Posts Tagged: summer

Apr 11



Some people might think I’m a bit bonkers, some would think me a little keen, but what can I say? I’m a big fan of the barbecue. And as a result, we had the first one of the year on Saturday.

Admittedly, we ate inside and we were cooking by torchlight rather than the afterglow of a beautiful summer’s day, but hey – this is England and we’ll do what we can.

We had langoustines with chimichurri -the sweet flesh given a welcome smoky char from the coals. There was also sea trout with barbecued fennel and parmesan aioli, topped off with capers and toasted almonds and baba ganoush given all the more oomph from the flames.

Skewers of marinated vegetables brushed with thyme and rosemary from the balcony also featured with the humble sausage – is any food finer when given the hot coal treatment?

Stuffed in soft rolls, blobbed with ketchup and mustard along with a few slivers of raw onion for some sweet crunch, this is the stuff that dreams are made of – and made a chilly night on the balcony warm through and through.

Mar 11

Summery ceviche


As you’re all no doubt aware, I get a little excited when the sun starts to come out a bit more regularly.
My cooking changes. Out go the braises, even if the temperature dictates. They will, of course, be back as soon as I go out for a while and remember quite how cold it is.

But for now – light salads paired with good sourdough, a Thai-style mackerel dish, poached fruit with natural yogurt and one of my new favourites – ceviche.

The technique of ‘cooking’ fish is believed to come from South or Central America. It’s one of those lovely ideas lost in the mists of time. Peru is one spot cited most often. It’s lip-smackingly fresh, sharp from limes, fiery from chillies and ultra-healthy.

There are few dishes you’ll eat and feel so virtuous afterwards. There are plenty of variations you can make at home – changing the fish, the herbs, the citrus – but one golden rule – buy the freshest fish you can from a fishmonger!

Click here for my recipe for sea bass ceviche

Aug 10

We’re jamming


I’ve been jamming and pickling like crazy of late – the summer fruit season is drawing, along with the summer itself, to a close and stocking up is the order of the day. I’m not one for new fangled jams – crosses with herbs, spices, roots, with rhubarb and ginger, strawberry and rose. I like the classics – a good plum jam is unbeatable and needs no dressing up. The same goes for damsons – but they require some patience for fishing out the stones.

My fridge is chocker with gooseberry chutney, pickled damsons, pickled cherries, blackberry conserve, greengage jam, mixed berry jam and the last spoonfuls of my mum’s delicious three fruit marmalade from earlier in the year. Fine – I’m a hoarder – but the blackcurrant vodka sitting on the shelf brewing nicely has got dinner party written all over it.

I prefer jams a little runnier, like the greengage jam below. Less sugar means a tarter jam – my preference. If you like it thicker or sweeter add more sugar. Buy a sugar thermometer to get your timing right – or use the old saucer in the freezer trick, detailed in the recipe.

Click here to read my recipe for greengage jam

Aug 10

Knee jerk reaction


Isn’t it the way? As soon as we have any glimmer of sunshine out comes the barbie, the bangers, the
burgers and the buns. There aren’t many food stuffs I’d rate higher than the barbecued sausage – that crunchy char on the outside, the smoky flavour imparted by the coals and the rich, juicy interior
(perfectly cooked, we hope!).

I do get a bit fed up of the other usual standbys though which is why when I cooked for a group of
friends recently I opted to go for something a little different.

My friend Helen has been working on her recipe for jerk marinade for a while now and I’ve followed her endeavours on her cracking blog waiting till she was really pleased with it. It was the perfect thing to cook for the barbecue – beautiful organic chicken wings in a sweet, fiery, tangy marinade that turned the wings deliciously chewy with just the right amount of spice.

It’s so good, in fact, that I’ve got a load of pork ribs cooking in the oven as I write and the smells are tantalising me away from the keyboard. Thankfully, Helen was more than happy to let me share her recipe here – so get cooking!

Click here for Helen Graves’ jerk chicken

Jul 10

Stored away


I love finding an old recipe I thought I’d lost. It’s a constant struggle in the kitchen when developing recipes to write everything down as you go along – it rather interrupts the creative flow and natural rhythm that one finds – the little dash of this, the little hint of that.

It happens more often when I cook at other people’s houses – as happened last weekend. I threw together a few salads for a barbecue and then got an email the next day asking me for the recipes. A splash of this, a handful of that, a half inch worth of lentils in the bottom of a saucepan – approximations from intuition rather than anything else – and, I suspect, the way most of us cook at home.

The point, though, is sometimes it is rather nice to scrawl something somewhere – on the back of a postcard, on the lid of a cereal box or in a little black book. Given the age of digital media, I often email myself a recipe and quite often forget about them, until a year later they turn up for some reason or other. This is just one of those recipes – delicious served at room temperature with a barbecue or as a light lunch with good, toasted sourdough rubbed with garlic, as in Alice’s recipe last week

Click here to read my recipe for Runner bean and chorizo stew, perfect with the barbecue

Jul 10

Subtle Spanish style


I love the Spanish approach to food and their ethos – choose great quality ingredients and serve them in as simple a way as possible. It’s a practice that many a UK chef could learn a lot from. A little deftness of hand, a little seasoning or greenery here and there and you’re away.

I’m a little biased but my favourite Spanish chef happens to be one of my great friends, Jose Pizarro – and as such I frequently get to eat incredible Spanish food. Quite often he’ll serve something and I’ll ask how he’s made it; he smiles knowingly and says “I opened a tin”. Indeed – Spanish tinned fish is often more expensive than the fresh stuff and is regarded as something of a delicacy.

That is not to say that he isn’t also a brilliant chef – some of his recipes are astounding in taste, simplicity and creativity. I made his gazpacho Extremadura on a boiling day recently, cooled down with ice cubes and it was bliss. This recipe, for his salad dressing, is probably the most incredible dressing I’ve ever tasted. Seek out the ingredients (which are readily available online) and make it – you’ll be hooked.

Click here for Jose Pizarro’s Moscatel vinaigrette with orange blossom honey

Jun 10

Cooking secrets



Everyone’s got them. A closely guarded family recipe, a grandmother’s explicit instruction or secret ingredients whispered to you by professional chefs.

Sometimes they are used daily in cooking; others, like my addition to guacamole, are stored away only to ping up at an opportune moment. A lack of oomph in the green sauce I made last week led to the memory trickling back of a chef telling me to use Tabasco to add punch, spice and depth to a guacamole – and it works a treat. It’s vinegary heat is an ideal counterpart to
the creamy avocado.

A little tip from Jeffrey Steingarten, the famous American food critic, tv personality and author – once you’ve got avocados ripe at room temperature, store them in a paper bag in the fridge. They’ll stay ripe for around a week to 10 days.

Spicy guacamole

Jun 10

Mixing it up with mayo



There are few things in life as pleasurable to eat as a slice of cold roast chicken dunked in mayonnaise; chomping down on last night’s supper got me thinking about variations.I’d made a honey and wholegrain mustard mayo and a sweet chilli and lime version but thought I should probably start to get a bit more creative.
I threw it open to the floor on Twitter as I often do and suggestions came flooding back – it’s such a great way to get hundreds of hugely varied opinions from people all over the world and a great inspiration for the home-cook.

Here are a few ideas for you to try with your barbecue over the summer; they are also fantastic for dunking potato wedges in as well as for jazzing up sarnies.

A special thank you must go to my great friend Elly who runs the brilliant Pear Cafe in Bristol ( – more than half of these must be hers that she serves up in her place every day – and makes me jealous I don’t live near there. I’ve been trying to wrestle her butterscotch brownie recipe from her but alas, no joy yet!

For all the below simply mix with mayonnaise.
•    Wasabi and black sesame seed
•    Harissa
•    Jerk seasoning
•    Tamarind paste
•    Mint and lemon
•    Tarragon
•    Red chilli, coriander and lime
•    Roasted garlic
•    Curry powder and spring onion
•    Smoked paprika
•    Tandoori masala powder
•    Pickled lemons
•    Sundried tomato puree
•    Wasabi and pickled ginger
•    Mango chutney and lime with nigella seeds

May 10

Milkshake madness


It is not without some sense of irony that I sit down to write this as the sun disappears! Over the few scorching days I’ve been enjoying my favourite thing, ice cream, until I can eat no more.  Sorbets, ice cream cones, tubs, sandwiches, wedged between cookies, in sundaes and in milkshakes – I’ve done some serious cramming!

Milkshakes are really the best of all worlds – you get to eat your pud while you’re having your main course – which I did the other day at my local burger joint, Byron, in Islington. They do a killer Oreo milkshake, the (shockingly easy) recipe I managed to swipe off them for your slurping pleasure.

Click here for the Byron Oreo Cookie Milkshake recipe

Aug 09

What’s up doc – a cracking carrot soup



Well, that’s all folks – it seems summer has slinked over without even a whisper. We’ve had glimmers of hope in the last few weeks but I’m rather resigned to the fact that we’ve had the last of the barbecues (although last year I had one in September). This weather just seems to call for bangers and mash, toad in the hole, roast Sunday lunches and warming bowls of soup.This soup is a perfect example of one that you could change depending on the weather. Ideally it is served at room temperature as a summer soup, but if the day is dull and you need cheering up, feel free to serve it warmed through.

The recipe comes from one of my favourite pubs, The Old Bear, sister to The Albion in Islington, which does one of the best Sunday lunches around.

Carrot soup with toasted hazelnuts and pink grapefruit
Buy the best carrots you can for this, preferably organic – they are the star of the show

Ingredients (Serves 2)

  • 500g organic carrots
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 1 star anise
  • 5g salt
  • 1 peeled clove of garlic
  • 500ml water


  • ½ pink grapefruit
  • 10g hazelnuts
  • 30ml groundnut oil or vegetable oil
  • 10g pitted green olives
  • 5 leaves of tarragon chopped
  • 5 leaves of coriander chopped or coriander microcress


Peel the carrots. Slice them into even sized pieces. Heat a pan and add the butter and when it starts to bubble add the carrots, garlic, star anise and salt. Place a lid on the pan and allow the carrots to soften.

When they begin to soften, add the water and bring it up to the boil; simmer until the carrots are completely cooked.

Remove the star anise. Take the carrots and the liquid and place in a blender, taking care not to fill it too much. Blitz the soup until smooth. Remove from the jug and allow to cool.

For the garnish, warm the groundnut oil in a pan over a medium heat and toast the hazels until they go golden. Tip them out on to a plate to cool down and reserve the oil. Once the nuts are cold take a rolling pin and hit each nut once just to crush it a little bit.
Cut each olive in 8 pieces. Skin the grapefruit and remove four segments. Dice into five pieces.

Serve the soup at room temperature. Pour into a bowl and top with the garnishes; finish by adding the herbs and a little of the oil you kept from the hazelnuts.

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