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Husk Charleston

Something special is happening. I’ve got butterflies in my stomach, and a new bounce in my step.  I haven’t felt this way in a while, but I think I’m falling in love…

With this town!

Isn’t it dreamy?

Spanish moss floating from the trees, music in the air, front doors so pretty they almost wink at you as you pass by, boughs heavy with fat spring blossoms…

Charleston has seduced me, swept me completely off my feet!

Charleston Library Spanish Moss Oak Acordian Player

Charleston Grey House

Charleston Boughs heavy with Blossoms

It was on a romantic stroll around town, I found myself in front of one of the city’s hottest restaurants, Husk – – – without a reservation. People wait months to get one. I didn’t have high hopes, but figured “it never hurts to ask.”

We checked in with the hostess and she recommended we add our names to the waitlist and have a drink in the Husk bar across the alley. So we did.

Charleston Husk Building Exterior Front

Charleston Husk Pink Building Across the Street

I was feeling adventurous so when a Southern libation called “Shrubs” made of fruity vinegars caught my eye, I had to order one! I went for the grapefruit version.

Charleston Husk Shrubs

Wow.

It tastes like fruity vinegar alright!

Charleston Husk Shrubs Sip Bar

^^ I think my eyes were cross-eyed underneath my eyelids in this photo!

Let’s just say, Shrubs is an acquired taste. One that I was actually beginning to acquire by the time the ice melted and took things down a notch.

But, hey, I can say I drank vinegar!

Charleston Husk Shrubs Sip Bar Deck

At least I provided plenty of amusement to my date as he kicked back on the porch with a more sensible drink. Sometimes it pays to stick to what you know.

Charleston Husk Beer Porch

Charleston Husk Shrubs Porch Sipping

When the hostess called us for our table, we were fully expecting to be squeezed into a corner between the kitchen and the loos. And we would have been grateful!

Instead, what we got was a beautiful table for two on the upstairs outdoor balcony, with a view out over Queen Street, porch fans whirring silently above us. Yeah, we were pretty pleased…

Charleston Husk Upstairs Balcony

Charleston Husk Upstairs Porch

Charleston Husk Menu Frangipani Shirt

First thing I did, was order an actual cocktail. This time it was the Charleston Dragoon Punch, one of Husk’s signatures. Our server explained it as a classic Southern “porch-sipper” designed to be leisurely imbibed under the breezy shade of… a porch. The recipe has been adapted from the Charleston Preservation Society – California brandy, Jamaican rum, peach brandy, black tea, lemon juice, and raw sugar. It’s now my official favourite drink of the colonial South!

Dragoon Punch

Dragoon Punch

Well, the critics don’t lie, and all the reviews are true. The food at Husk is phenomenal!

But I’ll let the photos do the talking.

Caper's Inlet Blade Oysters on the Half Shell, SC Strawberry Mignonette, Jalapeno, Citrus

Caper’s Inlet Blade Oysters on the Half Shell, SC Strawberry Mignonette, Jalapeno, Citrus

Charleston Husk Caper's Inlet Blade Oysters on the Half Shell, SC Strawberry Mignonette, Jalapeno Citrus

Charleston Husk Caper's Inlet Blade Oysters on the Half Shell

Charleston Husk Fire Roasted Clams, HUSK Sausage, Preserved Tomato, Fennel, Ambrose Farms Pea Shoots, Garlic Toast

Charleston Husk Fire Roasted Clams, HUSK Sausage, Preserved Tomato, Fennel, Ambrose Farms Pea Shoots, Garlic Toasts

Charleston Husk Fire Roasted Clams, HUSK Sausage, Preserved Tomato, Fennel, Ambrose Farms Pea Shoots, Garlic Toasts

Cornmeal Dusted Catfish, FL Sweet Corn Creamed with Green Garlic, Fried Cabbage, Roasted Fennel and Peppers

Cornmeal Dusted Catfish, FL Sweet Corn Creamed with Green Garlic, Fried Cabbage, Roasted Fennel and Peppers

Cider Glazed SC Tamworth Pork, Grilled Asparagus and KY Wonder Beans, Charred Ramps, Smoky Tomato, Pot Likker

Cider Glazed SC Tamworth Pork, Grilled Asparagus and KY Wonder Beans, Charred Ramps, Smoky Tomato, Pot Likker

After a truly special meal, we paid our check and made it out of the restaurant just as the sun was beginning to set. So we clambered for a spot at one of Charleston’s best al fresco bars, The Rooftop at The Vendue. It’s a silly name, but the views are to be taken seriously. With a panoramic view of the city, from the array of church steeples, to Charleston Harbor, it was hard to pick one direction to look in.

Charleston Vendue Front

Charleston Vendue Rooftop Water View

Charleston Vendue Rooftop View

Charleston Vendue Rooftop Bar

Charleston Vendue Rooftop Bar Nightscape City view

Charleston Vendue Rooftop Bar Drink

We watched the sky change color and enjoyed the cool breeze wafting in with nightfall. Charleston is pulling out all the stops to win me over, and I’m falling hard for its charms.

Black Cherry Chocolate Arctic Roll

There are so many traditionally English puddings. But there’s one that always seems to provoke a pang of nostalgia with the Brits whenever it hits the table, and that’s the arctic roll. This delicious dessert consisting of a layer of cake, lined with jam, and rolled around a frozen ice cream center, became wildly popular in the 1950s and is now quite trendy again. It’s also incredibly easy to make! So when we had a dinner party recently, I decided to give it a go.

Cherry Artic Roll Ingredients

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Get your ice cream from the freezer and allow it to sit out and soften. Spoon it onto a sheet of wax paper (or parchment paper) and shape into a log. Roll it tightly in the paper, secure with plastic wrap, and return to the freezer to set.

Cherry Chocolate Artic Roll Recipe Step 3 Ice Cream

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Whisk the eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl until smooth.

Cherry Chocolate Artic Roll Recipe Step 1 Eggs and Sugar

Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder with a pinch of salt. Then gently fold dry ingredients into the egg mixture until blended.

Cherry Chocolate Artic Roll Recipe Step 2 Sift Cocoa Powder

Pour the chocolate batter into the lined baking tray, smoothing the top so surface is even. Bake for 10-15 minutes until springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tray for 5 minutes, then flip onto a new sheet of parchment paper lightly dusted with sugar. Gently peel off the lining paper.

Cherry Chocolate Artic Roll Step 4 Baking Sheet

Cherry Chocolate Artic Roll Step 5 Baked

Cover the entire surface of the cake with a generous layer of black cherry jam.

Cherry Chocolate Artic Roll Step 6 Spread

Cherry Chocolate Artic Roll Step 6 Spread Across

Remove the cling film and paper from the refrozen cylinder of ice cream and put in the middle of cake sheet, using the parchment paper to roll the cake around the ice cream. Wrap again in cling film and return to freezer.

Cherry Chocolate Artic Roll Step 7 Wrap up ice cream

artic roll wrap

Just before serving, melt the chocolate in a double boiler and drizzle over the roll. I sprinkled on some chocolate hearts and garnished with fresh cherries.

Cherry Chocolate Artic Roll Finished

Cherry Chocolate Artic Roll Serving

Slice, and serve!

Artic Roll

This version was such a success! It would be perfect for Valentine’s Day or even a child’s birthday. You can also experiment with different flavour jams to create endless varieties. It keeps in the freezer for up to two weeks – so be sure to save a slice for later!

Halloween Pumpkin & Hot Apple Cider

Ooh, the air is brisk and the clocks have gone back! The leaves don’t change color in London, (they just turn brown and die) but they’re starting to fall! And tomorrow is Halloween!

I’m missing my east coast autumn for sure, but trying to get in the spirit of the season. So I rummaged through my pantry for some hot apple cider supplies, and got ready to carve my pumpkin!

Hot Mulled Cider Ingredients

Hot Mulled Cider Ingredients Close

I spiced my cider by putting all the ingredients in a saucepan over simmering heat.

Hot Mulled Cider Step 1 Pan

Hot Mulled Cider Step 2 Orange

Squeezed in the juice of a clementine and a splash of dark rum.

Hot Mulled Cider Step 3 Rum

While my brew heated up, I settled down to design my jack-o’-lantern, drawing on its features with a Sharpie.

Pumpkin Draw

Pumpkin Draw Eyes

Next, is my favorite part – cutting out the lid around the stem, then scooping out all the pulp and seeds.

Pumpkin Step 2 Cut Top

Pumpkin Step 3 remove Seeds

Pumpkin Step 3 Remove Seeds Handful

With my mug of hot spiced cider (a perfect hand-warmer!) close by, I used a thin flexible fillet knife to carefully saw out the eyes and mouth of the pumpkin.

Pumpkin Step 4 Cider

Pumpkin Step 6 Done

Isn’t he cute??

Pumpkin Step 5 Done

Don’t let all those pumpkin seeds go to waste! Rinse them clean and place them on a parchment covered baking sheet to roast in the oven. This time, I sprinkled them with Old Bay, popped them in and left to bake for 20 minutes.

Seeds Tray

Seeds Old Bay

Seeds Old Bay Sprinkled

They came out perfectly toasted, with that familiar Maryland flavor filling the kitchen!

Seeds Into Bowl

Seeds in Bowl

These Old Bay roasted pumpkin seeds make the perfect crunchy snack, sure to be gone long before the trick-or-treaters come knocking.

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Apple Cider Recipe

Gordo’s Spicy Mexican Eggs

Had a blinding night out at some friends’ dinner party on Friday.

That’s why I found myself on the couch in my nightgown watching Gordon Ramsay’s cooking show late Saturday morning.

No celebrity chef panders to hungry Americans quite like Gordo. And as he adroitly whipped up an eggy Mexican feast onscreen, I was hit with a bolt of inspiration. I launched myself off the sofa and into the kitchen, flinging open the cupboard doors for a quick inventory of supplies, before cracking on with a cheesy Ramsay-influenced breakfast.

Ingredients

Ingredients close

With all my ingredients assembled, I preheated my oven to 350°F (180°C), tied on my apron, and got to cookin’.

Step 1: Brush an oven-proof skillet (or in this case, a cast iron shallow casserole) and sprinkle with salt and pepper

Step 1: Brush an oven-proof skillet (or in this case, a cast iron shallow casserole) with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper

Step 2: Line the dish with corn tortillas, cutting them in half to cover the sides, letting them hang over the edge a little bit.

Step 2: Line the dish with corn tortillas, cutting them in half to cover the sides, letting them hang over the edge a little bit.

Step 3: Sautee 1 diced red onion, 1 sliced green pepper, and 2 sliced garlic cloves until golden, about 6 minutes.

Step 3: In a fry pan, sauté 1 diced red onion, 1 sliced chili, and 2 sliced garlic cloves until golden, about 6 minutes.

Step 4: Throw in a pinch of cumin seeds, let cook for 2 minutes. Then add 1 can of chopped tomatoes, and let simmer for 5 minutes.

Step 4: Throw in a pinch of cumin seeds, let cook for 2 minutes. Then add 1 can of chopped tomatoes, and let simmer for 5 minutes.

Step 6: Stir in one can of drained and rinsed black beans.

Step 5: Stir in one can of drained and rinsed black beans until the mixture is heated through, about 2 minutes.

Step 7: Pour the warm mixture over the tortillas.

Step 6: Pour the warm mixture over the tortillas.

Step 8: Make 4 little wells in the mixture, then crack 4 eggs into the wells.

Step 7: Make 4 little wells in the mixture, then crack 4 eggs into the wells.

Step 9: Sprinkle with cheese. Lots and lots of cheese. Make it rain with cheese!

Step 8: Sprinkle with red pepper flakes and cheddar cheese. Lots and lots of cheese. Make it rain with cheese!

Step 10: Pop in the oven for 10 minutes, or until the cheese is nice and bubbly.

Step 9: Pop in the oven for 10 minutes, or until the cheese is nice and bubbly.

While the eggs baked, I used the window of opportunity to whip up a jug of Bloody Marys. There’s only one vodka you’ll ever want to use, and that’s Bakon. It’s infused with the essence of crispy peppered bacon slices, and it adds a delicious smokey flavor to your Mary.

Bakon Bloody

Bloody Mary

A final stir before the oven timer goes off, and out comes this sexy beast…

Presentation

I’m talking about the baked eggs of course!

A sprinkle of cilantro (coriander to you Brits)… and ¡Ay, caramba!

It’s chow time.

Finished Product

Step 8 Scoop and Eat

Cover

Plated

Plated Spicy Eggs

A couple scoops of these huevos picante brought me back from the brink, and gave me the strength to resume my post – on the couch, reading a freshly imported magazine from home.

Reading

If you want to give it a try, here’s your grocery list:

(Hindsight is 20/20: If I could do it again, I’d top with a scoop of sriracha guacamole).

spicy mexican eggs ingredients list

Monks, Ancient Ruins, and a Seafood Pouch

When I’m on holiday, there is only so long I can lie idle by the pool before I start to get restless. A couple of days lolling about under the sun’s heat reading my Kindle and sipping chilled Pellegrino is all I need to clear my head and feel relaxed – then I’m ready to explore!

We set off early for a day traversing the island by jeep from end to end. Our first stop was the Holy Orthodox Monastery of Profitis Ilias (atop a mountain named after the Prophet Elijah). This working monastery has been home to Greek Orthodox monks since 1712, where they care for a valuable collection of religious texts, icons and devotional objects. It’s the highest point in Santorini, where you can see whole other islands in the distance!

view Monastery monast1 monast chapelInside this chapel, I lit a candle for my Nana – so a little flame could burn from a mountaintop in the middle of the Greek islands in her memory.

candle2 candleNext stop was the ancient archaeological site of Akrotiri – a prehistoric settlement preserved under ash following the volcanic eruption of Thera more than 3,000 years ago. This is like hallowed ground for art historians – how fascinating to see archaic pottery preserved untouched for so many thousands of years! I also couldn’t help but marvel at the airy wood-paneled structure built over the site for protection against the elements.

akrotiri akrotiri2

akrotiri1

akrotiri5 akrotiri4

Just minutes down a dusty dirt road from Akrotiri is one of Santorini’s most famous hidden beauty spots, Red Beach. It’s a perilous dash down the rocky path to the rust-colored sand, and the waves wash up quite a lot of straw-like ocean debris, but it’s a refreshing – and visually majestic – spot to escape the midday heat.

red beach1 Red Beach

After knocking the pebbles from our shoes, we got back on the road, driving further down the island in search of an exceptional Santorinian lunch spot. After a couple of u-turns, and one stop for directions, we eventually tracked it down. It sits right on Perivolos Beach near Perissa. It’s called, quite simply, Sea Side. It’s incredible.

seaside1 seaside2 seaside0 seaside seaside table

Fried doughballs with a selection of dips - the tuna spread was the undisputed winner!

Lightly fried dough balls with a selection of dips – the tuna spread was the undisputed winner!

Lunch me

Avocado from Hell - a Sea Side signature dish

Avocado from Hell – a Sea Side signature dish

seaside table 4

Santorini Salad with cherry tomatoes, fava, peas, zucchini, caper leaves, and galotyri cheese

Santorini Salad with cherry tomatoes, fava, peas, zucchini, caper leaves, and galotyri cheese

seaside table 2

But the piece de la resistance was by far and away the house specialty Seafood Pouch – gorgeous linguine noodles bubbling in a seafood sauce, delicately wrapped in parchment paper.

seaside table 6 seaside table 6.5 seaside table 6.75 seaside table 7 seaside table 8 seaside table 9 seaside table 10

It’s so good, I got the recipe just so you can try it.

Ingredients:
500 grams pasta (linguine) 
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 onion, minced
handful of fresh basil leaves
1 chilli pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, pressed
olive oil
white wine
6 shrimps
6 fresh mussels
4 clams and/or cockles
4 large scallops
1 can of tomato juice
Directions:
  1. Sauté the onion and garlic in a casserole dish with the olive oil until golden brown, and then add the already cleaned seafood.
  2. Once the seafood steams, pour over a glug of white wine.
  3. Add the chilli, sun-dried tomato, tomato paste, and tomato juice.
  4. As soon as the sauce starts boiling, add the linguine and boil for about 7 minutes until the sauce is absorbed by the pasta.
  5. Throw in the basil leaves, season with salt & pepper, twist up in parchment paper, plate, and serve!

seaside10

feet

Greece is so full of history and rich in cultural traditions. I was impressed by the variety I found on just one little island. In one day, I was able walk amongst the ruins of a once-thriving prehistoric settlement, offer a silent prayer from a monastery in the sky, sample the local Mediterranean flavors, and end up on a beach with my toes in the volcanic sand. All that – and the day’s not even over yet!

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Easy French Apricot Tart

P1060028

Let’s be honest – one of the most enticing aspects of any holiday is the food. For weeks leading up to my vacation, I eat healthy, limit my alcohol intake, and exercise like a demon just so I can spend the entirety of my trip overindulging.

The food has been so marlevous in France, there was no way I was leaving without a cooking lesson. In this case, it was a tutorial in baking, since no one turns out desserts quite like the French do. Whereas in America we have pie, in France you have tarte. There are endless possible combinations for fillings; I used apricots. In the immortal words of Montell Jordan, this is how we do it:

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What I love about French cooking is that it seems so effortless. Normally when I’m baking, I feel like I have to measure each grain of flour exactly to the milligram for my recipe to turn out. Not so in France – cooking is more intuitive. So you tend to have recipes that list measurements as a few, a sprinkle, or a handful – if you use a recipe at all.  I was skeptical that this relaxed approach to baking would yield even edible results, but (voilà!) I was beyond pleased with the finished product.

Tartes are an easy dessert to make, pack a fruity flavor punch, and will be sure to impress at your next dinner party. Follow the easy recipe below, and enjoy the fine art of French pastry-making:

Ingredients:
1 ready rolled pastry sheet (such as Jus Rol)
1 egg
6 – 8 apricots
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup peach preserves
sprinkle of almond powder 
handful of dried prunes (optional)
 
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 200°C (375°F)
  2. Roll out pastry sheet into tart pan or pie dish. Gently prick the pastry with a fork to vent, top with parchment paper and pie weights, and prebake for 20 minutes. Remove the weights and paper and let cool.
  3. Cut the apricots in half, remove pits, and slice them. 
  4. Sprinkle pastry with a few tablespoons of almond powder. Then spoon on the peach preserves. Arrange the apricot slices in a rosette pattern on top.  (I added dried prunes to mine, dotting them around between the apricot slices).
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and heavy cream. Pour over the fruit.
  6. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes. Allow tart to cool before serving. Plate & serve!