Simon and Amy Dewar, food bloggers at CharlotteJulienne.blogspot.com, want you to expand your culinary horizons.
Their blog, which chronicles their adventures together in their kitchen as well as their Berkshire dining experiences, boasts recipes featuring ingredients like rabbit and alligator, and the photos are luscious.
The Dewars are sort of an unlikely pair: Simon, retired from the British Army, is now hotel manager at Blantyre in Lenox, and was living in Canada when he met Amy, who was living in Massachusetts, online. After two and a half years, they eloped, and have had the blog since 2011. Their most popular recipe? A take on whiskey gum, similar to wine gum.
There's some serious technique involved in many of their posts. A sous vide rabbit/confit rabbit with rabbit sauce, corn, potato and celeriac is the most recent recipe, and involves rolling applewood smoked bacon around two rabbit loins, then vacuum-packing the whole thing in plastic, then cooking it in a water bath for 26 minutes.
But there are simple recipes, too: a traditional British tea cake made with Yorkshire Tea is easy to put together. The most complicated step involves letting berries steep for at least an hour.
"Since we first met, we've always cooked together all the time," Simon said. "The kitchen is very much the center of our home." He added that a good -- but not too expensive -- bottle of wine is usually involved.
Simon said his inspiration for some of the more unconventional recipes comes from his travels: He's been all over the world with the British Army. "In Africa, no one thinks twice about eating crocodile or zebra," he said. "Why not try these other foods?"
After retiring, he went to a culinary institute in Connecticut, and served his externship at Blantyre, where he was asked to stay on as manager. He missed cooking when he was in the Army -- everyone eats at a mess hall, so making yourself a meal is a rarity -- so he took it up as a second career "which might sound a little bit glamorous but really isn't," he said.
Inspiration also comes from cookbooks -- he and Amy, who is a dance teacher at the MacDuffie School in Granby, have a study jam-packed with them. Simon said he tries to keep his work at Blantyre separate from the blog, but the work of Arnaud Cotar, the executive chef there, often inspires him to try new things.
The presentation and the photos are simple and pretty, but there's a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes into the final image.
"We think about the final plate, what it's going to look like," before it's assembled, Simon said.
Their kitchen isn't the brightest, so they often take plates outside or set up lights with a large card to reflect it back on the meal.
When you're married, you're a team, but it isn't always easy for everyone to keep that in the front of their minds. Simon said he and Amy both had practice -- they'd both been married before, and their devotion for one another comes out subtly on the blog. "I think I can safely say we've never had an argument," he said.
TRADITIONAL YORKSHIRE TEA CAKE
NOTE: The Dewars use metric measurements on the blog. I translated them to American for you.
10.6 oz. chopped berries -- they used dates and cranberries, but any dried fruit will work
3.5 oz. light brown sugar
1.8 oz. butter
1/4 cup orange juice
7.9 oz. flour
1 tsp baking powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees; grease a bread pan and line with parchment paper.
Make a good, strong brew of Yorkshire Tea.
Add the tea to the berries; let steep for at least an hour.
In a bowl, cream together butter and sugar.
Beat in one egg until combined.
Add the chopped fruit and all the tea, plus the orange juice.
Add the baking powder to the flour. Beat wet and dry ingredients together.
Spread the batter evenly in the bread pan. Sprinkle the top with sugar.
Bake for one hour; test with a skewer. The bread is done when the skewer comes out clean when inserted into the center.
Turn out and cool on a wire rack; serve, preferably with a cup of tea.
More recipes ...
Charlottejulienne.blogspot.com: Two foodies cook together, exploring technique through innovative recipes and a diverse, extensive cookbook collection.
Charlotte Julienne is also on BerkshireEagleBlogs.com, our official blog site, where you can find blogs about everything from weather to theater to healthy living.
Are you a Berkshire food blogger? If you'd like us to consider you for a feature in the food section, please email Food Editor Francesca Olsen at Folsen@berkshireeagle.com, or contact her via Twitter @FrancescaBShanks.