Rhubarb, Rhubarb, Rhubarb

A busy week in our Lockdown Tower. Not sure doing what, but busy nonetheless, a walk here, a walk there, cooking here and there, story time for a three year old, reading and story time for a five year old, sorting stuff, here, there and everywhere.

Whilst himself did some cooking ( a spicy Peruvian Stew) and of course another Lockdown series of bedtime stories for the Finchley Three. He takes it very seriously especially when after edition 1 #2, he was told it was Not His Best! So hours are spent each week, creating another new story.

We also had a mini Burns Night, complete with Haggis ( which I have to say tastes better drenched in Whiskey) and a piper zoomed in from Brussels.

I had a surplus of rhubarb. Himself LOVES rhubarb and I guess I went over the top, when I ordered from Watts Farm. So it had to be used. Normally I am never more creative than a rhubarb crumble. I have made a rhubarb sauce to go with fish but the ‘Go to recipe’ is the crumble.

Therefore some out of the box thinking was required and I came up with two alternatives. Rhubarb Crumble Ice Cream and Rhubarb Clafoutis.

I first came across Clafoutis when we lived in Texas and had a Belgian Au Pair. She came complete with a cookery book created by her parents and Clafoutis has been in my repertoire ever since.

It is a baked French dessert of fruit, traditionally made with cherries, or other red summer fruits, arranged in a buttered dish and covered with a thick flan-like batter. It is then dusted with powdered sugar and served lukewarm, sometimes with cream. There are , of course, many variations of a recipe but here is one. It makes 6-8 servings

  • 4 eggs
  • 100 grms sugar
  • 250 mls cream
  • 50 grms plain flour
  • 200 grms plain full fat cream cheese
  • 500 grms cooked rhubarb

Heat the oven to 200C fan or 220 C non fan oven.

Whisk together the eggs, sugar, cream, cream cheese and flour.

Put the cooked rhubarb ( drain off most of the juice) into the bottom of a dish, I used a soufflé dish because of the depth. Pour on the batter and bake for +/- 35 minutes. It will rise up like a soufflé and be golden brown.

It will fall upon cooling, but serve warm with cream or crème fraiche.

Left overs? Seriously, well in that case, it can be eaten cold, or a quick zap in the microwave just to make it warm.

Rhubarb Crumble Ice Cream, is DELICIOUS, especially if you are a rhubarb crumble fan ( I am not) but both the look and taste of it, is almost like custard and cream.

Make your basic crumble mix

  • 100 grms plain four
  • 3 Oz cold butter cut into chunks
  • 3oz sugar

I put the flour into the food processor along with the sugar and with the motor running drop in the butter and process just for a few seconds until the bumping of the butter stops.

Spread the crumble mix on a baking tray and bake at 200/220 ( fan/non fan) for about 10-15 minutes until golden and cooked.

I usually add, chopped nuts and / or ground almonds to my crumble mix as well.

Put to one side to cool

Drain the cooked rhubarb and again in the food processor , process into a purée.

For the basic ice cream mix

  • 500 mls double cream
  • 50 mls full fat plain yoghurt
  • 100 grms caster sugar
  • 3 eggs

Put the eggs into a food processor along with the sugar, whisk for a minute, then pour in the yoghurt and the cream. Process for a couple of minutes. Pour into a jug, and stir in the rhubarb.

Freeze either just in a container, stirring a couple of times,adding the crumble, when it starts to thicken. Likewise, if using an ice cream machine, only add the crumble mix, when you transfer the ice cream mix to the freezer.

Is this Week Three?

This week has seen me doing some online reading with young Sam, which is a joy for me ( even if not for him). Food wise, we had Peking Duck, well almost, I had a duck in the freezer, taking up too much room, so for time for it to go, so on Sunday it was duck roasted with Honey and ginger and then on Monday, the rest of the duck went into Chinese pancakes.

Chinese pancakes are actually very easy to make, and today without having to go grocery shopping all you need is flour and water! Couldn’t be easier. Of course you do need some vegetables, like spring onions,celery, carrots and maybe something like spinach, Chinese cabbage or even baby gem lettuce.

To make 12 pancakes you will need:-

  • 11/2 Cups ( 6 oz, 175 grms) plain flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2/3 Cup (160 mls) boiling water
  • 1 tsp oil ( I used olive oil)

Put the flour and salt into a heatproof bowl and pour in the boiling water, mix with chops or a fork or spatula until the dough forms a ball. When it is cool enough to handle, knead the dough for several minutes until smooth, adding some flour if it is too sticky. Put into a plastic bag until ready to use.

Roll out the sought into a sausage and cut into 12 pieces. Knead each onto a ball and flatten out with the palm of your hand, and roll out into a disc, until about 6 inches in diameter, you might need to flour your surface to stop them sticking.

Heat a frying pan, or pancake pan over medium heat possibly with a smudging of oil and put in a pancake for about 40 seconds, flip over, there should be just a few flecks of brown, but basically white. Keep warm and damp in between a damp tea towel.

Serve with julienned cucumber, green onions, celery, carrots and lettuce. Serve also with hoisin sauce ( shop bought) and of course the cooked pulled duck or pork ( I guess you could also do the same with chicken) which is warm ( I just warmed ours up in the microwave).

Have fun and enjoy!

All is Forgiven

Friday and Saturday, turned out to be His turn! I say Turn and not TURNS, as he started his meal on the Friday so that it could be finished on the Saturday. And I have to say it was well worth the wait!

He produced NOUM BUNCHJOP, this a dish from Cambodia, where we enjoyed a visit two years ago. Two Years, doesn’t seem possible, but it has to be as we have been shut up for most of last year. We really enjoy Asian food and so for the most part, he turns to Rick Steins, Far Eastern Odyssey, a cook book that meanders through Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Bali, SriLanka and Bangladesh. We haven’t yet visited the last three countries on that list and maybe one day when we can travel again !

When we visited Cambodia, we floated down the Mekong ( or was it up) from Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Penh. And given the size of the Mekong delta it is easy to see why fish is so very popular. In Siem Reap, the home of the world famous Angkor Wat, we took a trip out on a lake called Tonle Sap Lake where there is actually a water population, people live and work in floating villages which even includes a school.

Tonle Sap Lake

To make HIS version of this dish you will need

  • 250 grms fish. He used a ready prepared fish pie mix
  • Some lemon grass chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2-4 green / red chillies chopped
  • A thumb sized piece ginger chopped
  • 2 shallots chopped
  • 2 tsp fish paste ( available from Asian supermarkets)
  • Juice of one lime or a good squirt from a bottle
  • 400 ml can coconut milk
  1. Cook the fish in some water for about 5 minutes, remove from the heat and drain ( keep some of the liquid)
  2. When cool , break into flakes
  3. Put all of the other ingredients into a food processor and blitz to make a smooth paste.
  4. Add the fish to the paste blitz again add some of the cooking liquid if too thick, it should be of a thick soup consistency

To serve, make a crunchy mixed salad using celery , spring onions, baby gem lettuce, shredded, grated carrots etc.

Also cook some Asian noodles, these take no time at all and buy some ( or make ) some Asian style peanut sauce.

He used some peanut butter mixed with some palm sugar, some fish sauce and some lime juice, quantities were a little of this and a little of that!

Put some noodles into the bottom of each bowl and top with the soup and then the crunchy salad .

What did do? I made some more Bagels, and now I feel that I am on a roll, the trouble is that each batch only makes 8! And I also fancy making doughnuts. My eldest grandson when living in Mexico City, these were his favourites, not that he is coming to stay anytime soon, but need to get them perfected for when he does !

Bananas, Bananas, Bananas

Himself seems to have taken himself off the cooking detail recently. Each day, it is, ” I’ll cook” looks at the cookery books, and that is as far as it gets! ( Three days now and counting), even Young Sam told me he had ” Done” dinner the other day!

Reminds me of a friend whose husband bought her a new sewing machine. After a week or two, the curtain fabric was till there not having moved, when he asked Why, she replied, well you didn’t tell the machine to start sewing !

Maybe I need to tell Himself to start cooking and not just think about it!

Most of our food stuffs are now delivered, I have sourced not one but three fish delivery companies, ( Ish Fish, Chapmans Fish and Chalk Stream, ) the wonderful Watts Farm for most things, particularly fruit and vegetables and all sorts of things, and then there is Waitrose and Costco for all the rest.

Trout from Chalk Stream ready for the freezer

And then of course 2 seconds away, several small stores. Himself is dispatched, usually to get milk but sometimes other supplies, but maybe I should specify only get 6 bananas, because as we well know, bananas don’t keep very well.

So what to do with excess overripe bananas. My fall back portion is usually throw them into the freezer and then think about it. Up until now, they were put in, as is, ie, literally as they were, in their skins, but a couple of weeks ago, when I had 6 over ripe bananas, I peeled them, sprinkled on some lemon juice, wrapped them in cling film and then froze them. The question still remained. What to do with a bunch of overripe bananas.

Yesterday’s solution was ICE CREAM.

Peanut Butter and Banana Ice cream. I’m in love with Ben and Jerry’s recipe book, which I have had for YEARS. Ben and Jerry were good ‘Ol Boys, who started out wanting to make and sell Bagels, or so I believe, but very quickly switched to Ice Cream. Theirs was the fun stuff, Cherry Garcia, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Rocky Road and many more. However they sold out to Unilever ( Boo Hoo) but I have two copies of their ” Bible” of Ice Cream Recipes and inspirations, one here and the other in France. I use it very much as a guide adding more or less of an ingredient as I think fit. The best part is that practically all of their recipes start with a basic base, that needs No COOKING, how easy is that ?

I used the following for my Ice Cream:-

  • 1 large carton double cream (500 grms)
  • 1 large carton plain Greek yoghurt ( not fat free)
  • 1/2 cup sugar, preferably caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 over ripe bananas
  • 1/2- 1 cup of smooth good peanut butter ( I use from Holland and Barrett’s, in the USA it is Laura Scudders, both ( I think) do not use additives.Squirt of lemon juice on the bananas.
    Mush the bananas with a fork and add a squirt of lemon juice.
  1. Whisk the eggs until light, add the sugar, then add the cream and yoghurt. I do all of this in my food processor.
  2. Add the bananas and then the peanut butter and process until well blended.
  3. Either freeze using an Ice Cream machine or put into a container in the freezer. If doin this then blend a couple of times during the freezing process.

I have to admit that this is not my favourite, I’m no over keen on banana flavoured foods, but love peanut butter, but for himself, it means that failing all else, there is always dessert.

The other thing I did yesterday was to make Marmalade. It is Marmalade making season, so just had to make some. It was only putting my jars away did I realise that Lockdown #1, #2 and now #3 has increased my store of jams, jellies and marmalade exponentially, especially as it is only himself who indulges and then only about once a week ! Oops have I over done it ? I guess so !

Boxes, Boxes, Boxes everywhere and not a lid that fits !

I think that after +/-30 years of boxes and by boxes, I mean plastic ones of various hues and sizes, I might have got the problem of missing lids, or lids that don’t fit solved. Not by me, you understand, but by the brothers Joseph.

Jospeh Jospeh is an English company started by twin brothers in 2002. Not that I have been a great fan of theirs, the beautifully stylish dish brush, dies quickly, its bristles are just not up to the job. And I actually abhor the latest trend for all colours to be garish, lime green or yellow or bright blue , pink or purple. Plastic well designed articles that we are led to believe will make our kitchens or bathrooms a better place. But I know what works in my kitchen, I like wood for stirring and absolutely detest glass chopping boards for cutting, oh the noise of the knife on the board !

However, for 30+ years I hadn’t really come up with a solution for plastic boxes and their lids! When I had kids at home I had drawers full of them but even now they are essential, for that bit of left over, or for freezing liquids into a nice shape, before vacuum packing and storing. But the lids were always a problem. Somehow or other they had a mind of their own and many would just go Walkabout, to Who Knows Where!

Back in the 90’s help was at hand in the form of Patrick, the entrepreneur husband of a friend. My friend also had problems with boxes and lids and his solution was in fact very simple. Get a waterproof marker and number the boxes and their lids. This we duly did, threw away lids without boxes or boxes without lids. This I have done ever since, even as recently as last summer, when I enlisted the aid of grandchildren whilst in France.

More recently in London, I have been buying boxes from the Chinese supermarket,the equivalent of take away boxes, this too thwarted my box organisation, because unbeknownst to me, not all Chinese take away boxes are equal, so yet again rummaging to find the right lid to box.

The Joseph Brothers boxes are simplicity, three sizes, colour coded, orange, red or blue depending on size and even better, they all click into each other, so no more boxes floating around the cupboard or drawer! ( Now why didn’t I think of that ?)

Have I told you about gravy?

I myself am not over keen on gravy. Growing up gravy was Bisto. Was there another way? Not that I knew, and I was a fussy eater, there was no way to find out. And now, as we rarely have a roast dinner, my gravy making skills were rarely called upon.

However, there are occasions when it is needed and as Himself loves sausages with creamy mashed potatoes and onion gravy I had to step up to the plate, and I did.

Therefore I have been making an onion gravy now for several years, but it is seriously a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I got my inspiration many, many years ago whilst giving cooking classes in Brussels. One of my go to books at that time was by Anthony Worrall Thompson ( he of pocketing cheese from Waitrose Fame). Basically, it is a cross between a Barbecue sauce, a Sauce Chasseur, a Sauce Poivrade or a Cumberland sauce.

To start with here is a list of possible ingredients

  • 3 fairly large onions , red or white
  • A good splash of olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 red wine
  • 1/4 cup red port or sherry
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons of jam/jelly ( red currant, bramble, black currant etc
  • 1tablespoon horseradish sauce

Chop the onions and sauté gently in the oil for several minutes until they brown, stir occasionally and make sure you get the brown stuff from the bottom of the pan.

Pour in the red wine and stir well to get all of the good bits incorporated.

Add the rest of the ingredients, one by one and stir in well. Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 15 minutes. If too thick, dilute with some stock, water or even more red wine. Taste. It is unlikely to need salt.

Leave to cool and then flat bag in plastic bags and freeze. It freezes really well so I always make a fair bit as it is always there, if you have to start from scratch each time, it is a bit of a pain, but never reach for the ready made stuff, this is so much better, so much so that if I liked Sausages and Mash, even I would eat the gravy !

Some further thoughts on Christmas Food

Growing up my memories of Christmas was food. My mother would spend weeks making Stuff for Christmas, and given that we were just four people it was probably a bit over the top. She would make a Christmas cake, of course, Christmas puddings, of course, and another cake she called it a Tunis Cake. They were available in the shops, but she was a baker. A Tunis cake was a Madeira Cake the top covered with a thick layer of dark chocolate along with a few marzipan balls made to look like fruit and holly.

She also made fancy cup cakes, in the form of butterflies, cabbages and even cauliflowers, madeleines, tall sponge cakes covered in jam and shredded coconut, and many others that I can’t remember what they were, but we had them all.

Oftentimes we spent Christmas Day at my grandmothers, who lived not a million miles away and we were fortunate to have a car ( most people I knew didn’t have one) . Nanny lived with her youngest daughter ( there were three daughters) and for the most part was cook in chief, but in latter years the role was taken over by Aunty Brenda. Brenda was a Feeder. Would you like a biscuit, a jam tart, a cake, a bit of toast, another biscuit. Hers, was the table laden with whatever might just take your fancy. My fancy was always CHIPS, not for me the roast turkey, the roast potatoes, the Brussels sprouts, the sausage rolls or mince pies, but Chips, and Uncle Bob could always be relied upon to produce them, just for me !

I could however be persuaded to try just a tincy wincy bit of Christmas pudding because there were always silver coins wrapped in paper hidden inside.

The other food memory of Christmas was celery, yes celery. Washed and trimmed and standing straight in their special jar. Were you aware that there are such things as celery jars? ( another Victorian invention ). Actually I don’t have one but they have been part of my life since forever, but who can imagine sitting down for Christmas tea with a jar of celery stalks by its side?

An antique celery jar priced at £180

Being an unbelievably fussy eater, I think my mother was pleased that I at least ate celery. So much so that she made me celery and cream cheese sandwiches for my school lunches! Not for me the stodge that was served up on a daily basis, which was School Meals .

But I digress. Christmas food, Christmas afternoon tea. This year I managed to fit in, in between various Lockdowns, an afternoon tea at the splendid RAC club on Pall Mall. It was for the “Girls” and so my girls and eldest granddaughter met for our tea.

Christmas at the RAC Club

Unfortunately, I think the next day became our second lock down, hence although the tea was lovely, complete with the requisite “Bubbles” for the Big Girls, there was only one other table occupied! Still as my eldest said ” This year we will take what we can get! Never a truer word! And they even produced extra Sausage Rolls for Miss Tess, and for once in our life I allowed a “Doggy Bag” and she took the excess home for her brothers ( who had not been invited).

So moving swiftly on or rather back to sausage rolls. Synonymous with Christmas, rugby matches and golf or all things English! However have I have commented previously I find English Sausage meat BLAND! So I set myself a challenge to make them satisfied. I tried adding red onion chutney, only OK, English mustard powder, again only OK. Then it struck me. Merguez.

Merguez is a a sausage of Middle Eastern origins, but popular in France  made with uncooked lamb or beef. It is heavily spiced with cumin and harissa, which gives them their red colour.

I despatched himself to our local Middle Eastern Stores, of which there are many, but he failed to find my sausages, but not wishing to disappoint, bought Chorizo! Very innovative. Consequently, I threw it into the food processor to make a fine mush of chorizo and then mixed it all with the English sausage meat. The result was very satisfying. More for adults than for children, but presented them to my neighbours during our terraced distanced cocktails. I think I have it !

Two batches of Sausage Rolls

January 2021

Here we are in January, barely in January, not finished yet with Christmas Food and where are we? Back in Lockdown!

Onwards and Upwards, have a plan, morning walk at sunrise, come rain or shine ( more like rain), have a soak in the sauna,( make sure it switched on before said walk) breakfast, cafe latte, crossword, shower wash and dress ( PJ’s and sweat pants not allowed) . Well that brings us up to well, maybe 11 am. What to do for the rest of the day? Our one allowed exercise has been done, what else! We seem to have accumulated jigsaws and their accoutrements ( thanks kids) all of extreme difficulty. That will keep himself busy for a while.

Cleaning, sorting and sorting 50 years of photos, is another job that has been beckoning for a long while! When you have moved as often as we have, ( 17 for us more like 25 for me) a clear out is always done, so we don’t have an abyss or an overstuffed attic or vault or dungeon, but there are things that have been kept for sorting at a later stage, like the boxes of photos! IT HAS TO BE DONE!

Himself has cleaned the silver and myself the crystal and now what?

I decided to make Bagels. Never done it before, no that is a lie, tried about 20 years ago in Texas but not since. This time around, I happen to to have fresh yeast courtesy of the wonderful Watts Farm. I bought it with my first foray into Watts Farm shopping. It came in little packs, but then I got sidetracked and yeast went into the freezer and yes fresh yeast freezes well! For whatever reason I am not much of a dab hand with dried yeast, but fresh is a piece of cake.

I must admit to cheating here, as I bought during Lockdown #1 a small bread machine though I have only ever used it for the kneading/ rising process ( is this being lazy or what ), but nonetheless the kneading is perfect except when I forget about it and it has risen so much that it is like the day of the triffids and spilling upwards and out of the machine! Mental note to myself, Listen for the Beep !

Bagel making is not difficult jut a tad time consuming but the end result worth while. To make 8 bagels you will need

  • 1 cube fresh yeast ( it comes in cubes of about 42 grms) or 6 grms active dried yeast
  • 2 tsp of sugar
  • 300 mls warm ( not hot) water
  • 450 grms strong flour ( sometimes labels Bread Flour
  • 1 tsp salt


  • Mix the sugar with the yeast and about 120 mls of the water. It will mix into a smooth creamy coloured liquid.
  • Then either mix this with the flour by hand or in a machine if using one ( follow instructions)
  • By hand, knead the dough for about 10 minutes , ( this is why I use the machine, it does it all for you). Again by hand place the dough into an oiled bowl , cover with a damp cloth and leave to rise for about an hour, until it has doubled in size.
  • When the dough has risen, knock it back, this means basically deflating it and let it rest for another 10 minutes.
  • Dived into 8 equal amounts, I weighed each bit, and roll each bit around on a floured counter top to form a ball.
  • Push a finger through the center of each dough ball so that it forms a ring, using the palm of your hand press on the dough ball to flatten somewhat.
  • Place on either a greased baking tray or on a non stick one and again cover with a damp cloth and leave to rest for another 10 minutes! ( dough likes to have a little nap in between each handling !)
  • Heat the oven to 220C fan/220C non fan/gas7
  • Bring a pan of water to the boil and drop in the bagels, as many as will fit without being overcrowded. They will float to the surface, flip over and leave for a minute. If you like chewy bagels leave for 2 minutes.
  • Remove bagels from water with a slotted spoon and place back on the baking sheet, glaze with an egg wash.
  • Bake for about 20 minutes multilingual golden brown.
  • Cool on a wire rack. When cool store in a bread bin, or as with all breads, they freeze well!

Happy 2021 ( here’s hoping)

Our New Year’s Eve, was as normal, quiet but normally we watch the London fireworks as we can see them from our living room window. The Willowy brunette who is in our bubble was with us and brought along Champagne and an amazing cheesecake. She, ( who doesn’t cook) in fact made two of them and dropped one off for her sister in Finchley before heading off to look at teeth( she is a dentist).

My normal Christmas dinner insists of Seafood, Seafood and more seafood, as I don’t cook on Christmas Day, but this year I broke my own rule and cooked, so in my mind, Christmas Day became New Years Eve and as I cast my eye around the various options for this day/ night of dubious celebrations I came upon Bibendum a restaurant in London, run by Claude Bossi, and with 2 Michelin Stars. The restaurant is house in what was once the iconic Michelin Building and is divided into 2 sections, the main restaurant and the Oyster Bar.

The Oyster Bar was offering a New Years Take Away, Seafood Platter and so I ordered on for three people. It looked amazing and cam complete with extras, sauces and dips as well as a wonderful dark brown loaf and a roll of butter.

The only thing it lacked was the cocktail sauce.

I think most people in The UK ( and I could be wrong here) eat shrimp and prawns with a Marie Rose sauce, a pale pink creation of dubious provenance. Having lived on the Gulf Coast of the USA, I have to admit to preferring the American version, a red cocktail sauce, also I suspect of dubious origins, but however, very easy to make a simplified version at home.

Himself had pottered on down to Selfridges, where he had on order 24 oysters ( just in case the platter didn’t live up to hype) and then wandered over to Chelsea to collect our platter. It was then decided to delay our Oysters Rockefeller until New Years Day ad the was more than enough on the platter.

So here we are on this pretty dreary day, me writing this and Himself shucking 2 dozen oysters. No mean feat, if you haven’t had to do it for a living! The man who runs the Selfridges Champagne Bar, Paxton, often enters the Oyster Shucking competition at the Whitstable Oyster Festival and wins! A good shucker, shucks 24 in about 2 minutes! Himself, well a little longer, but improving!

Have never actually eaten in Bibendum but will now do so as we were duly impressed with our seafood platter.

For those of you who want to make your own Cocktail Sauce, then follow this easy peasy cheats recipe.

  • 1 Cup of Ketchup ( yes ketchup)
  • 2 tabs hot horseradish sauce, use more or less to your own taste
  • A good squirt of of lemon juice
  • And if you want a bit more spice, a squirt or two of hot sauce , like Tabasco.

Mix all together until well blended.