Thursday, August 22, 2013

Blueberry Lemonade

I love blueberries.  The contrast of textures, from firm skin to soft squashy flesh; the colour that leaks and stains and I'll eat them in, on anything, as well as by the handful from the fridge.  So when I saw this recipe recently it was a new way to enjoy.  So here's what you need to make a drink that you can sip as the summer days grow shorter...
Sparkling Blueberry Lemonade
Serves 4 to 6
1 cup fresh lemon juice (6 to 8 whole lemons)
2/3 cup caster sugar
2 pints blueberries, pureed and strained (use a muslin or just strain through a fine seive)
1/2 cup St Germain (elderflower liqueur)
2 cups sparkling wine
fresh blueberries
1. Place lemon juice, sugar and 3 cups water into a pitcher and stir until sugar dissolves.
2. Add blueberries, elderflower liqueur and refrigerate.
3. When ready to serve, top with sparkling wine, ice and fresh blueberries. Stir and serve.

Easy huh!  I might serve this with my griddled peach and burrata crostini's..
images: here

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Musical bequests

Just of late I've been thinking a lot about mortality and how life as you know it can change on the flip of a coin; the things that you take for granted gone, or changed irrevocably.  This train of thought led me to thinking quite a lot about my childhood and memories that I cherish.  Then one day in the car I was listening to a radio programme where Caroline Quentin was talking about two pieces of music - one that she inherited from her mother and one that she wants to bequeath to her own children.  It was a very moving piece and got me thinking along the same lines and I asked myself the questions...what music did my parents pass on that has resonance for me and what would I like to leave my children?  This is what I came up with:

Whenever I hear this rag, I'm transported back to summer evenings in our childhood home in Newcastle.  We had a piano in our front room and both my parents and my sister and I played.  I actually hated my piano practise, but enjoyed the fun of playing duets with my mum.  My overriding memory of these summer evenings is of lying in bed listening to my dad playing Scott Joplin rags into the evening as the sun went down.  The Maple Leaf Rag was one of his favourites and he practised it over and over to get it right.  Occasionally I'd creep down the stairs and sit on the bottom step watching my Dad play, the late evening sun glancing off the windows and I'd watch the dust dance in its warm haze.  Somehow, the music and the proximity of my parents, coupled with warm summer nights, made me feel secure and ensconced in family love.  I remember drifting off to sleep with the piano music drifting under my door.  I've never felt as cocooned in love and security as I did then.

What would I choose to leave to my children? I have agonised over this actually - should it be classical? should it be trendy? Will they cringe over my music choices?  What message do I want to give them through the music?  After much deliberation I came up with this:

I love this track unapologetically!  It reminds me of being a teenager; full of dreams and hopes; full of certainty and aspirations. Now when I listen to it, it continues to instil in me that flicker of desire, an anticipation of good things to come; for me it's a reminder that no matter how dark the clouds, the sun is always shining above them.  I hand this over to my children to remind them that no matter what life throws at you, there is always hope, there is always sunshine to be found and there is most definitely always a blue sky somewhere... 

I'd love to know what music you've inherited and what you'd pass on to others?

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Summer Nibbles ~ Griddled Peach and Burrata Crostini

 I was wandering round my local supermarket recently and came across Burrata.  I naively thought it was just 'posh' mozzarella which I guess in a sense it is, but boy is it delicious!  It hails from the Puglia region of Italy and is produced from Buffalo milk, rennet and cream.  Burrata means buttered in Italian which gives a good indication of how it tastes.  At first glance it looks like a normal ball of mozzarella, the casing is firm to the touch, however, when you break into it, it's interior is soft and gooey with stringy curd and cream.  If you're a lover of mozzarella, ricotta, marscopone and the like, you'll LOVE this cheese. 

So, to the recipe.  I'm often disappointed by the flavour of peaches.  Usually because they're not locally produced and have been ripened en-route from some far-flung land; this recipe then encourages the flavours to blossom and if you're lucky enough to find peaches that sing with flavour then this will taste even better:
You'll need:
Olive oil
French baguette or sourdough loaf
1 bunch basil
2 balls burrata
4 peaches, sliced
4oz thinly sliced prosciutto
balsamic vinegar
To make:
1.  Slice bread and brush with olive oil, season with salt and pepper.
2.  Place under grill, turning until golden both sides
3. Brush your sliced peaches with a little oil and place on a hot griddle (this ensures you get those lovely lines) turning as necessary.
4.  Assemble by topping each crostini first with basil leaves, peach, a tablespoon of burrata and a thin slice of prosciutto.
I like to drizzle balsamic over the top and maybe a bit more freshly ground pepper.  Serve with a very cold glass of prosecco.
What are your favourite summer nibbles? 
images: 1,3,4,5,6; 2