Tag Archives: kitchen

Food Fest

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What a food fest at Margot and Jerry HQ this week.  From watercress to strawberries, Hampshire fizz to charcuterie and a bit of jam and gin thrown into the mix, I’ve seen it all.  Skipping off to the launch night of the Hampshire Food Festival at none other than one of Hampshire best loved foodie haunts, The Pig Hotel at Brockenhurst (is it me or do I seem to make a habit of finding a pig everywhere I go lately???), I had a wonderful time chatting to lots of wonderful producers.  Hattingley Valley fizz, Upham Brewery beer, Parsonage Farm charcuterie, Devese Farm Animals’ Goat pâté to name but a few as well as a new find for me, the most sumptuous lobster oil from Catch on the Isle of Wight.

We are so lucky in Hampshire to have such a wealth of foodie delights on the doorstep – thanks so much to Hampshire Fare for inviting a very greedy Margot along for the evening!  A considerable pity that I was driving as I would have tucked into the Hattingley fizz and Twisted Nose gin wholeheartedly…….all in the name of research I assure you, dear Reader.  It is a hard job but someone has to do it!  I can’t wait for all the other Hampshire Food Festival events!  As for The Pig Hotel, I shall certainly be convincing Jerry to whisk me away for an evening of gastronomic heaven in its picture perfect grounds.

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My advice, dear Reader – seek out your local farmers’ market wherever you are.  Everything is usually handmade, delicious, something out of the ordinary and best of all, it won’t have travelled too far to get to you!

From The Pig to watercress…..and the lovely people at @Love_Watercress and Pam Lloyd PR who sent me four marvellous bunches of watercress to create some kitchen magic with the vibrant, iron-rich green stuff.  Not wanting to go down the usual watercress salad and soup route, I set about trying something different.

The favourite?  My Watercress and Pea Mayonnaise – very easy, made in seconds and a perfect partner to some prawns and toasted baguette for lunch.

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Watercress and Pea Mayonnaise (makes enough for a small jar – use within a week to ten days)

1 large bunch of watercress

half a mug of peas (fresh or frozen)

4 large tablespoons of homemade mayonnaise (if you are going to use shop bought, then go for a really good quality one that is made with free range eggs and looks a bit more custardy in colour)

a good squeeze of lemon juice

a few strands of lemon zest

salt to taste – no need for black pepper as the watercress is peppery enough

Whizz all the ingredients up in a food processor et voila, your work is done!  Spoon liberally onto the baguette before adding fresh watercress.  Top with grilled prawns and sprinkle a little smoked paprika on top for some smoky spice.  It also goes rather well with smoked salmon, grilled chicken or used to top a piece of seared trout.  Something rather delicious, made with almost hardly effort at all!

Pity I can’t squeeze a little watercress bed into the garden!  Never more have vegetables been on the agenda at Margot and Jerry HQ as our own veg patch is burgeoning under a make-do-and-mend style polytunnel.  Having really got stuck in this year with growing our own, I’m surprised by how a little amount of space can bring forth such a huge amount.  We’ve got enough lettuce to feed the county!  My battle now commences with rabbits, squirrels, slugs, snails and pigeon.  Our very own Mrs MacGgregor next door takes tending her walled kitchen garden very seriously and I have on more than one occasion come home to find errant rabbits and pigeons left on the doorstep, ready for the pot!  They’d better take more care not to be caught next time.  I, on the other hand, am not sure I am ready to take my veg patch watch to Depth Con 4 levels just yet, dear Reader!

One significant problem according to Poppy and Primrose though…..we forgot to plant strawberries.  In fact, other than a thornless blackberry plant, an autumn raspberry cane and some dead on its feet rhubarb, we didn’t manage to get any soft fruits in this year.  However, with an amazing selection at a PYO very near us, we spent a blissful afternoon on Midsummer’s Day picking strawberries and talking jam.  Sometimes appeasing a 6 year old and a 3 year old is relatively easy!  I shall be cooking up a batch of homemade Strawberry and Lavender jam from the Margot’s Kitchen archives too – forgotten how much we all liked it until my little recipe made an appearance in The Telegraph this week.  Good grief – a proud Margot kitchen moment indeed!  Happy Eating, dear Reader!

Episodes in cooking on a camping stove- Part 2

Let there be light - my sparkly new Garden Trading lights.

Let there be light!  My sparkly new French farmhouse style lights from Garden Trading.


Episode 2

I left you last week, dear Reader, with a half finished kitchen and a long list of camping stove menus.  Things could only get better from that point on….or so I thought.  However, when darkness fell upon the house (for the second time) as our builders drilled a hole through our electrics, I wondered how I would manage in the glow of camping stove gas and candlelight.  With one wall (new plaster, paint and all) smashed into to find the possible errant screw, the builders prompted left saying that there was nothing they could do until the electrician could come back in 2 days time.  Not ideal.  Being of the non-confrontational sort, I smiled and said with a slightly jumpy giggle “You can’t leave me like this with 2 small children.”  “Well it’s not like we are leaving you with dangerous electrics – the trip switch will just pop loudly if anything else blows”, was the answer.  Reassuring, dear Reader.  In the light (no pun intended, believe me) of our newest drama, I set off to our local farm shop café in search of sustenance, warmth and illumination for the girls.  To be honest, I was determined to find a meal for Primrose and Poppy that wasn’t something along the beans, lentils, chickpeas, chicken, stew or anything cooked on the camping stove front as moaning had reached fever pitch.  We arrived in the hopes of finding a homemade steak and ale pie, only to find that they had stopped serving food ten minutes before we arrived.  Disaster.  With a VERY disgruntled Primrose who reprimanded me for not knowing the opening times of the café off by heart, we returned to cook….yes you guessed it…more chicken.  Chicken, chicken, chicken…..if we eat any more of it, I shall consider taking up residence in the hen house permanently. Continue reading

Baking, shaking and no stirring in sight

Apparently, it is National Baking Week.  How do they dream these things up?  Tuning in to the Great British Bake Off this week, I found myself riveted.  Not for tips from Mary Berry on good baking as you might think…… Now that Jerry is out of earshot, I will admit that I was glued to the screen, unable to concentrate on the recipe for a Paris Brest due to a rather dishy young baker named James.  Once I dragged myself away from watching him making fondant fancies, I got to thinking about my own baking skills which, it has to be said, are rather hopeless.  I have all the relevant kit as you can imagine.  Bread scraper, cake and loaf tins, silicone moulds, palette knives, spatulas and EVEN a flour shaker!  I know I know, with all this kit, you would think that I would be able to produce something edible.  I try very hard but the cakes, bread, scones etc I have made in the past have always had the qualities revered in London brick.  I can’t help myself.  Even though I know that baking is a science and instructions must be adhered to strictly, somehow, I can never help trying to cut a corner here or adding something to the recipe there.  Dare I say it, on one occasion, I even thought that I knew better than the housewives’ staple and goddess of plain cookery, Delia.

In desperation, I turned my hand to some baking research.  Reading some serious tomes on the matter, namely Bread Matters by Andrew Whitley, it seems that soda bread is the place to start as it requires very little skill on the baker’s part!  No problems there then!  Past that, it was all sourdough starter this and proving baskets that.  Not for the serial baking criminal…..

Well in the end, after some serious deliberating over recipes, I used a classic soda bread recipe (thank you Mr Whittingstall!) and tried as best I could to follow the baking rules!  Preheat oven, weigh out ingredients, mix then knead.  I did take a turn towards inventiveness and added a few crumbled handfuls of a lump of cheese I found in the fridge, fried off some smoked bacon and put those in too.  Mixed altogether, it looked a bit like a small brain on the baking tray.  Unappealing I know.  Not even Primrose could give a vote of confidence on this one!

Not very appetising…..

Whilst it had its twelve minutes in a hot oven, I remembered a nifty bit of magic which might just steer Primrose and Poppy away from the inevitable baking failure.  Making your own butter!  About the only truly memorable thing from my prep school days other than girls having embroidery lessons on Wednesday afternoons whilst the boys went out to play sport.  Before you ask, no I did not to go to school in the 1950s but might as well have.  Just in case you want to have a go at this, here is how I did it:

At the beginning….

          • Get a jam jar and fill a third full with room temperature double cream.  (I used it straight from the fridge….and it took ages to get through the next bit so follow this even if you don’t follow any of the other instructions)!
          • Put the lid on tight and then start shaking.  If the cream is the right temperature, then you may only need to shake for 10mins.  I attempted to banish the bingo wings for roughly 20mins.  You must shake vigorously and continually.
          • The jam jar will go silent…..don’t PANIC.  In the words of the WWII propaganda poster, “Keep Calm and Carry on”.
          • Shake until the sound changes to a slosh and you have a creamy mass and some watery milky liquid in the jar.
          • Pour off the liquid (this is buttermilk and you can use it in your next batch of soda bread).
          • ‘Rinse’ the butter in the jam jar with cold water.  Keep doing this until the water runs clear.

            …and here’s one I made earlier!

          • When it does, then your butter is almost ready.  Just press out the rest of the liquid.  You can use a delightfully vintage set of butter paddles for this.  Failing your ability to procure these, your hands will do just as well.
          • Wrap in greaseproof and put in the fridge.
I mixed in a little ground sea salt into mine before putting in the fridge but I shall leave the flavourings up to you.  Anything goes really.  You won’t make enough to rival Anchor but you will have made enough to smother on a slice of soda bread.  It would seem that butter requires little culinary know-how.  Bread on the other hand….well it looks like I may be going back to the bread board again.  Sadly you could have used my efforts for shot putting.  Shame I am a few months too late for the Olympics!  Still, three loaves later and apparently if one follows the recipe and uses buttermilk instead of fat free yoghurt, a bacon and cheese soda loaf with a fluffy inside can be made.  A tiny taste of heaven with our homemade butter.  Dare we say that Margot has had success in the baking department at last?!  Dear Reader, I’ll let you decide….

A small kitchen miracle at last!