Are you a Risk Taker?

My four year old grandson has become a risk taker! At school, when they are challenged to do something which is out of their comfort zone, eating something new at lunch for example, they become a Risk Taker!

Just be yourself!

In the summer whilst staying with us in our mountain home he really became a Risk Taker, I did take into account his likes and dislikes, but that did not mean he could avoid eating or doing things out of his comfort zone. He informs me that he does not like melted cheese ( but ate toasted cheese sandwiches), but guess what was for dinner that night? Cheese fondue! Dubious at first, and I would add that it is not on the top of his list of favourite foods, but swishing the bread around in the pot of melted cheese, became a game, who would lose their bit of bread first! The biggest hit of the summer was Shabu Shabu, it is number two favourite, (after fish fingers) the Japanese dish of swishing wafer thin pieces of meat around in simmering water/ broth, adding you own vegetables, was also a game and fun.

Risk Taking, learning to Zip Wire

Risk Taking, horse riding

He can be a Relaxer as well !
And yes a Risk Taker to boot !

The other Risk Taker in my life is Himself, he looks at a menu and tries to find the weirdest thing on it, sometimes just to be different, sometimes to be outrageous. It could be Prairie Oysters, ( Bulls Testicles), Sheep Testicles, Rattlesnake, Smelly Tofu, Chinese 1000 year old pickled eggs and most recently Guanacos ( Wild Llamas type of animal) tartar and Conger eel. In fact there is nothing he will not try. I am mildly more conservative but if it is put in front of me, then I will eat it. Growing up, I was allowed to be fussy, no meat, no fish, no eggs, raw vegetables not cooked, and Chips, oh I was allowed to have them when ever I wanted. It was only when I went off to college that this became a problem ( after all I was going to be a Home Economist, how could I be faddy)? So I too became a Risk Taker, I had no choice.

We arrived in Santiago and ventured forth for dinner in this riot fuelled city. And we were not disappointed, Himself being the real Risk Taker , with Guanacos Steak Tartare followed by conger eel. I took the safer option. Ceviche which had salmon, scallops, octopus, lobster and shrimp. Followed by a Chilean speciality, Nuesto Chupe de Centolla, described as King Crab gratin. It looked more like macaroni cheese, but WOW, it was wonderful and yet another dish to recreate when back in the UK.

The translation tells me that it is an exquisite dish and can be made with chicken. But why have chicken when you can have seafood?

So the recipe for this wonderful dish is as follows, though I hasten to add, that I have yet to make it! But I will !

Ingredients

500 g of crab meat, lobster, shrimp or scallops, or indeed a mixture of all of the above.

240 cc of fish or seafood broth

120 cc of fresh cream

2 cups white bread crumbs soaked in milk

1 thinly chopped onion

6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons oil

2 soup spoons of butter

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon colored chili pepper

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried oregano

Sea salt

Pepper

Method

I would recommend buying cooked lobster or crab, if you have never cooked it before..

3. Detach the meat from the shell, crumble and set aside.

4. In a pan add the oil and heat medium heat, add the colored pepper, chopped garlic, onion and saute until soft, without browning.

5. Add oregano, fish stock and bring to a boil.

6. Add crumbled crab meat, and any other seafood that you choose to use, , bread soaked in milk, grated cheese and butter to the pot, cooking over medium heat, stirring carefully until the mixture thickens. Salt and pepper to taste and incorporate the fresh cream stirring until well mixed.

7. Pre-heat the oven at medium-high temperature, about 190 ° C (374 ° F).

8. Empty the mixture in a baking dish, distribute the rest of the grated cheese on the surface and bake for about 10 minutes until golden brown.

9. Remove from oven and serve hot , maybe with toasted Sourdough!

Days without a Television ( in the driest place on earth)

After 24 hours travelling we arrived in the driest place on earth. San Pedro de Atacama. San Pedro, itself is a bit of an oasis, surrounded by mountainous Desert and volcanos. And some of the volcanoes were puffing up little wisps of smoke!

An active volcano, El Tetio
One of the Geysers at 4,500 meters, part of the third largest Geyser field in the world

If Bumpy roads are not your thing, then it is best to avoid the trek here, most of the roads are extremely bumpy and high , we went up to 4,500 meters, so shortness of breath could also be a problem.

Vicuña grazing
Small herd of Vicuña
Andean Duck ? Looking for breakfast!
A flock of Pink Flamingos, at 4,500 meters there is a bog!

Those facts aside, it is the place to come to see Andean Flamingos, in all their glory, Geysers, spewing and gurgling, Llamas roaming free along with Alpacas, Vicunas and Guanacos, which believe it or not are the parent species of the Llamas. One has to look hard to see other species, including Andean ducks, wild ponies and many endangered animals. A visit to the salt flats, a must as is the Moon Valley, the Rainbow Valley and star gazing. For those more intrepid of you, bike riding ( at high altitude) horseback riding, hiking and even sand surfing.

For our few days here, we have eaten well, out and about our guides have conjured up a veritable feast, whilst waiting for the sun to go down, or a breakfast after travelling up to see the geysers, before the noonday sun drives them away.

The menu in the restaurant was limited, a meat option, a fish option and a vegetarian option, so who could complain? I saw some people not choosing one of these options but eating a salad instead, so something for everyone.

On one night we both chose the King Crab strudel, a bit of a misnomer, but nonetheless very nice and would be oh so simple to replicate in the home kitchen ( note to myself to do this when I am back home). It was in fact a flour tortilla which was stuffed with King Crab and vegetables, rolled and cut into thick slices, served on a shrimp bisque with avocado.

Lobster strudel
Deer Stew
Mahi-mahi served with caramelised onions

I then chose the Mahi-mahi, a fish which whilst living in Texas I never chose, it was usually dry and just not very exciting, this was different, it was grilled and served with caramelised small onions, sundried tomatoes and courgette slices. This changed my mind to eating Mahi-mahi, and will be tempted to eat it again.

What is Mahi-mahi? Mahi-mahi  can be found in the Caribbean Sea, on the west coast of North and South America, the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic coast of Florida and West Africa, South China Sea and Southeast Asia, Hawaii, Tahiti, and many other places worldwide.So in fact a very important food fish, but it has several other names, such as dorado or dolphinfish ( but it is NOT Dolphin).

Himself chose the the deer stew, which had been cooked in Chilean wine.

Another day, rather bizarrely, we both chose the Lobster Tail, served with sriracha butter and asparagus. For the main Himself again chose the meat option which was Ostrich, and apparently it is farmed in Chile, served with sweet potato and walnut ravioli ( another must try at home). Meanwhile I took the Peruvian Fish Stew, it really was like any other fish stew, I would have thought it might have been a bit more spicy, but it was really very enjoyable.

Yummy yummy Lobster Tail
Peruvian Fish Stew
Ostrich with walnut ravioli

On other revelation, was at breakfast , Raspberry Juice, Umm I could easily have that on a daily basis, but with the cost of raspberries, maybe not.

They also served a variation on Bircher Muesli. It contained grated apples, and was served warm, so this another breakfast option at home.

And the Television? Didn’t have time to miss it, as we were just too busy!

This week I’ve been playing with peanut and chocolate!

Who doesn’t Love Reece’s Pieces? Well I guess firstly you have to be American and secondly you have to love dark chocolate and peanut butter.409-85422843-3517_ALT10

I do not have a sweet tooth, but If I am going to eat chocolate, then it has to be dark chocolate, and as for Peanut butter? Once upon a time I resorted to making my own, as the only product available was a sticky goo, laden with sugar, but nowadays pure peanut butter is available and I can eat that straight out of the jar. So for me to the answer to above question is an unreservedly Yes.

I devour recipes as if they were actual food. Over the years I can not count how many I’ve read and yet it never ceases to amaze me, how extremely odd many of them can be.

Take for example one I scanned the other day, 285 grams of chocolate, bars of chocolate tend to be in 100 grams, maybe 125 or even 200 but 285! Where did that come from? Not 250 but 285! 285 is 10.08 ounces in old money, 10.08! Bonkers is all I can say. Or how about 180 grams, becomes 6.34 oz, it is also fine I guess, if you have a digital scale but seriously?

I have a good friend who is new to cooking and if the recipe calls for a 7″ tin and she has an 8″ and a 6″ , she would go out and buy a 7″ ( actually not sure that it exists) but it really doesn’t matter that much.

Yes, measurements do matter, especially in baking cakes and bread etc but in somethings it really is a bit of this and a bit of this, and a lot of trial and error.

I also find that many recipes in magazines are too long winded, and as such put off lesser cooks as being just too complicate to even attempt. And so I try hard to condense my recipes into easy steps, and am very much for, shortcuts wherever and whenever possible.

And so it was that this week, I made an indulgent Chocolate Peanut Butter tart. The younger version of Himself, Helen and baby Melia were coming for dinner, and so felt inspired. ( I also made ginger ice cream to go with the tart, but that is for another day).

For the tart, use your favourite pastry recipe , or buy some. Roll out the pastry line a tart pan, which has been greased with the pastry, either roll it our before hand( this is what I would do) but some people just place it in the pan and flatten it out with the palm of their hand to fit the tin. Prick the bottom, to stop from rising up and bake blind for about 15 mins at 200C, it should be firm and not soggy, if a bit soggy bake for a further few minutes.

For the filling take 250 grams dark chocolate ( 70% plus) place it in a pan along with 500mls double or thick cream. Add a tablespoon of honey and and a good dollop of peanut butter, either crunchy or smooth, and heat them all together, stir until well blended, but do not let them boil. Stir well to make sure it is a homogenous mix. Leave to cool ( at room temperature) and when cool pour into the pastry case. Do not refrigerate.

Just before serving , sprinkle on the top, either chopped peanuts, or as I did, ( as I had it in the pantry) some toasted coconut bits. IMG_0560

I then served it with fresh ginger ice cream. Even Baby Melia liked it, ( actually she is now 2 1/2 and calls herself Mimi)IMG_0545

And now we are two ( Volumes that is) and more to come !

This week, we’ve been eating, a Five course Tasting Menu.

This week saw another memorable date in the London Folly household, a wedding Anniversary, not really a significant one, but as in birthdays, everyone is significant.

Presents are taboo, but treats are allowed, so I got the treat in first and there was nothing Himself he could do, but accept it.

Willowy brunette had been recommended a restaurant called Wild Honey, which rang a bell to me. The now defunct ( a pity methinks) Ladies Who Lunch lunch group, had eaten there a few years ago, but then it seemed to disappear. Yes indeed it had, but now it is back, in a new location. Wild Honey had been in Marylebone, London for about 12 years and now it is in the Sofitel, St. James, and is beautiful .

It is run by Anthony Demetre who held a Michelin star for his Putney Bridge restaurant. He then realised his dream of running his own restaurant, and launched Arbutus in Soho in 2006, followed by Wild Honey in Mayfair in 2007 which closed in early 2019. In October 2018, Anthony launched Vermuteria, a café and bar in the new Coal Drops Yard development in King’s Cross.

Coal Drops Yard has been on my list of places to go, it is literally down the road from me, but have yet to visit. Coal Drops Yard. Once the marshalling yards of the industrial revolution, these Victorian brick viaducts have served as film sets, been home to counter-culture artists, and for a decade, hosted some of London’s biggest rave parties. But now, and with inspiration by Thomas Heatherwick ( creator of the London Olympic Flame and the new London Bus) two of these Victorian  buildings have been joined together, with an amazing roof and now the whole are is either for shopping or eating. So now obviously I need to try out Vermuteria.

But back to Wild Honey, I receive dining offers frequently and this one popped up in my IN box and I thought “Why Not? Consequently I booked and paid for, in advance for 4 people ( we went with friends) and we were not at all disappointed. At the time I was unaware of the Remy Martin connection, but I don’t think we complained. ( some wine pairings were also served)

 

We started out with a Remy Martin cocktail followed by

Roast heritage beetroot, black pudding, cured wild boar cheek, green sauceIMG_2849
Grilled Seabass, salsify, autumn mushrooms, merlot vinegarIMG_2850
 Fallow venison Wellington, caramelised celeriac puree, Armagnac and pear and KaleIMG_2851 2
Dessert 1 was a type of Rum baba, with Wild Honey ice creamIMG_2852
And finally another slug of divine brandy and an even more divine chocolate morsel.IMG_2853
Will we go back, I am sure we will, looking at their online menus, very affordable and lots of choice.

Yet Another Birthday Dinner!

Last month, Himself had yet another birthday! Well better than the alternative is what I say! #2 daughter the willowy brunette asked, if it were a significant birthday, my reply was you are only ?  ( thats a secret, but you may guess!) So yes! But of course you only have a first birthday once, or twenty first, or even a hundredth birthday just once!IMG_2415

Having had the first of his birthday dinners , in Northern France, this time it was with kids and spouses in London. Having been completely underwhelmed by our Michelin star experience, I decided to try a different track, but booked equally a long time ahead.

Back in the Spring, well Valentines day to be precise, himself discovered a small restaurant in Marylebone, London called Roganic. And although this restaurant is fairly new, it started out life as a Pop up, and four years it was re-incarnated into a full blown proper restaurant. It is the brain child of Simon Rogan and his first restaurants are in the village of Carmel in the Lake District, L’Enclume, plus a farm, plus a shop, plus Aulis, his development kitchen. Now in London there is Roganic, and another Aulis, and likewise in Hong Kong. As of this October there is another restaurant , again in the Lake District, Lake windermere, called  Henrock. ( my only fear is that he will run out of steam and some will close ( as in the case of Jean Christophe Novelli or of a lesser chef, Jamie Oliver).

So back to Roganic, Marylebone, on the back of our February visit, I researched Aulis and found that it was in Soho and held just 8 people. it is possible to book just for one, or as I did I booked the whole 8, and I booked it in March just to be sure.

It is very much an experience, two chefs create in front of you and they are very creative, and such nice young men to boot. I had informed them ahead of time that my daughter in law, the lovely Helen was pregnant and as such was not drinking alcohol, nor eating un- pasteurised milk or cheese and no shell fish.

Upon arriving, down a tiny street , in Soho, we actually wondered if we had come to the correct place. In fact it reminded me of an old song  Green Door. Whats that secret you are hiding behind the green Door?, Well it wasn’t a green door, I think it was black, could be wrong, but the street, or more of an alleyway is very non-descript and the kitchen has white out windows, next door to a tanning salon. Willowy Blond and husband arrived first and did begin to wonder. But all was well.

The chefs were a delight, and had taken on board my requirements, and so when we had bubbles, Helen also had bubbles but the non alcoholic kind, likewise with white wine, and likewise with red wine. To be honest with you, the menu gives Nothing away, so be prepared to sit back, watch, eat and enjoy.IMG_2805See if you can follow the menu and match them up with the dishes served.

 

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What to have for breakfast?

Having just returned from another wonderful trip to Greece ( yes Greece) for a week of golf, I pondered on what to have for breakfast. Himself was dispatched to the local convenience store ( all of two minutes walk away) to buy milk and he returned with the paper ( Sunday crossword time) and some berries.

Whilst he was gone, I surveyed the refrigerator, freezer, pantry and cupboards. I found porridge oats, cream, nuts, apples and honey.

Bircher Muesli sprang to mind.

Many years ago, I used to make this on a regular basis, but somehow it fell out of fashion ( with me at least) , but we ate it for breakfast in Greece and now it was time to revive it in W1.

Personally, I hate buffets, the constant flow of people wandering, surveying, munching whilst trying to decide what to eat and then overloading their plates, their eyes too big for their stomachs. However, I have to acknowledge that for breakfast at least it works. Here at the beautiful Weston Resort in Costa Navarino ( now owned by Marriott) the buffet is very much Not American in style. Lots of different breads, yoghurts, pastries both French and Greek, fruit, cold meats, cheese and fish as well as cooked foods and of course freshly made omelettes, or poached eggs to order, And fresh Bircher Muesli, along with an assortment of nuts and dried fruits. Bircher Muesli was developed by a Swiss Doctor, Maximillian Bircher-Brenner for his patients and is a popular breakfast  German speaking countries.IMG_2770

Therefore, daily I had the Bircher Muesli topped with nuts and dried fruit.

Hence, my decision to make it this morning, when basically the cupboard was bare ( well, kind of).

  • 2 cups/150g oats ( I like chunky oats)
  • 1¾ cups/420ml boiling water
  • 1 tablespoons lemon juice ( to stop the apple from going brown )
  • 1 apple, cored and grated without the peel
  • 1-2 tablespoons honey
  • 1½ cups/375g plain yogurt / cream
  • A dash of cinnamon (optional)
  • Toppings : your favourite fresh and/or dried fruit, nuts, toasted coconut, etc.
  • My favourites: blueberries, strawberries, raisins, chopped walnuts or pecans

To make, very simply pour the boiling water over the oats and leave to soak for maybe just 10 minutes. Meanwhile prepare the apple, and sprinkle over the lemon juice. Add the honey, along with the yogurt or cream and basically you are done.

Can be made by soaking overnight and finishing in the morning but I prefer this quick method. Of course it is way too easy to make too much, and it will thicken a lot if left for a day, but can be easily diluted by doing some milk. Serve topped with nuts and berries, mango, bananas, raisins , peaches or nectarines.

Although the weather was a bit iffy at times, the sunsets were beautiful and to be found on the golf course, Olive trees in abundance as well as Quince and Pomegranate.

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