Monday, 26 April 2010

Ding dong ding dong

Okay so the plan was to get you a photo of me and Giles cutting the wedding cake. But the thing is that someone texted the photo to me and I can't work out how to get it off my phone (even though I've got all the appropriate cables) and onto this blog.

So no photos until the photographer - an upsettingly handsome young man called Roo - has deleted all the ones of me looking huge-toothed and red-faced and sent both useable photos to me. This is a shame as I bored you all to death so comprehensively with the wedding that I felt the very least I could do was to offer some kind of exclusive footage.

Anyway it all went very well. I told Giles that he was strictly not to use the word c*** or f*** in his speech, which meant he only used both words once.

Now, after a very, very tense half an hour looking for my passport, I'm going to pack for my honeymoon Greece, where the weather appears to be 16C and drizzling - but you can't have it all.

But before that, we are going for lunch at L'Artista, the pizza place under the Golders Green tube station railway bridge where Giles and I first met.

The carbs are back. Hooray!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Still no food

Okay, so the volcano didn't eat my wedding after all. Airspace opened and there's been another flurry of emails and phone calls to confirm that, yes, they're all going to be there.

But I'm still not doing any cooking. So instead here are some pictures of Hatfield House, where I went this morning.

Monday, 19 April 2010

How Eyjafjallajökull ate my wedding

So, there probably won't be much in the way of FOOD here this week.

a) my wedding is this Saturday, for those of you who for some insane reason aren't crossing off the days on your wall calendar, and so my diet has shrunk to emergency rations only and

b) the Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, has stranded over 10% of the wedding guests abroad, meaning that I have to spend the majority of this week pacing up and down going "Fuck!" and not much time in the kitchen

Anyway, I didn't want anyone to think I had given up. I'm just on bridal high alert.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Slow roast pork belly and chinese dipping sauce

If there's one thing I love, it's a solution meal. You know what I mean? One of those recipes where you go "Oh my god - YES. Perfect for a snack/breakfast/lazy lunch. Not too many ingredients... not too complicated..." And then there are other recipes where you go "Yes looks nice but I'm never going to make it in a million years."

Well, this afternoon I came up with one of those. It's a delicious thing, to be sure, but it's no real use. It's too complicated to have a starter and it's too salty to have as a main. So here it languishes in my kitchen, occasionally picked at by me - waiting for Giles to come back from filming and demolish it.

It came about because I've been having trouble with my belly - my pork belly that is. The last few times I've cooked it, it hasn't been right. I've done a short, hot roast thing and it's not for me - I wanted to try out a long slow roast so I picked up £3-worth from the butcher and slung it in the oven, just rubbed with some salt, for 20min on 220C and then 2 hours at 170C. It worked! Which was a relief becuase everyone  bangs on about how easy it is and I've never found it so. The pork is even "melting", which I've never got it to do before. Although only as "melting" as pork ever gets.

To go with it, just for a laugh, I made some dipping sauce out of King Jamie's magic Chinesey ingredients, which were:

2 tbsp runny honey
4 tbsp soy sauce
1 2cm x 5 cm knob of fresh ginger, chopped chunkily
2 large cloves garlic peeled and halved
1 large red chilli de-stalked and chopped roughly - seeds and all
1 teaspoon Chinese five spice

I put all these in a pan with a large wineglass of water and then boiled it for about 20 minutes until it was reduced to a runny sauce. I then passed the sauce through a sieve to get rid of the scary chunks of chilli, garlic and ginger and was left with a spice-infused rich, brown... thing.

Delicious. But pointless.

The diet gets serious

I've started to get a bit hardcore about my diet. I thought I would never do anything as vain and silly as diet hard before my wedding but then suddenly your wedding's happening and you suddenly find yourself saying No Thanks to mashed potato and deciding not to purchase your usual walk-from-the-tube packet of Haribos.

It's probably because there are only about 10 days left to my wedding and after that I can cram bread and pasta and rice and pudding for the rest of my life. Or until I'm too fat to turn on the telly. Maybe it's because there's not much else to do right now. The wedding's done - thanks to Giles mostly - the replacement hot pink slutdress has arrived and so my remaining challenge is to see how much weight I can lose between now and the big day without passing out or getting osteoperosis.

So, dinner last night was steak and celeriac remoulade. Sorry, half a steak and celeriac remoulade. Even Giles, who at home is Spartan in his eating habits (what would he dine on in hell? I often wonder), was pretty alarmed at the sheer self-denial of dinner.

But by the same token it was really delicious. There's something about celeriac remoulade that goes really well with steak. And this was a nice steak bought, again, from our farmer's market - the Twelve Green Acres stall. But also purchaseable from their website:

The shop section is down just at the moment, but do visit them another time if you're interested.

Anyway so the steak was properly hung and all that clever stuff and it really was spectacularly tasty, even more tasty than steak usually is, despite (becuase of?) there not being very much of it.

The celeriac remoulade went like this:

1 small celeriac, grated in a food processor
3 large dollops of mayonnaise
1 dollop of Dijon mustard
juice of one lemon
salt and pepper

I also added a carrot that needed eating, but it wasn't neccessary.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Make your own curry paste

The only reason I don't make my Keralan curry (  twice a day for lunch and dinner is that if I did, I'd have nothing to write about. But in order to make it even easier to reach for this stunning supper staple, I've hit on the idea of making up a boat-load of paste in advance and storing it in oil in an airtight jar.

That way, on those days when there's just too much excellent stuff backed up on the V+ to even think about going shopping, all I need to do is defrost some chicken and supper does itself.

Keralan curry paste (in advance)

200g coriander with the toughest stalks removed
1 2cm x 4cm knob of fresh ginger, chopped a bit
2 fresh red chillies, halved and mostly de-seeded (depending on your hotness threshold)
4 cloves garlic
150ml groundnut or light olive oil
zest of half a lime
juice of one lime

1 Whizz up all the coriander in a blender (you'll probably have to do this in two batches). When it's all ground up, put it back in the blender with the other ingredients but only half of the oil and give another whizz.

2 Decant into an airtight container. If you want to sterilise the container beforehand, put it in the oven at 170C for 30 minutes. Pour in some more oil as a seal over the paste.

To use, fry off a couple of heaped tablespoons of the paste, add the meat and fry off. Add about 100ml stock and a small can of coconut milk, simmer for 10-15 mins and eat.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Lancashire meatballs

Oh okay. You got me. These are not Lancashire meatballs. In fact, I don't think there are such things as Lancashire meatballs.

No, I might as well come clean. These are faggots. Ok? Great big fagging faggots. A bunch of faggots. So let's all have a good titter, like we do when poor old Roger Boyes in the Times has to write about sex scandals in the Catholic church and everyone forwards the link to everyone they know with the line "Look at what this article is about and then LOOK AT THE NAME OF THE GUY WHO WROTE IT?! Ha ha wtf is this a joke??"

But is the fact that these have a funny name the reason for their fall from popularity? Or is it their offaly-ness? For these are things of great and bountiful offal. Mostly pig or lamb's liver but also pretty much anything you can get your hands on: heart, "lights" (lungs), kidneys, spleen - anything. Offal, despite being fashionable again, isn't yet popular. Probably because it's less easy to get hold of and people don't know how to cook it anymore. And, to most people, a pizza is just nicer than dealing with this:

Faggots certainly taste liver-y and therefore challenging if you're not really into that stuff, but the tinny liver taste is softened with the added breadcrumbs, fat, salt, sage and onions - so then end up tasting a bit like giant balls of stuffing. Mix them in with some veg and some gravy and they're getting on for delicious.

Anyway I thought I'd give this a go because good old Tina Bricknell-Webb of Percy's includes it in her cookbook and I thought at least one of her readers ought to give it a go as a reward to her for being as brave as to attempt to popularise such a massively unpopular thing.

For this, I used a lamb's heart and half a liver, purchased from the Parliament Hill farmer's market, which is open from 11am-2pm every Saturday. I also used some bacon to jolly things along a bit.

So here we go. This recipe can be found on p.26 of Percy's, by Tina Bricknell-Webb. I promise this is the last recipe I use from here, for everyone out there who is as bored as hell with hearing her name.

510g meat - pig or lamb's liver/ kidney/spleen/lungs/heart and a bit of bacon if you like
3 medium onions
140g fresh breadcrumbs
100 suet
1 tbsp chopped sage
salt and pepper

1 Mince your meat in a mincer - or if you're not a professional butcher and haven't got a mincer, you can bash it around a bit in a food processor. You can can reduce it to a smooth paste or have it a bit rougher - up to you. Mince or blitz the onions quite finely.

2 Put all this in a bowl with the breadcrumbs, sage and suet. The farmer's market butcher said that he usually adds an egg to bind it all together. I forgot - but that's something you could do if you felt like it.

3 Mix all this around and then shape into balls and put in a greased roasting tin. Cook at 175C for 30 minutes.

When these are cooked, you'll find there's a bit of fat and grease floating around in the bottom of the tin. I turned this into an okay gravy by sprinkling about 1tbsp flour over the fat and mashing in to make a roux and then adding about 200ml stock (from a cube), 0.5 glass of red wine and some salt. Then I transferred the whole thing to a sauce pan and boiled the shit out of it until it was a gravy. You can also add some butter to make it glossy if you like.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Crispy pork and noodles

Another back-of-the-net recipe from Jamie Oliver. Honestly, I'm not really sure why I bother making things by anyone else. This man is amazing. He knows what I want to eat and he describes to me in a friendly way how to do it.

Forget all that stuff about school dinners and teaching Americans how not to be fat and all that jazz - that's just what he does because he's got to do something with his time, because he's was so rich by 24 he could have retired and done fuck all for the rest of his life and still lived in a giant house in Primrose Hill and had 12 children without breaking a sweat. Yes, forget it all, that's just him filling his time, being hyperactive. What he does well, really really well, is produce recipes for things that taste even better - if this is possible - than a Chinese takeaway.

And this is a prime example.

So, here we go - Jamie Oliver's hot and sour rhubarb and crispy pork with noodles. I urge you to make this. If I were there with you, I'd grab you by the shoulders and say in a low, urgent voice "Make this. Make this now."

You'll need, for 4

1kg pork belly, boned, rind removed, cut into 3–4cm cubes

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
groundnut or vegetable oil for frying
375g medium egg noodles
4 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
coriander to sprinkle on top
2 limes

for the marinade

400g rhubarb
4 tablespoons runny honey
4 tablespoons soy sauce
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 fresh red chillies, halved and deseeded
1 heaped teaspoon five-spice
a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

1 Preheat the oven to 180C. Put the pork pieces into a roasting try and put to one side. Put all the marinade ingredients into a food processor and whizz. Pour over the pork and then add a large wine glass of water. Cover tightly with foil and put in the oven for 1.5 hours.

2 After cooking, pick the pieces of pork out of the pan and fry them in oil for a few minutes until crispy and brown - even a little blackened. Boil up your noodles if you're having them.

4 To serve, plunk down a bed of noodles, put the pork on top, spoon over some of the sauce left in the bottom of the roasting pan then scatter with coriander, chillies, spring onions and serve with a wedge of lime. Then eat and say to yourself God DAMN IT that boy can cook.

Thursday, 8 April 2010


I have got a TERRIBLE hangover. And it was totally by mistake. I went with The Pescetarian to Mr Kong in Lisle Street last night and after one bottle of Australian Chardonnay we didn't feel sufficiently ripped so we went to the Groucho and had about 3 cocktails apiece too many.

So I feel wretched and regretful and cannot possibly do any cooking for fear I may vomit.

But the sun is shining! So I took some pictures with my new Nikon D90. Excuse, please, the amateurishness and the ghastly cliche of ladybirds on leaves and all that jazz. I was just so pleased to be alive.

A hyacinth and some primroses

Local cat availing herself of the facilites

Ladybird on a petal!!

Local cat - camera shy

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Rhubarb, Apple, Ginger and Oatmeal crumble

Another recipe from Percy's, by Tina Bricknell Webb. But adapted by me. This is an excellent crumble. I used rhubarb and apple for this, even though the recipe just called for rhubarb because I had some cooking apples around - and it worked as well as rhubarb and apple crumble tends to.

This is the recipe as I did it, not as it is in the book, because I didn't want to make a crumble for 6-8 people. Giles doesn't eat puddings - and I shouldn't be, so making a giant one was really out of the question.

I usually take practice puddings round to my mum's house, because there are always so many people there, but it's got to a point where she's asked me not to because she's worried it's going to give my father diabetes.

So here we go - makes enough for 4. I'm sorry about the inexact measurements but, really, it's quite hard to get wrong. Just trust your instincts. The exact and original recipe can be found on p.162 of Percy's.

About three sticks of rhubarb, diced
1 large cooking apple, diced
some caster sugar
some soft brown sugar
a thumb-sized knob of ginger, grated
2 large handfuls of oats
about 50g flour
75g butter

1 Turn the oven on to 180 and butter your crumble dish
2 Put the diced rhubarb, apple and ginger into a mixing bowl and sprinkle over some sugar - about one heaped tablespoon. You don't want this oversweet, just to take the sting out of the rhubarb. Mix round with your hands
3 Put the butter, a large handful of soft brown sugar (about 3-4 oz), 50g flour and some salt if you fancy it, into a food processor and whizz until the mixture is a fine crumb. Add the handfuls of oats and pulse the processor just so the oats are smashed up a bit, not totally obliterated.
4 Put the fruit in the bottom of the crumble dish and then pack the crumble topping in really well. If you've got a bit too much, just press harder and ram it all in - the rammed-ness really makes it crisp up and go yummy and the topping is a bit like flapjack.
5 Put it in the oven for 1 hour. I know that sounds like a long time but that's how long it takes.

So divine that in the end even Giles ate a bit and said it was nice.

p.s. In light of Christy's comment about the crumble ending up too dry, I feel I ought to add Tina BW's exact proportions for the crumble topping, which are, for a base of 900g of rhubarb:

160g soft brown sugar
120g self-raising flour
5g ground ginger
100g oats
150g butter, chilled
5g ground cardamom

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Crushed carrots and spiced celeriac

Good news for those who suffer in silence at my crappy photographs. The massively expensive Nikon SLR I put on our wedding guest list for a laugh has been bought! I couldn't quite believe it, but there it us, under "items purchased". So my Canon Ixus' reign of terror will be over soon.

So - exciting vegetables. They're a thing we should do more of, while we're doing this planet-saving thing of eating less meat.

They do make a difference, exciting veg. It's the difference between something tasting a bit like everything you've ever had before and a memorable lunch.

On Sunday we had Sue Perkins and Julia Churchill over for lunch and I thought I'd make a small roast leg of lamb with crushed carrots with cumin and goat's cheese and spiced celeriac - both from the Riverford Farm Cookbook.

Apart from a tense moment in the kitchen when communication over division of labour betwen me and Giles broke down (Is "you're being such an arsehole about the celeriac" the most bourgeoise thing I've ever said, or what?), it all went superby well and I recommend both of these veggies as accompaniments to any roast. The crushed carrots can be eaten with pitta bread as a dish on their own.

Crushed Roast Carrots with Cumin and Goat's Cheese


750g carrots
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground (I didn't do this)
2 tbsps pine nuts, toasted (I burnt these & had to use hazelnuts and flaked almonds instead - v nice)
75g goat's cheese, crumbled
some chopped mint to sprinkle over the top

1 Peel and cut the carrots in half, lengthways. Put them in a roasting tin and toss with olive oil. Put in a 180C oven and - the recipe says - cook for 50 minutes. But after 50 mins my carrots were still like fucking bombs. So if I were you, I'd allow at least 1hr 10mins for these to roast properly. Or, as a reader pointed out to me, par-boil them first.

2 Mash the carrots roughly and mix with the cumin (I'm sure bought ground cumin is fine). Spread the carrots on a plate and sprinkle with the goat's cheese, nuts and herbs.

Spiced celeriac with lemon

Another winner from the Riverford Farm Cookbook - although it tastes a tiny bit like Heinz Cream of Tomato soup. But not in a bad way.

1 large-ish celeriac
oil for frying
pinch paprika
pink cayenne pepper
pinch ground cinnamon
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper

1 Peel and chop celeriac into chip-sticks
2 Heat the oil and fry celeriac for about 15 mins
3 Sprinkle with the spices, zest, juice and 100 ml water.
4 Simmer for 10 mins, season to taste and serve. As usual, they were much nicer than the picture suggests.

Jamie's quick sausage cassoulet

Well, I say "Jamie" in a pally way, but I mean obviously King Jamie Oliver. The thing I love most about Jamie Oliver is that whenever I make one of his recipes, it's always like someone else cooked it. Whatever I make, I taste in it my clunky ham-fistedness. But if I make a Jamie something, it's always as if it's been made by a proper cook.

So this is a thing we had on Sunday night before we went to see Kick-Ass, and it was great (the sausage thing and the movie). The recipe is so brilliant that I can just provide you with a link and a picture:


I tried this again the other night, but with a couple of changes to make it more of a classic cassoulet. Instead of roasting everything up in a tray, I put it in a deeper, rounder casserole pot, with one tin of chopped tomatoes and one tin of flageolet beans, halved shallots, whole garlic cloves and a large glass of red wine.
About 20 mins before the end of the cooking time, I whizzed up some breadcrumbs and sprinkled over the top.

The difference with doing it like this is that the whole thing has to cook for about 1hr 10 rather than 40 mins because it's wetter. But the result is really gorgeous, sticky and rich. So if you've got a bit of extra time, it's worth doing.

Yoghurt-baked chicken with ginger and paprika

Well, I don't know about you, blogfans, but I'm depressed.

I think it was the long weekend that did it. Extended public holidays will always do that to me. I would say that it's because I'm unemployed, so while everyone else frantically packs up and escapes the office, little wheelie travel bag bobbing along behind them as they rush to make the 18.10 to Exeter, I switch off my laptop and go downstairs.

Because when you're actually from London you stay in London during things like Easter and Christmas. Giles and I were both born in London and raised about ten minutes' drive from each other (although 11 years apart). And then when you work from home (in my case "work" from home) there's not terribly much sense of a holiday, except for the fact that I get up at 9.30am rather than 7.30am.

But the fact is that I've always felt like this when I get too much time off. It all ends up leading to a little bit too much introspection and a massive existential crisis - it always has. If I were ever going to kill myself, for example, it would be in August.

Not even a couple of very successful cooking forays really pierced my gloom but I will describe them to you anyway because they worked and, were I not such an Eeyore at the moment, I would have been pleased.

The first was a yoghurt-baked chicken with ginger and paprika, which I fished out of Percy's Cookbook by Tina Bricknell-Webb

1 Marinate chicken breasts or boneless thighs (or with the bones on - you just have to cook it for longer) in a mixture of:

1 pint yoghurt
75ml oil
1 thumb-sized knob of ginger, grated
2 tsp ground cardomom
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp paprika

You can either marinate overnight or mix this up in the morning and use it in the evening.

2 Put the chicken on a baking tray or gratin dish and cook at 200C for 15 minutes.
3 Turn the oven down to 150C and cook for another 15 minutes
4 Sprinkle with chopped coriander and serve

This was easy and great - although I forgot to add the coriander - but the ginger combined with the yoghurt in this said "pudding" to me and I thought tasted a bit strange. If I were to do this again, I'd skip the ginger and add cumin or five spice. But the principle is good. Served here (bottom) with braised kale.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Happy bloody Easter

Sorry if I'm a little bit distracted today. I've got this problem with a dress for my wedding. Not the wedding dress - that's all fine - but the dress I'm wearing to the wedding afterparty. It is THIS short, hot pink Herve Leger dress that I bought at vast expense from Net a Porter.

It arrived this morning and I fell about it like a starving man on a plate of bacon and eggs.

I tried it on.

It fit - it clung.

My stupid horrible arse arse buggery diet had worked and I looked exactly like a neurotic bride 3 weeks off her wedding.

Fuck... THREE WEEKS? ... Is that it?

Anyway, I rushed upstairs to show Giles who went "Oh my god wow." And then he said. "What are those stains?"

"What stains?" I looked down and saw. With the material pulled taught (taught, not tight) you could see murky sort of water marks all the way down the right hand side. I took the dress off, feeling ill, and hung it up. I rang Net a Porter. They said they'd change it for an unmarked one. But now it's hanging up looking very bright pink and a bit slutty and now I don't know. I'm not really kidding myself too much about a re-wear. I reasoned that I'm never going to be as thin as I'll be on my wedding day and would never have the guts to wear that kind of dress normally, so I might as well just go for it.

But then a little voice in my head - the one that feels ill at the price tags in Anthropologie and scuttles off to Topshop instead - tells me that to buy a dress you might never wear again is profligate and morally bad. But everything I own is a sensible colour and a sensible shape.

Anyway, the indescision rages on.

Meanwhile, here is a picture of a hot cross bun:

made by the lovely Harriet Addison, who follows this blog although she really ought to be writing one of her own (maybe she does?) because she's obviously a much better cook than me. Anyway, get your hot cross buns in for this weekend! I'm off to Waitrose in one hour and don't think for one second that there won't be a cellophane-wrapped package of high-class hot cross buns in my trolley. As I bow to Hadge's higher achievement, I reach for the trans-fats.

In other news, I must report a really textbook bit of storecupboard cooking from Giles yesterday: flageolet and chorizo stew.

You need:

Some chorizo, chopped

Tinned flageolet beans

1 onion

1 Chop up the onion and sweat in a pan with the chorizo for 8-10mins

2 Add the beans (with water)

3 Cook everything, stirring occasionally, for about 12 mins

INSTANT stew. Enjoy with a couple of Haimisha cucumbers.

Have a smashing Easter and try not to think about the fact that it's the celebration of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, because it's not a nice story and will make your choccy egg taste funny.