Monthly Archives: March 2010

Beauty & the Beast

Rhubarb cakes before they go into the oven

Pretty as a picture: rhubarb + ginger cake

"North Dakota" rhubarb cake: hiding a messy secret

"North Dakota" disaster

As you can see from the pictures, the trial bake-off was a mixed success.

The rhubarb + ginger cake recipe worked a treat and the cake is delish (if you like ginger, which I do).

I think something went wrong converting the American family recipe which uses US measurements into imperial measures. I also reduced the quantity of sugar significantly….

The cake smelled lovely but for some reason the mixure was too wet to bake properly.

As soon as I have gotten to the bottom of it – so to speak – I will write it about it here + publish both recipes.

In the meantime, feast your eyes on the pictures!



Cupboard love

There is something satisfying about rustling up a delicious supper with ingredients that you already have in your storecupboard or fridge.

This is what I made last night.

Linguine wit sardines, capers + fried breadcrumbs

This is what you need:

serves 2

250g dried linguine (I like de Cecco)

2 tins of sardines in olive oil, drained and 1 tbsp of oil reserved

3 tbsp of capers, rinsed

1 lemon (for squeezing over the pasta at the table)

1/2 tsp of dried chilli flakes

handful of flatleaf parsley, roughly chopped

2 handfuls of rocket


2 tbsp of breadcrumbs

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

This is what you do:

1. in a non-stick frying pan, heat 1 tbsp of oil from one of the tins of sardines over medium heat

2. add the garlic, chilli flakes and breadcrumbs and fry gently until nicely brown; tip onto a plate and set aside

3. in the same pan, add the sardines + capers and warm through very gently over low heat

4. cook the linguine according to instructions on the packet; this usually takes 10 minutes or thereabouts

5. top the sardines with the rocket, add the drained pasta and toss carefully

6. sprinkle over the breadcrumbs mixture, some freshly grated Parmesan + the parsley

7. serve with half a lemon per person for squeezing over the pasta + extra Parmesan

Really extraordinarily good, bold flavours + all the different textures are lovely.


We ate this followed by a green salad with peashoots, avocado + a couple of olives.


Dinner menu w/c 29th of March


Roast salmon fillets with herby Puy lentils, wilted spinach and cherry tomatoes


Aromatic chicken wth sticky apricots, couscous and green beans


Baked Moroccan lamb meatballs, roast vegetable bulghur wheat, minted yoghurt


Fish fillets baked with spicy tomato sauce, butternut squash and coconut rice


Salt cod and sweet potato fishcakes, red pepper sauce and watercress salad

Meet the neighbours!

Stonepits Lodge neighbours

Day out in the country…

Could not resist taking this picture: the rams came running up to the fence as soon as they spotted us. I just wanted to squeeze their woolly faces!

Were they friendly or just after food?

Is the way to a ram’s heart through its stomach?

Anyway, here is a tried + tested recipe for a delicious lamb dish. It would make a great main course for a relaxed Easter supper.

…..hope this does not put you off eating lamb. I enjoy eating meat, but never having reared and killed my own animals, I am not sure that I could.

Cathy Erway, the author of “The art of eating in” and blog by the same name, describes how she despatches two live lobsters having “sedated” them in the freezer for half an hour beforehand.

I love lobster and I know this is hypocritical, but I am not sure I could it kill a live lobster by dropping it in a pot of boiling water.

What are your thoughts on killing (your own) animals?

Now the recipe, here goes….


 This is what you need:

Serves 4

750g neck fillet of lamb, cut into 4 cm chunks

2 onions, sliced into quarters

4 garlic gloves, peeled, halved, green shoot removed and sliced finely

3 tbsp of olive oil

2 cinnamon sticks

2 tsp of plain flour

200ml warm lamb stock of water

8 sprigs of fresh thyme

1 tsp ground coriander

1/2  tsp ground paprika

1/2 tsp ground cumin

small pinch of saffron

1.5 unwaxed lemon, sliced into thin discs

12 green olives

 This is what you do:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 190 C.
  2. Trim the lamb of any obvious surface fat but don’t remove too much and spoil the shape of the fillet. Any remaining fat will melt during cooking and contribute to the flavour of the dish.
  3. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, season the lamb pieces with salt and pepper and fry the lamb just long enough for the pieces to brown. Once they are ready, transfer to a baking dish large enough to contain them in one layer.
  4. Fry the onion quarters in the same pan for 10-15 minutes until translucent, add the thyme, spices and the garlic for the last couple of minutes.
  5. Sprinkle over the flour and stir well for 1 minute.
  6. Gradually stir in the stock and bring to the boil.
  7. Pour over the lamb, spreading the onions evenly and tucking the cinnamon sticks and thyme sprigs under the lamb pieces.
  8. Cover with lemon slices in a single layer and brush with a little of the sauce.
  9. Cover the dish with aluminium foil and bake for 2 hours at 190 C.
  10. Remove from the oven, add the olives and return for 15 minutes. If the lemon slices still look a little pale, leave the foil off.
  11. Serve with potatoes or boiled rice and a green vegetable, or with warm flat breads and a green salad.

Would go down a treat for Easter lunch after an energetic chocolate egg hunt.

Bon appetit!


Portion distortion

I spotted this story on the BBC News website and thought you should see it.

Last Supper “has got super-sized”

Food portions depicted in paintings of the Last Supper have grown bigger and bigger in line with our own super-sizing of meals, say obesity experts.

Here is my take on it….

Get portion Savvy!

Portions versus servings

 A portion can be thought of as the amount of a specific food you choose to eat. Portions can be bigger, or smaller, than the recommended food servings.

A serving is a unit or measure used to describe the amount of food recommended from each food group. It is the amount listed on the nutrition facts panel on packaged food or the amount of food recommended in the Food Guide Pyramid.

 An example

6-11 servings of whole grains are recommended daily.

A recommended serving of whole grains would be 1 slice of bread or 1/2 cup of rice or pasta.

People often confuse the recommendation to mean 6 to 11 portions with no regard to size. It is not 6 to 11 portions where one portion could mean a large bowl of pasta rather than ½ cup.

Keep an eye on portion size to see how your portions compare with the recommended servings. It only takes a few hundred extra calories eaten here and there over a typical day to gradually trigger weight gain.

Very often, these extra calories come from us unknowingly eating larger portions of everyday foods. The portion size that you are used to eating may be equal to two or three standard servings

Portion distortion

Portions have become distorted over the last few decades and in addition many of us find it hard to know how much we should be eating of everyday foods

In general the daily dietary recommendations are: 

  • 3 to 5 servings of vegetables
  • 2 to 4 servings of fruits
  • 2 to 3 servings of milk, yoghurt & cheese
  • 6 to 11 servings of bread, cereal, rice, & pasta
  • 2 to 3 servings of meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs & nuts
  • Use fats, oils & sweets sparingly

 A serving looks like this

 Learning to recognize standard-serving sizes can help you judge how much you are eating.

When cooking for yourself, use measuring cups and spoons to measure your usual food portions and compare them to standard serving sizes from Nutrition Facts of packaged food products for a week or so.

Put the suggested serving size that appears on the label on your plate before you start eating. This will help you see what one standard serving of a food looks like compared to how much you normally eat.

It goes without saying that “portion distortion” also works the other way round. People who are recovering from an eating disorder may have lost sight of what constitues a “normal” portion.

Later this week, I’ll try and give some examples of portion guides son watch this space.



Thai red curry with lean beefsteak mince

A Tweet from @nutritionguru1 aka Dora Walsh this morning reminded her “followers” of the importance of including a little red meat in your diet.

I have known for a while that lean beef and lean lamb are a good source of easily absorbed iron, but I thought there was no harm in re-iterating this to you. Well reared and trimmed leab cuts can contain as little as 5% fat.

Iron is needed to keep your blood healthy and oxygenated and to prevent iron- deficiency anaemia. Red meat is also an excellent source of protein.

The recipe below is an example of how you can eat well with the minimum of fuss.

For two generous portions, this is what you need: 

 1onion, cut into 8 segments

2 medium tomatoes, cut into quarters

350g of lean beefsteak or lamb mince

1 heaped tbsp of red Thai curry paste (I like “Thai Taste”, available from Waitrose), or more if you like your curry really hot

4 spring onions, finely sliced

1 soup ladle of reduced fat coconut milk

2 handfuls of spinach leaves, washed and drained

half a bunch of coriander

This what you do:

1. heat 1 tbsp of vegetable oil in a non-stick frying pan

2. add the onion and brown over low/medium high heat for about 5 minutes

3. remove from the pan onto a plate and set aside

4. turn up the heat under the pan and add the mince

5. break up the mince using a plastic spatula; keep turning it over until there is no more pink meat visible

6. drain off any fat which has run from the meat

7. add the tomato quarters and the curry paste and coat the meat, then add the coconut milk followed by a splash of hot water

8. simmer gently over low heat for 10 minutes

9. just before serving fork in the spinach and cover the pan with a lid; this will make the spinach wilt very quickly

10. sprinkle with the sliced spring onions and scatter with roughly chopped coriander

Delicious served with basmati rice (which has a low GI – glyceamic index – score, meaning that energy is released into the bloodstream slowly, helping to keep bloodsugar levels even and prevent energy dips and hunger pangs).

Eating spinach with something that contains vit C, such as the tomatoes in this recipe, makes more of the iron in the spinach available for absorption by the body.

I hope you find the prepation easy and enjoy this quick supper dish.

Do send me your pictures of the finished dish, or even better, people enjoying it!

Bon appetit (not sure what that is in Thai?),


Rhubarb cakes galore!

Rhubarb polenta cakes

It’s that time of year again when I just cannot resist the stalks of prettily pink rhubarb.

They seems to signal spring and a time for swapping our heavy winter clothes for something lighter and brighter.

I made a batch of mini rhubarb polenta cakes earlier this week, took along a few cakes to meetings with Slow Food UK and The Neon Birdcage, shared some with our Savvy Cook clients and….. ate the remainder ourselves!

I realised afterwards that I should have photographed the cakes upside down: the rhubarb chunks sink to the bottom of the cake so that side looks much more interesting than the brown top.

You live and learn!

No cakes left as I write, but I am sure we’ll do these tasty little cakes again soon.

I love receiving recipes, especially family recipes and this one takes some beating:

Chase family North Dakota rhubarb cake

The recipe looks easy enough and uses buttermilk so it is not wholly unlike the rhubarb polenta cake minus the polenta.

I will let you know how I get on with it and promise to include a picture of the cake’s at it most appealing angle.

Wishing you a delicious weekend when it comes round!