Category: Spring/Summer

Moroccan-inspired cous cous

Ah the make-ahead lunch, how I love thee. I’ve not stayed in the same place for more than 3 weeks at a time since March, which plays havoc with food shopping, so lunches you can prep in bulk and in advance have been instrumental in keeping me away from bacon and cheese paninis. It’s mostly worked. And when it hasn’t, well, I can comfort myself with the fact I’ve learnt to do pretty decent eyeliner flicks on a moving train and now know platform 4 of Lancaster station like the back of my hand.

The second important thing? Those lunches being made up of things that you can keep in a cupboard until you need them and won’t spoil.

Enter Moroccan-inspired cous cous. I actually tried this for the first time when I spotted a reduced portion in M&S and decided to recreate it at home. Slim risk of the ingredients spoiling, easy to make in bulk, and interesting enough in flavour that you won’t get bored after the first day. Job’s a good’un.

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Strawberry caprese cups

Stripped-back meals are the order of the day here at TDB HQ. It’s the best time of year to have that kind of constraint, with produce tasting good enough on its own that all it takes is a decent pairing and a sprinkle of salt.

That’s not to say that we’ll be without treats. You may have already noticed a new name around here – Sophie‘s recipes will be popping up regularly, and there are some beautiful bakes in the pipeline. I hope you all like chocolate!

Why so little time? Well, next month I’m leaving London. After nearly five years of sweaty tube rides, balanced out with access to gorgeous food and never being more than five minutes away from a coffee shop, I’m getting a train outta here. And then getting another train via London a couple of weeks later, but that’s not the point. Read More

In Season: March

It’s spring, all of sudden, isn’t it? I know this because at the weekend I had to urge to pull up all the sofa cushions and hoover them, a level of domesticity that I’ve exhibited before in my life a grand total of zero times. I had to wait to do it until my hands had thawed out from a chilly wander around a nearby rec, but it happened and I was rewarded with £1.50 in change found down the back of the sofa and crumb-free cushions. Earlier in the day I also realised that the honk of the Canada goose is a lot like my laugh, but that was a slightly less welcome discovery than the coins.

Alongside the gradual change of seasons comes the short wild garlic window. With a softer taste than bulb garlic, it lends itself to a wide range of dishes including as an addition to salad – if you can find it. Thanks to its preference for damp, shady woodlands, in London, wild garlic locations are closely guarded secrets. For those of you lucky enough to have better access to it, here’s some tips for foraging wild garlic, and a whole bunch of recipes… Read More

Strawberry and pecan courgette cake

This courgette cake was a long time coming. Strawberry and pecan courgette cake // The Dinner BellThe cake stand in my kitchen had gathered dust. Perched atop the cabinets, it’s stood unloved since the Marvellous Night Circus cake, a state of affairs that 2012 me would never have predicted.

She also wouldn’t have predicted me being caught out with a cache of enormous courgettes that need eating.

Those ones went into courgette and Comté gratin (recipe tbc), but they got me thinking about courgette cake. When I said those words, people recoiled slightly, much like they did with avocado cake, but I’ve proven ’em wrong once and I’ll prove ’em wrong again.

This cake is perfect for this time of year, when strawberry season comes to an end, courgette gluts leave home gardeners desperately pressing the vegetable into the arms of visitors, and the clouds open to remind us that yes, we’ve had a delightful three days of summer but we are still in England, giving you just enough time to put the oven on and consider branching out into wearing sleeves again.

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In Season: August

I’ve hit peak seasonal eating. All of my colleagues and friends have been bored to tears with it, me gesticulating wildly as I talk with way too much enthusiasm about brassicas and their buddies, but last week I did a very exciting grocery shop and have a lot of new flavours and ideas to play with. I’ve just finished up using every last scrap of a bunch of beetroot: burgers with the root; pesto with the leaves; and extra bulk for this week’s lunches provided by blitzed stems. It’s good to get back in the kitchen after a busy few weeks.

Those late crops we’ve had, delayed thanks to our bizarre climate, have hit the shops now, and this month we’re casting the spotlight on raspberries and broad beans.  Time to check out some cracking recipes.
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Summer fruit pudding with lime, and vanilla mascarpone

Summer fruit pudding season has been the longest time coming. The cravings came mid-winter, just before I wrote a post half about out-of-season berries, and stuck around until my twice-weekly supermarket check for those red and blue and purple gems bore, er, fruit.

There’s satisfaction in the fact that the recipe saves a little food waste – I don’t keep bread in the house so I bought a loaf from the reduced section in the supermarket, but for the average person it means using up those past-best slices, and the crusts can be whizzed up into breadcrumbs for meatballs or a savoury crumble. Between that and all the vitamins you’ll be getting, it’s pretty much a virtuous pudding. Read More

In Season: July

H

appy July! *Looks out of the window*– it’s July, yeah? ‘Cause I’m wearing a long sleeved roll neck at the moment. Ah, home sweet (overcast) home.

The seasons are getting confused this year, not just for us (she says, as she coils a scarf around her neck) but for produce, too. Traditional seasons have been delayed, and, quite bizarrely, we now grow pak choi in Lancashire.

Just like asparagus, cherries in the UK this year have been slowed right down by the weather, meaning they’re unlikely to hit the shelves until late July. But that just means we can get ready for them now, right? Right.

As always, you can find a full rundown of what’s in season each month here! Read More

Rhubarb, strawberry & almond crumble

There 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.

It’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. Read More

In Season: June

H

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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