Monday, 12 July 2010

Sunshine, Blues Skies, and London's Kew Gardens

We arrived early, coffee in hand, under sunny bright blue skies. We'd never been, and the day was perfect. Summer was in full bloom in London's Kew Gardens which holds the world’s largest collection of living plants.

 Kew’s Palm House, a Victorian iron and glass structure, is considered to be the most important building of its kind in the world. It was designed to house the exotic palms being collected and introduced to Europe in early Victorian times.

 It's gorgeous inside... with so many interesting and beautiful plants, including the oldest potted plant in the world!

Look at the wrought iron spiral staircase, what workmanship. 

This is The Princess of Wales Conservatory, named after Princess Augusta, not Princess Diana, although it was opened in 1987 by Diana, Princess of Wales. The pond within the aquaria section is breathtaking and contains the giant waterlily Euryale ferox. This plant has massive leaves that can span two metres and are strong enough to hold a baby!

We saw interesting sculptures, both indoors and out.

Everywhere I looked, there was something or someone to photograph.

Ever the patient husband, GB posed dutifully for me at every turn.

But even he could only take so much; soon it was lunchtime for us both, and nap time for him while I cruised the rose garden. 

Oh, the colors and the scents. I could have stayed forever.

British summertime, when it makes its magical appearance, there's nothing like it anywhere.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Crab Cakes

Crab Cakes...mmm, they conjure up dinners in the deep south, the deep south of South Carolina. We would travel from coastal town to coastal town, searching out the best crab cakes. Everyone's got a secret, everyone makes them different, but they are all so good. Must be those fabulous blue (or soft ) shell crabs.
Oh, the ambiance of the lowcountry; Spanish Moss laden water oaks, the salt water ocean heavy in the air, sea marshes with mile long tides, a moon low in the sky casting silver white shadows over the sand dunes. It's just a feeling, a feeling that's helped along by a long, deep breath, a long slow look, a "put on the breaks and just be" frame of mind. South Carolina, it's a special place.
We love crab cakes, can you tell? Serve them on a bed of fresh, crisp summer corn and take a little trip down south.

Bed of Crisp Summer Corn

Cut the corn off several ears of fresh summer corn. This is most easily done in a deep bowl with a sharp knife. Do not cut too close to the cob, you only want the tender kernels, not the fibrous cob. Next chop a few green onions, and a bit of red bell pepper. Saute it all quickly (2-3 minutes is plenty) in a skillet over medium high heat in just a knob of butter and a dash of salt.  Don't be afraid to judge the amounts yourself, you can't mess this up, I promise. If you only have corn, saute that up and enjoy. It's a great way to enjoy summer corn, much better than boiling.

Crab Cakes
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 large egg, beaten
¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons freshly lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
2 green onions, green tops only, very thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 ½ cups Japanese breadcrumbs (panko)
2 cans crabmeat
1 cup all-purpose (or plain) flour
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water)
¼ cup canola or vegetable oil
Lime wedges, for garnish

Whisk together the mayonnaise, egg, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, green onions, salt and cayenne  in a large bowl. Add ½ cup of the breadcrumbs, and stir to combine. Divide the mixture into 6-8 equal portions, forming each into a small cake. Refrigerate for at least 30 minute to set cakes. Dredge the crab cakes in the flour, then dip into the egg wash to coat completely; allow the excess to drip back off. Immediately place in the rest of the breadcrumbs, turning to coat well.

Heat medium-size saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the oil and heat through. Carefully add the crab cakes to the hot oil, and cook until golden brown and crusty on the first side, about 3 to 4 minutes. Using a spatula, gently turn the crabcakes over, and cook the other side, about 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove crab cakes and place on paper towels to blot oil. 
Serve with tartare sauce or chipotle mayonaise, which is a dollop of mayonaise mixed with a bit of chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (available in the USA, but haven't found it in the UK yet).They are also tasty with asian chili sauce.