Archive for April 2015

An English Pub Lunch?

We were in London for a week in 2010 and other than being at Heathrow on previous trips, it was my very first time in England. Me…the English history nut!

DSCN3231 nx2So, what’s one of the first things you want to do on your first morning in London other than leaving our rented apartment? Going for a long walk seemed like a really good idea. It was a bit cloudy but heck this is London! Have you ever walked through Kensington Gardens during one helluva wind/rain storm?

Now that we are both soaked…Joe worse than me because he was wearing a jacket…wet pant legs, the works! Let’s find a nice English pub and have a traditional pub lunch, seated by a fire, drinking a pint and having a pie or… We asked a doorman at a hotel near Kensington Palace and he directed us to The Churchill Arms not far away. From the outside it looked just the ticket!

I just received my April 2015 issue of Bon Appetit which included an article by Lauren Collins titled “A Modern Guide to Timeless London,” a series of reviews of a few places she checked out along with photos of some of them.
And right there was a photo of the exterior of…you guessed it, The Churchill Arms!

In 2010 I was not writing this blog or I would have done a review myself. But 5 years in…I think Lauren pretty much captured what I had written in my notes.

The Churchill Arms bills itself as “the very first pub in London with a Thai restaurant”…She then goes on to say “this is better than it sounds. The atmosphere is more Blenheim than Bangkok: chamber pots, copper kettles, bulldog mugs. Both the fiery curries and the clutter serve as invigorating ripostes to a pub scene that gets more bland and interchangeable by the year.” Exactly…what the hell!

When one wants the quintessential English pub one doesn’t want Thai food…we love Thai food but this was the weirdest thing ever and we left without eating or having a beer as the whole concept struck us as being way too odd.

Bet you’re wondering where we ended up…my notes say it wasn’t wonderful!

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DEM BONES

It’s the trendy thing these days that’s good for you and I’m not talking kale! It’s… the envelope please “Bone Broth”…that’s right, it all begins with bones roasted then simmered with water, veggies and a bit of apple cider vinegar, for hours and hours.

_DSC1848 nx2The Wild Game Co. pop-up in London has bone broth on the menu and is the first UK restaurant to offer it to takeaway. And if you happen to be in NYC…then it’s Brodo…of course it’s called Brodo!

Bone broth has long been used in cultures all over the world including Chinese medicine and probably by your grandmother, as a fortifying food, especially when ill. It’s a good way to pack a lot of nutrients into the body when someone is unable to have heavier food. It might just be the original comfort food. Italians serve angel hair pasta in brodo. Sign me up for a bowl of that kind of comfort!

Remember English Beef Tea, that stuff made from Bovril…well you can forget about it! It’s “Bone Broth” all the way!

If made with high quality bones, from organic or grass-fed animals, the broth contains nutrients including fats, vitamins, minerals, collagen and keratin in an easily digestible form. But the bones have to come from a healthy animal if it’s going to provide you with these nutrients, not from animals subjected to antibiotics and hormones.

And the health benefits….OMG what a list: as an inflammatory, for healthy hair, nails and skin, digestive healing, cold-flu immunity (I wonder, does this mean we can dispense with those annual flu shots), sleep and memory (folks in seniors care facilities should be drinking this by the bucketful) and lastly, bone health…wow…

Not to be outdone by London or NYC, Vancouver has come to the party with our very own “Bone Broth Bar”. Brought to us by Allen Ingram, a Brit now living here. I can see it now…hipsters sitting at a bar sipping broth…or if you are on the run then it’s a cuppa takeaway! Look out Starbucks!

Or take yourself to a great butcher, then get out that roasting pan and your big stock pot, this stuff has got it all!

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It’s Time To Ramp It Up!

They’re back! It’s the season again for ramps aka: wild leeks. For a time I thought they only grew wild in the eastern U.S. Surprise…they grow here! Like some strong cheeses, their “fragrance” is stronger than their taste. If you can get your hands on some, probably at the Farmer’s Markets, or if you are a forager, you will have your secret place. Scrambled eggs with ramps anyone? Or maybe try making some of the recipes linked below. The green tops are quite fragile and can bruise easily, so handle with care. At least they are not like stinging nettles where you need to wear gloves!

I did a little research and discovered a few things about ramps. The mountain people of Appalachia have long celebrated the spring arrival of ramps and believe they have great power as a tonic to ward off many ailments of winter; not unlike other spring festivals in other parts of the world, celebrating new greens. Today many ramp festivals take place in the eastern U.S.to celebrate their arrival. It is felt that ramp festivals may encourage harvest in unsustainable quantities, unfortunately.

Here in Canada, ramps are considered rare delicacies. Sadly, their growth is not as widespread as in Appalachia and they are protected in Quebec under Quebec law because they are considered a threatened species. People there are allowed to gather them for their own use but the protected status prohibits any commercial transactions of ramps; this prevents restaurants from serving ramps. The law does not always stop poachers, who find a ready market across the border in Ontario where ramps may be legally harvested and sold.

The ramps we have been lucky enough to buy have been foraged here in B.C. where to my knowledge, they are not endangered. I hope you are lucky enough to be able to try these delicacies!

**If you would like to try making some ramp recipes, please go to:
Spaghetti With Ramps, Ramp Biscuits and Ramp and Sausage Risotto.

Welcoming Spring with Stinging Nettles

I received a Tuscan cookbook a few years ago from my husband, who, I am sure had no ulterior motives! Italians have a thing about wild spring greens. They forage for them like crazy. Eating only root veggies all winter gets a bit tiresome so the new wild greens are most welcome and viewed as a tonic.

So seeing bags of stinging nettles at the Farmer’s Market at the beginning of spring got my little grey cells working!   Let’s buy some!

OK…the light bulb goes off!  Why not substitute the stinging nettles for spinach?? I think we’ll try to make stinging nettle tagliatelle and a stinging nettle frittata. We loved them both; the pasta was beautifully green, light and delicate and made a perfect foil for the sauce, fabulous!

 

If you have access to stinging nettles in the early spring, and  want to make something delicious, click  Stinging Nettle Tagliatelle & Stinging Nettle Frittata.

 

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So You Don’t Have The Perfect Kitchen

Me neither!  And no…this is not a photo of our kitchen!

Let’s talk reality. We probably won’t have the “great” kitchen unless our lotto numbers come up and we move!  My dad once told me that I cooked wonderful meals without one!  Thanks Dad!  Still…

I know, I know, we all stare with envy at the glossy photos and fantasize about our “dream kitchen” with our friends hanging out while we prepare a fabulous feast!

Our lack of “the dream kitchen” never stopped us from entertaining friends and family. In fact, eons ago I lived in a bachelor apartment with a tiny kitchen and I was always cooking for my friends. Did I mention, those were the days I was teaching myself how to cook French food by cooking recipes from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art, although in those days there was no such thing as blogging about it!

The kitchen we have now is not big, about twice the size of that bachelor apartment’s. There are no granite countertops, there’s no room for an island, only one sink, no pantry cupboard, etc., just the basics; a good dishwasher, so-so electric stove (fantasizing about a gas cooktop one day) and a fridge. Luckily we have an area in the basement for a second fridge and a freezer. Over the years we have created fabulous meals to share with friends and family. Sometimes it ‘s a bit challenging but in the end, worth the juggling act! Heck, I cooked for large groups from this kitchen for 6 years! It’s all about good planning and being really organized.

Planning for our “new” kitchen is moving along and we are hoping to do the “big blow-out” sometime in May!  Sorry to say…no gas cooktop this time either!)  Ah well…

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