Rhubarb, strawberry & almond crumble

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here are two topics when it comes to desserts that I’ve found will split people: the ideal dessert menu (up to two chocolate options, at least one lemon option, and a soft choice for brace/denture wearers – anything after that is inconsequential) and the perfect crumble.

IMGP20231 copyIt’s a surprisingly divisive dessert, when you get down to it: you can’t deviate much when it comes to a pie, but when it comes to this particularly British pudding, “crumble” can be both its name and what happens to your relationship with your best friend when you realise they’re devoted to some white sugar based sandy monstrosity. Don’t even get me started on a mushy apple filling.

Why yes, I do have strong feelings on this. How could you tell?

Any crumble is a marriage of flavours. The fruit layer, the one that diminishes any (badly placed) feeling of guilt over the butter, will inform the nuances of the crumble itself: the sugars; the spices; the nuts. 

That layer of virtuousness, for me, is a vehicle – an excuse – for a thick layer of lightly spiced topping, made up equally of crumbs, oats, and little balls of what is essentially shortbread. Continue reading

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In Season: June

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oney, I’m hooooome! May was quite the month, with Work Stuff being bonkers, Saturdays being taken up by a course, and a nice trip away for my brother’s wedding, but now we’re back in business.

It’s a good month to be getting back proper food – I’m eating meals that take more than 10 minutes to make! – because we’re finally out of the cabbage months. I try to practice what I preach and eat British seasonal produce, which makes the winter months preeetty dull. I cave every now and then, but try to stick to “not if it’s flown further than I have”.

You might have noticed (who am I kidding?) that the shops, after St George’s Day, the traditional kick-off date for the British asparagus season, were full of Peruvian asparagus. It took a few weeks to catch up with the usual season thanks to the wrong weather this spring, and I spent longer than is normal trying to find a workaround, but I’ve not been to Peru. So I waited – and the home grown stuff tastes all the better for it.

But really, that’s not the exciting thing about June. The best bit is that we can once again walk through a market and be hit by waves of the scent of fresh strawberries.

What a welcome back.

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A Dinner Bell guide to the best protein sources

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urprise! I can almost guarantee none of you were expecting a post like this. For a blog that started out being 90% cake, a run-down of protein sources sure is a departure from the norm, but here we are. During the Idiot Challenge, with no days to recover from exercise, eating plenty of protein seemed important – but when you’re cutting down your meat consumption, this becomes alarmingly tricky. There are only so many egg whites a person can eat.

There’s this trend on the internet that for anything food-related, magazines love to present information in the least readable way possible, and often say things like “vegetables are high in protein!” but neglect to tell you that you’d need to eat a field of kale to get a decent quantity in grams. So I spent (what felt like) hours clicking through slideshows trying to find a range of high-protein foods that weren’t also high in fat, or stupidly calorific. Continue reading

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Chicken, leek & cider pie

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oday, we’re nearly halfway through the Idiot Challenge for Idiot People. Set and voted upon by a group of university friends, the challenge forces us (the idiots) to work out in some way every day for the month of April. leeksIt’s less stupid, now, than it otherwise might have been – we’ve negotiated “lighter” exercise, like yoga, in, in an effort to give our bodies a little rest. Two weeks in, and a few people have dropped days, but thanks to a refusal to give in, most of us are going strong, despite aches and the necessity to wake up before the sun to squeeze things in. We’re all exercising more, and better, for it – I guess it’s the way we support each other. This is what I left university with: one degree, and several stubborn, idiot friends.

And then, sticky dancefloors and counting coins in the half-dark. Bubbles up my nose and a too-strong fruit taste. Half-carrying my friend’s dad back to his house after too many “mystery strength” Somerset varieties. These are my memories of most ciders.

It was university, of course, that did that too. May we never drink cider and black again.

Quite understandably, I shy away from cider a little these days, lest I get caught out by something overly sweet and too full of bubbles; still, when given the opportunity to try the new ciders from Aspall, I leapt at it because, well, I have faith in Aspall.

And Waddlegoose did not let me down. 
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In Season: April

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onger daylight hours, no more excuses to live on chocolate, and aaaaaall the green veg in season: April has landed!

The other new thing, as if it being light at 6pm wasn’t enough, is a handy little month-by-month index at The Dinner Bell. You can find the page, which, as the name suggests, lists what’s in season each month with clickable links for exploring, here, or via “season’s eatings” in the menu. Continue reading