Posts Tagged: blog

Mar 09

Blog: Under the influence


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I keep track of all my cooking in little black book, writing everything down as there have been too many instances of “Wow that was great – what was in it?”. A dash of this and a handful of that all seemed so simple at the time, but by the next day they’re hard to recall.

Reading back over it is a strange and interesting experience. I can see what I cooked for whom and on what occasion. The successes and failures, the phases of eating I went through, the weeks of Asian food followed by French and British, Spanish or Mexican – it’s all there.

Pulled pork tacos with smoky salsa sit alongside frozen plum yogurt.  The latest pages contain various brownie recipes I tried to get just right.

There are empty pages, too, where I’ve meant to write up things the next day or revisit dishes long since forgotten.

The pulled pork recipe is there, but a page sits blank where the salsa should have gone. And sadly the whole experience is so far in the past I can’t even remember the name of the chillies I made it with.

An experiment for another time and a new culinary adventure…

Mar 09

Getting seduced by an early taste of sunshine food


What on earth is going on outside at the moment? One day it’s lunch in the garden, the next it’s stew by the fire!


Although I’m sure the weather’s set to change again, I’ve started to get in the mood for summer, picking up fresh, light stuff to brighten the kitchen, like shiny red peppers and purple aubergines. And I’m already putting together cold platters of salty cheese, Spanish ham and griddled vegetables dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.


This is simple, pleasure food you can throw together quickly and savour slowly on a balmy summer’s evening – those rare ones we seem to get. But then I guess that’s all part of being British – the picnic eaten under a tree in the rain, barbecues cooked beneath an umbrella.


When it’s good, though, it’s great. Those evenings when the sun takes forever to disappear over the horizon and the smell of charcoal drifts on the still-warm air as the muted sounds of the neighbours enjoying their own al fresco experience float over the fence.


Such great times… So sod the cold, cook some summer food right now, even if you have to eat it indoors!


Artichoke, fontina and parma ham turn-over

Ingredients (Serves 4)


  • 100g fontina or other melting cheese like taleggio
  • 5 or 6 slices of Parma ham
  • a tin of artichokes hearts or a packet of griddled ones
  • 1 packet ready rolled puff pastry
  • a few thyme leaves
  • 1 egg, beaten


Pre-heat oven to 225°C. Lay pastry out on an oiled baking sheet. Drain artichokes and slice into quarters. Drape Parma ham over half the pastry, leaving a border of about a centimetre.


Scatter over artichokes and then slice cheese and spread it out over the top.


Scatter over thyme leaves, season with pepper only and then fold pastry over to form a parcel. It will probably be a bit lopsided. Brush the whole thing with beaten egg and bake in the oven for ten minutes or so until golden.


A green salad dressed with a punchy vinaigrette would make a great addition.

Mar 09

Time for tea


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Some days the urge to bake is overwhelming. A few spare hours while pottering round the house doing the usual bits of cleaning, sorting and washing can always be made more enjoyable with a quick stop to bake a cake. The smell that wafts through the house is so heavenly and so warming. And it gets even better when the cake comes out of the oven and you cut a great big warm wedge.  

Madeleines are a dainty alternative and the most light, exquisite cakes imaginable. They are also incredibly beautiful to look at. And this recipe is perfumed, light and super easy. They cook in a little over five minutes, too, which makes them perfect for unannounced guests or an impromptu dinner party.


To make these extra special serve with a scattering of dried rose petals and icing sugar, or some Greek yoghurt on the side.


Pistachio and cardamom madeleines


Madeleine tins are available at all good cook shops. If you don’t have one you can always use a mini-muffin tin.


Ingredients (makes 12)


1 large egg

40g caster sugar

30g ground pistachios

1 lemon

1 cardamom pod

20g icing sugar

50g plain flour

75g butter

A little extra butter for greasing




Mix egg and caster sugar until pale and light. Sieve in plain flour and add ground pistachios and icing sugar and fold together. Add zest and juice of half the lemon.


Remove black seeds from cardamom pod and grind seeds to a powder and add to the mixture.


Butter madeleine tin and place roughly a tablespoon into each hole. Pop tray in the fridge to let butter firm up a bit. Don’t smooth them out – they will do this on their own in the oven.


Pre-heat oven to 200 C. Cook madeleines for five to ten minutes, depending on oven. They are done when risen and cracked slightly in the middle while golden brown at the edges.


Remove from oven and leave for a few minutes before placing on a rack to cool.



Mar 09

Blog: The price of fish

anc_560.jpgI have a theory about food, a sort of philosophy I eat by I suppose. It’s a two-pronged topic which often crops up in conversation with foodie friends.

The first part governs the fact that it seems to only takes a single instance of enjoying a food you don’t like to start to love it. I usually order something new or something I might not be a fan of in very good restaurants, as more often than not it will have been given the sort of treatment to turn it into something spectacular.

And there’s nothing quite like the pleasure of learning to love a foodstuff that people around you have been blathering on about for ages. The gears fall into place and suddenly you understand what they mean.

The second relates to the quality of ingredients. This makes all the difference, which is why good restaurants source their ingredients well.

Take for example, the humble anchovy – prized in Ancient Rome where it was fermented and turned into <i>liquamen</i>, a fishy seasoning like that used in Thai cooking.

Anchovies and I had never been friends. I found their intense fishiness overpowering. It wasn’t for want of trying. I’d used them to season lamb, adding oomph by stuffing fillets inside slits in the meat along with rosemary and garlic.
Then, along came a marginally pricier version, and I was sold. The quality Spanish import was richer, saltier and meatier than anything I’d tasted before and now I am a happy convert.

It’s not about spending a lot more money, but rather buying less of a better thing. So if you’ve got your own foodie phobias, as I have with offal, too, take a chance,  buy a smaller amount of really good quality and see what a difference it makes.

Sep 08

Table Talk

For me one of the greatest pleasures in life is
sharing, and food is at the heart of this.

I cook at home for friends and family and I write
about what I enjoy eating – straightforward, unfussy food that’s
simple to prepare. For me great food is a celebration of good
produce, which needs little done to it to be wonderful.

Thousands of processes,
over-complicated methods and hundreds of utensils just don’t do it
for me. I love honest food – you won’t find any culinary froufrous in
my kitchen – and I have a peculiar fondness for the imperfect: a pair
of carrots intertwined from growing too close; the rough, muddy
surface of a russet apple; the last, rather forlorn looking orange in
a box. Somehow they always taste better for being overlooked. But
maybe I’m just being romantic.

While I’m a big fan of British food, South East Asia
has had a profound impact on my cooking, too, meaning I’m as at home
with lime leaves and lemongrass as I am with gooseberries and

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