Baked banana and coconut custard and big fat liars

bananacustard

I’ve always had a certain empathy where animals are concerned. I’m sometimes even convinced that I know exactly what they’re thinking, or what they’d be trying to say if they could talk. This past week though I’ve been well and truly had: It turns out that our animals are a bunch of thieving, pathological liars who are on the way to becoming morbidly obese. Be it horses, dogs or hens, they all put on a really dejected, gaunt and hungry look as soon as they catch sight of me. I curse my husband for not having fed them and dispense generous helpings of sympathy and food until I’m satisfied that they’re not going to fade away from neglect. This means that instead of being fed twice a day, they end up being fed four times (at least!). And all because I fancy myself as some kind of present day Dr Dolittle.

I had to concoct a recipe that didn’t call for too many eggs as Java (our ten-month-old English Setter puppy) has taken to pinching them the minute they’re laid. I managed to retrieve a stray yolk for this recipe and was very pleased with the result…

Ingredients (makes 4-6 ramekins)

30g rye flour (you can use plain flour)

30g dessicated coconut

50g virgin coconut oil

400ml coconut milk

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 egg yolk

1 large ripe banana, mashed with a few drops of lemon juice to prevent oxidation

50g cane sugar

1 tablespoon honey

40g raisins previously soaked in rum (optional)

Approx. 30 frozen raspberries (or raspberry jam)

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Prepare the ramekins by lining the bottom with six or seven frozen raspberries or a tablespoon of raspberry jam. Put the flour, dessicated coconut, coconut oil, coconut milk, vanilla essence and nutmeg into a heavy-bottomed medium-sized saucepan and heat gently, whisking continuously until the mixture thickens. Add the egg yolk, mashed banana, sugar, honey and raisins and return to the heat, again whisking well, for a few minutes. Pour the mixture into the ramekins, filling to about 1cm from the top. Bake for 20 minutes and then chill for a couple of hours before eating.

Dorset apple cake and disruptive females


dorsetapplecakeHugojournoandJava

I had hoped to find the time to sit down at my computer and write this post before now, but, once again, I’ve been absolutely rushed off my paws. I can’t let Java out of my sight for a minute without her getting up to something unthinkable (three pairs of riding boots and a school bag became history in the space of a week) and Bossy is being almost as troublesome. I suspect they might be in competition; could it be a girl thing? I think Bossy must be a bit vain because she thinks that she is capable of operating electronic equipment sans glasses (did you notice my subtle but appropriate use of a French word there? I am a sophisticated bilingual dog). Anyway, she appears convinced that repeatedly jabbing at every single button on the dishwasher/washing machine/television will help them work. Not so – we’ve been visited by three different men in white vans full of tools during the past few days. Luckily the Tall One seems to find it amusing, although I’m not sure why.

I commissioned my new byline picture from my favourite artist as it looks as though Java is going to become a fixture. I’m very pleased with it because it perfectly portrays my gravitas and her inconsequence. I hope you like it too.

Thank you Hugo for your contribution, although I’m not sure it’s altogether flattering. This simple cake is a cross between a cake and a scone. It’s not too sweet and delicious served warm or cold with some Greek yoghurt or ice cream.

Ingredients (serves 8)

250g spelt flour

Pinch of salt

50g salted butter

50g organic coconut oil

2 cooking apples, cored, peeled and diced

50g sultanas

75g cane sugar

1 egg, beaten

2 tablespoons of milk

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place the flour in a bowl with the butter and coconut oil. Rub in the fats until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in the apples, sultanas and sugar, then add the egg and milk and mix to a firm dough. Transfer the mixture to greased, medium-sized loaf tin, levelling the surface with your fingertips. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

Homemade harissa and picnic mortification

harissa3

I wouldn’t claim to be a perfect mother by any stretch of the imagination. The ability to discipline, for example, appears to be something that has completely passed me by; lack of motivation is almost certainly the cause because, unfortunately, mischief amuses me no end. I’m apparently known amongst Léo’s friends as a bit of a pushover and I have, no doubt, the same reputation amongst the animals. A healthy diet for my son though is something that I do usually manage quite well. I had to provide a picnic the other day as he was attending an all-day riding course. Picnics for Léo are an absolute minefield because he doesn’t do, amongst other things, warm cheese, soggy bread, raw vegetables, floppy salad, softened chocolate etc. In other words, he doesn’t really do picnics. He does, however, have a bit of a thing for ketchup so, in an attempt to dilute the menace of the healthier components of his sandwich, I applied liberally. More fool me. When I went to fetch him, he shouted (loudly) in front of over a dozen other people: ‘Maman, you totally ruined my sandwiches by drowning them in ketchup – they were inedible!’. I think in future he’ll either be getting a generous dollop of this eye-wateringly spicy harissa instead, or learning to make his own sandwiches!

Chili peppers contain capsaicin, which gives them their strong spicy pungent flavour. Capsaicin has antibacterial, anticarcinogenic, analgesic and antidiabetic properties. Fresh chilli peppers are also a rich source of vitamin C and contain other antioxidants such as vitamin A, lutein and beta carotene. They also provide reasonable quantities of minerals such as potassium, manganese, iron, and magnesium.

Ingredients

15 chili peppers, rinsed, topped and tailed

1 teaspoon caraway seeds

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon dried mint leaves

3 tablespoons olive oil plus extra for jar

1 teaspoon sea salt

5 cloves garlic

Juice of 1 lemon

Put the chilies into a bowl, cover with boiling water and leave to soak until softened (about 20 minutes). Heat the caraway, coriander, and cumin seeds in a frying pan over medium heat. Toast the spices for about four minutes until very fragrant. Drain the chilies and transfer to the bowl of a food processor with the spices, olive oil, salt, garlic and lemon juice. Purée, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl, until the paste is very smooth. Transfer to a sterilised glass jar and fill with oil until ingredients are submerged. Refrigerate, topping off with a little more oil after each use.

Celeriac gratin and Hugo the sage

celeriacgratin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

hugotypewriter2by

I’m thinking about leaving home. Bossy would obviously try to stop me  because I’m quite a catch as dogs go. It’s not that I don’t like it here; the food’s not bad most of the time, the scenery is pretty enough, I’m more or less allowed to do whatever I like (except kill hens, which is very frustrating for me – to the point that I may even be psychologically damaged). I’m just getting a bit fed up of all the baby animals that keep popping up. There have been rabbits, kittens, hedgehogs, birds, foals and now a damned puppy of all things! I suppose I must have been a puppy once, but I’m sure that I would have been an extremely well-behaved one. It stands to reason. Secretly I have to admit that Java’s really rather sweet, but her shenanigans are beyond me. For example, why would you plunge into a ditch that you know you have absolutely no hope of getting out of on your own? It’s just silly of her to try to copy me because I have a magnificently muscular male physique and she is, frankly, just a silly slip of a girl. Maybe I’m going to have to stay after all because someone’s going to have to show her the ropes and I can just imagine the chaos if I leave it to Bossy. One thing is certain: Java’s not going to be helping me to write my column anytime soon because she doesn’t even know how to read and write yet!

java1 copy

Thank you Hugo! I very much hope you decide to stay.

Just as I make use of a large variety of grains, I also try to vary the root vegetables we eat as much as possible. We eat potatoes, for example, quite rarely as there are so many other things to chose from – sweet potatoes, swedes, turnips, parsnips and one of my favourites: celeriac.

Celeriac is very rich in antioxidants and a good source of vitamin K. It also provides essential minerals such as phosphorus, iron, calcium, copper and manganese, as well as B-complex vitamins.

This recipe is adapted from Jamie Oliver.

Ingredients (serves 4)

1 large celeriac, peeled and cut into 1cm slices

2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1cm slices

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 chilli pepper, finely sliced

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon paprika

400ml cream

200ml vegetable stock

4 anchovy filets

75g hard cheese (I used Comté), grated

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Place the celeriac, potatoes, garlic and chilli pepper in a large ovenproof dish and season. Add the cream, stock, anchovies and most of the cheese. Mix everything well and then sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Bake in the preheated oven for 50 minutes until golden brown and bubbling on top.

Spicy courgette loaf cake and green mane extensions

courgettecake

Top of the class at the School for Extremely Naughty Horses (or bottom really, depending on which way you look at it), Castaño has a multitude of convictions  to his name. He was recently detained overnight at The School for extreme insubordination and unusually boisterous and rebellious behaviour. But don’t let’s go there; let’s visit instead our poor trampled-upon vegetable garden. Did he really think we weren’t going to notice the broken gate, hoof prints, missing vegetables and randomly-deposited manure? Just how stupid does he think we are? To add insult to injury, I found the cheeky monster hanging out in the field afterwards as if butter wouldn’t melt, bearing a striking resemblance to a large, hairy bridesmaid. It’s just as well I had picked the courgettes for this cake beforehand or it would have been a no-show!

castypeas

Ingredients (serves 8)

2 large eggs

125ml olive oil

85g soft brown sugar

350g courgettes, grated

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

140g sultanas, pre-soaked in rum

300g spelt flour

2 teaspoons garam masala (or other mixed spice if you prefer)

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

85g walnuts, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 180°C.  Grease and prepare a medium-sized loaf tin. Whisk the eggs, olive oil and sugar well in a large mixing bowl and then add the courgettes, vanilla and sultanas. Sift the remaining ingredients together and then incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet mixture. Pour into the tin and bake for about 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

New potato oven raclette and a dog at the end of his tether

racelette hugotypewriter1by

My patience has reached its limits, especially when it comes to pests with wings. I thought we’d seen the back of the tweeting squatter after I had explained (with my teeth showing) that she had delighted us long enough with her presence. I think that my natural assertiveness must be very intimidating because she flew off that very evening. I thought that was that; alas I was mistaken. She comes back at least once or twice every single day for a bellyful of couscous and special dove grains and a snooze. How can she possibly be so hungry and so tired? It’s not as if she has a proper job like me. What annoys me most is how pleased they always are to see her. She fascinates them so much (why?) that they sometimes forget to give me my camembert after lunch, which makes me feel unloved. And as if all this isn’t irritating and hurtful enough, a large bird with a long neck has also turned up. It’s called a heron apparently and thank goodness it doesn’t come into the house because it’s very big indeed. All in all, I’ve had it up to the back of my impressive canines with anything that flaps or chirps. This raclette dish isn’t my favourite, although they seemed to love it for some reason. The upside, however, is that it contains cheese, which is not at all good for birds, so that can only be a good thing.

Ingredients (serves 4)

225g new potatoes, cooked

1 tablespoon olive oil

100g raclette cheese, grated (although any hard cheese will work)

1 medium-sized onion, finely sliced

4 slices Bayonne ham, roughly cut into strips (or Parma ham)

Sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper

1 teaspoon paprika

4 or 5 leaves of fresh basil to garnish

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Prepare a medium-sized oven-proof dish by greasing with olive oil. Slice the potatoes into pieces roughly 3mm thick and create a layer on the bottom of the dish, sprinkle with cheese, add a few strips of ham and onion and continue layering until everything is used up. Make sure to save a bit of cheese to sprinkle on top along with the seasoning. Cook for 40 minutes, garnish with the basil leaves and serve with crisp green salad. And don’t listen to Hugo – it’s divine!

leotweety heron

Easy crab pâté and independence for bairns

crabpate2

Somewhat symbolically, on the day of the Scottish independence referendum, without so much as a by your leave, little turtle dove reclaimed her freedom. With an elegant and meticulously coordinated flap of her tiny, delicate wings, her bid for independence was successfully completed in under 20 seconds. Poor Alex Salmond’s rowdy, slightly blundering flapping has failed to achieve as much in years! She seemed to know exactly where she was going too:  She headed straight for a mid-section branch of the tree where the local turtle dove community hangs out in the evening. I have a suspicion that she’d be planning this mission for a while as she’d been paying close attention to the comings and goings in the tree for the past few evenings. I like to think she was greeted with open wings – there was certainly a crescendo of chirping upon her arrival. In any case, she didn’t come back for the couscous that I had left out in a bowl on the terrace last night just in case. Turtle Dove: 1, Alex Salmond: 0.

Ingredients (serves 6)

400g white crabmeat (I used tinned, in which case make sure it is well drained)

2 tablespoons of Greek Yoghurt

20g butter, melted

1 clove garlic, peeled

2 tablespoons of horseradish

Juice of 1 lemon

1 fresh chilli pepper

1 teaspoons of paprika

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Chill for at least two hours and serve with either bread or raw vegetables (carrots, celery, fennel…) and a slice of lemon.