Mostly about the Love

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Prawns.

Just made for summer lunches.

I bought a huge box of prawns, intending to marinade them in coriander, lime juice, chilli and garlic before throwing them onto the plancha as a starter in an exuberant gesture of largesse at a lunch with friends this week.

Regular readers will recognise that I am challenged with starters. I can never seem to find the right thing to prepare, whatever the menu.

I imagined the day.

The sun would shine. The terrace would look summery yet cool under the big sun parasol which gently shaded the diners.

The chilled pink wine would be flowing and we would all ooooh and ahhh at the prawns, and more importantly, I would have beaten my curse.

The starter would be a huge success, my cheeks would cool and my blood pressure lower as I relaxed into the cod and chorizo lentil bake and enjoyed the day.

It all started going wrong as I prepared them.

My giant box of prawns spitefully reduced themselves to a paltry dish of insubstantiality as I de-headed, de-legged and de-veined them, only to be left with a handful of little thin things that looked as if they wouldn’t feed one, let alone four people.

I determinedly marinated them, my heart sinking.

The sun refused to shine, and thunder threatened.

We ended up eating indoors with prawns cooked in a wok, and somehow it didn’t matter that there were only five each and that they had shrunk to the size of river shrimp.

By the time we’d laughed and chatted our way through the starter, no-one seemed to notice, or to care.

Lunch with friends- mostly about the love.

Strawberry Gluttony

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When the season is upon us I see no reason not to absolutely gorge on fresh strawberries.

They’re so good now at the peak of their sweetness and their ripe fragrance is one of the delights of summer for me.

After a lovely meal at our local village restaurant on Saturday I enjoyed a real plate of strawberry gluttony.

Strawberry panacotta, a strawberry dipped in white chocolate, fresh sliced strawberries, strawberry soup and a strawberry macaron.

All on one plate :-)

Cod with Smoky Tomato & Chorizo Lentils

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Vacation starts on Monday – huzzah!

Between all the bouts of relaxation I’m very much looking forward to having a few friends around for lunch over the next few weeks.

There’s nothing nicer than a long, lazy Gersoise lunch that goes on from midday until at least four in the afternoon, with chilled wine, simple food and good company.

Most of my friend are great fish eaters and so I’ve been scouring t’interweb and my expansive collection of cookbooks for new recipes to try on them.

Sometimes the new recipes work fantastically and they become keepers: sometimes they’re not so good and they never get cooked again. The great thing about my friends is that they don’t mind being used as culinary guinea-pigs and have mastered polite yummy noises even when it’s not great..

One of the recipes I’ve found recently on the Good Housekeeping site (their recipes always, always work, I have to say, however slightly mumsy their image seems) is cod with smoky tomato lentils.

Being a bad child I’ve decided to add finely diced chorizo to this, because 1) I’m addicted to chorizo 2) chorizo makes everything taste better – well, perhaps not ice cream 3) actually, I think chorizo goes well with the cod – very Spanish/Basque in style.

Gotta keep the Chorizo Sisterhood in business.

Pimped-up Rose Harissa Chicken

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Spicy Rose Harissa paste, garlic, honey, sweet paprika, mustard and olive oil rubbed into the skin of a free range chicken and roasted until blackened for about an hour..

As Honorary Chorizo Sister, Brother Fitz would describe it, this is a pimped-up chicken.

It was cooked in the oven yesterday before it got too hot to roast, and cooled in the fridge to be sliced with salad for lunch today.

Sliced so that a sliver of the spicy, intense flavour is delivered with every slice of chicken, this was simply served over a salad of tabbouleh, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and spring onions from the garden.

A perfectly simple, easy summer lunch.

Chicken Lickin’

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Cafe eating in London again this evening, and it’s too hot to eat much with the temperature sitting at 28 degrees centigrade at six thirty pm.

Outside tables are at a premium in order to gain any breath of fresh air, an impossibility I know in this polluted and stuffy city. London is not designed for heat.

However, resolutely turning a blind eye to that, I order blackened chicken marinated in parsley, garlic, oil, saffron and Rose Harissa, grilled until slightly charred and smokey and served with a minty, fresh tasting yoghurt dip and griddled flatbreads.

Good enough to make me forget that I am sitting on a busy, slightly shabby street in Central London pretending for all I’m worth that this is the Med.

Summer chicken lickin’.

Transporting me to another place.

Fat Bottomed Girls

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I always think of that Queen song “Fat Bottomed Girls” when I think of those indispensable baking essentials, loose-bottomed tins.

I know the term “loose-bottomed tins” describes exactly what they are, but it all somehow sounds highly dubious to me :-)

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After the recent devastating loss of the side portion of my favourite loose-bottomed quiche tin, leaving just the base – a slip of metal – bereft of it’s companion and utterly useless for anything on it’s own, I have re-examined my relationship with my bakeware and realised that my old ceramic and pottery quiche and flan dishes just aren’t going to cut it.

The pastry either sticks to the dish, or else it goes soggy.

I have reached the age, and my kitchen cupboards have reached such capacity, that unless a quiche dish or a cake tin performs its function excellently that it simply has to go. There is no room any longer for sentimentality or a pretty pattern.

As such, I’ve bought a couple of new, professional-grade loose-bottomed tins and I will be pruning my old baking sets severely over the next two weeks.

Goodbye old flan dishes. And hello new fat bottomed girls.

Lobster Spaghetti

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I managed to get hold of a couple of lobster tails yesterday and decided to make lobster spaghetti with a light but creamy tomato garlic sauce.

I wanted something comforting and luxurious that wasn’t too much effort, and lobster is an occasional treat that I enjoy more than any other seafood.

I cooked the lobster tails for two to three minutes, then cooled, cracked and chopped the meat. It was so soft and succulent that it I could have waved a butter knife at it and it would have fallen apart.

Then a handful of chopped spring onions from the terrace, garlic, fresh chopped tomatoes, thyme, sugar, seasoning, a slug of lemon oil and a few minutes cooking down to a light tomato sauce, finished with a small spoonful of creme fraiche and my secret ingredient, a spoonful of soft garlic cheese (I had Boursin, but any would do).

At the very last minute I tipped in the chopped lobster to warm through for a minute or so and spooned the lot over freshly cooked spaghetti until all was coated with deliciousness.

I could feel it doing me good.

Honestly