected the winner:
it is KERI JONES. Big well done! Going to get in touch with you re your prize!

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Gluten-free peanut butter cookies

"Mama, they look like a castle!" (Eddie)

We had a good morning, digging in the garden to our hearts' content. I was startled to find a sleepy bumblebee in the soil, while I was clearing the strawberry patch. Eddie was working hard with a brush and a scoop, cleaning the paths. After all the gardening works we came back home and were pondering on what we could do together later. How about baking some cookies, especially that we had Eddie's little friend coming over for a play date later? I opted for gluten free peanut butter cookies, a combination of sweet and  salty.

gluten free cookies

Gluten free peanut butter cookies
200g peanut butter
50g butter, softened
80g demerara sugar
1 large egg
100g gluten-free flour
1/2tsp gluten free baking powder
1tsp vanilla essence
selection of salted nuts for decoration (optional)
Beat the peanut butter with sugar until paler in colour, add the butter, egg, flour, baking powder and vanilla essence and mix well together. Using hands, roll a big ball of cookie dough. Place it wrapped in cling film in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Cover two baking trays with foil or parchment paper, and oil them a bit. Make little rolls of dough, and flatten them into discs. Leave the space between the cookies, as they will spread, though not too much. Press some salted nuts on top of each cookie. Place the trays in the oven preheated to 180C. Bake for about 15 minutes until the cookies turn golden brown. They will be still soft, when you take the trays out. Let them cool a bit before eating. They are nice both warm and cold, with milk or tea.
Both Eddie and his friend Peter ate their cookies with gusto.

gluten free cookies

They will also work with a scattering of chocolate chips inside. And maybe next time I bake them, I'll add some M&Ms.
These cookies are not as soft as most branded peanut butter cookies.

gluten free cookies

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Ricotta pancakes

Ricotta pancakes are certainly not a novelty idea for a recipe. There are quite a few recipes on the blogs and websites, I haven't read all of them, of course, but a few that I had a look at left me wondering on whether those recipes actually work. One celebrity chef suggests using 400g of ricotta with just 1 egg and 1tbsp of flour. Sorry for doubting the celeb chef, but I don't see how that is going to stay in one place when you need to turn it over. I have experimented with ratio of ricotta cheese to flour, and glad to report that my version of the recipe works well.

Italian recipe, Pancake day recipe

I started by mixing together 2 medium eggs with 250g ricotta (standard size tub) and 2 tbsp of self-raising flour, plus sugar, milk, orange zest and lemon juice, as well as a bit of vanilla essence. I poured a spoonful onto the buttered pancake pan. Alas, it didn't hold and started falling apart when it was time to flip it.
Back to the mixing bowl, I added another 2 heaped tbsp of flour and mixed all the ingredients well. And then I had perfectly shaped little pancakes, very delicate in texture, light and fluffy.

I also made a batch of ricotta pancakes with fresh blueberries. Just add a few blueberries per pancake straight after you pour the thick batter on the pan and push them gently inside the batter. As they disappeared very fast, I didn't have a chance to take any photos of the blueberry ricotta pancakes, but trust me, they looked lovely, and tasted great, with the blueberries oozing their sweet juice.

So if you fancy to have a go, here is my recipe for Ricotta pancakes:
2 medium eggs
250g ricotta
1tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
4tbsp self-raising flour
2tbsp caster sugar
2tbsp milk
zest of 1 orange, grated finely
1tbsp vanilla essence
butter for the frying pan
vanilla syrup for pouring (optional)
blueberries (optional)
Mix all the ingredients together to a thick consistency. Butter the pancake pan slightly, pour a tablespoon of batter per pancake. You will get about 12+ pancakes, depending on the thickness you want.
Serve hot with any syrup or honey, or just dusted with icing sugar.

I have recently mentioned OXO Good Grips Flip & Fold omelette turner, and hasten to report that I find it very handy when it comes to making pancakes.

Link up your recipe of the week

Monday, 17 February 2014

Exploring on hold: floods, garden flowers and snacks

It surely must have been the most miserable winter, with weeks of rain turning into months. The country has seen a lot of devastation due to the weather crisis and torrential downpours. Our town has been on the flood alert for weeks, and we all watch the local river Windrush with anxiety.

River Windrush, city centre
Our little town has been badly hit by the floods in 2007, and now all along the High Street you can see people preparing for the worst again. Sandbags and shields are ready.

With all the rains, our favourite walks in town have been postponed. No more watching the frolics of the ducks and coots by the bridge. Just five minutes away from our house, where the river makes a kind of a fork in the fields, it looks more like a lake now, with the bridge under water.

The Windrush

The rising levels of the river put many a local on tenterhooks. When we were looking at the houses to buy, we fell in love with the old converted stables, and regretted that that beautifully restored house was snatched almost immediately. Little did we know then, that our guardian angels were watching over us. That house was so badly flooded a few years ago, that the current owners had to live for a year elsewhere before their property was made habitable again. And passing by just the other day, I saw a lot of water around it, and a long pipe pumping water.
And though our house stands quite high some of the houses down the lane just opposite us are not so lucky.

In the neighbourhood

With all this weather havoc and floods alert, we haven't been doing anything outdoorsy. Even the garden looks soggy and uninviting most of the time. Yet the first flowers are already heralding the spring. Every morning we look out of the window wistfully, hoping for a rain-free day.

Last Sunday, for the first time in weeks, we had a sunny dry day, and Eddie and I went exploring in the garden, looking at all pretty flowers. Eddie is a nature boy, and he loves the flowers, he is always quick to admire a bloom or a flower. We spent a good chunk of time, trying to clean the garden and dig a bit. The paths were swept from all the sodden leaves and remains of rotten apples.

The strawberry patch looked more like a weed patch than anything else, and while I was weeding and digging, Eddie worked with a brush and a scoop. He was more enthusiastic about cleaning than about playing in the sand, especially that the lid of the sandpit got shredded by the winds and there are lots of holes in it, so the sand was pretty wet.

There is so much to do. Because of the incessant rain, I hardly ever poked my nose in the garden, and of course, all gardening jobs were put on hold. I do hope we'll get a few sunny days this mid-term week, so that we could continue making our garden a bit more presentable.

After all that hard work we fancied a bit of a snack break.
Luckily we had some new tasty snacks at hand.
Barny, a cute bear-shaped sponge snack, has expanded its range. There are two new flavours added: strawberry and apple. Have a bite and discover a hidden fruity centre. What's great about Barny is that these snacks contain no artificial colours or preservatives. Each bear is individually wrapped in foil, so they are very convenient for taking with you in a pocket or lunch box.
I would imagine they will taste as nicely when we travel to Cornwall in summer and eat them on the beach. Will summer ever come?

Eddie ate his strawberry Barny with gusto. Back at home, he wanted more, and also mentioned "This bear is so cute, I want to cuddle him".

And while I'm trying to finish this post, Eddie keeps pestering telling me that he wants to go in the garden.

This post is an entry for BritMums ‘Winter Little Adventures Challenge’ sponsored by Barny, individually wrapped bear-shaped sponges with a hidden filling.