Monthly Archives: August 2012

Easy Yogurt and Jam Popsicles

Blackberry jam popsicles

So I’ve sorta got a thing for frozen things, particularly late at night. And so for this reason, I try not to keep ice cream or sorbet around. Cuz I’ll just eat it, proper American style: in front of the fridge, in my pajamas, with a big spoon. And contrary to recent cheese plates and cake bombs, I do try to generally stay true to this blog’s name in my daily life. So instead of ice cream, I’ve honed a taste for alternative frozen delights like frozen banana and – is this weird? – frozen apple sauce.

But I should shut up about that because it doesn’t sound very fun, and these popsicles are all about being fun, with the added bonus that they remain a justifiable weekday snack that satisfies my incessant craving for frozen goodies.

Back story: my friend Kavey of Kavey Eats does this monthly blog challenge thing called Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream (aka BSFIC).  This month’s challenge is all about ice lollies, aka popsicles, so I thought this was a good reason to branch out from my frozen bananas and do something a little more interesting. It also helped that Kavey was over for a visit the other weekend, and the blackberries were in season, and we picked some, and we made jam. And ta-da, the Yogurt and Blackberry Jam Popsicles were born. They’re totally easy peasy:

Easy Yogurt and Jam Popsicles
Recipe type: Dessert
Cook time: 
Total time: 

 

Ingredients
  • Yogurt – I used Greek style but any yogurt will do
  • Jam – I used Kavey’s homemade blackberry jam
  • Port or some other liquor (or water)

Instructions
  1. Dilute the jam in a bit of port or other complimentary liquid so that it’s “swirlable”
  2. Layer yogurt and jam in a popsicle mould (I did about 1-2cm yogurt in layers with a little dollop of jam)
  3. Swirl the yogurt and jam around a bit with a knife or skewer
  4. Freeze until set

 

I used Greek style yogurt from the Organic Farm Shop in Cirencester which is VERY thick and also quite tangy, a flavour I really like with the blackberry jam.

Blackberry jam yogurt popsicles

And by the way, if you think frozen applesauce is weird, you should check out Kavey’s Pickleback Ice Lollies.

Chickpeas and Carrots

Tim Clinch's Awesome Chickpeas

This evening, I attempted to recreate this marvelous chickpea dish I had at Kate Hill’s Kitchen-at-Camont in Gascony earlier this summer. It was the eve before the Natural Light Natural Food photography workshop, and upon my arrival, Tim Clinch greeted me with a glass of rosé and, a short while later, these beautiful chickpeas. I love a man who knows how to handle his beans, and these were a marvel of simplicity – I just loved the combo of chickpeas and carrots. How is it done?

Tim spilled the beans (pun intended) on Twitter: “chickpeas, cumin (lots-toasted), smoked paprika, parsley, coriander, olive oil, garlic(lots) zest&juice of a lemon-bon apetit!!! oh…and a couple of carrots! … grill the garlic unpeeled till blackened on a dry griddle, then mash up… I probably grilled shallots and chopped them into it as well.”

The results of my attempt? Not bad, but I didn’t have parsley or coriander. I also added grilled onions, and did the carrots on the grill, too. My chickpeas weren’t as good as Tim’s, but they satisfied my craving. Plus, they’re super wholesome and vegan and all that good hippy stuff. Feel-good food for a feel-good summer moment.

I should also point out that (I think?) this was the only time Tim cooked while I was at Camont – the rest of the time he was busy doing his photographer thing with Mardi and I while Kate rocked the kitchen. So I feel quite lucky to have experienced first hand that Tim, in addition to being a great photographer and teacher, also has a few culinary tricks up his sleeve, tricks that totally appeal to my bean-eating, spice-loving, vegan-esque sensibilities. I totally approve! Rad food for rad peeps!

Mardi’s Savoury Clafoutis

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I’m not sure if you’ve notice but I’ve been keeping up a little Posterous micro-blog called SmarterFitter Daily containing quick pics and notes about the foods I eat in my ongoing effort to feel awesome. Earlier this year, Posterous was acquired by Twitter, and over time Posterous has become more and more unreliable. So much so that I’ve decided to start doing these “Daily” posts (not necessarily posted daily!) here on my main blog. Welcome to a window on the world of my daily eats!

My first experience of clafoutis was a sweet peach clafoutis made by Kate Hill at the Natural Light Natural Food Workshop in Gascony earlier this summer (see My Food Story From Gascony).  The recipe was inspired by fellow-student Mardi from Eat Live Travel Write who was on a blog-related peach mission in which clafoutis was the end result.

What is clafoutis? My Mac’s Dictionary.app says: “a tart made of fruit, typically cherries, baked in a sweet batter.” Or in this case, think peaches baked in a sweet eggy custard. It’s pretty yummy and appeals to my love of both eggs and fruit-based desserts.

This week, Mardi has upped the clafoutis ante and turned the tables on this conventionally sweet dish. Enter her savoury ratatouille clafoutis. Once I saw this I knew I had to make it. The custard batter includes polenta, which settles to the bottom of the ramekin in a crust-like effect that I really enjoyed. Here’s the comment I left for Mardi:

“I made your recipe this afternoon with some leftover grilled vegetables (red peppers, green beans, onion and sweetcorn, plus a little raw tomato and fresh basil tossed into the mix). Mr. Neil is correct in that the polenta does pool at the bottom, but I LOVED this effect! I felt like I was eating a polenta pie – and the polenta dust on the edges [of the ramekins] gets nice and brown and is yummy when scraped off the sides of the ramekin. Also, the polenta worked VERY nicely with the sweetcorn. If anything I felt this could have used more salt (my fault entirely). This was very easy and infinitely adaptable (I’m thinking rosemary needs to be involved next time). Will make again, and I look forward to enjoying my leftover clafoutis for breakfast tomorrow.”

Indeed I did enjoy my leftover clafoutis today, and it was badass. Arguably even better the next day?

Visit Mardi’s recipe: ratatouille clafoutis.

Savoury clafoutis in progress.

Weird Wednesday: Frozen Pickle Pops

Putting @kaveyf's pickle juice ice lolly to the test. Skepticism rising.

And so the harbinger of Weird Wednesday, Kavey Favelle, inspires yet another post. This time, two of my favourite food loves – pickled things and frozen things – come together as one in the weirdest popsicle I’ve ever had the pleasure to ingest. And yes, I do mean pleasure: frozen pickle juice in lollipop form is surprisingly delicious. It’s a Kavey invention, and she was here at the cottage last weekend with her hubs Pete (of Pete Drinks) and our comrade Marie (from Lanyon Cottages) for a reunion of the “fab four” from our Seafood Holiday in Cornwall last June (thank you Food Travel Company).

In the most fascinating of stories, I bought some terrific pickles at Lidl (yes, Lidl) and Kavey convinced me not to waste the juice by turning them into frozen lollies (see her recipe for Pickleback Ice Lollies) The picture above reflects my pessimism about the whole thing. But as you can see from the empty lolly sticks, the pickle pops are bizarrely delicious, and super refreshing on a hot day.

The verdict on @kaveyf's pickle juice ice lollies: sweet salty sharp awesome refreshing surprise.

What is Weird Wednesday?

Weird Wednesday: Samphire Corpses

Samphire Corposes

It’s still Wednesday in some parts of the world, so here’s one from last Monday’s seaside forage with Genie Cooks and The Food Travel Company. I’m not sure if this picture is weird funny, or just plain weird. That’s me and Sharon (aka ‘Genie’) looking like we’ve literally died and gone to forager’s heaven. Those are cockles on our eyes, and we’re laying in a bed of samphire. Photo taken on an island somewhere off the coast of Essex, and there’s more where this came from. Stay tuned…

Curried Beetroot Soup at The Chequers

Curried beetroot soup, The Chequers, Bath

Had a “business lunch” at The Chequers today, a comfy little gastro pub in Bath that does a very good lunch set meal deal (£12 for two courses, £15 for three). I ended up sharing the two courses with my business friend: she took the main, and I took the curried beetroot soup. In the words of my biz pal: “amazeballs”.

The bonus: the kind gentleman who served us explained to me how I can recreate this orgasmic soup at home. Let’s see if I can remember what he said:

The ingredients:

  • ~6 cooked beetroot (boiled or roasted – roasted is better)
  • 1/2 onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • cumin seeds
  • coriander seeds
  • caraway seeds (the “magic” ingredient)
  • turmeric
  • double cream

The method:

Blitz the cooked beetroot in a food processor to a fine paste. Cook up the onion and garlic with the seeds and turmeric, then add the beetroot puree and cook for a little while. Then pass everything through a muslin cloth. Stir in double cream to taste. Serve, garnished a bit of olive oil or double cream and fresh coriander.

 

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My Food Story from Gascony

Beautiful French tomatoes, Nérac Market

“So what’s the itineray?”

It seems like such a stupid question in retrospect, but it was one of the first things I asked Tim Clinch and Kate Hill when I met them in Gascony this summer. I was there at Kate’s Kitchen at Camont for their Natural Light Natural Food photography workshop, with little clue as to what we’d be doing for our three days together, only that Tim’s the photographer and Kate’s the writer and I was there to learn some stuff.

Kate and Tim didn’t have an answer to my itinerary question, and now having been there, I see why. An “itinerary” is just so not Gascony (and so not Kate and Tim, for that matter). Here is a place where meals are dictated by what’s at the market, the mood of the day and sometimes, when lucky, Kate’s amazing pickles. Furthermore, the whole atmosphere that Kate and Tim bring to the workshop is one of spontaneity. An itinerary just wasn’t on the cards.

Kate and Tim
Me and my homies

So what was on the cards? Here I find myself trying to tell a story, but it’s hard to set the scene. The cast was photographer Tim, writer Kate, and their astute students, me and Mardi from Eat Live Travel Write.

Mardi

The setting: Kate’s canal-side 18th century French cottage, a photographer’s wet dream.

Kate's beautiful pickles

The plot: Well, here my mind becomes scattered as I reminisce on some terrifically wonderful memories: morning walks along the canal with the black-and-white dogs; getting over my insecurities about being a tourist and taking pictures with abandon at Nérac market; long al fresco lunches in Kate’s garden; going to Vianne night market and dancing to dudes singing French covers of American songs (including “YMCA” and “Oh What a Night”); singing 80’s music in the car on the ride home; Kate’s pickles and homemade Worcestershire sauce; sleeping in a cozy cool retro caravan; beautiful food, and beautiful places to photograph them; ugly food, but immensely satisfying, particularly when eaten out of plastic containers (calamari) or off of napkins (the apricot tart); staying up way past my bed time; drinking lots and lots of rosé and armangac; feeling totally at home; having fun.

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Of course, this is not to undermine the real reason we were there: to learn to take better pictures. And were it not for the photography lessons from Tim, all that laughing, dancing, singing, eating and drinking wouldn’t have been as memorable as they were.

Telling Stories

The whole premise behind Tim’s and Kate’s approach to photography and Gascony is telling stories. And so, our photography wasn’t constrained to ingredients and plates of food. We also sought out the people, producers and places from where the food came, as well as the process of turning these ingredients into beautiful things. For example, we spent a whole morning taking pictures of apricots, and then an afternoon photographing Kate turning them into an apricot and goats cheese tart.

Apricot Tart

We photographed at Nérac market, in the Gascony countryside, in the villages, in Kate’s kitchen and in her garden.

Bread I want to eat, Nérac Market

Nerac Market

Dominique Chapolard, at his charcuterie stall in Nérac market

Bread and Cheese

Tim also managed to blow my mind by showing me some amazingly cool tricks in Lightroom. Indeed, post-processing is a key part of the Natural Light Natural Food workshop, and Tim readily admits that all of his photographs have been processed in some way before they’ve been published. It’s the digital way, and it’s amazing what you can do with a little crop and a few adjustments.

Before and After

Before and After

Before and After

Before and After

Rad Peeps

When you spend three days living and working with someone, you get to know them pretty well. And at the end of all this I feel smitten. The work Kate and Tim are doing to bring attention to Gascony is tremendous: it’s a beautiful part of France with a fantastic food culture and without that cloying sensation of being there just for tourists. People actually live and work in Gascony. This is the real France.

And like I said to Kate and Tim, they’re “rad peeps”, who like me, are in search of the dream. And maybe this is why I like them so much. Mardi and I kept telling Kate, “I want your life!” Kate’s response: “get your own!” Point being: the dream is different for everybody, but the important thing is to never stop looking for it.

In light of “the dream”, I somehow feel that Tim’s parting tips on taking better photos are equally are equally applicable to life: “Slow down, think, fill the frame, get in close.”

Here is how I summed up my experience in a testimonial for Kate and Tim:

The photography workshop at Camont was a life-changing experience, and it goes way way beyond photography. Yes, we learned how to take better photos, but those lessons also translated to wider lessons in living that could only be taught by Kate and Tim’s combined creativity and the phenomenal people and places they work with in Gascony. Through them, I learned life lessons in patience, living the dream and taking opportunities, interwoven with a great travel experience in beautiful Gascony, not to mention the fantastic food that Kate created from the region’s exceptional ingredients. As a result of the workshop, I now find myself taking notice of the stories that are happening all around me, and how photography – both taking the picture and processing them on a computer – can be used to create dramatic images that capture those stories in a visual way.

A New Venture

So for all these reasons and more, I’m psyched to bits to be helping Kate and Tim out with their newest project to turn their Gascony mojo into a viable business. Introducing: Food Stories from Gascony, a publishing project that will soon see the release of a recurring series of online “magazines” about the food of Gascony. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter for updates.

Rad Peeps

Kate, Mardi and Me at the Vianne night market

I’m still processing the hundreds of photos I took on my trip, but I’ve started uploading them to these photosets on Flickr: France, July 2012 and Natural Light Natural Food.

Some other links you should visit: