Saturday, June 30, 2012

Thai curry in an English pub

One of the things that I like about going for walks in England is that they inevitably end up at a pub. I remember many years ago going for a long walk on the fells in the lake district, and when we came down exhausted and rather damp there was a wonderful old pub waiting to greet us with a wood fire burning and a restoring glass of sherry.  Well the pubs have changed and really are more about the food now than the communal living room as they were in the past.  But they are still dotted conveniently around the landscape in most parts of the country, much like Starbucks here, and make a convenient stopping off point half way or at the end of your walk.

On my last full day in England we went for a walk through the countryside around where Jacky lives in Chipperfield.  It was one of the brighter warmer days of the week and we took full advantage of the break in the rain to get some exercise.  Howard led us through the right of way alongside some fields and through the woods.  These are legally protected ancient rights of way, that crisscross the countryside all over England and allow you to go for a walk anywhere regardless of privately owned property.

I said brighter I didn't say sunny
It was a beautiful walk through the gently rolling hills on the edge of the chilterns, along farmers fields and through a wooded area which was in the process of being replanted, as well as along some country lanes. There is nothing quite like an English hedgerow which are full of wild flowers and make beautiful border to the narrow lanes.

We were heading for The Green Dragon Flaunden where Howard assured me they served very good Thai food.  We arrived at what looked like a very traditional 17th  century English Pub and headed through to the gardens outside and claimed a table.  The menu had mostly Thai food with a couple of traditional English pub dishes, but obviously the speciality was Thai and so that was what we ordered.

The food came and it was delicious, Howard ordered a red curry with prawns, chicken and beef and it was as good as any Thai food I have had, spicy but not over the top.

I ordered the green curry and it was equally good, fragrant and full of flavour, I also ordered the mixed protein, being unable to make a choice. If I was to go again I would probably choose just prawns as they were large plump and fresh tasting. Each of the curries came with white rice and were about 7 pounds, and we all thought a very good value.

Jacky ordered another curry with out coconut milk but all prawns, which was also very good but hers was a little spicier. It was a very pleasant lunch sitting outside in the gardens enjoying a glass of good English cider and some unexpectedly good Thai food.

Replenished by our lunch we started on the half hour walk back and came across this sign in the village.

I am not sure what the story behind this is, but I loved it, and think cats should be given more consideration everywhere.  Sadly I did not have my camera with me on this walk so Jacky took the pictures with her IPhone, I think they came out remarkably well, thank you Jacky for being my blog photographer. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Graduation cup cakes

I have a group of friends that have been friends now for over 18 years and we call our selves "The Village".  This comes from the saying it takes a village to raise a child. When we first were connecting our children were very young, and as all parents, we were doing the best we could and appreciated any help we could get in maintaining our sanity.  Our children grew up in what was almost an extended family of cousins with second and third mothers.  I am proud to say that I am identified as a family member one these now grown children's face books.

This June the youngest of the "Village" children graduated from high school, it hardly seems possible that all those sometimes wild children have now grown.  Some have fledged, left home and are working full time making their own way, while many are still testing their wings going to college and University, trying to decide what it is they want to do with their lives.

With each June came new graduates and for each graduate or graduates we hold a Village party to celebrate their safe arrival to adulthood. This year was the last of such celebrations so a little nostalgic.

Nancy and I had offered to make graduation cupcakes for the party and so with the help of the Internet we came up with the design for the topping.  The base of the mortar board is a mini peanut butter cup and so I decided to make chocolate, chocolate chip cup cake with peanut butter icing. I found this recipe on and changed it just a little, I made double the recipe which made about 50 cup cakes, but I have given ingredients for a single batch.

2 1/2 cups white flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons of cocoa
2/3 cup butter, at room temperature
1  cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Mix all the dry ingredients together

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Instant Strawberry ice cream

We saw this idea on a cooking show one morning, and both Jacky and I were intrigued by this very simple way to make ice cream. We both thought that this was well worth a try, because if it worked it would be a great desert to have in your back pocket.  I have made a similar ice cream using frozen bananas and skim milk, which makes a delicious decedent tasting treat with very little calories.  So it seemed definitely worth a try though this one was definitely not low in calories, but it might be worth a try using regular milk to see if it works.

Very bad photograph of strawberry ice cream with rhubarb meringue pie
I punnet of fresh English strawberries (or strawberries from where ever you are)
2 tablespoons of icing sugar
1 carton of clotted cream or marscapone or whipping cream or Greek yogurt

Wash and cut the strawberries in half, then lay in a single layer on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer, until they are frozen solid.

Place these along with the icing sugar and clotted cream in a food processor.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

White asparagus soup

White asparagus is something that I am not really sure if I have ever had before, but during my week in England I think I had more than most people have in a life time.  A friend was visiting from Belgium, who lived next door to a white asparagus farm and sent a case of white asaparagus.  Some of it was young and tender and some of it was old and woody. The only thing to do with old woody asparagus, white or green, is make soup.

Asparagus soup served in a cabbage!
All I did was saute some onion in a little olive oil until transparent and then added peeled chopped white asparagus.

I cooked this for about 10 minutes on low stirring occasionally until the asparagus was starting to soften.  Then added enough chicken stock to cover and a little chopped parsley.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Coronation chicken

Coronation chicken is a dish that was created for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth the second in 1952, so what better dish to make for a picnic on her Diamond Jubilee. This is something my mother made, unfortunately I did not have her recipe, but after a little research I found one at which I only adapted a little.

Packed and ready to go

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp mild curry powder

1 tbsp red wine
¼ pint chicken stock
Juice of ½ a lemon
1 cup of mayonnaise
4 tbsp apricot jam
2 tbsp cream
4 chicken breasts cooked, and diced

Cook the onion in the olive oil until it is softened and transparent, add the curry powder or paste and cook for a couple of minutes.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A day at the races

When I said I was coming to England, my friend Jacky told me that another school friend suggested we come down to the south coast and go to the races with her.  She is a member of Goodwood race track and we should bring hats and fancy dresses! I had visions of drifting around in the sunshine in my fascinator, fancy dress and amazing shoes bought for the occasion. Drinking champagne and sitting outside in the warm sun.  The weather Gods had different plans the day dawned with pouring rain and high winds, but the races were not cancelled.

So we had a picnic to prepare and pack and of course as it was the Jubilee week we would take the Queen with us in the picnic basket.

There were over 13 of us going in several vehicles, but we had the picnic in the back of our car.  The idea was to have a type of tailgate party at the car which we had parked just a few minutes walk away from the champagne tent in a grassy field.

Our portion of the picnic was coronation chicken, served in corn tortilla trays, salmon wellington, white asparagus wrapped in prosciutto and individual pissaladiere. I made the pissaldiere exactly the same as before  but in 2 inch squares, and as we did not have any olives we placed a small piece of roasted pepper in the middle of each one.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Salmon Wellington

We were invited to go to Goodwood races with an old school friend and we were to bring a picnic.  I felt that this had to be a high class picnic not just some sandwiches, a bag of chips and a couple of scotch eggs, so Jacky suggested we make something with salmon. Between us we came up with this idea for a salmon wellington.

2 shallots or one small bunch of green onion
1 clove of garlic chopped
1 tablespoon of olive oil
4 cups of mushrooms chopped finely
1/4 cup of chopped parsley
4 portions of salmon fillet
1 package of puff pastry

In a small saucepan sweat off the shallot and garlic in the olive oil until it is transparent, then add the mushrooms. Cook stirring fairly often until the mushrooms have collapsed down and all the liquid has been cooked out, about 10 minutes. Add a good grind of black pepper and some salt, I do think mushrooms like black pepper.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Almost ratatouille

We came home from a hard day's shopping in Watford looking forward to moules marinier and french fries, a quick easy dinner to make, especially as Jacky's husband was making the fries.  So we did not really start thinking about cooking until very close to dinner time.  The fries were cut and soaking in water time to prepare the mussels.  Horrors the mussels were past their due date and not looking as healthy as they should and none of us wanted to take a chance, so plan b it was.

Jacky produced some chicken breasts and assorted vegetables from the cellar, we perused the ingredients and we came up with roasted ratatouille (substituting the eggplant with mushroom) chicken in home made barbecue sauce, green salad with warm balsamic dressing and of course french fries.

Jacky took on the chicken and salad, Howard the fries and I was responsible for the roasted vegetables.  I had

  • 2 portabello mushrooms, 
  • 2 red peppers, 
  • 2 zucchini (courgettes), 
  • 2 small red onions 
  • a box of cherry tomatoes

I quickly chopped all the vegetables up through them in a roasting tin added the tomatoes and drizzled on some olive oil, and threw them in a 400 oven.  These cooked for just over half an hour which was the time it took to prepare the remainder of the meal. The vegetables were soft and just turning black on the edges, absolutely perfect.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Steak and mushroom pie

What better food to eat on a rather cool June long weekend in England than pie.  We decided to make two pies fish pie and steak and mushroom pie.  Jackie was in charge of the fish pie and I took responsibility (with a little help) for the meat pie.  We picked up some braising steak from the store and set that to cooking before we walked up to the Chipperfield fair

getting ready for the children's races
First I browned the steak that was cut up in to chunks in pot with a little olive oil. I did this in 3 batches as we were making two meat pies as there was 12 for dinner.

You really do not want to overcrowd them. Then when the last batched was browned I added 3 small onion chopped by my able co chef Jacky.

I stirred these in to cook with the meat and then when they were softened added about 2 tablespoons of flour.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Jubilee Dinner

After arriving back from watching the Flotilla on Sunday we changed into some dry clothes and set about making dinner.  Jacky had a couple of chicken breasts and a pork tenderloin in the fridge, so we used both in order to feed 6 of us.  She cut the chicken breast into 6 pieces and wrapped each one in a slice of bacon.  We then tossed these with the pork and some potatoes, leeks, garlic and a lemon cut up.

We drizzled over some olive oil and some ras hanout (morrocan spice) and roasted in a 400 oven for about ¾ of an hour, until everything was crispy and cooked through.  

We also had an amazing care package brought from Belgium of white asparagus.  

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Diamond Jubilee Celebration in Chipperfield

Day 3 of the Jubilee Celebration dawned cool and wet again, and I realized that I had packed totally the wrong footwear for jubilee celebrations in England. So when we popped out for some provisions I picked up something more suitable.

Suitable footwear for summer in England (wellies)
Luckily the clouds slowly cleared as we walked up through the woods to Chipperfield Common.  Along the way, there was a spectacular old sweet chestnut tree which has been there since Henry the VIII used to ride pass when he hunted in the area.

Howard took us on a circuitous route and eventually we came out of the woods on to Chipperfield common.  What greeted us was an old fashioned village fair which reminded me very much of the Ioco ghost town days in port moody

There were some obvious differences, there was a bar serving beer and Pimms so that you could enjoy a beverage while going around the grounds.

My personal favourite was Would Jubileve it real ale, though not being a beer drinker I ordered a Pimms.  we then moved on to the Hog roast, this is something I think we should include in the Ioco Day celebrations.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Diamond Jubilee Flotilla

I arrived in London on Sunday June 3, 2012 day 2 of 4 days of celebration of the Queens Diamond Jubilee.  My flight arrived at 6:30 in the morning. My friend picked me up at the airport whisked me home where I was treated to a “Jubilee breakfast” prepared by her husband.

This included a large platter of delicious English bacon along with sausages, scrambled eggs, baked beans, toast yogurt and fresh fruit.  We were spared the indignities of fried bread.  Though my friend’s husband is from New Zealand and freely admits to being a Republican, the table was decorated with union jacks in the Queens honour.

Then 6 of us hopped on to the tube and along with almost the entire population of London headed to the Thames in central London to see the flotilla go by. When we arrived at Waterloo Station, the area was heaving with people already.
This is the view looking back at the people coming out of Waterloo station at about 11:30 and the event was not scheduled to come by this part of the Thames until 3:30.  This was not a good place for anyone with a fear of crowds.