Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Soup on the Menu

Recently, I headed to my neighborhood grocery store here in London searching for some cream of mushroom soup for a recipe. Not sure if I would find it here locally, I was pleased that I did. My quick search was very enlightening, because I discovered that London has a grand assortment of flavors, excuse me--"flavours" of soups that I had never considered.

The vegetable combinations were a bit different than we have in the US.

I don't think the US ever-so-popular Campbell's brand is making a Cream of Parsnip,

nor a Scotch Broth, which is a barley, split pea, and vegetable medley.

Actually Root Vegetable and Butternut Squash sounds pretty yummy.

Would Carrot and Coriander be your first choice?

How about Courgette (zucchini) and Gruyere, Broccoli and Stilton (a popular cheese here in the UK) or Cullen Skink? What is Cullen Skink, you might ask? Researched it for you--it's a haddock, onion and potato broth named for the town of Cullen in NE Scotland where it originated.

You might like a hot bowl of Mulligatawny, which literally means "pepper water," and has an Anglo-Indian origin. It's a curry flavored soup with vegetables, rice, sour cream and often chicken. 

I think I'm passing on the Slow Cooked Oxtail, and the Highland Game. The Oxtail soup would include oxtails, of course, red wine and vegetables. I went straight to the Baxter Soup Company website for their scoop on the Highland Game soup and here's their take on it: The intense flavour of the Highland Estate venison is complimented by the rich and deep flavours of hare, woodpigeon, pheasant and game stock, all enriched with a generous splash of sherry. 

 Any takers?

Baxters also makes their version of Cock-a-Leekie soup. This soup actually dates from the 16th century and sounds intriguing: chicken, leeks and prunes. Fancy a bowl full?

And I have to hand it to the Heinz company here for their take on convenience. Squeeze and Stir soup--all you add is your own boiling water!
See, that's what makes life in London so interesting--an education even when you head to the grocery store. So which one do you think you'd like to dish up for your dinner?

Full disclosure here: if you go to Waitrose, my grocery store, think twice before photographing the soups--it makes them very nervous!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Cupcake Time

Once upon a time, a Gigi and her Jordan took the afternoon off to make some "princess" cupcakes.

Wearing a royal princess dress and a sweet Cath Kidston apron,

it took a lot of concentration to make

cupcakes fit for a royal family.

Once in the oven, there was a bit of time to play

and wait until they came out just right.

While waiting for the cupcakes to cool, there was a chance for a spin around the room

and a twirl to the music.

Then when cool, they were ready to frost,

tasting a lick every now and then,

and then decorate

and display with pride. Which one should I taste?

Because tasting is the best part of all.

And when we're not baking cupcakes, we love playing Cupcakes by Maverick Software. So much fun to bake, decorate and "eat" delicious cupcakes on my iPhone. Truly a favorite of both of ours.

So that's the end of our cupcake story, and we all live happily ever after.

And because I'm an "equal opportunity" grandmother, I'll close out with a picture of this little "cupcake," sweet enough to eat: our little 10 month old Jackson!!

Sweet thoughts to all of you....

Monday, February 20, 2012

Cooking at Jamie Oliver's Place

Last month, a group of us took a cooking class at Jamie Oliver's Recipease cookery shop.

Jamie Oliver has developed an interesting concept--an informal food shop/ cafe/ cooking school with all sorts of items to interest everyone from the casual cook to serious foodies.

The selection of breads,


and focaccia were so tempting, either for take-out or for dining in with friends over a cup of tea or coffee.

This shop is located in Clapham Junction, but how handy it would be to live nearby and have access to all the take-out meals his team has prepared for your convenience.

Plenty of his Dream Team trio of sauces: wholegrain mustard, "real" tomato ketchup, and "marvellous" mayo.

Of course, there was a huge selection of his cookbooks for those hoping to attempt some cooking on their own.

Our group assembled in their open kitchens to take on our lessons for the day: how to make Mexican street food. Imagine me, a gal from Texas, taking Mexican food classes in London!

The fresh ingredients were prepped in advance and we started out with our first project: fish ceviche.

Ingredients included squid, scallops, white fish and prawns

and plenty of fresh herbs.

Jen was our teacher for the day, walking us through every step,

and before we knew it we had a batch of fish ceviche, ready to be enjoyed.

We rounded out the meal with the other foods we made--gorditas (little corn tortillas,) served with the chipotle sauce we prepared, salsa verde, and soft chicken tacos cooked in a sticky chipotle chili sauce.

Yum! The class was informative, the lunch delicious and the camaraderie of friends as we laughed our way through the experience was priceless. Perfect way to spend a frigid January morning!

Here's where you can find more about Recipease, if you please. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Photo courtesy of Steve Almassey

For almost 6 months, the London hubbies had planned a get-away weekend to the Six Nations Rugby match between England and Scotland, which was held at Murray Field this year in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Photo courtesy of Steve Almassey

Something about sitting in below freezing temperatures watching guys in short shorts kick a ball around,

and hanging out with men in skirts, was something they had anticipated for months.


The guys seemed a bit surprised when we gals made our own plans for a week-end get-away to The Grove resort. Surely they didn't expect us to sit around town and wait on them to get back, when there was a spa calling our names!
The Grove, set in Hertfordshire, England, is a luxury hotel, golf and spa resort just outside of London.

Once inside, we were amazed at the modern decor, considering this was originally a Georgian mansion and former home of the earls of Clarendon. During the 1800's, the elite would head to this country estate for some partying.

In fact, both Queen Victoria and Captain Cook were guests here. The 5th Earl of Clarendon became Queen Victoria's "aide de camp," her personal secretary, and he began the tradition of entertaining the Queen and her entourage on weekends, a custom, which The Times soon dubbed "weekending."

Our "weekending" experience began with hot tea in front of a warm fire,

which extended into lunch,

and conversation until time to head to the spa.

After relaxing massages and some "down time" at the spa's facilities, we dressed for dinner, which was an elaborate and tasty buffet.

Then the magic began. As we sat in front of the fire chatting, it began to snow,

and this is what we woke up to the next morning.

Three hundred acres of white bliss,

no one playing golf today,

just relaxing and learning what "weekending" is really all about.