Category: Recipe

The cool grey summer of San Francisco

As summer begins in earnest elsewhere in the country, the fog and wind arrives in San Francisco. Leaving the playground in the evening, Lilias and I battle our way through the blustery streets home to our warm apartment. The market is now filled with glowing red tomatoes and blushing stone fruit, warming the grey Sunday mornings. June and July in this city means eating summer while it feels like winter outside.

Here is a salad perfect with a glass of white wine that will make you feel like it is summer, even if the weather tells you otherwise.

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The Taste of Summer in a Salad

Three sweet, ripe peaches
1 ball of buffalo mozzarella
Six slices of prosciutto
Rocket
A handful of basil
Juice of a lemon
Olive oil
Salt

This really is as simple as slicing the peaches, tearing the mozzarella and lying them with the prosciutto over the leaves. Finish with a simple lemon, olive oil and salt dressing and you have yourself a meal! This would be lovely with fish or chicken, but we just had some fresh bread and butter and a glass of wine.

 

Crunchy Market Salad

The weather has been crazy and spring like here in San Francisco. Just a few days ago it was stifling hot, still 28 degrees outside at ten o’clock in the evening. It felt wrong to waste it, so after a few glasses of wine with dinner, Ollie and I thought it would be a great idea to wake Lilias and go for a walk in the park. She thought it was the best game ever, crawling through the grass in the dark with the lights of the city surrounding us. A few days later though and the clouds and rain had rolled in putting us right back in winter. Thank goodness for the market full of green things to keep us feeling fresh.

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Here is the crunchy salad we ate after the market on Sunday. Making the most of all the good green things, especially for my sister in law who has come to stay and managed to land herself with the flu.

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Crunchy Market Salad
Feeds four 

1 cup of cooked quinoa
1 fennel bulb
1 green apple
1 avocado
A handful of sugar snap peas
A handful of snow peas
A handful of lettuce leaves
A couple of basil leaves
A handful of pinenuts
Goats cheese or feta to top
Juice of a lemon
Olive oil
1 tsp whole grain mustard
Sea salt

While you cook your quinoa, slice the fennel, apple, avocado, sugar snap peas and snow peas. Place these in a bowl with a dressing made of lemon, olive oil, salt and mustard – the lemon will stop the vegetables discolouring. Once the quinoa is cooked, leave it to cool and then mix it in with the vegetables, adding the torn lettuce and basil. Top with a sprinkling of pinenuts and some goats cheese. Enjoy!

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Saturday Morning in the Dogpatch

On Saturday morning we got in the car and headed across town to the Dogpatch, an area we haven’t explored yet. We had read about the opening of The Minnesota Street Project a couple of weeks ago,  and were keen to have a look. A old warehouse is now a gallery and studio space offering ‘affordable and economically sustainable spaces for art galleries, artists and related nonprofits.’ Check out their website to read more, or if you are in San Francisco, head on over. It is a beautiful space.

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I would also recommend going for lunch at Piccino afterwards, it was absolutely delicious and they have highchairs that screw onto the bar. Three happy Hewitts indeed.

Now a recipe, or more just an idea. We eat this meal a bit, especially in the warmer months. It is so easy and quick to put together, but packed with flavour and fun to eat.

Spiced Lamb Meatballs with Hummus and Salad
Serves two

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Mix together some ground/minced (depending on what country you live in) lamb with salt, pepper and about a tablespoon of garam masala. Roll into balls, about half the size of a golf ball. Fry in some oil on a hot heat, moving around every couple of minutes.

Chop one tomato, three radishes, half a peeled cucumber, 1/4 small red onion and some fresh parsley and mix in a bowl with some olive oil, salt and red wine vinegar.

Once the meatballs are cooked through- this shouldn’t take very long- place on a dish that has a thin covering of hummus and sprinkle some roasted pine nuts over the top.

I like to serve this with some greek yoghurt made better with lemon juice, olive oil, sea salt and fresh mint, plus some grilled pita bread, hot sauce and a cold beer.

Perfect for the balmy weather San Francisco has been having lately. Long may it continue!

 

A kind cake to have with tea

As I have mentioned before, I am not a baker. That skill was handed out to my sister who can make the most delicate tarts and cakes. She also manages to turn gluten free baking into some kind of delicious realm of possibilities, something I never thought was possible. However, lately I have been finding myself wanting to have fresh baking in the house. I have been making banana bread, gluten, sugar and dairy free muffins (actually really good, will post the recipe soon), lemon and ricotta ring cakes, and yesterday I made a rhubarb and strawberry cake.

Both Ollie and I go crazy for rhubarb. Stewed with muesli in the morning, with ice cream, in a crumble or pie. Any way possible in fact. So this cake is perfect. It is easy, both sweet and tart, and goes perfectly with a cup of tea. It is the kind of cake you can imagine eating with thick clotted cream and your grandmother.

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An Old Fashioned Cake
(Based on a pear cake in Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries)

130g butter
130g caster sugar
2 eggs
130g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Half a punnet of strawberries
About 5 stalks of rhubarb
A sprinkling of brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Cream the butter and sugar. Beat the eggs lightly with a fork, and gradually mix them in with the butter and sugar. Sift the flour and baking powder and fold in carefully. Spoon into a greased cake tin and don’t worry that it looks like there isn’t enough mixture.

Finely slice the rhubarb and cut the strawberries into quarters. Place them evenly over the cake mixture, and then sprinkle some brown sugar on top. This recipe can be used for any fruit, I have made it with apple and pear in the past, in which case you don’t need extra sugar. Rhubarb often needs a bit more love than other fruit to make it sing.

Bake for 1 hour, until a skewer comes out clean, leave in the tin for 10 minutes, and then cool on a rack. Or if you are impatient like me, cut a slice and eat it with some natural yoghurt and a cup of coffee.

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The book you can see in the photo arrived in the mail just a few days ago. It is part of a #savetheculture book exchange I am part of. Despite Ollie referring to it as my Ponzi scheme and another friend calling it a glorified chain letter, I think it is a pretty cool idea. I saw a friend had shared a post about it on facebook which I bit the bullet and liked. She sent me a stranger’s address for me to post a book to, plus her address to share with people who liked my post. Theoretically, I should get a whole lot of books in the mail. Who am I to say no to that?

I had been eyeing up Ali Smith’s newest book at The Booksmith just the other day, so I was thrilled to receive it with a little postcard from an old school friend I haven’t talked to in years. I will let you know if I get any other goodies in the letter box.

Happy baking and happy reading from sunny San Francisco x

A fresh look for spring

With spring in the air and finally at the market, plus our move into the new apartment and Lilias turning one in a couple of weeks (!!!) it feels like a everything is refreshing and new things are happening. So I cut my hair short again, and then followed up by redesigning the blog.

It is coming up two years since we moved to San Francisco and I started this blog. I felt like things needed an update so I called on a certain someone with some rather fabulous design skills, Catherine.  An old English student of mine and a good friend’s little sister, Catherine quickly became a good friend to me as well. After talking to her about the blog, she very kindly did the calligraphy for the header. Isn’t it gorgeous? Thank you Catherine x

I am starting off with a fresh, spring salad as per Catherine’s request. It is crunchy and zingy as well as being strangely comforting. We ate it warm, but I think leftovers the next day would be pretty good too. Pity there weren’t any…

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Spring Noodle Salad
Serves four

Soba noodles (according to appetite)
1 cup frozen, shelled edamame beans
Small bundle of asparagus cut into quarters
Four spring onions finely sliced
A handful of snap peas cut into thirds
A large handful of fresh coriander
1 lime
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp sunflower oil
Salt
A small handful of peanuts
3 tbsp of sesame seeds

Cook the soba noodles according to the instructions and put aside in a large bowl.

Gently fry the finely sliced spring onions in a little sunflower oil until softened, then add the parboiled asparagus and edamame beans to fry for a few more minutes. When these are cooked but still have some bite, add them to the noodles with the roughly chopped coriander, the juice of the lime, sesame and sunflower oil, rice wine vinegar, salt, peanuts and sesame seeds. Toss it all together and eat while it is still warm. I would recommend an accompanying cold beer for balance.

We added hot sauce to ours afterwards because we were eating with Lilias, but you could definitely add the chilli at the beginning when you are frying the spring onion.

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My next post is an easy rhubarb and strawberry cake because you have to enjoy both the sweet and the savoury sides of spring. Also because anything with rhubarb makes me happy, especially if you can eat it with a cup of tea.

Market Day

For the last few Sundays, I have been waiting for Spring to be at the market to meet me. I am waiting for there to be baskets of fresh peas in their pods and fava beans to be shelled, asparagus and green beans, sweet and delicate new season fennel and spiky artichokes. Instead, there are still piles of citrus fruits and bundles of winter greens.

So here is a last of the winter’s market put together for a lunch. Finger’s crossed for Spring to be there next weekend.

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Green Winter’s Lunch
Serves two and a half

A big bunch of sprouting broccoli
A ball of fresh mozzerella
A handful of fresh basil, torn
The juice of a lemon
A handful of pine nuts
One ripe avocado
Good olive oil
Salt and pepper
Fresh bread and butter to serve

Simply steam the sprouting broccoli- the young and tender kind, not the old woody kind- until it has lost its crunch but has maintained its dignity. Lay on a plate and cover with half an avocado, half a ball of mozzarella, the torn basil leaves, the juice of half a lemon, a generous glug of olive oil, salt and pepper and a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts. Repeat on the other plate and add some fresh bread to mop it up. Then remember the baby and distribute some of the food onto her plate.

Enjoy at the table while you watch people out the window and debate whether all three of you should have an afternoon nap on this overcast and stormy Sunday.

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More Sunny Citrus

Our local farmer’s market is still brimming with citrus fruit and we are still are eating our way through it. Lilias particularly likes mandarins and this is what happens if I leave her unattended for a minute. Or I find her in the dishwasher. Yes, actually inside it.

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Today I don’t have a recipe as such, more an idea for using both the new season asparagus, the beautiful slim, tender shoots that they are, and the last of the winter oranges.

Asparagus Salad

A small bundle of asparagus
Sea salt and olive oil
Half a lemon
1 orange
Half a small fennel bulb
A small handful of black kalamata olives, halved

Break the woody ends off your asparagus and lay it in a roasting dish with a drizzle of olive oil, the juice of half a lemon and a sprinkling of salt. Roast for about 15 minutes at 200°C- this will vary depending on the size of your asparagus. (Also, my oven is a strange and temperamental beast, so I always feel a little nervous giving cooking instructions. New oven in three sleeps!)

When these are done, lay them on a plate with the very thinly sliced half fennel bulb and orange, making sure all the pith is removed. Then give it another drizzle of olive oil, it is worth using good peppery stuff for this, salt and some nice and plump black olives, halved.

I ate mine with some crusty, buttery bread but you could add a piece of fish or some chicken to bulk it out into more of a dinner. Mine was the perfect lunch for one.

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P.S. I have just updated the recipe page in the hope it will make it easier for you to search for recipes and ideas rather than scrolling through all the posts. Let me know what you think.

P.P.S. Turns out I am not a menu planner, I cannot make my brain work that way. More on this later.

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…

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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?

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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

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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.