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I freely confess that I had two agendas for planting nasturtiums in my backyard:

  1. I do love the flowers, and their leaves, and the fact that they spread everywhere each year…enroaching a little bit more on each part of my tiny back garden
  2. I’ve always wanted a source of edible flowers on tap, and boy do I have that this year.

Flowers…not just for decoration

This salad is just a simple riff on an italian salad, which I jzuzzed with my nasturtiums.

Too pretty to eat? I think not.

Ingredients

  • Several large handfuls of rocket
  • 1 pear, thinly sliced (go for a Beurre Bosc or a Golden Pear)
  • Shaved parmesan (you know it has to be freshly shaved)
  • 1 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbps Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning
  • Nasturtium flowers, as many as you think your guests will eat

Arrange layers of your rocket, pear and parmesan on a platter. Mix up the balsamic with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Drizzle the dressing over the salad and then artfully (has to be artfully) arrange your nasturtium flowers around the platter. Serve!

Serves 4.

Additional options:

  • Serve individual plates of salad with a poached egg or two on top for a light dinner, or quartered soft boiled eggs
  • Sprinkle capers in the salad for a tangy bite (goes really well if you are including the egg)

Super pretty

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I apologise in advance for not having the best photos of this drink. For some reason I keep forgetting to take a photo of it when I serve it. And I serve it at almost every dinner party, because it is a non-alcoholic winner of a drink for the non-drinkers, and the skippers and the responsible amongst us.

Elderflower spritz to the right, gravy to the left

It’s a bit of a fave amongst the non-drinking dinner guests, and so easy to make.

Alcoholic drink to the left, Elderflower Spritz to the right

Ingredients

  • 250mL Apple Fruit Drink (it’s 30% Apple juice and you can get it in convenient 6 packs)
  • Elderflower cordial, you’ll use a couple of good slugs of this
  • Soda water or mineral water (I use my sodastream)
  • Slices of lebanese or continental cucumber (say 10 thin slices)
  • 1 lemon, cut into 8ths or 1 lime cut into quarters
  • Sprigs of mint

Pop about 1cm of elderflower cordial at the base of a jug, add in your apple fruit drink, add icecubes and then fill up with soda water but don’t fill to the brim. Add your cucumber and your lemon/lime (squeeze these into the jug as you add them), and your sprigs of mint (squeeze these to bruise them just before you add them). Stir and serve: simples!

You can keep topping it up with soda water and elderflower cordial throughout the night…

Elderflower spritz hiding behind the pear and rosemary cocktail, also in a jug.

2018 is all about the canapes. When I have a dinner party now, I don’t do a starter or an entree: I do a canape or two. So refined 😉

…even vegetarians can have a yorkshire pudding canape

I’ve been on a quest to redeem myself since I first tried to make Yorkshire puddings: they ended up being more like Yorkshire pikelets. They were still delicious…but they definitely didn’t pud.

I had my first Yorkshire pudding in 1996 (yes I am very old), when I visited the UK. Yorkshire puddings were the responsibility and specialty of my English grandpa (who otherwise didn’t actually cook). And boy did he make a good Yorkshire Pudding: it’s probably a good thing I didn’t have a working oven and the idea of heating oil scared me, because these are not low cal delights!

So I know I have the Yorkshire Pudding Making gene in my family, even though my first attempt was…flat. Very, very flat:

You can see them trying desperately to curl themselves up into proper Yorkie shape, bless their flat little souls

No amount of filtering can change the fact that they were disappointingly flat. Disappointingly albeit deliciously flat:

Yorkshire Pikelets, a new food trend?

I did some investigating, and decided that where I went wrong was following the oven temperature instructions for the recipe I’d found. All ovens are different, so rather than choosing a temperature, the rule of thumb with yorkies is to turn it up as high as it will go (turn it up to 11). That and weighing all your ingredients. Those are the two secrets!

Armed with this new knowledge, I attempted to make them again. I did a first test run of 12 (apparently if I had a mini muffin tin, I could have made 24…but a muffin tin still gives a good size):

Victory at last

I was so successful, that I may have accidentally eaten the Yorkshire puddings I was planning on using as canapes in the evening…as both breakfast and lunch. So I had to make a second batch #oops.

Ingredients

For puddings

You’ll need a muffin pan.

  • 115gm plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 145mL (I actually weight 145gm) milk
  • Olive oil

Pop your flour, salt and eggs into a bowl and stir to combine. Add in the milk and stir until the batter is smooth. Let the batter rest for 30 minutes on your counter (you can make the toppings while you wait), then pour it into a measuring jug.

Preheat your oven as hot as it will go (mine goes to 260°C).

Pop about 2-3mm of olive oil in each muffin hole. When the oven is hot, pop the tin in the oven and heat for about 5 minutes (the tin will be smoking hot). Carefully take out the tin (you do not want to spill smoking boiling oil anywhere) and pop it on a counter (I put mine on a chopping board so I don’t burn the laminate). Working quickly, pour equal amounts of your batter into each muffin hole. There should be enough to mostly cover the bottom of each muffin hole.

Carefully manoeuvre the muffin tin back into the oven, and cook until puffed and golden (about 12-20 minutes). Leave to cool in the tin.

So beautiful

You can make these ahead and reheat later in the day (just pop them back into the muffin tin, at the bottom of the oven for about 5-10 minutes tops).

For toppings

  • 3 button mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 sprig rosemary, chopped finely
  • 1 small piece of fillet beef
  • Creamy Dijon mustard
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper for seasoning

In one frypan, melt butter. Add clove of garlic and rosemary, when fragrant add in the mushrooms. Stir to coat with butter, fry until soft. Set aside.

In another frypan, pop some olive oil and heat. Add your small piece of fillet steak, and cook until rare/medium rare. Let rest and then slice into thin strips.

To assemble: put about a tsp of dijon mustard into each Yorkie, then top with either the beef or the mushrooms.

Serves 6 (or 4 very hungry people).

Delicious, delicious, delicious.

An alternative topping:

  • Mix 1 tsp horseradish with 2-3 tbsp thickened cream and season with salt and pepper. Dollop that into the Yorkie pudding, then top with slices of fillet steak. Then sprinkle with chopped chives, because you’re fancy.

 

This recipe came about because one of my friends had depleted adrenals. I didn’t actually know that one could deplete your adrenals until she told me 😮 (don’t try it at home, it’s not recommended). As she comes over for dinner regularly, and I do like a culinary challenge: I went on a hunt for recipes that will help replete (if that’s even a word) her adrenals.

After some googling, I discovered that the following foods are good to help replete adrenals (can we just make replete happen, because I can’t be bothered typing restore even though they are the same letter count and #ironically I just typed it):

  • Foods high in vitamin B, e.g. tuna, oats, Brazil nuts, bananas, potatoes, avocados and legumes.
  • Foods high in vitamin C, e.g. citrus fruits, berries, peaches, mangoes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spring greens and tomatoes.
  • Foods high in tyrosine, e.g. fish, chicken, pork, whole grains, oats, dairy, avocados, bananas, legumes, nuts and seeds.

And you should avoid white flour, sugar, sodas, refined foods, caffeine, alcohol, smoking and environmental toxins PLUS learn to relax, avoid stress and exercise regularly; moderate exercise helps stimulate the adrenal glands. (Sources are my good friend Gwyneth, and a health coach in Vancouver.)

Now I generally don’t include environmental toxins or exercise in a dinner plan,  but I felt I could put together a “Restoring Your Adrenals” menu as part of my CHALLENGE ACCEPTED dinner.

I did include some smoking in this recipe, but since the fish was smoking and not us (and fish are high in tyrosine), I felt this was an acceptable form of smoking…?

Looking into the distance

Hot smoked salmon is more like a chunky salmon fillet, than the very thinly sliced cold smoked salmon you are probably used to. It normally has the skin on (you take that off for this meal).

Ingredients

  • 2 fillets of hot smoked salmon (take the skin off, cut it up and feed it to your cat; flake the rest into chunks about 1-1.5cm in size and do not give that to your cat no matter how much they insist they should have it)
  • 2 avocado diced
  • 1 handful of fresh rocket
  • 1  handful of cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1-2 tbsp mild olive oil
  • couple of drops of sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sushi vinegar
  • 1-1.5cm squeeze of wasabi (yes: the green one, in the tube #notfancy)
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning

Pop the olive oil, sesame oil, sushi vinegar, wasabi and some salt and pepper into a jar, attach lid and shake until everything is combined and emulsified. Set aside.

In two low tumblers, assemble your Hot Smoked Salmon cocktail: layer avocado, rocket, salmon chunks, cherry tomato quarters until each tumbler is full. Drizzle the dressing all over it, and serve!

Serves 2.

Smoking Hot Smoked Salmon Cocktail.

Impending blossom: like impending doom because it’s equally inevitable, but it is more nicely scented.

The Jasmine I have out the back has finally come into its own: it’s covering the half of the back fence/neighbour’s house that I wanted to (such ugly bricks) and in August and September it brought me a lot of joy as it delicately scented the air.

Festooned with future blossoms

It was really nice to enjoy the first hints of Jasmine in the air, before it became a heady scent in the warm (well occasionally warm-ish) spring air.

Peppered with prettiness

When it was in full riot of blossom, it was absolutely glorious…

Pink jasmine, pink flamingo…is there a theme?

I am hoping I can get it to cover the rest of the wall next year 😉

…and then we take Berlin.

 

Canape close up

For those days when you don’t have a baguette handy, so you can’t make crostini canapes with cottage cheese, how about cucumber canapes with cottage cheese? This one is a cold recipe, so great for spring and summer. It’s also very quick to assemble, but looks very impressive! You could assemble it 5 minutes before your guests arrive!

Ingredients

  • 12 slices of continental cucumber
  • 5 tbsp of cottage cheese (say about 100mL of your 500mL cottage cheese tub)
  • the green parts of 2 small spring onions, finely cliced
  • 2 sprigs of dill, finely sliced
  • 2 slices smoked salmon
  • 2 radishes, top and tail them then finely slice them
  • Salt and pepper to season

Pop your cottage cheese in a bowl, mix in the dill and spring onion. Season with salt and pepper, then pop in the fridge to infuse until you’re ready to serve.

When you are ready to plate up, slice one side of the radishes off to give you a base to stand each slice up and tear up your smoked salmon into 6 strips that you can artfully place on your canape.

Pop your slices of cucumber on a platter and dollop a high teaspoon of the cottage cheese mix onto each. For the salmon ones: arrange the pieces of salmon on top of 6 of the dollop of cheese. For the radish ones: stand the radish up, cut side down, in the dollop of cheese.

Et voila! Serves 4 people, or 3 very hungry people.

Mushrooms to the left, tomatoes to the right…stuck on a platter for you

I have to confess that I am one of those people who can’t be trusted with a tub of plain cottage cheese: I like it. No: I really like it.

Cottage cheese is more savoury than ricotta (which I also like, but not quite as much). You can eat it straight from the tub, have it on salada crackers for lunch (when your boss might ask you if you are dieting, to which you reply: no I just like cottage cheese), you can add it in place of ricotta to many savoury things….and I have started using it in place of cream cheese (contentious I know) when I make canapes.

There are a couple of rules around cottage cheese:

  • Never, ever, ever buy pre-flavoured cottage cheese. Buy it unadulterated and add any flavourings you want after the fact…if there is any cottage cheese left over once you’ve attacked the tub with a spoon.
  • Always buy 500mL, never the 250mL. You will always be able to eat more of it than you think
  • Don’t leave me alone with a tub of it, if there is a spoon in easy reach

Beginnings of a nice high tea

I invented this recipe when I had Les Chicas over for high tea: it’s a great one for vegetarians and very cheap and simple to make.

Ingredients

  • 8 slices of baguette bread
  • Spray olive oil
  • 8 tbsp cottage cheese (let’s say about 150mL of your 500mL tub)
  • a selection of fresh herbs, finely sliced: I went with parsley and chives from my garden
  • 6 cherry tomatoes sliced in two
  • 3 button mushrooms sliced thinly
  • sprig of rosemary
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Pop the cottage cheese in a bowl, mix through your finely sliced fresh herbs and season with salt and pepper. Pop in the fridge to infuse until you are ready.

Spray olive oil onto each side of your baguette slices, and toast until both sides are golden under your grill, leave to cool.

Oil a small baking dish, place your cherry tomato halves in it and pop in the oven to bake until they are slightly dried and charred (takes about 15-20 minutes at the most). While the tomatoes are baking, heat olive oil and rosemary in a small frypan and fry your button mushroom slices until they are luscious and softened.

To serve: top each crostini with a tbsp of the cottage cheese mix, then place either mushrooms or cherry tomato halves on each crostini. You will end up with 4 of each type of crostini. Grate some salt and pepper over your crostini and challenge anyone who says cottage cheese is only a diet food.

Serves 4 🙂

Artful crostini