Saturday, 26 April 2014

Ikea rhubarb cordial and other goodies

Apart from a naughty plate of meatballs and chips you don't tend to go looking for food and drink at Ikea. However, it's always worth having a nose around their food shop once you've passed through the main checkout. We've developed a taste for their rhubarb cordial since they offered it on tasting a few visits ago. It isn't too sweet, so makes a tasty adult soft drink, especially with soda or sparkling mineral water. Daughter Alice likes it too. Mind you, she prefers French sirops to our squashes, so no surprise there.

At the same time I picked up some encouraging looking little pots of herring and seaweed caviar. With some cream cheese and biscuits, they're excellent for instant nibbles for drinks. The seaweed 'caviar' is particularly good in a tasty saline way.

Proper home made pizza

We had a big new experience a couple of Saturdays ago. We made pizza – from scratch. My husband (who doesn't do much baking) decided to research recipes for pizza dough, found this by John Torode and in the afternoon got cracking. A few hours later we arranged our favourite toppings in bowls and made a simple tomato sauce by simmering tinned chopped tomatoes until thick.

We like thin, crisp bases, so rolled out the dough as thinly as possible and started assembling pizzas. Once ready for the hot oven, they were transferred to our brand new baking stone. After about 20 minutes the crunchy, bubbling treats were ready. We're fans of the wood fired pizzas from Firezza and  (even though we say this ourselves) these were as good. The dough could have done with more seasoning (the recipe includes sugar, rather than salt), but the baking stone allowed the thin bases to puff up and cook brilliantly.

The previous month we'd enjoyed home made pizzas with friends who have a rather glamorous Chadwick pizza oven which cooks them in 4 minutes. Although ours took longer, for the three of us it worked out fine and the results were brilliant. A great way to spend a Saturday evening.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Veuve Clicquot demi-sec and lemon madeleines

I'm rather partial to drinking Champagne with food and just before Easter Veuve Clicquot sent me a bottle of their demi-sec to taste with some lemon madeleines. I have concerns about sparkling wine and desserts. It's quite traditional in France to serve smart fizz with dessert and, sadly, desserts are generally far too sweet to do it any justice and leaving it tasting dry and sharp in comparison. However, the combination looks pretty and has uplifting sense of occasion, so I can understand the appeal.

That said, when I tried the Veuve demi-sec with the madeleines, I was genuinely surprised. Demi-sec Champagne can taste a bit two-faced or confused, with the sweetness seeming confected and awkward alongside crisp acidity. This was not the case with the Veuve demi-sec whose honeyed sweetness was harmoniously integrated – unexpectedly good with the madeleines as they were not that sweet. We also enjoyed the demi-sec with a spicy main course – prawn biryani with yoghurt and mango chutney. This worked brilliantly (although perhaps not quite what Veuve Clicquot had in mind).

Stockists include Laithwaites (£40), Tanners (£39) and Majestic (£45 or a more realistic £29.98 if you buy two bottles).