Friday, June 29, 2007

And this week ... I bought

No market trip this week so it was make do with freezer and some vegetables from the week before and bits and pieces from the shop. Sunday night we were out for dinner - to the quite fabulous Galvins so Monday there were no lunches. Monday night was pasta with broccoli from the week before and very good it was for lunch as well on Tuesday.

Tuesday night we had the last of our own sausages that we made in a Ginger Pig class with Chris and Karl with butter bean mash and spiced aubergines. There was enough left over to have the veg for lunches Wednesday and Thursday - a really tasty spicy creamy treat

Wednesday I made burgers and salad with sour dough bread from St John's off sales - some of the finest bread in the land

Thursday was the ultimate ginger pig beef stew. From the freezer I took the diced beef that we brought home from the rib of beef class, the onion gravy from the sausage class, some cooked oxtail that was extra from when I cooked the first rib of beef and a small handful of marrow leftover from the same meal. Wednesday night I fried some onions and garlic, sealed the meat then added the gravy and marrow and set it over a low flame for a couple of hours. Served with pasta shells Thursday night it was intensely rich, a sort of essence of beef. Utterly wonderful.

Friday no lunches again! But a new dish tonight with lentils and chorizo and a recipe from Gordon Ramsay.

So no waste at all this week, rather the opposite as I used up all that was there and made a dent in the freezer as well. Result.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Butter Bean Mash

There was an easy recipe in last week's Observer Food Magazine for a tapas plate of giant butter beans which I decided would be good with grilled sausages as a side dish. I didn't have any dried beans so bought some at Waitrose at some wildly inflated price, then put them to soak with a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda. Almost immediately the outer skins puckered, swelled and loosened then floated free like abandoned tshirts in a pool. Next morning I popped each of my fat creamy beans out of the rest of their little jackets leaving me with about 20% less beans than I started with. Then cooking them till tender made them break up into jagged bits. My 'attractive mound of dressed beans' plan was not going to work out, that was obvious.

I decided to go with the general idea but combine it with that classic plating of sausage and mash. I've often made a white bean dip from my battered copy of Sundays at Moosewood and know from dipping my finger in that it is great while it's still warm. So once the beans were cooked I whizzed them up with olive oil and lemon juice, then spiced them with garlic and cumin, added a little paprika then spooned them out just like mash. Perfect. The remains is a great dip with celery - and you can't do that with cold mash.

Butter Bean Mash
250g dried butter beans
1 tspn bicarbonate of soda
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tspn ground cumin
1/2 tspn paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
Soak the beans overnight with plenty of cold water and a tspn of bicarb. Next day, drain, rinse thoroughly and discard any loose skins. Put into a large pan and cover with fresh water, bring to the boil then simmer gently for about an hour. Twenty minutes before they are cooked add a tablespoon of salt.
Drain but reserve some of the cooking water. Return the beans to the pan, add the olive oil and lemon juice and garlic and whizz with a blender stick till smooth. (Or put the beans into a blender and blend) Add some of the cooking water if the consistency is thicker than your liking. Stir through cumin and paprika then check and adjust the seasoning.
Serve in big dollops like creamy mash. You'll love it!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Pasta with Broccoli and Pine Nuts

Supper last night was pasta with broccoli cut small before cooking then cooked again till it collapsed into a saucy consistency with aromatics and a late addition of olives and pine nuts. And of course cheese. The recipe is in River Cafe Pocket Book of Pasta. Reading it I liked the idea of different textures pointing up different flavours with the saltiness of the olives, the subtle heat of crumbled chillies, the sweet from slow cooked onions and the rich oily crunch of the pine nuts. Then I made it and I didn't much like the toasted nuts - they seemed too rich against the other ingredients. After that I remembered I'm not really a big fan of toasted pine nuts with pasta. Though I'm a big fan of pesto.

Although a nut in the culinary sense, in the botanical sense pine nuts are seeds because nuts are seeds covered in a hard shell. They really do come from pine trees, the nuts are found inside the folds of the cones. They are difficult to harvest - using a long hook on a pole, the cones are pulled from the trees then laid out in the sun until the cones open enough to spill their contents. Then the shells are cracked and the pale ivory seed is extracted. Hence the high price everywhere for pine nuts.

Pine trees do well in sand so they can be planted near beaches and in parks. One of my abiding memories growing up in Australia is pine trees growing the length of what seemed like every beach in the country, giving shade to cars, stopping the sand eroding away into the sea and always dropping their prickly bits onto the ground to dig into tender bare feet on the way into the surf. In those days I'd never heard of pine nuts - who'd have thought such treasures were buried in the cones.

Pine nuts contain about 31 grams of protein per 100 grams of nuts, the highest of any nut or seed. Because of their high fat content they become rancid very easily and should be stored in an air tight container for about three months in the fridge. Six to nine months in the freezer. The eating of pine nuts dates back to ancient Greek and Roman times when they were commonly preserved in honey.

Pasta with Broccoli and Pine Nuts

350g orecchiette pasta - the one shaped like little ears
1kg broccoli
100g black olives, stoned
2 small red onions, peeled and finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 dried red chillies, crumbled
1 tsp fennel seeds
3 tbs flat leaf parsley roughly chopped
60g pine nuts
100g Pecorino freshly grated
Extra virgin olive oil

Cut the broccoli heads into little florets and the smaller stalks into small pieces then cook in boiling salted water for 5 minutes. Drain and reserve 100ml of the cooking water.

Heat 2 tbs olive oil in a thick bottomed pan and gently fry the onion till golden. Add the garlic, chillies and fennel seeds, fry briefly then add the parsley. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the broccoli adn the reserved water. Continue to cook until the broccoli is broken up into a sauce. Add 3 tbs of olive oil, season and stir well.

Separately, fry the olives and pine nuts briefly in 1 tbs olive oil.

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water till al dente. Drain, add the broccoli sauce then stir in the olives, pine nuts and half the pecorino. Serve with the remaining cheese sprinkled over.

We had leftovers cold for lunch and it was good. Though I felt when I ate it hot I probably wouldn't make it again with consideration I think I would, just without the nuts. The balance of flavour and textures was really pretty amazing with random little bombs of chilli, fennel and cheese in the midst of the the broccoli - be a shame to lose the lot for not liking just one thing.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Bubble & Squeak

Last night for supper we had a kind of bubble and squeak. Except that I also used eggs so it might have been an omelette. Or perhaps by combining potatoes and eggs fried it was really tortilla. Don't know exactly what to call it but it was very tasty.

Bubble and squeak as a dish it has been around for generations - even Mrs Beeton had a recipe. It's about frugality really, using leftovers from the Sunday roast on Monday. Maria's cafe at Borough is famous for her bubble at breakfast. Basically you mash cold roast potatoes, mix them with yesterday's cooked cabbage then flatten it into a heavy based pan and fry in dripping/butter/oil till the bottom crisps. Flip over and crisp the other side then serve. The name comes from the sound of the dish - bubbles from boiling the cabbage, the squeak from the frying. My pan doesn't squeak when it fries so much as spit though I don't imagine many people would queue for bubble and spit.

The only time I ever made 'proper' bubble & squeak was the christmas before last when I'd read a recipe from Matthew Fort in the Guardian that involved leftover roasted potatoes and brussel sprouts fried up in beef dripping and topped with stilton. Reading that now makes me wonder why I thought it would be fabulous - stilton and beef dripping? I had even bought dripping specially. Not likely to be a light supper but I guess it's the xmas effect. It is impossible to be too excessive as you feast or perhaps just to be rational when all about is frenzy.

I had some boiled new potatoes left over from dinner on Sunday and, as I'd already made a brown rice salad to go with cold pork for lunches didn't need them for salad. I toyed with the idea of vegetable curry but didn't really fancy it. I had eggs and a pale pointy headed cabbage and the last of a rochetta that needed using so melange it was.

A Sort of Bubble & Squeak
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 tbspn olive oil
1 tbspn butter
200g/1/2 lb cooked new potatoes, roughly chopped
200g/1/2lb cabbage, roughly shredded
1 tbspn rosemary, finely chopped
3 eggs, beaten
100g/4oz soft cheese
Salt and pepper

Melt the butter into the oil and fry the onion till soft and translucent. Add the cabbage and cook till it starts to wilt then add the rosemary and potatoes. Fry till they are a little crispy. Pour in the beaten eggs and cook over a strong heat till the bottom sets.
Preheat the grill to hot as it will go.

Season the vegetables/egg and add the soft cheese in small dollops over the top of the pan. Put the pan under the grill for a few minutes till the egg sets and the cheese bubbles (!) and becomes golden. Serve onto warm plates.

We had this with bread from Saturday that I had heated through to freshen it up. Hot crusty bread was the perfect accompaniment - and frugal too.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Roasted Fennel

This is a lovely side dish for a roast but would work equally as a light supper for 2 with a little salad and crusty bread. It is simple to make, the only time involved really is the cooking. It would qualify as quick if it didn't take so long.

Cooking the fennel first in boiling water makes it soft and light and then it takes on the roasted flavours of the oil and garlic. The cheese at the end simply sets it off to perfection. It its the sort of side dish often served as the vegetable accompaniment in the little cafés in provincial France. Though not the star of the show it adds much by way of flavour and texture in its supporting role. We had it with roast pork and roasted onions and new potatoes Sunday night - it really was very good.

Roasted Fennel
2 pale fat fennel bulbs
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tbspns olive oil
2 tbspns freshly grated Parmesan
Salt and black pepper

Heat a large pan of water to boiling. Cut the fennel in half top to bottom and cook in the water for about 5 minutes. Drain and put them into a roasting pan with the oil and garlic sprinkled over. Season then put the pan into a moderate oven, gas 5, 200F and cook, turning occasionally, for half an hour. When the flesh is tender and flecked with brown sprinkle with Parmesan and cook for another few minutes. Serve with a roast or with salad.

A treat.

I Bought

We got to the market a little later than usual but struck lucky. It was in that little gap between the serious early shoppers and the hordes of tourists so it was easy enough to be served and have an occasional chat.

At Ginger Pig I gave Chris and Karl some toulouse sausages we'd bought them in France - taking meat to a butcher is a first for me. The toulouse sausages they sell are fabulous but utterly different to the ones we buy so I'd promised to get some for them to try. Be interesting to see what they think. Bought a piece of boned pork shoulder, a couple of pork chops, some pork mince and eggs - £20.25

A quick hello to Vaheed at Borough Olives before the vegetable stall at the back becasue the veg last week was good - got some fennel, lettuce, cucumber, a pointy headed cabbage and some onions - £6

Chocolates at Maison du Chocolat the ultimate bargain at £1 a bag - £2

Strawberries from Chegworth - the best for Eton mess and the rest for smoothies - £4

Booths for more veg - potatoes, sugarsnaps, bananas, satsumas, parsley, broccoli, and shiny black aubergines - £7

Spices from Hell have taken on the dry goods that Total Organics no longer sell as well as still selling herbs and spices so bought some short grain brown rice and, as an experiment, a basil plant that should grow happily till the autumn with full sun and watering. The watering is easy, may well be lost through lack of the other - £4.15
Scotch egg and a beef and guiness pie from Ginger Pig - because we are piggies, especially on the weekend - £8.50

Cream, milk, youghurt, pasta and bread from Neal s Yard - £12
Croissant and brownie from Flour Power - £3.50

A grand total of £67.40

Friday, June 15, 2007

And this week

Having been in France for a few days last week, including the weekend, there was no trip to the market so eating for the week came from stuff we had and bits I bought to supplement it. Back Sunday I had thawed a piece of gammon out in the fridge while we were away so it was ready to cook and glaze to feed us for lunches. Being extraordinarily forethinking I had made some herbed bean salad to go with it. The freezer also had chorizo and a loaf of bread, plus there were eggs in the fridge so we had fried sandwiches for supper, garnished with the heart of the slightly sad looking lettuce that was still in the crisper

Monday we had pork chops from the freezer, jersey royals from the little fruit shop round the corner and green salad with fennel from the fridge, rocket and celery from the local shop

Tuesday we had rocket and celery as well as carrots and tomatoes with ham for lunch and chicken - from the freezer - with potatoes and spinach from Waitrose. The spinach was English and a nice deep green. I hoped it would be robust enough for creamed spinach but alas - when the packet was opened the leaves were 'baby' so steamed with butter and nutmeg was best

Wednesday we had a late - and utterly fabulous - supper of pasta with dried porcini Delighted to read about Chris and Karl from the Ginger Pig in the Guardian - 2 pages and a photo!

Thursday the man had the left over pasta for lunch, I had ham salad, and we had lemon risotto for supper as I had rice and stock and a lemon indoors and rosemary in the garden. It was from a recipe of Nigella Lawson's paying homage to Anna Del Conte that was okay but not as special to eat as it sounded to read. Some you lose

Friday the last of the risotto went in with the last of the ham for lunches. The man suggested seafood at Wrights for supper to which I agreed with alacrity.

Not a bad week. Market tomorrow to replenish stocks.

Not much left to throw away - even used the last two egg whites to make meringue for Eton mess for the weekend.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Penne with Dried Porcini, Tomatoes and Cream

I've wanted to try this pasta sauce for a while now - indeed it caught my eye when I first flicked through River Cafe Pocket Pasta Book but until this week I had never quite done it. We were in France for the weekend so no shop at Borough this week so not much fresh food in the house so definite need for creativity from the stockpile. One downside to shopping with such regularity at Borough Market is your standards are very high and then, when I haven't been for the week I scrabble about a bit for great meals till the next visit. I do have a well stocked freezer - meat, stock, noodles and bits and pieces, lots of stuff in the cupboard like pasta and lentils and tinned things but there is a gap in the middle of fresh fruit and veg. I do buy some from a local shop or the supermarket but the difference in quality is noticeable. Not to mention that Waitrose charges more for spinach and parsley than Booths or Tony at the market.

So this was a good option for mid week. I had penne, tinned tomatoes, dried porcini, dried chillies as always. I also had a tub of cream in the freezer from an earlier abandoned idea and a block of Parmesan in the fridge. I had the basics were in place. I had fresh garlic I'd bought in the market in France. Full of resentment I paid 75 pence for a tiddly few stalks of flat leaf parsley from Sainsbury's because neither the fruit shop nor Terroni's had any. Then I set about making dinner. It took longer than I thought it would - a bit over 90 minutes. Not in itself a problem, but this was dinner after I came in at 8 from my french class so starving by the time it was made!

Lucky it was so very much better than good.

Penne with Dried Porcini, Tomatoes and Cream
350g penne
50g dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 150ml hot water for 15 minutes
400g tin of peeled plum tomatoes, drained of the juice
100ml double cream
80g unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
1 dried red chilli, crumbled
2tbs flat leaf parsley finely chopped
50g Parmesan, freshly grated

Drain the porcini, keeping the soaking water. Rinse the now soft porcini in a sieve under a running tap to remove any grit. Strain the soaking liquid through a sieve lined with kitchen paper.

Melt the butter in a thick-bottomed pan and add the garlic, chilli and parsley. Fry gently until the garlic is soft, then add the porcini. Stir and cook for 2 minutes, then add the soaking liquid a little atg a time - it will be absorbed very quickly. Continue cooking until all the liquid is absorbed and the porcini are soft and juicy. Add the tomatoes, chop them up into the porcini and cook over a medium heat for at least 30 minutes till the sauce thickens. Season. Stir in the cream, turn up the heat and boil for 2 minutes to combine the flavours.

Cook the penne in boiling water until al dente. Drain, add to the sauce and toss. Stir in half the Parmesan and serve with the remainder.

Well worth waiting for.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Green Salad

Last night we had grilled pork chops, boiled new potatoes and a green salad - an elegant summer supper. A good green salad is a wonderful thing and yet it is such a disappointment to order a green salad with a meal and be presented with a bowl of limp and manky leaves swimming in oil. I decided to improve on that version last night and I didn't even have any lettuce. I did have fennel, rocket and celery - all green, so therefore ideal.

Fennel is a greyish-green, hairless plant with vertically-grooved, branched stems which smell of aniseed when crushed. It is grown for its white bulbous root, the crisp succulent flesh perfumed with aniseed. The bulbs are a thing of beauty, a tight cluster of overlapping leaf stems with delicate green feathery fronds. Synonyms and Common names: Fenkel, Finkle, Fennel fruit, foeniculi fructus, German = Fenchel, French = Fenouil, Spanish = Hinojo, Italian = Finocchio

In the spring following the Great Fire in 1666, Londoners were astonished to see a sudden eruption of a plant they called London rocket. It wasn’t the plant itself they thought remarkable — a close relative of the hedge mustard, rather more than a foot tall, with small yellow flowers — but the vast quantities of it that appeared, growing everywhere on burnt areas. Still today rocket grows with gusto.

All rocket species have a distinct, pungent-aromatic flavour; the pungency increases with the age of the leaf. I grow it in the garden every summer - late in the season it is spectacularly hot and a much lighter hand is needed sprinkling it into salads. It makes for a great pasta sauce.

Useless information - rocket is a member of the cabbage family.

Celery is one of three vegetables considered the holy trinity (along with onions and bell peppers) of Louisiana Creole and Cajun cuisine. It is also one of the three vegetables (together with onions and carrots) that constitute the French mirepoix, which is often used as a base for sauces and soups. I really like it's earthy taste and the crunch it gives raw in your mouth.

Celery has about 6 calories in a stalk and, because of the plants largely cellulose composition, we can't access them when we eat it. This has made celery a dieter's delight and given rise to the notion that eating celery takes more calories to digest than it contains, so you'll end up a skinny minny in no time. It's actually true - the calories consumed bit not the skinny minny bit. It's the digesting of celery that consumes energy. I used to think it was the chewing - three or four sticks can seem like a lot to get through - but apparently that uses the same number of calories as watching your tea towels soak.

With these humble ingredients I set about making salad.

Green Salad

1 head of fennel
100g/4oz rocket - the serrated leaf wild stuff if you can get it
3 stalks of celery
3 tbspns spiced orange oil
1 tbspn lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Wash the fennel and slice it thinly as possible across its roundness and discard the hard core centre. I slice the little fingers as well, they add a different shape and another shade of green. Put the fennel into a large salad bowl. Pick and wash the rocket and add that too. Wash the celery and slice each stalk into 1 inch/2cm bits, stripping off any stringy bits then add it to the other vegetables. Mix the oil, juice and seasonings in a jar then tip over the salad and toss. If you make it half an hour before serving dinner the flavours will meld.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Penne with Asparagus and Bacon

At Booths on Saturday I bought some asparagus without actually thinking what I would do with it. The man had earlier suggested having some for supper but then we'd moved on to the idea of cold collation but when I saw the asparagus I couldn't resist .
Sometime late on Saturday night I woke up thirsty and went to the fridge for some water. Opened the door and at eye level was the bunch of asparagus. Horrified I realised I had no plan for it. We were going out for lunch Sunday for Indian in Tooting and I'd been thinking of having a creamy tomato pasta for supper. Had the penne, had the cream.
Filled my glass, went back to bed and thought about it.
By the time I woke up I had a plan. I had a little bacon in the freezer and I'd made a few litres of chicken stock Saturday afternoon so with all of this I could make a memorable pasta dish. Lightening the cream with reduced stock gives a silky richness to the dish without creating a cloying heaviness.

Penne with Asparagus and Bacon
1 litre chicken stock
Bunch of asparagus, woody stems snapped off
100g/4oz smoked bacon thinly sliced
1tspn finely chopped rosemary
150ml/4oz double cream
350g/10oz penne
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Put the stock into a pan and boil rapidly to reduce by half. Chop the asparagus into peices the same kind of size as the penne and separate the tips from the rest. Put the bacon into a small frypan over the lowest possible heat and cook till the fat rends and the bacon is crispy golden. Drain on kitchen paper.

Add the cream and the chopped rosemary to the stock and cook till it reduces by a further one third. Check and adjust the seasoning. Bring a pan of lightly salted water to the boil then add the asparagus stems. Cook for 2 minutes then throw in the tips and simmer rapidly for another minute then drain and refresh under cold water to keep the asparagus crisp and bright.
Bring a pan of salted water to the boil, add the pasta and cook as instructed on packet. When it is al dente, drain and return it to the pan. Pour over the cream/stock and mix through the bacon and asparagus.

Ladle into bowls and enjoy. A little crusty bread would be nice to mop up the sauce.

Monday, June 04, 2007

And this week ... I bought

Set for a lovely weekend with sunshine galore Borough was busyish but eminently do-able. Lots of brilliant produce mountained everywhere - fresh carrots with bright tops, frilly lettuce in every shade of green, big bunches of beets, shiny red tomatoes and dirty little potatoes calling out to be consumed. Obviously I obliged.

Starting as always at the Ginger Pig I bought some chicken carcasses as I'd run out of stock, which I then went home and made - a couple of chicken breasts - meant to be grilled with salad in the week but ended up in the freezer and the same of pork chops - also in the freezer but that was intentional for next week - £13.50

Juice - strawberry, orange and watermelon for a spring kick - from Total Organics - £3

Wanted a chilled platter for Saturday supper so bought a fat fresh cream mozzarella - an Italian spring speciality where big balls of mozzarella are injected with fresh cream that spills out when torn apart, a quite wonderful treat and also got a little piece of hard toma that the pretty cheese guy assured me was a slice of joy - it was! - surely a bargain at £5

Then went to the other Gastronomica stall and bought fennel salami and blackest braesola to add to the night's feast - Saturday - £5.50

From a stall selling turkish produce I'd not visited before I bought a little tub of olives - salt dried and crumpled and wonderfully creamy - some with the platter Saturday night some left over for a salad - £1.50

Wandered over to Booths to find that their supplies were a little thin on the ground, not everything crisp and shiny and abundant, as is usual. No jersey royals or cornish new potatoes, only Cyprus and they're not my favourites either. So I had a sligthly truncated shop there this week but still managed to get asparagus - for pasta, bananas - for smoothies and lunches, rocket - Saturday supper, strawberries - a bargain 3 punnets a pound - really really pink smoothies, and a handful of crunchy sugarsnaps - lunches- £7

Back to the Green Market for sprightlier veg - a creamy headed cauliflower - a not entirely successful curry with potatoes, a fat little fist of fennnel - still sat fat and crunchy in the fridge, oak leaf lettuce - used the very heart of it the following Sunday but much of it was wasted and lincolnshire satisfied my desire for new potatoes - for the curry and also boiled to serve with butter and grilled sausages Monday night and cold with Helmans for lunch on Tuesday - £3.20

Then 5 satsumas from the pile em high veg stall - lunches - £1

And a punnet of baby plums from the Isle of Wight tomato man - lunches - £3.50

Back past the pork pie stall and so must have one of those - Saturday lunch- £4.95

Milk, yoghurt - smoothies for Sunday and Monday breakfast, pasta - with asparagus Sunday night, cream - same with the cream - and bread from Neals Yard - £8.90

A brownie for my man and an almond croissant for me - £3.50
A not unreasonable total - £60.55


Idly surfing the web recently, looking at various other food sites, I came across - a site that tracks food events across the world and offers bloggers competitions and events to get involved with so you make personal connections from a digital start. There were calls for blogs about what's in your lunch box, secret ingredients of magic muffins, hard candy, waiter there's something in my... , a blog for every foodie occasion really.

The one that caught my eye was the 7th round of Euro Blogging By Post - shortened to EBBP#7 - hosted by the passionate cook and themed around childhood sweets. Basically what happens is you email the passionate cook with your address details and she creates a daisy chain of all those who are interested.

A week or so later I received the address of Jessica in Switzerland and her beautifully illustrated blog. I had to send a her a parcel which must contain something that conjures memories of sweet childhood. Having recently been back to Australia, returning as always with a swag of goodies, I posted off a food parcel that included such antipodean delicacies as Cherry Ripes and fresh macadamia nuts as well as some London bits. It was a fun exercise to make a package for a stranger - really hope she likes it.

And then, serious excitement, I got a weighty box from a man in Austria. I ripped off the brown paper wrapper in less than a moment and found a very interesting collection inside. Andreas is obviously a man who likes good food, the pictures on his site look fabulous. In my box there was a bag of Sportgummi - the sweet your (Austrian) grandmother will always give you - and worth having for the name alone. Then there was a multi pack of wafers called Manner Schnitten which I adore. Little wafers interspersed with hazlenut cream, perfect because not overly sweet. I've bought them often in London but I'm ashamed to say hadn't realised they were a speciality of Austria. I learn things every day. There was a jar of homemade rhubarb chutney because I like rhubarb, impressively bearing an illustrated label from his own kitchen - something I don't think to do.

A box of nougat - Ah, Don Alonso - Ildefonso - an 80's character who sounds remarkably like the milk tray man. According to the notes Andreas included with the presents Don Alonso was the man no woman could resist, they always swooned for his 7 layers of finest nougat!

Lastly were my two favourite things in the box - a bag of herbal tea called haustee from a farm in the Tyrolean mountains and a jar of herbal salt - Kräutersalz - that smells divine and is calling me to make a creamy potato salad generously spiced with some Kräutersalz for dinner one night this week. These are the two things I am sure I would want to bring back with me if I ever go to the Tyrolean mountains.

So thank you to Andreas for my wonderful box of goodies and thank you too to the passionate cook for putting the time in to organising the whole thing.