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Give us this day our daily bread…

18 Apr

I make our bread several times a week. I enjoy the process and now that I’m using my starter Hercules, Son of Priscilla (thanks Celia!), my loaves are going from strength to strength. I confess that most of the time I make my usual sourdough loaf, starting the process the night before and baking early evening of the next day.

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Other times I use Celia’s overnight sourdough recipe which gives fantastic results and I took on board her tip of dusting the loaf in semolina flour for a crunchy crust. Clearly, as she’s my bread making heroine/guru and I am her keen student/bread making stalker, I also made some teeny tiny loaves (like she did) using some small loaf tins I had bought to make cakes in but had never used. They turned out wonderfully and were the perfect size for a hugely filling lunch roll.

Bread 001

The last few weeks have given me time too to do a little experimenting and for Easter Sunday my father requested a loaf with whole eggs baked into the top of the dough, as this is what his mother used to make when he was a boy. I Googled Calabrian Easter bread and most of the recipes led me to make a slightly sweet bread, gently flavoured with anis and made using eggs and milk. The least said about the egg dyeing the better, but everyone enjoyed it. We all felt that it was like milk bread or pan de leche as it’s called in Spain and would probably prefer to eat it as a breakfast or tea time bread. I’m going to experiment making it again in small rolls so once I’ve perfected it, I’ll post the recipe.

Italian Easter Bread 001

The most recent experiment was to use my sourdough starter to make a whole grain loaf. I wasn’t really sure what sort of results I’d get as wholemeal flour tends to rise more slowly than white flour and give a heavier bread. Combined with a slow rising, heavy sourdough loaf I was a little concerned I’d end up baking the cornerstone of our next building project, but using a mix of a flour which contained wholemeal, wheat flakes and bran with a strong white bread flour, I got fantastic results. The bread was malty, tangy and chewy and delicious spread with butter or drizzled with olive oil. I followed the same process as my usual loaf, but didn’t add olive oil. I added an extra knead and a slightly longer bake.

Ingredients

For the sponge

  • 100ml of unfed sourdough starter (mine is fed with the same volume of flour and water)
  • 250g wholemeal flour with flakes and grains
  • 300ml water

For the dough

  • 300g strong white bread flour
  • 10g salt

The night before you want to bake (or fit this into your usual baking routine), mix the ingredients for the sponge, cover and leave overnight or for about 8 hours. Don’t forget to feed your original starter to replace what you took out!

Bread 006

The next day, add the remaining flour and salt and in a mixer with a dough hook (this is quite a wet dough) knead for 10-12 minutes until the dough looks stretchy and elastic.

Turn it into a large, oiled bowl and cover with oiled cling film. Leave it to double in size, mine took about 5 hours, but it will be different for everyone. Turn out of the bowl onto an oiled surface, knock it back, form it into a ball and put it back into the oiled bowl and cover again. Leave to rise again, this should only take a couple of hours, and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. I didn’t use semolina but feel free to use whatever you like best.

Knock back and shape either onto a round or put into a floured banneton (which is what I did). Cover with a tea towel and leave to double in size.

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Just before you are about to bake, turn your oven on to heat at top “volume” with an oven tray inside if you are going to turn out from a banneton. Once the oven has reached its temperature, carefully take the tray out and turn your loaf onto it. Slash with a very sharp or serrated knife, put it in the oven and turn the temperature down to 150C (Fan) and bake for about 55 minutes until nicely browned and it sounds hollow when tapped on it’s lovely wholemeal bottom.

Drive yourself crazy for a few hours while it cools with the wonderful smell of your freshly baked loaf and enjoy whichever way you most enjoy bread!

Asparagus and Sour Cream Tart

13 Apr

There’s something about asparagus that makes me happy. Well, a few things really. It tastes wonderful, it looks pretty and has an amazing colour which screams “spring”! It also feels like a luxury ingredient, which it most certainly used to be, but in reality is one which is now readily available and easily affordable. Mind you, in a few weeks when we have the start of the wonderful English asparagus season, we may pay a little more but oh it will be worth it for the flavour!

Asparagus & Sour Cream Tart (4)

Blogging too makes me happy, it allows me to keep a record of dishes I enjoy cooking and eating, it allows me to share my passions with like-minded folk and it has introduced me to new pals around the globe. New cuisines are available at the click of my mouse and one such cuisine which I am gradually learning more about comes from Germany. A wonderful blogger, Ginger, shares her recipes and memories over at Ginger and Bread. A German, with a Chilean partner living in London. Do pop over if you get the chance. She recently shared a recipe for a traditional onion quiche and I was intrigued by the use of sour cream in there with the rest of the more familiar ingredients. Time to buy a carton of sour cream and give this style of quiche a go!

Ingredients (to serve 6)

  • 1 packet of puff pastry (I used puff as this is what I had to hand, use short crust, or make your own – you decide)
  • 1 bunch of Asparagus
  • 3 eggs
  • 300ml of sour cream
  • 100ml milk
  • About 50g grated cheese (I used smoked gouda)
  • Salt & Pepper

Start by snapping off the woody ends of the asparagus and blanching the spears in lightly salted boiling water for about 3 minutes. If you don’t have a wide enough saucepan to take the spears whole, use a deep frying pan filled with water. Drain, rinse in cold water and put to one side.

Turn the oven on to medium (180C in my fan oven)

Line a tin with greaseproof paper (optional) and lay the pastry inside. If you use a flan tin with a loose bottom you don’t need to line – it just makes life easier when it comes to lifting the tart out when it’s cooked if your tin does not have a loose bottom.

Trim the pastry to fit and prick lightly with a fork.

Beat the remaining ingredients (except the asparagus) together and season. Pour into the pastry case then lay the spears gently on top.  Bake for about 45 minutes until lightly puffed up and just starting to turn golden.

Delicious hot or cold, but leave it to cool down slightly for at least 5 minutes before cutting. The addition of sour cream gives you a soft, fluffy filling, almost mousse like. Lovely with a simple dressed salad and great too for picnics.

Tartiflette – a dish to warm the soul (but only if you’re not counting the calories)

24 Mar

Reblochon is a delicious soft French cheese which is wonderful eaten “as is” but when cooked in a typical dish of Tartiflette, reaches another level of gorgeousness. Well, if you love soft creamy melted cheese it does!

The weather in England taunted us with its spring like warmth and Big Man decided that it was perfect weather to start painting the outside of our seaside house. Of course, day one was perfect as we prepared. We covered what felt like miles of guttering with newspaper and masking tape. We bought paint and thinner and got our brushes and rollers ready. Day two the painting commenced. And the clouds moved in, the temperature dropped and rain looked ominous. We were working at the back of the house which gets the sun, so at least when there was a break in the clouds we could enjoy a little of its warmth.

Tartiflette (3)

Day three, second coat of paint. The clouds were there to stay. The odd splash of rain (or was it a passing seagull?…I prefer not to dwell on it). But we persevered. Luckily the paint was made for British Weather (oh yes, the word Weather deserves a Capital Letter) and dries in 20 minutes.

Job done but we were chilled through. Time for some hearty Alpine food, and to hell with the calories!

Ingredients (to serve 3-4 people)

  • ½ Reblochon cheese (the original recipe calls for a whole one but we found half to be plenty)
  • About 700g small or medium potatoes in their skins
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 4 shallots, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 6 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, cut into small strips (or use a packet of lardons)
  • About half a glass of dry white wine
  • 100ml cream
  • Black pepper

Boil the potatoes in their skins until just cooked (timing will depend on their size but probably 15-20 mins). Drain and leave to cool slightly before peeling them. These can also be prepared ahead and left to go cold before peeling and slicing not too thinly.

In a frying pan with a little oil, add the bacon, garlic and onions and fry until the bacon starts to go crispy and the onions brown a little at the edges. Pour in the wine and cook until about half the wine has evaporated.

In an ovenproof dish put about half the potatoes, then the bacon and onion mix and then the rest of the potatoes. Now slice your cheese in half so that you have two half moon shapes and lay these on top of the potatoes. Keep the skin on the cheese and if it helps to distribute over the top more evenly, cut into triangles.

Tartiflette (6)

Pour the cream over the whole thing and season with black pepper. Bake at about 200C for around 30 minutes or until the cheese is starting to become golden and the cream is bubbling. Delicious with a simple salad.

And don’t forget to wash your paint brushes or you won’t be able to use them again….

For a vegetarian version of this dish, pop over to Promenade Planting and see Claire’s great version!

Sticky Citrus and Marmalade Tray Bake

18 Feb

My mum had a bit of a marmalade making session last week and gave us several jars of her delicious marmalade to enjoy. Thanks Mamma! Putting the marmalade in the cupboard, I came across a jar of my own marmalade from last year which I decided to use up quickly so that I could get onto enjoying the fresh batch more quickly. I decided to make a quick cake and at the same time try out a new baking tin I had just bought – well…why not?!

Going, going....nearly gone!

Going, going….nearly gone!

A BBC Good Food recipe caught my eye, I substituted a mild olive oil for the butter which (I think) makes this cake suitable for vegans as it contains no egg. The vinegar in the recipe sounds odd, but don’t leave it out as it helps the cake to rise and it won’t taste of vinegar, I promise!

Ingredients (to fit a baking tray approx 28 x 23 cm)

  • 200g self raising four
  • ½ teaspoon each of ground ginger and cinnamon (original recipe uses 1 teaspoon of mixed spice which I didn’t have)
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • Zest of 1 orange and ½ lemon
  • 100g mixed dried fruits
  • A pinch of salt
  • 100g of olive oil (original recipe calls for 140g butter which is then melted), weigh the oil as you add it to the mix
  • 5 tablespoons of marmalade
  • 125ml milk
  • 1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of brown sugar

Heat the oven to 160c/140c (fan)/gas 3 and line your baking tray. The original recipe uses a 900g/2lb loaf tin and cooks it for 60 minutes.

Place the flour, spices, sugar, zests, dried fruits and a pinch of salt into a bowl and mix. Put the oil (or butter) into a saucepan with 2 tbsp of the marmalade and melt. Mix well, add the milk and then pour over the dry ingredients. Add the vinegar and mix well.

Pour the mixture into your prepared baking tin and bake for about 45 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Sticky Citrus and Marmalade Tray Bake (3)

While the cake is baking heat the remaining marmalade with 2 tablespoons of water and the icing sugar. Pour this over the cake when it comes out of the oven then sprinkle it with brown sugar and leave to cool in the tin. You’ll end up with a delicious, citrusy, sticky cake which best pal Ria suggested would also be great served warm with custard. Now you’re talking….

Cranberry, Orange and Raisin Cake

5 Dec

Cranberries are not just for cranberry sauce and cranberry juice! And we all know they’re good for us, don’t we?! I love that sour taste of Cranberries, Big Man…less so. Oh dear. But he loves cake, so a perfect compromise is to make cake with cranberries in it. I do love a Win/Win cooking situation.

Cranberry & Orange Cake 001

This is a cake for people who are not very good with measuring ingredients as they can find the scales but not the old fashioned weights that go with it. It’s good for folk who have trouble finding the mixer or the electric whisk, who then accidentally turn the oven off for 5 minutes while baking a cake thinking they’ve turned the hob off, then open the oven door to see why the light in the oven seems to have stopped working. Yes, that was me, but this cake is like the hardiest Marine in the Cake Corps – nothing can defeat it, it WILL turn out fine no matter how badly you treat it. You can even half drop the tin as you’re turning the cake out – oh yes, I did that too – but it’s probably going to be prettier if you leave that bit out.

Ingredients for one large cake (serves about 12 – 14 slices)

  • 2 ¼ cups of self raising flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • The grated zest of one orange and the juice from the orange made up to 1/3 cup with water if there is not enough
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • ¾ cup of oil (I used a mix of vegetable oil and olive oil)
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • ½ cup raisins (or any other dried fruit you fancy)

Grease and flour a large baking tin. I used an 11” bundt tin, but a 9” square tin would also work well. Set the oven to 175 degrees C.

Mix together the sugar, orange juice, eggs, yogurt and oil. If you can find your electric whisk, go ahead. If not, use a hand whisk with a bit of fury until all the ingredients are well blended.

Not much left...

Not much left…

Add the dry ingredients and mix with a spoon, then stir in the fruit and zest. Pour into the prepared cake tin and bake for 45-50 minutes until the cake is pulling away from the sides of the tin, is browned on top and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

If you want to top it, mix 8 heaped teaspoons of sifted icing sugar with about 2-3 teaspoons of orange juice (add gradually) until you have a thick pouring paste, and drizzle over.

Make a pot of coffee, cut yourself a good slice of cake, put your feet up and relax…

For another olive oil cake recipe, take a look at my orange and raisin cake.

Rosewater Biscuits

28 Aug

Some days are just meant for baking biscuits. This was one of those days and I had just made summer fruits ice cream, using a mix of berries in place of coffee from my coffee ice cream recipe. I thought biscuits lightly scented with rosewater might work well with it. They did, but they also went perfectly with a little cup of very strong coffee.

Rosewater Biscuits (1)

Ingredients

  • 125 g plain flour, sifted
  • 15 g cornflour
  • 100 g diced butter
  • 50 g icing sugar, plus extra for rolling out and dusting
  • 20 ml rose water

Put the flour, cornflour and butter into a food processor. Blend until combined.

If making by hand, rub the butter into the flour and cornflour with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs.

Add the icing sugar and rosewater and blend briefly (or mix gently with a palette knife).  Knead the dough gently into a sausage, (dust your worktop with icing sugar if necessary) wrap in cling film and chill for half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180 Fan/gas 6. Cut the dough into discs the thickness of a £1 Coin (that’s about the same as a Euro!) Place the biscuits on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper.

Bake in the oven for about 8 minutes until pale gold. Remove, allow to firm slightly, cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container. Or you could just dust them with icing sugar and enjoy them as soon as possible!

Chorizo and Green Olive Scones (made with Goose Fat)

14 Aug

I’m a person who moves house often. I don’t know why it’s been that way – sometimes work, sometimes love, sometimes just for the heck of it. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve moved (well, I suppose I could work it out if I sat down for long enough) and my pals are forever crossing out my details and adding new ones in their address books. Heck, Big Man and I are selling the little flat we bought in Bexhill (well, it was only ever meant to be a temporary arrangement whilst we did the house renovations) and are buying a little house nearby for ourselves. It’s only temporary though you understand.

Chorizo & Olive Scones 009

If we were to up sticks and move, say, to Sydney, we’d zoom in on Celia from Fig Jam & Lime Cordial’s neighbourhood. That’s a lie, we’d stalk her and move in next door so that we could enjoy all her cooking, baking and garden experiments. She’d be rewarded with the fact that we’d probably not stay long and she could get back to normal again when Big Man and Chica relocated to the Cook Islands…

For the moment, it’s mainly Bexhill-on-Sea with the occasional trip back to our Mountain Top Home. Home is wherever the heart is and luckily for us we both feel the same.

As we can’t actually move in next door to Celia, we’ll do the next best thing and join in her invitation to celebrate International Scone Week. Yay! Love an excuse for a Food Fiesta. I do have to confess right here that my very favourite scones are from another Celia, she of The Kitchen’s Garden, and I’ve been making them ever since she told us about them. Smothered with butter, jam AND cream – sigh, they’re the best. But in the spirit of adventure and because Celia (of FJ&LC) and I have been exchanging messages about cooking with lard and pimentón, I give you my savoury scones, based on Celia of TKG recipe. They are actually made with goose fat as this is what I had in the fridge, and not lard, but let’s not quibble or I might buy a house next door to you.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of self raising flour (or use plain flour and 2 teaspoons of baking powder)
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of cornflour
  • 75g goose fat (or lard)
  • 2 level teaspoons of smoked pimentón
  • A pinch of salt and about 10 good grinds of black pepper
  • A piece of cured chorizo about 10cm long cut into tiny dice
  • 10 green (or black) olives, stoned and cut into tiny dice
  • 1/3 cup of milk mixed with a 1/3 cup of iced water

Heat the oven to the highest setting and put a baking tray inside to heat up.

Mix the flour with the cornflour, pimentón and salt and pepper. Mix the fat in lightly with your fingertips until it looks like small breadcrumbs then stir in the pimentón and olives. Gradually add the liquid until the dough comes together. It shouldn’t be too wet or dry and try not to overwork it.

Chorizo & Olive Scones 001

Pat the dough into a round on a floured surface and cut out rounds. Mine made 6 very rustic looking (for “rustic”, read “not perfectly smooth”) large scones but it would be great for mini cocktail sized scones.

Put the scones onto the heated baking tray and bake for 6-10 minutes depending on their size until lightly browned. Serve warm (not hot) or cold, delicious on their own or with cheese.

Happy International Scone Week my Blogging Friends and next time you see a “For Sale” sign go up in your neighbourhood…be very afraid…..

Sourdough Loaf Revisited

24 Feb

I’ve recently been experimenting with other types of bread, but the staple at home is my sourdough loaf, which I bake about every third day. It’s a large loaf, but hey, we eat a lot bread.

A few people were asking about it, some wondered if it was a bit of a palaver to make it. At first, I agree, it seemed all a bit complex, but you get yourself into a little routine, you plan ahead and it really isn’t all that much work if you find your rhythm.

Here’s a little step by step to how I make my bread….hope it helps any of you who are planning to take the first steps in sourdough baking. This particular loaf was left to rise too long and fell “splat” onto the baking tin – it still turned out fine, it’s so forgiving!  For a starter, head over to Sawsan’s blog

I feed my starter (kept in the kitchen in a cool spot)  each time I make my bread, so approx. every 3 days. If it’s any longer between bakes I’ll just feed it anyhow – ¼ cup of flour and ¼ cup of water to replace the half cup of starter I remove. Apologies for the photos but it was dark at most stages of making the bread….real life cooking!

So, the night before I want to bake my bread I put half a cup of starter into a bowl with 250g of strong flour and 300ml of water. This is what it (the sponge)  looks like a minute or two after mixing it up with a fork. Don’t forget to feed your starter to replace what you have removed.

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This is my sponge 15 minutes later.

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About 9 hours later, next morning, my sponge looks like this.

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Then I add a further 300g of strong flour, a teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of olive oil (optional) and start to knead in my mixer with a dough hook. It looks lumpy and heavy at first.

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After 10 minutes on slow speed it looks glossy and comes away from the sides of the bowl and is ready.

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I tip it onto a lightly floured surface then sprinkle a little flour on top, it’s a wet dough but don’t worry, it comes together easily.

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Shape it into a round and place it into an oiled bowl then cover with cling film.

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Leave until doubled in size (or come back from work about 9 hours later to find this…don’t worry).

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Turn it out of the bowl onto a floured surface, flour the top gently and shape into a long sausage if you are using a floured banneton or put it into a bowl lined with greaseproof paper and cover with a tea towel.

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After an hour it will have almost doubled again in size.

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Flip out onto a hot baking tray (pop the tray into your oven as it heats up) or if you don’t have a banneton put your dough and greaseproof paper directly onto the baking tray or into a heated oven dish.

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Bake for about 40 minutes until golden brown at 180 degrees (fan) or 200 degrees regular oven.

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Cool on a rack before slicing.

Yes, you have to wait almost 24 hours for your loaf from starting the process, but good things, in this case, really are worth waiting for!

Monster Sandwiches with Celia’s Pan Cubano

10 Feb

We all know that one of the great pleasures of blogging comes from sharing, being inspired by fellow bloggers and getting excited by new recipe ideas.

Pan Cubano (1)

I baked the loaves late at night, sorry about the dark photo…

I’m a regular bread baker now.  My sourdough bread is made every 3 days or so, but sometimes I feel the need to shake it up and try a new recipe. A little while ago I saw a recipe over at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. Celia is the Queen of Sourdough and her recipe for a bread called Pan Cubano really called to me. The fact that it used Lard was probably the part which called loudest! In Southern Spain the pig is King and lard is used in many recipes. I’m in England right now but I felt nostalgic.

I didn’t use rendered pig fat in the recipe, I turned to my massive supply of goose fat which came from cooking the Christmas goose. You only need about a heaped teaspoon though, so I still have plenty leftover for delicious roast potatoes.

The bread turned out fabulously, although I didn’t get the characteristic slit in the loaf as I had no leek or palm leaves to lay down the centre of the loaf. Slitting them didn’t seem to make any difference but the flavour and texture  of the bread was incredible. Celia advised me to freeze some of the loaves if we weren’t planning on eating them all at once. Great advice as I made four loaves, each of which gave me 2 massive, builder-sized sandwiches. The sandwiches were filled with thin slices of smoked gruyere and cold twice cooked pork – amazing!

Pan Cubano (4)

Thanks Celia – for the inspiration and the amazing lunch…Go on, Be Inspired!

Caramelised Red Onion Tart with Jamón and Stilton

30 Jan

WordPress tells me that the top search on my blog, pretty much constantly, is for Olive Oil Pastry. Those of you who regularly follow my blog will know that until recently I was a self-confessed pastry cheat, using ready made pastry most of the time. In the summer though, I experimented with the pastry made using olive oil instead of butter and in the autumn, with delicious English butter available, I tried out the deliciously naughty Rough Puff Pastry.

The olive oil pastry is a healthier option for more frequent use and as there are so many searches for this recipe, I thought I should make an effort to show some of the ways I use it in the kitchen. This is a delicious tart which serves 4 as a main course or 6 as a starter.

DSC_0011

Ingredients

  • 1 batch of olive oil pastry
  • 6 red onions
  • 2 small sprigs of thyme
  • Olive oil for shallow frying
  • 3 slices of jamón, prosciutto or bacon (omit if you want a vegetarian tart) cut into small pieces
  • About 3 tablespoons of crumbled stilton or some of your favourite cheese

No need for blind baking with this pastry, it goes crispy underneath, even when baked with the filling.

Half and finely slice your onions and fry slowly in about 3 tablespoons of olive until soft and slightly caramelised. This will probably take at least 20 minutes.  Season with a little pepper but you will probably not need salt if you are using the jamón and stilton which are both salty.

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Roll out the chilled pastry to fit your tart tin, prick the bottom and fill with the cooked onion mixture. Sprinkle over the jamón and cheese and bake at 200 (regular oven) or 180 degrees (fan assisted) for about 30 minutes or until the pastry is browned.

Leave to cool slightly – this is delicious served at room temperature with a salad.

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