Why not make some to give as a Christmas gift? Biscotti are very easy to make and keep in an airtight container for weeks. These Almond and Cranberry Biscotti are delicious but feel free to replace the cranberries in the recipe with more almonds or chocolate drops or experiment with other types of nuts of dried fruit. Just watch the temperature of the oven when drying out the biscotti so as to make sure the cranberries do not burn.
What a fun evening! Sculling and sailing through the creeks and marshes at Wells next the Sea, on a traditonal flat bottomed mussel boat, with our skipper Dom entertaining us with stories of the sea and a half time picnic of local cheeses, quiche, salads, bread and freshly brewed coffee. (We took our own wine). Henry from The Coastal Exploration Company has thought of everything when organising the trips and even for you landlubbers out there the three or four hour sail, on the tide, is just the most magical way to spend a summers evening.
- our boat ready and waiting for us at Wells harbour
- and we're off
- picnic time with local goodies including fabulousBrays pork pies
- and out comes the kettle to make a cafetiere of coffee
- Dom kept us entertained with his humble charm and wit
- the tide turns
- back before dark
Superb seafood and freshly filled baguettes here at Brancaster Staithe. Crabs and lobsters are from the owner's own boat Speedwell that fishes out of the harbour. You don't get much fresher than that!
All was revealed last week when I was invited to a 'Secret Garden' barbecue at Bildeston Crown and discovered the beautiful walled garden, tucked away at the back of the inn. You can book it exclusively for yourself and up to sixteen people for an al fresco meal. It has access through a gate from the car park or via the new very cosy lounge and Champagne bar (more about that another time). It's cook your own on the inset grills which run down the centre of the table, allowing you to barbecue delicious meats and vegetables yourself without having to move. Chef and owner Chris Lee is on hand to make sure no one goes hungry or burns anything they shouldn't. Ice buckets fill the gaps where there's no grill ensuring that the wine is as perfectly chilled as the guests. With delightful service from Hayley and the young, professional team at Bildeston Crown we enjoyed glasses of refreshing chilled rose and were delivered superb side salads, hot side dishes, dips and sauces to accompany the Red Poll steaks, homemade beef burgers, chicken kebabs and marinated pork. We cooked our meat on the grills, slowly grazing away well into the afternoon. If you fancy your own al fresco feast speak to Chris or Hayley who will tailor a menu for you. Prices start at £30 a head and I'll put my money on the cute little courtyard working well in the winter months too. Braziers, patio heaters, hot grills, vin chaud, raclette, Pierre-chaude and fondue ...just an idea.
- the inset grills, fired up and ready
- it was easy to reach the grills from our comfy chairs
- we cooked our own beef burgers
- just some of the hot side dishes
- drum roll .. as the food starts to arrive ... what will we be cooking?
- delicious side dishes kept on coming, including the Bildeston classic lobster Caesar salad
- thick cut Red Poll steaks were beautifully tender
- vegetable kebabs were delicious too
- chilled rose wine, ready and waiting
It was so tempting to have a lick of the plate and the juices left in the bottom of the bowl, once I had polished off the Isle of Wight tomato salad at The Northgate last week. The delicious hibiscus and sherry vinaigrette dressed tomatoes, topped with light, whipped cobnut cream and nasturtium pesto reminded me of a Spanish Gazpacho. And sitting outside on the lavender edged terrace, on what must be Bury's only central, outdoor, dining space added to the relaxed and laid back dining experience at this striking Victorian townhouse. I was invited to try the new menu and to tour the newly refurbed restaurant, cocktail bar and lounge ... all are quite stunning. There's a private dining room seating 14 (complete with giant framed cockatoos looking on). A brilliant and boldly decorated cocktail bar and a Chef's table where you can dine and watch the brigade at work. Head Chef Greig Young uses the best produce he can find, with the Taste of East Anglia menu (£45 a head) offering a selection of seasonal small plates, inspired by the local area and it's producers. And no I didn't only eat a salad, I ate bread made with Pakenham Mill flour, then a crisp and light Norfolk Dapple gougere, next came hand cut beef tartare with pickled mustard, broad beans and red endive, followed by a spiced East Anglian bhaji using local potatoes, and the finale of the savoury plates; fillet of plaice in a seaweed crust with a crisp lobster 'scampi' on a light hollandaise, lifted by slices of pickled cucumber. Greig chose to serve a whipped dark Tosier chocolate, creme de cacao ice cream on a saucy kombucha, caramel espresso as a pre-dessert and then for the main dessert - like I really needed two, roast white chocolate with hibiscus (think Caramac, but better) with roasted red fruit, raspberries and milk ice cream. As well as the superb food at The Northgate staff are also delightful, providing a professional, discreet yet friendly service under the expert guidance of Manager Michael Box.
- the homemade bread
- Norfolk Dapple gougeres
- Isle of Wight tomatoes, juicy with the hibiscus vinaigrette and you'd never believe that with the cobnut cream this is a vegan dish
- Hand cut beef tartare, pickled mustard, broad beans
- Bhajis made with local spud, crips and moreish, vegan too
- A huge lobster 'scampi' aloft the plaice fillet with pickled cucumber hollandaise
- Whipped Tosier chocolate with the slightly sour Kombucha espresso caramel and creme de cacao ice cream
- Caramac! Big shards on milk ice cream and roasted red fruits
- Affordable and interesting lunch menu, perfect for al fresco dining
- The cocktails are excellent too
- Smile! Head Chef Greig Young and Manager Michael Box
I made this for supper last night with a bag of swiss chard grown by my cousin Jo. Posting the pics on Instagram has obviously whetted a few appetites so here's the recipe. A savoury souffle is not as hard as it looks and can turn very economical ingredients into a luxurious dish. For a perfectly fluffy and towering souffle, remember no peeking while it's cooking. Put it in the oven (don't slam the door or you'll knock the air out) and patiently wait for the cooking time to elapse. Experiment by using different cheeses and swap spinach for mushrooms, cooked leeks, roasted peppers or anything else you fancy.
I just made this delicious squidgy lemon and lime curd shortbread. It's for pudding tonight but Scarlett and I can't stop ourselves, so maybe there'll be none left by then.
That's French for my birthday (part 2.) This time up North at Flint Vineyard in Earsham. Owner Ben Witchell took us on his two hour Winemaker's Tour which was bloomin' brilliant. If you want to learn how to make wine then this is as good as it gets on an English vineyard tour (and I've done a few.) Ben shared his story of giving up his day job in order to study Oenology and Viticulture at Plumpton College from where he travelled to Beaujolais to take up his first winemaking post. Hannah his wife has accompanied him on his journey and together they now run this cutting edge vineyard. The tour started at 10am with a welcome glass of Charmat Rose, the best time of the day for your tastebuds apparently. Ben walked and talked with us to the vineyard and then on to the winery, which was followed by a tutored tasting of their Silex Blanc, Bacchus and Pinot Noir. We stayed on for the 15 mile lunch (an additional £19.50) but worth every penny and included plates of Baron Bigod and St Jude cheeses, Marsh Pig charcuterie, Hempnall Village bakery bread and Eastgate Larder medlar jelly; all produced a corks pop away from the vineyard. Oh! ... and the lunch includes another glass of wine.
- the 15 mile lunch
- Charmat Rose welcome
- visit to the shop
- a winemakers tools
- one year old barrels
- lunch menu
That's French for 'my birthday party in France'. Bored with Brexit and looking for some entente cordiale I celebrated my 60th in France. One large Gite hired, fourteen of my bestest invited and several sacks of baguettes gorged. Castillonnes is a 20 minute drive from Bergerac airport and close to Maison Vari in Monbazillac who put on a great wine tasting. I even found a local Chef Marianne to come and cook us a fabulous birthday meal. Why did it all have to end?
- Our daily bread
- Village life
- Dreamy views across the vineyards
- Fields of hazelnut trees
- La Maison Vari
- Vineyards of Montbazillac
I never need an excuse to light a fire outside and cook ‘al fresco’ and now it’s officially barbecue season that’s where I’ll be. The golden rule of cooking on a barbecue, or wood fire, is to cook over embers, not flames and to distinguish whether you are cooking something that requires searing rather than slow cooking. So, it’s always best to cook meats that require a fierce heat as soon as the flames have died down, and the embers are still glowing. Then grill ingredients such as fish, which require slower cooking, as the temperature of the fire drops. By mid-summer the herbs in my garden are at their best and plentiful so can be used liberally on barbecued food. Gutsy herbs indigenous/native of the Mediterranean and Middle East work very well in barbecues and include rosemary which adds an aromatic and resinous flavour working very well with fatty and rich meats such as lamb. I like to use the straight, small woody branches for my lamb, onion and rosemary skewers. Oregano and marjoram are both closely related and I still struggle to identify between the two growing in my garden. Oregano has a more pungent and domineering flavour whereas marjoram is slightly more delicate, also faintly savoury and lightly sweet scented. If using oregano then use a little more sparingly. It has a special affinity with tomato based dishes and sauces and works very well when put with lemon and garlic in a marinade. Coriander can be chopped and mixed into natural yoghurt with Indian spices to create a delicious marinade for both chicken and fish. The pungent, slightly citrus flavour marries well with lime zest and juice to make a herb butter which is delicious served on seafood cooked on a barbecue. Dill is often associated with Nordic or Russian cuisine and is used extensively in Persian cuisine. I love it with fish, particularly salmon which barbecues very well. Combined with sumac a Middle Eastern spice which adds tartness and astringency to food it makes a perfect marinade for salmon. Mint adds another dimension to whole grilled courgettes that have been allowed to cool a little and then drizzled with oil, salt and pepper and chopped mint. The same combination is also delicious on grilled halloumi cheese.