Wednesday 30 September 2015

Days like these...Indian Summer, Oak smoked Peppered Mackerel Salad with Blackcurrant Syrup and Toasted Pumkin Seed Oil Dressing...

The weather is weird. Spring was awesome, summer nothing to write home about, but now that autumn's here it feels like spring again. Chilly mornings but bright dry days.  We had a funky super moon. I came down at 2am one night this week and thought someone had left an outdoor light on. It was as though magical fairy lanterns were illuminating the garden. I hung around a bit, then Ahmad came down and we stayed to watch a lunar eclipse. It gradually darkened until we could just see a baby finger nail moon...Amazing. 

So we've been making hay, trying to catch up on outdoor jobs. Painting the windows and shed. Sorting out overgrown weedy beds and generally getting the outside ready for winter. 

I started making pies so that I could use my little vintage pie funnel. I made a chicken and mushroom one and the pastry was truly crispy and delicious...No soggy bottom. So the funnel did work, but it does make it harder to cut nicely shaped slices of pie. I want to make some more of these pasties next.

And I want to show you some my other vintage kitchen finds too. On a rainy summer weekend we went with Hannah to the Aardvark Bookery. It's a bookshop, cafe and shop in an old barn. It's an unusual place, the antithesis of my favourite organised comfy Booth's. It's very higgeldy piggedly and disorganised. (You can see in the photos.) There are piles of books everywhere and it's almost impossible to find what you're looking for. It has a cosy cafe wrapped around a wood burning stove and like Booths there are old chairs and sofas to sit on although they do look a little bit more like ones that someone left out in the rain. But they do the job, and it has a nice busy atmosphere. There was a brocante...French flea market and a band playing on the day that we went. The French market was amazing and very cheap I picked up two more old ladles to go with the ones one in the kitchen for just a few pounds each. Perfect for soup. 

Did you see my blender on the window sill. I'm so pleased with it. It only cost  £6 for an old glass and stainless steel Cordon Bleu liquidiser in the local village charity shop. It's P.A.T tested and in good working order. Think how quickly I'll be able to make all those blended smooth soups like Borscht or butternut squash now. Oh and breakfast smoothies...I can't wait. 

Since Hannah first requested the espresso coffee cake I made another. It's very good but as the icing is made purely from butter, icing sugar and cocoa, I can't make it too often. But my baking mojo is definitely coming back. 

I've almost finished Ahmad's sweater. I just got a bit stuck at the wrap and turns and had to watch the video linked to here to help remind me how to do them. (please ignore any adverts that come up first)

Learning how to do it I got a bit side tracked. I found the lovely Staci Perry's videos. They are so clear and easy to understand  and I swear I must have spent at least two hours Sunday evening watching them. Probably even four. She seems such a nice fun person and has that cute little accent like Drew Barrymore. 

Oh and did you see the quilt. I found that on The Purl Bee after browsing at the pinterest page over here. I think it would look cool made from old vintage shirts. 

I even managed to do a bit of reading. Another Louise Penney, Inspector Gamache novel. A bit of comfort reading. I do still get annoyed at her use of triple or quadruple metaphors to explain one thing. But I love reading about Quebec and the snow and her descriptions of tasty food eaten by blazing fires in homely delis or friendly bookshops. Despite the murder and mayhem it all seems so cosy. 

Well best get on with my knitting. It's Ahmad's birthday tomorrow and if I manage to finish his sweater it would make a cool extra gift...

Oak smoked Peppered Mackerel Salad with Blackcurrant Syrup and Toasted Pumpkin Seed Oil Dressing

Ingredients for two people:

  • Two fillets of smoke mackerel
  • One medium sized plum tomato
  • Half a medium sized red onion, peeled and finely sliced
  • Ten or so radishes, topped, tailed and sliced finely.
  • A similar number of green olives
  • A handful of pomegranate seeds (about half a cup)
  • Two boiled eggs, peeled and quartered
  • Half a yellow bell pepper, deseeded and finely sliced
  • A small red chilli sliced finely
  • Blackcurrant or any other sweet/sour/fruity syrup. Blackberry, pomegranate or cranberry would be good examples. I make my syrup with the blackcurrants plus a sweetener usually either honey or maple syrup. Adjust to your taste. I like it quite sour. Once cleaned and de-stalked I cook them in a saucepan until the liquid reduces. I then strain the liquid to make a clear syrup. I love this for salad dressings or with pancakes, breakfast cereal, ice cream etc.
  • Toasted pumpkin seed oil.

  1. Wash and prepare all the fruit and vegetables.
  2. Break the leaves off the lettuce and place in a serving dish.
  3. Add the sliced tomatoes,bell pepper, radish and olives.
  4. Toss and then top with the sliced onions. Scatter over the pomegranate seeds and chopped chilli. 
  5. Finally remove the skin from the fish, break it up into largish chunks and place on top of the salad along with the egg quarters. 
  6. Serve the salad and then trickle with the dressing. 
I love the combination of the salty/peppery fish with the cool crunchy radish and lettuce, the heat of chilli and sweet/sour nutty flavoured dressing. This works perfectly for me in the same way that sweet sour plum sauce works with unctuous duck but you may like to use and alternative dressing. 

n.b. COOKS NOTE...I had a mini blackcurrant syrup eruption after a bottle that I stored in a slightly warm cupboard exploded! I think it must have fermented. It's best kept in the fridge...

Bye for now,


  1. as find the most fun things to ramble around through! I love the idea of a bookstore/brocante!!! and what treasures! Yummy food always abound in your space----I really need to get my cooking mojo back. At the moment, I'm rather stuck with the knitting. :)

    1. It was fun Steph and such bargains...much cheaper than we ever find in France. I must keep my eyes open for new of the next one. Oh knitting...I'm not surprised...that's what I want to be doing now.
      Have fun,

  2. Everything you make looks brimful of health, Debby! And the cake? Oh boy! Looks like an illustration for a tea shop. That looks like a wonderful bookshop. You're fortunate to have so many wonderful places to explore. Aren't there some wonderful videos for learning? I guess there's no excuses.

    Happy knitting!

    PS: Sorry I'm late on answering your question about drying blackberry leaves. I just put the leaves on a cookie sheet and place them inside my car on a sunny day. You can also just hang them in bunches tied together in a dry dark place of the house.

    1. Hi Jane,
      Thanks for the help with drying the berry leaves. What a clever idea about leaving them inside the car of a sunny day. It would make a perfect little suntrap. I'll let you know how I get on with mine.
      Thanks to for the lovely compliments...
      Have a fruitful week.

  3. first of all that book store is awesome! Second of all I wish I could visit and see the hay making and sit in your pretty house. The weather here has been warmer than usual but finally a chill in the air came, I'm not sure it's staying though.

    1. I know Karen it's amazing if a little disorganised. I found a lovely old folio society edition of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam translated by Fitzgerald with lovely illustrations and beautifully bound, very cheaply. Some things were a bit overpriced though but definitely worth a look.
      Hope the weather is perfect for you.