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Archive for the ‘English’ Category

With Ascot coming up, I came across this image and couldn’t resist sharing.  

Watercress and cream cheese sandwiches are one of my favourite tea time treats.

This hat, designed by London Milliner Sean Barrett, was worn at last year’s Ladies Day at Ascot.  

 

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sarnies

Isn’t it lovely?

Stay cool, 

Myrtle. 

 

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My children call this Green Soup.  

They will eat a bit of it, but are not great fans. However, I love it.  It is quick, simple, satisfying and very good for you.  It is also possible to make it without any dairy, just in case you have some non dairy eating, vegetarian friends coming over for dinner. 

One bunch of fresh watercress, one large potato (or a couple of medium ones), some water, a dollop of olive oil, seasoning, and about 20 minutes is all that you need.

This makes enough for 1 or 2 people.  Multiply the amounts for more. 

You can make it richer, with a bit of butter, milk, creme fraiche, or cream.  

I have also used parsley, arugula, sorrel, and baby spinach with/or in place of the watercress.

 

Watercress

Watercress

It is so very, very easy. 

Simply peel the potatos, cut into chunks, cover with cold water, and cook until tender.  

Add the Watercress or other greens. Cover and  turn off the heat.  The heat from the potatoes and their water will steam the watercress very quickly. Once the watercress has wilted, drain off any excess water, saving it to add back, if necessary. 

Then, blend the potatoes and watercress with a hand blender into a smooth puree. Add back any cooking liquid as necessary, or, milk if you prefer.  Blend until you have the desired consistency. In order for the soup to have a smoother consistency, add a little fat, either a pat of butter, or a dollop of olive oil. I’ve used both, and both work well. 

Season with salt, pepper, and/or chilli flakes.  Chopped chives, or green onion is also very nice. So is a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, if you are doing the non dairy version. 

I got this recipe from a dear friend in Falmouth, with whom I once went skydiving.  

But, that’s another story for another time. 

Great memories and good, green soup.  

Myrtle.

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Nuisance

Nuisance

Lunch boxes are a nuisance.  What my children want for lunch varies from day to day, week to week, month to, you get the idea.  It is difficult to come up with new ideas that are reasonably healthy. Things are complicated by the heat, here in the desert; cheese goes limp and oily, etc, etc. Plus, the heat makes them very picky. First Born will only carry a discreet, brown paper bag for her lunch.  Insulated lunch bags are unacceptably unfashionable for the modern day teenager.  Little One still carries a traditional, metal lunch box, covered in monkeys, precious as she has been using it for years. 

So, what to pack? I used to send salads, in small containers, but the girls prefer to eat their salads at home, straight from the fridge.  I can’t say I blame them. I usually manage to get them to eat a small sandwich of either chicken or ham, as well as, fruit, cucumber, carrots, and a few chips (crisps in the UK).  Sometimes I’ll throw in a cookie, if we have any in the house. Not very interesting, but adequate. 

I am always interested in what other people are eating, so when I see a lunch box coming out, I cannot help sneaking a little peak. 

Once, I was sitting in the waiting lounge of Newquay Airport, in Cornwall, when I saw a tall, handsome man eating a packed lunch. I couldn’t help myself, Dear Reader. The man was Sam Neil, one of my favourite actors. Cornwall is a popular location for making films so, it is not unusual to bump into certain well known people, who work, visit, or live there. Celebrity spotting is a popular hobby for some locals, and I used to think, that I was above that sort of thing.

Wrong.

I had to know what Mr Neil was eating. I found myself wondering, whose fair hand had packed lunch for him that day.  I can report that that his lunch box was a modest, tupperware like container, that he ate a sandwich with brown bread, filling unknown, and then, some green grapes.  You’re on the edge of your seat, I can tell. 

Our flight was called. We boarded the plane. Dear Reader, I couldn’t believe that I was given the seat next to Mr Neil.  I was so flustered and embarrassed, desperately hoping that he hadn’t noticed me watching him eat, only a few minutes before, that I banged my head on the overhead baggage compartment as I tried to sit down.  The planes that fly between Newquay and London are very small.  

Well, I thought that I couldn’t have been more embarrassed.  Mr. Neil was very polite, asking if I was okay, to which I managed to grunt some sort of reply.  I shudder to think what he must have been thinking.  The plane took off, and I was flying to London, in more ways than one, sitting next to Sam Neil.  He promptly fell asleep (or, at least, pretended to), and didn’t wake up until we landed, about an hour later.

Well, surely you can guess what happened next.  I was still so nervous, that, as I stood up, I banged my head, again, on the overhead baggage compartment. Did I mention that these are exceedingly small planes?  A rather concerned Mr. Neil looked at me, giving me the most disarmingly gorgeous and sympathetic smile, asking again, if  I was okay.

I was incapable of speech at that moment.

Then, he walked away.

I had a head ache for the rest of the day, but, somehow, I didn’t really mind. 

What’s in your lunchbox? 

Myrtle.

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Persian Cucumbers

Persian Cucumbers

We love cucumbers. We eat them all the time.

Cucumbers are cooling and refreshing when it’s hot outside. As we get 334 days of sunshine a year here in the valley, it’s hot a lot. Cucumbers keep well in the refrigerator and are therefore convenient to keep around for snacks.  

There seem to be three types of cucumber available in the shops, at least here in Arizona.  There is the good ole, garden variety type, the European or English cucumber, which is usually encased in plastic, and the smaller pickling or Persian cucumber.  

For general packed lunches and snacking, we prefer the English cucumber, but they can be expensive.  They are never bitter, and the seeds inside are soft and unobtrusive. They keep for a very long time. We like them peeled.  Before you ask, yes, we do sometimes have them thinly sliced in sandwiches.  The Great English Cucumber Sandwich is a model of sublime simplicity. And, yes, they do taste better with the crusts cut off. 

I will buy regular cucumbers if the English ones are a silly price.  I peel them, quater them, then cut out the seeds.  

We are also very fond of the small, pickling cucumbers that you can occasionally find in the markets.  They are sometimes called Persian Cucumbers.  They have good flavour, they’re crunchy, with virtually no seeds.  These qualities make them perfect for salad. 

One of the complaints I hear about cucumber salad is that it goes soggy and watery quite quickly. There are things that we can do to remedy these bugbears. 

Firstly, if using large cucumbers, after peeling, cut in half  then scoop out all the seeds and insides.  This is the part that adds a lot of water to the salad.  This step is unnecessary if using the smaller, Persian cucumber.  Peeling and chopping is all that is necessary.

Secondly, salt the cucumber ahead of time with coarse salt, to draw out excess water.  After chopping the cucumber (thick chunks or thin slices, it’s up to you), sprinkle the cukes with a handful of coarse salt, them cover them with ice cubes, to keep them cool.  Leave it for at least half an hour but no more than a couple of hours.  Drain and rinse well.  Taste the cucumber at this point.  If it is too salty, soak it in water for a few minutes.  Then drain off all water, shaking off any excess.

Your cucumbers should now be very crunchy, yet still full of juice, and ready to be dressed.

I always use Extra Virgin Olive Oil for this salad.  A mild vinegar would work, but, we prefer fresh lemon juice.  The amounts that you use depend on how much cucumber you have and how much dressing you want to make.  I also like to add a small amount of chopped onion, a handful of finely chopped flat leaf parsley, and, if I have them, some very thinly sliced radishes.  I like them with cucumber. 

Now there are ways to play around with this salad.  Grated, fresh ginger is nice, but I would leave out the onion, parsley, and radishes and use a rice vinegar instead of the lemon. I add sesame seeds, as well, when I’m using ginger.

Cucumbers also go well with fresh or freeze dried dill.  I sometimes like to add cooked black eyed peas, but the children complain when I do this.  Kids. 

Don’t you hate it when shops put candy along the check out lanes?  Don’t you hate it when you see children, crying for candy, their poor mothers looking weary of constantly saying no.  

Don’t you hate it when shops put cute kitchen gadgets along the check out lanes? 

Yes, Dear Reader, I have fallen victim to yet another gadget.  And, yes, it’s cute. It is a little, hand held, stainless steel julienne slicer.  It works a treat with cucumber.  Simply peel your cuke, then run the julienne slicer over it.  Impossibly fine threads appear, like magic. Sprinkled with a touch of seasoning, oil, or lemon, seeds, it adds a cooling element to any summer meal.  

I hope that this is helpful and that you will start playing with your cucumbers. 

Have fun, 

Myrtle.

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Yesterday was one of those typically frantic days when life is a blur.  I raced from task to task, blah, blah, blah. It was over 100 degrees outside, blah blah blah. It was First Born’s final concert with her choir in the evening, so she had rehearsals and was nervous as she was asked to make a speech.  Little  One wanted to take a friend. Blah, blah, blah. At some point in the afternoon, I felt it was time to cool down and cook.  Something familiar, something comforting, but, also, something slightly new.  I reached up, and took down a big box from the top of the refrigerator.  I had been saving this pleasure for just this sort of day. 

 

Non Musical Instrument - Mandoline

Non Musical Instrument - Mandoline

 

Another new toy.  

I have always wanted one of these.  I have always imagined making Potatoes Dauphinoise, with impossibly thin slices of potatoes.  

I’ve had it for months, but I only took it out of the box yesterday.  I know that it is, technically, a non musical instrument, but, Dear Reader,  we made sweet music together. I made the base for Cottage Pie, but instead of mashed potato, which Little One doesn’t like, I was able to use impossibly thin slices of potato. It worked beautifully. I made it in advance, so that we would have something nice to tuck into after the concert. 

The concert was lovely.  An interesting juxtaposition of Requiem pieces in the first half, and songs from the Muppet Show in the second. Very emotional for all, but especially the seniors leaving school. They have worked hard all year and sang like angels.

After our evening of heavenly music, it was nice to come home to the comfort of Cottage Pie. Even Little One, who is not a great lover of potatoes, liked them sliced, impossibly thin.  I felt I had broken a barrier. 

I can also report that the Mandoline is easier on my fingers than the Molcajete. 

In fact, the only criticism I can make of my new gadget, is that is a tad wasteful.  

But, as the impossibly thin slices of potato melted in my mouth, I really didn’t care.

TGIF, 

M.

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Tonight was family night.  

My brother and his lovely family came for dinner.  My little nephew ate early, had a strawberry puree pop, then amazed us all that his supper didn’t reappear after a bit of vigorous trampolining.  

I made a simple meal of strips of chicken breast, marinaded in lemon and garlic, seasoned potato wedges, served with garlic yogurt (recipe in post titled Garlic Yogurt), a green, leafy salad, and carrot salad.  My children love carrot salad, even Little One who refuses to eat plain, raw carrots. 

It’s very easy.  I usually make a big bowl, as it keeps for days and the children like it as a snack when they come home from school.

 

Carrot Salad with Orange Oil and Sesame Seeds

Carrot Salad with Orange Oil and Sesame Seeds

 

I use a food processor to grate the carrots; grating an entire bag of carrots by hand is definitely a bore. 

I have also discovered a lovely new thing, Orange infused Olive Oil.  It adds a flavour that works well with the carrots. I have used Queen Creek Olive Mill Blood Orange Olive Oil, a company located here in Arizona. Their website is queencreekolivemill.com . 

When I use traditional Extra Virgin Olive Oil, I usually use fresh Lemon Juice instead of Vinegar.  Using the Orange Oil and Lemon Juice is a bit over the top. 

I first discovered this salad, years ago, in a National Trust Restaurant at the Tudor Mansion Cotehele, in Cornwall.  They served it with fresh lemon, fresh thyme, and chopped apples.  It was very nice. I went home and made it straight away, before I forgot. 

Another variation I have found, is with fresh lemon and finely grated fresh ginger.  Also very nice. 

Sometimes I like it with a handful of sunflower seeds, when I want some extra crunch. 

Hope you feel inspired.   

 

Carrot Salad  (The One We Had Tonight)

1 large bag of Carrots, peeled and coarsely grated. 

2 Tablespoons of Blood Orange Olive Oil (more or less to taste)

Additional Extra Virgin Olive Oil (again, to taste)

2 Tablespoons of Mild Vinegar (I used Red Wine, but White Wine would work as well (you may need a bit more, according to your palate) 

1 bunch finely chopped Spring Onion

1 handful finely chopped flat leaf Parsley

1 handful Sesame Seeds

Salt and Pepper. 

Method

Put the grated carrots into a large bowl.  Add the flavoured oil, then an equal amount of plain Olive Oil  Add 2 Tablespoons of  Vinegar, salt and pepper. Then taste and adjust the amount of oil, vinegar, and seasoning to your palate.  Then add the Onions, Parsley, and Sesame Seeds.  

Enjoy !

Nighty night, 

M.

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The English revere strawberry season.  They cover their berries with fine, caster sugar, then eat them with lashing of cream. Delicious. Eton Mess is a spectacular concoction of fresh strawberries, pieces of meringue, and cream. Also, delicious. 

It is strawberry season here in the desert. The girls and I love them. Today I bought a kilo of berries for $2.44.  Yes, they had been reduced in price, but, they are still very good.  Too good to pass up.

 

Strawberry puree pops

Strawberry Puree Ice Pops

 

 

When I have a lot of strawberries to use up, and the children have had enough of eating them whole, or on cereal, or with ice cream, I pop them into the food processor for Strawberry Puree Ice Pops.  If the puree is a bit sour, I will add a touch of sugar, but, often even that isn’t necessary.  Just blend, taste, spoon into ice pop forms. The children love them.  

My mother’s father also loved strawberries. He bought them whenever he could.  Once, he came to our house on Long Island, for supper.  He arrived with an enormous box of fresh strawberries for dessert.  My mother put them into the refrigerator. 

Well, I knew that they were there.  I opened the refrigerator door.  They looked so pretty, and the smell was overwhelming. Dear Reader, I couldn’t help myself.  I had to have one. Just one.

But, of course, by suppertime, half of the box was gone, I had a tummy ache, and my family was cross. When they asked me about the missing strawberries, I apparently had nothing to say, other than it might have been the strawberry faery.  I was six years old. 

That was my nickname for many years after.  

There are worse crosses to bear. 

Myrtle.

 

P.S.  These strawberry lollies lasted less than 24 hours.  Making more as we speak.  Kids can’t get enough.

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