Truth compels us to assert our conviction of the superior wholesomeness of bread made in our own homes - Eliza Acton

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Friday 28th July

ice cream

Tee hee! Sarah at The Delicious Life had me crying with laughter at her Sugar High Friday announcement - is SHF the new EotMEoTE?! I am indeed just the right age to remember when knowing all the words to Ice, Ice Baby was THE way to be the coolest kid in the playground. Which I never was... so this entry is entirely straight. For the 'ice' themed SHF, I made Frangelico ice cream, which came out slightly chewy (a recurring theme with my hand-churned ice cream, clearly I need to invest in a machine) but utterly delicious in a sweet, boozy, hen-night cocktail way. You know Frangelico, don't you? It's an Italian hazelnut liqueur - the one that comes in the cute monk-shaped bottle with the little rope girdle round its 'waist'. I sandwiched it with a few raspberries between some very high-cocoa chocolate meringue discs and would recommend the combination, especially if it is less humid where you are: obviously meringue is not going to stay crisp for long when covered in ice cream, but these never stood a chance. They were wonderfully bitter and intense against the sweet ice cream, though. A very grown-up dessert.

Frangelico ice-cream

500 ml double cream
5 egg yolks
200 g granulated sugar
100ml frangelico

Beat eggs with sugar; warm cream and frangelico; add to eggs, beat and warm until custardified. Freeze, beating vigorously with a fork once an hour until solid.


Wednesday 26th July

fennel salad

This weekend was the first we've both been at home for many, many weeks. I was thus able to cook a little, and went for the 'recreating dishes that I ate on trips to restaurants that I never got around to blogging' theme. First up, a salad of raw fennel and carrot with a red pepper dressing, vaguely like the starter I had at the Peasant a while ago. Theirs had a lot more stuff in it - raw pepper, an abomination not worthy of that nice establishment, for starters. I think it works nicely with the pepper confined to the dressing - which could perhaps be thinner, it is simply roasted and puréed red pepper, thinned with some olive oil but clearly not enough. Its splodginess has its own inept charm, though, I think. The salad is simply fennel and carrot sliced very thinly, with the red pepper purée and shavings of pecorino over the top. All in all it is a delight on a hot day.

My second attempt is similarly from a trendy Clerkenwell eatery and has similar problems with achieving an authentic consistency. We had brunch at the Zetter, a very chic hotel and restaurant in that very chic neighbourhood. I loved the wallpaper and C loved his pasta with broad bean pesto. Broad beans are about my favourite thing at this time of year, so the pecorino came out again and was grated into a large pile of them (I think a kilo pre-podded weight: they had of course been double-podded, a task I hardly think twice about any more as it is so obviously worthwhile). Also mint. I was drizzling in the olive oil as I whizzed this mixture but however much I added it didn't seem to slacken the paste at all. In the end I got frightened by the amount I'd put in already and decided to leave it at that - so the end texture of my pesto was more like wallpaper paste. The flavour was also a little bit disappointing - I suppose all that oil was there, even if you couldn't tell from looking. Perhaps I should have upped the mint to compensate. A grind more salt might have helped, too - given that I salt the water for both beans and pasta, I didn't think it ought to need any more, but I often forget when tasting that salt can sometimes fix a problem with flavour that doesn't immediately present itself as 'needs more saltiness'. Anyway, there's a good thing hiding in there somewhere, and I shan't object to a few more experiments while I hunt it down.


Saturday 22nd July


Never let it be said that I let a bandwagon pass me by. Ok, so I may be only an occasional subscriber to meme-ery, but you don't have to be the sharpest knife in the drawer to notice the real trend this year: wedding planning. When I realised that not only was it breaking out all over among our friends, but that even bloggers were not immune, I decided we'd better sign up before it went out of fashion. So yes, there's been a lot of champagne drunk around here, a certain amount of celebratory cake - and, most fun of all, I have one heck of a party to plan.


Sunday 16th July

tuna with salsa

It's four years since I last ate this - tuna with mango and avocado salsa - and I blogged it then, too (though in those days, like most blogs, I had no photos). Yes, really! It's hard to believe, but this is Pertelote's fourth birthday. In that time, she's had:

  • new layouts: 2
  • gap year: 1
  • writing course coinciding with renewed enthusiasm: 1
  • different kitchens: 3 home, 4 away
  • professional cooking gigs: 2
  • massively overcatered parties: 6
  • trips to Paris: 5
  • trips not to Paris: 9
  • meetings with other food bloggers: 7
  • parcels from other food bloggers, courtesy of Euro Blogging By Post: 3
  • other memes: 15
  • hits since installing meter: nearly 20,000
  • ...and 340 entries!

Pertelote may not have changed my life in any dramatic way, but it has brought me friends and opportunities I wouldn't otherwise have had, and which make it all worthwhile even when it seems impossible that I'll ever think of anything worth writing again. I don't pretend it can compete with the amazingly professional blogs that have sprung up in the last four years, but I think it has achieved what I wanted it too - not that I can describe what that is now any better than I could in 2002. It's a chronicle, a resource, an outlet and an occupation: hence my continued insistence on handcoding, which I know seems eccentric to most readers - especially since it is the reason for the continued absence of a comments facility, the one factor that is nowadays the most likely to prompt the remark 'call that a blog?' (four years ago, non-news blogs were just about acceptable, but daily links were sine qua non. Two years ago, photos.) Maybe I'll crack in the next four years...


Friday 14th July

ready meal

We're not usually a ready-meal sort of a household, but once in a while everyone deserves a lazy day. Besides, these are not your average ready meals: Bighams don't have a lot to say (I'd gladly read more about their suppliers) but they're clearly ticking all the boxes: good, fresh ingredients, carefully made to interesting recipes - a small company worth supporting. We started by nibbling on some crayfish filo parcels - delicious filling even if the crayfish was padded out with cod, it wasn't overpowered by the chilli sauce as it might have been. Then from their 'summer sizzlers' range, 'peppered beef hachés' - burgers to you and me - stuffed with roquefort and spinach. These shrivelled from their beautiful raw state under the grill, but the cheese kept them moist, and the beef was very tasty. Now, these products have to be cooked, so perhaps to the diehard fan of *ping* cuisine they wouldn't really qualify as _ready_ meals, but as we don't have a microwave they're the closest we're going to get. Certainly they're as easy as you could wish for (in general: the crayfish parcels did ask to be 'brushed with olive oil', which is - in terms of equipment if not skills - presumably beyond the truly kitchen-challenged). They're either very reasonably priced or a wee bit expensive, depending whether you compare them to an upmarket takeaway (yes, in London such things do indeed exist) or to a bog-standard microwavable. There really is enough care in their preparation to dispel the 'I could make that myself for a fraction of the cost' argument. Of course you could, but just for tonight, you're not going to.


Friday 7th July

picnic bread

Are you enjoying the season, dahling? No, not the summer, the Season. Because an extraordinary number of people are. Somehow all my years in Cambridge left me with the impression that rowing was something of a minority interest: yes, all my housemates rowed (even if in the seventh, eighth, nth boat), but a) they were on Planet Cambridge; and b) no-one who hadn't themselves cycled across Midsummer Common at 5am on a foggy morning would be remotely interested in turning up at a race. Races were daftly-named events ('Fairbairn's' or 'bumps') where boaties cheered on other boaties, and came home, if successful, with half a tree in their hair. Occasionally they'd set fire to sporting equipment worth thousands of pounds before playing silly games at a posh dinner and assaulting one another. But apparently, on Planet Earth rowing can be a spectator sport for nice normal people who prefer to eat their desserts with spoons. Considering there was apparently some other sporting event or three competing for attention, a sunny day at Henley last weekend brought hordes of people to the river.

Yes, Foodbloggers Did the Regatta, and found that having the best picnic on the river makes up to a considerable extent for being the underest-dressed. Not a blazer, not a stiletto, not a feather between us: but all our bread was handmade, our bakewells made to authentic recipes, there was a choice of four or five exotic salads - and we all stood around it worshipping with our cameras and ignoring the funny looks. Sadly it was perishingly hot and I'm not sure anyone's appetite really did the spread justice, but it was a thing of beauty. It was a joy, too, to meet some new bloggers, as well as catching up with the old crowd (hmmm, we've been meeting and eating together for a whole year now!). Jeanne the Cooksister (married to a rower) and Andrew of Spittoon (lives in Henley) were responsible for the event, which also featured contributions from Xochitl of Xochitl Cooks; Clare of Lemon Soul; Shana of Owlfish; June of Bread, Water, Salt, Oil.

Pertelote brought bread, as above and as follows:

Picnic Bread

500g strong white flour
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tbs sugar
25g butter
300ml water

Put the above ingredients in your breadmaker and operate it according to instructions! Or you could do it the old-fashioned way, but I didn't...

Two red peppers, roasted and puréed
75g pine nuts, toasted
150g goat's cheese, crumbled
handful of sun-dried tomaties, chopped

Take the dough and roll/push it out into a rectangle. Spread the red pepper purée over it, and scatter other ingredients. Basil would be nice, too. Roll dough up like a swiss roll (roll from long edge). Slice into nine equal parts. Arrange slices in a cake tin, one in the middle and the rest squodged around it like chelsea buns. Glaze with egg or milk. Allow to prove for around half an hour until increased in size (recipes normally say doubles, but it just won't. Half an hour in a warm place will be fine.) Bake for about thirty minutes until crusty.


Tuesday 4th July


Oooo, I like this very much. Pannacotta is a big fave at any time, and brilliantly cool and smooth in the summer - perfect with summer fruit which provide the sharpness and tiny crunch that's needed. I was trying to be a little bit interesting in this lunch (this came after the beef below) as it was my first entertaining after a week of intensive French cooking, so I dug out a cutting I'd been meaning to try for ages: basil pannacotta. It was from an article about Jamie Oliver's first (and most publicised) lot of trainees at Fifteen and if this is the kind of recipe they were coming up with then, I think their future is secure. I was slightly wary that it would come out too basily - you know how it can be slightly aniseedish? - so followed the recipe carefully and was completely reassured. Do try it.

Two stems of basil, leaves separated from stalks
300ml double cream
zest of half a lemon
half a vanilla pod
60g caster sugar
one gelatine leaf
45ml milk
20ml grappa
120g raspberries

Heat cream gently with basil stalks, lemon zest, vanilla pod and sugar. Bring just to the boil then remove from heat and leave to stand for twenty minutes. Meanwhile, soak the gelatine in the milk.

Crush the basil leaves with a pestle and mortar, add a spoonful of the hot cream and mix to a paste. Add paste to rest of cream and let stand for five minutes.

Add milk, gelatine and grappa to cream and whisk gently until gelatine is completely dissolved. Sieve into four glasses in which you have placed a small handful of raspberries.


Friday 30th June


When one needs a break from complaining about the weather on this little island of ours, there's always a way, however convoluted, to twist it into an advantage. For instance, it might be very nice to live in a climate so warm and sunny that lunch in the garden was a daily occurence. But then a daily occurence is an everyday one, and that soon loses its charm, don't you think? What a shame to sit in the garden with the sun baking your shoulders and not think of it as a treat. Ok, it's a long shot, and given the opportunity I think I could probably exchange the thrill of the occasional garden lunch for the quieter pleasure of the regular one without a backward glance. But we must find our blessings where we can. This garden lunch consisted of some very tasty grilled sirloin steak (four minutes on each side produced a medium rareness that satisfied Mr Bloodthirsty whilst not scaring off our guests), with a beetroot salad from the trusty Nige. The beetroot, with lime juice, mustard seeds and ginger, was zingy but not quite kicky enough for me. These are the original quantities, which I'd play with a bit.

juice of two limes
spoonful of grated ginger
1 tsp black mustard seeds, toasted
250g beetroot (I think he means raw, but I couldn't get this week - so used beets that had been pre-cooked but with nothing added)
2 spring onions, finely sliced
a handful coriander leaves, roughly chopped
2 tsp nam pla