For me today, there is life BEFORE and AFTER Pedro…
Here is a fresh idea for a sophisticated breakfast or a light lunch:
Take a slice of Pain Poilâne – or chunky wholemeal- , spread it with cream cheese, slice fresh strawberries, chop some mint on top, give it a shake of black pepper and a swirl of Pedro Jimenez reduction and savour with a cup of Earl Grey, a jug of Pims or a glass of Prosecco! I am talking PROPER breakfast here : the kind you want just before you are off to Ascot or Henley or Wimbledon… And the touch of Pedro here is just the thing to make you swoon. If no Pedro, then try just a dash of thick balsamic vinegar or even some dark honey… Though Pedro IS irreplacable, you can make substitutes – much like you do in a football match when things don’t quite work out!!! What on earth is happening to Brazil right now???!!! Come on Guys…
This is light snack food at its best! On top of that, it is super healthy and delicious so why not indulge…
Shop version from Le Pain Quotidien in Marylebone
More of a tip than a recipe but here is another photo to show you how it all gets together – in case you thought the above was complex. This is tomato, basil, artichoke in brine and PEDRO…
A more mediterranean version
A great looking, great tasting salad for your next picnic. This would be the ideal menu to bring to a Bank Holiday lunch “al fresco” and in the sun…
Salad and tortilla for a summer lunch outside
- Bunch of mint (fresh pepper mint is best)
- 1 cucumber, seeded
- Strawberry, 1 punnet
- Feta cheese, 1 cubed slab
- Pedro Jimenez reduction or Balsamic vinegar
This came to me in flash as I was trying to use a punnet of strawberries but in a savoury way. I thought that strawberries are great with cracked pepper but also with mint and from then on I imagined to pair them with the amazing “chocolate peppermint” I have been growing in my front garden. It is a spicy tasting plant with a real smell of “After eight” and the taste of strong Hollywood chewing gum! It is wonderful in that salad but sweet moroccan mint would be nice too.
Chop the strawberries and cucumber a similar size cubes and same with the cheese – although the cheese is pleasant in adding a bit of salt in there, it is by no means essential. It might even distract a bit from the wholesome simplicity of flavours so I have sometimes omitted it.
Dress with a simple drizzle of balsamic vinegar or my favourite Pedro Jimenez reduction. It hardly needs anything else and if it did it would be a hint of black pepper, if your fruit are a little bland. Toss and serve.
A healthy, skinny and super tasty salad.
Love the colours…
Our first picnic of the year was in Hyde park and this is what we carried:
(The gorgeous metal plate are Heritage designs printed for the Wallace collection by Elite Gift `boxes) Many happy memories are created around picnics so choose your spot, your day, your company and make it a picnic to remember…
>Now, who could ever tire of ice-cream! Well, I am no big fan normally but this homemade strawberry one could give me a change of mind… Strawberries and cream in a soft, cool cup with the added bonus of Pimms… Even I can’t resist. I had a big bowl of it tonight with some fantastic butter biscuits baked by my youngest – more on this next time!
3 sprigs of mint, chopped up
Creme fraiche 250g
Syrup made up of 100g of fructose and 1 small glass of water
1 small glass of Pims or Creme aux fraises des bois (by Giffard)
Make the syrup then let it cool while you rinse the strawberries and cut off their tails. Blend all ingredients then put in an ice-cream maker or in the freezer, depending on your favourite method. I got my ice-cream maker as a wedding present and I have used it so frequently along those long years of wedded bliss that I would recommend the whole thing (marriage and all) wholeheartedly – worth keeping as well in case of divorce.
Perfect after a splash in the really cool new V&A paddling pool ! Go to the cafe for a nice cake and tea ; then catch up on your tanning in the lovely inner garden and let the kids splash about.
Summer in London has its up sides.
Re-reading the whole Adrian Mole series in conjunction with the children and laughing out loud at all the jokes certainly is another one! I had forgotten how funny the Secret Diary was. I first read it aged 18 and WHY did I not read the sequels I can hardly understand… No time to lose! Thanks for delayed planes and boring train journeys, we might actually go through the whole lot by the end of summer!!!
Now that local and delicious varieties of strawberries are available in the fruit markets, it is time to make that first batch of jam! I was feeling uncharacteristically nervous and anxious yesterday and so I pulled out my jam wares and started making a very quick but very satisfying version of my annual strawberry jam. Within half-hour I had 8 lovely jars full, I was feeling more contented and the house smelt like a ladies tea-room! Phew!
Jam is the simplest thing: take two ingredients (sugar and fruit) and boil it until set! But the essential is to have the right pots and bits. You absolutely need one large stainless steel jam pan, a jam thermometer, a long ladle for pouring the jam in the jars, a steel funnel with a large opening and of course some clean jars with lids.
1 kilo of strawberries
1 kilo of crystallised sugar
Juice of one lemon (plus zest)
Do not wash the fruit if you can help it! Just take the stalks off with a sharp knife and put them in the pot with the sugar and lemon. I added nice stringy zest to enhance the lemony note and look more interesting in the jar. You can experiment with vanilla pods or pink peppercorns or chopped fresh mint – all delicious and adding a pretty variation to the classic strawberry jam. Add them just before the end. Leave the fruit whole: mine looked like beautiful scarlet jewels in a thick syrup. If the strawberries let too much juice out, just cook it longer. You want runny and not overcooked, over-set jam.
Bring to a boil, dip you thermometer in and when the temperature has gone up to “jam point” (105° C.), turn the heat down and let it simmer 20 min while you sterilise your pots in the dishwasher or in a simple steamer for 10 min. The thermometer is essential because without it jam making is a bit of a frustrating hit and miss business. Test that the jam is set by dropping a few droplets onto a cold saucer: it should be runny and slightly gloopy and should wrinkle when you run your finger through it for the ultimate test – taste is simply magic!
Now use your long ladle to scoop out the boiling jam straight into each clean jar. Be careful not to burn yourself and have plenty of kitchen towels around to hold the jar! Using a jam funnel like the one in the picture makes it easier. Screw the top on the jar and turn it upside down. This way the boiling liquid sterilises the air left in the jar by letting it pass through and no further sterilising is required.
Then comes the hardest bit: you should leave it about 3 months before opening them so the flavours have time to mingle and blossom… A bit like laying down a good vintage. In any case, the jars unopened can last a few years easily and make lovely presents to friends. I DO LOVE being given homemade treats! And I love giving them away… Sounds corny but giving food as present is a lot like giving a bit of TLC and affection.
I love the British spirit! Today we had our first picnic in the rain… Admittedly, it was spitting rather than bucketing but England is the only country in the world where the elements never deter anybody from laying out the perfect picnic. We French do food better than most but the one food related event where the English not only excel but surpass us, is the picnic. Never mind that they are using a French word in the first place, they still have taken this word to the level of an art form! Nobody does picnicking like the Brits – rain or no rain. I still remember with a shiver a picnic in Sandhurst with my in-laws and a carriage-full of children that took place under pouring rain; and another one on a Jersey beach where the sausages got soaked on the barbecue.
Indeed, the British excel in the Art of the picnic and will never let the elements spoil the fun…
In fact, they almost relish the hardship and I suspect rather enjoy their strawberries and cream better if they have to shelter them from a swift shower.
So here is a strawberry recipe than would warm any sinking heart:
500g of strawberries
Dark chocolate 180g
1 big spoonful of rapeseed oil
Melt the chocolate on low heat until it coats the wooden spoon. Then mix in the oil and let it cool slightly. One by one, dip the strawberries into the mix and let them dry onto a sheet of baking paper.
Eat outdoors with a chilled bottle of rosé such as Chateau de la Tuilerie
, rosé de Syrah, under a warm spring sun! Please order all of the above for next week-end and in the meantime I wish a very happy birthday to Maman who is travelling to Paris today
with a crowd of very merry friends, having just toured Champagne and Alsace in search of fine wine and good food – of the non-picnic variety.