Author Archives: Sue Todd

About Sue Todd

I'm a food photographer with a passion for all things foodie.

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup. © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

First of all let us wish you a Happy New Year! As always some people have had a great year and others not so good.  But its a New Year and a new start so I’m hoping it will be a great one for all.

It’s a cold start to the New Year here in Northumberland so what better than a large pan of home-made soup to warm you through after a brisk walk outdoors.  We ate this with a loaf of Olive Bread, sadly not home-made as that would have been divine, but this was okay and went really well with the soup.  Tomato soup just seemed like the ‘right’ thing to start the year off and we’re a bit partial to Tomato soup, here is another one we made last year.

As a child I remember plain  and rather boring lentil soup, a variation made using a ham hock and then tinned soups which I generally hated.  I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully forget the taste of Heinz Oxtail soup, ugh, I loathed everything about it, the only one I ever felt able to eat was the cream of tomato one.  However once you’ve made your own there is no going back.  Soup is one of the fastest meals you can make from fresh ingredients and its so, so much better than anything processed.  Be great for a winter picnic too!

Some key ingredients to a good tomato soup. © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Some key ingredients to a good tomato soup. © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs of tomatoes
  • 2 large red bell peppers
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • salt & pepper to season
  • 1 pint of vegetable stock
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a splash for the peppers
  • 1 handful of fresh basil
  • Parmesan cheese grated to serve
  • Bread to serve with the soup

Method:

Roasted Pepper and Tomato Soup. A lovely winter warming soup © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Roasted Pepper and Tomato Soup. A lovely winter warming soup © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Finely chop the onion and garlic.  Using a deep heavy based pan, gently fry the onion and garlic in the oil until they are transparent.
Meanwhile cut and de seed the peppers, put them on an oven tray and splash with olive oil. Put the peppers in the oven to roast until the skins have changed colour and they seem cooked. Ours went in the roasting oven of the AGA, for somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes.
Roughly chop the tomatoes, add them to the pan containing the onion and garlic and fry for five minutes.
Add the stock, bring the pan to the boil and simmer for a further 10 minutes.
When the peppers are ready, roughly chop them and add them to the pan with the tomatoes, onion and garlic.
Retaining some small sprigs of basil for garnish, chop the rest of the basil and add that to the pan as well.  Cook for a further 10 minutes.
Season to taste.
Remove from the heat and blend.  You can use either a blender/food processor or a hand-held blender – we use a hand blender and make sure we still keep some texture rather than having it entirely smooth, but do what you prefer.
Return the soup to the heat to warm through.  Taste and adjust seasoning if needed before serving.
Roasted Pepper and Tomato Soup © Sue Todd 2016

Roasted Pepper and Tomato Soup © Sue Todd 2016

To serve:

Dish the soup up in warmed bowls with a sprig of fresh basil in the middle accompanied by grated fresh Parmesan and some fresh bread.
Fish Goujons with Tartar Sauce © Sue Todd Photography 2015

Fish Goujons

It’s been a long time coming but finally a new blog post!

Every now and then we get a yearning for something like fish and chips, but as anyone who knows us is aware its very rare that we actually buy ready made food and junk food is a no go area as it always makes me feel ill afterwards.

So yesterday while discussing what to have for dinner I declared that I’d really, really love some fish goujons (or fish fingers) and Gary agreed to make some for me.

We had them with some very simple home-made tartare sauce, some salad leaves, lemon quarters and some home-made spelt bread, but it would work just as well with chips and peas.

Ingredients – Fish Goujons

  • 250g / 9oz of Cod Loin
  • 2 eggs
  • flour to coat the fish
  • 3 slices of bread made into bread crumbs
  • oil for deep-frying

Ingredients – Simple Tartar Sauce

  • 2 tbsp of mayonnaise
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 jar of capers finely chopped
Fish Goujons with lemon © Sue Todd Photography 2015

Fish Goujons with lemon © Sue Todd Photography 2015

Method – Fish Goujons

You need 3 shallow bowls or deep plates.  Put some flour in one (you need just enough to coat the fish – a couple of tablespoons will do), beat your eggs and put them in another and pop the breadcrumbs in the third bowl.

Cut your fish into ten equal slices.

Heat the oil to about 375 degrees in a frying pan.  Coat each piece of fish in floor then dip into the egg and then roll them in breadcrumbs.   Deep fry in the oil until golden brown.  Lift out onto a plate covered with kitchen roll to drain.

Method – Simple Tartar Sauce

This is very much a cheat’s version for a fast turnaround for supper, and omits ingredients like the mustard and cornichons that many traditional recipes call for.  This was simply dinner in a hurry.  So just mix the ingredients together, crushing the capers as much or as little as you like and place in bowl to serve.  Easy!

Fish Goujons © Sue Todd Photography 2015

Fish Goujons © Sue Todd Photography 2015

To Serve – Serves 2

Serve your fish goujons and tartar sauce with quarters of lemon, salad leaves and homemade spelt bread.  Alternatively, make some sautéed potatoes or chips and serve with peas.

Gluten free Rhubarb Crumble

Rhubarb Crumble - Gluten free © Sue Todd Photography 2015

Rhubarb Crumble – Gluten free.

Apologies, its ages since I posted, and now when I do its a cake that isn’t a cake but a crumble instead!  Let’s call it creative!

Okay so I started out making cake but got seriously distracted and found myself staring at a bowl where with absent mind I’d  mixed the sugar, (destined for the butter to do the whole cream thing),  up with the flour instead.  Hmmmm.  One of those ‘OH’ moments.  Now it may have come together but I didn’t want a total failure either as I was in need of something sweet.  So cake became crumble instead and the obvious solution, as I don’t know how to extract sugar from the flour and I’d not like it all overly sweet either.

Rhubarb © Sue Todd Photography 2015.

Rhubarb © Sue Todd Photography 2015.

I’d set out to make a gluten free cake, so it now needed to become a gluten free crumble. I used a mixture of flours for this, you could do half almond and half coconut (and then it would be grain free too) but I didn’t want too much coconut flavour in there so I opted for some rice flour as that was what I had to hand.

This is pretty quick and easy to do and rather tasty.

Gluten-free Rhubarb Crumble

Gluten-free Rhubarb Crumble © Sue Todd Photography 2015

Rhubarb Crumble – Ingredients:

  • 3oz or 85g butter,
  • 6oz or 170g vanilla sugar or unrefined castor sugar,
  • grated rind from one orange,
  • 4oz or 113g almond flour,
  • 2oz or 56g rice flour,
  • 2oz or 56g coconut flour,
  • 1 lb  or 453g rhubarb, cut into pieces approx 4cm long

Rhubarb Crumble – Method

If you are using a conventional oven, pop it on to warm up first, you’ll need it to be at about 180C/350F or Gas Mark 4.  Put the chopped rhubarb into a bowl with 3oz of the sugar and leave for an hour or so.  If you use the dish you are going to cook the crumble in it will save dishes! I didn’t, but then I didn’t set out to make crumble either.

Tip the flours, sugar and butter into a bowl and rub together until it butter is mixed in well and the whole thing looks well ‘crumbly’ really, just like a crumble should.

Tip the crumble mix over the rhubarb and pop in the oven to cook.  I use the baking oven of the AGA.  It should take about 20 minutes.

To Serve:

Serve with cream, yoghurt, ice-cream or custard.  I like the cold leftovers with yoghurt for breakfast next day, its delicious and decadent all at the same time.  I can tell you if you make this on a Sunday, its a real treat of way to start the week on a Monday morning for breakfast!

 

Spring In our English Country Cooking Garden.

First daffodil to flower. © Sue Todd 2015

First daffodil to flower. © Sue Todd 2015

I don’t know about you but I don’t do Winter.  The idea is just great, warm house, roaring fires, lovely food.  But old English Country Houses are NOT warm, they tend to be draughty, and so keeping them warm is a full-time job, so while the idea of the English Country House in Winter with roaring fires is just fantastic reality falls a little bit short especially if you are no longer 20 and have Raynaud’s Syndrome.   So how cheery is it to see flowers and leaves bursting out all over?  It’s fantastic!

For all that I’d not swap English country living for the world. But how folks live near the North Pole with little to no daylight hours all winter I’ll never comprehend.  I ‘need’, ‘crave’ sunlight and lots of it.  Having said that I can’t do extremes of heat or cold either – there’s no keeping some folk happy I know!  I am ‘that’ person!

As its Easter and the Good Friday here has been so cold, wet and grim I thought it was a good time to look at what is going on in the garden and take some comfort from the fact that things are changing in the garden.

Spring’s arrival shown by flowers in the garden at last.

Daffodils to brighten up the garden. © Sue Todd 2015.

Daffodils to brighten up the garden. © Sue Todd 2015.

Hellebores by the back door © Sue Todd 2015.

Hellebores by the back door © Sue Todd 2015.

A clump of primroses hiding at the edge of the wood. © Sue Todd 2015

A clump of primroses hiding at the edge of the wood. © Sue Todd 2015

So while Autumn and its vibrant colours was my favourite season for many years, it’s now Spring when it’s really ‘sprung’ closely followed by summer which I long for all year round.  My ideal world would now encompass an England where there was sunshine from now until the end of October, the rain fell overnight, and the wind would stop until November.  I suppose that’s a tall order but, you must have dreams you know!

It’s our first Spring here so it’s lovely to discover all the flowers coming through and the Hellebore’s above are just outside the back door so we see them each time we come and go from the house.

With the clocks going back, at last the nights are truly getting lighter, the days are longer, temperatures are slowly getting warmer and green is beginning to burst out everywhere.  I’m writing this as the log fire crackles and we’ve got the heating on full blast, but I do so knowing that today I was out in the garden viewing the changes and loving every minute of it.

There’s so, so much to do in our garden now, it is almost overwhelming but we’re both still here and almost in full despite our various accidents/illnesses over the past 12 months.  So instead of feeling there’s little point in starting what we can’t complete, we’re full of enthusiasm and delight – we’re just a bit slower than we’d like.

I’m out almost daily (depending on the level of cold and rain obviously!!) to inspect and look about the garden.

The Vegetable Garden

Luckily we managed to get the vegetable beds cleared in March and the onions and garlic are coming on well.

Onions and Garlic coming away quickly now. © Sue Todd 2015

Onions and Garlic coming away quickly now. © Sue Todd 2015

We’ve bought some new fruit bushes, two blackcurrant, one redcurrant and a red gooseberry, all we have to do now is keep the deer off them!  We’ll have to protect the cherry trees this year too.

Blackcurrant, redcurrant and gooseberry bushes for the garden. © Sue Todd 2015.

Blackcurrant, redcurrant and gooseberry bushes for the garden. © Sue Todd 2015.

And tomorrow we’re looking forward to our first rhubarb of the year.  I was delighted to find more coming through too.

First Rhubarb of the year. © Sue Todd 2015

First Rhubarb of the year. © Sue Todd 2015

Time to prune the roses. © Sue Todd 2015

Time to prune the roses. © Sue Todd 2015

Thankfully I finally managed to prune the rose bushes as they are throwing leaves out now at some pace and I think if I’d left it any longer it would have been a major fight (which I’d have lost) to trim them back.  However as shown below, keeping a hold on them is will be a fight as the deer have already started grazing the garden!

Deer eating our garden! © Sue Todd 2015.

Deer eating our garden! © Sue Todd 2015.

We’ve planted the first seeds, we have rather a lot of tomato plants on the windowsill now,  along with some courgettes and lettuce, the cucumber have begun to come through today.the potatoes are chitting and waiting to go in shortly.  So while there’s lots still to do, progress is underway.  How are things going in your garden?

For now,

Sue.

 

We took delivery of six Quail today!

Our Quail arrived today.  © Sue Todd 2015

Our Quail arrived today. © Sue Todd 2015

Today we have taken delivery of our little group of Quail and we got our first egg!! How amazing is that?  I didn’t expect to see an egg for days yet after their upheaval.  In this first picture most of them got the hang of going in and out of the house really quickly but this little one at the side was on for ages trying to work it all out, bless her.

We were due to get some last year but with Gary’s broken leg there hasn’t been time or inclination to add to the task list until now.  We have five hens and a cockerel so in time we may even have little Quail too!

"You can't see me I'm hiding" - new Quail © Sue Todd 2015

“You can’t see me I’m hiding” – new Quail © Sue Todd 2015

We are settling them into an old hen house and run to start with and while we worried it may have been too large, actually I think it will work a treat.  They are extremely timid little things and startle very easily, so when both spaniels escaped this afternoon I was very worried.  However the spaniels made a beeline for the wood and totally missed the Quail – phew!

Quail © Sue Todd 2015.

Quail © Sue Todd 2015.

We had to add planks of wood all round the outside of the pen and underneath the house as they are quite nimble and within seconds of being in their run one of them had made her way under the house.  Luckily we got her back and they are all safely installed now.

We had to re-assemble the run today, of course that took longer than we could have dreamt of, and we did manage to connect the wrong parts to start with doh!

I’m rather excited by their arrival and I’m looking forward to more Quail’s eggs coming into the kitchen.  I suspect posts this month may be rather Quail based … Sorry.

Sue.

Basil and Olive Focaccia

Basil and Olive Focaccia fresh from the oven.  © Sue Todd Photography 2015

Basil and Olive Focaccia fresh from the oven. © Sue Todd Photography 2015

This is a Paul Hollywood recipe from his ‘100 Great Breads’ book and is delicious.  If you haven’t come across this book I can recommend it.  Paul used all black olives which I didn’t have, so ours used a mixture of green and black and worked well.  Gary prefers green olives so he loved it though I think I’d prefer it with all black olives – but what is life without compromise?

This goes wonderfully well with Gary’s Tomato Soup and together they make a smashing lunchtime treat that is substantial and warming as well as really tasty.

Ingredients:  Basil and Olive Focaccia for 1 loaf

  • 500g or 1lb 2 oz strong white bread flour, and extra for dusting,
  • 1 tbsp salt,
  • 100 ml/3 ½ fl oz olive oil,
  • 30g/1 oz fresh yeast,
  • 300 ml/¼ pint of water,
  • 125g/4 oz pitted olives, black or green, left whole
  • a handful of freshly chopped basil leaves,
  • salt water – made using 30g/1 oz salt dissolved in 100 ml/3½ fl oz warm water

Method:  Basil and Olive Focaccia

If you like to knead your dough with your hands,  tip the flour, salt, half the olive oil, the yeast and water into a large bowl.  I prefer to use my KitchenAid Stand Mixer to do the hard work so I put my ingredients in there and mix on speed 2.  Combine your ingredients in the bowl, before turning it out for kneading – approx 6 minutes.  I like to use a floured marble slab for kneading, but actually these days I prefer to let my KitchenAid do the work, so it continues and my dough generally spends about 10 minutes in total being well and truly pummelled.

I like to lift the dough out of the KitchenAid bowl and quickly oil the bowl lightly before popping the dough back in and setting it to rise on the AGA.  But any oiled bowl and warm place will suffice.  Cover with a clean tea towel and leave it to rise until doubled in size, time for this will vary depending on how warm it is but generally it shouldn’t take longer than a couple of hours.

I like to lay a sheet of greaseproof paper/baking parchment on a tray now instead of greasing the tray – it makes removal of the loaf so much easier when it’s cooked.  Paul recommends a baking tray  with raised edges (a bit like one for tray bakes), but I used a trusty cold shelf for the AGA instead.  His way may make it easier to inset the olives though!

Once your dough has risen, mix the basil and 100g or 3½ oz of your olives into the dough.  This is a bit messy and the odd olive may escape – our spaniels keep a keen watch out for any such tasty morsel.  Next put the dough into/onto your flat or tin and flatten it out until it’s about 2.5cm in thickness.

Basil and Olive Focaccia, ready to eat.  © Sue Todd 2015.

Basil and Olive Focaccia, ready to eat. © Sue Todd 2015.

Brush the surface of your Focaccia with olive oil and press indentations into the surface using your fingers.  Set to rise once again for about an hour.

If you are using a conventional oven you’ll need to preheat it to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8.

When it’s ready to go in, brush the dough with salt water before drizzling with what’s left of the olive oil.  Press the remaining olives into the surface of the dough before popping it in the oven.  If you are using an AGA, mine goes into the baking oven.

It will need to cook for around 20-25 minutes until its turning a nice golden brown.  Lift it from the oven and transfer gently to a cooling rack to cool.  This is where the parchment/greaseproof paper comes in very handy indeed – and it makes washing up a breeze too.

I think this works well with soup – see Gary’s Tomato Soup but it’s also great with cheese and makes a lovely light meal with a glass of wine.

Gary’s Tomato Soup

Gary's Tomato Soup © 2015 Sue Todd Photography.

Gary’s Tomato Soup © 2015 Sue Todd Photography.

We wanted soup and I had in mind some bread, specifically some focaccia bread via a Paul Hollywood recipe – for which I of course didn’t have the right ingredients as per usual so had to amend it slightly – I’ll post that shortly.  It needed a good soup and we discussed ‘the soup’ and this is what transpired ….

It was wholesome, filling, warm and welcoming.  I ‘needed’ tomatoes and beans, it was cold, I ‘wanted’  rich and warming.  Armed with that Gary went dutifully off to the kitchen bless him.  The long slow cooking brought out the best in the tinned tomatoes and I’m looking forward to trying this with home-grown fresh tomatoes later in the year.  I can’t help thinking that come summer this will be luscious with fresh beans of any kind from the garden in place of the borlotti beans.  So there will be updates on this one I think.

In my ideal world this would have hit the blog at the beginning of March, but life kinda got in the way as it does from time to time.  Indeed we had a plan for the year for our English Country Cooking Blog, but with Gary out of action for several months, once he was on his feet again we had to catch up once more.  Catching up has taken way longer than we thought and I’m not sure we’re there yet, but hey ho, tis the way of the world.  So it’s the end of March and not a word from us … what can I say?  I can say we’re fired up again, but slow because there’s still issues with what we can actually achieve in the course of a day (of course in my mind the endless task list should always be cleared … UGH!), reality slows us down somewhat.  But there will be more and I hope lots, hopefully as I’ve planned it but if not, well let’s face it the world isn’t gonna end is it? (Issues note to inner self to listen to what I write!).

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Crumpets

Crumpets © Sue Todd 2015.

Crumpets © Sue Todd 2015.

I can remember vividly sitting round an open fire on a cold winters day with my grandmother toasting crumpets for tea.  She had an old hexagonal sewing table which she used to move in front of the fire, cover with a table-cloth and set out cups and saucers, plates, jam and cakes and we used to enjoy a lovely tea by the fire, toasting the crumpets over the coals with a toasting fork.  Dripping with real butter (in the days before margarine came along and ruined things for a while) and topped with home-made jam full of fruit and flavour.  I used to love going there after school and would often ‘skip’ the bus home to go there instead and then be collected later.

Crumpets are always associated with the Victorian era, but according to Wikipedia they may date back to the Anglo-Saxons when John Wycliffe mentioned ‘crompid cake’ in 1382.

The ones you buy in packets are a far cry from ‘real’ crumpets, you just have to look at the ingredients on the packet and the sell-by date that tells you they are packed with  preservatives.

They are actually quite easy to make and fun.  If you make a batch they can always go in the freezer and come out as you need them, either pulling them from the freezer before bed so they are ready next day or defrosting them in the microwave.  Defrosting food or heating coffee I’ve forgotten about are the only things I use the microwave for, oh, and if the AGA is off it may see some use – but generally only to reheat something from the freezer.

Crumpets Cooking on the AGA. © Sue Todd 2015

Crumpets Cooking on the AGA. © Sue Todd 2015

You’ll need crumpet rings for this and either a griddle or a very shallow heavy based pan that you can access easily.  I have a very old griddle given to me by my Nan many years ago, but we were lucky enough to be given a brand new AGA one for Christmas which I just want to use, use and use again.

Crumpet – Ingredients:

  • 175g/6oz strong white flour,
  • 175g/60z plain flour,
  • 14g instant yeast
  • 1 tsp caster sugar,
  • 350ml/12fl oz milk,
  • 150-200ml/5-7fl oz warm water,
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda,
  • 1 tsp salt,
  • sunflower oil for cooking

Crumpets – Method:

Put the flours and yeast into a bowl and mix well.

Warm the milk and dissolve the sugar in it.  Add this into the flour/yeast mixture in your bowl and beat it until it forms a smooth batter.  Alternatively use an electric hand whisk to achieve the same effect.  Your batter will have to be really smooth if you want it to produce the customary holes in your crumpets.

Pop a cloth over the bowl and leave it for between 20 minutes to an hour.  The batter needs to rise and then start to fall again.

Mix the bicarbonate of soda and the salt into the warm water and then beat this into your batter a bit at a time.  You need to keep adding it until you get a liquid the consistency of  double cream.  Cover this once again and leave it for a further 20 minutes.

Crumpets © Sue Todd 2015.

Crumpets © Sue Todd 2015.

Next heat a griddle on a medium heat.  If you don’t have a griddle then a heavy based shallow pan will do just as well.  Grease the insides of your crumpet rings and add <<<< to the griddle to melt.  Pop the rings on the griddle.

Drop a couple of dessert spoonfuls of batter into each ring.  Bubbles will begin to rise, appear at the surface and set, this will take around four to five minutes.  Flip them over carefully to cook the other side, leave them to cook for about 2-3 minutes.  Lift off carefully and remove from the rings.  Repeat until you’ve used up the mixture, either keeping these ones warm until you’ve finished if you intend to eat them straight away or pop them on a cooling tray for later.

Either eat when ready or toast later and serve with lashings of butter!

Home-made crumpets with smoked salmon and poached egg.© Sue Todd 2015.

Home-made crumpets with smoked salmon and poached egg.© Sue Todd 2015.

Crumpets: Serving Suggestions:

  • Delightful for a high tea with jam,
  • Good for a snack with pâté,
  • Great for breakfast with poached eggs and bacon,
  • Delicious with smoked salmon and poached eggs,
  • Scrummy with cream cheese and smoked salmon,
  • or as part of a full English Breakfast in place of toast.

 

Pancake Day

Blackberry Compote, pancakes and crispy bacon.

Blackberry Compote, pancakes and crispy bacon. © Sue Todd 2014

Do you call it Pancake Day or Shrove Tuesday?

Personally we like pancakes all year round, after all what’s not to like?  As a child though I never got them very often and come Shrove Tuesday, they tended to be served up with Golden Syrup or lashings of sugar and some lemon juice.  I wasn’t keen on the golden syrup then and there’s no way on earth I could eat it on pancakes now, way too sweet.

Some ideas for your pancakes:

Crêpes Suzette

Crêpes Suzette © Sue Todd 2015.

Crêpes Suzette © Sue Todd 2015.

While we have pancakes often (some of us more than others in this house), we generally have them with fresh fruit, but thinking about the blog and with Pancake day looming fast we decided to push the boat out, put a lot more effort in and have Crêpes Suzette for a change.  It was a real treat, especially mid afternoon on a ‘work’ day!

There is a lot more work, and a whole heap of extra dishes, but luckily I got to shoot photographs and eat pancakes while Gary, bless him, prepped the kitchen, completed the cooking, made coffee and then cleared the dishes.  I can really recommend Crêpes Suzette as a real cheer up item for a yucky, gloomy late winter’s day, it add’s a real glow in more ways than one!

We do tend to go for pancakes with real substance to them in preference to more delicate crêpe like entities, so you may get more pancakes from your mix than we do from ours.

Pancake day falls mid citrus season, so if you’re feeling the need to get your citrus fix, then crêpes suzette fits right in this month and it does make a lovely change once in a while, so if not for pancake day, then maybe for another special occasion or treat? Continue reading