Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Delicate Delights - Lemon Thins

These pretty little turquoise bowls were gifted to me for my birthday (well, ahem, yesterday) – and they immediately beckoned to be filled with delicate delights.  Artisan handmade chocolates would have been a good choice but, personally, I prefer small, delicate cookie teatime treats. So, I decided that my homemade Lemon Thins would be just the perfect cookies – as they are delicious and pretty and small and have a pronounced tart lemon taste (which I absolutely adore in baked goods) as well as a delighful crisp texture.

My Lemon Thins get their zippy flavor from fresh lemon zest and juice. Perfect. But, of course, you could opt for orange, blood orange or grapefruit flavor here as well. For now, the market is flooded with bright, yellow lemons and so a batch of Lemon Thins it was.

Lemon Thins

(yields 28 to 32)
  • 250g unsalted butter, softened
  • 200g superfine baking (caster) sugar
  • 300g AP flour
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg (L), organic or free range
  • grated zest of 1 organic lemon
  • juice of ½ lemon

  1. Preheat the oven to 150C° (300°F).
  2. Line a baking sheet or two with baking parchment.
  3. Put the butter and all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl, working it into a crumb.
  4. Add the egg, lemon zest and juice.
  5. Mix all together very well, kneading lightly to a smooth dough.
  6. Divide the dough in half and form into two rolls.
  7. Wrap the dough logs in food wrap or wax paper.
  8. Refrigerate the rolls until firm. NOTE: chilling cookie dough for just 30 minutes makes a big difference.
  9. Slice thin discs from one end of the log, laying each disc 2 to 3cm or so apart on the baking parchment.
  10. Bake for 5 to 8 minutes, or until lightly colored.
  11. Transfer the cookies to cooling rack. NOTE: should there be too much dough, then the remainder freezes well.

This lemon cookie recipe would be the perfect accompaniment to afternoon tea, bowls of ice cream, stewed fruits, or any fresh seasonal fruit or berries.

Or enjoy them just as they are. Crisp. Clean. Lemony. And elegant. And perfect in these darling handcrafted serving bowls.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Cheese and Rosemary Honey Kadaif (Shredded Sweet and Savory Pastry Pie) & August Thoughts

A few days ago, the members of Cottage Cooking Club closed the books (so to speak) on yet another chapter of our cooking adventures – we finished cooking and baking our way through yet another one (or two) of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall´s wonderful cookbooks. August is always a good time for reflection, for taking a step back, for looking at things from a different angle, for expanding our palates and enjoying new foods, so, while we wait, with bated breath, no doubt, for Hugh´s new book to hit stores in the UK on September 21, entitled River Cottage Much More Veg (for more info visit here) – I like to turn my thoughts to a few different kinds of recipes, the ones that are not to be found in any of Hugh´s books.

There are so many things on my list that I want to try out and cook and bake and test that I have the feeling that if I do not get started right now, I will never get a chance to make them. So, without further ado, here is one of the many inspirational dishes I tried and loved and enjoyed and shared with my family. To the last crumb, or rather shred of that delightful Kataifi pastry.

This Cheese and Rosemary Honey Kadaif is meant as an homage to Levantine dishes. It is fun to eat. It is pretty. It is crisp on the outside with a smooth, creamy, cheesy center and a pleasant sweetness from the local early summer harvest honey, and, yes, my kids loved it. To our palates it tastes like a cross between an appetizer and a dessert. I was told that it is meant as a starter before lunch or dinner but would be quite at home at a party as well. Well, no matter what time of day you choose to enjoy this dish, wether with a nice glass of wine, a fine mineral water or maybe even a cup of floral Earl Grey, you will be more than pleasantly surprised.

This recipe is a hybrid of two Levantine dishesKadaif and Kanafeh. Kadaif is a type of baklava, with a filling of nuts, drenched in honey. Kanafeh is a special type of cheese pastry, soaked in sugar syrup and served as dessert.

Cheese and Rosemary Honey Kadaif (Shredded Sweet and Savory Pastry Pie)

  • 60g unsalted butter, plus some extra to grease the cake pan
  • 250g kataifi/kadaif pastry*
  • 200g feta, crumbled**
  • 100g halloumi, grated***
  • 125g ball mozzarella (not buffalo), shredded
  • 100g clear runny honey (a local honey would be nice here but any clear, mild honey will do nicely)
  • 4 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • a good squeeze of lemon juice
  • untreated/organic dried rose leaves for decoration (optional) and/or some rosemary sprigs
* is shredded bric or filo pastry and is available from Turkish shops or online. It freezes well, so it’s worth stocking up
** a brined curd white cheese made in Greece from sheep's milk, or from a mixture of sheep and goat's milk
***  a Cypriot/Middle Eastern semi-hard, unripened brined cheese made from a mixture of goat's and sheep's milk, and sometimes also cow's milk

In addition
  • 20cm cake pan (for ease of cleanup no loose bottom or springform but if you own baking pans with loose bottoms only, make sure to double-wrap the bottom of the pan with aluminum foil)

  1. Grease the cake pan well with butter (best done with a pastry brush), then set aside and pre-heat your oven to 220°C (200°C fan-assisted).
  2. Put the kataifi in a food processor and whizz until you have strands that are 1 to 2cm long.
  3. Melt the 60g butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat then, when foaming, tip in the pastry. Stir to coat it in the butter, then cook for a few minutes, stirring often, until the pastry has become a little translucent and has changed color slightly.
  4. Tip about two thirds of the pastry into the cake tin and spread it over the base, pressing it up the sides, creating a hollow in the center.
  5. Mix the three kinds of cheese together and season well with freshly ground black pepper.
  6. Press the cheese mix into the hollow, then put the remaining pastry over the top and pat it down to secure it.
  7. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the pastry is deep golden and crisp.
  8. While the Kadaif is in the oven, put the honey, rosemary sprigs and lemon juice into a small saucepan and heat gently until the honey is warm – but don’t let it boil. Leave it to cool while the pie finishes cooking.
  9. Once the pie is ready, remove it from the oven and carefully invert it onto a serving plate- to do so, hold the plate on top of the pie, smoothly flip the pie and plate together in one move, then remove the cake pan. Place a serving plate on top and flip one more time.
  10. Heat the honey again until warm, then drizzle it over the pie to soak in.
  11. Top with untreated rose leaves or rosemary sprigs, then slice and serve while still warm. Please NOTE that a sharp, heavy knife is best for cutting.

Clearly, the Now is a good time to expand our horizons and try out many a new thing – this lovely Cheese and Rosemary Honey Kadaif is certainly a delicious way to do so. A great way to ease into the lovely month of August.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Cottage Cooking Club - July 2017 Recipes

The month of July marks the sixth and final month of our second project for our international online cooking group, The Cottage Cooking Club. We cooked our way through a wonderful, family-friendly cookbook written by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, entitled „River Cottage Every Day". And the optional „Love your Leftovers“ by the same author.

This month I prepared five recipes from River Cottage Every Day. I will write about each dish in the order in which I prepared them.

The first recipe for my July post is the Smoked Salmon and Scrambled Eggs on Toast (page 58) from the chapter Making Breakfast

To this recipe I chose to add fresh Broad Beans with Garden Herbs & Spring Onions - I really love the combination of scrambled eggs and smoked salmon - who doesn´t - but it is even better with those lovely, seasonal broad beans. That´s all I want for breakfast or even lunch.

The second recipe was the Genoise Sponge Cake (page 372) from the chapter Treats. A really nice way to celebrate the delicious end to another chapter of our Cottage Cooking Club adventures. And, may I add, a really useful recipe to have in your repertoire. Easy. Summertime treat. Perfect for a July day.

Lastly I made the always useful Ten-minute Vegetable Stock (page 166) for the delicious Potato and Fennel Soup (page 268), both from the chapter Vegetables Galore

The combination of flavors - fennel and potatoes - prompted one of my trusted taste testers to burst out "this is my new favorite creamy soup". Truth is, this is a great combination and a reccuring theme in Hugh´s books which we really enjoy. The weather has been more than fallish on some days, so a creamy soup was not out of place in July. 

To this creamy soup I not only added some Caramelized Fennel but also the Parsley and Pumpkin Seed Pesto (page 132) from the chapter Weekday Lunch. I much prefer pumpkin seeds in my pesto than pine nuts - we get these amazingly delicious and very healthy dark green Styrian pumkin seeds here that I love to cook and bake with. So, I did not hestitate to make this pesto when I saw Hugh´s recipe.

There are so many ideas for leftover pesto - spread it, smear it, drizzle it, pour it or use it as a dip, pesto is so much more than a pasta sauce and there are so many ways to make the most of it. There are also so many varieties and this one with pumpkin seeds, garlic, parsley, olive oil, Parmesan, sea salt, black pepper and freshly squeezed lemon juice is pretty delicious.

Please note, that for copyright reasons, we do NOT publish the recipes. If you enjoyed the recipes in our series, hopefully, the very talented and enthusiastic members of #The Cottage Cooking Club and their wonderful posts convinced you to get a copy of this lovely book or both books.

To see how wonderful all the dishes from my fellow Cottage Cooking Club members turned out this month, please make sure to take a look at their personal links and to do so, just visit here.

Monday, July 10, 2017

French Palmiers & Pretty Bowls

If you have followed me along for a while, you might have noticed that visiting a Pottery Market is one of the great joys in life for me. I love looking at the many wares on display. I enjoy chatting to the various artists and potters about their inspiration for a certain color or a unique design.  I take great joy in imagining different foods on and in all those handcrafted plates and bowls. The interaction, if I may call it that way, of food and pottery is rather unique and, to me, absolutely fascinating.

So, yesterday we visited a wonderful pottery market in the City of Siegburg (Germany) – once a year, in July, ceramic artists and potters from different countries will display their craft to an interested audience – there is always a good mix of everyday pottery and more artistic pieces. In my view, that is a pretty good balance.

This year I chose to buy a few complementary pieces from a Dutch pottery called De Rode Scherf from the well-known City of Delft (for more info about the artist, pls visit here). Last year I bought a small bowl with birds, this year I bought small plates and two more bowls – this time with roses - all pieces match so well. And I am already looking forward to seeing more of their exquisite pottery come September.

After our visit to the pottery market, I felt like taking pictures right away. The sun was out and we were still short of any dessert that day. A bit short on time and energy, I decided to bake some lovely Palmiers, one of my very favorite cookies.

Palmiers are a classic French cookie. They are fabulous sweet, crisp, airy cookies made of nothing more than buttery, flaky puff pastry and granulated sugar plus, in my case, a bit of cinnamon. Roll out the pastry, shape, slice and bake. It’s that simple. The magic happens in the oven – the sugar caramelizes, and the pastry puffs up into an elegant dual spiral shape, resulting in a palm-like shape that has given them their name. They might be simple to prepare, but these crisp delicacies look rather elegant.

French Palmiers

  • 140g/5oz ready-rolled all butter puff pastry (the best quality you can afford or make your own)
  • 25g/1oz superfine (caster) sugar*
  • 1 tsp ground Ceylon cinnamon (optional)
For the sugar, I use superfine aka caster sugar but if you prefer the crunch and flavor of specialty sugars, you can substitute demerara or another coarse-grained sugar. Brown sugar or granulated sugar also work just fine but make a sweeter palmier.

  1. Preheat the oven to 220° C (425° F).
  2. Take a sheet of ready-rolled all butter puff pastry and unroll, leaving it on the paper.
  3. Mix the sugar and cinnamon (if using) together in a bowl, then sprinkle over the pastry to lightly cover. Make sure your filling reaches all the corners of the pastry. Roll it gently onto the pastry sheet with a rolling pin to help it stick.
  4. Starting from one of the long edges, roll the pastry up tightly to the centre then repeat from the other side.
  5. Roll up the pastry in its original paper to help with definition.
  6. Chill before baking to ensure the palmiers hold their shape. If you are short of time, place them in the freezer for 20 minutes.
  7. Flour your knife and cut the pastry roll into slices just thinner than 1cm (1/2 in).
  8. Arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet leaving a slight gap in between for the pastries to expand.
  9. Cook on a high shelf in your pre-heated oven for 12 to 15 minutes - or until the pastry is crisp, golden and caramelized.
  10. Use a palette knife to ease the palmiers off the baking parchment and let cool on rack.
  11. Serve with pots of tea or cups of coffee or whatever strikes your fancy.

These cookies are really nice treats – very easy to make, but looking very sophisticated. Handy for those times when you want something fancy, but don’t have the time or inclination to put in a lot of work.

These can also be varied to include a bit of different spice with the sugar (nutmeg, cardamom), just sugar no spice or make savory versions using pesto, tapenade or grated cheese such as Parmiggiano Reggiano in place of the sugar.

I must say that I was rather pleased with the way my French Palmiers looked liked when I served them in these lovely bowls - pottery market visits are a great way to spend a Sunday and get a lot of inspiration.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Cottage Cooking Club - June 2017 Recipes

The month of June marks the fifth month of our second project for our international online cooking group, The Cottage Cooking Club. Presently we are cooking our way through a wonderful, family-friendly cookbook written by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, entitled „River Cottage Every Day". And the optional „Love your Leftovers“ by the same author.

This month I prepared five recipes from River Cottage Every Day. I will write about each dish in the order in which I prepared them.

The first recipe for my June post is the Leftover Pork with Fennel and new Potatoes (page 212) from the chapter Thrifty Meat. I believe this is a recipe that a few of the CCC members have already prepared and enjoyed very much.

Fennel ranks as one of my very favorite vegetables of all times. I love the taste of caramelized fennel, its anisseed flavor particularly complements pork, fish or chicken so well. My love of fennel started with an Ottolenghi recipe that I first made ages ago and that made me a fennel lover at once – since then I have cooked fennel more times that I care to count. I love it best when thinly sliced, crisp, cold and raw or caramelized, soft and with a distinctive sweetness.

Add some fried new potatoes to leftover pork and sautéed fennel and you will have a new family favorite – if your family is like mine and enjoys the taste of fennel, that is.

This recipe has a very familiar flavor combination. Pork, fennel and potatoes. I used thinly sliced pork tenderloins here and I like to add slices of pan-seared lemon wedges, fennel fronds or chopped fresh dill for added flavor (and for looks, of course). I also love to serve green olives and chuncks of feta or goat cheese alongside. It is also a nice idea to serve a nice loaf of Ciabatta or baguette with this dish, to mop up all the lovely and very tasty pan sauce/cooking juices.

Recipe two is the Corn Bread (page 76) from the chapter Daily Bread. Corn Bread is a type of bread made from cornmeal flour. Corn is a major crop in the US and the southern states in particular use cornmeal to make a wide variety of dishes, including corn bread. Corn bread can include various add-ins such as cheese, spring onions or bacon and is usually baked in a rectangular pan and cooked either thin and crisp or thick, light and airy. It is served with all kinds of dishes, such as deep-fried chicken or bowls of chili, and can be used as the basis of stuffing for turkey.

I usually make the plain version but you can vary the recipe by adding other ingredients, just let your imagination and your left-overs be your guide. This is certainly a a simple, quick, yeast-free bread that can be put together in no time.

Recipes three, four and five for the month of June are the Digestive Biscuits aka Cookies (page 88) from the chapter Daily Bread, the Fridge Jam (page 50) from the chapter Making Breakfast and Macerated Fruits (page 336) from the chapter The Whole Fruit.

In general, digestive biscuits are hard, semi-sweet biscuits sometimes known as sweetmeal biscuits. While Hugh´s recipe calls for baking podwer, other recipes call for baking soda, believed to have a positive effect on digestion, hence the name. Digestives are light-brown in color and the ingredients include whole-wheat flour (I used part whole-wheat, part spelt flour), quick oats, brown sugar (the quantity will depend on whether you prefer them less or more sweet, sea salt, baking powder, and a bit of milk. You should always store the baked Digestives in an airtight container because any moisture will make the biscuits soggy. Uncooked biscuit dough can be frozen for up to two months, I tried it, it works like a charm.

You can either roll the biscuit dough into a log and chill in the fridge, then slice into rounds or roll out the dough on your work surface and use a biscuit cutter or a glass to cut out rounds. For chocolate digestives, place baked and cooled digestives onto a wire rack and pour over melted chocolate, then allow the chocolate to cool and harden before eating. I dipped half of the batch in dark chocolate – I always thought and still think that Digestives are wonderful with a number of add-tos, such as dark chocolate, jams and fruits or berries. It is fun to get a bit creative here.

Hence, I chose to serve the cooled Digestives with Macerated Fruits. Next time you have more apricots, peaches, strawberries, blackberries or raspberries than you know what to do with, just macerate them. This will amplify the flavor of fruits and berries. The process of adding sugar and a splash of balsamic vinegar or lemon juice (which is what I used) will give additional flavor to fruit and letting it steep over time is known as maceration. The fruit will soften as it macerates, and generate a thin syrup that is saturated with flavor. Because sugar is a natural preservative, macerating is a great method for extending the life of fruits that are less than perfect in appearance or just past their prime.

Fruit prepared this way can last for up to three or four days covered in the fridge. Apricots and sweet cherries is what I had on hand and the Macerted Fruits were indeed wonderful alongside the Digestive Biscuits.

And then there was Hugh´s Fridge Jam. Easy to make and also adaptable to the season. And just perfect with all sorts of biscuits, especially Digestives. Still loving those recipes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

Please note, that for copyright reasons, we do NOT publish the recipes. If you enjoy the recipes in our series, hopefully, the very talented and enthusiastic members of #The Cottage Cooking Club and their wonderful posts can convince you to get a copy of this lovely book or both books.

To see how wonderful all the dishes from my fellow Cottage Cooking Club members turned out this month, please make sure to take a look at their personal links and to do so, just visit here.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Tahini Cookies with Halva, white Chocolate & Sesame Seeds - Time for a Sweet Treat

The other day when our youngest daughter went shopping for groceries with me, she took one look at the items that were stacked high in our shopping cart. Her smile signalling content - did you ever realize, she asked me in a hushed voice, that the things weee buy are always sooo different from the things that a lot of other people buy. I nodded. I smiled. I looked at the halva, the tahini and other lovely things that I was about to put in front of the cashier and, don´t get me wrong, but her remark made me feel proud. She is nine years young. She knows a thing or two about food, about eating well and tasting lots of different foods - all with an open mind. All those foods and baked goods and all those explanations of known and new ingredients are bearing fruits, a thought filling me with joy that day.

With that feeling I realized that it was high time for a treat at the end of a busy day and my daughter went home with me and happily helped me bake one of our favorite cookie recipes. She knows how tó bake cookies, she knows the things we need, she knows how to whisk the dry ingredients, mix the wet ingredients and fold in the add ins. She knows not to overbake them and watch those cookies while they are in the oven and she knows that I always love to serve seasonal fruits or berries alongside freshly baked cookies. And right now I have another two trays of Tahini Halva Cookies in the oven that I usually take out of the oven before they appear fully cooked, so the very heart of these cookies remains slightly chewy.

To me baking cookies is like strolling through my comfort zone, when better to do something familiar than on a day when you are in dire need of feeling comfortable. These days it is something I rarely get the chance to do. Sitting down to coffee or tea and a plate of homemade cookies seems such a luxurious recreational pursuit when we have so much to do.

This is a lovely recipe, just right. Because these treats are baked with rice flour and soft brown sugar, they are tender enough to crumble a little, but well-behaved enough to put in a lunch box. They are studded with creamy white chocolate chunks and sweet halva, with a bit of a salty taste from the sea salt, hints of vanilla and cinnamon as well as a nice amount of black and white sesame seeds for added flavor and texture.

Tahini Cookies with Halva, white Chocolate &  Sesame Seeds  alongside wild Strawberries

  • 100g tahini paste*
  • 125g unsalted butter, softened
  • 125g light brown sugar
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla (I like to use 2 tsps homemade vanilla sugar)
  • 1 egg (M), free-range or organic
  • 250g rice flour
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp ground Ceylon cinnamon
  • 200g plain halva, broken into pieces**
  • 150g white chocolate, broken into pieces (use the very best quality you can find)
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds, for topping (optional)

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F).
  2. Line two baking sheets with baking parchment or silpat non-stick baking mats. Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the tahini, butter and sugar until fluffy.
  4. Add the salt and vanilla (or vanilla sugar), then beat in the egg.
  5. In another mixing bowl, whisk together the rice flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon.
  6. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating just until combined. 
  7. Add the halva and white chocolate pieces, and carefully mix these through the dough.
  8. Scoop portions onto your prepared baking sheets and sprinkle with sesame seeds (optional).
  9. Bake in the oven for 15 to 18 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges.
  10. Transfer the baking sheets to cooling racks.
  11. Let rest a few minutes on the baking sheets until cool.
  12. Transfer cookies to serving platter.
  13. Serve straight away (which is what I do) or store in a cool place in airtight container/cookie tin between layers of parchment paper for up to three days.

*NOTE: for tahini check out markets in your community that specialize in Middle Eastern foods  or try a natural foods store – to find a brand that you like.
**NOTE: for those of you unfamiliar with halva, as this is a Middle Eastern confection typically made from tahini paste, nut butters and sugar, you may have to go to a specific shop to find it but generally, it is available at larger grocery stores and at Middle Eastern markets. While there are many different varieties of halva available, such as the chocolate-marbled one, you should try to use plain or vanilla Arab-style sesame halva for this recipe. Arab-style halva is said to be the best tasting.

There are tiny wild strawberries also called wood strawberries growing in our garden - these berries are incredibly fragrant and taste amazing. So much better than those large varieties that are sold at most markets these days. And so pretty too. When they are in season, like now, I like to add a sprig or two to my serving platters brimming with freshly baked cookies, still a bit warm from the oven.

So, today turned out to be a day that smells of baking cookies, of warm sugar, chocolate, vanilla and cinnamon all set against a warm Sunday afternoon with lots of sunshine. These treats are sending wafts of delight through our house. Yes, this just could be the day I have been waiting for.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Cottage Cooking Club - May 2017 Recipes

The month of May marks the fourth month of our second project for our international online cooking group, The Cottage Cooking Club. Presently we are cooking our way through a wonderful family-friendly cookbook written by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, entitled „River Cottage Every Day". And the optional „Love your Leftovers“ by the same author.

This month I chose a theme for my blog post and prepared seven Breakfast recipes from River Cottage Every Day. I will write about each dish in the order in which I prepared them.

The first and second recipe for my May post are the Baked Breakfast Cheesecake (page 44) and Honey-baked Rhubarb (page 30), both from the chapter Making Breakfast. I chose to make these two recipes together as they seemed to complement each other perfectly when I looked at the recipes while browsing the book.

Although Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall writes that „ I know the idea of cheesecake for breakfast sounds odd…“ to me it does not. Not at all. My dad had a habit of eating a slice of cake for breakfast whenever there was some of the inevitable five-o’clock afternoon coffee cake from the previous day left. Most of the time it was a fruit tart or a Chocolate and Vanilla Marble Cake, sometimes even some German cheesecake.

We used to watch him, while he plunged his cake fork into a slice of leftover cake early in the morning. He enjoyed cake for breakfast and he always felt the need to explain to us that the cake that my mother had baked the day before was just as healthy as your typical German breakfast fare which, back in those days, consistesd of breakfast rolls, cheeses and assorted cold-cuts. Maybe some honey, jams or hard-boiled eggs as well. Or, if you were in a hurry, oatmeal-on-the-run.

So, I had fun trying out this, not so typical, breakfast cake recipe. The most tricky part here is to decide which cheese to chose. Hugh cites ricotta cheese or soft goat cheese – my cheese of choice here is „Quark“, the soft cheese that Germans use for their cheesecake more often than not. And it worked very well. The cake tasted familiar. A bit like German cheesecake. Tangy, not too sweet. Not too heavy. Just right. Not unlike your typical German baked cheesecake, sans crust.

Eating cake for breakfast felt familiar and then I made it again, for dessert. It makes for an easy, simple recipe that you can put together in no time and pair with just about any seasonal fruit. And I love that the recipe calls for oatmeal to thicken the cheese mixture, not flour – that adds a bit of a healthy breakfast feeling, if that is what you need as an excuse to enjoy this lovely treat first thing in the morning.

I know that the combination of rhubarb and cheesecake is popular around here and it is still rhubarb season, so I made the Honey-baked Rhubard (page 30) as a topping. Oh, my! Make this if you can still get your hands on rhubarb where you live or use frozen stalks instead.

I added lovely mild runny honey. The honey was made by the janitor of the school where my husband works as a teacher. The beehives are all set up close to the school and the honey tastes fresh and mild and harmonized so well with the rather tangy rhubarb. Add some orange zest and the scraped seeds of a vanilla bean and you are all set.

So, go ahead add fruit topped cheesecake bliss to your breakfast fare – and do not feel the need to apologize for enjoying it.

Recipe three is the Banana and Oat Thickie (aka Smoothie), page 29, from the same breakfast chapter. The base for this breakfast drink is simple, just two ripe bananas, ice-cold milk, quick oats and ice cubes. I added a pinch each of vanilla sugar and cinnamon. Since I had some raspberries that day that needed to be used up, I added them to one of the two shakes. Both versions were delicious and very filling. Perfect for a busy day – and a fabulous base recipe which works on its own and/or with add-ins. A keeper.

The fourth breakfast recipe for the month of May are the Honey and Peanut Butter Booster Bars (page 39), same chapter.

Hugh calls these "near realatives of the flapjack" and his "antidote to the devil`s work - those big-brand energy bars". Who would have thought making these Muesli Bars (as I like to refer to them would be so darn easy?! No-sugar added crunchy peanut butter, more of that local honey, brown sugar, butter, orange and lemon zest, oats, dried fruits (I used golden raisins, chopped plums, cranberries and dates) as well as mixed seeds (I used pumpkin and white sesame seeds and chopped natural almonds) are all you need for an on-the-go-breakfast treat that keeps well in a cookie tin for a few days. Again, a great canvas recipe that allows you to fashion it according to your personal preferences. Love at first bite.

Recipes number five and six were also a match made in foodie heaven. The Whole-wheat Pancakes (page 40) topped with some Two (or more) Fruit Salad (page 32), both from the breakfast chapter as well.

Our youngest chose these two recipes for her birthday breakfast and was quite delighted with the way they tasted, as were all her guests that had gather around the (late) breakfast table. The recipe also works with spelt flour, I tried, you can go with the self-rising flour or use regular flour and add a bit of baking powder. I am not so sure I know anyone who does not enjoy eating the occasional pancake.

For the Two (or more) Fruit Salad I used sliced apricots, nectarines, strawberries, then blueberries, raspberries and to sweeten the deal I added some lovely homemade elderflower syrup - the elders are growing out of control in our garden, so I have made a lot of syrup, lemonades etc. with the flowers. The syrup adds a sublime flowery note to this.

The last breakfast recipe I made for this post was the Nut Butter (page 52). I have made many nut butters and it is fun experimenting a bit with hazelnuts, almonds, peanuts or cashews. You can toast the nuts before or not, you can leave the skins on or peel the warm toasted nuts by rubbing them in a tea towel. You can add any kind of nut or vegetable oil to the ground nuts, you can add a pinch of sea salt, or cinnamon or other warm spices, you can add some runny honey or you can leave it out. Let you imagination be your guide.

And serve the nut butter on homemade bread, crackers as a dip or spread it on pumpernickel rounds (like I did here). Serve with or without the fruit - but whatever way you chose to make or serve it, try it at least once - you will be a homemade-nut-butter-addict before you know it.

Btw, it is a strangely satisfying feeling to be able to make your own nut butters, smoothies and Muesli bars... I still love cooking from the River Cottage family of cookbooks!

Please note, that for copyright reasons, we do NOT publish the recipes. If you enjoy the recipes in our series, hopefully, the very talented and enthusiastic members of #The Cottage Cooking Club and their wonderful posts can convince you to get a copy of this lovely book or both books. Better yet, do make sure to join us in this cooking adventure.

To see how wonderful all the dishes from my fellow Cottage Cooking Club members turned out this month, please make sure to take a look at their personal links and to do so, just visit here.