A day of food heaven in Romania

Our hosts here in Romania are showing us the most incredible hopsitality, and really spoiling us when it comes to food – something which I’m sure my waistline is going to start to reflect very soon!

Yesterday was basically an amazing food day – our host Emilian cooked us a delicious herby tomato and spinach omelette for breakfast and we were treated to a delicious buffet lunch by our guide Jonny’s parents’ catering business – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a buffet look so pretty…

Lunch dessert was an apple and cinnamon cake, pictured above, which I’ve asked Jonny to track down the recipe for – I will definitely try to recreate it at home if I can as it was really, really good.

After mentioning we liked ice cream a couple of days ago, in the afternoon we were surprised with basically an ice cream buffet with I think 6 or 7 different flavours – I tried a little wild fruits, rum and raisin and pecan praline, all of which were good but I think the wild fruits was probably the best.

For dinner, I chose a mushroom omelette (Omeleta Ciuperci) partly because I wanted something light and partly because I just love them. It was a good choice, as for dessert the Rotary president here, Uri, suggested we try Papanasi, which he explained to me as ‘the food that policemen eat in cars – I love how certain images work in every culture!

These were basically like doughnuts on steroids, absolutely huge with sour cream and jam – I chose blackcurrant and it really was delicious, although I could only manage one. Anyone who can polish off two gets my ultimate respect!

Today has also been a good food day, after visiting our host’s favourite patisserie and sampling the Romanian version of cheese pasties, apple strudel and a fantastic pecan cake – pictures to come soon!

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Lunch at the Riverford Field Kitchen

Last week, I had the pleasure of enjoying an ‘intimate bloggers lunch’ at Riverford Field Kitchen near Buckfastleigh in Devon.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, Riverford is a cooperative of organic farms, mostly in Devon, which delivers veg boxes to homes across the country. The place where it all started, Wash Farm, is owned by Guy Watson, and along with my fellow food bloggers I was treated to a tour of the farm before we sat down to lunch.

I won’t lie, it would have been a little more enjoyable if it had hadn’t been in the minus degrees and my hands and feet hadn’t turned into icicles, but it was very interesting to take the tour, see some of what’s being grown and find out more from Guy about the history of the farm, the problems they’ve faced with the horrific weather, and how the whole operation is managed.

We also saw where the veg is stored and packed, and had a little snoop at the boxes waiting to go out. Guy admitted that there was more important produce than he would have liked, but February is not the best time for British fruit and veg and I imagine customers still expect a bit of variety, even though the emphasis with the veg boxes is very much on locality and seasonality.

On to lunch, at the Riverford Field Kitchen – a rustic, casual dining room lined with long wooden tables serving a menu designed for sharing – using produce fresh from the fields, naturally.

The company for the lunch couldn’t have been better – along with Guy and Holly (Riverford’s digital marketing manager and organiser of the lunch) were Choclette and her CT, who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting before at a couple of Clandestine Cake Club events; the Frugal Queen and her Dearly Beloved; Grazing Kate and Marcus from Country Woodsmoke. I really enjoyed having the chance to meet more fellow South West food bloggers and very much hope it won’t be the last time we meet in person.

To start with we were served a Cropwell Bishop blue cheese, celery and apple salad with hazelnuts and radish sprouts with some fantastic homemade bread, which on any normal day would have been enough on its own to satisfy me at lunchtime but I did my best to restrain myself so I could enjoy the rest of the meal.

Quite often, I’m put off from eating out by the fact that I know the vegetarian options will be limited and I could do a better job at home, but that is definitely not the case at Riverford.

The veg is the star of the show with one meat dish and four veggie sides, but I was still given a vegetarian alternative to the duck main of griddled aubergine and ricotta on butternut squash, lentils and spinach.

Served with it were carrots and beetroot, purple sprouting broccoli and cauliflower with mustard, spring greens and kale with wild garlic and my personal favourite, a celeriac, potato and mushroom gratin – I could have eaten the whole dish, it was so good!

Luckily for my waistline I didn’t, but you’ll see from the picture at the top of this post that my normal portion control went out the window with so many delicious dishes on offer…

For dessert diners are invited to the serving pass to choose from a selection of around 6 cakes and puddings. Decision making is not my strongpoint, and I feel I may have made a mistake choosing the lemon cheesecake instead of the pear and chocolate pavlova – I do love cheesecake but it’s something I often make for myself so I am very critical, and although the texture was spot on it could have done with a little more lemony zing for my liking.

A 2-course lunch at Riverford is normally £22.50 per person, which although a bit pricey is really excellent value when you look at the amount and the quality you get, and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back again and pay that price.

Riverford has very kindly offered to send me a veg box to review as well, which will be coming later in the month when I return from a mini-holiday, so check back in a few weeks to see what I think of that!

Perfect cheese scones

Before anyone says anything, I know that billing something as ‘perfect’ is really just setting yourself up for a fall.

But, as this recipe isn’t mine, I think that kind of makes it ok! It’s in fact a recipe from Dom at Belleau Kitchen, which I tried out a couple of weekends ago, and was beyond impressed with the results.

The recipe is super simple, uses just a handful of ingredients that I pretty much always have on hand, and the scones turned out beautifully – such a good rise!

Inside they were light, moist and cheesy, perfect warm from the oven with a little butter, and even good toasted a couple of days later.

I adapted the recipe a little as Lincolnshire Poacher isn’t so easy to come by in Cornwall so I used cheddar instead, but to be honest I think any cheese would work well – adaptability is another thing going in this recipe’s favour!

So thanks Dom for a super recipe – it’s definitely one I’ll be making again!

Perfect cheese scones (adapted from Belleau Kitchen)

Makes 10-12

  • 340g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp English mustard
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ‘a healthy grind’ of black pepper
  • 50g butter
  • 150g cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 tbsp milk

Sieve together all the dry ingredients, then rub in the butter to turn it into rough, crumbly breadcrumbs, then stir in the cheese. Add the mustard, eggs and milk and cut through the mixture with a knife, until it starts to come together as a dough. Use you hands to bring the dough into a ball, then flatten out onto a floured worktop – don’t use a rolling pin, just your hands. Flatten it to about 3cm thick, then use a fluted biscuit cutter to cut rounds from the dough.

Once you’ve cut them all out, bring the dough together again and flatten out, trying to work it as little as possible, then re-cut, and repeat until all the dough is used. Place the scones on a baking sheet and brush with a little milk, then bake at 200 degrees (180 fan) for 15-20 minutes or until risen and golden. Eat as soon as they’re cool enough to handle!

Mushroom, cheese and potato pasties

First of all, let me be clear – these are NOT Cornish pasties.

Made in Cornwall, yes, but no true Cornishman would ever allow them to be known as a Cornish pasty, due to my complete disregard for the traditional contents.

They are however Cornish inspired, and are my entry for the Best of British Blogger Challenge, sponsored by New World Appliances and hosted this month by Choclette, who naturally chose the best county in England to kick off the challenge.

There is a fantastic range of local produce around at the minute, so there are any number of things I could have made using Cornish ingredients, but as pasties are what I would wager the majority of people think of when the words ‘Cornish’ and ‘food’ are mentioned, that was what I wanted to do.

Being a non-meat eater I obviously had to put my own spin on the traditional recipe, and while these are not in any way traditional, they are rather tasty and a worthy vegetarian offering.

The usual cheese and onion pasty fillings of potato, cheese and onion are given a bit of jazzing up by the combination of regular and sweet potatoes and the addition of mushrooms and fresh herbs.

I’m far from an expert when it comes to crimping pasties, but I’m actually quite proud of how these turned out – not quite bakery standard but maybe I’m on the way!

Mushroom, cheese and potato pasties

(makes 6 medium pasties)

For the pastry:

  • 200g butter, chilled in the freezer
  • 400g strong white flour
  • 1/2 beaten egg (keep the other half for glazing)
  • 50ml (ish) water

Take the block of butter out of the freezer, wrap foil around the end to hold it, and grate into the bowl of flour. Mix the butter in with a knife, then add the beaten egg and the water until it comes together as a dough – you may need a little more or less water so add it slowly. Chill in the fridge while you make the filling.

For the filling:

  • 1 medium potato
  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 onion
  • 250g mushrooms
  • 100g cheese (any would be ok, but for Cornish-ness I used Davidstow Cheddar)
  • Handful fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tbsp single cream

Peel and dice the potatoes into 1cm cubes, then spread out in a baking tray and sprinkle with the dried thyme. Bake at 180 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until almost cooked through. Meanwhile, finely chop the onion and slice the mushrooms, and fry over a medium heat until softened. Add to a bowl with the potatoes and leave to cool.

Chop the cheese into small cubes, then stir into the vegetables with the cream and fresh thyme leaves. You could use more dried herbs, but I have a crazy thyme plant that just won’t stop growing and needs to be used!

Take the pastry out of the fridge and divide into 6 equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll each out into a circle a little larger than a side plate, then use the plate to cut around for a perfect circle.

Add a dollop of the filling into the middle and spread out towards one side of the pastry, making sure to leave about an inch all the way around the edge.

Brush the edges with the remaining egg, and fold the pastry over to seal the sides around the filling.

To crimp the pasties, start with the flat edge towards you, then fold over the right hand corner of the edge to begin. Fold the edge over in a sort of rolling motion, working your way around from right to left until you get to the other side.

Transfer to a baking sheet, brush all over with the egg and add a few steam holes on top. Bake at 180 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until golden, crisp and piping hot. Serve hot or cold – they’re also great for the pony to take to work and heat up for lunch!

Cheesy rough puff twists

Last weekend, the pony made a shocking announcement – he wanted a cake-free week.

This put me into a bit of a panic as a weekend without baking just wouldn’t seem right, but after a quick think I realised it was a good chance to try something savoury for a change.

These cheesy twists are incredibly simple really, all you need is some puff pastry, cheese, and an egg. Using ready-made pastry would sort of defeat the point of wanting to bake something though, so I decided to have a go at making my own.

I followed this Gordon Ramsey recipe, as it sounded dead simple and didn’t need lots of chilling and re-rolling.

I was really pleased with how it turned out – not quite as many layers as shop-bought puff, but deliciously buttery and flaky – and I think the twists themselves definitely look as good as the ones you can buy!

I’ll certainly be using this recipe again the next time I need a quick pastry fix, and the twists went down well with the pony as an alternative to the usual sweet treats – result!

Cheesy rough puff twists

  • 300g rough puff pastry (half Gordon’s recipe)
  • 100g hard cheese , grated- I used Red Leicester which gave the twists a really nice colour
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1tsp ground black pepper

Roll out the pastry on a floured work surface to a rectangle approximately 20cm wide x 50/60cm long.

Brush the top with the beaten egg, then sprinkle about 3/4 of the grated cheese all over the top. Cut the pastry lengthways into four slices, each about 2.5cm wide.

To roll the twists, begin by folding over the bottom left hand corner, bringing it over to be in line with the right hand side of the pastry strip. Fold the bottom of the strip over to the right again, at about a 120 degree angle. Keep folding the pastry over in the same direction – as you do this you’ll see the pattern of the twist forming. Try to leave a bit of a gap for the filling to show through the twist. This is my step-by-step photo guide, hopefully it will make sense!

Once you’ve folded all four twists, place on a baking sheet, brush with a little more egg, then sprinkle the black pepper and remaining cheese on top.

Bake at 200 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until puffed up, golden and bubbling. You can either eat them warm or leave to cool, up to you!