Thursday, 28 July 2011

Heaven in a courgette ball

 On my twenty seventh birthday I made very good friends with a new, most amazing food. Had it of not been for the owner of the taverna who insisted I must eat them, as it was my birthday after all, then I may never have discovered this gastronomic delight. I shudder at the thought. I should have known when I sat down to eat at a restaurant boasting this – the Gastronomic Anchor of the Gods – that I was onto a winner.

The delight I discovered was the courgette ball. Granted the name is unlikely to leave you quaking with anticipation but really, these were amazing. They are basically fritters of grated courgette mixed with herbs, some egg and often some feta cheese. These are then formed into balls, dusted with flour and fried. They are a soft, slightly spicy mouth sensation and I am officially addicted. The only problem with this is that I live in England and the courgette balls living in Agios Nikolos in the Peleponnese. Fail.

Last time I was in Greece I was launched into a one woman mission to make the perfect fluffy Moussaka topping (two eggs whipped into a creamy bechamel sauce should you be interested!) and I fear my latest trip is going to set me off on a similar obsession. What I did learn from my courgette ball sampling is that variety is the order of the day, that and lots of garlic. Some people added mint, some added what seemed like grated butternut squash, others a sprinkling of feta. As you may have gathered I did A LOT of courgette ball tasting! Now I am back home I am going to try out a basic recipe and then get creative until I have the perfect courgette balls at which point I will, of course, share my findings – you're gonna love me! ;)

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Fare ye well blog readers!

As much as I love you I am delighted to say I am off on holiday! See you in a week and meanwhile here is a wee postcard for you from the fabulous

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The mighty courgette

As well as eating lots of food I also love growing it. This season has been tricky due to what I call 'The Great Slug Infestation of 2011'. It has been a one woman crusade against what seems to be an army of slugs. I have won the battle of the lettuces but sadly not of the French beans who died valiantly in the early season after being mercilessly munched in the course of one evening.

What has been doing well, and is just started to produce, is my courgette plants. These are really so easy to grow (everything in my garden is because I am a very lazy gardener and just like to leave plants to do their thing!). I always get mine as baby plants because you only need three or four plants to keep you in abundant courgettes all summer. When courgette plants flower they produce these gorgeous orange flowers that remind me of Asiatic lilies which incidentally were the flowers I carried on my wedding day three years ago today!

When you do get a crop of courgettes from your garden they are so easy to use. They are much less watery than the kind you get in the supermarket and have a much stronger flavour. This makes them great for things like courgette fritters where the high water content is a problem and needs to be drained off when using shop bought varieties. I cook my home grown courgettes very simply by frying up some garlic and chilli in a saucepan, adding a tin of tomatoes and letting it simmer away while I fry 1cm cubes of the courgettes in a frying pan until lightly golden brown. I then mix the two together and serve with pasta and some parmesan. Delicious!

One last courgette tip, cut your courgettes off your plants when they are no more than 5 inches long. They are more flavoursome and it is healthier for the plant as if you leave them to grow to shop size the productivity of the plant will be significantly reduced and you may end up with a giant marrow. Fun for you but very sapping for the poor plant!

Happy courgette growing!

Friday, 8 July 2011

Lady Grey and Lavender Biscuits

The weather may not be quite the glorious summer we hoped for just now but the garden is enjoying the rain, and never fear, you can create that summer feeling inside with this week's Tea of the Week - Lady Grey, and its delightful accompaniment, lavender biscuits. You'll feel quite the laydeee, or man, whatever..!

This combo is dedicated to a very dear friend and fellow Windsorian @ladytaylorgray who came to my house recently requesting a lavender biscuit recipe. If you have a lavender bush at home it is likely to be growing like there is no tomorrow just now and let's be honest there are only so many lavender bags a girl can make. These biscuits are a great use for your excess lavender, are very yummy and so easy to make like so!

150g butter
90g caster sugar
225g plain flour
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon fresh lavender leaves, chopped up.
1 teaspoon of lavender flowers removed from the stalk

Preheat your oven to 160ºC and line two baking trays with parchment. Cream the butter and sugar together until it is light and fluffy and then mix in the flour, egg yolk and lavender leaves until the mixture comes together into a big ball. On a floured work surface knead the dough until it is smooth and then roll into a sausage shape that is a couple of inches across. Chop your sausage into between 15-18 disks (just under a cm in width) and place on your baking trays. Put a lavender flower on the top of each biscuit and pop them in the over for 20 – 25mins depending on your oven speed. They won't go brown (a bit like shortbread) but should be firm to the touch. Leave them on the tray to cool for five minutes before moving onto a cooling rack. Pour yourself a cup of tea, savour your biscuits and make it summer inside even if it's tipping it down!

These really do go great with Lady Grey, which is black tea with oil of bergamot and lemon and orange peel. Lady Grey is a Twinnings Trademark tea so the only place to get it is from or if you are in London pop into their shop on The Strand. It is amazing and they let you try before you buy. There are also some other variations and with my lavender biscuits I enjoyed a cup of Empress Grey for good ol' M&S which contains white tea instead of black. It is delightfully refreshing with just a nice zing of citrus.

Summer has arrived!

Friday, 1 July 2011

Tea of the Week – Teapigs Rooibos Crème Caramel

I nearly fell off my chair in shock when on telling my husband about my new blog he suggested doing 'Tea of the Week'. Either he is finally coming around to my way of thinking or all those hours of making weird and wonderful teas in various strainer/teapots/mugs/tea cups has worn him down into submission. Either way, here we are with Tea of the Week!

I count myself as somewhat of a tea connoisseur and recently had to drag my husband around various homeware stores looking for some boxes suitable for organising my many varieties of tea (you're starting to feel sorry for him aren't you...!) Teapigs is one of my all time favourite tea makers so I had to start with them and what better than the mighty Rooibos Crème Caramel!

What it is? Rooibos is red bush tea which is only grown in South Africa. I first tried it in South Africa and have been hooked ever since. What Teapigs have done (geniuses that they are) is add pieces of caramel that slowly melt into the tea as it brews. This leaves you with a creamy, slightly sweet and definitely crème caramel-esk treat. And it is good for you as rooibos is a natural antioxidant and caffeine free! Don't go expecting to be drinking liquid crème caramel but for an interesting brew, this tea is really great.

How do you drink it? I drink all my tea black because I'm just that hardcore but this would be lovely with milk.

Where can I get it?! A good place to look out for Teapigs is at local food festivals, they often do some great deals and you can taste lots of teas from their range. Alternatively you can trust me that it is amazing and buy online at Teapigs also do a taster range where you can buy a couple of teabags to try for a pound which is a good way to see if you'll like them. You could also come to my pad and I'll brew you up a cup ;)

Do leave a comment if you've tried it or have any other rooibos recommendations.