Sunday, 17 February 2013

Store-cupboard Tomato Soup and Rock Buns


Sometimes it's not just what you eat but where and when you eat it: tartiflette after a morning tearing down the slopes; churros and chocolate after dancing until the madrugada; paper-wrapped fish and chips at the seaside; a fragrant tagine on the roof-top terrace of a ramshackle restaurant, taking in the exotic sights and smells of Place Djemaa el-Fna in Marrakech. Moments when all seems just right with the world: a coming together of the senses to create that perfect epicurean experience. These are simple pleasures; nothing to do with expensive restaurants, just the beauty of having the right thing to eat for the time and the surroundings. Often serendipitous moments, never to be repeated only cherished. But, occasionally they can become traditions to which you can return when the mood and time is right.




















This week Nick and I headed to one of our favourite beaches at Talacre. The flat-roofed 60s buildings lining the road to the beach promise little, but in winter, once you head over the dunes from the car park, you can find yourself alone on the vast beach but for the odd dog walker and the striking lighthouse. The unsheltered sands are swept by winds that make it perfect for flying a kite and for a blast of cold salty air to make you feel alive. If Evie had been with us we would have built sandcastles whilst trying to hold our hair out of our eyes, instead we just held hands to try and stop the wind from blowing us away. 




















The perfect antidote to all that cold air is a flask of steaming hot tomato soup and a cheese sandwich to dunk. I grate the cheese so that flecks of it melt into the soup, making sure I leave a bit of cheese sandwich to mop up all traces of soup before returning the mug to my bag. Cold, salty wind, sharp cheese and sweet, warming tomato soup; a moment of pure bliss. This was the staple winter picnic on walks along the Scarborough prom in my childhood. On particularly stormy days it was your solace for wet feet when you didn't manage to dodge the crashing waves that splashed up onto the pavement.


















Store-Cupboard Tomato Soup 



















Enough for a 500ml. flask

Olive Oil
1 onion, diced
2-3 garlic cloves
1 can of chopped tinned tomatoes
Chicken or vegetable stock (optional)
A sprinkling of sugar
Salt and Pepper
Pesto and/or a splash of cream (optional) 

Warm the oil in a saucepan on a low-medium heat, add the onions, garlic, a pinch of salt and sugar. Soften for about 15-20 minutes. Add the tinned tomatoes and cook for about 10 minutes until they have darkened and reduced. Fill the tomato tin with water or stock if you have it, add to the soup and cook for a further 10 minutes. Blitz with a hand blender until smooth. Stir through a spoon of pesto or a splash of cream to taste. Keep warm on the heat whilst you   warm your flask by filling it with hot water and leaving to stand for a few minutes. Pour out the hot water and pour in the soup. A mug of pleasure when eaten breathing in the salty air on the sea front with grated cheese sandwiches to dunk. 





















On the journey home I was yearning for something sweet to enjoy fireside with a cup of hot tea. The lighthouse had made me reminisce about a TV programme my brother had enjoyed when we were children. My mum still has his old battered Portland Bill annual in her kitchen cupboard because it holds the recipe she uses for rock buns, a firm family favourite. That rock bun recipe is a treasured item. They are very quick to make on those days when you need cake and you need it now. Even more pleasing is that rock buns are at their best straight from the oven, no need to wait for cooling, and gobbling them all up whilst they are still warm is the perfect excuse for winter walk-induced greed. 


Portland Bill's Rock Buns
Recipe adapted from the 1985 annual




















Makes 12 buns

225 g. self-raising flour
110 g. butter, cut into cubes
50 g. soft light brown sugar
50 g. caster sugar
2 heaped teaspoons of mixed spice
100 g. of mixed dried fruit
50 g. dried apricots
1 egg
3 tbsp. milk



















Preheat oven to 180°C. Rub the butter cubes and flour together in a large bowl until you have a sandy mixture. Add the sugars and mix in with a fork. Add the fruit and stir again. Beat the egg and milk together. Stir into the sandy mixture with the fork. You want something that is slightly wetter than scone mix but still holds a firm shape. Using a dessert spoon, spoon rough balls of mixture onto a baking tray lined with parchment. Bake for 15-20 until slightly browned. Delicious served simply as they are, warm from the oven, though butter and marmalade do make a pleasing addition.























I would love to hear your simple pleasure eating experiences, send me an email, tweet or leave a comment and inspire me with your favourite food/time/place/season combinations. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the recipes. Vic x





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