Saturday, 30 August 2008

The Omnivore's hundred

I first saw this over at Sylvie's Blog A Pot Of Tea And A Biscuit, now I keep seeing it everywhere so I thought it was about time I joined in!
Andrew from A Very Good Taste has come up with a list of 100 foods he thinks every omnivore should eat in their lifetime. He asks that you take a look and mark out the foods you have tried, those you haven't and those there's not a chance you would ever eat!

So here goes, the items in bold I have tried, the items in normal type I haven't and those in red are foods that I just couldn't bring myself to eat!

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush (I really want to try this)
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses (smells like feet but tastes so good!)
17. Black truffle (when I'm a millionaire)
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper (I'm not that crazy!)
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal (I don't like really hot food)
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu (Not worth dying for!)
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal (A long long time ago!)
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini (the cheap lumpfish variety)
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill (We found a pheasant once, it seemed fresh!)
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam (yes but it's disgusting)
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Well I've tried 39 which is actually surprisingly low, I'll have to make an effort to try more things. It's been really interesting reading other peoples lists so if you want to try it this is what to do:
1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at linking to your results.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Sticky Chelsea Buns

In England we are blessed with a long history of baking. Every region has it's own specialities such as the Eccles cake from Eccles, the Bakewell tart from Bakewell and the Bath bun from... well you get the picture!
It seems to me that our history is being lost, I rarely see these regional treats for sale any more. The supermarkets seem to favour muffins and cookies over our traditional baking. As much as I like muffins and cookies I would like to see English cakes as well.
Yesterday I did my bit to keep British recipes alive, I made Chelsea buns.
The Chelsea bun was invented in the 1700's and sold from The Bun House in Grosvenor Row in London. They became incredibly popular, apparently even King George couldn't stay away! Unfortunately the Bun House was demolished in 1839 so I can't sample the original.
I can make my own though, these are deliciously sticky buns made from an enriched bread dough that is rolled Swiss roll style with dried fruit spices and sugar in the middle they are glazed with sugar, syrup or honey.

I used a recipe from BakingMad and modified it a bit, this is my version:

For the dough

250g / 9oz Strong White Bread Flour
5ml/ 1 tsp salt
5ml/ 1 tsp white sugar
5 ml / 1 tsp Dried fast Action Yeast
25g / 1 oz butter, diced
100-120ml / 3-4 fl oz warmed milk
1 egg, beaten
For the filling
125g / 4 ½ oz mixed currants, sultanas and raisins
50g / 2oz Demerara sugar
15g/ ½ oz butter
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves


1.Grease an 18cm / 7 inch square shallow cake tin. Sift the flour, salt, sugar and yeast into a large bowl. Rub in 25g / 1oz butter.

2.In a bowl, mix together the milk and egg. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and stir in the liquid. Bring the mixture together with a round bladed knife and knead for 10 minutes on a lightly floured surface until the dough is smooth and elastic. If the mixture is sticky add a little more flour.

3.Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll out to a 30 x 23 cm/ 12 x 9 inch rectangle.

4.Prepare the filling: Mix the dried fruit with the soft light brown sugar and spices. Melt the remaining butter and brush over the surface of the dough. Scatter the fruit mixture over the buttered dough, leaving a 2.5cm/ 1 inch border around the edge of the dough.

5.Starting at the long side of the dough, roll it up like a Swiss roll. Pinch the edges together to seal and then cut into 12 slices.

6.Place the rolls cut edges uppermost in the tin. Cover with oiled cling film and leave to rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

7.Pre heat the oven to 190ºC/ 375ºF/ Gas Mark 5. Bake for 30 minutes or until risen and golden.

8.Remove from the oven and brush with honey and sprinkle with Golden Caster sugar whilst they are still hot. Then cool on a wire rack.

I've entered this into the I Love Baking event over at what's cooking? check it out here:

Monday, 25 August 2008

Wild blackberries

I am particularly lucky to have a nature reserve just 5 minutes walk from my house. The area is a 'green wedge' that cuts right into the city, the whole place is full of wildlife, hundreds if not thousands of rabbits there as well as unusual birds and plants.
Of particular interest to me are the Blackberry bushes, literally thousands and thousands of them line the paths, at this time of year all of them laden with juicy and delicious fruit. I find it impossible to walk past blackberries without stopping to grab some, they are far too tempting for me to pass up!

So last week I went down there myself box in hand and got picking. It's a painful job as the cuts and scratches on my arms testify! It also turned my hands an interesting shade of purple! It is well worth it though, I filled two boxes, which was enough to make this crumble tart and have some for the freezer.

Imagine a pie crossed with a crumble and you have a crumble tart, pastry case with a crumble topping. I used my wild blackberries and some fantastic Bramley apples that I was very kindly given. Apples and blackberries are perfect companions and Bramley apples are probably the very best cooking apple.
I served this tart still warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Berry Birthday Cake

This is the cake I made for my Mum's birthday last week.

The sponge is flavoured with lemon zest and is filled and decorated with fresh raspberries. To make it a bit more special I used blended Italian Mascarpone cheese with the cream, Mascarpone is amazingly delicious, very rich and very creamy it's excellent for desserts and also make a good pasta sauce. If you've never tried Mascarpone then you should look out for it, you won't regret it!
This was a good cake, I think I slightly over-baked it but once it was filled it wasn't that noticeable, the lemon zest certainly added more flavour and worked well with the raspberries.

To make a basic sponge my method is to weigh the eggs in their shells (more eggs for a bigger cake, less for a small cake) then use the same weight of:-
-Self-raising flour
Cream the sugar and butter together, add the eggs then the flour and bake at around 180, for roughly 30-45 minutes.
Obviously you can be creative, want a coffee cake? add coffee to the mix or cocoa for a chocolate cake etc...

Monday, 18 August 2008

The wild larder, mushroom hunting and a risotto

When I go out for bike rides around Leicestershire as I regularly do, There is a particular lane which is shaded by trees where no one ever goes. It is one of my favourite places to ride, it's quiet, peaceful and beautiful.
Recently I have begun to notice something happening down MY lane, at first they were small and insignificant, I saw one or two little ones appear only to have vanished the following day. That all changed last week when I found this monster!
I'm talking about mushrooms and this one weighed in at a whopping half a pound!

Normally I am very cautious about eating any kind of fungi that I have found growing wild, as although I like mushrooms I'm not prepared to die for the pleasure of eating them!
This one however I could confidently identify as a common field mushroom, exactly the same as I would buy in a supermarket.
As I rode home with my find I was thinking of what I could make with it. It was such a special ingredient that I wanted a recipe that allowed the mushroom to be the star. At first I just thought of making a mushroom sandwich but then I had ideas of stroganoff, pasta and pizza. But finally I went for a simple risotto.

The results may not be pretty but they were certainly tasty, the mushroom flavour was allowed to come through loud and clear and was not obscured by other flavours as can often be the case. I thoroughly enjoyed this meal which was made all the more special by having found the main ingredient growing wild.
The Risotto I made was as simple as they get, onions and garlic were softened in butter as a base, to which I added Italian Arborio rice, white wine and stock. I fried the mushroom and added it at the end. The risotto was finished with a sprinkling of Parmesan.

Wild food is abundant here at the moment, only today I have found wild plums, blackberries and apples so expect more posts to follow...

I have entered this post into a great event called grow your own. The idea is to feature dishes that people have made with food they have grown or raised themselves. Find out more here: Grow Your Own

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Simple Carrot cake

I made this carrot cake a little while ago when I really wanted a peice of cake but couldn't be bothered to make anything complicated. Recipes don't come much easier than this, just throw it all together and bake. The cream cheese icing is optional but I love it! Carrot cake just has to have cream cheese in my opinion.
This cake is really moist and full of flavour and is my goto emergency I need cake NOW recipe!

Carrot Loaf
1 large egg.
1 ½ cups of flour.
1 cup of shredded carrots.
½ cup of white sugar, granulated.
½ cup of brown sugar, packed.
½ cup of vegetable oil.
½ cup of chopped nuts.
½ cup of raisins.
1 teaspoon of cinnamon.
½ teaspoon of baking soda.
¼ teaspoon of salt.
¼ teaspoon of baking powder.


Stir together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and baking powder.
In a separate bowl, mix together the white and brown sugar, shredded carrots, vegetable oil and egg.
Combine the two mixtures, then add the chopped nuts and raisins.
Spoon the mixture into a greased and floured loaf pan (about 8x4x2 inches).
Bake at 350F for about 60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
Allow to cool for 15 minutes.
Store in an airtight container overnight.
Serve as desired.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

I've won an award!

I've won an award! Hopie from Hopie's Kitchen has given me the Arte y Pico award saying: "Sam lives, cooks and bikes in Leicestershire, England. He writes about all these things in his blog Antics of a Cycling Cook. He loves to cook Mediterranean food; he loves to bake and he even grows some of his own veggies. I love to read his blog because his recipes are the kind of food you could make every day with ingredients you know how to find."

I'm amazed and really flattered, if you haven't already then you should check out Hopie's blog, their are some great recipes and some really god photos. If that's not enough for you she writes the whole thing in French as well as English!

The rules for the award are:
1. Pick five blogs that you consider deserve the award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and also for contributing to the blogging community, no matter what language.
2. Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.
3. Each award winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award itself.
4. The award winner and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of the Arte y Pico blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award

So I would like to give the award to,

She Runs She Eats: Christina writes a really interesting blog about her running as well as cooking, her cakes look amazing!

Amanda from Mrs W's Kitchen, posts great simple recipes that use everyday ingredients with delicious results.

Katie from Apple and Spice has some really interesting ideas for making cakes that look as good as a professional baker.

Jill from Simple Daily Recipes has a blog that does exactly what it says! great when you're hungry and there's nothing in the fridge!

David Lebovitz is a pastry chef living in france who writes an interesting and often very funny blog.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Homegrown Rocket (arugula) pasta with fresh tomatoes and bacon

I've always enjoyed growing my own veg, I find it incredibly satisfying to start with a tiny insignificant seed and nurture it into something I can cook and eat. I love watching my plants develop and look forward to the day I can finally reap what I have sown. It is not possible to get fresher ingredients than those I have grown myself and I know exactly what's on them, so there's no nasty chemicals on my plants!!

Unfortunately when we moved house a few years ago we lost our garden, our new house has a tiny garden, this means that a big veg patch is out of the question. I still try though and have managed to grow this beautiful tub of Rocket (I think it's the same thing as arugula) there are also a few carrots growing in tubs and one lonely bean plant!
I wanted to make the most out of my rocket so I came up with a pasta dish in which it featured as the star ingredient. As tomatoes are perfectly in season at the moment (they're really tasty and very cheap) I wanted to use them as well, I also used bacon, Parmesan and a touch of cream to make this dish.

It was delicious, the peppery Rocket really stood out and brought the whole thing alive, I think this is definitely going to be a regular meal at my house although it's only worth making in the summer with the fantastic vegetables that are abundant at this time of year.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Marshmallow Fluff

I've a jar of this Marshmallow Fluff hanging around for ages, the problem is what on earth do I do with it?