Friday, 28 November 2014

Plain and simple Cottage Pie....

The last couple of weeks have been all about the sunrises and sunsets. Sometimes dawn is a bright lemon yellow, sometimes a vivid pink. But rarely a day has passed without us standing on the patio remembering why we are so lucky to live here. 

The vegetable stall is still going strong with little tomatoes, peppers and cabbage still being picked. But the fields are mainly empty, beautifully ploughed for next years crops. 

 We're back off to Cornwall tomorrow for ten days to spend time with family before Christmas. Scilly hasn't been touched with signs of festivities yet so the best is still to come. But the time away does mean I've had to clear out the fridge. I've frozen lemon and orange wedges and dried out leftover herbs. With a fridge nursing some carrots, potatoes and minced beef I decided last night to make a cottage pie. It might not look gourmet but it's one of my favourite comfort foods and is brilliant to portion up and freeze for Cory. 

Cottage Pie (serves 4)

400g minced beef
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion
2 carrots
3 sticks of celery
1kg potatoes
100g butter
80ml milk
50g manchego cheese/cheddar
1 tbsp plain flour
500ml beef stock
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Preheat the oven to 190'c. Chop the onion, celery and carrot into small pieces and fry in the oil on a medium temperature for around 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and place to one side. 

While that is cooking, peel the potatoes and cut in half. Place in a pan of cold water and bring to the boil and cook for 15-20 minutes until cooked through. 

Drain the potatoes and put back into the hot pan with the milk and 75g of the butter. Mask enthusiastically until the potatoes look a bit like over whipped cream. Put to one side. 

Back to the vegetable pan. Increase the heat to high and add the minced beef (breaking up with a spoon). Cook until browned. Add the flour and stir through. Then add the beef stock and Worcestershire sauce. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 10 minutes until you have a lovely gravy. 

Top with the mashed potatoes, grated cheese and the remainder of the butter. Bake for around 20 minutes until browned. 

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

The big freeze...

Until last week I was still swimming in the sea without batting an eyelid. Now the autumn storms have arrived. The dusty roads are puddles again and the rain seems to have sent the message to the ferns to turn rusty brown. Scilly changes immediately once the autumn arrives. It's suddenly much quieter although you still see happy visitors lying with their backs on warm rocks enjoying the seclusion of a beach to themselves. 

It's time to start filling the freezer too. The last of the apples I used to make jam with have been sitting waiting so I made them into apple sauce and froze it into portions ready for crumbles, granola and roast pork. Blackberries are all bagged and frozen and the herbs in the garden have all been picked and frozen or made into jellies. I had a basket full of mini butternut squashes leftover from the Food Festival  so this week I decided to make my winter soup base. I make it every year- a really basic vegetable soup with a freeze into portions and then add things to so I don't get bored. Ideas to add to this one include...

* Toasted nduja (you can stir through or just place on top)
* Add coconut cream and  1tsp of thai red curry sauce
* Add leftover chopped vegetables and shredded chicken from a roast dinner
* Fry some pancetta and stir through then crumble in some Cornish Blue cheese
* Or spread it on to pizza bases as an alternative to tomato and top with crispy chorizo, goats cheese and fresh rocket

Winter Soup Base.....(serves 16 portions) 

12 mini butternut squashes or 4-5 larger ones
2 small white onions
2 tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves
4 pints of chicken stock

In a large pan put the finely sliced onions and oil on a low heat and cook until soft. Add the cubes of butternut squash (about the size of a 10p piece) and continue cooking for around 10 minutes. Add the stock and crushed garlic and bring to the boil. Boil until you can cut through the squash pieces easily. 

With a hand mixer blend until smooth. Leave to cool and portion up and freeze. Use within 6 months. 

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Salakee duck with Thai Red Curry Sauce

Today Cory discovered the beach. We've been fairly lucky with her stages of development vs beach visits. For most of the early summer, when the weather was blisteringly hot, Cory was happy for a couple of hours sitting in her sun tent playing with toys. We could sunbathe next to the tent occasionally swapping toys while she babbled to her favourites.

 Then one fateful day on Samson she realised she could crawl out of the tent and have a whole beach to shovel into her mouth. As she did the weather turned, the clouds arrived and frankly it hasn't been as hot or beach tempting since.

 For about a month I've avoided the beach. I've scooped so much sand out of Cory's mouth I could have my own garden sand pit. But tonight she was scratchy. I was scratchy. We went for a walk across Rushy Bay Green and the sun had come out in the hazy September way it does. I kicked my shoes off and took her down to Great Par. We sat down below Great Cairn. The first scoop of the sand went into her mouth. Then she looked around and it was like something had clicked. Her face lit up and she started throwing sand around and crawled off at top speed to examine a limpet shell, a pile of seaweed, a sea worn pebble. After several attempts of keeping her away from the sea I just let her. She crawled in confidently and as the little waves lapped over her crawling body she laughed and splashed her hands getting completely soaked. I had to forcibly remove her (with much howling) and I think we now have a real beach baby on our hands. Much to her kitesurfing Daddy's delight...

As we gear up for the autumn and winter I'm starting to cook again in the evenings. In the summer we tend to just live on barbecues and salads and whatever I can be bothered to put on a plate. At the Food Festival last week I bought lots of Salakee Farm duck for the freezer, breasts, legs and a whole duck to enjoy when the dark evenings arrive and I want something rich and warm. We used the breasts and made a quick red thai curry sauce to go with them. They were spectacular. The texture of the duck is like nothing I have ever had before. Buttery and soft. If you are on holiday on Scilly this autumn it's really worth ordering some (either straight from the Farm or from restaurant menus). 

Salakee Farm Duck Breasts with Thai Red Curry Sauce (serves 2- actually would serve 3 at least but we were really hungry)

1 red chilli
1 inch fresh ginger
2 tsp galangal paste
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 lemongrass stalk 
1 tsp paprika
2 shallots
2 garlic cloves
the juice of 1 lime

1 tin of coconut milk
2 duck breasts
more fish sauce
another lime

First make a paste. In a mini chopper put all the ingredients and pulse until you have a smooth paste. Put a heavy based frying pan on a hot hob and add the duck skin side down. Cook for around 4-5 minutes until the skin is golden brown. Flip over and cook for another 3 minutes. Put in a 180'c oven for around 5-10 minutes or until cooked how you like it. 

Use the frying pan (with the duck fat still in it) and fry off the paste for about 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk and reduce the heat and let it simmer while the duck is in the oven. Add the last minute stir in the remaining lime juice and fish sauce (to taste). Pour over the duck breast and serve with green beans and rice. 

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Tresco & Bryher Food Festival 2014

It doesn't feel like the September of the last few years. The Swallows might have headed home but the tripper boats are still packed with camera laden visitors. The paths are well trodden and the beaches still have lines of coupled footprints. Today I stood at the end of Rushy Bay Green looking out to the Western Rocks. There's still evidence of last year's destructive storms. A line of hedging is dead from the flooding. There is still seaweed tangled in with the new growth. But there's a bright pink floral coating to ground that I haven't seen before. Not the usual Thrift but a blanket of bright rose pink. The air was foggy and it's hard to remember a day as beautiful as this. I'm glad there are still so many people around to enjoy it. 

At the weekend the crowds packed into the Tresco and Bryher Food Festival. It's the third year we've held it and it must have been our busiest to date. From Oysters and Ale to Sea Salt and Sourdough starters we had a really great representation from Scilly and I've had so many people contacting me saying how much they enjoyed it. 

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Bryher strawberry and white peach smoothie....(serves 2)

 Today's been the first day I've really felt the sun stinging my skin. The layers are off, visitors are having picnics on the beach and getting up at 5am is less of a chore and more the best part of the day. 

We've been to the Abbey Gardens and lay in the sunshine the sun on our toes. This little man came along to say hello...

Our garden may not have such exotic visitors but it is in full bloom....

And even the seagulls are out sunbathing and not harassing my chickens!

The best part of the sunshine is that island fruit and vegetables are starting to blossom. Last week saw the first fat, ripe strawberries on the stall. Picked and eaten on the same day. Now they are an everyday staple in the house. But they are best of all at breakfast. If I have a few left over we make them in to a smoothie with the amazing white fleshed peaches Bryher Shop have in at the moment....

Bryher strawberry and white peach smoothie (serves 2)

150g strawberries (hulled)
4 small white fleshed peaches (peeled)
200ml almond milk

Put all three ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. 

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Speros, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly

 It was our first night out in seven and a half months. Now the baby is sleeping through (ish) we were able to ask Mum and Dad to babysit and head off in the boat for a couple of hours to ourselves. We decided to head off island to Speros on St Mary's. It's right on the beach and makes a perfect landing spot for the boat. 

After dropping anchor Richard and Amelia gave us a table out on the patio (you might as well be eating on the beach!) and it was such a warm evening it was the perfect start.

We were both keen to have some local crab as we haven't had any this year so started with a mixed seafood platter. A great big pile of white crab meat with smoked mackerel, smoked salmon and prawns. It was the perfect choice. 

Then I had chicken breast with cured meats, pesto, boiled potatoes and vegetables which was delicious. I love chicken and it's never on menus enough so I was really pleased to have it for once.
We tend to go half and half on desserts but we both wanted the chocolate brownie which was divine (and gluten free!). 

Speros is such a lovely place to eat on St Mary's. The location in fantastic, the food delicious and the service hard to beat.

And if you've got a boat it's got just about the prettiest 'car' park you can imagine!

Friday, 14 March 2014


In a way, Scilly can be at its best when shrouded in fog. Your senses aren't distracted by the stretches of beaches and rocky cliffs. Instead you listen to the confused birds singing for their companions. You notice branches drenched in sea mist.

And sometime the jobs you hate can be the most relaxing. I can't say I enjoy making marmalade. It's not my kind of cooking. Soaking, peeling slicing, boiling, more boiling, settling. It's just not for me. But sometimes sitting on a stool thinly slicing orange peel, listening to the radio can be cathartic. When you've got a 5 month old baby making demands of you 24 hours a day it's nice to have a pile of oranges just sitting there, happily waiting to be sliced. 

This is a combination of about 5 friends and families recipes. I don't even use Seville oranges so sorry to the marmalade purists.

My Marmalade (makes about 5 jars)

2kg oranges
2kg jam sugar
About 4 litres of water

Pop the whole oranges in the water and leave overnight. The next morning remove them from the water (but keep the water which now will have the faint smell of oranges.) Peel them and put the insides in a bowl to one side. Start slicing the peel and put into the pan of water. 

Bring to the boil and boil for about an hour until the peel is soft. Add the jam sugar and boil until it reaches 105'c or put a little on a cold saucer and run a spoon across it to see if it makes creases. You can scrape the frothy scum off as it makes the marmalade cloudier.

Pour carefully into sterilised jars and leave the lids off. Leave to stand for 12 hours (as it helps it set better) then put the lids on.