Week Six, Day Four

54c25468-36fd-4a7a-9051-62643551ad34The other day, I told my lovely neighbour, that I would make some Dairy free soup, but I lied !!. I did not start out that way, I had full intentions of  doing exactly that but was thwarted, by ??

As Lockdown was announced, everyone was panic buying, Loo rolls? no, not me, I was more concerned about being able to get more basic items, like milk. Had I known or realised ( and I am sure that many people will be saying the same) that many shops, would remain open, then I would NEVER HAVE ORDERED from HOLLAND and Barrett. I ordered on March 25th odds and sods, nuts ( for cake making, granola making etc) and although they did not have Long Life milk, I noted that they had alternatives, such as Pea Milk. What could be wrong with that , I thought. Delivery was scheduled of April 2nd and here we are April 30th and only some of this order has arrived. AND despite several attempts to cancel, they have all been ignored.

Which brings me onto Pea Milk, which is one of the things that has been delivered. Perfect for making my soup, or so I thought.

My soup was going to be a white vegetable soup, so again this was seriously a bit of this and that. I took

  • 3 leeks, chopped
  • 4 potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 4 sticks celery chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 1 litre of pea milk

That was for starters, I forgot to add the cauliflower. Sautéed  the onion and the garlic, added the other vegetables, sautéed a bit more , poured in the stock, brought to th eboil, simmered until vegetables were soft. Gave them a blitz with my hand held blender stick. Returned it to the stove and then poured in the Pea Milk. Shock, Horror, it looked disgusting!, now I know what Almond Milk looks like, oat milk and Soya milk, but Pea Milk bears absolutely no comparison what so ever, it actually looks like a mug of weak tea gone cold!. Too Late, I had poured it in. Tasted, not too bad, but the colour!! and so this is where the dairy free episode ended.IMG_5432

Out came

  • 600 mls double cream
  • 2 tbsps corn flour
  • 1 good squirt of harissa paste
  • salt and pepper.

I mixed the cornflour with some of the cream and a little water to make it pour more easily, then added all to the stock pot. RESULT, the soup now looked good and tasted good as well.

The verdict from himself, “Umm interesting taste, but what is the underlying taste, BUT this is one of the best soups you have ever made !” ( and I do make soups, often)IMG_5434

So maybe not so bad after all. I served it with a little of the Walnut Pesto, frozen after the parsnip soup, of week one or two.

And we had a surprise, Willowy brunette had also been baking and dropped off ( doorstep delivery) a Poppy seed cake and some lemon/almond cakes! Umm!! Thanks Sophie !b8da971b-7714-4335-ad5d-8dbae3544e6a


AND the Bottom line is DO NOT BUY online from HOLLAND AND BARRETT

Week Six, Day Three

Today, it’s raining, therefore it must be Tuesday, ( Tuesday is golf and often rains on a Tuesday) , however we have had the driest April on record , warm sunny days, but here on the top floor, usually windy. However, I don’t mind a bit of rain, it encouraged me to get back into the kitchen.

The defrosted crab meat had to be used. Put aside the idea for Sunday and today it became Crab Cakes. I LOVE Crab cakes, not so easily made here as on the Texas Golf Coast or in Maryland. Maryland crab cakes are famous and made with lump Crab meat. Here I buy Crab meat in a tub from Costco. It is a long life tub, I say Long Life, maybe a couple of weeks, but I nearly always freeze the tub, as I buy it when in Costco, not necessarily because at that point I want to make Crab cakes.

Having defrosted the crab on Sunday, today I gathered together the necessary food items.

My recipe guide for crab cakes comes from Brennan’s, a New Orleans institution for 73 years, and in Houston for 43 as well. With modifications here is my version


  1. +/-500 grams crab meat
  2. Half a finely chopped red or green pepper
  3. 1 onion chopped finely
  4. 4 sticks of celery finely chopped
  5. 2-3″ of fresh ginger peeled and chopped
  6. 4 cloves garlic chopped
  7. Small bunch coriander chopped
  8. 2 eggs beaten
  9. Salt to taste
  10. Polenta, or cornmeal as needed
  11. 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Heat some oil in a pan.
  • Chop everything , and mix well together with the beaten egg. Form into cakes, I do so by using a largish pastry cutter and fill it to the brim. Then holding my hand over the bottom so it doesn’t fall out, press or scatter some polenta over the top side, carefully turn over and do the same to the bottom.
  • Carefully place the crab cake in the hot oil and repeat with the rest of the crab. Cook on a medium heat until the bottom side is crispy and then carefully flip over and cook the other side. If the cake falls apart when putting in the pan, put the pastry cutter over the cake and press back into shape.
  • Serve warm preferably with some salad and maybe a red pepper mayonnaise.
  • You can cheat with this or be good and make your own Mayo, but the cheats method is, roast or grill a red pepper, and then purée it in a blender and mix with some mayonnaise, along with a crushed clove of garlic and a dash of Hot sauce such as Sriracha or Tabasco. I have other hot sauces from India and Mexico, many more can be found in either the Indian super market in Hayes or the wonderful Hoo Hing at Hanger Lane. Remember many or rather most of these have a shelf life longer than the best before date.
  • Week Six, Day One

    Today, after the obligatory walk through a deserted Mayfair, shops shut, some of them never to return, or so it would seem, stripped of all and sundry whilst others still want you to enter, one day. Other empty premises have signs of things to come, opening May 2020, maybe, just maybe!

    Finished our third major jigsaw, a pity 7 pieces are missing, we await the arrival of the next.

    Meanwhile I went baking, well baking is a bit of exaggeration, I made one thing, a Zucchini, chocolate nut bread. It said bread but more like a cake. I do like the word Zucchini, lots of Americanisms, I don’t, Egg Plant instead of Aubergine, No, No, Gotten and not got, Bangs for a fringe, I’m fixing to do something? A biscuit, more like a scone, cilantro, or coriander I could go on! But I do like the word Zucchini. So I made a Zucchini cake/ bread, and size wise it is pretty impressive. The one consolation is that there is enough to give some away and some to slice and freeze and some to just keep for Himself!

    1. 325 grams self raising flour plus 1 tbsp baking powder
    2. 1 tsp cinnamon
    3. Pinch salt
    4. 2 eggs
    5. 2 medium sized courgettes grated
    6. 8 fl oz / 235 mls vegetable oil
    7. 2 tsp liquid vanilla, or some vanilla powder ( can be omitted),
    8. 125 grams chopped nuts ( optional)
    9. 75 + 25 grams dark chocolate or chocolate chips

    Heat the oven to 175 C, grease a loaf pan. Put the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix . Add the zucchini and mix in, either by hand or with an electric whisk, then the 75 grams chocolate and the nuts. Then with the whisk running pour in the egg/ oil mix and mix well. Pour into the lair pan and bake for about one hour. Test by inserting a skewer or toothpick into the centre, it it comes out clean, it is ready. Remove from oven , leave to cool for about 10 minutes, before tipping out onto a cooling rack.

    Melt the remainder of the chocolate along with a knob of butter and a teaspoon of sugar, pour/ scatter / smear over the top of the bread when it is cool!

    Week Five, Day Seven

    IMG_5392Today I spent a lot of time gardening ! But you don’t have a garden I hear you cry. You are correct, but I do have a large terrace, which gets sorted basically two times a year. With garden centres being closed there was a dilemma, what was I going to do?

    Along with Covent Garden merchants delivering Fruit and Vegetables ( and eggs and milk and cheese and biscuits), many fish merchants and fishermen ( including the one I use ISH FISH), small restaurants as well as some chains there is an absolute plethora of enterprising individuals out there who are determined that their businesses will not go bust during this quarantine. I came across one such company “Love Gardeng Direct or Smartplantapp, ( I think they are the same but not 100% sure on that) . Anyway, currently they have saved 20,000 plants from being ditched and 10% of each sale goes to the NHS, so it is very much a win win. Hence the reason I was doing gardening. By the way, my plants arrived in a great box, packaged so as not to damage them and all were in perfect condition.

    The other reason I was in the garden was, it was HIS day to do the cooking. He had grand plans, “Do we have Squid”? “NO”, OK, do we have Skate Wings”? NO, “OK do we have Scallops”?, NO again, OK, Do we have Mussels, I really fancy Mussels,”? once again, No was the answer. Normally he would have trotted down the road to Selfridges Food Hall and bought either Oysters or Mussels, but it is CLOSED ! Next question,” Fish, what do we have in the way of fish”?, Well. said, I, Salmon, Cod, Haddock, Halibut, Mackerel, Sea Bass,  Tilapia, Large Shrimp, some frozen Oysters, one Dover Sole and some Crab meat! Not a bad choice really. So He settled on Salmon ( again) and then wondered what he was going to do with it.

    Very simply, it could be either baked or pan fried with the most important part being the sauce. Over Breakfast this morning we reflected on the fish, which was delicious ( if you like fish) but Himself was marginally disappointed  that the sauce had not penetrated the fish and so it was concluded that another time, the fish would be firstly marinated in the sauce and then either baked or fried in the sauce, either way would work

    For the sauce

    • 2 Tbsp Rice Vinegar
    • grated zest and juice of 2 limes
    • 4 tbsp olive oil, plus 1 of sesame oil ( use all olive oil if you do not have sesame)
    • 2 tbsp soya sauce
    • 1 tsp of honey
    • 2 seeded and chopped red chillies ( more if you want it more spicy)
    • chopped coriander some in the sauce and some to serve

    Simply place the fish in a dish and leave to soak up the sauce for an hour or so, ( in the refrigerator),  the fish  takes about 15-20 minutes, depending on size, we had a filet that weighed 700 grms, to cook, again either in the oven or pan. Baste with the sauce whilst cooking. When ready serve with your vegetable of choice ( we used asparagus) with  the remaining sauce poured over.IMG_5393

    Week Five, Day Six

    Today was our virtual Travel day and strangely enough the participants decided to stay in the UK. Willowy Blond and family had a STAYCATION,  whilst we decamped to the 100 AKKER WOOD> No it is not a spelling mistake, that is how Pooh Bear spells it just as he spells honey HUNNY.d7ba5d95-5b79-40ed-af45-3a4a93206b75

    So what do you have to eat on a Staycation, well Fish and Chips ( I should have been on the Staycation as it is my all time favourite) whilst in the 100 Akker Wood, all we had was Hunny Sandwiches, which makes a change from Jam Butties I guess.

    Himself really like Mackerel, ( me not so much, along with smoked haddock, shark and sword fish). I remember eating it in a restaurant in Berlin a life time ago, didn’t like it then and don’t like it now ! BUT I cook these thing for himself whilst I can have things I really like, such as Shrimp and avocados.

    Consequently the other day, I cooked Mackerel, fresh out of the freezer, quickly defrosted and equally quickly cooked.

    • 2 mackerel filets, with the skin on
    • 2 tbsp flour plus 1 tsp of any of the following, paprika, harissa, chilli powder
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • a clove of garlic if desired
    • juice and zest of a small orange
    • 1-2 tsp harissa paste ( adds spice and flavour but don’t worry too much if you don’t have it, Sriracha can also be used.
    • 50 grms of toasted pine nuts ( if you have them or try toasted almond flakes)
    • small bunch of coriander

    Whisk together 1 tbsp of the oil, the juice and the zest, and the harissa paste in a bowl IMG_1314

    Heat the rest of the oil in a frying pan.

    Roll the fish in the flour mixture, and fry the fish skin side down for about 6 minutes, quickly flip over just for a brief moment.

    Pour over the sauce, bring to the boil and let the liquid become sticky. Serve with the nuts and coriander as garnish. See I said it was quick and easy and of course this sauce may be used on other fish or even chicken.IMG_5267

    And what did we wear in the 100 AKKER Wood ( see Below) and as for the Staycationers, well they seemed to have showers but did not deter the youngest from swimming ! ( and note the busy buzzing bees in the 100 AKKER Wood!IMG_5376


    Week Five, Day Five ( for real)

    Flower Fairy came by today !

    Lost count yesterday, it happens when they all blur into one, but now I am back on track.

    I did some baking, well not some just one, I made a cake. Himself has been sadly lacking in cake this week, so it was time for me to act.

    I made a chocolate cake. I have made this cake and an alternative to this one for years. It was always the “Turn To” cake for birthdays and celebrations, so much so that I made it for both eldest daughters wedding and for my sons.

    This particular version is made using ground almonds, very simple to make and very simple to decorate.

    For 20cm spring form pan you will need, and oven temperature of 150 C

    • 200 grms ( 8 oz) bitter chocolate
    • 175 grms ( 6oz) of each, butter ( unsalted), caster sugar and ground almonds
    • 6 eggs, separated
    • a slug of rum, brandy or whisky. ( about 2 tablespoons)
    1. Put the chocolate, broken into bits, along with the sugar and butter into a bowl and Microwave on high at two minute intervals, stirring in-between, should take maybe 4 mins.
    2.  add the ground almonds
    3. beat the egg whites until very stiff
    4. add the yolks to the chocolate and the carefully add the whites
    5. grease a spring form pan and pour in the mixture

    Put on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for approx. 45 mins. Check, and make sure that the top is really form when pressed.

    Remove and leave to cool somewhat before tipping out ( carefully ) onto a cooling tray.

    When totally cool, put on a plate and make a glaze by melting again in the microwave on high but at one minuet intervals 100 grms bitter chocolate with tablespoon of sugar and 1 oz butter . Take a look and a quick stir, as very often the chocolate will look not melted.

    Stir well and pour over the top of the cake and let it run down the sides.IMG_5363

    Take a look at the wedding cakes, a lot of chocolate and eggs were used !!!


    Week 5, Day Five ( I’m losing count here !)

    Even the giraffes at London Zoo, support the NHS

    Another glorious day, here in paradise , And absolute Sods Law, that ever since we have been in Lockdown the sun has shone! And it has been the warmest and driest April, since records began! Is there a history lesson here, I wonder?

    Today, was FISH FROM ISH DAY, yes I had another delivery from Ish for Fish and service in amazing. This is coming from someone who as a kid would help her brother tend his lines , collect the fish, skin and gut them and more recently being an absolute devotee of Billingsgate Fish market.

    Having read how, amongst others the fish industry was really hurting, because, to whom do they sell most fish , restaurants of course. And where are the restaurants? Shut! Consequently many of the fish companies have gone high tech, online ordering, with prompt delivery, in ice , and vacuum packed, ready to be frozen! What’s, not to like? Nothing!

    From the Gardeners, whose plants are going to die, to the fishermen, to the greengrocers of Covent Garden, to the Bakers, they are all offering a wonderful service. ( maybe I will scrub Holland and Barret from that list, groceries ordered on March 25 , I’m still waiting )

    So, having said that fish arrived, the next dilemma was, what to do with it, scanning my numerous ebooks and websites I decided on one thing for starters, Smoked Haddock Soufflé. Himself really likes smoked haddock ( me, not so much) and I usually just poach it and serve on a bed of spinach with a poached egg or two on top. A quick and easy dinner for when time is short.

    But, today I made the Smoked Haddock Soufflé, simplicity itself, and I won’t bore you with all the details, but in week 4; Day 2 I made a cheese soufflé, so this is exactly the same , except with just a small amount of cheese and poached smoked haddock. Quantities remain the same ( except for the cheese, 3 tbs of parmesan that’s all ) and a level tablespoon of Dijon Mustard.

    Simply poach the fish ( a smallish filet) in either milk or water for 5 minutes , remove from pan, and remove the skin,and flake the fish. Make the soufflé as per the previous instructions and add the fish. Bake at 180 C for about 45 mins and serve with a salad !

    Week Five, Day Three

    Today I have another cauliflower, actually two, so after spraying with food safe disinfectant and rinsing and drying ( all this social distancing, cleaning, spraying is getting to me, it takes too long !) I cut the cauliflower into florets bagged it and stuffed most of it into the refrigerator. I have a couple of ideas up my sleeve for the rest of it, but for some of it, a simple cauliflower cheese. Well maybe not that simple, but there is ham in the refrigerator crying out ” My Turn, Use Me’!

    And so Cauliflower and Ham gratin was born. Luckily for me Himself likes it very much, Gourmet food, Strange and Wonderful food, Simple food and even the Bizarre, he likes it all, the perfect mate for me to  cook for, especially as most of time I don’t eat what I am cooking !!

    I am sure that everyone knows how to make a basic white/cheese sauce, however, I am all for making things super easy and with as little fuss and as few dirty dishes to clean up as possible. Hence I make my sauces in the Microwave, it is fast and easy to clean up.

    For a basic sauce ( just in case you don’t know)

    1. 15 grams (1oz) Butter
    2. 15gms ( 1oz ) cornflour , note I use cornflour and not flour
    3. 250 mls (1 1/4 us) Cups milk/ mixed or not with cream other milk substitutes can be used
    4. +/-50 grams grated cheese ( I use Emmental or Gruyère , but cheddar is fine)
    5. Pinch salt
    6. Pinch of English mustard powder.
  • Put the everything ( except the cheese) into a microwave safe bowl or wide neck jug and microwave on hig for two minutes. Remove and stir, repeat this until the sauce is thick. If by any chance it goes a bit lumpy simply whisk it, and it will be fine. Add the cheese and stir well.
  • And of course to make a white sauce,omit the cheese and mustard. To make more of this as the quantity is fairly small, simply multiply the amounts. For a cheese sauce for the cauliflower double is what I do. I nearly always add some cream ( especially as it is beginning to go off !) and of course salt and pepper to taste.
  • Then very simply cook your cauliflower ( again I use the microwave, more energy efficient and no nutrients are lost in ) boiling, put the cauliflower into your serving dish along with the hame, pour over the sauce, a quick stir and Bobs Your Uncle !
  • I subscribe to several foodie websites, some of them American and quite bizarrely this popped up yesterday, I was intrigued, I think my version sounds much nicer and more sophisticated !
  • This dump-and-stir casserole recipe could not be easier. Fresh thyme and smoked paprika give the cauliflower an nice flavour without the cream ! In a large bowl, combine the cauliflower, sour cream, half the cheese, paprika, thyme, salt and red pepper. Transfer the mixture to the prepared dish and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. Bake for 30 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the top is lightly browned. Serve immediately.

    So no sauce just the CREAM !

    Week Five, Day Two? or Day Three?



    A friend said the other day, that her Mum always said, Waste Not Want No, as did my mother, and Jean is of the same Ilk, as she used up her squidgy tomatoes. I am very much of the same mind, it amazes me that in the UK 65% of adults say they throw food away, and to the tune of £9.5 BILLION each year. I grew up in a time of relative austerity, so if it looked good and smelt good, then it was probably still good.

    Consequently, I made beetroot and orange soup yesterday, I have made it previously a completely made up recipe, but then aren’t all recipes made up, somewhere, sometime, somehow.

    I bought from Marks and Spencer, a while ago a tub of their beetroot and orange soup,  to see what it was like and it was OK,  hence why I have made it on more than one occasion. Easy to make. Have also made beetroot and horseradish, which is equally lovely, the colour itself is very pleasing and also Beetroot and Horseradish Ice Cream to serve as a starter. Umm, it is really very nice. We first had this in Mexico, in a town called, San Miguel d”Allende. We were there for Easter 5 years ago with # daughter and family and baby Sam. A really lovely town, where we found this restaurant called ( funnily enough ) Restaurant, we liked it so much that we went there twice. And it was here that they served Beetroot and Horseradish Ice cream.

    SO Beetroot Soup, and yes the ingredients needed using, the beetroot, been sitting in the refrigerator for a while and the oranges no looking great and the cream was going off as was the yoghurt.

    This is all very much hit and miss, I used a

    • packet of the precooked beetroot, ( 4 small ones),
    • 4 clementines which I boiled/simmered for an hour or so for the them to become soft
    • 500 mls vegetable stock
    • a clove garlic chopped
    • a small onion chopped
    • a smallish lump ginger, peeled and chopped,
    • 500 mls of any of the following or any of them combined to make up the quantity, cream, sour cream, plain unsweetened yoghurt, milk, skimmed, semi skimmed , full fat.
    • a tablespoon sugar
    • salt and pepper to taste.

    Simply heat the stock add the onion, garlic and ginger and let them cook. Into a blender put the cooked clementines, Skin and all ( hopefully there are no pips) along with the beetroot, Carefully add the stock etc and give it a whizz. Return to saucepan, add the dairy of your choice ( also of course Oat Milk, Soy Milk, Almond Milk, all will work), Mix well and honestly that is that.

    If you fancy trying out the Ice cream then go to https://oystersandchampagne.net/2018/10/13/amalfi-lemon-tart-and-beetroot-ice-cream

    IMG_1350and there you will find my recipe.

    Week Five, Day Two.

    Is it day two or is it day one, to be honest I’ve lost count, they do more or less blur into one !

    All I know is, today was Sunday and Sunday is our cocktail day with the neighbours. All of us on our part of the top floor have inwards facing terraces, so we can stand on our own terrace, be much much more than 2 meters apart, have a drink, discuss what is going on and behave almost normally.IMG_5091

    Today is also Story day for the three eldest grandchildren, and as Himself creates the story, it can be fairly time consuming, especially as after the last one Miss Tess declares that it was NOT his best !

    For me, I pottered in the kitchen, made some more granola ( for me) made a crumble ( for him ) Mango, Rhubarb and Apple, using up stuff from the freezer, which also included the crumble topping, as usually when I make the topping, I make double, pre bake it and then freeze, what I do not use. I also made beetroot and orange soup, using up the pre-cooked packet of beetroot, that has been sitting in the refrigerator just crying out to be used, along with some pesky clementines, that were either destined to be cake or soup, and some sour cream, which also needed using .

    For tonight’s dinner, we are going to have Rack of Lamb, which is sitting in the Sous Vide pot, along with some asparagus and some Gnocchi.

    This Gnocchi recipe I love, and make it all the time.

    The recipe for the gnocchi comes courtesy of Pied a Terre which has held a Michelin star for over 27 years. It is very walkable from here ( normally that is) and had some baby off shoots for a while, but were on short leases so sadly no longer.

    These Gnocchi are kind of time consuming but not really and once done, can be frozen for future use, flat freeze them, then pop into a bag and then always have some special carbohydrate to serve with dinner.

    •  3 or 4  large baking potatoes which have been cooked either boiled or baked or cooked as I do in the microwave.
    • about 125/ 150 grms flour
    • about 125/150 grms grated parmesan but you can use also something like emmental
    • 2 whole eggs beaten
    •  some saltIMG_5310
    1. Mash the potatoes, I use a RICER as this is perfect for a fine creamy mashed potato. Mix with the flour, eggs and cheese
    2. lay a sheet of cling film on the counter top and make a sausage of the potato, about 6-8″ long and about the thickness of a fat sausage
    3. Roll up tightly in the cling film and tie with string at the ends. Repeat with all of the mixture
    4. Boil the “Sausages in boiling water for about 15 minutes, , remove , drain and leave to cool. At this point when cool you can refrigerate until ready for the next step.
    5. Remove film and cut the sausages into slices about  3/4 inch thick.
    6. Have a dish with some flour in , lightly dip the potato slices in the flour and fry in melted butter or oil until golden, drain in kitchen paper, and either serve at once or as I say cool and freeze.
    7. At Pied a Terre they were served with a tomato fondue and a shaving of parmesan cheese as a first course.

      If you find that you love them, then make a whole bunch at once and freeze for future use.