A Brit, a Yank and a Kitchen

Thursday, November 11

Turtle Soup

Living in Florida opens up some great adventerous seafood eating opportunities, and we just happen to live very close to an awesome little fish market that specializes in local catches. Every visit there are different offerings from the waters of Florida. From the big prize fish like tuna and swordfish, to less known local river fish and fresh specialties like alligator and frog.

I've seen turtle at this particular market before, but only frozen, and I am hesitant to buy frozen seafood with the sea at my doorstep. However today they had fresh soft shell turtle, and I didn't hesitate to grab some!

Now before anyone freaks out and says, ZOMG cute turtle! Or ONOES they are protected! Trust me, these guys aren't any cuter than an alligator -and living right beside them, they have to hold their own- and are definitely not sweet little gentle slow pokey creatures, they can actually be quite aggressive. Combine that with their great abundance in just about every single pond and river you can find (which is a lot), they are perfectly legal to hunt in Florida, during their season of course.

Turtle isn't as wild and exotic as you might think. The flavor is quite nondescript, and quickly picks up the flavors of what it is being cooked with. Which is probably why the most popular recipe for turtle soup is very robust with ingredients like cayenne, tomato, lemon and Worcestershire Sauce.


For the Stock:
1 lb turtle (soft shell, or snapping turtle), bone in
4 cups water
1 onion, quartered
2 Tablespoons whole peppercorns

For the Soup
Meat separated from the stock, bones removed and cut into small pieces
1 quarter onion
2 Tablespoons tomato puree
1 half lemon
1 Tablespoon Cayenne
2 Tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
2 Tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tablespoon Flour
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
Ground pepper and salt to taste

In a pot bring water to a boil and add cleaned turtle meat, 3/4 onion and peppercorns.
Let simmer slowly until the meat begins falling off the bones, approx 2 hours.
Strain Stock and return it to the pot. Remove turtle meat from the bones and cut into small pieces, then return the meat to the stock, keeping on a low simmer.

Dice remaining quarter onion and sautee in olive oil in a pan until translucent. Add flour and stir until thickened into a roux. Add a ladle of the turtle stock and stir until thickened. Stir in tomato paste. Pour contents of pan into the stock pot and stir until well blended. Add parsley, cilantro, cayenne, juice from the lemon, Worcestershire Sauce, pepper and salt to taste.

Serve and enjoy what was once a delicacy to Presidents and across Victorian England. Now its simply a local pleasure.

Friday, October 29

Olive Focaccia

This is a bread I've been baking for years, and it is absolutely epic. Doesnt even need butter, but if you're feeling particularly decadent, go for it and dip a chunk of that bad boy in some seasoned olive oil or slather on that butter. You won't die, I promise... not right now anyways!

So here ya go.... the ULTRA SEKRIT RECIPE!

3 cups bread flour
1tsp salt
1 sachet yeast
2 T olive oil
9 oz warm water
a whole mess of Kalamata olives, pitted and halved

(for topping)
More friggin olives
2 T olive oil
Sea salt
Thyme or rosemary or whatever


Sieve the flour into a mixing bowl and stir in salt followed by the yeast. Pour in the olive oil and water and mix it all together to form a dough.

Turn out the dough on a floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes.

Place the dough in an olive oil greased bowl and cover for about 1.5 hours until it has doubled in size. Knock back the dough by kneading it again for a minute or 2.

Knead half the olives (the ones you wont be using for topping) into the dough. Drop some in, fold it over, drop some more in, fold it over, rinse, repeat... you get the idea.

Divide the dough into quarters and then shape them into rounds. Place them onto a nonstick or greased cookie sheet and push little dimples into the tops with your fingers. Drizzle oil all over the tops then sprinkle with salt and herbs. Stick the remaining olives wherever you think they look nice, I usually stick'em in those dimples, they seem to stay put there.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until they are golden.

Transfer to a wire rack and let them cool.... This step doesnt usually work too well for me and I play hot potato while trying to tear a chunk off to munch down while its still burning hot!

They only last a couple of days so eat'em quick or give them to people you like. :)

Monday, October 18

Masoor Dal & Raita

So we've decided to cut out mass produced meats from our diet.

Yup... me... Queen Carnivore of the World... is reducing meat from her diet.

Not because I buy into the evangelical preachings of PETA, or because I believe ZOMG animal fats are POISON (I'm pretty sure the human race would have died out long ago if that were the case). My reasons are simply because the meat "industry" is destroying part of our human culture (farming), and killing off entire species and replacing them with quite unnatural meat producing science projects. Creatures that are treated just like that, a product, an invention. I just want to do my part to help support those farmers who are literally fighting the fight to keep some quite ancient traditions, and breeds, alive.

We had for the most part already cut out big industry beef by purchasing our beef from Peter at Running River Ranch... but I was still buying tyson chicken and mystery pork.

So as of last week, our meals have been mostly veggies bought at our local produce market (that specializes in local organic produce), as well as fish bought from our fish market, which also sources all of its fish from local fishermen. Thank you Florida waters!

And for the occassional treat, I've been seeking out local farmers who raise and pasture feed heritage breeds, such as the beef bacon I scored at the farmers market. Still trying to find a source for chicken however. In any case, besides fish, meat will be a rare, maybe weekly event on our table.

All of this brings us to last nights dinner, which will probably become a staple as Dave is a huge curry fan! So flavorful and so filling. I've decided there is something mentally wrong with people who don't like Indian food!! ;)

Masoor Dal

  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 1 half large onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ginger root, minced
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato puree
  • 2 cup peas


  1. Wash the lentils in cold water until the water runs clear, put the lentils in a pot with water to cover and simmer covered until lentils tender - approx 30 minutes.
  2. While the lentils are cooking: In a saucepan, saute the onions and garlic in vegetable oil.
  3. While the onions are cooking, combine the curry paste, curry powder, turmeric, cumin, chili powder, salt, sugar, and ginger in a mixing bowl. Mix well. When the onions are cooked, add the curry mixture to the onions and cook over a high heat stirring constantly for 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Stir in the tomato puree and reduce heat, allow the curry base to simmer until the lentils are ready.
  5. Drain the lentils and mix them and the peas into curry base and serve immediately.

Cucumber and Tomato Raita

This recipe is ridiculous easy... you pretty much don't even need a recipe.

I use greek yogurt, about a cup, dice up about a quarter of a cucumber and a quarter of a tomato
and blend it into the yogurt, adding a bit of water until its a consistency I like.

You can mix all sorts of stuff into a raita for different flavors, cilantro, cumin, even fruit. It is usually served to help soften the blow of the spicy curry. ;)

Saturday, October 16

Farm Fresh Breakfast

This mornings breakfast! I scored big time at the farmers market! Found a local farmer who has pasture raised cattle and sells all sorts of grass fed beef -Deep Roots Meats. I also found someone selling raw dairy and fresh eggs. So for breakfast was bread I baked this morning with raw butter smeared all over, farm fresh eggs, and beef bacon! Who'da thunk! Beef bacon! Nice alternative for folks who can't eat pork! And it was gooood.

Beef bacon comes from the belly, or "navel", of the cow, just like pork bacon does. :) It was salt cured... really awesome.. at first you get the salt and fat and it seems like bacon, then you're suddenly hit with this intense beef flavor. Its like steak & eggs meets bacon & eggs! Epic breakfast for sure.

Saturday, July 3

Beef Wellington

Because what Dave wants for his birthday dinner, Dave gets for his birthday dinner.

It has become a bit of a tradition now that I make Dave whatever he can dream up for his birthday dinner no matter how outlandish. One year it was Lobster Thermadore, another it was surf and turf along with escargots.

This year Dave wanted Beef Wellington. The most challenging part of this, finding a whole beef tenderloin. And as luck would have it, Publix came through and just happened to have one, which they kindly cut in half for me. I love Publix.

I was a bit nervous about cooking up a very expensive cut of meat, hidden away inside of a pastry shell, where I had no familiar method of telling its doneness, no touch, no visual... just had to go on instinct on this one.

So I read through quite a few different recipes for Beef Wellington, and took tips and instructions from a few, like searing the beef and letting it cool back down before wrapping it in pastry, to prevent the juices from making the pastry itself soggy. Good tip I thought.

It was much easier than I had anticipated. I had visions of presenting it to Dave and him promptly throwing it on the floor and calling me a donkey a la Gordon Ramsay. But to my delight, I cut timidly through the shell and into the meat, and it was perfect! My first Beef Wellington, SUCCESS!

So I'll share the recipe I created by combining about half a dozen I dug out of books and the interwebs.

Beef Wellington with Foie Gras Pate and Wild Mushrooms


  • 1 beef tenderloin, trimmed (I cut mine down to be small enough for just 2 portions, the rest is in the freezer for future noms.)
  • .5 lb assorted wild mushrooms (I had shiitake, cremini, woodear, chanterelle)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 oz smooth pate (I used a foie gras & truffle pate)
  • 2 T butter
  • 3 T fresh flat leaf parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1lb ready made puff pastry
  • 1 beaten egg to glaze

Let the beef sit until it reaches room temperature. Then, in a lightly oiled pan on high, sear the outside of the beef without leaving it long enough to begin cooking through. You just want a sear here. Set the beef aside and allow it to cool back down.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a large skillet and cook the onion until they begin to soften, then add the mushrooms and continue cooking for about another 5 minutes until they are soft and nicely colored. Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set the mushrooms aside to cool.

Once the mushrooms have cooled, bled in gently into the pate and set aside.

Roll out the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface to a sheet large enough to enclose the beef. Spread the pate mixture down the middle of the pastry and lay the beef on top of the mixture. Brush the edges of the pastry with the beaten egg and fold the pastry around the meat into a neat parcel. Place the meat onto a baking sheet, seam side down (pate side up), and brush the pastry all over with the remaining egg.

Bake for 40 minutes or so, until the crust is golden and puffed up. Transfer to a serving board and LET IT REST FOR 10 MINUTES!

Cut into thick slices and serve.

We had this with a green salad and some beautiful little potatoes, parboiled and sauteed in butter. And of course a side of English mustard.

Sunday, March 7

Highland Cattle Beef: Sirloin

Yesterday we made a 240 round trip journey to Zephyrhills Florida for one purpose. To visit a very special cattle rancher. His name is Peter, and runs the Running River Ranch in Virginia, with his wife Patty, raising these beautiful animals.

I'll be using his hides for use in my leatherwork. I have a separate post over on my art blog if you're interested in hearing me yammering on about that.

But of course, the hides isn't what keeps his business booming. It is the beef. And being the food nerd I am, I had to try his Highland Cattle beef.

You may or may not remember my adventure a few years back acquiring a quarter of a whole free range, grass fed motherload. This wasn't quite the epic haul. But the beef was equally astounding.

The Highland Beef Haul, left ot right:
kidneys, tongue, heart, another kidney, another heart, 4 ground beef patties, 2 massive sirloin steaks, and a beef eye round.

Running River Ranch's beef is fantastically flavorful. Tender despite its lower fat content. Rich and beautiful, everything you would expect from cattle raised in an environment they're meant to be. Outside, eating grass, rolling around, and just being cows.

Now grass fed beef is naturally much leaner than mass produced, corn fed, never get to walk around, beef you buy in the supermarket. The general rule I hear is "slow and low".

But I don't particularly live by this rule. Depending on the cut of meat... if you know what you're doing... you can get an excellent seared medium-rare steak (the way I like it).

I have the stove and oven method of cooking grass fed cuts in the post I linked above, but today, I wanted to try it on the grill.

Obviously, I wanted to TASTE the meat... so absolutely no marinades, just kosher salt and freshly ground pepper pressed into the flesh.


Most importantly, make sure your meat is at room temperature before cooking. Otherwise you will end up with a piece of meat that is dry and overcooked on the outside, and raw in the center. This is a VERY important step. Don't skip it and then come back complaining it didnt work right.

Crank that grill up as high as it will go. We had it at 500 degrees. Just before plopping it onto the grill, drizzle some olive oil on the side you will be putting on the grill.

You're going to be working fast here, 3-4 minutes on each side should about do it if you like it medium rare like we do.

Once you've flipped the steak once, put a nice nob of butter on top (dont be shy) and let it finish cooking, watch for flare ups as the butter drips down into the flames. Do not be afraid. Fear makes bad cooks!

Once its cooked to your liking, take it off the grill and let it rest for about 5 minutes. This is also important, you need to let the juices that have been rapidly moving inside from the intense heat slow down and re-settle. This is essential to a juicy tender steak.

After you've had your moment with your inner Highland caveman with all that fire and flaming meat. ENJOY!

Tuesday, January 26

Home Made Chicharrones

Also known as, Pork cracklins.

I've always been huge fan of all forms of pork, especially kinds that include a nice crispy skin. This does not include the horrible bastardization of pork rinds you find all across America that are so distant from their original incarnation theyve become nothing more than lightly flavored pork Styrofoam.

So wouldnt it be my luck, that once again, I find another oddity at Publix. Sort of like that heart I found a while back. I was looking through the pork cuts when my eyes landed on a simple small pack of pork skin. Just... pork skin. And only one. 46 cents. I grabbed it and rummaged through the rest of the pork, but indeed this one the only one... I have never seen pork skin at Publix before..... usually the skin is removed from every cut of pork the is sold in the US.. due to our strange squeemishness of sush things. Little do we realize, like the rest of the world knows, that this is probably one of the tastiest bits on the pig.
Americas most neglected pig bit.

So I took my little piece of skin home and prepared some chicharrones.

First, I cut the skin into little squares, and simmered them, skin side down, in water mixed with about 1 TBSP of baking soda for about 10 minutes. This supposedly conditions the skin for frying.

Once drained, cooled and very thoroughly dried (you're about to fry these and water + oil is NOT good) , I added a tiny bit of oil to my cast iron pan, and began frying the skin, fat side down first, to render the fat and finish crisping any meat still attached. Then, flipped them over to the skin side and let them crisp up til golden and bubbly. And drained them on a paper towel just like you would bacon. At this point while they were still hot, I sprinkled a generous amount of salt all over them. Salt is the only seasoning you should need, as the pork flavor on its own is wonderfully savory and strong.

I will say though... be prepared for some massive popping and splattering!!! I even had one piece completely jump out of the pan.

They turned out very tasty.... really wish it was easier to find skin like this. I was very pleased with my first attempt at home made chicharrones. :)