almonds-pMore foraging tales from W7: sweet almonds. Who would have thought that these grow in London?

The almonds are perfect, and if you never sampled fresh almonds, you should probably put it on your bucket list. Unlike the dried-out specimen from the supermarket shelf, the real thing has the aromatic oils still intact, thus exhibits the aroma of marzipan. Or rather, it reminds you that marzipan tastes of almonds (well, and a tiny little ton of sugar and a splash of rose water).

You might want to keep your eyes peeled for sweet almonds in your area, ‘coz I am not telling where “our” tree is, srsly not.


Ouch Ouch Sea Buckthorn

DSC_0832Here’s yet another episode or our 2015 foraging and preserving adventures: Sea Buckthorn, known to Germans as Sanddorn.

Our friend Julie was kind enough to sacrifice her skin and blood to forage a large bag of the bright orange, juicy and tasty berries down by the sea. Nature protects the berries with vicious long, thin and sharp thorns, so we are deeply grateful for Julie’s help.

Right now, the berries rest in the deep freezer. They freeze well and, once frozen, come off the branch much easier. As soon as we have time, later in the month, we will juice them and make Sea Buckthorn Jelly.

Vine Harvest

DSC_0694We were faster than the starlings this year and harvested 2 buckets of dark blue grapes from the vine on the front of our house yesterday. Those were then washed and picked off the stalks, juiced, filtered, and preserved as a rich fruit juice or light cordial in sterilized bottles.

4.5 litres in total, that’s not too bad for a north-facing wall in London, I should think. And it has quite a nice flavour, too.

Sloes Going Slow

DSC_0838We started our first batch of Sloe Gin yesterday. Never made it, never even sampled it, but given the abundance of Sloe in nearby meadows, and given how many of our local friends go all hmm-sloe-gin at the mention, we thought we’d give it a try.

We picked 1.2 kg of Sloe, sterilized a suitably sized vessel, washed and pricked the berries. We added 100 g of Sugar and a litre of Gin, and sealed the jar.

Now it sits in a quiet place and waits for Christmas.

India Cookbook

imWith fond memories on all the fantastic food I sampled in the Gujarat, India, and being boosted by the recent gift of The India Cookbook, we made our own India-style feast for two yesterday. From top left to bottom right:

Papaya with black onion seeds (we couldn’t get decent Mango at this time of the year),

Spicy Lentil soup (which turned out very hot but worked well with the milder parts of the meal),

Crispy Chilli Paneer (which could have been hotter but was lovely and crunchy),

Curried Tomatoes and Onions (which were absolutely spot-on),

Curried Aubergines with Yoghurt and Tamarind (which were lovely),

Mutton curry in yoghurt and spices (yummy and rich in aroma), and

Chapatis (which puffed up only half, then burst and released the steam, preventing the other half from puffing up. I should have held them down first, as was written in the book.

All in all, we were pleased, thought it tasted like the real thing, and the house certainly smelled fantastic.

Friday’s Delight And Wonder

cb-lYou can tell it must be Friday from the fact that a pudding just came out of the oven, mid afternoon. We’ll have Creme Brulee tonight, and like almost every week, I can’t help but wonder how many different puddings can be made from sugar, milk and egg, with nothing but the slightest variations in recipe or method.

Creme Brulee: use only egg yolks, use milk and cream half and half, bake in a water bath at 190 C

Pudim Flan: like Creme Brulee but use whole eggs, use just milk, bake in water bath at 145 C

Custard: like Creme Brulee, but stir hot milk into cold eggs and whisk, don’t boil after the mix

Creme Patisiere: like Custard, but be easy on the cream and add a little flour, add more heat when mixing

German Pudding: like Pudim Flan but add corn starch and cook like Creme Patisiere

I am sure there are more desserts, each and every one delicious in its own right, different by slightly different cooking methods, mixing temperature and processes, cream to milk and egg white to yolk ratios. Fascinating, isn’t it?



IMG_20150919_194715-pWe hadn’t been to Charlotte’s Place, Ealing, in a while, and given that we had a good cause for celebration, we went and enjoyed a lovely evening.

We started with a glass of Prosecco and ordered our starters.

The good wife received a starter of Smoked Sea Trout, which was very nice yet served in a laughably tiny portion, sprinkled across a plate with Frisee salad tops – a bad joke of a presentation.

I enjoyed Terrine of Duck, which hadn’t set and made me wonder how on earth they managed to cut and plate it. It tasted very nice but lacked texture; the dish was a mush with the very soft terrine, a bland liver mousse and an equally unexciting apricot and gin mousse.

For the main, we enjoyed fillet of pork (she) and quail (he), and all was very well with that, accompanied by a very nice bottle of Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley in France.

We bot chose the same pudding, Blackberry and port jelly with compressed greengages and juniper ice cream. I scream! The jelly wasn’t set and contained whole fruit, so was a compote, not jelly. We found it nice, and thought it worked better as a compote as it would have in form of a jelly, but it’s still mislabeled. The compressed greengages didn’t give much and their compressed nature completely eluded us, but we found the juniper ice cream intriguing and delicious with the blackberry compote.

A cup of stale and fairly disgusting coffee, made a long time ago and slowly reduced on the hot plate, and a rather nice Grappa concluded our meal. Even though we thought there was much room of improvement, it still made for a lovely meal, over average for the area as we know it but under average for our previous experiences at Charlotte’s.

The evening was certainly rescued by their brilliant service. Absolutely spot-on. Attentive but not invasive, courteous but not grovelling, just right. Ten out of ten for the service, no doubt.


Container Harvest

IMG_20150920_102203Here’s the 2015 apple and pear container harvest from our own mini garden, or what I could rescue from the damp conditions, the slimy or multi-legged critters or the squirrels.

A good pear harvest, which we attribute to the much reduced pear rust infection now that a heavily infected tree in the neighbour’s garden is no more.

Only two Braeburn apples survive from the original five or six, but given that this is a tiny tree in a tiny pot, often fallen dry, I think it has done pretty well. I think I will probably set it free from its pot and put it into a bed this coming spring.

Foragers At Work

IMG_20150918_123103-cNot bad for a 90 minute lunchtime foraging quickie: 2.5 kg deep red rose hips, a very large bag of apples and a bag of golden ripe pears, all courtesy of Elthorne Rough.


Super Spicy Squid Supper

Spicy Squid mealOne of the household favourites. We call it Salt and Pepper Squid, but it has come a long way since.

Cut the tubes into thick rings, toss in flour, then in lightly beaten egg white, then in a mix of capers, spring onions, parsley, crushed chilli, salt and pepper. Toss the tentacles in salted flour. Quickly shallow-fry in grape seed oil, drain well and serve with Sauce Vierge and a poached egg.

Dress with chilli oil and Balsamic vinegar.

The picture to the left shows a rather busy plate because I was over-indulging myself with Sauce Vierge and the amount of squid, but given that this meal is so very tasty, I didn’t mind the portion size. Below are a few somewhat nicer presentations from earlier occasions (some without Sauce Vierge).


Nom Nom Nom


Ah,  I love it when the garden begins producing. We enjoy regular and generous harvests of Swiss Chard already. The Mange-tout peas will be ready  in two weeks,  radishes in a few days, and herbs are available in abundance.

All just 3 steps out of my garden door,  how cool is that?

Yesterday’s supper is today’s lunch: fresh garden vegetables soup with slow cooked crisp pork belly and spicy chorizo.
Love it.

Next Level Gardening

20150510164023We advanced to second gardening level this Sunday, with salad leaves in one half, radish in the third quarter and space for basil in the fourth.

1.20 m above ground, 3 m long, and practically the size of one small bed in the best sun-kissed corner of the garden, not taking any of our limited space away. Container gardening with a twist.

This should be perfect for herbs and some salads, and hopefully be a little less slug- and snail-ridden than ground-level beds.