Poached Eggs with Asparagus on toast

Poached Eggs on Ciabatta and Asparagus (7013)

I have been waiting for quite a while to post this. A year – simply because asparagus are now in season. I have to honestly say that sometimes I’m not very good with the seasonality of ingredients, mainly because I have not been to a market for ages. Not good I know but life and travel get in the way of practicality. Nowadays travel for me means going back and forth to Malta, the land of sunshine, fresh produce, bread, lemons and the best almond sweets. There’s no need to tell you how much I eat and when I come back home I know that I’d have to shift some of the weight. Back to life, back to reality.

Poached Eggs on Ciabatta and Asparagus (7008)

When I made this, I had a friend staying with us for a week. I was busy, which of course is always a good thing; however having house guests in a small flat requires some serious planning. So I made sure to eat light but well if you know what I mean, to keep my energy levels up. During one of the many grocery shopping trips I got a couple of asparagus bunches for lunch.

I read loads of nonsense about poaching eggs. All you really need is an egg, a small pot of boiling water, and a ramekin – one per egg. Crack the egg in a ramekin. This will make pouring it into the pot much easier, especially for first-timers like I was back then! Boil the water and carefully tip the egg in. Let it be. No whirling, no nothing. Just leave it in there for 2 to 3 minutes and scoop it out slowly with a slotted spoon. And there you have it.

For the asparagus, boil in salted water for around 5 to 7 minutes until they are tender but still with a slight bite to them. Sprinkle with some pepper.

Simple no fuss cooking: definitely my kind of thing. Enjoy and Happy Easter!

Rob x

Sissinghurst Castle and Garden – Part II

Almost Forgotten (9175)

As promised, here are some other photos of the garden at Sissinghurst. I’m no good at taking these kind of pics; food is more my thing, but my husband J has some stunning photos, not only of National Trust properties, but of landscapes in general. So please, don’t think I’m doing any justice to such beautiful surroundings. I’m still learning and I know I’ve got a long way to go. I hope you still enjoy them as much as I loved taking them.

Purity (9159)

The little white flowers in the worn terracotta vase was one of the first pictures I took. The garden at Sissinghurst is sort of divided into sections. I think they are actually called ‘rooms’, but I’m not sure. I was not the only one mesmerised by the shape and colours. A very sweet couple walking the same route as us also loved them.

Pretty in Pink (9162)

As you may notice I don’t give my flower shots the actual flower name. I am obviously no botanist. What I am is one forgetful person. So what I usually do is come up with names according to what I remember about that particular bunch. The first photo is of a relatively tiny bunch, almost unnoticeable, hunched in a corner. Thus the name. There was a plant on each side of a hedge. I almost passed them by without giving them the slightest glance. J pointed them out to me and I think he also took a picture. I’m happy I did – they are very pretty. With regards to the second photo – well, what can I say? There’s *nothing* original in that!

Gazebo (9192)

The area in between the tower and the white gazebo, next to the pond, was totally closed when we visited. We heard someone say that it usually is open. I really wished it was – I could soak up the sunshine on one of the benches and rest until J was ready experimenting with long exposure shots, which are currently his thing. I had what I needed and I have to say, I really like how I framed the white gazebo in between the trees. I could have taken a better photo though if I had the patience to wait just a few minutes. The light from the Sun made the white walls shine, but I totally missed my chance.

Hiding in the Hedge (9171)

I feel so stuck when the sky is grey. I shouldn’t say this but I only took a picture of this stone because somehow it reminded me of Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire! I know, I know…but that’s how it is. These hedges don’t form part of a maze at all. Yet it seems like it and I couldn’t help myself anyways!

The Lady (9154)

A few moments before taking this photo, there was a robin perched on the head of this statue. I had my fixed lens attached to my camera and even though J had our zoom lens with him, I didn’t bother to change it. Big mistake but I figured that by the time I change lens and adjust any setting I would miss the moment anyway. You see, I think that sometimes we get engrossed into the technicalities of photography (it could be anything really) and miss out on the fun and the joy. Well, at least that’s my excuse. I do believe this though!

With the little culprit all but gone (it was still fluttering around in the tree) I decided to adequately frame the statue and bring in most of the branches and also as much of the ground as I could. I loved that section of the garden – there were so much details and colours to soak in. Such a peaceful place, even with so many people around.

Time (9203)

I wasn’t able to photograph the buildings quite well, but I quite like this one – could be because I used J’s wide angle lens for this one. It took me quite a few minutes to get the focus right! J and I walked out of the actual grounds towards a large pond. On our way there we almost walked past a large sundial on the ground. I just saw some Roman numbers at first, by which point I was too tired to even register what it was. The shadow from a tree trunk indicated the approximate time. We sat on a nearby bench for a snack and some cold water, and I almost dozed off!

 We took a walk around the vegetable garden next; understandably so there wasn’t much to see. It’s too early for many things to grow; it’s a good excuse to go back.

Hope you enjoyed the pics. You should go for a visit if you can.

Will be back with new recipes and food photos next week.

Rob x

Sissinghurst Castle and Garden – Part I

Up Close (9163)

I usually leave non-foodie pics for the weekends, and I was going to do exactly that this week. However, as I was doing some light editing, I concluded that including all the photos from our day trip to Sissinghurst in Kent was going to be a tad too much for just one post. So these are the first few. I will include the rest in the next one. I hope you will bear with me.

Daffodils (9178)

Visiting Sissinghurst Castle has been on my to-do list ever since coming over to the UK. I had only read a handful of literature about it before visiting, and one of the few things I knew was that somehow it was connected to Virginia Woolf. The Castle belonged to Vita Sackville-West and her husband,  Harold Nicolson. It was given to the National Trust in the 1960s.

View from the Tower (9146)

We visited on the first day it opened it’s doors once more for the year. There wasn’t much growing in the gardens, and yet we still took many pictures. It is a stunning place, and I cannot imagine how lovely it will be in a few months’ time.

Gardens (9150)

Climbing to the top of the tower is a must. There’s Vita’s study to be seen from behind a gate, but the view is just gorgeous.

Spot the Robin (9157)

The sun was out, the birds were singing, and I managed to take a not-so-good photo of a robin perched on the head of a statue. It turned out to be a bit rubbish, so that’s why you will not find it here. I took almost all the photos with my fixed lens, but of course this was not good enough for the birds. Robins are cute little things, but so territorial like you wouldn’t believe! If you see one tapping its beak against your shoes, perhaps while sitting on one of the benches enjoying the sunshine, it’s not being cute as in sweet. That means the bench is his!

Vegetable Garden Entrance (9205)

As we walked around the vegetable gardens I made a mental note to return in May, or better during the first week of June. To be honest, I can’t wait!

Rob x

Lemon and Polenta Drizzle Cake

Lemon Polenta Cake (8200)

You might call me obsessed, and you would be right. I mean, I don’t even know how many lemon cakes you can find in this blog. Lemons are and will always remain one of my favourite ingredients. I never tire of their taste and smell. If I were to close my eyes while plunging my face in a bag of those lovely yellow fruit, I would immediately be transported to somewhere in the Mediterranean.

Lemon Polenta Cake (8187)

This cake is based on an orange cake recipe by Sophie Dahl, in her book Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights. I’m sure that oranges are more than suitable for it but I find that most weeks I have more lemons than oranges to cook with. It worked and I made it quite a number of times since. Just look at the colour. Just perfect. This book, of which I have a second edition, has been on my kitchen table for quite a while. I find myself reading from it every now and then, never quite reaching the end, because subconsciously I don’t want an ending.

Lemon Polenta Cake (8188)

Lemon Polenta Cake (8189)

I love Sophie’s recipes; I found myself reading the book like one would read a novel. This is certainly nothing new for me as I usually read cookbooks from cover to cover anyway. However something was different with this one – I am still not through with it yet because I am intrigued by the stories. The recipes are just as important as the anecdotes so I hope to try as many of them as possible. In the meantime I’m having a slice…or two…

  • 100g butter, softened
  • 225g golden caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 100g plain or all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 130g polenta/maize meal
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 80g plain yoghurt
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • zest of two lemons

Grease and line a round 23cm cake tin with non-stick baking paper, and preheat the oven to 180C.

In a large mixing bowl cream the butter and caster sugar. When this turns light and fluffy add the eggs one at a time.

In another bowl sift the spelt flour, plain flour and baking powder.

Gently, add these into the egg and sugar mixture. Whisk in the rest of the ingredients. Pour the batter into your cake tin and bake for around 45 minutes to an hour. Test it after 45 minutes with a skewer or knife. It’s done if it comes out clean.

For the drizzle you need 100g of icing sugar and 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and heat them for a few minutes over low heat until the sugar dissolves. If you run out of icing sugar you could use caster sugar instead, which I did in this case. However, for me, nothing beats icing sugar.

As soon as the cake is ready, prick it with the skewer and pour over the drizzle. Summer in a cake.

Lemon Polenta Cake (8192)

Happy baking!

Rob x

(Recipe adapted from Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights, 2nd ed., HarperCollins, 2012.)

Creamy Pasta with Sage and Peas

Creamy Pasta with Peas (9021)

I have a question for you. Are there days when you are constantly on the move or in some kind of a rush? Every single day I hear you shout! I lead a small life and generally I have a very fixed timetable. Usually. There are times though when everything I’ve learnt about time management just goes out of whack. Whatever I planned for the day just gets thrown out of the window and I just…just…squeeze in the basic things on my to-do list. Do you have one of those? I do. Crossing out all the tasks rarely happens, no news there I guess, though I relish that yes-I-have-achieved-so-much-today feeling. Don’t you love that?

Creamy Pasta with Peas (9001)

Creamy Pasta with Peas (9000)

Which brings me to the realization that during the busier days eating well…hell, eating something to start with, becomes more of a chore than an enjoyment. Even now, I find myself looking up at the clock, checking the time every few minutes and reminding myself that lunchtime is approaching quickly. Too too quickly.

Creamy Pasta with Peas (9006)

Creamy Pasta with Peas (9016)

This recipe was recently a lifesaver. Once in a while I like to re-read my not-so-recent books to find hidden gems which would have otherwise be completely overlooked. This one is from Gordon Ramsay’s Cooking for Friends which isn’t one of my favourite books I have to say. Yet this particular one works for me. I have changed the quantities and method to suit me, and in turn you can switch stuff around until you find what works best for you. Recipes are there only as a guide after all.

Creamy Pasta with Peas (9018)

Creamy Pasta with Peas (9019)

**With regards to the double cream, I sometimes substitute this with bechamel when I have the time to prepare this in advance. If I don’t I use either single cream, crème fraiche or even cottage cheese. Before adding the cottage cheese though make sure to take the pan off the heat.**

  • 250g dried pasta (I used fusilli bucati but penne do the job too.)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 rashers unsmoked bacon, chopped
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 4 small garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 10g dried sage, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 125g frozen peas, just about thawed
  • 150ml double cream**
  • 50g pecorino, grated plus some for sprinkling on top of each serving
  • pepper, to taste

Bring a medium pot of water to the boil and cook the pasta according to the cooking instructions.

In the meantime place a large pan on a medium heat and pour in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Gently fry the bacon pieces until they start to brown. Drain them by removing the excess oil and set them aside in a warm bowl.

In the same pan, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the chopped onion, garlic, thyme and crushed sage. When the onion starts to soften, add the bacon pieces to the pan. Give the ingredients a stir and add the peas. Leave to cook for around 5 minutes but don’t let the peas get mushy.

Add the cream and stir again. When it starts to bubble, quickly add the cooked pasta and grated pecorino. Take the pan off the heat. Give everything a good mix in the pan and serve immediately.

Serves 2 very very hungry people.


Rob x

P.S. I’m curious. What is your go-to dinner?

(Recipe adapted from Cooking for Friends, HarperCollins, 2008.)

Happy Spring!

Begonia (0471)

I don’t know if the sun’s out in your neck of the woods, but if it’s not here’s a photo of my Begonia, which hopefully will cheer you up a bit. We had some seriously sunny weather in Surrey lately. I was out and about quite a bit last week…myself and everyone else in the area I reckon! Including a neighbour’s cat, lapping up the rays of the sun like there’s no tomorrow. Who can blame her really?

J got me this lovely plant last August as a little welcome home gift. It’s been in that same place since he got it home and it’s doing really well, considering we don’t have green fingers. A few weeks ago we thought it was going through a bad patch. It went all dry and the leaves were just falling out. J trimmed it and now it’s growing again. A good friend of mine who came to visit me this past week told me that Begonias love the British sun. When it’s actually out that is.

This photo was taken last year, when my Greek basil plant was still alive! Happy Spring!

Rob x

Pan-fried Broccoli Stalks

Pan-fried Broccoli Stalks (8970)

Since we were on the subject of sides, a.k.a. Accompaniments but I hate that word! I wanted to write a little post about something J and I picked up while watching an episode of Food & Drink. If I remember well, that episode was called Every Last Crumb. I have missed some episodes here and there, which is a pity, but I really wanted to catch up on this one. Apart from inviting Mary Berry as a guest, the baking queen herself, the topic was of course, food waste.

I am not immune to overbuying food, but I am learning and trying to get better at planning by using every fresh ingredient up before I go the shops. What I don’t understand is how households in this country seem to throw away an average of six meals per week, while half a million people are now making use of food banks. It’s crazy.

When Michel Roux Jr. blanched and pan-fried some broccoli stems in a little butter we thought why not? All you need is some broccoli stems which need to be washed, trimmed and sliced horizontally.

Pan-fried Broccoli Stalk (8949)

Have a pot of boiling water to hand, pop them in for a few minutes. Few as in no more than five. Drain the stems and pan-fry them in either olive oil or butter on every side. Season with salt and pepper. I had some mushrooms which needed to be used up so I also added them to the pan.

Rob x

Tip: If you have some stems that don’t need to be cooked right away, you could freeze them after blanching. Remember to thaw them overnight in the fridge before cooking.


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