July already?? What on earth happened? I’m sure it was only last week that I signed up for Food Blogger Connect, and was sure I would have a plan by the time it came around. I suppose that’s what the best-laid plans are for. Here are some things I’ve been doing/watching/reading in the last month:
My strawberry crop has been a bumper one this year, partly due to the frequent rain we’ve had for the last six months, and partly because the runners all got out of hand last year, so even after weeding out about half of my strawberry plants over the winter, I still have a pretty substantial strawberry patch. Along with an out-of-season organic box delivery of red plums, I put the two together to make not quite a full jar of jam. But it is beautiful, the plums adding a purpley depth to the colour that the strawberries wouldn’t achieve alone. I like to add an acid fruit to my strawberry jam – I’ve previously used rhubarb, lemon and lime – which as well as contributing a higher-pectin fruit, also adds the acid that helps it to set. Plums seem to do this very well too.
We made our first visit to Hedone a couple of weeks ago, after being reminded when it appeared on the World’s Top 100 list. It’s not far from our house, so it seemed particularly foolish to have neglected it for so long. We went for lunch and had the tasting menu, and had a great time (although it seemed relatively quiet for a Saturday lunch). Particular highlights for me were the five preparations of beetroot that came with the duck main course, and a fabulous warm chocolate mousse with dried raspberry powder and passionfruit puree – raspberry and passionfruit must be two of my favourite flavours to combine with chocolate (this blog post has a photo of that dish).
Black bean chili dinner party
I made dinner for some work colleagues a few weeks ago. As the party included a vegetarian and a no-wheat no-dairy person, I went for an easy make-ahead dish – black bean chili, with lots of toppings for people to add, salsa, guacamole and cornbread. Having a main course you can make on Sunday and keep in the fridge for a Wednesday dinner is an excellent idea for mid-week entertaining. (I use Deborah Madison’s Black Bean Chili recipe from The Greens Cookbook).
Scandilicious Queen Maud muffins
With all of these strawberries, I needed more things to use them up, so I adapted the Scandilicious baking recipe for Queen Maud muffins, and used blueberries with strawberries cut into pieces instead of raspberries. They turned out really well – I’ve kept them in the freezer and brought them out for snacking at work – and produce the most beautiful muffin papers after you’ve eaten one!
Smitten Kitchen fava bean, tomato and sausage pasta
I’ve started using Pinterest to collect together inspiration for that ‘but what can I make for dinner’ moment: board here. When my broad beans (fava beans) all flourished at once, and I had a huge crop to use, I turned to Eat Your Books and discovered this Smitten Kitchen gem. With so many fresh broad beans, we didn’t even miss the sausage.
I took a work trip to Washington D.C. at the start of the month, where it was beautiful for a couple of days, and then a tropical storm moved in and it poured. Still, I got to do a handful of essential things in between meetings: Smithsonian Apollo and Wright brothers exhibits – check. Shake Shack burger – check. Sephora shopping opportunity – check. I also came across people queuing around the block for cupcakes in Georgetown, which apparently is because there’s a TV series based there – strange phenomenon (I didn’t queue up to try them myself). I’m very happy that Shake Shack has just opened a branch in London too, but I don’t think it will sway me from Byron.
In things I have been reading, I love this piece by super-geek Sue Black. I saw her speak at a Girl Geek Dinner a couple of years ago about Bletchley Park, and I’ve always been impressed, but I had no idea how hard she had worked to get where she is today – worth a read if you’re in need of a dose of inspiration.
I’ve been slowly working more and more David Sedaris into my life. First the episodes of This American Life. Then the audiobook of Me Talk Pretty One Day. This month I added ‘Meet David Sedaris’, the Radio 4 series, and also bought my Dad ‘Let’s explore Diabetes with Owls’. He wrote a lovely piece on domesticity and guest rooms in the New Yorker this month.