Month: February, 2016

Spring time and new beginnings.

It is funny how quickly your expectations can change. Living in a one bedroom apartment with a baby is completely normal in this crazy expensive city. I was talking to a mother just yesterday who lives in a two bedroom with three children. All of a sudden, having a child in its own room seems like an unnecessary luxury. Having a spare room for friends to come and stay? Madness.

Currently we live in a one bedroom apartment. Looking south through the big windows, you get beautiful views over the hills of San Francisco and the Sutro tower comes and goes as the infamous mist rolls in and out. We moved to this apartment as a couple coming to work in this city and soon became a family of three with a baby who sleeps in a converted cupboard where the vacuum cleaner and suitcases used to live.

Nearly a year old, Lilias is well and truly on the move. She crawls at a scarily fast pace and climbs anything she can find. All of a sudden, a cupboard doesn’t seem quite big enough for her bedroom. The fact that it is off the living room is not great for having people over in the evenings. The nine flights of stairs are starting to feel steeper and steeper as she gets heavier, and I won’t get started on not having a laundry.

So we are on the move! We love the neighborhood so much we are just hopping over the other side of the park, a huge move of four blocks, but it is big! It has TWO bedrooms. And a kitchen with room for a table to eat at. And it is only up one flight of stairs. And I am beyond excited. We move next Sunday, so who knows? Maybe my next blog post will be from my brand new kitchen, sitting at my table looking out towards the park.

It feels like just the right time for a move and a new adventure. Springtime in the San Francisco.

IMG_7788

The Best of the Season

Yesterday I went to buy food for dinner and my neatly written shopping list stayed in my bag. I just couldn’t walk past the bright and sweet smelling citrus. Grapefruit, pomelos, mandarins, satsumas, clementines, limes, lemons, and oranges lay bathing in the late afternoon sun. While Lilias enjoyed the free apple pie samples they were giving out, I quickly came up with a new idea for dinner. We would have a citrus salad and it would be fresh and zingy, both sweet and bitter. Maybe a piece of fish on top, in which case fennel would work well. And we would need something green with that, baby spinach? No, some sprouting broccolini would be perfect. And surely there is some coriander in a jar on the window sill…

IMG_7648

Citrus Salad with Pan Fried Fish
Serves two

1 ruby red grapefruit
2 mandarins
Half a big bulb of fennel, or one small one, plus the fronds
A handful of coriander leaves
1 spring onion
A bunch of sprouting broccolini
A good glug of olive oil
Salt
2 pieces of firm white fish (I used ling cod)
Butter for frying

IMG_7659

Blanch the sprouting broccolini and put aside to cool. Carefully peel the grapefruit and mandarins and finely slice them, the grapefruit cut in half and the mandarins as perfect circles. Finely slice the spring onion and the fennel bulb, leaving the feathery fronds to garnish the fish at the end. Put it all in a bowl with the olive oil (it will make a difference if you use good stuff for this recipe), a good pinch of salt and the coriander leaves. Toss to combine.

Fry your fish in some butter, and while it is cooking, arrange the salad on two plates. When the fish is just cooked through, add it to the top of the salad and garnish with the fennel fronds.

It is the perfect meal for a hot evening (thanks San Francisco for this mid winter heat wave) or to cheer up a dark and cold day. Especially with a cold beer or a crisp glass of wine.

IMG_7661

Banana Pancakes for your Saturday Morning

On Saturday morning we made banana pancakes. My sixteen year old self wanted to put the Jack Johnson song on while we ate them, but much to Ollie’s relief, my thirty year old self won and we listened to Sufjan Stevens’ newest album of which I can’t get enough of, instead.

To my surprise (I am not a pancake aficionado) they were light, they were fluffy and the banana made them so sweet and tasty that they are definitely coming back to our table next weekend.

IMG_7605

Banana Pancakes
Makes enough for four

1 1/2 cups flour
2 Tbsp sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 banana (any old overripe brown one that needs using up  is fine)
1 cup milk
2 eggs
2 Tbsp olive oil

In a big bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
In a smaller bowl, mash the banana with a fork, whisk in the eggs and milk.
Pour the banana mixture and the oil into the flour mixture.
Fold the batter gently until just blended.

Fry them up and you have nine smallish pancakes- enough for the three of us with a couple left over.

IMG_7606

We served ours with fresh berries, natural yoghurt, maple syrup and big mugs of coffee.

Lilias thought they were pretty good too. I cut up the leftovers and put them in the freezer to defrost for baby sized lunch treats. I have found it is always good to have something to pull out when you can’t quite make it to the store in time and there is nothing fresh in the fridge. Our freezer currently has ice cube sized bolognese, braised lentils, tomato and spinach pasta sauce, cut up cauliflower fritters and pureed root vegetables in little bags lurking amongst the frozen peas, stock and ice cream.

I would love to hear what go to frozen treats other parent’s freezers have, I am always looking for inspiration.

IMG_7608

Menu Planning and Spaghetti Fridays

I am not a planner. Life can take me where it wants, and that is just fine. I feel this way about cooking as well, never having been one to plan what I am going to cook at the beginning of the week and do one big shop in preparation. Part of my day with Lilias is going to the deli/market/grocery store a few blocks from us and choosing something to take home and make for dinner.

But lately I have been in a rut. A very deep one that has made me not look forward to either the shopping or the cooking. I don’t know whether it is because we used to eat out quite a bit at exciting and inspiring cafes and restaurants and I got ideas from them? Or that now I have a nine month old to think about cooking for as well as us? But I felt like I was making the same stuff over and over. And not enjoying it.

So I decided to do the unthinkable. Menu planning. Sitting down in the weekend with cookbooks and planning what we are going to eat for the week. And I have to say, it has been working a treat! It means I actually cook to a recipe from cook books I may not have looked at for a while, I can look at the week as a whole and make sure we are eating a variety of foods, there is no waste of food that looked good at the market and then was never actually used, and it means I am trying a whole lot of new recipes in the kitchen. I don’t know how long I will keep it up, but for the moment it is getting me out of the rut.

IMG_7598

I still cook seasonally by only picking recipes that use ingredients that I know I can find at the market at the moment. And if something looks really good when I am out, I will pick it up and find a way to incorporate it into that night’s meal. It has been making things a whole lot easier and given me more time for adventures further afield with my little Lilias. We have been loving going for long winter walks on the beach- there is something so beautiful about a grey cold day and a stormy looking ocean. Makes me not mind the cold wind in my face and leaves both of us feeling fresh and new and ready for a big dinner.

IMG_7362

I may be cooking all different styles of food from all different cook books, but it is nice to come back to your favourites. So on Fridays? Not going out for an after work drink and getting home at 3am, nope, those days are over… for now. Instead? Spaghetti alla puttanesca. Red wine. Bliss.

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca
Serves four (or two very hungry people)

A very generous pour of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic finely minced
1 dried peperoncino/ generous pinch of chilli flakes
5 anchovy fillets
400g red, ripe tomatoes or 1 tin tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
100g pitted black olives
1 large tbsp capers
roughly chopped parsley
spaghetti

IMG_7604

Firstly, pour yourself a glass of wine and put your pasta water on.

Put the olive oil, minced garlic, chopped anchovies and chilli into a frying pan over a very gentle flame to let the garlic soften and anchovies melt down into the oil.

Peel, deseed and roughly chop the tomatoes if you are using fresh ones, otherwise open the can and add them to the pan. Raise the heat a little so the pan reaches a bubbling simmer and then finally add the capers, tomato puree and the olives.

By now, the water should have come to the boil. Salt generously and add the spaghetti.

Allow the sauce to bubble away and reduce a little and then add the parsley and finally the cooked pasta.

Serve with a sprinkling of fresh parsley. Buon appetito and have a good weekend x

IMG_7593

And I’m Back

I have spent a while considering Flowers in my Hair and whether I should get back into it, going back and forward trying to decide if it is something I want to do. I have been reading far more of other people’s blogs recently, and with that, I have been made aware of the over saturation on the internet. I mean, is it really necessary to have another food/this is my everyday (rather mundane) life for you to read about? I feel it is rather narcissistic for me to believe you would even want to read about what I have been doing and cooking in my little San Francisco apartment.

But I have had some words of encouragement from good friends, a few writing projects started and planned for the coming months, and it has got me wanting more. I have a gap to fill being at home with Lilias and not working. Plus it feels like spring here, the blossom is coming out, the air feels soft and warm and the days are getting longer, just the right time to resurrect the blog and make a fresh start. Isn’t that what this season is all about?

IMG_7567

I will begin with dinner last night- a risotto made with really good chicken stock from the carcass of the chicken used for pollo alla cacciatore the night before. It comes from Jamie’s Italy, with a few alterations because I am the worst at following a recipe.

Fennel and Ricotta Risotto
Serves two with leftovers, or four as a starter

1/2 teaspoon of fennel seeds
2 cloves garlic
1 big bulb of fennel, or 2 small bulbs
2 celery stalks
1/2 onion
1 large cup of risotto rice- about 200g
1 glass of white wine
Chicken stock – about half a litre
chilli flakes
4 tablespoons of ricotta
1 lemon
parmesan
olive oil
salt and pepper

IMG_7581
Start with a couple of splashes of olive oil in a pan and fry the garlic until softened, then add the fennel seeds and sliced fennel (save the feathery tops for later). Add a pinch of salt and pepper, pop the lid on and it turn down low. Now gently fry the finely diced onion and celery in olive oil for about 10 minutes. When the vegetables have softened, add the rice and fry until it is slightly translucent. Next add the glass of wine and stir until the smell of alcohol has disappeared and the wine absorbed.
You can now start adding the stock (I used chicken stock, but you could use vegetable stock if you wanted a vegetarian recipe) bit by bit, little by little. The more you stir, the creamier it gets. Continue until the rice is soft, but still has a bit of bite. Remove from the heat and stir in the ricotta, zest of the lemon and lovely, sweet fennel mixture. Place a lid on the pan and allow to sit for 2 minutes. This lets the rice get really creamy and thick and all the flavours will jumble up together. Check the seasoning and balance the flavour with as much lemon juice as you feel it needs to work with the fennel. Divide between your plates, sprinkle over your finely sliced fennel tops and dust with the chilli flakes and grated parmesan.