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My 2019 Holiday Day 1

It’s been a while since I’ve had any time off when I have been at home and had some energy to do some cooking! So, this week ahead, I have some good food plans, some restaurants to visit, and of course some lovely wine to drink 🍷.

Today has been a relaxing day at home with a lovely lunch and dinner.

Wild Boar Tortellini with Flatbread

This beautiful rose Sancerre was crisp, full of rose petal perfume, and made me think of sunshine despite the grey skies outside. To eat…. I’d like to say that I made these tortellini but they came from Pasta Evangelists, a mail order fresh pasta company. Their pasta is beautiful, rich pasta with well seasoned fillings. What they have also taught me is the use of nuts to add texture to a pasta dish, in this case hazelnuts. The pasta is drizzled with a hazelnut butter then sprinkled with chopped hazelnuts, and this really adds a fantastic dimension to the pasta…. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought about it before!

I thought I would add some flatbread to use up some bits in the fridge so I topped a flatbread with salami, tomatoes, red onion and green olives, Popped it in the oven for 10 mins, and a wonderful bit of bread to mop up some of the tomato sauce I made to accompany the tortellini. Happy days β˜€οΈπŸ‘β˜€οΈ

So after an afternoon snooze and an early evening watching the Newcastle match (sad days πŸ‘Ž) it was time for dinner.

Tuna and Greens Cashew Stir Fry

I sautΓ©ed a sliced onion with some red chillis and added some mange tout, broccoli, red cabbage and greens. After stirring for a couple of mins I added some cooked rice, a splash of soy sauce, and a generous sprinkling of roasted cashews. I pressed some sesame seeds into tuna steaks and popped them under the grill for 3 mins per side, then sliced into thick strips.

I enjoyed it a lot, C thought it was ok, but it was a big hit with next doors 🐈!

Tomorrow we are going to a coffee roastery for a tour so it will be a caffeine charged day β˜•οΈβ˜•οΈβ˜•οΈ

Griddled sesame tuna with charred lettuce and avocado

A day relaxing in the garden today, reading books and topping up my vitamin d levels! I made this lovely lunch which is based on a recipe I’ve made many times for a ceviche style tuna. I really fancied a sesame crunch to it so came up with this…First up I mashed an avocado with lime juice and a little red chilli.I then sprinkled white and black sesame seeds on a plate and pressed some lovely fresh tuna into them to coat.I chopped up some radishes, cherry tomatoes and a raw beetroot.I quarter a sweet cos lettuce.And I mixed lime juice with some soy sauce and chilli flakes.The tuna was griddled for a minute on each side to toast the sesame seeds and then chopped into thick slices. I popped the lettuce onto the griddle pan for 30 secs each side- you wouldn’t believe how tasty lettuce is when simply charred, no oil required.And there you have it! Light but packing a real punch, a delicious garden lunch!

To nourish from the inside out

In a concerted effort to move away from yo-yo dieting I am ensuring I embrace a much healthier routine- less sugar, more exercise, and this lunch was just the tonic!

I mixed pearl onions, peppers, red chicory, cauliflower and cherry tomatoes in a roasting tray and popped into the oven till golden. I then mixed in chickpeas and soaked freekah and cooked in the oven for a further 10 mins till all a little crispy. Eaten at room temperature- really lovely and certainly a bowl of health!

Tuscany 2017- Part 1

This year we have decided to have a 2 part Tuscan adventure, starting down near Cortona for a week and finishing with almost a week in the Tuscan hills (mini mountains!) near Lucca. I am writing this from our apartment in the hills as there is a biblical thunderstorm outside β›ˆβ›ˆβ›ˆ, although I guess I shouldn’t be surprised as we are up alongside the clouds!!!

But the holiday so far has been filled with lovely β˜€οΈβ˜€οΈβ˜€οΈ , beautiful views and gorgeous food.

Our villa is up a steep hill, amongst the olive trees on the outskirts of the beautiful town of Cortona (famous from the book and film ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’). We actually stayed here back in 2013 and the amazingly restful memories brought us back once more.
I took an old and battered copy of an Elizabeth David with me and whilst drinking some Vino Nobile de Montepulciano by the pool I thought I’d make these lovely little men….

I think that the simplicity of her writing alongside the quality of produce here in Italy has inspired me to take a different view of cooking this holiday. So these potato kofte/ball/keftedes were born….

Potato Keftedes Boil a couple of large potatoes until ready to mash. Leave them to cool and roughly mash with a fork. Season well with salt and pepper. Mix into the potato a small chopped red onion, a medium tomato, deseeded and chopped, and a little fresh chopped rosemary. Add a little glug of olive oil, give it a good mix and shape into balls. Fry in olive oil until golden on all sides.

We ate these hot from the pan with a bruschetta, some cheese, and a lovely cold and crisp Vermentino.

When I make these back home I would be tempted to add some finely chopped green pepper, and maybe swap the rosemary for parsley. They would be excellent with a poached egg on top too!

Montepulciano is one of my favourite places in Tuscany. I love the light in the town, the unfinished facade of the cathedral, and of course the very delicious wine!! On this visit we couldn’t decide where to eat and ended up in this restaurant, Ristorante Degli Archi, surrounded by Australians and a very enthusiastic host…

After the owner made us hold hands at the table and decided we were on our second honeymoon (we were quite scared of his boisterous manner…) we had some delicious seafood: a pasta dish of clams and homemade pesto for me, and a sea bass cooked with potato, cherry tomato and a saffron cream in a cartouche for C. This was an unusual departure for C but he declared it was delicious, and I have to admit to being really jealous, and potentially embarrassing myself by dipping my fingers in the sauce trying to figure out the ingredients so I can recreate at home!

In retrospect we got off lightly with simply having to hold hands at the bequest of the host, others were serenaded in a very loud voice with a repertoire of Italian opera πŸ€”

Cortona is a busy little town which can get a little overrun with tourists, but in the main square the local men still sit watching the world go by and gesticulating over the days newspaper- football or food?!?

We’ve eaten here a few times before but went a little off the beaten track to a restaurant mainly frequented by locals….

l It is always said that it is a good sign if everyone in the restaurant is local and it was very much the case in Trattoria Dardano. I even managed to order in Italian and no one laughed and we did get what we expected to get! Such simple cooking but with fresh, in season ingredients, and cooked perfectly. C opted for some pasta with a light, piquant sauce. I had some deliciously charred lamb chops with these beautiful roasted veggies. Washed down with some Vermentino…. that was €3 for half a litre!!! It was absolutely lovely πŸ₯‚

On our final day we visited 2 tiny hilltop towns which were both quite special.

Firstly Civitella in Val di Chianna.

Civitella is breathtaking. The position perched on the top of the hill is spectacular, and when you stand in the ruins of the castle you can not simply understand how it was built! The town itself is pretty, filled with sculptures, flowers and is obviously well loved by those lucky enough to live there. The town has an English connection as there was a terrible massacre during the 2nd world war and the army came to their aid in the aftermath. A truly atmospheric place.

Secondly Lucignano. Slightly bigger, not as pretty (impossible after Civitella), but one of the best meals I’ve eaten!

The restaurant has a little terrace on the street but a really pretty large, sunny terrace looking over the valley at the back. The menu was traditional in many respects, with a definite organic slant, but even included a Vegan menu- quite unusual in rural Italy I believe. My starter is at top left- a little salad of raw vegetables dressed with some warming, herby olive oil, topped with a perfectly poached egg and shaved truffles. Simple, I know, but the flavours were utterly perfect. C had the top right starter of a trio of courgette- a ricotta stuffed flower, a kind of frittata and a stuffed courgette with mushrooms. Again not his usual choice but got the πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘. My main course, bottom right, came from the vegan menu. A courgette, beetroot and chickpea tart with almonds and a saffron sauce. It was amazing! A little plate of wonderfulness! I wouldn’t know how to make it, it had some herbs in that I couldn’t have identified ( I should have been brave and asked the chef) and I enjoyed it immensely. C had some beef that was charred and seasoned perfectly, with some rosemary potatoes too.

I would love to visit this restaurant again πŸ·πŸ…πŸŒΆβ˜•οΈ.

So onwards we have gone, leaving southern Tuscany behind for now…

Holiday, sunshine and recuperation

A really lovely week off in Ludlow, a beautiful town in Shropshire that I really think of as second home, and certainly a place I feel truly relaxed and happy in! Sunshine all the way, loads of lovely food, and rest and relaxation in equal measure. Some foodie highlights….

Ludlow Cicchetti Bar

A fantastic little place just up from our cottage. It is a good job we don’t live in Ludlow as I believe we would be here every single day! For me an antipasti selection full to the brim with gorgeous Italian delicacies. For C a tagliatelle with a really tasty ragu- almost as good as the wild boar gnocchi he adores from here. Washed down with a crisp rose…. what more could you wish for!

Pizza Ten

This is the third visit to this amazing independent pizza restaurant, and each time is a revelation! I always have a pizza combination that I would normally say is simply wrong…. but is just perfect. This time king prawn, chorizo and aioli- so amazing, delicious!

The Church Inn

This pub has been around for some time but recently gone through a facelift. I was a little worried as it had a real charm and was famous for its homemade pies, but although a smaller menu it is a really lovely dining area with delicious food. For me a fish pie that was so good I could have eaten double the pie…. for C a steak and kidney pie with mash and a really beautifully reduced gravy. Very good.

Ludlow- I miss being there, I hope to be back soon.


A sunny weekend

The sun has been shining and has certainly brought some restorative health and vitality to the French Thomas household.

A little shopping trip gave me all the ingredients I needed to add to my growing collection of pickles, preserves and liqueurs! Today I have made two rum based liqueurs, one with passionfruit, the other with my favourite, lychees and vanilla- I can’t wait to try them 🍷. Both from a Tessa Kiros book I haven’t spent enough time with.

And I wasn’t sure baking in such heat was a great idea but tomorrow at work we have a cake sale so I have made some strawberry cheesecake cupcakes (from the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook) and a chocolate cake slab (Nigella). It only seems fair we try some after dinner…..!!!

So, off to make a mini end of a lovely weekend BBQ πŸ€—πŸ‘πŸ€—

A Green Shakshuka πŸ₯—

3399A1E1-9C2D-4A9F-95A9-F0BD0F5C8C1A-COLLAGEAfter a long stretch at work over the bank holiday weekend I am enjoying a lazy day off relaxing at home. I saw this recipe in a magazine and decided to give it a try…. with a couple of tweaks of course!

More cumin, added 🌢 and tinned πŸ… instead of fresh. It was really lovely, I’ve cleared a very large plate, and just the nourishing lunch I needed.

Now……. feet up or housework???

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