Monday, December 26, 2011

TURKEY PIE

For when we run out of ideas but are still staring at the meat...

TURKEY, HAM AND LEEK PIE
for Boxing Day

ingredients

serves 2-3

25g butter (extra for greasing)
1 large leek, finely sliced into rounds
1 medium sized carrot, roughly chopped
glug white wine
150ml fresh stock (turkey, ham or chicken)
50ml single cream
1tbsp wholegrain mustard
1tbsp Dijon mustard
100g leftover turkey, shredded
100g leftover ham, shredded
small bunch tarragon, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
flour
100g block puff pastry, rolled thin and cut to fit the oven dish
1tbsp milk to brush pastry

Preheat the oven to 200C/ 400F.

Butter a medium-sized oven dish.

Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the leeks. Fry until soft and add the carrot. Now add the white wine and stock and turn up the heat so the alcohol in the wine burns off. Stir in the cream and the mustards. Allow to simmer for approx. 10 minutes until the liquid has reduced by 1/2.

Now add the shredded meats and warm through for a minute or two. Add the tarragon and season with salt and pepper. Be wary that the stock and meat will add their own saltiness. Pour the pie filling into the dish.

Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to about 3mm thick. Cut a little larger than the top of the oven dish and lightly place it on top of the filling. Lightly and evenly brush the pastry with milk and place in the oven to bake for 20 minutes. The pastry should be golden brown and puffy when you take it out.

Serve with blanched and buttered spring greens or leftover sprouts.

Boxing Day done.

Monday, December 19, 2011

ENOKI MUSHROOM, JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE AND SHALLOT TART

There is very little I don't like about food. I eat most of it, grotty or not. But one thing that gets me goat is colourlessness; food which arrives monochrome on the plate. All that comes to cloud the mind is, well, beiiiige, and apart from last season's trench coat, it's not a colour which really lights me up.

Think of the joy when purple beetroot is layered with sweet potato in a gratin - it perks up the chicken rather a lot, don't you think? A bowl of porridge is just gruel to the beholder unless drizzled with a berry compote or a raisin or two. Brie is brie, but not with a dollop of quince jelly. I'm not saying chuck any old rainbow together - if the flavours work, it can make for instant brightness. Call it fussy...

So after all that, I seem to have called the kettle black with a recipe entirely made from beige. And even when - for my aesthetic OCD - I spooned a bit of red tomato jam next to it, I really wish I hadn't.

This is what I like to call the 'winter light box'. (Beige) Enoki mushrooms, (beige) jerusalem artichokes, (beige) fried shallots and(beige) puff pastry. There is no colour. But I love it.

TART OF THE MOST BEAUTIFULLY BEIGE THINGS



serves 2

ingredients

3 large new season jerusalem artichokes, finely sliced
1tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 sprigs thyme (plus more for last min seasoning)
salt and pepper (plus more for last min seasoning)
small block puff pastry
small knob salted butter
6 shallots, finely sliced
small bunch of enoki mushrooms (beautiful specimens)

Preheat the oven to 180 C.

Scatter the artichoke slices in a roasting tin and drizzle with the olive oil, the garlic, thyme and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes until the artichoke is soft and browning. When cooked, keep the oven on.

In a small saucepan, over a medium heat, melt the butter and add the shallots. Fry until soft and almost melting. Do not colour.

Scatter flour onto a surface and a rolling pin. Roll out the pastry to 3mm thick, in the shape of a rectangle. Score the pastry, an inch from the edge, so that you have an inner rectangle shape. Shift the pastry onto a lightly floured baking tray.

Layer the inner rectangle with the buttery shallots, the jerusalem artichokes and top with the enoki mushrooms. Season with salt and a final sprinkling of thyme. Place in the oven for approx. 10 minutes, or until the edges of the pastry are puffed and golden.

Serve with its very beige self.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

HOT AND SOUR NOODLE BROTH

For cold nights, tired heads, lazy bones and loved ones.

HOT AND SOUR NOODLE BROTH
with
SEARED SALMON and GREENS

serves 4

ingredients

2 tbsps sesame oil
4 small salmon fillets, skinned
generous pinch salt
4 handfuls flat rice noodles (roughly 75g each)
1 ltr chicken stock
3 tbsps fish sauce
3 tbsps light soy sauce
1 tbsp mirin rice wine
(keep bottles of sauce on standby just in case)
juice 1 lime
1 small red hot chilli, deseeded
thumb-size knob ginger, thinly sliced into batons
6 spring onions, sliced diagonally (extra for garnish optional)
small bunch sprouting broccoli, trimmed of leaves
large bunch pak choi, spinach or other greens
touch olive oil to fry salmon
bunch coriander, stalks finely chopped, leaves left for garnish (optional)

In a bowl, coat the salmon fillets with sesame oil and a sprinkling of salt. Leave to sit for 20 minutes.

Rest the noodles in a bowl of boiling water and leave to soften for 30 minutes or as the packet suggests.

Heat the chicken stock in a large saucepan and bring up to a light simmer. Add the fish sauce, soy sauce, mirin and lime juice and stir. Taste the broth, adding, if needed, more of each sauce. Fish for depth, soy for salt, mirin for sweetness and lime to cut through.

Add the chilli and ginger and simmer for a few minutes. Now add the greens - the onions, broccoli, pak choi and coriander stalks - and cook gently until the broccoli is just tender.

Meanwhile, heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and, when the oil starts to smoke slightly, add the salmon. Sear the salmon for 30 seconds on each side. Slice. The salmon should still be pink in the middle but warm.

Divide the noodles into deep bowls and ladle the soup over, dishing up equal portions of greens and chilli. Top with the seared salmon.

Garnish with the coriander leaves and the additional spring onion. For an extra bite beside the soup, or to start, serve with Bill's Thai fishcakes and sweet cucumber pickle.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

RABBIT WITH POLENTA

I wanted to use hare; the chocolaty, rich hare ragu with papparadelle I'd eaten at Polpetto earlier this month was so good it slotted in right at the top of my Must Replicate list. This one was smooth, thick, and got the saliva hopping and jumping on the taste buds. Not one hair, bone or tooth in sight. Got to have it again...

Not that simple. As it turns out you have to be quite an efficient little bunny to get your hands on a hare, or indeed its meat. 'A few days to get it in' said the butcher. And the next, and the next.

Waiting a few days wasn't too much of a problem - 3 days would allow me to come up with the perfect recipe - but I had to feed people that night. If the result were anything like Polpetto's I'd want to share it with friends and a good deep, musty red wine. 3 days later it'd be just me and a lot of meat to freeze.

The butchers did, however, have wild rabbit - not as juicy or rich but a good enough compromise to play with. This recipe is not really a ragu - that'll have to wait for the hare - but it's great recipe for converting rabbit haters (or are they lovers?).

It's wild rabbit for a start - not a domestic pet pinched from some old lady's garden - and it's mixed with enough spice and wine to convince friends to replicate it.

Until they get back home to darling Fluffy.


RABBIT WITH PARMESAN POLENTA
ingredients

serves 4-6

6 streaks pancetta, chopped

1/2 white onion, finely chopped

3 small carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

2 rabbits/ approx. 600g meat, boned and roughly chopped

1 1/2 glasses red wine

small bunch thyme

200ml chicken stock

200g tinned plum tomatoes

2 portobello mushrooms, sliced

1tsp medlar or redcurrant jelly

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 hot red chilli, finely chopped

1 bay leaf

generous pinch salt

1 litre water

200g instant polenta

100g Parmesan, grated

bunch flat leaf parsley to serve, chopped (optional)

Fry the pancetta in a little olive oil until crisp. Add the onion and soften. Then add the carrots. Fry for another minute or so.

Now add the rabbit and fry on a medium heat until browned on the edges. (If you are cooking with more, you may want to do this in batches)

Turn up the heat and pour in the red wine. Bring to the boil, and reduce the liquid until the alcohol has burnt off. Add the stock, tomatoes, mushrooms, jelly, spices and herbs and allow to simmer for 1 1/2 - 2 hours.

Test for seasoning and keep warm while you make the polenta.

Bring the litre of water to the boil. When bubbling, pour in the polenta and immediately stir with a whisk. When it begins to thicken add a touch of salt and all of the Parmesan. Serve when thick and creamy, top with a spoonful of the rabbit and a garnish of parsley.

Monday, November 14, 2011

CABBAGE PICKLE

This week, I joined the fight to bring cabbage - spiky, rubbery, bobbled, leafy, white, red, beautiful cabbage - back onto the table. Brassica backlash.

My recipe for cabbage pickle deserves very little thought but it is full of wahummph. It takes all of 20 minutes to prepare and can sit pretty in jars for up to a month. Go nuts with your burger, side it to a hot pork pie or go full force with a fork straight into the jar.

WHITE CABBAGE PICKLE

Serves 8-10

ingredients


1 white cabbage (approx. 700g) shredded

1 tbsp olive oil

2 shallots, finely sliced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tbsp fennel seeds

thumb-sized knob ginger, grated or crushed

pinch nutmeg

100ml cider vinegar

200g caster sugar

bunch of tarragon

1 green apple, thinly sliced

1 large jar with lid, sterilised

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the cabbage. Summer for 2-3 minutes so the cabbage is lightly blanched. You still want there to be a slight crunch and the colour to remain. Drain and dry off in a tea towel.

Heat the oil in a small pan and fry the shallots until soft. Add garlic, ginger and spices. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat up the cider vinegar with the sugar do that the sugar dissolves. Simmer for a few minutes to reduce the pickle syrup. The result should look clear and have a sweet and sharp flavour. Mix the cider vinegar with the shallots and let cool.

Chop the tarragon.

Transfer half of the cabbage into the sterilised glass jar and add a layer of sliced apple, tarragon, and half the pickle syrup. Repeat Give the jar a turn - making sure it is sealed fast - so that the cabbage is doused in syrup and the shallots, ginger, apple and tarragon are spread evenly.

You can eat the pickle straight away or leave it for up to 1 month in the glass jar.

Try the pickle with other varieties of cabbage and experiment with vinegars and spice such as red cabbage with red wine vinegar, juniper berries and cloves.

Catch my recipe on Great British Food Revival as Jason Atherton showcases the best of British cabbage: j.mp/utg2aL

Friday, November 4, 2011

FRIDAY FISH PIE

The Queen of Fish Pies

Scallop, prawn, haddock and tarragon pie w/ peas and braised baby fennel

Serves 4 very good friends

ingredients

1 white onion, finely chopped
600ml double cream
1 bunch tarragon, roughly chopped
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
good squeeze of 1/2 lemon
200g roeless scallops (though do not trim if the roes are still attached - they are delicious)
200g raw king prawn tails
2 haddock fillets, roughly chopped
400g King Edward potatoes, peeled and quartered
dash milk
3 small knobs butter
salt and pepper
50g Parmesan, grated
4 bulbs baby fennel, chopped
200g peas
dash white wine
dash stock

Set the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6

Add the potatoes to a large pan filled with cold water. Bring to the boil and cook the potatoes until fluffy and soft and so you can slide a knife through them easily. Drain the water and mash, until smooth, adding the milk, one knob of butter and salt and pepper to taste. This is a rich fish pie so don't go overboard on the salt.

Meanwhile, fry the onion in the second knob of butter until really soft and stringy. Pour in the cream and bring to the boil. Turn the heat to a low simmer and add the tarragon and mustard. Stir through the fish and set aside. The prawns may start to turn pink, but they will continue to cook in the oven.

Pour the fish mix into a large earthenware dish and layer the potato on top. Do not over-fill the dish as it is likely to bubble over in the oven. Scatter the grated Parmesan over the potato and place in the oven for 20 minutes until golden and the sauce is bubbling.

While the pie is in the oven and in its last 5 minutes, melt the last knob of butter in a small pan. Add the chopped fennel and soften. Pour in the wine and bring to the boil so the alcohol burns off. Add the stock and simmer for 5 minutes. At the last minute, or just before you take the pie out of the oven, add the peas and serve.

Friday, October 28, 2011

PIG CHEEK STEW

This is a stew for evenings in, wrapped up in front of a film - though it'll work just as well in bowls by the bonfire too. The pig cheeks are a real treat in this dish - they are tender, succulent and full of rich flavour, meaning you don't need much on your plate. It's dead cheap too - the four cheeks cost me well under £2, so you can afford to jazz it up with the wildest of autumn mushrooms.



Make double and put it in the freezer for another wintery day.

PIG CHEEK, MUSHROOM AND ALE STEW
ingredients

Serves 2-4

4 large pork cheeks, trimmed of fat, rubbed with olive oil
4 rashers smoked bacon, roughly chopped
1 tsp carraway seeds
tsp salted butter
2 large leeks, chopped into rounds
200g mixture of chestnut and wild mushrooms
500ml ale
200ml chicken stock
1/2 bay leaves
salt and pepper
handful tarragon leaves, roughly chopped


Place a large frying pan onto a medium/high heat. When hot (keep a chopped bit of bacon to test the pan. It will sizzle if ready) add the cheeks and bacon. You want to brown the cheeks, so rotate them every so often. This should take 3-4 minutes. The bacon will be cooked and beginning to crisp. Set aside.

In another pan, meanwhile, soften the leeks in the butter. Add the mushrooms and the carraway seeds. Now add the cheeks and bacon and stir.

Pour in the ale and the chicken stock and bring to the boil, then returning it to a simmer. Add the bay leaves and leave to fut away for approx. 2 hours. After this time, test the tenderness of the cheeks by pulling at them with two forks. They should be easy to shred. If so, begin to pull each cheek into smaller pieces.

Test for seasoning.

When ready to serve, stir in the tarragon. Best eaten with a fluffy garlic mash potato.

Monday, October 24, 2011

SWEET AND SPICY TOMATO JAM

SWEET AND SPICY TOMATO JAM
for bacon sandwiches and other midday munchies.


ingredients

makes 1 small jar to serve 6

1 tsp olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
20 cherry tomatoes (on the vine if possible), chopped in half
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp cumin
5g fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 small red chilli, finely chopped
1/2 tsp molasses
2 tsp golden caster sugar
2 tbsp sherry vinegar

Heat the oil in a small saucepan and add the onion. Fry until soft. Then add the tomatoes. Add all the remaining ingredients together and slowly fry for 45 minutes.

Blitz with a hand blender - you want it smooth but slightly chunky.

This jam can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks in a sterilised, air tight jar.

Serve with Halloween pumpkin wedges, hard cheese or Sunday roast. Or, best, smothered in a bacon sandwich.

Friday, October 14, 2011

BLACK FIG SALAD

Over the past week my flat has been turned upside down. Once resembling a relatively tidy place of calm, it has now car-crashed into a cave of creative chaos.
Sitting room has transformed into slap-dash studio - canvases half or unpainted on the floor, paintbrushes in jam jars and a faint sniff of white spirit. Kitchen surfaces are a-clutter with fruit and vegetables aside tubes of heavy autumnal oils. The sewing machine has taken up most of my dining room table as napkins sit in a pile waiting to be hemmed.


An eager start to the stitching season.


With very little room for wooden spoons and chopping boards, cooking has become a four-flavour affair. Simple salads, quick porridge and warmed up soups. And the leftovers of my patient paintees.

This recipe was made for me by Clara - our wonderfully talented cook at Books For Cooks. With just a few, perfectly formed ingredients she threw together a plateful of pure goodness - ideal for clutterists like me.

BLACK FIG AND CAVOLO NERO SALAD

SERVES 2 as a main


ingredients



3 large cavolo nero leaves, shredded


1 small radicchio, shredded



2 tbsps olive oil


1 tbsp white wine vinegar


1 large ball of good buffalo mozzarella


3 black figs, quartered


handful basil leaves


salt


Bring a pan of salted water with the cavolo nero and radicchio to the boil. Blanche for 4 minutes. Drain. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan and add the white wine vinegar. Follow with the veg. Season well with salt and pepper and fry for a further 3 minutes.

Arrange the cavolo nero and radicchio on a large serving dish, tear over the mozarella and throw on the figs. Drizzle with a little more olive oil, scatter with the basil leaves and a sprinkling of salt.

Monday, October 3, 2011

SPICED APPLE CAKE

Mum left a bucket of home-fallen apples with me after her last London scamper. I abandoned them in bowl too long, where they met a near soft and sorry end. The only rescue was a long stew.

Stewed for porridge, stewed for my parsnip soup, and stewed for this cake. Perked up and pretty.


for the stewed apple

Peel, core and chop all the apples in your bucket (10 is a good number). Small crunchy apples are best. Place the apples in a large saucepan and set on a medium heat. Add a tsp light brown sugar, a tbsp water and stir. Leave to bubble with the lid on. When soft and sweetened, mash the apples and strain through a sieve (optional). I like to leave them slightly sharp.

for the cake

ingredients

140g soft, unsalted butter
50g stewed apple
250g light brown soft sugar
10ml elderflower cordial/apple juice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp quatres epices
2 large eggs
220g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
50g natural yoghurt

Preheat the oven to 170°C/ 325°F/ Gas mark 3. Grease two 8in/20cm cake tins and line with bottom with baking parchment.

Melt 10g of the butter in a saucepan and add the stewed apple. Add 50g of the sugar, the juice/cordial and the spices. Fry until the apple begins to caramelise.

Beat the rest of the sugar and butter together until soft, light and fluffy. Add the first egg and mix through. Then do the same with the second.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into the creamed batter. Fold them through until evenly mixed.

Stir in the yoghurt and the spiced stewed apple.

Divide the batter equally between the tins and place in the oven to bake for 20 minutes.

When the time is up, the cakes should be golden brown. Check if cooked through with a skewer. If the skewer comes away clean, the cake is done. Leave to cool on a baking tray.


Use some of the leftover stewed apple to fill the middle of the cake, and some to pour over the top. Alternatively, make a butter and yoghurt icing with a touch of elderflower cordial and spread over the bottom layer of the cake: 150g unsalted butter, 30g natural yoghurt, drizzle cordial and 300g icing sugar.

The cake should turn out light and moist. Best served warm for tea.

ROSIE & JIM'S

My boyfriend James and I are starting a Sunday lunch club, and there seemed to be only one thing to call it.

Rosie and Jim’s will serve classic Sunday lunches – nothing particularly fancy, but everything particularly delicious. It will basically be whenever we feel like it but most probably once every 6-8 weeks, starting on 13th November.

On arrival you’ll be greeted with a complimentary glass of something, as well as enough nibbly bits to keep you going till lunch. Which will be a roast. No carvery (which I note wordpress doesn’t consider a real word) at Rosie and Jim’s – just a leg of lamb or rib of beef or perhaps even roast pheasant, and lots of proper vegetables.

There will be pudding, and there will be cheese (served in that order), and of course coffee and tea.

In short:

Rosie and Jim’s: Sunday 13th November 2011
Time: 12.30-5pm
Place: We’re in North London. Details on booking.
Grog: BYO
Donation: £30

We have enough space for 20 people – max bookings 8 per party.

For bookings email jteramsden(at)gmail(dot)com. Look forward to hearing from you

Friday, September 23, 2011

PEA FRITTATA

This week, after an over-carnivorous jolly at Abergavenny Food Festival, I opted to go meat free. Why? To boost veg intake, to be friendly to the environment, to save a bit of money and to try new things...Yep, all those things. Halo.

So far, the most notable change has been my weak, weak willpower.

There was a minor blip just 24 hours into my new found vegetarianism when I tucked into a juicy leg of chicken without even thinking. The slip-up was purely accidental and I didn't clock until the chook was done and digested. Since, aside from dreaming of more chicken legs, I have been trying to think before I eat.

So far, though shaky, so good. I've denied myself beautiful black pudding-stuffed grouse, and mac and cheese with minuscule shards of pancetta (bacon's just seasoning, right?). I refused leftover lamb and date tagine at work today - something I have never be known to do before. I even used vegetable stock in the recipe below.

The truth is, I often cook vegetarian food - my last blog was beetroot ravioli with sage butter and it was to die for. I certainly don't think you need to eat meat with every meal - vegetables are so very delicious on their own - but I do think that meat is damn hard to turn down when it's offered. This week has been fickle but strengthening, so maybe a week once a month will produce a less-meat-eating-me and - we'll see - a less greedy one...

Here is tonight's vegetarian supper which arrived crispy and light and sweet. No craving the big stuff as of yet.

CRISPY PEA FRITTATA


serves 2

ingredients

2 small floury potatoes, such as Maris Piper, peeled and halved
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
handful of fresh mint leaves
200g petit pois
100g Parmesan, grated
1 tbsp vegetable stock
3 free-range eggs, yolks separated from whites
knob of butter
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook the potatoes until soft. Drain and slice.

Meanwhile, in another saucepan, melt a small knob of butter. Add the onions and soften. Follow with the garlic, peas and stock. Season well and add the Parmesan. Roughly blend with a hand whizzer.

Layer a small, shallow, buttered oven dish with the slice potatoes. Cover with the pea mixture and set aside. Lightly whisk the yolks and season. Now whisk the egg whites in a dry, non-oily bowl until stiff. Gently fold the yolks into the whites - you don't want to bash the air out - and pour over the peas and potatoes.

Place the dish carefully into the oven. Cook for approximately 20 minutes or until the top of the frittata is golden. Drizzle with olive oil, a pinch of sea salt flakes and serve.

Serve as it is with a watercress and spinach salad (or as a perfect accompaniment to a roast chicken lunch. Ouch).

Monday, September 12, 2011

BEETROOT GNOCCHI

This dish reminds me of sluggish pomeriggi in the trattoria of Bologna. Fresh pasta, floury and soft, with a painless, no-frills sauce. And probably a fierce glass of red to wash it down.

Here, the fresh garlic, crisp sage and toasted hazelnuts bring strength and bite to the earthy, soft gnocchini. Gnocchi are simple enough to knock up (there's a bit to do a the beginning but this can all be done in advance) and they go a long way for lunch - you'll be full after a small plate so there will be plenty left over for surprise diners.

BEETROOT GNOCCHI
with, TOASTED HAZELNUTS, FRESH GARLIC & SAGE BUTTER

SERVES 2

ingredients

100g beetroot, peeled and chopped
250g King Edward potatoes, peeled chopped
75g plain flour
1 small/medium free range egg, beaten
salt
100g lightly salted butter
fresh garlic, sliced in rounds
handful sage leaves
approx. 10 hazelnuts, crushed
Parmesan

Bring two pans of salted water to the boil. Put the potatoes in one and the beetroot in the other. Cook the beetroot and the potatoes until soft enough to slip a knife through.

Put the beetroot into a food processor and whizz until pureed. Push the puree through a sieve once or twice to make it really smooth.

Mash the potatoes. They should be light and fluffy with little moisture. Keep them on the heat for a bit if the is any excess water.

Measure out the flour into a deep bowl, or on a floured surface. Make a well in the flour and add the egg, beetroot and potato. Season with salt. Mix through with your fingers, so that the colour of the beetroot spreads evenly. The mixture should turn into a soft dough. If too wet, add more flour.

Cut the dough into equal sized squares and roll into long sausages. This is where you can experiment with size and shape, but to go for the traditional diamond, cut the dough diagonally, every 2-3 cm. Lightly dust with flour.

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil.

Gently toast the hazelnuts in a small pan and set aside.

Meanwhile, melt the butter and add the sliced garlic. You want this to cook very gently before adding the sage. Once the garlic has softened slightly, add the sage to infuse into the butter and crisp up.

Add the gnocchi to the pan. As soon as they float to the top, they'll be ready!

Serve up in a pasta bowl and drizzle with the sage garlic butter. Grate with a generous helping of Parmesan and sprinkle over the hazelnuts.

Talk to no one, look at no one, just eat.

Monday, September 5, 2011

NEW WORKSHOPS AT BOOKS FOR COOKS

September. Ah what a happy month for cookbooks! Invitations to book launches fly through the letterbox, large packages and giant boxes are squeezed through the shop doorway and tables are stacked high with new titles, sitting fresh for hours of page turning. This season my wish list hits the ceiling.

I wrote a piece for Waitrose Kitchen's September issue on the joy of owning, reading and, most importantly, cooking from cookbooks. From the response since its release, it's clear that most of us cooks, young or old, are keen to hold on to our loyal archives, and even with online recipes hovering just within our grasp, we'd all rather have a hard copy at home to flick through, drool over and splatter with batter. It's fair to say, we all love our cookbooks.


So with a new bunch o' beautiful books hitting Books For Cooks, we need to find space on our shelves. But how do we know which book will cut the mustard?

To help the decision, I will be choosing one fortnightly cookbook to cook from in the workshop kitchen at BFC. Any suggestions on new titles are very welcome.

When, how, what, where?

Saturday, every fortnight
11am-1pm

Classes are £20 and you pay on the day.

02072211992
info@booksforcooks.com

Workshop Kitchen, 4, Blenheim crescent, W11 1NN
Bookshop and cafe open Tuesday to Saturday.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

ELDERBERRY ICE CREAM

This vivid magenta ice cream is wonderfully easy to make and, for the most part, is free. Go and pick the elderberries now - they look like deep purple versions of mistletoe; small berries in a bunch, hanging from an eight-stemmed stalk. You'll find them in trees amongst early sloes and damsons and they'll be around for the next month. Their taste is musky and sharp and much less versatile than the blackberry - we don't use them in cooking very much - but get them swimming in sugar and they become berrily potent and sweet.

ELDERBERRY ICE CREAM


ingredients

600ml double cream
100g caster sugar
4 egg yolks, room temperature, whisked
...
200g elderberries, de-stalked and washed
150g caster sugar

Heat the cream and sugar in a large saucepan and whisk until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and gently and slowly whisk in the egg yolks until thickened to a custard and evenly mixed. Set aside.

In another pan, gently heat the elderberries with the sugar, until the sugar has dissolved and the elderberries are just bursting. You do not want to overcook the berries but make them plump and juicy. Sieve the berries into another bowl, leaving pips and bits of rogue foliage behind. When both the custard and compote are cooled mix them together in a shallow metal bowl. Cover with cling film or tin foil and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill and set.

After 30 minutes give the custard a whisk and, unless you have a trendy ice cream machine, transfer to the freezer. Every two hours, whisk up the ice cream so that any ice crystals are mixed in. Do this two or three times before leaving the ice cream to set and freeze before serving. Mine took just over a night and a day to freeze but it depends on the temperature and the fullness of your freezer. It is best eaten within the week but can stay frozen, well covered, for longer.

Scrumptious with crushed Amaretti biscuits and a few fresh mint leaves.

Monday, August 15, 2011

SALT THE AUBERGINE

A late post, mid-August, back in London. Books for Cooks has shut up shop for the month so freedom has swiftly drifted in.

Last week was spent in southern France where evenings were fed with hazy cooking, whirling up fresh finds from the heaving markets of Agde, Grau D'Agde, and Clermont L'Herault. Crisp bread, fresh mackerel, calamari, best tomato salads, and cheese, oh cheese. Pale, chilled rose was decanted into a plastic tub from a nozzle in the wall, and drunk with devotion and constancy. (Smug).

We had one nasty bouillabaisse - an ancient, bitty, muddy stock - which came as a stiff reminder of why using vibrant, in-season ingredients can transform a dish from dismal to delightful. Picking out the good'ns makes cooking an effortless success.

Back in the cittaaay with time on my hands and August ingredients to play with its the aubergine that I've got it in for. Melanzane parmigiana, marinated aubergine, deep-fried eggplant. That unmistakeable rubber skin, a deep purple, an earthy musk, a friend to any late summer salad...

LAMB CUTLETS WITH BAKED AUBERGINE, TOMATO AND THYME


SERVES 2

ingredients:
4-6 British lamb cutlets
1 large aubergine, sliced length ways
2 tbsps salt
2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp salted butter
2 shallots, finely sliced
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 beef tomato, roughly chopped
50g creme fraiche
handful fresh thyme, torn
150g Parmesan cheese, grated
black pepper


Preheat the oven to 180 C/ 380 F/ Gas 3.

Prepare the cutlets, covering then in olive oil, and a good helping of salt and pepper. Cover with clingfilm and set aside.

Place the aubergine slices in a colander and scatter with salt. Leave to sit for 30 mins so that the excess moisture is drawn out. Dab the aubergine dry with kitchen towel, wiping it free of any white droplets that appear. Heat up 2 tbsps olive oil on a medium to high heat and add the aubergine slices. Fry on each side until golden brown. Remove from the pan and drain on another piece of kitchen towel.

Melt the butter in the same pan and add the shallots. Cook until soft. Add the garlic and tomatoes and fry for 3 minutes.

Place the aubergine and the tomato mix into a small oven dish.

Pour the creme fraiche into a clean saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add half the Parmesan,the thyme and a seasoning of black pepper. Stir until the cheese has melted. Drizzle the sauce over the aubergine and tomato with the rest of the Parmesan. Place the dish in the oven and bake for approx. 20 mins or until golden on top. Take the aubergines from the oven and leave to cool slightly.

Put a large frying pan on a high heat. Drop a splash of oil in the pan; if it hisses, it is hot enough for the cutlets. Cook for 3 mins on each side until the meat has browned and the fat is crisp.

Spoon the aubergines into a shallow bowl or pasta dish. Place the lamb on top with a few springs of fresh thyme.

The aubergines create the most delicious sauce so, when you've finished, either mop it up with a hunk of good bread or sip it straight from the bowl! Very good with orzo for some starchy love.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

VEAL, FENNEL AND RICOTTA LASAGNE

Not too heavy nor too rich, this is a lasagne for the 'come rain or shine' evenings of late. The fennel comes through subtle and sweet, the aniseed and juicy cherry tomatoes seasoning the lean veal and lifting the light ricotta as it cooks the pasta. It's still filling for us hungered gluts but fragrant enough to suit the season (however unpredictable).

VEAL, FENNEL AND RICOTTA LASAGNE


SERVES 2

ingredients

2 tbsps olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, grated, stalks and stem removed
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
200g veal mince
1/2 glass sherry

200g cherry tomatoes
2tsp tomato puree
2 cloves garlic, peeled

250g ricotta cheese
6-8 large lasagne sheets
handful parmesan

sea salt and black pepper

Heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the chopped shallots, grated fennel and fennel seeds. Fry until soft.

Meanwhile, roast the cherry tomatoes with the garlic cloves for 10 minutes until swollen and soft. Transfer to a bowl and whizz with a hand-held food processor. Keep the oven at the same heat.


Add the veal mince to the fennel and break up with a wooden spoon. When the meat is brown, turn up the heat and add the sherry. Let the pan simmer until the alcohol burns off and you are left with just a little bit of liquid.

Sieve the whizzed cherry tomatoes and discard the leftover seeds. Add the cherry tomato jus and tomato puree to the pan and stir through. Taste and season.

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook the lasagne sheets for 2 minutes so that they mould to the dish and cook well under the ricotta. Line the bottom of the dish with one sheet and spread over a layer of ricotta. Next, add a layer of mince and cover with another pasta sheet. Repeat the layering; the more sheets the better. Finish with a final layer of ricotta, a sprinkling of Parmesan and crushed black pepper.

Put the lasagne in the hot oven for 30 minutes or until golden and bubbling.

Serve alongside lightly dressed fresh green leaves or, for real summer, a cucumber, orange and watercress salad.

Monday, July 18, 2011

TOP PRIZE FOR GARDENING GOES TO...

...my sister and her loved-up carrots.
That's one way to get the nippers eating their greens and oranges!


How does your garden grow?

CREAMY PANCETTA AND RED CHICORY SPAGHETTI

If you're ever looking for a recipe that takes no time to cook and fills you up in an instant, this is it.

I have to say that this is one of the most rudely delicious pasta dishes there is; a bitter, sweet, creamy bowl of Yes Please. It follows some of the rules of carbonara, but switches the egg yolk for red chicory (quite some switch), though egg yolk wouldn't go amiss.

One essential rule: Use the best dry-cure pancetta you can find. You'll be crying with joy with every forky twizzle.

CREAMY PANCETTA AND RED CHICORY SPAGHETTI

Serves 2-4


ingredients

200-300g thin spaghetti
large knob of butter
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
2 heads red chicory (radicchio works well too), thinly shredded
200g best dry-cure pancetta, roughly chopped, fat on
good splash white wine
250ml double cream

50g grated Parmesan to serve

Bring a deep pan of salted water to the boil.

Meanwhile, melt the knob of butter in a frying pan and add the onions. Soften a little before adding the chicory. fry down until both the onion and chicory have lightly caramelised and are extremely soft. Taste for seasoning.

In another pan heat up the pancetta. The pork should be fatty enough to create it's own lubrication so no need to add butter or oil here. Fry until crispy, then add the wine. The wine should boil as it hits the pan. Let the alcohol burn off and set aside.

Add the spaghetti to the pan and simmer, following packet instructions. There should still be a little bite to the pasta when it is cooked. Drain.

Add the pancetta to the chicory and stir in the cream. Add the spaghetti, tossing through the sauce and serve with a little Parmesan and parsley (optional).

It's a rich one, this, so a crisp salad of gem lettuce would be a perfect cleanser post woof.

Recipe created, cooked and greedily eaten with Clara Grace Paul.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

DEEP FRIED ARTICHOKE WITH ANCHOVY AIOLI

Artichokes may be the most striking features of summer - a powerful dome of a vegetable, a spiky crown with layer after layer of thick green armour - but most of us are too readily turned away by the thought that they are a hassle to cook.


The trimming, the scooping and de-choking; there's always one hairy fibre lurking in amongst those protective leaves. The boiling for a good half-an-hour. The pulling it apart. And then when you get to eating the rascal there's not even much flesh.

Ah - I see I've turned you off artichokes again.

But wait! There can be such joy in slovenly preparing a globe artichoke, much like scratching away for the meat in a crab claw or getting the goods from a pumpkin. Once you've done it, however much you've f'd and blinded, you know the result will be delicious.

Eating it, sucking at the green spades, reaches the meaning of less-is-more. The juicy muscle you pull from the stem with the back of your front teeth is like sipping the nectar from honeysuckle. A sweet surprise, not much of it, but you instantly pick up another. And that's when you find yourself thanking goodness artichokes have so many leaves.

DEEP FRIED ARTICHOKE WITH ANCHOVY AIOLI


SERVES 1-2

ingredients
1 globe artichoke (leaves tight to body indicate freshness)
1/2 lemon
100g/ dusting of plain flour
sunflower oil

for the aioli
4 small garlic cloves, crushed
juice of 1/4 lemon
pinch salt
2 free range egg yolks
approx. 350ml extra virgin olive oil

3 small anchovy fillets, roughly broken with fingers or fork

Slowly bring a deep pan of water to the boil.

Start trimming the outer leaves of the artichoke with scissors, cutting it at its roundest part. Do this 3/4 of the way up the artichoke, discarding the leaf tops.

With a sharp knife, cut the top from the artichoke. Pull away all the purple leaves inside until you reach fine, white hairs. Scoop the hairs out with a teaspoon. Stop when you reach flesh.

Trim the stem, leaving about 5 cm, and pull off the outer fibres. They should come away easily. If you are preparing more than one artichoke, have a bowl of water with a slice of lemon ready so you can keep the globe/s fresh. They will begin to brown otherwise.

Place 1/2 a lemon in the pan of boiling water with a touch of salt and lower in the whole artichoke. Boil for approx. 30 minutes or until it appears soft. Remove out of the water onto kitchen towel to lose excess moisture.

Meanwhile, prepare the aioli. In a small bowl add the crushed garlic, salt, lemon and egg yolks. Whisk gently, slowly adding the olive oil. Keep whisking until it thickens and and when ir resembles a good consistency for you, you can stop with the olive oil. I like my aioli quite loose - globulous mayo gives me the shivers. Taste it and see if it needs more salt, lemon juice, or garlic. This recipe is punchy.

Spoon the broken anchovy on top of the aioli. You can scoop it up with the artichoke leaves. (The best bit).

Pull apart the artichoke. This is easiest if you half or quarter it with a knife. Pull away the leaves and cut chunks from the heart (the most fleshy part of the globe). Dust the artichoke with flour - just a little it so it will crunch up slightly when you fry it.

Heat up a shallow frying pan with enough sunflower oil so that fills 1-2cm from the bottom of the pan. Set on a medium heat and WATCH! Oil can heat up very very quickly. As soon as you see a ripple in the oil or a few bubble forming on the bottom of the pan it will be extremely hot and ready to go. Gently lower in the dusted artichoke. It will bubble. Fry for approx. 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. When ready, lift with a slotted spoon onto kitchen towel and drain off the excess oil.

Arrange the deep fried artichoke pieces on a plate around the bowl of aioli. Dip. Dip dip dip.

Note: There will be bits you put in your mouth which won't chew up. Spit'em out and move onto the next bit.

I can promise you, this recipe makes the process very worthwhile. It's also amazing with ready prepared artichoke hearts, for a less-hassle recipe.

There's leftover aioli here, so I think I'll do the same for supper tomorrow...

Friday, July 1, 2011

DHAL CURRY AND CARDAMOM SPINACH


This is such a delicious dish to eat in the heat. Two simple core ingredients that don't necessarily scream sunshine and picnics but, unusually, I find them beautifully refreshing.

Put earthy lentils with fresh ginger, curry leaves, cumin, mustard seeds, turmeric and tomatoes, together with delicate spinach and cardamom, and you're diverted to instant summer comfort; as the spices give off warmth, they relax and cool you down. The punch of the sweet and smokey spices grabs tongue and nostrils with one powerful spoonful: fragrant, light, and freakishly moreish.

Serve with natural yoghurt and freshly chopped chilli, a sprinkle of fresh coriander and - for a real dip in the pool - a slice of lime.

DAL CURRY WITH CARDAMOM SPINACH

SERVES 4

200-300g red lentils, previously soaked (though just a good rinse is OK if time is short)
500g water
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 large tomato, deseeded and peeled and chopped
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp cayenne pepper
4 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
3/4 tsp cumin seeds
1 shallot, finely chopped
20 fresh curry leaves
thumb-size knob fresh ginger, finely grated
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1kg spinach leaves, rinsed, dried and roughly torn
2 cardamom pods, crushed and ground

to serve:
handful fresh coriander, chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
4 tbsps natural yoghurt
1 lime, cut into four

Heat a large pan with the water and add the lentils. Cook for 15-20 minutes until the water has been absorbed. Be sure to stir the lentils as they cook, to avoid sticking to the pan. Stir in the turmeric, cayenne pepper, chopped tomato, puree and set aside.

Heat up a saucepan and add the crushed cardamom. The light aroma of the seeds will release with heat. Add the spinach and cover. Spinach contains enough water within its leaves, so no needs to add water. Add a touch of olive oil, season, and stir. Keep in the pan, off the heat, until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, heat up a frying pan with the mustard and cumin seeds. When the mustard seeds begin to pop, add a little oil and the chopped shallot, and fresh curry leaves. When the onions have softened, add the garlic and ginger. Fry for another minute, making sure the garlic does not burn.

Stir the shallot mix into the lentils and gently heat through.

Serve the lentils on a bed of the wilted cardamom spinach. Garnish with the coriander, fresh chilli and yoghurt and wedge of lime.

Best eaten in the garden at sunset after a hot day with a cool beer. (Well, any excuse, really).

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

PIGS IN PINNIES AT THE SECRET LARDER

Can't give too much away to you oinkers, but seeing as last night's take over of the Ramsden Secret Larder was a blast, we'll bare this wee feasty nugget.

Slipped in between a creamy crab bisque and a groaning plate of lamb and samphire, Pigs in Pinnies present:

BROAD BEAN and SORREL SALAD
w/ RADISHES and CRISPED PANCETTA


Serves 4-6

1 large bunch of sorrel (about 6 leaves) washed, drained, chopped
8 large beetroot leaves, stalk-free, washed, drained, chopped
200g broad beans, double-podded:
(a bore but worth it to avoid memories of chewy grey school beans)
5 pink, round radishes, thinly sliced
100g pancetta, very thinly sliced, cut to 1x1in

dressing
1/4 tsp hot English mustard
1/4 tsp Dijon mustard
good pinch sugar
40ml white wine vinegar
100ml extra virgin olive oil
3 tarragon leaves, finely chopped
juice of 1/4 lemon or to taste(optional)

Bring a pan of water to the boil and cook the beans until heated through. Drain and remove the shell. (It'll be easier to take the beans from their shell when they have been cooked). Place back in the warm pan and set aside.

Mix the prepared beetroot leaves with the sorrel and a little salt and olive oil, then lay in equal bunches on the plate. In a medium-size bowl combine the radishes and shelled broad beans.

Put a lightly oiled frying pan on a medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the sliced pancetta. This should hiss as it hits the pan, the fat melting slightly so the meat won't stick. Cook until crispy.

Meanwhile, measure out the mustard, sugar and vinegar straight into a jar and stir well so the sugar dissolves. Add the olive oil, tarragon, and lemon, if using. The tarragon will leave a very faint hint - you don't want it to overpower the other punchy flavours on the plate. Whisk the dressing until blended. Season to taste. You want a smooth, sweet dressing with a sharp kick to complement the velvety broad beans and lemony sorrel.

Pour the dressing into the bean bowl, and gently toss through.

Lay the beans and radishes on top of the leaves. Scatter over the salty, crisp pancetta and serve.

An early summer salad with veggies a plenty,
Worthy of quadrupling for a supper o' 20.

Pigs in Pinnies'll be back soon,
With - we hope - another corker
to make you all swoon!

Monday, June 6, 2011

COURGETTE LINGUINE WITH CHILLI SQUID

SERVES 2

ingredients

200g linguine
75ml olive oil
2 shallots
1 clove garlic
2 heaped tsp chilli flakes
1 large courgette, julienned or cut into long thin strands
100g squid, thinly sliced into rings
6 leaves sage
salt and pepper
2 lemon wedges


Put a large saucepan of salted water on a high heat and bring to the boil. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a frying pan. When hot, add the shallots and soften. Follow with the garlic, chilli and courgette and stir through. Cook the courgettes for 5 minutes until light brown and soft. Season and set aside in a bowl. Keep the pan on the heat and add more olive oil and one teaspoon of chilli.

Put the pasta in the pan of boiling water and turn down the heat to a simmer. Follow the packet instructions for cooking time.

When the oil in the pan is hot and sizzling and the squid. The oil should fizz as you throw in the squid. Add the sage and the rest of the chilli. Turn down the heat slightly and brown the squid for approximately 1-2 minutes. It should be tender, not chewy, so you want to avoid over cooking it. The sage should be crisp.


Drain the pasta when al dente. Evenly fold in the courgette to the linguine.

Serve on warm plates, placing the squid and sage on top of the pasta. Squeeze over the lemon.

There you have it. A beautiful, hassle-free, summer lunch. Lovely with a cold glass o' white.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

OSSO BUCCO

On a stormy day like today - drops the size of raisins and thunder grumbly enough to whisk an egg - the last few weeks of salad and sorbets get drowned right out. Puddling home this afternoon with my soggy shoes soaking up my new dungarees, thoughts turned instead to winter cooking.

Shopping for supper beneath a summer tempest pours my pennies to one thing only: meaty meat. Thawing, fatty, hot, slow cooked MEAT drizzled with rich sauce. Drool. So, for a night wholly dedicated to watching How To Steal A Million from the sofa, it had to be osso bucco. Oh so boo coh dawling (Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole like it too).

It's cheap, it's scrumptious and it's perfect for a lazy night in sheltering from the downpour.



OSSO BUCCO
w/ WHITE WINE, SHALLOTS, TARRAGON AND THYME,
BRAISED LETTUCE & POLENTA




Serves 1 (well why not?)
Or duplicate for an impressive dinner party main course which won't break the bank.

ingredients:
approx. 200g osso bucco (veal shank)
1tbsp plain flour
50g/3 knobs salted butter
1/2 glass white wine
1 large shallot, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
handful tarragon
2 sprigs thyme
80g polenta
100ml water
50g lettuce, chopped or broken into 5 cm pieces (I used round, but gem is a great option)
salt and pepper


Preheat the oven to 175°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4

Dust the osso bucco with the flour and place in a bowl. Heat up a knob of the butter in a frying pan. When it is sizzling, place the shank on each side for around 45 seconds until browned and lightly crisped.

Transfer the shank straight into a small roasting tin with the wine, shallots, garlic and herbs. Leave some of the tarragon for the lettuce. Cover the tin with foil and place in the oven for 1 1/2-2 hours until the meat is light pink and tender. Remove the foil and reduce the juices for 10 minutes.

While the juices are cooking, make the polenta. Boil up the water and pour in the polenta flour, whisking until thick. It will keep thickening, so once you've reached a sticky, but still wet consistency, take off the heat and stir in another knob of butter. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat the remaining bit of butter in a clean frying pan and add the lettuce and the rest of the tarragon. Braise until gently wilted and browning at the edges. The lettuce should still have a slight crunch. Remove from the heat.

Take the osso bucco from the oven.

Serve up the polenta in a warmed dish, placing the lettuce on top. Then lift the sweet and succulent shank from the roasting tin and put on to the polenta and lettuce. Pour over the reduced juice with the shallots and garlic, and garnish with thyme flowers.

Osso bucco works deliciously served with orzo, or for a more traditional Milanese version, cooked with tomato and served on risotto. Don't forget to eat the marrow from the bone!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

DEATH OF THE CUPCAKE

Remember the days of butterfly cakes? The small cases filled with a strawberry-sized scoop of soft batter? Top of the sponge carefully cut to make two wings, stuck back in with a spoonful of butter icing and sweet jam? Two wee bites of the cake and you've finished. So light, you might as well be the butterfly on the cake.


Now all we see are giant cupcakes, layered high with a mountain of sickly icing that, when you go to take a bite, smothers your upper lip and nose. You have to finish it all in one go - there's too much icing to wrap it up and take it away - so by the time it's been eaten, you'll never want to see another cupcake again. They may look dainty but, boy, unless you're laden with a knife and fork, it's a messy business.

It's time to bring back the fairy cake. Plain sponge, white transparent icing, a few silver balls and a blob of butter icing. Who's with me?

FAIRY CAKES
makes about 30

250g soft unsalted butter, cut into cubes
250g caster sugar
5 large free range eggs
250g self-raising flour, sifted
2 tbsps baking powder
vanilla extract (optional)

icing:
500g icing sugar, sifted
6 tbsps warm water

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C/ 400 degrees F/ Gas mark 6.

Mix the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Use an electric beater for best results. Add the eggs one at a time and mixing it into a wet batter. Then fold in the flour and baking powder until all the ingredients are well combined. Do not over-mix - you do't want the mixture to be airless. Add a touch of vanilla extract for sweetness.

Lay out the cases in a fairy cake tray (shallow indents rather than little cupcake ponds). Take a melon ball scoop or two teaspoons and divide the mixture into prune-sized amounts between each case. Place the tray in the preheated oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the cupcakes have risen and are a golden colour. Remove and leave to cook in their cases on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, sift the icing sugar into another bowl and add the water. Mix with a metal spoon in to a thick paste. When the cakes are cool, fill a cup with hot water. Dip a silicon palette knife into the water, dip into the icing and spread thickly onto the cake top, leaving no gaps.

Decorate with those lost and forgotten shards of sugar -

silver balls
hundreds and thousands
chocolate drops
iced gems
sugar lemons

- and gobble sweetly.

Dear old fairy cake friend, we love you.

Friday, May 6, 2011

COPENHAGEN, PIGS IN PINNIES, AND THE HAVELOCK

It's been the most glorious week for food and drink.

Copenhagen first, spent floating on a heavenly cloud of light-headed middle-of-the-day schnapps. The weekend started with a 'mield and nische' local brew, and ended with a Norwegian fire-breathing dragon Aquavit, drawing out the inner Viking with every thimbleful.

There was beer too. Cold and light, and not just Calsberg. We had home-brewed dark beers to drink with meat, and sweet, bubbly ones to go with dessert. Everyone on the street held a can and those who sat at tables had a tall glass tankard in hand. Pretty difficult not to get involved.

Thankfully, enough food went around to keep feet still on the ground. At Schonnemans we ate delicately sliced smoked halibut with radishes and cucumber, hearty lamb meatballs and 4 types of herring - the caramel on one herring still lingers 7 lunches later.


A long dinner at Fisk Bar gave us beautiful snow crab wrapped like spring rolls in celeriac, and Tusk served alongside sweet, acorn-sized new potatoes. A round loaf of rye with creamy butter sat in the middle for between course nibbling.

Beautiful beetroot and horseradish salad was served at Pate Pate to kick off yet more delicious fish, and the forkful of foie gras with fried egg was pure heart attack love ache.

We peered through the windows of Noma without disappointment and longing, but feeling happy and lucky that we'd eaten at the old, real Danish kitchens with sandy floors, that serve up some of the most delicious food in Copenhagen. Dreaming now of my second trip.

...

Thursday night, Pigs in Pinnies - Alice Brady, Clara Paul, and I - welcomed in the beginning of a new supper club venture, hosting the dinner at Ledbury Church for Salon London.


Leaves, herbs, and fruit were all picked from Portobello market and the smoked trout arrived on the day from Alice's uncle's Wandsworth fish restaurant, Brady's. Feeding 35 guests the food we love got us hungry for more nights with a bit more linger. So here's hoping this will be the first of many more to come.

Goats curd with honey rosemary dressing on a salad of friseƩ and radicchio with homemade sourdough

Smoked trout on horseradish-dressed new potatoes, with sorrel and watercress

Lemon posset with shortbread

...

To top it all off, tonight was a plate of deliciously simple ham hock, puy lentil and green bean salad and a glass of homemade lemonade at the Havelock Tavern, after throwing my weight around the Brook Green tennis courts with Miss Potter.

I will be attempting to do it all again next week from my flat kitchen with a recreation of the caramel herring. Too good not to.

Friday, April 29, 2011

ROSE COTTAGE IS TWO!


The blog is two today, thunder stolen slightly by Kate and Wills, but being cooked a delicious breakfast in celebration.


It's been a scrumptious year. Now off to Copenhagen to kick off year 3. (Royal wave, royal wave).

Thanks to all who follow!

Friday, April 22, 2011

EASTER EGGS

The fasting is almost over, so feast on this for the Bank Holiday breakfast. Happy Easter!

SCRAMBLED EGGS with NEW BRIT ASPARAGUS and HOT SMOKED TROUT
on SOURDOUGH BREAD
Self-explanatory but crisp the bread and butter it hot, keep the eggs soft, the asparagus al dente and the trout gently warmed in the oven.

Eggsquisite. (Had to be done).

Saturday, April 16, 2011

9 hours til 6

For most, the weekend has already started; for me it starts at 6.

So, for everyone, whatever time you crack on, here's a crunchy cocktail to get your Saturday swinging. Hair o' dog or dare o' Hogg?

GIN, ELDERFLOWER AND POMEGRANATE COOLER


ice
1 shot Gin (I go Gordon's)
dash of Prosecco
50ml elderflower and pomegranate sparkling water
30ml orange juice (no bits)
10 pomegranate seeds and a splash of its juice

In that order. Stir and sip.

Monday, April 11, 2011

OLD TART

A heatwave strikes - Burnt noses, bare (white) legs, and wide smiles. The first of this year's barbecues are lit, Mr Whippy vans are on sell-out, and salads are served instead of soup at Books For Cooks. I can't help but get excited about this unexpected burst of summer in the middle of spring.

But the best thing about this time of year is the incoming gems on the market - and there is no grumbling worry that they're going to disappear with the rain at the end of the week. It's time for asparagus, watercress, sorrel and spring greens. Green, light and full of flavour.

Just like the way we Britons get giddy at the sight of sun, the sight of new veg sends me potty. I buy as much as I can. It's reckless, perhaps, but fun, and trying to make use of it all, to love every leaf, makes for happy friends and a happy kitchen.

This tart is salty, buttery and moreish. The savoy cabbage and leeks bring a fresh brightness to the plate, and the crispy chorizo pushes forward a flavour of a hopeful hot summer ahead. Eat with a warm watercress, pea and mint salad, drizzled with tart lemon and olive oil.

LEEK, SAVOY CABBAGE & SAGE TART WITH CHORIZO


ingredients

shortcrust pastry for 9 in quiche tin (best to use a loose-base tin)

180g plain flour, sifted
pinch salt
90g cold butter, cubed
1 free-range egg yolk
2 tbsps water

tart filling

1 free range egg and 2 free-range egg yolks
170ml double cream (half creme fraiche works well too)
2 tbsps freshly grated Parmesan
salt and pepper
large knob of butter
1/2 leek, thinly sliced
1/2 savoy cabbage, shredded
3 sage leaves
3 tbsps cream cheese (optional)
knob of Catalan chorizo 5x3cm, thinly sliced into rounds
(if veggie or want a meat-free option, toast pine nuts and sprinkle on top of the tart)

Butter the tin and place in the fridge.

Rub together the sifted flour, salt and butter lightly with your fingers until you reach a breadcrumb-like consistency. Add the egg and water and bind into a soft ball of dough. Do not knead too much; the lighter the dough the better.

On a floured table, roll out the pastry to fit the tin to around 2cm thick. Cut the excess from the edge of the tin, being aware that the pastry will shrink.

Once placed in the tin, leave to cool in the fridge for at least an hour, or in the freezer for 15 minutes if short for time. Pastry works best when cold.

Preheat the oven to 190˚C/375˚F/ Gas 5.

When the pastry has been in the fridge for a while, fill the base with ceramic beans. If you have none, dried pasta or beans will do - you don't want the base of the pastry to start rising. Place the pastry in the oven for 10 minutes. After this time, remove the weights and put back in the oven to brown the pastry, and cook for another 10 minutes until golden.

Meanwhile, mix the eggs, cream and grated cheese in a jug and season with salt and pepper.

Melt the knob of butter in the pan and braise the leeks and cabbage together until soft. Throw in the sage and chorizo to crisp up. (This would be a good time to toast the pine nuts).

Take the pastry out of the oven and arrange the leeks and cabbage around the base, leaving the chorizo aside. Pour over the egg mixture. If using cream cheese dollop a few spoonfuls over the egg and put back in the oven for 30-40 minutes. Half way through cooking, scatter on the chorizo.

When cooked and golden, leave to cool slightly in the tin. Then lift it out on to a plate and serve with the pea salad.

Monday, April 4, 2011

RASPBERRY AND ALMOND FLAPJACKS


Quick to whip up, blooming gorgeous to look at, and irresistibly scrumptious to eat.

RASPBERRY AND ALMOND FLAPJACKS


makes about 20

ingredients

150g salted butter
5 large tbsps set honey
80g golden caster sugar
250g jumbo porridge oats
100g raspberries
50g toasted flaked almonds

dried rose petals to decorate


Preheat the oven to 200˚C/400˚F/Gas mark 6.

Line a small, shallow baking tray with baking parchment and set aside.

Melt the butter, honey and sugar in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Reduce the heat to very low and gently stir in the oats. Remove from the heat and add the raspberries. Stir them through. You want them to break up slightly so the flavour melts through the oats. Mix in the almonds.

Spread the oat mix onto the to baking parchment and pat it down so that the oats are compact. Place in the hot oven for 15 minutes, or until the flapjacks are golden brown. If the edges start to burn, don't panic! Trim them off and sprinkle over natural yogurt, or use in a crumble topping.

Slice the jacks with a sharp knife as soon as they come out of the oven so they are soft to cut, then leave them to cool on a wire rack.

Very good with a pot of tea, or if you are picnicking in the park, they taste even better alongside a cheeky bottle of elderflower cider!


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

SCOTCH EGGS @ The Princess Vic


There is something addictive about the Princess Victoria.

Round, oblong, oval wooden tables lit by nightlights in glass jars; tall ceilings; a fireplace big enough to sit in. On sunny days you can sit on white iron tables and chairs in a small walled herb garden at the back.

The staff are lovely. They don't hang over your table like newspaper-peekers on the tube, but appear just as you need them. Ice-cold water. Very good bread.

The menu picks out the best of good pub grub - scratchings, rillettes, whitebait with aioli, pickled onions - and the chef, James, makes damn sure it's done well. The meat is sourced from Turnham Green's Machen Brothers and Huntsham Court Farm, and each time I go back there is a different cut - any old bit - of their favourite Gloucestershire Old Spot.

The wine list is long; there are more than 350 different bottles held in the cellars beneath. As much as I'd like to try them all of an afternoon, the Pinot Rose is for me; a light fragrant pink that arrives in a wee 50cl glass caraffe...

All this is definitely worth the wander down the Uxbridge Road. But there's more.

The real thing that makes me go back is the Middle White Pork Scotch Egg.


It's the crisp, buttery, breadcrumb crust and the sweet aniseed taste of tarragon in the pork that makes this Scotch Egg so unbearably good. You can smell it coming.

The pork is soft - not too bready - and holds tight around a soft and perfectly cooked free-range egg. It is salty, but sweet too with wholegrain mustard mixed in with the meat. Sizing up nicely to a large apple, it makes the perfect starter or light lunchtime nibble. Have two and you'll be pleasantly pork-heavy. You eat with your hands, so it's absolutely OK to lick your fingers afterwards. And you'll want to. The knife that comes with it is pretty lovely too.

The smaller Oxtail Scotch Quails Egg is sweet and scrum, but I'd go for the bigger Middle any day of the week...

I could rave on about this place and even more so about their pig'n'egg - I may have already been too sickly - but it's my favourite local and I can't just keep it to myself.

The Princess Victoria pub is situated at the Chiswick end of the Uxbridge Road (No.217), Shepherds Bush.
T: 0208 7495886

Monday to Saturday Lunch: 12 noon - 3pm. Dinner: 6.30pm - 10.30pm.
Sunday Lunch: 12 noon - 4.30pm. Dinner: 6.30pm - 9.30pm.


The Middle White asks a very reasonable £5.90; the Oxtail £3.50

Sunday, March 20, 2011

BASHFUL RADISH


There's something about radishes that makes me laugh...

Sweet, petite, with a peppery kick, they have an all-too similar nature to teenage girls. Moving in stubborn, intimidating bunches, never daring to be seen alone, it's almost as though if one split the pack the others would follow behind, teetering along on their little pointy roots. The thin outer shade of a little Cherry Belle - a solid layer of bright pink - matches that of post-first-kiss cheeks and sheer embarrassment; on the inside all colour drains, hiding a pale and translucent white, freaking out inside. Ha. Girls, we all remember the feeling...

Mild globe-shaped radishes (the easiest to grow in the UK) are slowly creeping into the markets, ready to bowl into April with full whack. The ones I bought were sitting pretty on Cheryl's Portobello fruit and veg stall, amongst spring greens, purple sprouting broccoli, fresh garlic and early rhubarb, and I couldn't resist an early bite into Spring.

The flavour of our modest radish is so fresh it's best eaten raw. So for a sweet, spicy, crispy crunch I thought I'd make a Goats Cheese and Radish Raita to spread over my freshly baked wholemeal sourdough. Great seasoned with a bit of salt and a few mint leaves. And delicious with new season lamb for a heartier bite.

You can either mix the radish and mint in with the yoghurt and cheese or just layer it on top. Last-minute layering keeps the Raita fresher and thicker for longer, otherwise the water from the radish tends to seep into the yoghurt. It's also a great excuse to get everyone making their own starter at dinner!

GOATS CHEESE, RADISH AND MINT RAITA
ingredients

75g soft welsh goats cheese
75g natural yoghurt
200g mild (or strong if you like a kick in the teeth) small radishes
bunch of fresh mint leaves
8 slices of fresh wholemeal sourdough
sea salt to taste


Mix the goats cheese in with the yoghurt and serve in a large bowl and season with a little salt. Thinly slice eight radishes, removing and keeping hold of the leafy stalks for a wilted salad later on. Serve with mint and thinly sliced sourdough on a large board. Leave some radishes whole so that when the bread has run out diners can dip the whole thing into the Raita. Place in the middle of the table and dive in. Beautiful.

Don't be alarmed if a bunch of radishes start screaming and disappear together to the loo...