Carolina Bed & Breakfast
The Best of British Cooking 26 Sep 2016, 1:23 pm
It’s a long walk from one side of the UK to the other, lots of time to eat!
For those of you who don’t already know it, James and I recently took a break from our jobs as innkeepers at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast in Asheville, North Carolina, and traveled to the UK to hike across the width of England on Wainwright’s Coast to Coast trail. More than 200 miles took us from the west coast of Northern England to the east coast, staying overnight in small B&B’s in often tiny villages. And along the way, paradoxically enough, we discovered some of the Best of British Cooking.
Fine food is often searched for in high end restaurants in big cities, and certainly England has plenty of these. But this was not the world of Ottolenghi and Gordon Ramsey. Nor is it the England of Happy Eater Road stops and McDonald’s in fake Tudor houses. Many of the villages we passed through were no more than a small collection of houses, some doubling as bed and breakfasts, a small shop and a pub. They are surrounded by fields and farms, sheep and cattle, and hedges heavy with sun-ripened sweet blackberries. Supermarkets are a distant drive away and we often passed small stands loaded with eggs and produce which could be taken and the money deposited in an “honesty box”.
James and I ate three meals a day, breakfast, lunch and dinner, the same way the people around us were eating. Breakfast was cooked to order for us at the bed and breakfast. When we left we received a packed lunch, also made by the innkeeper. And dinner was, most nights, at the local pub. A few times, when no pub was to be had, the innkeeper also made us dinner. It was plain fare but it was fresh. Pastries were homemade, meats and gravies stewed in the kitchen and very little processed food crossed our plates. Recipes and dishes were time honored and classic. It was an intimate view of the diets and cooking of Northern England.
So what did we eat?
Breakfast always included the option of a Full English Breakfast. This consisted two eggs (fried, poached or scrambled), bacon and sausage, grilled tomato and grilled mushrooms, toast, and baked beans and/or blood pudding. Now mind, you didn’t have to have all of that. You could pick and choose the items you liked. I would often pare it right down to a poached egg on toast. One observation: these people know how to cook eggs. In 26 days there was only one instance of a less than perfectly fried or poached egg. But as you can imagine, eggs every day can get a little much after a while so there was also the option of the classic British sandwich, the Bacon Butty. This is a fried back bacon sandwich served on buttered toast. Sounds hearty and it was but it was also delicious. Sausage sandwiches were also available. We were always asked if we wanted a “sauce” to go with our breakfast. Much as I was tempted to ask for hollandaise sauce, I know they meant ketchup or HP Brown sauce (a cross between a more vinegary ketchup and A-1 Steak Sauce). Nothing sweet like french toast or pancakes was ever offered.
A Full English Breakfast was always available
I was delighted when given the choices for our first packed lunch. Having lived in England for 7 years I already had a fondness for the Cheese and Pickle Sandwich. The cheese should be a good English cheddar and the pickle will be Branston Pickle.This is not an American style dill or sweet pickle. It is almost a relish or chutney made of a variety of diced vegetables in a thick and vinegary tomato based sauce. The Ploughman’s Lunch served at many pubs consists of a chunk of cheese, a piece of good bread and Branston Pickle. This sandwich is the to-go version. Other sandwich options included ham (on bread with butter) and “salad” which was lettuce, tomato and cucumber on buttered bread. One of the more interesting options we were given was a cheese and carrot sandwich.
Best of all was when we got meat pies!
Sometimes the meat pies were homemade…
A meat pie is just what it sounds like, meat in one form or other encased in pastry to form a small hand-held pie. Our pies ranged from elegant to home-made. The homemade pie consisted of minced lamb, boiled potatoes and carrots and gravy. The elegant pie was bought from a pie shop and was a small tart fill with a type of pork country-style pate and topped with cranberries.
Sometimes the pork pies came from a shop. But they were always delicious!
Along with the sandwich (or pie) we would be given a bag of chips, an apple and if we were lucky a piece of cake. The cake was, as you would expect, British style not American. Sometimes it was fruitcake, sometimes treacle or ginger cake and on occasion we would receive a slice of flapjack (a sweet oat bar made from oats, butter, brown sugar and golden syrup). We loved it when we got real cake and liked to eat it when we stopped to share a thermos of hot tea in mid-morning.
The pubs where we ate dinner were often the only dining option in town. Here we would usually run into a few other hikers as well as a assortment of local townspeople. Even the smallest town had a pub and on weekends this could be quite busy. The choices never changed much but a few things were really excellent. Steak and Ale pie would be counted on to be a good choice with a thick rich gravy and tender meat in a flaky crust. Lamb shank, if available, would usually be local lamb slow-cooked to fall off the bone, Gammon Steak (ham) was never something I wanted but was popular with the locals, as were sausages and mashed potatoes and, of course, fried fish. James claims that the British have perfected the fried onion ring and would often order them along with his chips (french fries). About the only thing it was hard to get was fresh vegetables or salad. Side vegetables, when offered, were always over cooked carrots, boiled cauliflower and sometimes broccoli. A memorable meal was at the local “Chippie” (Fish and Chip Shop) where we had fried cod, fried halloumi cheese, fried onion rings and, of course, fried potatoes. Our side veg was ketchup!
Fish and chips, onion rings and fried cheese with a side of ketchup
And finally dessert (or pudding). I never realized that James had not experienced Sticky Toffee Pudding before. This soft cake served hot with caramel sauce and custard (or ice cream) was his new favorite and he tried it everywhere from the best restaurant in London to the lunch on Virgin Air. I believe the final count was eleven different versions. When that was not available, Eton Mess was on offer: crumbled meringue tossed with whipped cream and strawberry jam. They tried to sell this to me as a British version of the Australian Pavlova but I’ve had Pavlova made by Aussies and this is not the same!
It all sounds very English and sometimes heavy but in actuality it was often just what was needed after a long day walking up to the moors in all kinds of weather.
But my all time favorite treat was a sweet, ripe, sun-warmed blackberry picked off the bramble as we walked by. And of all the things I would like try out here at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast it is to create an apple and blackberry topping for our sweet popovers in celebration of the best British pudding of all: Apple and Blackberry Crumble. Yum.
Autumn is blackberry season in the UK.
The Sausage Roll 15 Sep 2016, 8:29 am
Well, my parents are nearing the end of their long hike. The daily updates have been wonderful, mostly recaps on the weather, how they have honed their bog-traversing skills – and lots and lots of talk about food and what they have been eating. When you hike 16 miles in a day, you get to eat whatever you want!
England is not known for the food, but my parents are debunking the “British cooking is awful” myth one meal at a time. I won’t spoil anything because given my mothers love of cooking and food, I’m sure she will want to recap their culinary adventures, however I did think this would be a good opportunity to share with you the recipe for a classic British staple: the sausage roll. This is not a hot dog in a blanket – though that is its American cousin. These are great for parties – you can make them ahead of time and freeze them.
Amazingly, my father had never had one until this trip to England! How that is possible after living in England for 6 years is beyond me. But he’s seen the light, and agrees they are fantastic. So I’m passing on the recipe to you – this is a modified version of Delia Smith’s sausage roll recipe. Delia Smith is the British equivalent of Martha Stewart, without the scandal and jail time. If you’re ever looking for a solid, authentic Brit recipe, start with Delia.
Makes 12 Sausage Rolls
- One package of store bought puff pastry
- 8 oz of pork sausage meat
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- 2 rounded tablespoons of chopped sage leaves
- Salt and pepper
- 1 egg – beaten
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
Roll out your puff pastry to (2) 12”x 4” rectangles.
Mix the sausage meat, onion, sage and salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Divide the sausage meet into two and roll each piece out with your hands on a lightly floured surface until they are each 12” long.
Place one roll of sausage meat onto one strip of pastry. Brush the beaten egg along one long edge of the pastry, then fold the pastry over and seal it as carefully as possible. Roll the whole thing over so the sealed edge is underneath and gently roll lightly so the pastry is sealed. Repeat with the second piece of pastry and sausage meat.
Use a sharp knife to cut each roll into six sausage rolls. Cut three V shapes in the top of each roll with scissors and brush with the beaten egg.
Place the rolls on a baking sheet and bake high in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool
Serve hot. I like to eat them with ketchup mixed with a little bit of chili sauce. Delia suggests pickled shallots. You can dress up the sausage mixture if you want to get fancy, the possibilities are endless: chopped apple, parsley, mustard, nutmeg – go crazy!
You can store cooled sausage rolls in the freezer. Just defrost them for an hour at room temperature and warm them in a hot oven for 5 minutes.
The Real Begining of the Carolina Bed and Breakfast – Guest Post 7 Sep 2016, 7:09 am
Followers of this blog and The Carolina Bed & Breakfast’s social media accounts may have already seen that James and Susan aren’t here this week. For those of you who are not regular readers or just stumbled upon this post – I encourage you to put this blog on your bookmark list. As you’ll quickly figure out (no doubt this post will help you on your way) The Carolina Bed & Breakfast isn’t your run-of-the-mill business blog.
For all of you who don’t know where James and Susan are (from this point forward I shall just refer to them as my parents), they are currently walking across (yes ACROSS) England for the next month. While they are gone they have entrusted their inn to their incredible innkeeper Sara, and they have handed over their blog (for whatever insane reason) to me, their daughter Sarah, and they told me I can write about whatever I want to write about! Which I think is incredibly risky given my history of blog posts – but hey, like I said – this isn’t your run-of-the-mill blog.
So I get to be your guest blogger for the next month. I have no idea what you, or I am in for – but I guess we’ll find out.
My family lived in England for about six years from when I was six until I was twelve. We had British accents, we went to British schools, we loved “Top of the Pops” and The Spice Girls (who didn’t?) and Branson Pickle sandwiches (who did?). We thoroughly loved living there (can you tell I’m writing this blog post in my British accent?).
Anyway, my family is one of many traditions. I think we add a new tradition every time my family gets together or has a holiday. I often joke that in 30 years we’re just going to be one very long walking anecdote with so many traditions that we don’t do anything else.
We have added a fairly new family tradition that I am a big fan of. Any time anyone goes on a trip they have to write the whole family a daily summary of their trip via email. Think of it as a longer (and much faster) form of the postcard. AND if two people are on the trip then they switch off days – which makes it a delight to read, because you get someone else’s perspective.
My favorite part of my day right now is waking up in the morning, making my self a cup of tea, and sitting down to read about the adventure my parents had the day before.
Before they started on their epic walk my parents had a couple of days in our old stomping grounds to visit our old house, and our old pub, and our old school. They also had the opportunity to meet up with some of our (I won’t call them old) friends.
I had been struggling with what to start this guest blogging venture out with, and their update came as a gift.
I’ll just start at the beginning – and sit tight this is a long story….
Growing up overseas you learn very quickly that your family is your “tribe”. When you pick up and move they are going to be the only faces you know in your new home. It is always nerve-wracking (there’s another Brit-ism for you) when you are a new person in a new place, and especially so when you are in a new country and you are a kid.
We had moved to England from Hong Kong, which is quite a culture shock. BUT we were lucky enough to have moved not only with our family, but with two other families that had lived in Hong Kong with us and were our closest friends. This was sheer luck, it wasn’t planned, I have no idea how it happened, but suddenly our tribe of 5 was a tribe of 16!!
The Godfrey’s and the Millers. My extended family until I was twelve, they were such a massive part of my life in so many ways.
So fast forward to Murray expedition 2016 and my parents met up with Godfrey’s and Millers. We got a picture text of my parents at dinner with the Millers, and it inspired this blog post.
When my parents announced to me 8 years ago that they were opening a bed and breakfast I was a little confused and a little concerned. Confused because it didn’t sound like there was anything fun involved in running a bed and breakfast and this was their retirement plan (aren’t you supposed to play golf or something?) and concerned because….there doesn’t sound like anything fun involved in running a bed and breakfast. And I’ve pretty much stayed confused for the last 8 years, I’m just not concerned anymore.
BUT! When this picture of the Millers and my parents at dinner showed up on my phone, I had what Oprah would call an “Ah-Hah” moment. Because my parents had essentially been running a bed and breakfast MANY years before they were officially running one.
Now we’re going to rewind…..
There are not words to write here about how lucky I am to have been given the family that I have. There are so so so many happy memories that I have, that I’m sure one day it will make a very obnoxious and ridiculous memoire. Some of my favorite memories are the summers spent in England with the Godfrey’s and the Miller’s. I use the term “Summer” loosely to indicate how endless the days felt and the absence of having to go to school, but there really isn’t “summer” in England so it could have been any time of the year.
The Murray’s and the Godfrey’s and the Miller’s ran a rolling kid’s bed and breakfast. It worked like this. Someone (let’s say the Godfrey’s) would decide to have everyone over for a day of food, and drinking (if you were a parent) and general merriment. We would play board games, sometimes the parents would play board games without us, there were epic Nintendo battles, and climbing of trees, and shooting of bee-bee guns (that never worked out well) and forts built. The parents would sit outside and talk and enjoy the sun, and we would destroy the house and make trouble. At the end of a very long day and late at night as our parents got ready to leave we would beg, BEG them “Can we stay the night!? Please, please, pleeeeeeeeeeeeeze!?” And our parents would look at the Godfrey’s who would say “Ok.” And we’d all jump up and down and cram 12 little bodies into 4 beds and be up all night telling stories.
The next day the plan would begin early before the adults woke up. Do you think our parents would let us play here another day? Do you think your parents would!? We’d ambush them over breakfast and they would say “You have to ask your parents” and we’d get our plan together about how, and what we were going to say on the phone “We’re having so much fun mummy, and we don’t want to leave, do you think it would be ok, can we please, pleeeeeeeeeeze stay another day??”. In hindsight I can’t imagine that this was anything but a home run for Mom and Dad who had an entire extra day AND night to themselves.
So we’d stay another day. And hatch a plan in the middle of the night to see if we could convince our parents to have this make-shift summer camp/kids bed and breakfast continue at someone else’s house the next day. And we were always over-joyed when our parents said yes. Though, let’s face it, they were really just taking one for the team and paying the Godfrey’s back for letting us stay at and destroy their house for two or three days.
Those memories are some of my happiest. And I think I tell this story often, though it may be a product of how happy I felt, maybe it wasn’t as epic as I remember it, maybe my sisters have different memories, but it all came back again when my mom sent that picture over. None of them look older, they look just the same, I love them just the same. And that was when I realized, that a bed and breakfast had always been in the cards for my parents, because they had given us one long ago.
Beer, Food and Asheville: The Sierra Nevada Brewery hits a Home Run 3 Aug 2016, 5:00 am
Sierra Nevada Brewery
Asheville, it’s a beer city, it’s a foodie town, it’s a music town, it’s a mountain town. Our city is so many things! And just when we thought we had it all figured out, someone comes along and surprises us. After hearing great reviews from our guests, last week James and I took a drive out from our downtown Asheville B&B to the recently opened Sierra Nevada Brewery.
Located just past the Asheville Airport, about 20 minutes from the Carolina Bed & Breakfast, the Sierra Nevada Brewery is reached by means of a long meandering driveway which takes you past hops growing in the fields and remnants of different time when brewing beer was much less automated. It is a lovely entrance, and sets the tone for the experience awaiting you. James and I were not coming for a tour (although everyone tells me we must try one), we were taking Abby, our daughter, out to dinner and trying out a new restaurant at the same time.
A long row of Beer Taps to choose from!
Through the front windows of the brewery we could see giant copper kettles glowing in the light (hmmm, yes, need to take the tour) but our destination was the Taproom to the left. We were amazed at how busy it was for a Monday evening! We hadn’t thought to make reservations but we able to buy a flight of beer at the bar and then took it outside on the veranda to enjoy. The idea was to try the beers in the flight and then you will know which beer to buy. The sun was setting over the hills, the air was a comfortable temperature, families sat around the tables and played corn-hole. Behind us a large truck was being filled with spent grain. We did not mind at all waiting a short half-hour for a table.
Once seated inside,we were intrigued by the menu. At the Sierra Nevada Brewery they have a wide variety of small plates intended to be shared so that guests can enjoy a variety of beer and food pairings. It was at the same time elegant and fun. Not at all your usual taproom fare!
We started by sharing a plate of Duck Fat Fries, a plate of Lamb Tartare and a plate of two types of Spring Peas, Asparagus and Radish over a Goat Cheese and Black Garlic sauce. Each was delicious! Then James finished with a Burger, I had the Chicken Fried Quail and Abby went for a Mason Jar Salad. Everything was great. The service was attentive and the entire experience a pleasure. We all agreed that this would be a good spot to bring someone new to Asheville to see something a bit outside of the normal areas.
Spring Peas, Asparagus and Radish with Goat Cheese
Definitely worth the visit!
Completely Nuts Bar: A Recipe for Nuts.com 18 Jul 2016, 9:00 am
Last week I heard a recipe contest being held by Nuts.com asking people to create a snack using at least four of their products. Since it gave me a chance to take a break from working on my cookbook, (Our Family Table: Lessons and Recipes from a Life Abroad, due out October 2016) I thought “Why not?”
Then I got the list of ingredients from which I needed to use and I thought “This is completely nuts!“.
I do a lot of baking at our Asheville Inn, the Carolina Bed & Breakfast. In addition to the muffins, cookies and breads which are standard fare in the B&B industry, we like to put a small treat in our guests’ rooms while they are out at dinner. These range from mini-cupcakes to tiny tarts to small bar cookies and more. So I decided to do a take on a pecan pie bar using lots of different nuts and a light batter to bind it instead of the traditional brown sugar and dark syrup and spice combination. I chose some of the more elegant nuts on the list for this and took a step outside of the box in adding Green Tea Matcha Powder to the base layer. And finally, as a bonus item, I used almond flour to replace the flour I use in the batter. Then I took a leap of faith and put in our guests’ rooms.
Homerun! The plates came back empty and a couple of people asked me about them before they left today. In my book, that’s success!
COMPLETELY NUTS BAR
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Grease or line an 8X8 baking pan
1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
Pulse base ingredients together until it resembles green sand
2 tbsp Green Tea Matcha Powder
2 cups flour
Place butter, sugar, green tea powder and flour in the bowl of a food processor and pulse together until it looks like green sand. Pour into the prepared pan, using your hands to pat it evenly into place, and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes until starting to brown around the edges.
While the base is cooking, prepare the filling.
1/4 unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup milk
1 tbsp Almond Flour
2/3 cup Pistachio Nuts, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup Hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup Macadamia Nuts, coarsely chopped
Place the melted butter together with the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and blend together until light and fluffy. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time. Add the salt, vanilla, lemon juice and milk
Ready to go in the oven!
and mix until smooth. Add the nuts and almond flour and stir together. Pour over the pre-cooked base and cook for 30-35 minutes until set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool completely before cutting into bars.
Makes 16 bars.
COMPLETELY NUTS BAR!
Making the Most of Summer Fruits 13 Jul 2016, 6:00 am
One of the fun things about eating seasonally is enjoying the abundance of fruit in the summer. Yesterday James and I were able to choose between cherries, cantaloupe, watermelon, honeydew, blackberries, raspberries and peaches for lunch. Operating our Bed & Breakfast in Asheville NC means more food than most in our refrigerator. Of course, your fridge probably doesn’t have such a wide variety of summer fruits in it all at once!
With so much to choose from, why bother dressing the fruit up? And I get this. I love the “grab and go” quality of a beautiful bowl of fruit. But sometimes it’s nice to do a little bit more. So here are two wonderful and easy-to-make sauces which you can use to give your summer fruit a special flare!
Both of these recipes use Mascarpone Cheese as a base. Mascarpone is an Italian triple-cream cheese which is made, like many cheeses, through the introduction of a bacterial cultural to the cream. When you add sugar and liquids to Mascarpone, the culture is re-awakened resulting in a sauce which will thicken as it sits. This doesn’t mean you can’t make your sauce ahead. but it does mean that if you do make it ahead you should make less than you need as you will probably need to thin it down before serving.
You can serve these sauces on top of your summer fruits and berries as is, or you can take advantage of the natural affinity of these fruits to pair with the fresh herbs which are also so abundant just now. One of the best ways to do this is to make an infusion, a sort of herbal sweet tea, and toss the fruits gently in it either just before serving or the night before.
RASPBERRIES WITH LEMON MASCARPONE CREAM
½ cup fresh berries per person
1 half cup lemon curd (commercial or home made)
2 tbsp mascarpone
1 tbsp heavy cream
Arrange the raspberries in a pretty glass or bowl.
Whisk together the lemon curd and mascarpone until it is smooth. Thin with heavy cream to a thick cream. Place a large dollop on top of the raspberries.
The process used to make the sweet basil syrup in this next recipe can be adapted to other herbs and combinations. Try it with fresh mint (and a little ginger) or lemon-thyme .
Fresh Blackberries in Sweet Basil Syrup with Vanilla Mascarpone Cream
BLACKBERRIES IN SWEET BASIL SYRUP with MASCARPONE VANILLA CREAM
For the Mascarpone Vanilla Cream:
2 tbs Mascarpone (room temp)
¼ cup heavy cream
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla
For the Syrup:
1 cup sugar
½ cup water
½ cup semi-sweet wine
½ vanilla bean (or ½ tsp vanilla extract)
1 cup tightly packed Basil leaves
Juice of one lemon
Combine sugar, water and wine in a saucepan. Add the vanilla bean (or extract). Bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil and lemon juice. Cool to room temperature. Strain.
2 pints blackberries
Marinate blackberries in the sweet basil syrup at least 8 hours or up to two days. The longer they soak the more flavour they will pick up from the basil. Serve with a little sauce, topped with a dollop of Mascarpone Vanilla Cream (thin with cream if needed) .
Look for these recipes and more in my cookbook, Our Family Table: Lessons and Recipes from a Life Overseas, available in October 2016!
Picnic On Top of Cold Mountain 6 Jul 2016, 2:44 pm
James and I are getting ready for another big hike, this time across the width of the UK. It’s a long hike, 190 miles, and will take us almost three weeks to complete so we have begun training in earnest. Of course it’s not really fair to call it “training” when it is so much fun and something we would be doing anyway! This 4th of July we decided to take a picnic to the top of Cold Mountain.
It’s not an easy hike. At 6,030 ft the summit is an arduous 11 mile round trip adventure which climbs 3,000 feet to the mountain’s top. But it’s worth the effort. Cold Mountain is part of the Shining Rock Wilderness area in the Pisgah National Forest. As such it is left as much as possible in its natural state. If you read Charles Frazier’s novel “Cold Mountain” or saw the 2003 movie of the same name, then you will understand me when I say the mountain is probably much like it was during the Civil War. The trail is well worn but narrow and filled with rocks and roots. Shortly after we began the ascent the noise of the Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp faded behind us. Sunlight filtered through the trees and the only sounds (besides our breathing) were the whine of the
One of the many beautiful wild flowers growing on Cold Mountain
occasional gnat and birds singing in the distance. Hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains, I often ponder how hard life must have been for the early explorers and settlers. I find myself thinking about hiking in long skirts and heavy shoes, helping to manhandle wagons over the passes and back down into the valley’s below and I am filled with awe for their accomplishment.
We saw no one as we climbed. There was the occasional leaf pierced by someone’s hiking pole and once I saw a boot print but other than that it was completely ours. After about two and a half hours of hard work we came upon a rocky outlook. The trail guide said that the view from the top was obscured by bushes and suggested this outcrop as a good picnic place. So we off-loaded our day packs there and climbed the last quarter mile enjoying the freedom of a dropped 20 pounds! You can imagine our feelings when we reached the pinnacle of Cold Mountain and discovered that someone else had gotten there first. Isn’t that just the way of life? If you want go to turn around in a driveway the car behind you will always belong to the driveway’s owner. And if you climb a deserted mountain the only person you meet will be enjoying the view from top (and there was totally a good place to picnic there!). But nevermind. He was a nice man and had an interesting story so it was all good. Saying good-bye, we returned to our bags and spent a lovely half an hour looking at the view and sharing our picnic.
Nope, we didn’t get there first!
After that it was down and down and down and down until we reached the base and returned to the Carolina Bed & Breakfast, tired but happy.
Summer in My Asheville Garden 20 Jun 2016, 5:30 am
Victory in The Garden!
It’s definitely summer here in Asheville. The days are long (and hot) and my garden is growing like crazy, albeit helped by James’ faithful rounds of watering at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast.
Our flower gardens are onto their fourth year and have moved from newly-planted to established.You have probably seen pictures of the flowers which cycle through from snow-drops to daffodils, peonies to daisies, lilies to pansies, mums to winter roses and more. My tiny vegetable garden gets less publicity. We have so many wonderful farmer’s markets here in Western North Carolina that we don’t need to grow much. What we do grow is more for the pleasure (and challenge) of produce from our own garden.
I have to be honest that before moving here my experience with vegetable gardens was limited to watching my mother as I was growing up, and appreciating the labors of our gardener in England. He was named Mr. Green (for real) and came with the house. The owners rightly wanted to make sure that the well-established garden was properly taken care of. The garden there was bountiful with fresh fruits and vegetables ranging from artichokes to melons and more. It was not until we bought our Asheville Bed and Breakfast that I had the space, time, and climate to try a garden of my own. The learning curve has been slower than I would have liked, delayed by construction and changes in landscaping. Every time I thought I had a good site we had to move it and it took forever to find a place where there was enough sun. But this year it seems to all be coming together. Here is what I have learned:
Plant radishes early and often. An early hot spell put an end to my radishes. Did you know that radishes produce roots when the temperature is under 80 degrees but anything above that and they work on sprouting leaves and flowers? Neither did I! So good-bye to radishes for this year. (note to self, plant earlier and more often next year).
On the other hand, my tomatoes are already heavy with fruit. The ones that survived the battle with Early Blight, that is. I love heirlooms tomatoes but there is something to be said for the disease resistant Big Beef tomato! Every year I make the same mistake with my tomatoes. I buy too many plants and plant them too close together. I thought I would protect my heirlooms by
Early indications are for a great tomato harvest.
surrounding them with hybrids but they were still too close to one another and the disease spread. I always think that I will be able to pinch off the growing tips to keep the branches from spreading too far but I swear they grow two feet every night and before I know it the garden is a massive tangle of branches. So plant the tomatoes farther apart and buy fewer plants. Trust that I will get more from a few healthy plants than dozens of struggling ones.
And, at long last, I seemed to be succeeding with zucchinis. For years I have listened to jokes about the endlessly abundant zucchini plant only to watch mine wither and die after a few meager flowers. But this year I am on top of my game (at least so far) and I caught the powdery mildew at its outset. Sarah, my daughter, has made stuffed zucchini flowers for me and I harvested my first reasonably sized fruit yesterday. This year, I visit the garden every day and look at the leaves, top and bottom. And I am suppressing my dislike of pesticides and spraying and attacking disease the minute it shows up (using organic products of course!).
Stuffing Zucchini Blossoms!
And the jalapenos? Knock on wood, jalapenos have never failed me. This year is proving the same. I already have almost enough to candy my first batch. Curiously I also seem to have a white jalepeno plant. It must have gotten mixed in with the other plants. They are supposed to be slightly less spicy than the green variety which would work well here as I have to be aware that not all of our guests love fiery hot food the way my family does. No lessons to be learned here (yet). Jalapenos and I understand each other just fine!
And finally, the addition of Otis, our family cat, means that the groundhogs and squirrels are looking for another garden to pillage!
So when you visit us here at our inn, take a minute to appreciate my small plot. It probably doesn’t look like much but it’s getting there.
Food Photography at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast 5 Jun 2016, 5:30 am
Getting the cookies in the right pose! (photo courtesy of Abby Murray)
Things have been hopping here at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast. Not only has the season started for all things Asheville but I have also been working hard on my cookbook. Those of you who follow this blog may remember that one of my New Year’s resolutions was to finish my second cookbook. At the time I was just hoping for a small cookbook with recipes for some of the sweets and savory small bites we serve here at our Blue Ridge Mountain inn. I had planned to self-publish it similar to my first cookbook, Recipes from a Big Family.
Small dreams sometimes lead to big things. In January I talked with a friend who is an editor and food stylist here in Asheville. I met her when I was a contributor to Farmer & Chef South, a compilation of recipes from restaurants and B&Bs in Western North Carolina. She was very excited by my project and, before I knew it, I had an editor, a book designer, a printer and a marketing manager. And it is no longer just “Cupcakes and Canapes” (as previously titled); now “Our Family Table” contains 120 recipes and tips collected from around the world as we moved from Paris to Hong Kong to London and to Singapore with lots of travels in between.
Working on a cookbook can be a tough slog. Recipes have to be checked and doubled checked. Amounts need to be calculated (It’s not good enough to say a handful of this and a pinch of that!). Directions need to be tested, read and re-read. But it’s not all desk work. This past week we brought together my whole family and did a photo shoot hoping to come up with a cover photo as well as some other good food shots.
Getting in close over the BBQ Lamb
In preparation, I cooked for three days. Cookies needed to be made but we also needed extra batches of dough so we could take pictures of them being prepared. A full set of evening canapes plus a back up was prepared. Two of my family’s favorite dinners were cooked: Greek Lemon Chicken and a Butterflied BBQ Leg of Lamb. We all really hoped that no one would do anything in the name of photography which would render them inedible as tales of hairspray and fake ice cream made of mashed potatoes were tossed about. But I admit that I did overcook the quiche so that the pieces would hold together perfectly when sliced (shhhhh!)
A super-heated metal skewer is used to make “grill marks” on tomatoes and peppers
Then on Wednesday morning Emily boarded a flight at 4:30AM from Chicago to Asheville and Abby got up and drove from Charlotte so that “Our Family Table” would have the whole family present! For me it was a wonderful excuse to have them all together for two random days in June.
Erin Adams was our food photographer. She did a lot of the food photography for our website so I knew what to expect. She does great work so I have to make the disclaimer that the photos I am using in this blog were NOT taken by her!
My Iphone shot of Erin’s set-up for my Tomato Brie Quiche. If this is good, I bet hers is amazing!
Look for my cookbook to be out in late September. I will definitely keep you posted!
Lemon Swiss Roll: A Celebration of All Things British 15 May 2016, 7:04 am
I am making a Lemon Swiss Roll today for our guests at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast. It’s a light sponge cake spread with jam (or in this case, lemon curd ) and rolled up tightly then cut into slices so a spiral of lovely yellow filling shows.
It’s because I am obsessed with the Great British Baking Show. Have you seen it? It’s the kinder, gentler, British version of an American cooking show. It takes place in a large tent on the beautiful green lawn of an old English Manor House in Berkshire (where it always seems to be raining). Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood are the judges. She is the warm and knowledgeable grandmother of British baking. She always finds something kind to say but her air of slight disappointment lets the contestant know when they have not hit the mark. Paul Hollywood is the English gentleman in his country estate blue jeans and plaid shirt who is also one of the great artisan bakers of the UK. They are joined by two classic examples of BBC TV hosts and a cast of wonderfully British people, all of whom are familiar to me from my years living outside London.
But it is the food that I love the most. It’s all about baking and it’s all about food that I once lived with and remember with affection (and longing for!). Scones, Chelsea buns, Picnic basket pie, and suet pastry puddings are mixed with more familiar foods like sponge cake, bread pudding and apple pie. In one recent episode the contestants had to make a Charlotte Royale which involved making a Swiss roll and using slices of it to line a pan before filling it with a thick mousse. Well, I am not prepared to go that far but something about the making of a Swiss roll sounded like a challenge I could rise to and have fun with.
So today I am making a sweet sponge cake, rolling it around a lemon filling and creating my own British Bake!
LEMON SWISS ROLL
For the Cake:
4 eggs, room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp milk mixed with 1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
For the Filling:
½ cup Lemon Curd
¼ cup Mascarpone
Making the Cake:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 15” x 10” rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray, line the bottom with parchment paper and grease the parchment paper.
Mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.
Using the whisk attackment, whisk together the four eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer until pale yellow (3 minutes or more). Change to the beater attachment and slowly beat in the sugar. Add liquid ingredients and beat for at least one more minute. Add the dry ingredients and beat to combine.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Bake for 12-15 minutes until it springs back when touched.
Take a piece of parchment paper which is larger than your cake pan and sprinkle it with sugar. You can use either cane sugar or powdered sugar, whichever you prefer. Turn out the still hot cake
Roll the sponge cake up in the parchment paper while the cake is still warm
onto the parchment paper and carefully remove the greased paper off the bottom.
Using a sharp knife carefully score a line across the bottom of the cake about three inches in. Be careful not to cut through the cake all the way. Starting at the scored end, roll the cake up tightly in the parchment paper and then leave to cool completely.
Assembling the Cake:
Mix together the lemon curd and the mascarpone until it is smooth.
Carefully unroll the cake and spread the filling on about ¾ of the cake. Go to the edges on the sides but stop ¼ of the way before the end of the cake. The filling will spread as you roll the cake and cover this portion.
Starting at the scored end again, roll the cake carefully and tightly.
Dust with powdered sugar if you wish. Slice into ½ inch slices to serve.
Once filled and rolled, trim the ends and slice into 1/2 ” pieces
I wrapped my roll in plastic wrap and chilled it in the fridge to set the filling before cutting but this is not necessary.
While you are waiting for your cake to cool, here is a lovely little poem from a book called “Please Mrs. Butler” about going to school in England which was a favorite of mine and my children when they went to grammar school there.
Last night my mum
Got really mad
And threw a jam tart
At my dad.
Dad lost his temper
Then with mother,
Threw one at her
And hit my brother.
My brother thought
It was my sister,
Threw two at her
But somehow missed her.
She is only three,
Hurled four at him
And one at me!
I said I wouldn’t
Stand for that,
Aimed one at her
And hit the cat.
The cat jumped up
Like he’d been shot,
In the baby’s cot.
The baby –
Quietly sucking his thumb –
Then started howling
For my mum.
At which my mum
Got really mad,
And threw a Swiss roll
At my dad.