Flirting with Flavour


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Driving over the bridge from New Hampshire into Maine, I’m greeted by a sign exclaming: Welcome to Vacationland!

The past week has been full of good friends and good food, starting with an impromptu batch of homemade shakshuka and ending with a full array of vegan, gluten free ice creams, with lots of lobster in between.  It had been at least 10 years since I was last in Maine and I had never been to Boston, so I was certainly determined to experience the most I could!

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Shakshuka success! (photocredit: David Friedkin)

What a delight it was to wake up in the middle of the Maine woods this Saturday morning, the smell of french toast wafting up the stairs.  I wandered down to find H in the kitchen with her mom and the ensuing girl-talk, and fresh scrambled eggs with red onion and mushrooms her mom whipped up for me (since I couldn’t eat the french toast), were both highlights of the weekend.

Vacationland!!

Vacationland!!

Later in the day, I had the opportunity to visit my grandmother’s best friend right on the water in Biddeford Pool, basking equally in the stunning coastline, good company, and delicious lobster roll – sans roll, of course, which really just meant oodles and oodles of lobster meat on a few greens 🙂 – at Pier 77.

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The View from Pier 77

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The outside of Pier 77

And to finish off a glorious day, H’s parents took us all out to Boone’s in Portland, where if I hadn’t yet had enough lobster, I made sure to get my fix on all things seafood.  To start our table shared fried oysters and clams (in a GF batter!), as well as 4 different types of oysters on the halfshell.  While, I could have done without the clams, the oysters – raw and fried – were outrageous.  I usually don’t care for raw oysters, but these ones were perfectly tender and slid right down.  For the main, I lucked out and was sitting with three other foodies, also wanting to try everything, so we decided to get a bunch of dishes and split them:

New England Clam Chowder;
Crab Cakes;
Baked Stuffed Lobster with Scallops;
Baked Stuffed Haddock with Lobster and Buerre Blanc;
Charred Arctic Char a la plancha with a Buerre Blanc Sauce;
accompanied by sides of crispy brussel sprouts and coleslaw.

It was a LOT of food and we licked our plates clean, leaving just enough room for dessert – an outrageously rich flourless chocolate cake covered in dark chocolate ganach and studded with York’s peppermint patties to celebrate H’s mom’s birthday (and made by her as well – can you tell yet, how much I admire this woman?!).

Sunday night became a St Andrews reunion, running into former hallmates and catching up with Principal Louise Richardson at the Boston screening of Ever to Excel.  Afterwards, a few of us broke (gluten free) bread and wine at Legal Test Kitchen.  I got lobster again.  I know what you’re thinking – branch out girl!!  But let me tell you, when one is used to only partaking in lobster once a year and the said specimen generally comes from ShopRite, the fresh Maine variety is a temptation that it would be a sin to turn down!

“angry lobster” (GF)

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Crema Catalana (perhaps better known as Creme Brule)

Sharing all these delicious meals to you is making my mouth water, despite having just eating the best gluten free pizza I’ve ever had at the Two Boots in Grand Central Terminal (today is another travel day, this time destination: home).  By the way, if you ever find yourself at Two Boots (they have locations all over NYC as well as in Baltimore and New Orleans), I highly recommend the Tony Clifton – shitake mushrooms, vidalia onions, sweet red pepper peto, and mozzarella.  The plain cheese pizza is very good, as well, and the crust is thin and NOT grainy.  What a concept!  Even my food-normal friend enjoyed it, though she did comment that the wheat crust was better.

All of the above are more than enough to get excited about going to either Maine or Boston (or both!), but the crowning glory was dessert last night.  I had dinner at Canary Square in Jamaican Plain with 2 dear Pocono friends, which was great.  Canary Square is farm to table, definitely worth checking out.  But their dessert list wasn’t exactly inspired, so we took a walk down the street and were lured into a small storefront, FoMu, calling itself “alternative ice cream and cafe”. Turns out there is no dairy in the entire store.  None.  The majority of their ice creams are made with coconut milk, though there are a few soy-based, and the flavours range from dark chocolate, to cardamom pistachio, from avocado, to mocha chip, from apple spice donut, to pumpkin spice.  You get it.  They have basically every flavour you could ever imagine.  You can imagine what a treat this was, since I am usually relegated to whatever non-dairy flavour the supermarket has on its shelf and while these have certainly expanded over recent years, FoMu blew them all out of the water.  It was heaven.  I got my favourite gelato combo – dark chocolate with cardamom pistachio and chocolate chunks.  Yum.  Next time you are in Boston, go there.  And if anyone from FoMu reads this – can you please open a store in Philly?!

mint chip with rainbow sprinkles

mint chip with rainbow sprinkles

dark chocolate + cardamom pisatchio topped with TAZO chocolate chunks

dark chocolate + cardamom pisatchio topped with TAZO chocolate chunks

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espresso “ice cream” topped with Newman O’s

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“fall into FoMU” – yes please!

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Brunch at Nopi

A couple weeks ago I had a semi-surprise visit from a good friend from uni on his way home to LA.  He is also a foodie and shares my love of brunch.  Last time he was here we tried to get a table at Nopi, but we were too many.  This time, though, it would only be the two of us, so I thought why not make a special event of it.  As you may have noticed, I am a huge fan of Ottolenghi – both his cookbooks and restaurants – as well as a lover of shakshuka.  So ever since I read David Lebovitz’s post on his brunch visit to Nopi, at which he had shakshuka and declared he ‘strongly considered skipping lunch, just to keep the taste of it in [his] mouth for as long as possible’, it soared right to the top of my list.

nopi

nopi

cappuccino

cappuccino

I will have to go back, because every item on the menu, while relatively short (thank goodness – I hate menus that take hours to read), sounds delicious.  But, obviously, I had to have the shakshuka.  Max got the scrambled eggs, Hansen and Lydersen smoked salmon, with focaccia.  It was very good.  The eggs were soft, but not too runny and the salmon – though there could have been more of it – was fantastic.  My shakshuka also came with focaccia.  I think it had been toasted on a griddle.  It was great – crispy on the outside, but came apart when you pulled it with the ease of a good dough.  It was well worth the wheat.  Especially when it came to mopping up sauce in my pan.

scrambled eggs w/ smoked salmon

scrambled eggs w/ smoked salmon

shakshuka

shakshuka

There was a unique smokiness to the shakshuka, perhaps lent it by paprika and the smoked labneh atop it.  It was not at all what I expected, but that turned out to be a good thing.  As he does with everything, Ottolenghi puts his own touch to it and the result was delicious.  My clean plate, or pan – since it was served smoking hot in its own pan – is evidence to this.

shakshuka topped w/ smoked labneh

shakshuka topped w/ smoked labneh

"clean pan club"

“clean pan club”


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Avocado + Tomato Quinoa Salad

Flavours have a remarkable ability to evoke memories of people, places, events, feelings from times gone by, as well as hope for times to come.  We all have our comfort foods.  Have you ever stopped to think about why you find that macaroni & cheese so comforting?  Or that broccoli flatbread?  Or that special bar of Fazer chocolate?  Next time, think about it.  Chances are it subconsciously brings you back to some happy memory.  And sometimes it’s not such a subconscious choice – like my liberal use of tahini in the past few weeks, to bring my tastebuds back to sun-kissed Tel Aviv.

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bread fresh from the oven at lehamim bakery

Travelling with me usually turns into a food tour of whichever country, city, town I happen to be in.  However, since my last trip to Israel was for research, I made a conscious decision to not allow food to distract me.  I was there to work!  Now that does not mean that I suddenly practiced food tourism abstinence.  Can you imagine?  I certainly can’t.  Talk about food bringing you to happier places – in my opinion, a certain amount of food discovery is necessary for life!  That said, it doesn’t have to mean spending all day traipsing north, south, east, west, through various neighbourhoods and markets, sampling the best halva here, the best hummus there, and seeking out the best spices and fresh dates over there.  It can also happen through one of the simplest of foods – the sandwich.

What?  You say, the sandwich?  What could possibly be so novel about a sandwich that it satisfies my thirst for new flavours at every turn?  Well, delicious rye bread from Lehamim Bakery, a Tel Aviv stalwart, certainly helps.  Everything they turn out from their various locations across the city is delicious.  My favourite, though, is their flagship shop cum café on Rechov Ha’hashmona’im.  The atmosphere is electric with fresh baked goods produced 24 hours a day.  That’s right 24 hours a day, all week, except for Saturday.  A morning spent there chatting with friends and family over a coffee and almond croissant is hard to beat.  And best of all, they make a spelt challah and quite a few products that are 100% rye! 

lehamim almond croissant

lehamim’s almond croissant (with Y’s sneaking fingers!)

lehamim rugelach

oh and their rugelach are seriously to die for. just looking at them is making my mouth water!

So, yes, the first ingredient to a truly special sandwich is obviously the bread.  But what really transports the eater is the flavour combination, because it is something unique to each culture.  The particular combination that has been haunting me ever since Y first made me this sandwich is tomato, avocado, and tahini.  Tomato and avocado are delicious no matter what (although I didn’t always think so, as muchomonisia could tell you), but it is the tahini that transports it to the next level.  Tahini.  All it is is sesame paste and yet it has the power to take ordinary ingredients and make them exceptional.  Without tahini, for example, there would be no hummus or baba ghanoush!  And – there would be no sandwich!

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avocado + tomato quinoa salad w/ tahini

When I had to decide what to bring to a potluck dinner on Friday the answer was immediately obvious to me.  No, not the sandwich (which I have been eating practically every day since being back from Israel), but I would utilise the same flavour combination to make a delicious quinoa salad.  The result satisfied all my cravings and disappeared rather quickly from the dinner table, so I’d say it was a success! 

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avocado + tomato quinoa salad w/ tahini

Below is the recipe, so you can try it yourself.  Or, just top a slice of your favourite bread with some avocado and tomato and a drizzle of tahini to spice up your usual lunchtime sandwich.

 

Avocado + Tomato Quinoa Salad

Serves 4 as main or 6-8 as side

1½ cups quinoa
3 cups water
1 cube of low-sodium veg. stock
1½ avocados
2 tomatoes
¼ toasted almonds (optional)
2-3 TBSP tahini (start with less and add more to taste)
juice from ¼-½ of a lemon (start with less and add more to taste)

Method

Combine quinoa, water, and vegetable stock cube in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer.  Simmer until the quinoa has unfurled and the water is soaked up, about 15 minutes.  Be careful not to burn the bottom.

Remove the cooked quinoa to a bowl and allow to cool.  If you don’t have time to allow it to cool, it’s okay to skip this.

While the quinoa is cooling, cube the avocados and tomatoes.

Drizzle the tahini and lemon juice over the quinoa and mix well.  Taste to make sure the flavour is to your liking.  Add the avocado and tomato and almonds and mix again. 


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Brunch in London

If I could only have one meal a day for the rest of my life I would choose brunch.  It’s all the best elements of sweet and savoury rolled into one.  It usually takes place over several hours so you can do several servings and make sure to get everything in.  If it’s a buffet (which is my favourite kind, though usually reserved for special occasions, like birthdays and Easter), you can have pancakes, waffles, poached eggs (ala whatever takes your fancy – Florentine, Benedict, Royal), an omelette, crab cakes, salad, shrimp cocktail, fruit salad, a good haunch of beef or sliver of roast pork (if that’s your style), and obviously desert is a requirement.  And, it’s at just the time of day when you most need a break, or is just late enough for a well-deserved lie-in.  I mean, really, what could be better?  Thankfully, I don’t have to choose just one meal for the rest of my life, as I would be pretty sad to give up sushi – though surely that could count as part of the savoury aspect of brunch.  Ha!  A loophole!

As part of my ongoing exploration of the London food scene I have been seeking out and trying all of the top locations for weekend brunch.  And, of course, seeing as I’m on a student budget, cost has also been a factor.  It’s a real chore, I assure you.  But one I’m more than happy to take on. 😉

Here is my (by no means exhaustive) list of well-executed, fairly reasonable, and what I think are delicious London brunch spots.

In no particular order…

Ginger and White

They have locations in Soho, Belsize Park, and Hampstead Heath.  I have only been to their small café in Hampstead and was blown away not just by their perfectly poached eggs with smoked salmon, but by their service.  Avoiding wheat can be a nightmare at times, especially in seeking out brunch, because most tend to be served in bakery-type locations, or have very bread-focused menus.  At Ginger and White, however, the waitress cheerfully pointed out what I could and couldn’t eat from the counter display and chef, who was on hand in the ‘kitchen’ (which is really just a small area next to the till with a stove and counter, but he does wonders in such a tiny space!), overheard my dietary restrictions and offered to make me Eggs Royale on a bed of salad instead of rye sourdough toast.  I readily accepted, as this is by far my favourite brunch treat, and am happy to report that the eggs poured out a gorgeous deep yellow yoke when I broke into them an approximate 15 minutes later.  It was delicious and the hollandaise was light!  Yes, light!  None of that heavy-can’t-eat-the-rest-of-the-day-for-so-much-butter stuff.  MC, who was with me (and took the wonderful photos!), got hers with the sourdough and raved about hers as well.  We each also got cappuccinos (mine soya, hers regular), which were wonderful – good quality coffee with just the right amount of foam.  I took my mom back there recently for a quick coffee stop.  She’s picky about her coffee (she roasts her own beans) and would vouch for the quality of theirs!  Another great thing about Ginger and White is that they serve brunch all day, every day.  Heaven on earth? I think so.

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cappuccino from ginger & white

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eggs royale (no bread)

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eggs royale (w/ rye sourdough)

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our little heaven in hampstead

Workshop Coffee

I went to their Clerkenwell location with a group of friends for brunch in early March.  First off, their coffee.  I usually drink mine in some form that involves steamed milk – a cappuccino, latte, macchiato, you name it.  Here, however, I drank their Irupana black.  They serve it with nothing (not even asking if you want milk or sugar) and it needed nothing.  I believe this is a result of using an aeropress, which produces a remarkable smooth and purified coffee.  I must admit to being absolutely blown away by it.  And while I’m prone to enthusiasm, it takes a lot to truly shock me, which they did.  The food was delicious as well.  It was very well executed, though some dishes lacked proper spicing, but what made it memorable was the creative combination of ingredients.  I had the grilled asparagus, smoked salmon, poached egg, and truffled mascarpone on corn bread.  Separately the ingredients did not really work, but together they played off each other’s strength beautifully, with the corn bread pulling it all together and the mascarpone adding that something special.  Other members of our party got the French toast, rare breed hamburger, and corn fritters.  All were very happy with the meal.  They don’t take reservations and, as they only serve brunch on weekends, they are always quite busy, so you’ll have to wait, but our wait time was only about 20 minutes and was definitely worth it.  They also made an effort to get everyone waiting inside from the cold, which was very welcome.

NB: their Marylebone location is a coffee bar only

Irupana Aeropress Coffee

Irupana Aeropress Coffee

Poached Egg with Smoked Salmon, Asparagus, + Truffled Mascarpone

Poached Egg with Smoked Salmon, Asparagus, + Truffled Mascarpone

Corn Cakes

Corn Cakes

French Toast w/ Poached Rhubarb

French Toast w/ Poached Rhubarb

Daylesford Organic

Back in November I attended Daylesford’s supper club with C and was underwhelmed.  But when B’s dad was in town and we wanted a good brunch nearby to our flat, I suggested we try it again.  I’m glad we did, because the food, while simple, was delicious, and the bright and relaxed atmosphere makes you feel at home, rather than in a restaurant.  If they have the pear, celery, & ginger juice (it’s not on the menu) get it!  They open at 8am and it’s best to go early, because by 10-10:30a, people start to queue up for tables.  Despite this, the staff don’t rush you out of your seat, which while nice for us diners, I imagine is a bit annoying for those waiting.  B & I went back to the Orange Sq location with my mom and she was equally pleased with the meal.  We attempted lunch at the Notting Hill location, but were put off by the low ceilings and the benches at the communal tables, which made seating awkward.

Muriel’s Kitchen

My favourite museum in London is the Victoria & Albert Museum, and as wandering around it is one of my favourite ways to pass a rainy day or weekend morning, naturally it’s important to have a good go-to for brunch in the area.  Sometimes I’m feeling more in the mood for a cupcake, in which case I make a pit stop at Hummingbird Bakery.  But when I don’t feel like dosing up on sugar and prefer a healthier, more balanced option (as healthy as hollandaise sauce can be), Muriel’s is the answer.  It’s another one where, because they don’t take reservations, the later it gets, the longer the queue is, so just be an early bird!  I’ve never had to wait more than 15-20 minutes anyway.  Plus, the benefit of a no-reservations policy is that they can tempt in you passersby who thought you weren’t hungry with their gorgeously delectable window displays of food.  They rival Ottolenghi in that respect.  On my most recent visit I had their jasmine infused fruit compote with flaked almonds over Greek yoghurt and my friend GG had their version of a bacon sandwich, which she said was delicious.  My yoghurt was superb – though I may be biased, since it was the first time I’d had it since giving it up for lent… regardless I could have done without the apricots in the compote, but everything else was perfect.  I have also had their eggs Royale, which was very well executed (and with free range eggs!), though with the hollandaise a bit on the heavier side.

Jasmine Infused Fruit Compote w/ Flaked Almonds + Greek Yoghurt

Jasmine Infused Fruit Compote w/ Flaked Almonds + Greek Yoghurt

Muriel's Bacon Sandwich

Muriel’s Bacon Sandwich


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Berlin Brunch

Last weekend I took a break.   I decided I’d had enough of grey London and would head to grey Berlin instead.  A combination of school and social pressures were pushing down on me and I just needed to get put.  Plus, my friend S is working there until the 30th of November, so I figured I had a good excuse. 

When I finally traipsed up the stairs to her temporary Berlin home, I was greeted by the most beautiful sight – a full Saturday brunch.  Because S’s job was only a temporary gig, she has been living with her friend U (it pays to have friends all over the world!), for whom apparently this Saturday brunch is a tradition.  Boy did I feel lucky to be included!   And I will definitely be on the lookout for how to be invited back.  This was obviously a flat for one, but that was not going to stop U!  She had filled her small dining table with freshly sliced tomatoes and mozzarella, various cheeses (sliced and creamy), multiple bowls of fruit, coffee, juice, and a delicious-perfectly-almost-undercooked-omelette, with more spilling over onto the coffee table next to us: fresh croissants, rolls, olive bread, and brioche.  Somehow she had even managed to fit plates and mugs for all six of us girls.  Having been up since 4:15am and eaten only a flaxseed energy bar and clementine, boy was this cornucopia a sight for sore eyes!  I undoubtedly ate more than my fair share, but S graciously matched me. 

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Looking across the street at Kunsthaus Tacheles

 

I should apologise now for the fact that, in an effort to be in the moment and not be hampered by my desire to take photos every five minutes, I left my camera in my suitcase almost the entire three days I was there.  This means, that I have no photos of food, other than those taken on my phone, which are far too low quality to be shared.  I can hear you all gasping in disbelief, and I know, I’m sorry!  Won’t happen again, I promise.

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Inside the Tacheles sculpture garden

Saturday afternoon we ambled around Neukölln, wandering in and out of cute galleries, cafes, and second-hand shops, working off brunch.  Naturally, we soon got hungry, so decided to take a snack break at Pizza a Pezzi, which we had noted in the Berlin Superguide.  We shared two pieces, though as each piece comes on its own breadboard it’s much more than a standard slice!  Pretty good value for money too, at under €5 each.  I got the aubergine pizza and S got one topped with rocket.  I must say she made the better choice.  Supposedly the pizza there is made in the thin-crusted Neapolitan style.  The rocket pizza most definitely was, and was delicious.  It was crispy and the dough had a nice flavour to it.  Best of all, it was simple.  Just tomatoes, cheese, and rocket.  The dough on mine was more like a flatbread, which is fine if that’s what you’re wanting, but when expecting crispy pizza dough, I wasn’t too thrilled.  The aubergine itself was nicely roasted and had a good flavour, but I found myself drizzling olive oil over the pizza to make it tastier; something I almost never do.  As S concluded, if you’re in Berlin and craving pizza, go to Italy!  But, when that’s not an option 😉 Pizza a Pezzi is could be a good halfway point to quench your craving.

Suffice it to say that, as usual, I had a deliciously food oriented weekend, that included roasted chestnuts and Moroccan lentil soup at the Mauerpark Flohmarkt, multiple indulgences in Ritter Sport (mmmm I still have some left and this is making me crave chocolate, might have to go indulge), popcorn with paprika sprinkled on top (if this is not a thing, it really should be!), topped off with a lovely last dinner at Toca Rouge in Mitte.  Good food, good company.  I couldn’t have asked for a better last night!

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Berlin Wall Memorial at Bernauerstr

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Berlin Wall Memorial at Bernauerstr

A quick note on Toca Rouge, since I’m sure you’re wondering.  Asian fusion is probably one of my favourite types of food.  Though, I will admit to saying that about a lot of cuisines… Although Toca Rouge is not the most inspired of the fusion restaurants I’ve been to, the food was perfectly executed and not too saucy.  I had the Crazy Orange Chicken, which I would highly recommend.  As my friends know, “clean food” is my favourite food.  Toca Rouge manages to invoke the delicious flavours of Chinese food, without the artery-clogging effects of too much MSG and sauce, thus being satisfactorily clean!  The ambience is soothing (though a bit annoying to sit on stools all night) and despite being very modern is quite cozy, due to its small size.  Yes, cozy, not cramped.

Off to find that leftover Ritter…

Tschüss! 


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Spelt Sharon Fruit Scones

If you had had several nearly sleepless nights in a row, had a dinner date that night, and made a deal with a friend to meet to study at 9am the next morning, would you then go home (post-dinner, remember) and proceed to bake scones?  I’m guessing that’s a no…  Clearly I don’t exactly have a hold on my priorities, because that’s exactly what I did.  In fact, it ended up being a double-baking night, because I realised I had forgotten to make a dish to bring to a potluck event at The Kings Cross Hub tomorrow evening, and if I’m going to be on campus studying all day, it had to be ready to take with me tomorrow morning!

I bookmarked these scones as soon as they came into my inbox last week and had been harbouring secret thoughts to bake them on Thursday (tomorrow), since I don’t have class until 4.  Alas, my study date made that an impossibility, so naturally I simply moved my baking date with myself up a few hours, making it a late night baking session.  Turn on some Amy Winehouse and Michael Bublé (or the original Frank) and you have the perfect night, in my opinion.

Sara (of Spouted Kitchen ) posted this persimmon variation on the raspberry ricotta scones in the new Smitten Kitchen cookbook.  A winning combination if there ever was one, from two of my favourite food blogs.  I didn’t have persimmons, but I did happen to have some fresh sharon fruit sitting on my counter that were perfectly ripe upon my return from a weekend away in Berlin (more on that later).  After a quick google search that told me they’re more or less the same thing and a wee detour into Sainsburys on my home for ricotta, I was ready to bake!

When I was first venturing into the world of doughs, I was scone-averse, frightened away by the prospect of cutting butter into flour.  Now, I consider them to be one of the easier recipes.  I swear, it’s not so scary as it seems.  Cutting butter into flour can be done with a pastry cutter, your fingers, or even a fork.  The idea is to mix the two together so that you end up with the consistency of sand.  The most important thing is to act quickly so that the butter doesn’t melt.  Using butter straight out of the fridge can help.

I was tempted to substitute yoghurt for the ricotta, for the simple reason that I don’t usually use ricotta.  However, after stumbling upon another variation of the recipe from Heidi Swanson over at 101Cookbooks (another favourite), I decided to stick with the “original” – mostly.  I did substitute buttermilk for the heavy cream (I don’t like to cook with cream. Period.) and I used spelt flour, since I can’t do wheat.  Other than that, I stayed true to the recipe.  A rare occurrence for me, I must admit.  The one thing I might change next time, is to sprinkle some raw sugar on top before putting them in the oven.  I think the caramalisation of the sugar would add an extra depth to the flavour.

The scones came together super quickly and were in and out of the oven in a flash.  I think that might be the best thing about scones, you really do get immediate satisfaction!  You can taste your creation within the half hour!  The ricotta gives them beautifully moist on the inside, which is perfectly paired with a proper flaky crust.  Plus, there’s just enough sugar to compliment the sweet from the sharon fruit, but not enough to make you feel like you’re eating dessert.  It really is a beautifully crafted scone.  So, thanks Deb, for the original, and Sara for a delightful autumnal twist!

Whole Spelt Sharon Fruit Scones

Only slightly adapted from Sprouted Kitchen

Ingredients:

1 cup white spelt flour
1 cup whole spelt flour
1 Tbsp. gluten-free baking powder
1/4 cup caster sugar
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. each of cinnamon, cardamom and ground ginger
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, chilled
1 cup finely chopped sharon fruit
3/4 cup whole milk ricotta
1/3 cup buttermilk (or milk curdle with cidre vinegar)

Method:

Preheat the oven to 425F (218C) and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Mix the dry ingredients together, the flour through the spices. Add the butter with a pastry blender, and cut the butter into the flour mixture until the pieces are the size of small peas (this can also be done with your fingers, just be quick to not warm the butter, or a knife). Toss in the fruit and break them up a bit with the pastry blender.

Using a flexible spatula, add the ricotta and heavy cream to the butter mixture and stir them in to form a dough. Working quickly, use your hands to knead the dough gently into an even mass.

Transfer the dough to a well-floured surface, flour the top of dough, and pat into a round, 1 inch high. With a large, sharp knife, divide the dough into eight normal-sized scones or twelve mini-scones. Transfer the scones to the two prepared baking sheets with the spatula. Bake the scones for about 15-18 minutes until they are lightly golden at the edges. Cool them on the pan for a minute then transfer to a cooling rack.

Do let them cool a bit, so you don’t burn your mouth, but these are best enjoyed while still slightly warm from the oven, so dig in!


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Sunday Farm Brunch

Early on, after moving to London in September, one of my new Londoner friends recommended that I check out the Hackney City Farm.  My blank look said it all.  A farm?  In Hackney?  As in, a part of London?  And still pretty much the centre of London, at that?  Yes, yes, yes, and yes, was the answer.  Always looking for interesting adventures, I was obviously intrigued at the idea of a farm (and apparently there are others, too! in the middle of one of the largest cities in the world, but I didn’t make it over there until last weekend.

Hackney City Farm

Oh, hello Mr. Goat!

I now know that urban farming isn’t nearly as rare as I thought it was, appearing in cities all over the world.  However, the term generally is used to refer to innovative vertical growing spaces, such as roof top gardens.  This is emphatically not what the Hackney City Farm is.  It is exactly what one would expect from a farm, from the sturdy-rickety wooden fence, to chickens running underfoot in the yard, from the green pastures, to the tilled earth with rows of fresh greens and other plants, from indignant ducks strutting around the pond like they own the place despite what may be considered a stronger claim by the chickens, to the smell of manure undoubtedly linked to the extra-large pigs and goat (of a normal size) present.  As I entered the yard, carefully manoeuvring the gate behind me so as not to let any of the many chickens escape in the process, I felt as though London were worlds away.  The only sign that I was not on a remote farm in the middle of England came as I looked skyward and was brought back to reality by the tall, grey needles piercing the blue sky.

Not only can you enjoy all the stress-relieving benefits of petting a goat, but in an adjoining café, in what I am guessing is a converted barn, you can enjoy the edible fruits of labour of the farm as well.  On this particularly Sunday, E and I enjoyed a delicious Sunday brunch.  Eschewing the usual foodie rule #1 – never order the same dish as your partner in crime – we both went for the scrambled eggs with smoked salmon on a thick slice of toasted spelt bread.  It definitely hit the spot.  The eggs were perfectly done, neither too runny, nor too rubbery.  The salmon reminded me of the fresh stock in Scotland and had none of the white fatty bits that, through the removal process, can turn what was a beautiful pink piece of salmon into a jig-saw puzzle with missing pieces.  There was a dash of crème fraîche on top, with cilantro, that added just a touch of creaminess, reminding me of bagel, lox, and cream cheese.  The bread was perfect.  It didn’t get soggy from the eggs, but it also wasn’t tough from toasting or being stale.  The crumb was of a good consistency, soft on the inside, while the crust has a nice crunch.  I was inspired to create a similar breakfast later in the week, with the major departure being a slice of Poilane’s rye and current bread.  I love all of Poilane’s breads, but their traditional sourdough load would have been a better match to this dish.  Oh well, next time!

After a heavenly brunch and soothing wander through the farm, E and I hit the Columbia Road Flower Market, where we both picked up flowers to bring some life and colour into our flats.  I continued with the Scottish theme by picking up a bouquet of thistles. J  Clearly my subconscious is telling me something…

One of the stalls on Columbia Rd

What a wonderful adventure and a wonderful break from the city, without ever even leaving it!

My bouquet looking lovely on the mantel at home