We are lucky to have a garden in this city.  And, as far as I am concerned, the luckiest bit was the unused, weed-riddled back area that was forgotten and unused.  The size, the shape, the fact that it actually gets a substantial slice of sunshine (when the sun shines) — this neglected bit of dirt had Vegetable Patch written all over it. But, candidly, my desire to eat fresh food and introduce my kids to the source of their meals does not always match up to the time or energy I have available.  The hero of this little love story is Rocket Gardens.

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Today was our last proper kitchen day at school. Yesterday we were given a whole rabbit and were asked to create a fine dining standard main course using multiple parts of the rabbit. We were given a list of other ingredients to choose from. This is about as close to Master Chef as we have come all year. Everyone’s dishes had to be ready at 3 sharp, at which point, we took a tour of the three kitchens to see what everyone had done. It is amazing how many wildly different plates can come out of one furry creature and a limited number of ingredients.

I largely followed a recipe from The French Laundry Cookbook. Though I own this cookbook, I had to borrow it from the library.  Mine is in storage right now because it didn’t make the cut when we moved to London tw years ago.  It was given to me as a gift by my husband after eating an amazing lunch at the restaurant in 2006. I have always loved it, but before today had made exactly one recipe out of the book. Honestly, they were all far beyond my skill level. I find it incredibly gratifying that I can now not only cook from this cookbook, but I understand it and I can adapt the recipes (as I did today) to suit my needs.

The change in my cooking ability and instincts has been so gradual that I take it for granted. But the fact that two years ago I decided that this iconic cookbook was too aspirational (and not attainable) to bother bringing to London and today I borrow it from the library and consider buying myself a second copy… Well, this is a clear benchmark to remind myself how far I have come. Dare I say I am proud of myself?

Today’s accomplishment: rabbit loin wrapped in prosciutto, rack of rabbit, caramelized fennel, rabbit jus and fennel oil.

 

Rabbit a la French Laundry (kind of)

Rabbit a la French Laundry (kind of)

Two weeks left of school. A theory exam, dinner party group project and the practical exam. I can hardly believe it is drawing to a close. Though I am excited to unleash my newfound skills on the world. Fun stuff ahead…

Maybe it is the fact that the sun finally arrived.  Maybe it is the fact that Spring vegetables are beginning to show up at the market.  Maybe it is just that I have enough time to finally sit down and write a blog post.  Whatever it is, it is good.  And I know it isn’t just me because I just finished an amazing Saturday on Portobello Road making lovely food from fruits and vegetables that we bought from Portobello & Golborne Markets.  Three lovely women from Leiths joined me and the crowds were happy and social and enjoying the day and the market.

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Our first visit to Portobello Market was shortly after we moved to London. I hadn’t settled in yet and felt very much like a tourist. And, like tourists from all over the world, I loved it.  It is huge (long, more accurately) and changes with every block.   It is colorful and vibrant and diverse and fun. There is a reason it is one of the most visited markets in the world. Read More →

DSC00097When I was growing up, we traveled to New Orleans a couple of times to visit family during Mardi Gras. We got all dressed up and staked out a prime spot along the parade routes. To help us little ones, my uncle attached a box to the top of two 5” ladders and my cousin and I relished our prized elevated perch. We could see right over the heads of the adults and yell “throw me sumthin’ mister” as the floats cruised slowly by. We came home exhausted and sorted through in our huge haul of beads and doubloons and trinkets. Read More →

As a way of combating bouts of picky eating, we let each of the kids choose dinner for the family one night per week.  They are in charge and they have to help cook.  The other kid sets the table.  Most weeks, this is a simple negotiation of which one gets to pick pizza and which one gets to pick pasta.  Out of nowhere this week one of them insisted on octopus.  We made it once last summer and they loved how it wiggles around as it was cooking in the skillet.  Counterintuitive fact: my kids are fascinated by foods that actually look like animals.  If you think your kids are similarly inclined and you haven’t done this, take them to a fish monger (not a grocery store but a proper fish market) and let them pick out something awesome.  Cook it with them.  Even if they don’t love it, you will both have fun finding out.  But I digress.

The other kid was not really feeling the nostalgia and said he only wanted pasta for dinner.  This is what compromise looks like:

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Two weeks back in school and we have already covered a great deal.  Last week, we conquered flaky pastry.  This amazing little player can do nearly anything: base for tarts, lids for pies, rolled up into sugary palmiers.  And it is a fun little math and physics puzzle: every time the pastry is rolled and folded, the number of layers triple.  By the end, the pastry comprises 729 layers of pastry interspersed with 244 layers of butter and lard.  You knew it wasn’t puffy and delicious for free, right?  In class we used our pastry to top a chicken pot pie. It got rave reviews at home that night – the husband is already brainstorming more fillings to put under that delicious lid.  Lobster pot pie, anyone?  Stick around and I promise to share once we have this one worked out. Read More →

My fabulous sister has been blogging for several years at Brunch and the city and The Hill is Home.  In fact, she was a driving force behind this blog.  See, back in DC we lived next door and we both knew pretty much everything happening in each other’s lives.  With an ocean and 5 time zones of separation, she encouraged me to do this to keep my family back home plugged into my school adventures.  We were lucky to have her visit for Christmas.  She and my mom and I pretty much went mad in the kitchen blending recipes and inspiration from home with techniques from school and ingredients from London.  Below is her Brunch and the city post about good old-fashioned Christmas morning comfort food made from scratch.  Enjoy! Read More →

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Les Alpes

When I was a junior in college I took a term off of school and spent a winter in Utah.  I learned to ski as a child but only during one-week vacations every couple of years.  My winter in Utah was a chance to really develop my sking.  I worked at the front desk of a hotel and took a short-term rental with my cousin.

I skied alone and I skied with friends.  I tried snowboarding.  I went back to skiing.  When I was packing up our house before landing in London, I found my journal from my Utah Winter.  Most of it is the angst-y drama of a typical 21 year-old.  Embarrassingly naive.  Shamefully oblivious to how much drama was self-created or self-perpetuated.  Not nearly as profound as I had thought when writing it. But there was one gem:

Gravity is love and every turn is a leap of faith. Read More →