Tales from kitchen and cellar

Archive for August, 2012|Monthly archive page

Blackberry and Pear Perfection

In Cooking, food, Food and Drink on August 28, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Blackberry and Pear Compote

It’s blackberry time! A little early you might think but cast your eyes in any nearby hedgerow and if you’re lucky you will indeed see little dark jewels waiting to be picked!

So if you do happen to come across some of these dark little beauties, (I found mine at the bottom of the garden) here’s what to do with them.

This simple dessert can also be added to your morning bowl of muesli or on its own with a little yoghurt, quick and simple it showcases the humble blackberry and all it’s rich flavouring and colour.


Serves 2

A generous handful or 2 of blackberries (careful not to pick them to close to a busy road for contamination purposes)

1 pear (I used conference)

1/2 cup of sugar

a little water

A dollop of greek yoghurt (optional)


Wash the fruit and peel the pear, core and slice in to bite sized slithers.

Make a light caramel by adding 1/2 cup of sugar to a heavy based frying pan add a little water to cover the sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved over a medium heat.

Once the sugar has dissolved increase the heat and leave until the sugar turns a pale golden colour.

Remove from the heat and add the pear and stir gently to soften through, then add the blackberries, heat again and add a little more water (careful not to splash).

Let the fruit sit in the juices which should have turned a deep red now. Leave until just warm before serving with a dollop of greek yoghurt and a sprinkling of broken biscuit like a ginger nut.

Serve and enjoy!


Beautiful Beetroot Bruschetta

In Cooking, food, Food and Drink on August 20, 2012 at 9:29 am










Happy Beetroot Bruschetta

I was lucky enough to be given some home grown beetroot and little gem lettuce, and in order to enjoy both in their full glory I thought this excellent summer bruschetta dish was the perfect place to showcase their colour and flavour.


2-3 medium beetroots

1-2 packets good quality goats cheese

2 little gem/baby gem lettuce

1 can artichoke hearts

Bruschetta bread

Olive oil


White wine vinegar

Balsamic vinegar


The beetroot can be a little fiddly but worth the effort after boiling for 20-30 minutes until tender. Then with gloves to avoid pink fingers peel when a little cooled and chop into nice chunky pieces. Marinade in a little white wine vinegar, salt and pepper.

I bought some really good quality toasting bruschetta bread whic I grilled and rubbed with a little garlic and olive oil.

Wash the lettuce and cut into chunks, similar in size to the beetroot, arrange the with the beetroot, artichoke and some crumbled goats cheese onto the bruschetta and drizzle with a little olive oil and balsamic to taste.

Tuck in and enjoy the summery vegetable delights!

Decadent Orange Polenta Cake

In Baking, Cakes, Cooking, food on August 9, 2012 at 10:50 am









Who doesn’t like cake? Sorry, don’t answer that! Very few at any rate and for those who are looking for something a little different to a classic sponge then this rich, sumptuous, glossy orange cake might be just the ticket.

Dense and delicious, rich and yummy this is a serious cake from Ottolenghi the cookbook. It’s a little effort but worth it.


50g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

200g unsalted butter

200g caster sugar

3 free range eggs, lightly beaten

2 tsp orange blossom water

240g ground almonds

120g quick cook polenta

Caramel Topping

90g caster sugar

2tbsp water

20g unsalted butter cut into cubes

2-3 oranges

Glaze (optional)

3tbsp orange marmalade (shredless)

1 tbsp water


Preheat oven to 170 Gas Mark 3

Take an 8 inch cake tin, grease and line the base and sides with baking parchment.

Place the sugar and the water for the caramel in a pan and bring gently to the boil, do not stir or the sugar will crystalise. After a few minutes the sugar will start to darken to a golden caramel. Remove from the heat and stepping back from the pan add the butter.

Pour the caramel into the base of your cake tin and swirl around so the base of the tin is fully covered.

Zest your oranges being careful not to remove the bitter pith and set to one side.

Carefully cut off the rind of the oranges and slice into 6 discs removing any seeds as you go along. Place the orange slices into the caramel and pack in tightly. Use an extra orange if necessary.

Start with the cake batter. With the help of a kitchen aid or electric beaters cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Then add the eggs, orange blossom water and zest.

Fold in the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Pour in the tin and bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

Leave to cool for 5 minutes before turning out onto a plate. Leave to cool completely.

You can glaze the cake with some warmed shredless marmalade for extra shine. Serve with a little sweetened mascarpone for a sweet sharp twang.


The Hinds Head

In Food and Drink on August 1, 2012 at 2:00 pm










When I set up this blog I was keen to advocate and extol the virtues of good home cooking, wine and other delicious drinks. This is still at the very heart of what I feel most passionate about but I thought it was worth mentioning a restaurant I visited last night, a kind of review if you like.

The Hinds Head in Bray, Berkshire¬†is one of the jewels in Heston Blumenthals crown. A cosy, wood panelled pub which serves outstanding food and I’m reliably informed pretty good beer to boot.

It may not have the stratospheric glamour of its neighbour The Fat Duck and all the culinary artistry which is synonymous with Heston’s work but it does have all the sprinklings of magic in a more approachable and affordable manner.

Just a few highlights, my snails hash was a great starter and not for the cephalopod phobic. But I enjoyed every mouthful together with a tart pickle all served on toasted sourdough and garnished with celeriac ribbons and micro herbs.

My fish pie main was very much a homage to the acclaimed sand and sea made famous at The Fat Duck, beautiful pollock, salmon poached in a broth like sauce and topped with sand (some sort of fine breadcrumb) seaweed (dried) and sea (a light fishy foam)

My dessert was a take on a 16th century dessert a banana quaking pudding which in essence was a hot, set banana custard and was reminiscent of nursery meals, served with a caramelised banana on the side.

All in all it was delicious. So if you find yourself in the cute but eerily toytown village of bray and fancy a special meal that won’t break the bank do indulge if you can in some Hinds Head action.