I never thought of myself as a fussy person when it comes to food, especially when compared to Mr.D, who has a list of food dislikes that’s almost as tall as he is! I considered myself to be the kind of person who’ll eat anything – or at least give it a try. But a conversation about food the other day made me realise that I had an awful lot of food hates myself. In fact after sharing them with you, I doubt I’ll ever be invited to dinner again!
1. Glacé cherries
This might seem a little ironic considering I love cherries, but they have to be either fresh or dried – I can even live with the tinned variety. But glacé cherries for me are a huge non-no. Their bright, tomato-red colour just puts me off as I know that real cherries aren’t supposed to be that colour. In fact for years I thought that they’re weren’t ‘real’ cherries as they didn’t look or taste like the cherries that I love but they are – they’re maraschino cherries that have been stoned and candied in a sugar syrup.
Even as a child I’ve never liked them, and my dislike for glacé cherries still continues. As much as I adore cherry bakewells, fruit cake and Christmas pudding, I always pick out the offending glacé cherries.
2. Smoked salmon
I love, love, love salmon. It’s one of my fave foods. So you’d think I’d be a huge fan of smoked salmon, right? Wrong! Smoked salmon and I never really hit it off. I never liked the taste or the texture. I know it’s considered a luxury delicacy, but I could never acquire a taste for it. In fact, give me a tin of salmon over the smoked stuff any day!
Oh my goodness – if there’s a food I really cannot stomach, it’s quiche. I’ve never liked it and they used to serve the horrid stuff for school dinners on a regular basis. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a whole slice of quiche. I’ve given it a good go but that taste, that smell… no, just not happening!
4. Green banana
Green bananas are usually served in savoury dishes and feature in Caribbean, South American, African and South Asian cuisines – cuisines I enjoy a great deal. I don’t come across green bananas very often, thankfully. But when I have, I’ve never really enjoyed them so tend to pick them out. I don’t like the texture – and the fact that I believe bananas should be yellow and sweet probably has something to do with my dislike of them!
5. Cooked peppers
Now I can eat raw peppers without any problem at all, and I don’t believe that a salad is a salad without them. But for some reason, I don’t enjoy peppers when they’ve been cooked. Unlike many of the foods on this list, I can actually eat cooked peppers but then again I’ve had to – you won’t believe how many dishes contain cooked peppers. It’s just that I’d prefer not to! I don’t really like the flavour or texture of peppers when they’ve been cooked.
6. Non- peeling oranges
I’ve always had a bit of a love-hate relationship with oranges. One of those things in life that just can’t be explained. But even though I’m happy to OD on oranges when I have a really bad cold, they have to be of the peeling variety. I can’t be doing with all that cutting malarkey. And since childhood, I’ve never been able to stand the sight of those navel oranges – definitely not for me!
7. Soft jelly sweets
Now I’ve always had a sweet tooth so naturally I love sweets. But I don’t like those ultra soft, sugar-coated jelly sweets. I’m not totally sure why – I vaguely remember being sick after eating too many of these as a child so I’m sure that’s got a lot to do with it – but they’ve always made me feel a bit queasy after tucking into a few, so I tend to give them a miss. I prefer the jelly sweets with a harder texture.
8. Curried/stewed fish
OK, so I love fish, I love curries, and I love stews. I even like fish stews and curries. But I’m very fussy about how the fish is cooked. It has to be in chunks rather than steaks, and there shouldn’t be any huge bones and certainly no skin, as I hate the texture – all slimy and nasty. Not good!
Duck is very popular with many people but I personally have never understood the appeal. It has a rather strong flavour that I really don’t like but if I did have to eat it, I’d prefer to have my duck cooked a bit longer than most people would prefer. I’ve tried to get into it but I’ve accepted that my tastebuds are different to everyone else’s and duck just isn’t for me.
I reckon it’s a small minority of people who can stomach offal – but I’m not one of them. The smell alone is horribly off-putting, and although I’ve tried classics such as steak and kidney pie, and liver and onions, it’s not something that I’m in a hurry to sample again.
If any of you have any ‘food nasties,’ I’d love to hear about them!
I can’t believe how hot it is. I swear I’m melting away. I know England cries out for hot weather but seriously this is just too much. I feel like I’ve been locked in a sauna. People may pray for the sun but in my opinion, hot weather is so overrated – and that’s coming from a summer baby! Beach babes are able to look effortlessly hot as the temperature soars, and I’m no different. I’m able to look like a hot, sweaty mess with no effort at all!
So in this heat, it’s no wonder my thoughts have turned to keeping super cool. For me it’s cold drinks – and I’m knocking them back like there’s no tomorrow. And cold drinks mean ice, which right now is a necessity. The summer season means parties, weddings, barbeques etc where ice and drinks will go hand in hand. But the problem with ice cubes is that they can be pretty boring to look out and as great as they are at keeping your drinks cool, they’re also great at watering them down (which is only OK if you’re drinking water!) I did a post a while back about creating an ice-bucket – made from ice. It proved to be very popular and inspired this post about livening up the humble ice-cube in terms of appearance (presentation is important, you know!) and taste!
1. GOT TO BE HOT TO BE COOL!
Everyone knows that if you freeze cold water, you get cloudy ice. But freeze boiling water and you get crystal-clear ice. And that’s really important if you’re going to add other ingredients to your ice cubes.
2. THE HERB GARDEN
Add washed sprigs or leaves to the water before freezing. Mint ice-cubes are great in iced-tea (Mr. D’s fave) or fruit punch; rosemary or thyme are perfect with home-made lemonade; basil works well with gin, vodka or rum based cocktails, and lemongrass ice-cubes in pineapple or apple juice – WOW!
3. CITRUS FRESH
Citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, and oranges are a very obvious choice as slices are often served with cold beverages. But you could also try experimenting with pieces of grapefruit, pomelo, blood or ruby orange. These will work with still or sparkling water; as well as a variety of sodas, cocktails and juices.
4. BERRY NICE
If you want pretty as a picture ice-cubes, berries are the way to go. They give a fantastic burst of colour and a fruity flavour to drinks. Raspberries, blueberries, redcurrants, blackberries etc. could go in whole, although strawberries would probably have to be sliced. They would be perfect with iced tea, lemonade, sodas, berry, cherry, pomegranate or cranberry cocktails or juices, and raspberry would also work well with orange or peach juices.
5. TROPICAL PARADISE
Try pieces of pineapple, kiwi fruit, lychee or dragon fruit for a touch of the exotic. These would be a welcome addition to coconut water, a multitude of cocktails and tropical fruit juices.
6. SALAD DAYS
Cucumber, celery, red, yellow and green peppers might be more at home in a salad bowl but these can be really refreshing served with still or sparkling water or in a Pimm’s (my absolute fave – summer just isn’t summer without it!)
7. EVERYTHING’S COMING UP ROSES
Add some washed, fresh rose petals to water before freezing. I adore the delicate flavouring and aroma of rose as an addition to food and drinks, and it is amazing with pomegranate, raspberry and other berry based drinks.
8. IF THE SUMMER HEAT ISN’T ENOUGH…
… then try adding cut pieces of chilli to your ice cubes. This will give a light heat to drinks and complements citrus, pineapple, papaya and mango based drinks. Just remove some of the seeds in order to reduce the level of spiciness.
9. GLITTERING COLOURS
Add some edible glitter for sparkle or food colouring for a marbled effect. These obviously won’t do anything in terms of flavour but they will make the ice-cubes in your drink look so pretty, so it might be good for those who want to keep the taste of their drinks pure.
10. DITCH THE H20
Who says that ice-cubes can only made with water. It can be annoying when ice-cubes water down our drinks. So freeze cola for cola-flavoured ice-cubes; pineapple juice for pineapple-flavoured cubes; iced tea for iced tea cubes… you see where I’m going with this.
And of course you can combine any of the above and freeze them in water if you really want to be creative with your cubes. Try rose with raspberry; pineapple with lemongrass and ginger; cucumber with mint… the possibilities are endless!
Let’s hope the only thing that melts in the heat wave is the ice in your drinks! Stay cool.
St. Valentine’s Day is about to descend upon us very soon and I couldn’t be more excited. It’s definitely one of my favourite holidays and it means all the more to me because I couldn’t wish for a better Valentine than Mr. D. And this St. Valentine’s Day will be very special indeed…
I’m a sucker for a romantic meal and having the kind of sweet tooth that keeps my dentist in employment, I can safely say that the dessert course is my favourite. But for such a special occasion it has to be a very special dessert – tinned fruit salad with vanilla ice-cream just won’t do! For St. Valentine’s Day, it has to be a dessert that screams love and romance from the rooftops.
So I’ve picked my top five romantic Valentine desserts which I think are the perfect finale to a St. Valentine’s Day meal. So why not make one of these for your beloved on Friday? And if you can’t make up your mind, why not make all five!
1. WHITE CHOCOLATE AND RASPBERRY CREME BRULEE
Who couldn’t love crème brulee? Lashings of creamy custard with a crisp caramelised topping. I often say that dessert isn’t dessert unless it’s chocolate. And as chocolate is known for having aphrodisiac properties, that’s just the perfect excuse for creating this classic pud with a twist. White chocolate, raspberries and crème brulee – could there be a better culinary combination?
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Serves: 6 (3 each! perfect!)
- 7oz /200g white chocolate
- 5 large egg yolks
- 3 oz/75g caster sugar
- 1 ½ cups/350ml double cream
- ½ cup/125ml milk
- 9 oz/250g fresh raspberries
- Put the eggs, chocolate and sugar into a large heatproof bowl.
- Heat the cream and milk in a saucepan until just boiling, then slowly pour over egg mix and whisk over a saucepan of barely simmering water, making sure the bowl is not touching the water, until thick.
- Place in the fridge to cool completely. Divide 3/4 of the fresh raspberries between 6 individual ramekins (3″x 2″ deep, or 5″ x 1″ individual dishes) and spoon the brulée mix over smooth over with a palette knife.
When ready to serve evenly sprinkle the surface of the brulée with a thin layer of caster sugar and blow torch, or place under a hot grill until golden brown. Repeat until you have a thick, golden and hard surface.
Decorate with the remaining raspberries and a sprig of mint.
2. CHERRIES IN RED WINE
An unusual dessert but it’s still got that Valentine vibe going on. Red wine and red in colour for passion – what more could you want! Can be serves with sweet, vanilla flavoured whipped cream.
- 425ml red wine
- 1 vanilla pod, split lengthways
- 100g demerara sugar
- 500g cherries
- Tip the wine into a medium pan, then add the vanilla pod to the pan with the sugar. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the sugar has dissolved.
- Stone the cherries if you want, or leave them as they are. Add to the pan and cook gently for 6 mins. Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Increase the heat, then boil the liquid for 8-10 mins until slightly syrupy. Pour over the cherries and serve warm or cold in glass bowls.
3. MARBLED ROSE CREAM
Roses are to Valentine’s Day what tinsel is to Christmas – you just can’t have one without the other! This fruity pud is flavoured with rosewater – one of my favourite flavourings. I found this recipe in the National Trust’s Traditional Puddings by Sara Paston-Williams.
- 250 gr raspberries
- 75 gr castor sugar
- 7 ml cold water (a good dash)
- 150 ml double cream
- 7 ml rose-water or Kirsch (a generous dash)
- sprig of mint
- glitter sugar, chocolate flakes or other topping
- First, put half the raspberries into a saucepan with 2/3rds of the sugar (50 grs), bring gently to the boil and continue to simmer until a pulp. Push through a sieve and allow to cool.
- Whip cream until thick and add the remaining castor sugar gradually. Reserve a few of the remaining raspberries to decorate. Mash the rest and mix with the whipped cream very thoroughly, then add the rose-water or Kirsch.
- Then add the cooked raspberry pulp, stirring just enough to give a marbled effect.
- Pour into a glass bowl (or bowls) and chill for at least three hours in the fridge.
- Add the mint sprig and decorate with the raspberries and glimmer sugar or chocolate flakes.
4. OUEFS A LA NEIGE/SNOW EGGS/FLOATING ISLANDS
Whichever name you decide to use, I absolutely adore this dessert. It combines soft, marshmallowy meringue with creamy crème anglaise and caramel. It looks so pretty and tastes divine. Crystalised rose petals can also be added for even more prettiness.
- For the crème anglaise, heat the milk and vanilla seeds in a saucepan over a medium heat. Simmer for 4-5 minutes.
- Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl.
- Pour the hot milk mixture onto the eggs and sugar, a little at a time, so the eggs do not start to cook, whisking continuously until smooth and creamy.
- Return the mixture to the saucepan and place the pan over a medium heat and stir continuously for 4-5 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- Strain the mixture through a sieve into a bowl, leave to cool and then refrigerate.
- For the poaching liquor, combine the milk and 500ml/18fl oz water with the sugar in a saucepan, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
- For the meringue, using an electric hand whisk, whisk the whites in a bowl until stiff peaks form when the whisk is removed, but the mixture should not look too dry. Add one tablespoon of the sugar to the egg whites, and continue to whisk until the mixture comes back to stiff peaks. Add the sugar one tablespoon at a time until it has all been used, and the meringue is thick and glossy.
- Using a serving spoon dipped in cold water, shape big quenelles of the meringue and gently poach in the milk and water solution, turning after 4-5 minutes to ensure they are cooked on both sides. Make sure the liquid doesn’t boil or the meringues will puff then collapse. When fully cooked, gently place on a wire rack to drain.
- For the caramel, pour the sugar into a clean pan. Melt the sugar slowly, stirring with a wooden spoon over a low heat until the sugar turns a dark copper colour. Remove immediately from the heat to ensure the caramel does not burn.
- Pour the caramel over the meringues. When set, take the caramel-covered meringues off the tray and serve in a generous pool of the crème anglaise.
5. CHOCOLATE FONDUE
I absolutely love love LOVE chocolate fondue and in my opinion it was just made for St. Valentine’s Day. It’s delicious, chocolatey and designed to be shared – could anything be more romantic? It’s also so easy to make and you can choose the dippers you like most.
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 3 (4-ounce) semisweet chocolate bars, chopped
- 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur or other flavoured liqueur
Assorted cookies, pretzel sticks, fruit, marshmallows
- Microwave whipping cream and chocolate in a microwave-safe glass bowl at HIGH 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds. Stir in liqueur.
- Transfer to a fondue pot; keep warm, stirring occasionally. Serve with cookies, pretzels, fruit, and marshmallows.
Happy St. Valentine’s Day!