Blog and recipes

Autumn is here

I’ve spent the day in the garden as an antidote to the Trump story. I’ve taken cuttings from Salvia “Hot Lips”, noticed my Ammi seeds are through. I’ve watered the winter salads in the polytunnel and talked nicely to my foxgloves and echium, wondering whether to plant them out now or in the spring. I’ve put more stuff on the compost pile to be transferred to the new allotment and I’ve sworn a lot at the bindweed. Now I’m indoors and thinking about dinner.

I grew some beautiful bright orange Kobi squash and today we are having one of them roasted with leeks, garlic, pepper, pears off the tree and feta – and a secret ingredient – the smoked pear inspired by Olia Hercules Summer Kitchen. They look so ugly but they taste of caramel and smoke!!

With it we will have couscous and quinoa studded (that’s my Nigella impression by the way) with bright jewels of radish, onion, cucumber and spring onion and beefed up with half a tin of leftover green lentils – then drenched in a sharp hot dressing of chopped fresh red chilli, garlic, tamarind, olive oil, lemon juice, mint and parsley.

It’s only 17.00 and I want to eat it. Now. Perhaps a bath and glass of wine might be a good idea……..


I love beetroot. So does David but it doesn’t suit his digestion.  However here are some beet disguises that seem to work for him.  This one is for Bex.

Beetroot and Chocolate cake

I’ve done it as ‘fake’ Brownies too. it works, with a bit of added walnut and chopped chocolate.

This one is a vegan cake and was adapted from BBC Food.

In a food processor, blitz four medium sized cooked beetroot with 100ml sunflower oil, 100g dark brown sugar and 50ml runny honey or maple syrup, 100g SR flour and 150g wholemeal flour, 1tsp baking powder, 200g soya yogurt, 1tsp salt and 50g cocoa powder.  Grease a 20cm springform tin and/or line with paper. Put the mixture in the tin and then into middle of oven pre-heated at 180C for about 50 minutes, then test it and give another 10 minutes if needed – if it looks a bit dark then shield the top with some more greaseproof paper.

Meanwhile, melt 100g 70% plain chocolate gently in the microwave, add 100g icing sugar, 3 tbsp soya or almond milk and 1 tbsp sieved cocoa.  When the cake has cooled down completely (remember Bake Off and don’t put icing on top of warm cakes) on a cooling rack, put the baking tray underneath the rack and pour the icing over the top of the cake.  Leave it there till it has ‘set’.  You can have the cake for pudding too and it freezes really well.

Beetroot and nut roast sausage rolls

Steam the beetroot in advance and let it cool, then drizzle over some good balsamic vinegar.  Or open a packet of pre-cooked beetroot.

In a food processor, blitz 100g cashew and 100g walnuts/almonds with half an onion, one carrot,  a clove of garlic and half an eating apple (yes!).  Add 1 tbsp soy sauce, a teaspoon of ground cumin, one egg and a good squeeze of HP sauce and a little chopped fresh thyme.  Remove to a fresh bowl.  When the beetroot is cool, chop it into little chunks and mix with the nut paste. Taste and add more seasoning if you wish. Leave it for half an hour to settle.

Now make your pastry!! No. Don’t make it, buy shortcrust or puff pastry ready rolled.  Open it out and leave it on the paper it is rolled in. Cut in half length-ways.

Take some of the nut/beetroot mixture and lay it in the middle of each rectangle of pastry.  Brush the edges with beaten egg and then fold the pastry over and seal the long edge with a fork (make sure you exclude as much air as possible when you fold it over and seal). Glaze the top and edges with beaten egg.  I usually cut these into 3 per rectangle (big sausage rolls!).  Lift the paper straight onto a hot baking tray and put it into the oven for about 20 – 25 minutes tops.  Leave on the tray till cool.  These freeze well too. If they last that long.  Sometimes I add some chunks of feta to the nut/beet mixture.

Beetroot and apple relish

This is a lovely one and makes such a change from green tomato chutney!

Peel and chop raw beetroot into smallish chunks. Do the same with any windfall apples. Chop onion finely.  I don’t do these ingredients by weight – more by proportion.  So you are looking for an equal quantity of onion, beet and apple.  Fry the onion gently in olive oil with some chopped red or green chilli (I used padron peppers as we have a glut) and half a dozen cloves of grated garlic and a couple of inches of grated fresh ginger. Plus a couple of sticks of cinnamon. Fry till its all soft, then add the beetroot and apple. Stir it all round.  Then add about 200g soft brown sugar and a teaspoon or two of salt plus about 20 szechuan peppers for a bit more heat – but you can leave these out if you prefer.  As for the liquid – again I do this by eye – add sufficient apple cider vinegar to come two thirds of the way up the solid ingredients then top up with cloudy apple juice till it just covers the apple and beetroot in the pan.  Bring slowly to a bubble, keep stirring gently till the sugar has melted (bear in mind the sugar will make liquid so dont be tempted to add too much liquid thinking there isn’t sufficient in the pan!). Now keep it on a gentle bubble for at least three hours, stirring occasionally.  One of the easiest mistakes with relish an chutney is to take it off the heat too soon.  Slow and steady wins the game – you want it to reduce and reduce till it is really sticky – definitely not runny!  When you think it is ready, dare yourself to cook it for 30 minutes more – then it really will be ready!  Now let it cool down.

Scald your jars, or heat them in the oven. Or better still, swill out with some vodka and then drink the vodka.  When the relish is cool, you will notice that it will have released more juice and then you will be glad you reduced it more than you thought necessary!  Decant into the warm jars, seal with little waxed circles of paper like your mum did, and only put the lids on when it’s completely cold. Otherwise condensation will gather inside the lid and you will have mould quicker than a shake of a dogs tail.  Store in a cupboard, not in the light.  Then it will stay a great dark red colour.

Lovely with a good strong cheddar, a chunk of good bread, a glass of red and a roaring woodburner!




My preserving obsession

My preserving/fermenting/sourdough obsession has run riot since lockdown. Which is weird when you think about it… I’ve been on a low carb diet so not eating bread; David is not a great fan of jam, and although he professes to LOVE piccalilli it’s surprising how little he eats. He doesn’t like chutney unless it’s Brinjal.  But still the cupboards are falling off the walls with the weight of filled jars, the people in the village have been stripped of all their jam jars and rewarded with a jar or two, and I’ve bought an old larder fridge off Gumtree for storage and for the four sourdough starter(s).

The sourdough is perfected using the three I was generously given by Jo (carefully wrapped and posted from Exeter), from Marion carefully poured into a bag and vacuum sealed and from Shirl’s in a big jam jar.  Each has its own characteristics and these are influenced also by the 

Bake with Jake 

method, which is amazing, and works; the special instructions from Jo (apparently her starter originated in Ottolenghi’s kitchen) produces a loaf with lots of holes, and the special no-knead instructions from Shirl (which came from The Guardian) that produce a  close texture and with great sour texture. Marion’s is a full blooded sour sourdough if you leave it long enough. Enough!  I have poseted sourdough on here already – go here if you haven’t read it.  By the way I recommend eating any of these with large slabs of Fen Farm slightly fermented butter…. which is another good reason for me to shout to myself don’t touch the bread Dawn!


I’ve featured Brinjal in many guises on this blog so I won’t post again. Suffice it to say I used the last 20 aubergines from our polytunnel (not that I’m boasting) in a great batch of Brinjal last week.  The original recipe is here


Fermented tomatoes

II took this recipe from the up-there-with-Nigella. Olia Hercules.

Take as many  green tomatoes as you like. Make a cross shape in the tops (don’t cut all the way through) then chop lots of parsley, garlic and chilli, mix together and stuff into the cut tomatoes. Place carefully in a tall jar with some slices of onion and garlic. Boil 3 litres of water with 40g sea salt. Add black peppercorns, bay leaf, 4 short celery sticks and 5 cloves of garlic to the jar with the tomatoes. Then add the brine.  As a fan of Russian, Turkish and East European food I have also learned a trick of topping the jar with oak leaves or black currant leaves. The tannin does it’s magic. Put the top on and leave for about a month,  I opened mind last week and tried them.   They are wonderful


Green tomato chutney

Chutnies are always a moveable feast because it really depends on what you have a available.  So.  I had 3kg green tomatoes, 1.5kg onions, 6 medium sized windfall Cox’s Orange Pippin apples, 500g Lexia raisins, garlic chopped (lots in our household) 250g brown sugar (less than a lot of people use, I admit), the last dregs of a bottle of molasses at the back of the cupboard, 3 chopped chillies, 1 tbsp Szechuan peppercorns, 1 tbsp ground cinnamon, 2 tbsp coriander seed. 2litres cider vinegar.

The hardest bit is all the chopping – and the belief and patience involved in letting all this gorgeousness gently simmer away for a good four hours. The operative word is gently. It should all melt into a  thick, dark brown sludge. That description does it a disservice. It is in the long slow cooking that the liquid reduces and the flavour increases. You have all eaten that pale green watery green tomatoe chutney with a few raisins floating in it.  Now you know what not to do!

My gherkins

I planted gherkins in the polytunnel. 6 plants. I planted cucumbers in the greenhouse. 6 plants. Or I thought I did. Must remember to label seedlings! So this year we had a bumper crop of gherkins.  Luckily we love gherkins.

Cyder vinegar (say 2l), light brown sugar (say 250g), chopped fresh dill if you have it, dill seed if you don’t. Bring to the boil and let it cool.  Quarter the gherkins lengthwise. Put into a bowl of salted water for an hour. Pack drained gherkins into jars (top with oak leaves or black current leaves).  Pour in the vinegar.

For all preserves, scald the jars and tops with boiling water, place in a hot oven for 10 minutes or swill them round with some vodka (then drink the vodka!). For all preserves I seal first with cling film then out the lid on tight.


Further thoughts on fermenting

My first attempts at fermenting were variable until I hit on the formula and understood the benefits of very thin slices of whatever you are fermenting.  I chop green cabbage, onion and carrot and garlic and fresh ginger root in the food processor.

Weigh your container first. Pile it into whatever container you are using two thirds full – this one is a modern crockpot. Weigh again. Subtract the weight of the crockpot. Fill with mineral water to cover the vegetables.  Now drain the water from the container and weigh it. Now you have the weight of the veg and the weight of the water. Add these together.  Now multiply that figure by 0.025.  This will give you the absolute weight of salt you need to add to the water.  Dissolve the salt in the water then pour back onto the vegetables. Add special ceramic or glass weights to keep the vegetables under the water – or simply fill a sandwich bag with water and lay it on top, serving the same purpose as the weights.

Leave in a warm room for a couple of days, you will smell it fermenting or if you are using a glass jar you will see the bubbles rising.  The trick now is to wait and get to understand it.  Taste after 4 days and then allow it to continue fermenting till you get the flavour you want. Then decant it into sterilised jars and lids and out in the fridge which will stop the fermentation process.

It WORKS. Every time,!!

Gill Meller’s stuffed buckwheat pancakes

This year, in my world – you know my world: a bit crazy, food and cooking biased, house full of people, veg growing, grandson fixated – many things have changed and some things stay reassuringly constant.  Like Gill Meller.

Along with other favourite food writers like Diana Henry, Hugh FW, Olia Hercules, Ravinder Bhogal, when you read Gill its not just for the recipes. And it’s not all about the ingredients.  It’s his style, the words, the modest foundation that allows the food to speak for itself. It’s not self-serving but is genuinely brilliant!

And so it was with huge excitement that the postman delivered Gill’s latest Root, Stem, Leaf, Flower a few weeks ago, and as always I disappeared inside its covers for hours. And hours. It is a permanent fixture whatever room I’m in – only an arm’s length away.

Yesterday I made the stuffed buckwheat pancakes.  David also had newly lifted (a bit early) pink fir apple potatoes and we both shared a simple salad – and the pancakes.

I could go through the method start to finish but I won’t. Why don’t you buy the book instead?  All of Gill’s recipes are straightforward.  This was no exception.

In essence – chop onion and celeriac, season well and rub through with olive oil then roast till they are nearly done. Then add chopped field mushrooms and steamed tenderstem broccoli for another 10 minutes.  Season well with salt and black pepper.  Make lacy pancakes with buckwheat flour (not a flour, but a grass!), milk and egg.  And make a thick, well seasoned bechamel – I added a grating of nutmeg. Stuff the pancakes with the roasted vegetables (best if the broccoli is just a little charred in my view) and if you like,

add dots of Gorgonzola or Roquefort. You won’t need much.  Roll the pancakes round the vegetables and place in a dish with just a little olive oil wiped across the base. cover with bechamel and cook in a hot oven till hot, brown and bubbling.

Absolutely gorgeous. Try it. Buy the book!Gill

Love in the time of Corona – Pies

Years ago when I was young, Shirl gave me a copy of Marquez’ Love in the Time of Cholera. I still have it.

Now we are in a different time.  David and I are holed up here in splendid isolation. Me on my diet – he not on a diet. Sort of Love in the Time of Corona.

Rifling through the cupboard I thought I’d better use some ingredients that have been kicking around for a while – like the rye flour that I noticed went out of date in 2016 which was when I last attempted to make a sourdough starter. I am hoping that maybe some kind soul might send me some to put me out of my misery in being completely incapable to do the sourdough thing. Or if you know the magic please tell me.

This offering is pie. Made with hot watercrust pastry (my version) which must be the most even-tempered pastry in the world. Pie filled with onion, garlic, mushrooms, courgette, tomato, spinach and – it gets better – gorgonzola! The most majestic of cheeses.  Toast it with cheddar. Put it in the cheese sauce to pep it up. Sneak an inch out of the fridge and eat secretly all on your own. Whatever. Try some!

Your oven needs to be set at 190C. Put an empty baking tray in at the same time.

First, gently fry onion, garlic, chilli flakes (a few), plenty of fresh thyme in olive oil, till soft.  Then add about 4 big mushrooms, chopped, or the equivalent volume of their smaller cousins and half a pack of chopped vacuum-packed chestnuts (Use the other half and make a chestnut casserole with onion carrot and jerusalem artichokes – or even better make some chestnut sausages.  Then add a few small chopped tomatoes.  Season with gremolata, quite a lot of black pepper  and if you have some a tablespoon of Burgess’ mushroom ketchup (other supermarkets are available) or some Lea and Perrins or for the  Yorkshire folk – Henderson’s. Then add a big handful of spinach. Put the lid on and let them cook happily together for about 5 minutes till the spinach has wilted.  Put to one side to cool (take the lid off). the mixture should be moist but not watery. If it is, drain it off.

Now the pastry.  I put equal amounts of wholemeal and rye flour in a bowl (about a cup and a half in total). Season with salt (sometimes just with grated Parmesan). Put 150ml boiling water in a jug and 30ml olive oil in the same jug.  Pour  it over the flour and bring the dough together with a wooden spoon. Simple as that.  Rest for a few minutes while you prepare the springform tins. I used two smallish ones, liberally greased and floured.

Roll out half the pastry to the thickness of just less than a £1 coin.  Cut two circles and drop into the tins, push it up the sides so there is pastry beyond the top.  Add the mushroom mixture. Then slice a courgette into very thin slices and put on top. My theory was that these will steam whilst its cooking and add a little structure to the innards.  Then dot with gorgonzola.  Slice off the excess pastry and recombine, then roll out two tops for the pies.  Use beaten egg to baste the edges then put the tops on the pies, knock them up (tap the edges with the blunt side of a knife), make a steam hole, use the rest of the egg to glaze the top.

Remove the roasting hot baking tray and put the pies on it then return to the oven for 40 minutes till golden and toasty.

Remove from the oven. Leave for 15 minutes, slide a knife round the edge, then release the springform tin sides.   Dinner is served!


Low carb pie

As most of you will know, there is a diet going on in the house. Me. Low carb. 800 calories a day. 14 hour fast daily (or rather, nightly).  Dinner at 20.00hrs. Breakfast after 10.00hrs.  I live with a man who can eat a plateful of carbs every meal and still has a waist that is only 2.5cm bigger than when we met 40 years ago.  That’s just not fair. Whereas I only have to look at a slice of bread and gain 2kg.

What’s my favourite diet meal, you might ask.  No it’s not the fish in coconut sauce, or the celeriac chips, or the quinoa porridge.  It’s my invention of a pie.  I needed pie. But not the carbs. So here it is.  My pie. The whole dinner (including 8 celeriac chips, plus lots of greens) is 380 calories and 26g of carbs out of my 40g daily limit).  The most important thing is it feels like I’ve eaten a whole meal. The pie makes four portions.  Two for today for him and me, and two for tomorrow.

I use a 20cm springform tin for this. Line the base first. It just makes it easier.

125g ground almonds in a bowl, add one teaspoon of grated parmesan, two teaspoons of olive oil and a little salt plus one beaten egg. Squidge it together as if you are making the base for a cheesecake with digestive biscuits.  Then load into the tin and press down hard and bring a little bit up the sides.

Steam 8 slices of 1.5cm thick butternut squash and one sliced courgette (or any other vegetables but make sure they are not watery).

Fry half a dozen chopped mushrooms in a little oil with lots of garlic and a few chilli flakes.  Add a dash of Lea and Perrins at the end, when they are cooked and all the liquid has evaporated.

Pile the mushrooms onto the base of the pie and spread them out.  Then layer with butternut squash and courgette on top.

Put 125g Quark or thick plain yogurt in a bowl. Add two beaten eggs, a little mustard and season well.  Pour over the top of the pie.  Cook in the oven at 190C for about 35 minutes. The top should be just wobbly and the bottom will be crispy, like pastry – but not!! Remove from the oven and slide a sharp knife round the edge of the pie. Leave for 10 minutes, then remove the springform sides of the tin.


Ready Steady Cooks Viral Antidote 19: Ground Almonds, sweet potato, mushrooms

As many of you know by now – my strategy for weight loss was to tell everyone so I would be ashamed if I failed – I am following the Michael Mosley Fast800 diet.  Inspired by Barbara and my brother in law Mark.  The decision-making line in the sand was a bit like deciding to give up smoking – something clicked and I was ready.

Similar to the smoking thing, it has taken me about 30 years to get to this point. And the point is? To be more trim, fitter and to stave off the reality of being 67 in a month’s time!  So far, so 800 calories a day for the past 4 weeks. 12 kilos has been shifted, according to the morning weigh-in today.

The ingredients I had lurking in cupboard and fridge were ground almonds, sweet potato and mushrooms. The MM cookbook has a recipe for a quiche but instead of pastry it uses ground almonds.  I am not fond of quiche, but I was intrigued by the ground almonds bit.

True to form, all my life I have I bastardised methods set out in all recipes that start off in a book, and turned them into my own. Don’t be fooled by Mary, Jamie, Nigella or Nigel.  All recipes are derivative!


125g ground almonds (or if you only have whole almonds, grind them in the blender or Nutribullet)

25ml olive oil

2 eggs

1 sweet potato

1 knobbly end of celeriac that was rolling around in the fridge drawer

ditto 1 medium sized courgette

2tbsp Parmesan cheese

2 tbsp Quark or Greek yogurt or creamer fraiche


Put the ground almonds in a bowl and season with some gremolata (you should know how to make that by now, otherwise it’s here). Add the olive oil and one beaten egg.  Mix till it is moist enough to just hold together.

Grease a 20cm springform tin like this one then sprinkle with some coarse semolina – or breadcrumbs. Put the ground almond mixture in the tin. Press it all down firmly and draw some up the sides a bit. Put in the fridge.

Choose three or four mushrooms with a couple of spring onions. Fry gently in olive oil then add a little tomato purée and season with some Worcestershire sauce.  Cook till all the mixture has evaporated.  Allow to cool.

Steam your sliced courgette, sweet potato (sliced) and celeriac. Allow to cool.

Beat the remaining egg with the Quark or yogurt of crepe fraiche.  Add black pepper.  Add 75% of the Parmesan.

Remove the tin from the fridge.  Spreathe mushroom duxelles (for that is what it is) in and spread over the base.  Now add layers of celeriac,  sweet potato and courgette, season with gremolata.  Pour the egg/Quark over the top and place on the middle shelf of the oven at 190C for about 30 minutes – until the top is firm to touch.

Let it cool for 10 minutes the run a sharp knife round the edge to free it up a bit.  Unspring the tin after half an hour.

It looks good.  It smells gorgeous.  It serves 4 – so guess what we will be eating tomorrow night!  325 calories per portion and 20g of my allowable 35g carbohydrates per day.  David will have a plate full of roast potatoes with his. Sadly, I shall not!

Ready Steady Cooks Viral Antidote 18: Moussaka two ways

This one is for my mate John who offers me potatoes, parsnips and aubergine.  In return, I have a two-way offer here. A meat one and a vegetarian one.

For four servings:

Take two fat aubergines and slice lengthways into 1.5cm thick slices. Place in a bowl and season well with sea salt, black pepper and olive oil.  Pre-heat your oven to 200C then put some baking parchment on a baking tray and line up the oiled aubergine slices flat on the tray.  Cook in the middle of the oven for about 25 minutes or until soft.

And maybe a bit crispy at the edges. Remove from the oven but leave on the tray to cool.

Meanwhile, slice two or three big potatoes and a couple of parsnips into chip sized lengths and boil in salted water until just cooked. Run cold water over them to stop them cooking and drain.

Meat version

If you want a meaty lasagne, and spread out 750g well seasoned mince onto the hot roasting tray on which you roasted the aubergine. (First removing the aubergine). Put the tray of mince into the oven and roast the mince for 20 minutes, turning it as it browns (this is a Tom Kerridge trick). Then drain the fat from the meat.

Now you can either make a good thick tomato sauce by frying onion, chilli flakes and garlic in olive oil till soft then throw in half a glass of wine and let it reduced, followed by two tins of chopped tomatoes and some herbs like oregano, rosemary, thyme and the meat Plus a flat teaspoon of cinnamon powder and simmer for a while till the liquid is reduced.  (Or just use two 250ml boxes or jars of Passata instead of tinned tomatoes).

Now start layering up.  Start with a little sauce in the bottom of a good deep dish. Then add a layer of aubergine then meat in sauce  – wait for it – then a single layer of potato and parsnip strips. Season with a little salt and black pepper.  Then carry on layering until you end with a meat layer.

I haven’t made that potato bit up.  When I worked nights in a nursing home my friend Cheryl – who was married to a Greek – she gave me the potato tip. I just added the parsnips because that’s what John has in his fridge.

The non-bechamel topping is the same for both meat and veggie options so I will do that at the end.


For for the veggie option, make (or open a jar) the same sauce and pimp it up with the same herbs and add some chopped fresh spinach and/or chopped broccoli to it. check the seasoning.

As with the meat version, use a good deep dish and  layer the Moussaka in the same order, sauce, aubergine, potato and parsnip etc.

My cheat’s bechamel goes like this.  Take four eggs and half a pot of creme fraiche or full fat yogurt. Add a touch of English mustard, salt and pepper. Beat the eggs then beat into the crepe fraiche or yogurt. Add a handful of grated cheese. Any sort. Pour onto the top of the Moussaka.

Bake in the centre of the oven at 200c for a good 30 minutes. Put the dish on a baking tray in case it overflows.

The biggest and best tip is to WAIT for 15 minutes. there is a reason why Greek dishes are served at room temperature and it’s not just to do with the scorching sun!

Evening falls

Have a glass of wine and make a salad. 15 minutes later the temperature of the Moussaka will have reduced from molten to moderate and it will have firmed up so you can slice it rather than slop it onto the plate!  I am so good to you with these tips!!

Hope you enjoy it either way.




Ready Steady Cooks Viral Antidote 16: Hot Cross Buns

Cathy asked for this.  An easy recipe for hot cross buns.

This morning I needed to make bananananana bread for Matthew over the road. It’s his favourite. He’s home from school and the young man must have his bananananana bread.  Also on my mind was hot cross buns. Should that be ‘were’? I don’t know.

Paranoid about running out of bread flour, we have a stash. So that was ok.  I take back everything I said to Angie about her 10 year old grains because I found some sultanas that went out of date in 2015.  Then I tried to find some yeast that wasn’t for our electric breadmaker.  I found some. Out of date. Dang. Anyway, I used both.

450g bread flour, one teaspoon of salt, 7g dried yeast (in-date if possible), 125g caster sugar, two teaspoons mixed spice.  Into the Kenwood bowl it goes.  50g butter in a Pyrex jug.  Add 350ml full cream milk.  Microwave till the butter has melted and the milk is warm but not hot (put your finger in it to test). Add one beaten egg to the milk and butter, then add it all to the flour and turn on the Kenwood which has the dough hook attached and churn away for five minutes.  Alternatively, do it all by hand.  The dough will be on the wet side. It should be.  Knead by hand on a work surface for 10 minutes.  Put back in the bowl (or leave in the bowl if using the Kenwood) cover it with a clean cloth and put somewhere warm to prove for a couple of hours. Ours goes on the south-facing kitchen windowsill in the summer and the airing cupboard in the winter.

Weigh out 125g in-date sultanas.  Peel, core and chop one eating apple. Grate the rind from one orange.  After the dough has proved, remove the cloth and add the fruit. and grated orange rind  Knead again for five minutes by hand or a couple of minutes in the Kenwood.  Leave for another half an hour.

Turn the oven to 220C.  Line two baking trays with baking parchment.  Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. ‘Punch it in the middle’ then draw the sides to the middle, turning as you go. Flip it over and brush off any flour.  Divide into equal sized portions and roll each piece (the size is entirely up to you, but remember that they will spread) into a ball and place on the baking tray with a little space between them.  You should get 12 to a standard sized tray.  Mix a little plain flour with water until it makes a thick but runny paste.  Then trail it across the top of the buns in a X.

Place in the centre of the pre-heated oven for about 15 minutes then check them.  If done, they should feel firm, not doughy.  If you are unsure, take one out and cut in half to check. (You can always put it back again if it needs a couple more minutes).

Remove to a cooling tray and whilst still warm, brush with plum or apricot jam , diluted slightly with boiling water – just to glaze.

Dare you not to eat one whilst they are cooling!

Ready Steady Cooks Viral Antidote 15: Curry Goat, potatoes, paneer


Do I really have goat lurking in the back of my cupboard?  No.  But it is lurking in my freezer.  Goat is one of my favourite meats.  Did you know that goat is the world’s primary meat?  Over 70% of the red meat eaten globally is goat.  Not pig. Not dog. Goat.

So tonight it’s curry goat for me, plus sag aloo and paneer and pea for him.

I usually get my goat from Fielding Cottage.  However this batch was actually purchased at the Jesmond Food Market on Armstrong Bridge Newcastle and has been buried deep in Will’s freezer and then mine ever since. On that freezing cold February day in Newcastle Katie and I ate the biggest sausages I’ve ever seen and David had Tartiflette.

I have a goat cook-book and it is one of my favourites. Funnily enough it’s called ‘Goat’  and is by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough.

You shouldn’t be worried about goat.  Just treat it like lamb.  It tastes gorgeous, just a bit more meaty than lamb, a bit more chewy. It’s great casseroled, skewered, barbecued, roast.  But my favourite way is curried.

Yeaterday  I defrosted the goat, took the bones out, then weighed just the meat. Then put the bones back in the bowl with the meat (adds flavour and juiciness during the cooking).  I had 800g goat meat before boning and 675g afterwards.  This will easily feed four.  I sliced an onion quite thin and crushed 8 cloves of garlic with a bit of salt. Threw it in with the meat, then grated a thumb sized piece of fresh garlic (I store mine in the freezer then grate it from frozen #tip), half a teaspoon of ground turmeric – 3 small dried chillies, cut in half lengthwise –  and two tablespoons of my bese bese curry powder – see here for the recipe.  Or just add a pot of really good quality curry paste or sauce.  Then added 200g  of full-fat yogurt, a teaspoon of salt and a chopped up lemon (rind off). Mixed it all together, covered and left it alone for the rest of the day.

About 4o/c this afternoon I threw it all in a saucepan, added a box of passata and a tin of coconut milk and a cinnamon stick.  Brought to a gentle simmer and cooked for about 3 hours or so.  Then removed the bones, scraped any remaining meat from the bones back into the pan.  Tasted and adjust salt/pepper.

The plan is to eat it now, or even better, eat it again tomorrow. With paratha.

You might wonder why I haven’t gone to the faff of sweating the onions etc.  This is because I have cooked this dish and other curries so many times I have found it makes not a jot of difference to anything like a casserole/stew/curry if it is going to cook on the hob or the oven for at least 3 hours!

Sag Aloo

This really is so simple, even our Otto could do it.  If you have a bag of washed small potatoes in your fridge just take them out of the bag and cut them in half. Otherwise peel and chop two big old potatoes into chunks.  Add some oil to a wide shallow pan, Throw in the potatoes and stir them round a bit, then add a couple of teaspoons of salt (it needs it) and a large tablespoon of Sambar curry powder (see my recipe here) or some shop-bought curry paste. But make sure it’s good.  Stir it all around keeping watch if you are using the curry powder as the turmeric in it will thicken and stick to the bottom of the pan.  Now add about 175 mil water, put the lid on, and cook the potatoes gently until just cooked.  Then add half a bag of spinach.  Stir it around.   Done.

Paneer and pea

Who said home made curries are difficult huh?  Take a packet of paneer (you will find it in Tesco, Waitrose blahdeblah) and chop into chunks.  Put some oil the the bottom of a pan – just enough to cover,  add chilli flakes and garlic (chopped not squeezed).  Add a little curry powder if you wish – about a tablespoon –  I would normally use the bese-bese powder on the blog page.  Stir around and fry the paneer till it has what I call a ‘curry crust’ on it.  Then add three chopped fresh tomatoes or half a tin of tinned tomatoes and a little water or the juice from the tin. Stir again. Let it cook for about five minutes then add a cup full of frozen peas.  The key here is not to have too much liquid, so you might have to use your judgement here.  Use the picture as a guide.  Cook gently until the peas are cooked through. Check seasoning.

Spice and lemon

Re these spice mixes I keep going on about.  Every three months or so I make a load and store them in Mason Jars.  It is so easy to make them and very zen in the kitchen with all those spices!  Use the links above to find the page.

Ready Steady Cooks Viral Antidote 14: Prawns, garlic, tinned coconut

Prawns in Spain

Fran, my oldest buddy – if memory serves me well, this is your second favourite after my beef chilli!!

The best and easiest prawn curry, coming up in a hurry, and it only takes 20 minutes to cook.  Just enough time to put the rice on.

First fry a couple of finely chopped onions with two chopped cloves of garlic and a red chilli (don’t include seeds if you want it mild, keep seeds in if you want it hot).

Then add the following:  a teaspoon ground cumin, a teaspoon of ground coriander, a couple of ground green cardomom, a teaspoon of turmeric, a couple of ground cloves.



Cheats curry sauce – recommended.

Alternatively Fran, just get Jonathan to go to Waitrose and buy a really good quality curry sauce like this one. (See, I cheat too!) Jonathan you are not allowed to get Chicken Tonight sauce!! Oh, and tell him to get some fresh coriander too, please.  If you are not using sauce purchased from Waitrose, add a tin of chopped tomatoes and a good squeeze of tomato puree plus a little sugar.  Cook for 10 minutes only otherwise the prawns will be as hard as bullets. Add a tin of full fat coconut milk and stir it around, then a good handful of chopped fresh coriander.

Finally, you might fancy some dal.  You can do not better than consult with Asma Khan. I love her recipe for tempered dal.  Put a cup of red lentils in a saucepan with a dried red chilli, a teaspoon of chilli and a couple of cloves of garlic and a teaspoon of cumin seed.  Boil till fluffy then whiz with a stick blender.  Meantime, put a couple of tablespoons of oil plus a good knob of butter in a small pan.  Add a couple more chillis plus a teaspoon of turmeric and a teaspoon of cumin seed.  Get it really hot then pour over the cooked lentils.   It’s magnificent.




Ready steady Cooks Viral Antidote Day 13: Matfoul, butter beans, olives, tomatoes

This one is for my friend SNShakes. We haven’t seen one another for years.  We must remedy that when all this nonsense is over.

SN gave me matfoul, butter beans, tomatoes and olives.  To be honest I had to look up the matfoul but found that it’s just like the giant couscous or mugrabeh, much loved by Ottolenghi. You’ll probably find it in his recipe books.  This is my take on a matfoul and butter bean soup – although you could also have it as a tagine I guess and serve with flatbread.  Either way it’s easy.

Put 75g of the matfoul in a saucepan with some water and boil vigorously for about 10 minutes or until it is just soft, drain it and roll in a little olive oil.

Sweat chopped onion and celery in a pan with some good olive oil, then add chilli flakes to taste (preferably Aleppo which are sweeter), a teaspoon of cumin seed and half a teaspoon of tumeric and half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon. continue to fry gently remembering that the ground spices will start to thicken, so don’t let it catch on the bottom of the pan. Add a little more oil if necessary.  Now add the drained tinned tomatoes and squish them up a bit, mixing with the onion and spices.  Add the tin of butter beans and its liquid, plus some more vegetable stock.  Add seasoning at this point. Bring to just under simmering point then add the cooked matfoul. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Image from

Cook for another 10 minutes or so then add a big handful of chopped flat parsley and fresh coriander and some chopped green olives.

If you want to pimp it up you can add some cooked chicken or roast red peppers.

Ready Steady Cooks Viral Antidote 12. Garlic Chilli Cabbage

First Angie offered me garlic, chilli and a bag of 10 year out of date mixed grains. I declined the latter. She insists they will be eaten at some point. I hope I am not there in Forest Gate when she does!

I thought of a number of chilli/garlic/cabbage combos to be honest none of them filled me with delight.  I have one that includes all three, just to play the game. After all, I started it!  Then there are other suggestions for each ingredient.  Apparently there is a lot of garlic and a lot of chilli!


(Sauerkraut is not particularly photogenic and so I offer you pickled dill cucumbers instead).

Bet you were not expecting sauerkaraut!  Full of probiotics, it’s all the rage. I have some fermenting away right now.  Having experimented this is what I have learned:

  • Slice your cabbage really thinly.  Take a few leaves and roll them up tightly then cut on the diagonal.
  • if the leaves are big, chop them in half. Remove the stems (but use another day in a stir fry)
  • don’t use tap water, use bottled water. Fluoride will impede the fermentation. You want the bugs. They are good bugs!
  • start small to check the process out
  • when you have finished the prep and have the sauerkraut in its jar, put it somewhere where it is consistently warm
  • don’t be worried if mould forms on top
  • dont seal the jar with a lid till you are ready to stall the fermentation

OK. Enough advice. This is what you do.  Remove thick stalks. Use any old cabbage. About 1 kilo or so. Slice very thinly then slice again if the bits look too long. The idea is to increase the surface area of each slice.  Put it all in a big bowl and using the end of a rolling pin bash it. And bash it and bash it some more. You want to bruise it so juice comes out.  Mix in 2 tbsp coarse sea salt.  Mix and squeeze, massage and pummel for at least 10 minutes. Maybe more. Then do it again.  By now brine will have formed so if you like add some caraway seed and black pepper then push the cabbage under the brine.

Cover with cling films do push down to exclude all the air and weight it with a plate that fits inside the bowl with a couple of tins of beans on top.  The idea is that the cabbage should sit beneath its brine.  Cover the bowl with more cling film and leave it somewhere at 18-20C for a few days.

Check the cabbage every other day, lift the cling film and peer in. You should see bubbles after a couple of days. Stir it round a bit and weight it down again. Wait about 6 days and it should be ready to bottle.

Don’t worry if you see flecks of mould, just flick them out.  Taste it. It should be sour. Pack into sterilised jars put a lid on, and store in the fridge.

Sometimes I add turmeric and grated fresh ginger or grated horseradish and grated carrot. Yummy.


Does garlic require a recipe?  We grow lots of garlic and usually it is hanging in the greenhouse once it’s been lifted and the last lot is finished about 2 months before the next lot is harvested.  You can salt it, brine it, store it in olive oil, chop it into your own gremolata, cook a roast chicken with 20 cloves, pierce lamb with slivers of garlic  and rosemary. Or you can make Skordalia. Thick, unctuous loveliness.

Boil a pound of potatoes. Mash or put in a food processor with 6-8 cloves of garlic and season well with salt. No pepper. Pour in 200ml olive oil. Mix till all combined. Add a squeeze of lemon juice. Taste to check seasoning.  Serve with Greek mezzo, olives, aubergine, bread, anchovies. Imagine you are in Ithaka.


Quickest and best way to keep chillies? Hang them up to dry then put them in the food processor until they are in pieces. Store in tins or jars. Use in everything (in our house)  – except custard and cake!


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Ready Steady Cook Viral Antidote Day 11: Pasta, sweetcorn, paprika

Sweetcorn e cacio e Pepe

This is so creamy you just won’t believe it. And it is for Roo and Hugh who nominated sweetcorn, gluten free pasta and paprika.

It’s a quick supper, that’s for sure.  I am not certain whether this is a tin of sweetcorn, or corn on the cob that they’ve chosen.  If the latter then the first thing to do is to shave the corn off the cob top to bottom.  Then put the stalks in a pan with 200ml salted water and boil for 10 minutes with bayleaves and thyme if you have it.  Yes! Just that! Then pour the stock into a jug.  If you are not choosing fresh, then drain the tin and use the juice as stock and top it up with water.

Now roast five black peppercorns in the dried pan for a couple of minutes, then grind in a pestle and mortar. Put back in the pan, add the stock and about 30g butter.  Add the corn cobs and a teaspoon of paprika and simmer gently for 5 minutes

Now add your pasta – you are aiming for the liquid to just about cover the pasta.  Bring it all to the boil till the pasta is cooked and most of the liquid has evaporated.  Now add a good cup of grated parmesan.  This will  melt and make it creamy.

If you are really going for broke, you could boil a handful of non-salted cashew nuts in 150ml water for 10 minutes then let them cool slightly and blitz in the Nutribullet or liquidiser.  Combined with parmesan, it makes an even creamier sauce for pasta.

This recipe is a slight adaptation from the original from The Tasting Table.

Ready Steady Cooks Viral Antidote #whatdayisit? Squash, chilli, camembert

Baked squash with chilli and Camembert

Jude asked for a recipe that included butternut squash, Camembert and chilli.

How did she know that Camembert is my least favourite cheese?  Don’t get me wrong – I love strong cheeses: Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Stinking Bishop, Un-pastuerised Brie.  But Camembert, no!  I think it all started when we returned from France in high summer 1986 with a boot full of luggage, picnic boxes, buckets, spades and little circular wooden boxes of Camembert.  By the time we arrived home I thought I was a Camembert!

I recommend you have the following in addition to those three ingredients.  Some fresh sage. An eating apple or two. A few shelled walnuts.  Some crusty bread – a baguette maybe?!

Turn the oven on to 200C.  Take your squash and cut it in half lengthways. Lay the two pieces side by side and take out the seeds and the stringy bits! (Keep some of the seeds and plant them end-on in pots then plant out in the garden).  Crush a couple of cloves of garlic and mix with some seasalt, chopped fresh chilli (the heat is in the seeds so if you don’t like it chilli-hot just remove them) and a couple of grinds of black pepper.  Put these ingredients into a plastic bag or a bowl. Add 75ml olive oil.  Whisk it all together.  Now put your squash in there as well and massage the oil all over the squash.

Place the squash side by side in a small-ish baking tray or a terracotta dish/similar. Put in the middle of the oven and roast them for 45 minutes until quite soft. Check with the point of a knife to test ‘resistance’. Leave in a bit longer if not done.

Meanwhile take your Camembert (or Gorgonzola/Roquefort/Brie/soft cream cheese) and cut it to a size where it will either sit in the dimple of the squash where the seeds were, or you might need to chop up the cheese a bit. Either way be generous. When the squash is just about done, remove the pan from the oven, add the cheese to the dimple in the squash, pierce with a couple of sage leaves or fresh rosemary, grind some black pepper and put back into the oven for 15 minutes so the cheese is all runny and bubbling.

Chilli apples on the side

When the squash are ready and the cheese is bubbling over, take out of the oven and rest for five minutes (the squash, not you!) then maybe carefully transfer to a bigger dish and surround them with the apple. Serve it with crusty bread and a lovely green salad.

Of course this will serve four people with generous portions. You could keep some for tomorrow and reheat, or you could scoop the flesh and any cheese into a bowl with half a tin of chickpeas (no liquid) and make a squash hummus to eat with the rest of that crusty baguette.

Hope you enjoy this Jude. And if you don’t like Camembert, use another cheese. Send me pictures!!

Ready Steady Cooks Viral Antidote 9: Rice and Beans

Su has a cold. She’s just come back from LA and she’s chilly. Fortunately she has a tin of red kidney beans, a bag of boil in the bag rice and a tin of anchovies.  What to cook?

Su, I can imagine you after you’ve cooked this.  Snuggled up on that sofa with a big bowl of steaming rice and beans, feet tucked under you, fire a-blazin……  and the best bit about this is it only takes a trice to cook!

First chop and fry an onion and some carrot and add half a tin of anchovy and oil into the pan whilst it is cooking.  In the end you won’t taste the anchovy it will just act as seasoning.

Then when the vegetables are soft, add grated fresh ginger if you have it – about 2cm piece – if not half a teaspoon of ground ginger; also add a finely chopped fresh chilli if you have it, if not some chilli flakes. Then add a teaspoon of cumin seed or ground, and a teaspoon of mustard seeds. Finally, nip out into your lovely garden a snip off a bay leaf or two and throw that in too. Add a little more oil if you need it. Keep frying till everything is soft and it smells divine.

Drain the beans (the water will be full of starch and be sludgy coloured) in a sieve then throw just the the beans into the pan with the vegetables.  Mix it all around.  Now, if you have any fresh tomatoes you could chop a couple and put them in too – but don’t use tinned ones in this recipe.  Mix it all togther, then add the rice and just enough stock to cover. Add salt and black pepper too.  Maybe a little more chilli.  Now bring to the boil and then gently simmer for about 15 minutes.  That is IT!  If you have a tin of coconut milk or a bar of creamed coconute in the cupboard you could use that instead of stock.

If you have a bit of salad lurking in the fridge you could make yourself a tomato salad with some thinly sliced onion and maybe some fresh coriander and sprinkle with a little olive oil and wine vinegar.  But if you don’t who cares, just serve it into your bowl, pick up a fork and head for the woodburner!

Ready Steady Cooks Viral Antidote 8: Tortilla

I have been teaching myself to crochet. An absolute beginner.  I’ve just hurled crochet hook, yarn and my sanity into the basket.  I know – I’m over-reaching myself as usual.  Sue Maton – the yarn genius – has a new online project and I thought I’d join in.  With no experience. Obvs, I was going to be a disaster.  I digress.

Brenda has so generously offered me wilting celery, half a pot of Quark and half a jar of red peppers.  It is crying out to be a tortilla darling!  One of our all-time standbys when we don’t know what to cook. In fact (I am now editing this piece) I find that I have already posted a tortilla recipe in 2016. Never mind, here’s another with a little variation to fit Brenda’s requirements!

If it’s just for you and Brian tonight then halve these quantities. Or, damn it, make all of it and have the rest of it for lunch for a couple of days.

OK. Those all too familiar staples of sliced onion (two of) and a cup full of finely chopped celery in a good sturdy frying pan that you can put under the grill with plenty of olive oil.  Add a couple of cloves of chopped garlic.  If you have a nubby end of chorizo you can chop this up and put it in, or some bacon, at the same time. Peel and slice potatoes about 1cm thick. Add to the pan, making sure there is sufficient oil, and fry them gently; keep turning them, turning them. It doesn’t matter at all if they break up.

If you prefer a lower fat option then put the potatoes in a pan of boiling salted water and cook for three minutes then drain. Let them cool a bit and then add to the onions and celery.  Add chopped parsley and fresh thyme or oregano, a goodly amount of salt and black pepper.  Drain the red peppers and pat dry, then cut into strips and add to the pan, distributing evenly across the top.   Break four large eggs into a large bowl and beat them then add the quark. If you have half a tub of thick yogurt or cream you could add that too. But half a tub of quark is fine if you haven’t.  Mix the quark/cream/yogurt into the eggs and beat again. Season with salt and pepper.

Check that the potatoes are very nearly cooked, then turn the heat up and add the egg/quark mixture. Move the potatoes around a bit so that the liquid is evenly distributed.  Watch it carefully. The idea is to seal the eggy base on a high heat (which will take 4-5 minutes) then turn down the heat, sprinkle smoked paprika on top and then put a lid on it and cook gently on the hob for another 10 minutes. Keep the heat low so the bottom doesn’t burn. Alternatively you can put it in the oven at 190C for about 15 minutes without the lid, to set the top.

Leave in the pan until it cools. Then either turn in out onto a plate  (plate over pan and invert it – easiest to do this when it is cooler) then bring to the table and slice into quarters. Or serve straight from the pan if it is hot with green beans or spinach or with a salad.

This is a regular dish for us.  Usually all the ingredients are in the house and if we don’t have Quark we just use eggs.

Hope you enjoy it Brenda.

Ready Steady Cooks Viral Antidote 7: Chestnuts, octopus and garlic

Gill was having a laugh, I think. And her chestnuts are out of date. I’ve been saying that for years, actually:  Gill – your chestnuts are out of date, get them seen to!  She offered me a can of Octopus, a bag of vacuum packed chestnuts (out of date) and garlic.

Try as I might, I could not work up a recipe that was palatable with that concoction, so instead I’m offering a number of suggestions.  The first being to throw that bag of out of date chestnuts away.  Sell-by dates are not necessarily consume-by dates of course. So if they were close to the consume-by date I would probably use them.

Chestnut and Tofu sausages

If you have in-date chestnuts though, you can do no better than go to another page on this blog and find a post that tells you how to make vegetarian sausages from vacuum-packed chestnuts.

Chestnut and Jerusalem Artichoke casserole

Another favourite of David’s is chestnut and Jerusalem artichoke casserole. Sweet, nutty, savoury all in the same mouthful. Sometimes if I am feeling generous I will make some wholemeal hot water crust pastry, and put the leftovers in a pie the next day.

Do the usual and sweat some onions and chopped carrot and celery in olive oil and grate some garlic in at the end.  Then add the bag of vacuum-packed chestnuts, a couple of large chopped fresh tomatoes, a couple of chunked carrots and 500g washed Jerusalem artichokes.  These do not come in nice neat uniform sizes so you might have to chop them into chunks if some are as big as your knuckles!  Add some seasoning, a good sprinkling of chopped fresh thyme and chopped fresh parsley, a tablespoon of Energita yeast flakes (wholefood shop), half a glass of dark sherry (the stuff my mother drinks, not your best Amontillado), about 500ml stock and 125g chopped mushrooms.  Simmer away gently without a lid.  Check your seasoning at the end.


For tapas, just open that tin of octopus Gill, and drain off the oil. Slice the bigger pieces into thin strips and lay on a plate with thin strips of roasted red pepper – along with olives, little cubes of bread fried in olive oil, fresh tomatoes and basil, hummus and baba ganoush.




Octopus in paella, well that’s a different thing altogether.  My favourite paella contains rabbit, octopus, squid and white fish. Maybe a prawn or two. Everyone has their favourite recipe and this is mine.  It does not claim to be completely authentic and Spanish amigas and amogos may turn their heads in horro at this stage!

For four, use a suitably sized paella pan. I don’t have a gas stove so I use our portable camping stove or cook the paella out in the campervan on the drive!  First, joint your rabbit and cut it into chunks rather than legs, arms, saddle and loin. Easiest way is to cut it into joints then chop up the pieces. Leave the bones in. Use half the rabbit for four people. You don’t have to use rabbit at all; if you prefer you can use chicken.   In fact any bird.

Add two finely chopped onions and a finely chopped carrot and a finely chopped stick of celery to the pan with more olive oil than you would usually use.  Fry gently till soft.  This is the sofritto.  Turn up the heat and add the rabbit, stirring all the time and letting the rabbit get a bit brown. Now add the garlic (too early and it will stick and burn) then chopped red pepper, then sliced squid, a drained tin of octopus or fresh chopped tentacles.  Keep stirring as it all cooks.  At this point add a generous mug of paella rice and stir it round in the juices.  Add a glass of white wine if you wish and let it splutter and reduce.  Now add 1 litre of hot and well seasoned fish stock and a small packet of paella seasoning (you can get it in the supermarket or deli’s). Or if you cannot find it use a teaspoon of smoked paprika and a large pinch of saffron slaked with hot water.  Cook it gently, gently,  keeping an eye on it and adding more liquid as you go.  It will probably take between 25 and 30 minutes.  Stir a little if you must and keep topped up with liquid – the paella, not you!  After 15 minutes add chunks of white fish if you wish, such as cod and push these down into the rice.  Add prawns at the end and make sure they are completely pink before you serve them.  Check seasoning.

Mussels and clams are popular additions but I don’t eat them – an aberration of advancing years is that my gut no longer tolerates them. That is why they don’t appear in this recipe.

The final thing to achieve is the authentic crispy bottom. Yes – a great paella should have a crispy bottom and it is called socarrat.  To achieve it (if it hasn’t already done so of its own volition) turn up the heat to crisp (not burn) the bottom for a couple of minutes.


Where do we start? Could I cook without it? Is a kitchen a kitchen without it?  Grate into olive oil and chopped basil leaves and then add to mashed potatoes for Skordalia and dip raw vegetables into it; mash with butter and load onto bread and toast it; stuff a chicken with 20 cloves and taste it; bake a whole head of garlic in a terracotta dish then squeeze out the caramelised cloves onto bread or roast vegetables; stud a leg of lamb with garlic cloves and rosemary stalks.  Best of all plant it.  I must have planted about 60 garlic plants – it works in pots as well as in the ground – this year.  Here’s some advice on growing garlic from The Garlic Farm on the Isle of Wight.

We use so much garlic the vampires will never get us!




Ready Steady Cooks Viral Antidote 6: Red soup

Marion bowled me a curveball this morning and it made me think.

Her three ingredients were Raw beetroot, red cabbage and baked beans and my first thought was eek!

From the mists of time rose the memory of sitting in a university canteen in Moscow with Lynne and Liz, Malcolm and others eating borscht with a fish head floating in it and hating it, yet on the other hand being amazed and delighted by the beautiful soft warm rolls with minced spiced meat in the middle – Piroshki.  So here’s a Brucie’s Bonus.  Soup and rolls recipe.

First the soup

1 small red cabbage, sliced thinly and removing the core and thicker hard stems; 1 chopped onion, 600g or so (doesn’t need to be precise) peeled raw beetroot chopped into dice.  You could also add a chopped apple if you wish. Two diced cloves of garlic and a thumb sized piece of ginger (I keep mine in the freezer and grate on the microplane grater).  One teaspoon ground coriander and half a teaspoon of ground cumin, some chopped dill if you have it, 75ml olive oil. 25g butter. One large tin baked beans.

In a heavy pan, sweat all the vegetables in the oil and butter, then add the apple if you are using it, garlic, spices and ginger.  Give it all a good stir.  Add some salt and a little water. Clamp on the lid (I might patent that phrase, I use it so often) and let it burble away for 10 minutes or so.  Then add a litre of stock – vegetable or chicken and a big splurge of tomato puree if you have it and a dessert spoon of dark sherry – or some vodka if you prefer.  Stir and simmer for a good 25-20 minutes then blend half the soup and return to the pan.  Meanwhile, take the tin of baked beans and empty them into a sieve. Wash the sauce off with water from the kettle. Baked beans are only haricot beans in sauce, after all!  Check the seasoning in the soup – more salt, black pepper needed? Add the beans and heat gently.  Don’t boil again.  To serve, add a dollop of thick yogurt  on each serving plus some more chopped dill or even a little chopped lovage if you have it.

For the rolls

Half a cup of warm water mixed with half a cup of plain yogurt.  1 teaspoon dried yeast for hand baking (not for bread maker).  1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar. 1.5 teaspoons of cumin seed. 150g plain flour.  Add the liquid to all the dry ingredients and knead till smooth. Cover the bowl with a cloth and leave for a couple of hours till it doubles in size.

For the filling

Turn the oven on and put an empty baking tray in the oven at 200C.  Finely chop an onion, a clove of garlic and sweat gently in a little oil until soft.  When the baking tray is hot and the oven up to temperature, spread out 400g minced beef or beef and pork onto the tray, add the cumin seed and season with salt and pepper.  Roast this in the oven for 15 minutes until it goes brown.  This is a great Tom Kerridge method of browning mince without frying it.  Drain off the fat from the meat then add it to the onion with some chopped dill, chopped green onion tops, a dessert spoon of Marmite or vegemite and a tablespoon of coarse semolina if you have it. Check the seasoning – you will need it very well seasoned as the bread dough will dampen it down. Cook it down in the pan then leave to cool. When cool, put it in a bowl and mix in an egg yolk.

Returning to the dough, knock the dough down in the bowl and turn onto the work surface. Knead it a little then form into as many balls about the size of a golf ball as you can make from the amount of dough you have.  Flatten each one slightly then add a teaspoon of the cold meat in the middle.  If you do this in the palm of your hand, you can then cup your fingers round it to draw the edges in and pinch them all together.  Try to ensure that there are no air pockets left in the middle. Then roll the dough in your hands to form a ball, or elongate it slightly to a boat shape. Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper, about 9 to a standard sized tray.  Then leave to prove in a warm place for half an hour.

Put in the oven at 200C and bake for no more than 15 minutes.  You can also fry them in deep oil.

Gorgeous.  These freeze really well too.

Ready Steady Cooks Viral Antidote 6: Cod in a rich tomato sauce with courgette and sweet potato ‘pasta’

This one is for Claudia and Malc. Claudia gave me cod, all sorts of tomatoes, courgette and sweet potato.

First, the tomato sauce.  It is rich and savoury.

Finely chop an onion, a celery stick if you have it, and a carrot.  Melt some butter in a pan with some olive oil and half a tin of anchovies and a couple of bay leaves. Add the vegetables and stir around in the buttery oil and then add a good grating of a large clove of garlic. Don’t stir this in, otherwise it will caramelise, be bitter and stick. All at the same time.  Just let it melt into the vegetables.

I rarely use a garlic press nowadays, instead I either give a clove of garlic a damned good slam with the heel of my hand and then work in some salt having transferred it to  a little pestle and mortar (Alternatively use a fine microplane grater held over the pan).

Add a few chilli flakes to taste. Keep it gently burbling away without a lid, until the vegetables are soft – about 10 minutes The Italians call this sofrito.  When it is soft, throw in a glass of good red wine (cheap wine = cheap tasting sauce), and reduce on a high heat to practically nothing. Then add two tins of chopped tomatoes and some chopped thyme or rosemary.  Bubble away, stirring from time to time, for a good 20 minutes until the sauce reduces a bit more.  Toward the end, add black pepper, a few black or green olives, maybe a little salt but you probably won’t need it because the anchovies will have seasoned it, and a flat dessert spoon of brown sugar. Taste, stir, taste, adjust seasoning, take out the bay leaves and set the sauce to one side.

Whilst the sauce is cooking, season two cod fillets with gremolata  which always sits on my work surface beside the chopping board.  If you are using frozen cod, make sure it is thoroughly defrosted.

What about the courgette and sweet potato, I hear you ask?  If you have a spiraliser, then use it to spiralise one big courgette and a peeled medium sized sweet potato.  If you don’t have a spiraliser (I don’t)  then use the potato peeler or a sharp knife to cut strips off the vegetables about 0.25cm thick, then cut the big strips into smaller strips, lengthways. It really doesn’t take long. You now have lots of strips of courgette and sweet potato – not as long as spaghetti or spiralised but just as tasty.

Now put the fish onto the tomato sauce and keep it bubbling gently for no more than 10 minutes (depending on the thickness of your cod).  The idea is to just-cook the fish, not massacre it!

Put a wide, shallow pan on the hob with a glug of olive oil and about 75ml water. Turn the hob to very hot.  When it is steaming, add the courgettini and the potatotini.  Clamp on the lid and cook fast, shaking it about  to distribute the oil and water. The reason for using the shallow wide pan is to increase the surface area on which the spaghettini cooks so that it cooks quickly and evenly in the water, oil and eventually, steam. Eventually after 5 minutes or so – no more – they should be cooked (al-dente) and with very little – if any – liquid left in the pan.  If there is any, just drain it off.  You are ready to serve.  Throw in a good knob of butter and season with a bit more gremolata and some chopped basil if you have it.

Either serve straight onto a plate with the vegetables serving as ‘spaghettini’ with the sauce and its friend the cod on top, or straight into a serving dish.  Finish with a little more basil and a grind of black pepper.  Have a little parmesan to hand to sprinkle on top if you wish.

Hope you enjoy it Claudia and Malc.

Ready Steady Cooks 5: Viral Antidote Jackfruit kebab with Paratha bread

Other brands are available!

This one is for Mags who has offered me a bit of a challenge!  Jackfruit, Japanese rice vinegar and dill mustard.  Hmmmm. Thanks Mags

First, what is Jackfruit?  Personally I can’t stand it but David had a great Jackfruit with hoisin in a bao-bun at Latitude a couple of years ago.  Jackfruit is a relative of fig and breadfruit. it grows in the tropics and is frequently used by vegans and vegetarians as a meat substitute because it has a very firm texture but will ‘pull’ apart in shreds so you can use it to casserole, for pulled ‘meat’ in a pitta or flatbread.


Here we go then.  First make your paratha.  These are so easy and so delicious, you won’t need the flatbread!  This paratha recipe is unashamedly lifted from Asma’s Indian Kitchen which was my favourite cookery book of 2019. I’ve cooked them hundreds of times since. Now I have to stop myself cooking them because they all get eaten.

Put 300g plain white flour in a bowl with half a teaspoon each of salt, baking powder and sugar.  Add 3tbsp melted ghee or oil. Slowly add 175ml water – feel your way here, depending on the flour you might not need all the water.  Mix it all together into what should be a fairly firm dough then knead for about 10 minutes on a floured work surface. If you are lazy like me, throw all the ingredients in the Kenwood and use the dough hook instead! Cover and leave to rest in a warm place. My ‘go-to’ place is in the airing cupboard in winter and on the kitchen windowsill in the summer.

After resting period of about an hour, divide the dough into 8 pieces. dust each piece with flour and roll into circles about 17cm across.   Melt some butter (go on, you know it makes sense!) then brush each circle with some butter.  Now roll it up tightly from top to bottom, and then curl it up in a tight spiral.  Do this with each one.  When they are all done, flatten each one with a rolling pin again, and roll each one into a flatbread shape.  Have a goodly amount of hot oil on the go in a wide pan. When it’s practically smoking, drop in the paratha two or three at a time depending on the size of your pan.  They will puff up a bit in bubbles, after just a minute flip over and cook the other side for no more than a minute.  Drain on kitchen towel and leave until you are ready to serve the curry.  What curry?  The one I’m about to tell you about.  The one with the jackfruit that’s in Mags’ cupboard. The jar with the dust on top because no one know what to do with it!

Jackfruit curry

Gather all your curry spices together first.  In a dry pan, roast the following:  two teaspoons cumin seed, one teaspoon brown or yellow mustard seed, as much chilli flakes as you wish, half a dozen green cardamom pods, a two inch stick of cinnamon, one teaspoon coriander seed, one teaspoon of tumeric, half a teaspoon of asofoetida.  Wait till they are popping  – about a minute or two – then pour into a mortar, wait till they cool a bit then grind them with a pestle, or grind in a coffee grinder (my ‘spice’ coffee grinder is a Freecycle cast off and about 15 years old).  Please don’t use curry pastes – most run-of-the-mill supermarket ones are heavy on tumeric and low on authentic flavour.

In a deep wide pan, add oil and chopped onion and cook till the onion is soft.  Then add the spices, making sure there is sufficient oil in the pan (the spices cook then start to thicken in the oil so you need enough oil there in the first place). Cook for about 2 minutes then add a tin of chopped tomatoes, salt to taste, a tablespoon of the rice wine vinegar and just a little sugar.  (Seriously, curries often have vinegar in them, I’m not making it up!)  Cook at a moderate heat for a good 10  minutes until the sauce is rich and thick. Now add a tin of drained jackfruit and cook for a further 15 minutes.  Toward the end, use two forks to pull the jackfruit into shreds. You should now have a pretty thick sauce and thick shreds of jackfruit.   Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary.  Let it rest for 5 minutes while you cook the parathas.

Now, you’re wondering, where does the dill mustard come in?  Pour 100ml good thick plain yogurt into a bowl and add two big dollops of the dill mustard and mix it thoroughly.

Have some plates ready, a bowl of chopped coriander and an extra bowl of the dill mustard yogurt on the table – maybe spike with more chopped fresh dill and mint.  Take a paratha, spread it with a little mustard/yogurt then tear off a good sized chunk and scoop up some curried jackfruit, top with some more yogurt from the bowl and a sprinkle of chopped coriander.

Phew.  Shame I don’t like jackfruit. It sounds rather good!!

Ready Steady Cooks viral antidote 4: Wild garlic lasagne

This one’s for Tricia!  Wild garlic….. she’s obviously been walking in the woods again.

Generally, you can smell wild garlic before you see it, especially if the sun is out.  Before you pick any make sure you are not on private or protected land!!  And make sure that if you pick it, only pick the leaves – don’t pull it up roots and all.

The first time I came across wild garlic was when my parents in law lived in Tregoose in the depths of a valley in the depths of Cornwall.  Walking through the path in the woods on the other side of the small river that ran through their garden was always magical – the delicate tracery of new leaves silhouetted against a bright blue sky. And wafting from the ground was the pungent smell of crushed garlic.  Heavenly.

Here’s a couple of recipes for wild garlic. It will be in the woods somewhere near you right now!

Wild garlic pesto

Who doesn’t love pesto?  On pasta, dolloped into soup just before you serve it, spooned onto freshly cooked fish in a pan…..

Wash the leaves thoroughly in lots of running water. Dry them on a clean tea towel.

In a blender, Nutribullet or in a deep pestle, put three large cloves of garlic and a teaspoon of salt.  Crush with a mortar if using the pestle, otherwise flick the switch and chop.  Then add two large handfull of leaves, 150g pine nuts and about 75g parmegano regiano. Blend again. Add olive oil in a drizzle – probably about 200ml but it depends on the bulk of the dry materials you’ve blended. The idea is that the mixture should drop off a spoon. Taste it and see. It might need a bit more parmesan or salt but these things are down to personal taste.

As a variation – and I have three different types of pesto on the go at the moment – you could substitute walnuts and parlsey for the wild garlic and pine nuts; or basil and cashews or pumpkin seeds – ditto.

Wild garlic pesto lasagne

First off take 150g red lentils, put them in a saucepan with a dried red chilli and a bay leaf.  Add water to 1.5cm above the lentils. Bring to the boil and simmer until nearly all the water is absorbed, but not quite.

Pasta is easy and the easiest way is to make it in a food processor. Or you can do it by hand by blending 600g flour (00) – although I have made it with good quality plain flour. Add a teaspoon of salt. Make a well in the centre then add 6 beaten eggs, gradually drawing the flour into the centre.  when all the egg is absorbed, knead the dough until it is soft and springy.  If you are vegan use the recipe here using tofu instead of eggs. Or if you are lazy like me, put it all in the food processor until it forms a dough.  Put in a bowl, cover with a damp cloth and rest the dough for 30 minutes.

For the filling, fry a finely chopped onion and some celery with some garlic until soft. Throw in a glass of red wine and reduce. Then add two tins of chopped tomatoes, a small sprinkle of chilli flakes, half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, chopped thyme and rosemary to your taste and just a little sugar.  Simmer until it is thick and almost sticking to the pan. Now remove the bay and chilli from the lentils and add the lentils to the tomato sauce.  Mix and taste and adjust seasoning.

You do not need a pasta machine. Just a floured surface, a good rolling pin and some elbow grease.  Roll the dough, keep turning it one quarter turn at a time, roll, turn, roll, turn. A bit like doing front crawl!  It needs to be really thin (see picture).  Cut lasagne sheets to size.

Now choose your dish – just choose one deep enough to leave a gap at the top when it’s full.  Neat trick – put a thin layer of sauce in first, then layer up with pasta, sauce, pasta, sauce, pasta, a few dollops of pesto (see above) then sauce, finish with pasta.

You might want to make a bechamel for the top. Personally, mostly I can’t be bothered and find that 200g quark, or full fat yogurt works just as well, with 3 eggs beaten into it and a handful of parmesan and some black pepper and a little scrape of nutmeg.

Put into the oven at 200C for 30 minutes then check it. It will probably need another 10 to 15 minutes after that.  Take it out of the oven and let it rest. Don’t serve straight away. Leave it for 15 minutes – it really will not get cold – before you slice and serve.  Belissima!

One of my fondest food memories was eating in an Agritourismo in La Marche in Italy.  Layers and layers of paper think pasta with a smear of passata between them, a light grating of parmesan and a basil leaf or two.

Ready Steady Cook 3: Shakshuka

Ready Steady Cook Viral Antidote 3 is for Sheila Horner.  Oh Sheila, how we wish we were sitting on your terrace staring at the Sierra de la Contraviesa!!  I’ve cooked this – and variations of it – many times in your kitchen.

Sheila asked what can she do with a tin of tuna, a tin of chick peas and tomato puree.  Well you live in Spain girl, the answer is in your kitchen!

Shakshuka is a smoky mix of onions, red pepper and eggs.  Today I am adding tuna and chick peas.

In a wide shallow pan,  gently fry onions and chopped garlic in lots of olive oil.  When soft, add 2 sliced red peppers, a good heaped teaspoon of hot smoked paprika, four large or six small fresh tomatoes, a tin of chick peas with its liquid, a generous tablespoon of tomato puree. Mix it all together an add another 150ml water, salt, black pepper. Clamp on the lid and simmer away for 10 minutes then remove the lid, stir and simmer for 20 more.  The aim is to reduce the liquid by half but still leave juice in the pan. Now chop a generous handful of parsley and some fresh coriander add a desert spoon of brown sugar and stir the sugar and the herbs into the pan.  Check the seasoning. It should be deeply tomatoey, slightly sweet and thick but not runny. Drain the tuna and dot the chunks over the surface, pushing them down slightly.  Now make four indentations in the mixture and drop an egg into each indentation.  Lightly sprinkle the eggs with hot smoked paprika. Put the lid on again and cook gently for about 10 minutes. If you want your eggs runny cook it for about 5 minutes. Always with the lid on.  Take off the heat, remove the lid and leave for 5 minutes.  Serve with crispy bread and salad.

Best eaten on Sheila and Jack’s terrace about 21.30 with a bottle of rough musto from Pampaniera! I dare you not to finish it.

Ready Steady Cook 2: Artichoke hearts

I was talking to Peter online about food (plus ca change?) and we came up with an idea.  A Covid19 Ready Steady Cook Challenge to use the stuff that is at the back of your cupboard.  You know the sort of stuff.  3 year out of date mung beans.  5 year out of date rice flour. A lonely tin or artichoke hearts. Or six in his case.  Here’s a recipe. You can do it in a couple of ways. It is so simple – one even requires no cooking at all.

Open your tin of artichokes. Turn them upside down in a colander to drain them then pat dry with kitchen towel.  Take a packet of proscuitto or Serrano ham or similar. And some spinach leaves. Take an artichoke, encircle it with ham, then a spinach leaf or two. Hold it all together with a cocktail stick.  Place them all on the plate.  Crush a clove of garlic with a little salt, black pepper and maybe some ancho chilli flakes. Or maybe just some garlic mayo. Spoon over your artichokes.  Eat with lovely bread. Maybe with a roasted pepper or two.

Alternatively, drain a couple of tins of artichokes (that leaves four, Peter).  Gently sweat a couple of onions in olive oil and butter with some garlic until they are soft.  Put the onions in an ovenproof dish.  Then add the artichokes, cut side up. Add 300ml cream – maybe with a little tarragon chopped into it, but this isn’t necessary, it could be basil or parsley or chives.  Give a good grind of black pepper, maybe a light grating of nutmeg then a good handful of parmesan over the top.  Cook in the oven at about 190 for 25 – 40 minutes until bubbling and piping hot.  It’s oh so yum with a big salad and garlic bread.

Viral Antidote 1 Cheesy sodabread/veg&bean soup

Of course there is no such thing as a viral antidote! Only social isolation will do that. I am doing it already.  But I thought maybe a few nice recipes from my kitchen might not go amiss.  It will be part of my self-management strategy but also might fire ideas for lunch, or dinner.  Peter certainly thought so and asked for the recipe.  So here it is.

Soda bread is a quick bread to make and a quick bread to cook. It is not yeasted but relies on bicarbonate of soda to make it rise.  It only takes 5 minutes to rise and 25 minutes to bake. We had soup and bread on the table in 30 minutes today.

You can add loads of variations to it, such as olives, caramelised onions (or, for ease, snipped spring onions), cheese, herbs.

The sodabread doesn’t keep well, which is a great excuse to eat it all in one day.  You could halve the quantities and make sodabread scones instea.


450g plain while flour, or 300 g wholewheat plain flour (not bread flour) and 150g plain white flour

1 level teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

600ml sour milk, buttermilk or yogurt and milk mixed (to make sour milk, squeeze lemon juice into the milk – it will curdle slightly)


Pre-heat the oven to 475 or Gas 9.  Put all the dry ingredients into a big bowl and mix them thoroughly. You can add other ingredients at this point, if you wish. Make a well in the centre and pour in the milk.  Stir the ingredients together from the centre to the outside until all are combined. Do this gently.  When it is combined, turn onto a floured surface.  Don’t knead it, just gently shape it into a round that’s about 3cm deep.  Cut a cross across the top.  Place onto  some baking parchment on a flat baking tray and into the oven she goes for about 25 minutes.  when its done you should be able to pick it up and when you knock the base it should be crisp and sound hollow.  Cool on a wire rack.


Vegetable and bean soup

Use whatever vegetables you like but chop them all into equal sized chunks.  Today I used onion, garlic, carrot, celery, butternut squash and red pepper.  Sweat in a little olive oil, plus a bay leaf in a deep saucepan.  Here’s a tip.  Season at this stage and add about half a cup of water. Clamp on the lid and simmer for 5 minutes. This reduces the amount of oil or butter you would have used. Then add 250ml passata or chopped tinned tomatoes and a drained tin of cannelini beans.  Taste.  Add more seasoning and cook till all the vegetables are tender but not mushy.

Four extra tips

  • use gremolata for your seasoning – use link for the method  I always have a jar beside the hob. It’s easy to make
  • add a couple of tablespoons of Brown’s mushroom ketchup for a deep savoury hit (Tesco and Waitrose stock it)
  • when you serve dollop on a spoonful of parsley and walnut pesto. There is usually some in our fridge – or some other sort of pesto
  • grate some cheese on top of your sodabread before you put it in the oven


The crowds have gone and we are left with leftovers in the veg basket. Most of them are still edible.

Here’s a quick fix before they go too soft and manky round the edges.

With the merest hint of a nod to Olia Hercules……

Veg and salad drawer basket offerings today included

  • spring onions, dry skin and root removed
  • shallots – banana and pickling onion shaped
  • red cabbage, sliced thin
  • radishes cut in half top to bottom
  • courgette cut into chunks
  • garlic cloves for good measure
  • half a jar of medium sized  pickled gherkins
  • Carrot, peeled and chunked
  • crisp apples, cored and quartered

Put all the vegetables in a large bowl and season with sea salt.

In a saucepan bring 750ml organic cider vinegar to the boil. Add a handful of coriander seed, a couple of star anise, black mustard seed and green cardamom seed plus two heaped tablespoons of raw cane sugar. Boil again. Then cool.

Sterilise a 2litre jar with boiling water or blast it in your microwave with a little water in the jar.  Make sure it is scrupulously clean.

Put a couple of fresh bay leaves and a couple of whole dried chillis in the jar.  Pack the veg in nice and tight then pour in the vinegar making sure to cover the veg. Bang the container firmly on the worktop to bring any air bubbles to the surface. Allow to cool and start eating in a couple of weeks, then store in the fridge once opened.


I bought some horseradish root, meaning to make horseradish cream for presents. I failed. I fished it out of the salad drawer today, it was a bit wrinkly.  The last time I made horseradish we had to evacuate the house as the fumes were breath-stopping. This time I was more careful! WARNING! Do not put your face over freshly grated horseradish and then breathe in.

Peel a 15cm length of horseradish root and wipe it clean. Put it in a MicroBullet or food processor to chop it finely. Add a teaspoon of mustard powder, half a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of sugar, a teaspoon of lemon juice and mix again. Remove contents and place in a bowl (remember to keep your head out of the bowl)  and mix in 200ml thick cream or mayonnaise. Stir to combine.  Place in sterilised jars and seal. Give to friends for leftover beef, or hot mackerel, or tuna sandwiches this week!


Pear & Parsnip soup with gluten free soda bread

Lynn Tierney, this is for you!

We are in the middle of decorating having had three rooms plastered.  Why, then, is the whole house in tatters?  Time for something warm, hearty and vegan/gluten-free on this miserable October day.

Peel and chop one leek, one clove of garlic, four parsnips and a stick or two of celery.  Sweat the vegetables with a bay leaf or two and a sprig of rosemary in the bottom of a pan for 10 minutes using some good quality olive oil and half a cup of water.  Add that cup full of vegetable soup left over from yesterday, a tablespoon of Energita (yeast flakes) – or alternatively about 500ml of vegetable stock (I use Marigold).  Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for about 15 minutes.  Then add that pear that’s been going a bit soft on the windowsill – peel, core and chop it into the soup, adding 250ml of Oatly or Almond milk. Cook for five more minutes.  Allow to cool, then whizz with the stick blender.  Taste, and add a bit of gremolata if it needs seasoning. It probably will.

Today, whilst himself drove off to Diss to buy a paint kettle (don’t ask) I made the soup and some gluten-free soda bread. With some fake Parmesan.

Sift 250g gluten free white flour and 250g gluten free wholemeal flour plus 1.5 teaspoons of salt and the same of bicarbonate of soda into a bowl. Add a good handful of fake Parmesan.  Add 400ml Oatly or similar, into which you have squeezed the juice of half a lemon (it encourages the Bicarb to fizz, in case you are wondering).  Mix it all together till it just binds, then turn out onto the work surface that you’ve drifted (like Snow White) with coarse semolina.  Gently form into a round, slash the top, prick the quarters to let the fairies out then place onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof.  Sprinkle with more fake Parmesan.  Slide into a very hot oven (225) for 10 minutes then turn the temperature down to 200 and cook for a further 20.  Turn the break over for the last 5.  When you knock on the bottom it should sound hollow. A bit like me. If it doesnt, give it 5 more.

By the time David returned (with a paint kettle plus an inspection lamp – going to Screwfix for him is like me going to IKEA – lunch was ready.

Now he is painting and I am cutting back the Verbena and bringing the pots into the greenhouse.  Sounds idyllic doesn’t it! Anyone who knows me that idyllic is not me!!

Veggie burgers

Chick Pea Burger – picture from

Veggie burgers.  Are they really burgers?  Yes!

Last Sunday at Weddings at Belle Grove I had the best breakfast ever with The Fry Up Police.  I last encountered them at Christina and Mark’s wedding where they cooked breakfast for the hungover masses the morning after the wedding!

Anyway, we were talking burgers here. Especially non-meat burgers.  I said I’d share some recipes with The Fry Up Police guys so I thought I’d share them with you too.  Now don’t get me wrong. I love a big, juicy, meaty, slightly underdone burger. However I live with a vegetarian, so meaty burgers are definitely treats, eaten on the street (don’t tell my ma I was eating on the street!) or at a Festival.


Here’s a selection of vegan burgers for you to try.  I have made and eaten them all, but the photos are someone else’s.

The trick with making burgers is to finely balance the amount of moisture and the seasoning in the mix (too little, and they will fall apart and be bland, too much and you will have a stew instead of a burger!)  Only you can judge this, so go with what you are feeling in the bowl and with your instinct for the level of seasoning.  Does the mixture feel too dry and crumbly, will it form easily into a burger shape in your hands without falling apart, is it too sticky/tacky?  Taste a bit to check the seasoning and if anything over-season in the bowl as the flavours will mellow when cooking.  Here’s some top tips.

#toptip1 – Remember that the burgers will ‘firm up’ when you’ve made them, and it helps if you get it just about the right texture, form them into burgers and then put in the fridge to hasten the process of firming up before you cook them.
#toptip2 – When you are ready to cook them, dredge a generous amount of coarse semolina on the work surface and put the burgers onto the semolina, turning them over and round so that they are coated. This forms a lovely even and crispy outer shell which holds the burger together
#toptip3 – Seasoning.  Always be generous with your seasoning.  The reason why most non-meat burgers you’ve eaten up till now are disappointing, is simply because they are under-seasoned!
#toptip4 – Added bits.  Always have added bits – raw onion, avocado, sliced tomato (at room temperature), dill pickles, thick brown sauce, Dijon mustard or that lovely mayo mixed with Dijon mustard….. the list is endless.  But you must have bits!

The black bean burger

Black bean burger – pic from

Black bean burgers could not be simpler – mostly because they have in-built juice! But you don’t want all of it! Drain a tin of black beans into a bowl until all the juice has gone. Finely chop three spring onions and one large clove of garlic (grated), a teaspoon of cumin powder, half a teaspoon of smoked paprika and if you like, a chopped chilli (to your taste), a heavy dash of Tamari (like soy sauce), a good squirt of HP brown sauce or a tablespoon of tamarind paste, a cup of fine breadcrumbs or Matzo meal.

Combine all the ingredients by simply squishing them all together with your hands.  Leave some texture in there. There should be sufficient moisture to hold it all together when you form it into burger sized patties (how I hate that word – patties).

When making any bean burger, make sure you rest it before you cook it.  You have to make the starch in the beans do the work for you, which is why you squeeze them and break them down a bit.  Form the mixture into burgers and leave in the fridge for a couple of hours if you can (or half an hour in the freezer) before shallow frying in hot oil.

The bubble and squeak burger

The bubble-and-squeak burger pic from

Who can resist bubble and squeak?  Not me!  Memories of Monday -wash-days at home with the twin-tub burbling away.  Coming home from school at lunch time, steaming kitchen, old heavy frying pan on the stove and the smell of yesterday’s sprouts/greens/potatoes frying up in the pan, slightly blackened at the edges.

This burger is better with left overs than made fresh!  

Take equal quantities of cold roast, mashed or boiled potatoes, cold dark greens and/or sprouts, a handful of chopped spring onions, salt, black pepper, just a little chopped chilli, grated garlic and squidge together in a bowl with some seasoning.  If it is just a little bit dry (it probably won’t be) add a smidge of plant-based milk or plain yogurt.  Keep squidging – again its about releasing those starches that will hold it all together.  Check for salt and pepper and remember that all that starch will ‘eat’ the seasoning so if anything, over-season and it will taste milder after they are cooked.  into burger sized burgers and do the magic trick again.  Rest them in the fridge, then take out, dredge with coarse semolina and fry in hot oil.

Don’t forget the magic of your mum’s bubble and squeak.  Make sure you have some charred bits on the outside!





Pic from

The cauliflower steak burger

This one is in contention for my favourite burger of all time.  It is ludicrously simple.

Cut 2cm thick slices from a whole cauliflower.

Add salt and black pepper, a dollop of olive oil and a couple of tablespoons of harissa to a bowl.  Drop in the cauliflower and marinade for as long as you like.  Then put a shallow roasting pan, lined with baking paper, into a hot (200C) oven for 10 minutes.  Then sprinkle olive oil onto the paper and lay the cauliflower steaks on top. Roast in this hot oven for 25 minutes then turn the steaks over and roast for another 10. Now, you can either pile into a bun with salad, roasted juicy onions and pine-nuts, or allow to cool then freeze.

The chestnut and rice burger

Pic from

Yup. Chestnut and rice.  It’s another of my favourites.

Take one packet of cooked vacuum-packed chestnuts and half a packet of ready cooked wholemeal rice and half a pack of tofu (well drained).  First, put your tofu onto a plate with three or four pieces of kitchen towel underneath and on top.  Press down with the heel of your hand to release as much liquid as you can and pour away the liquid. Finely chop a couple of spring onions, put all the ingredients into a bowl and  – yes, you got it! – squidge.  Break up the chestnuts, combine with the rice and the tofu.  Add a good squeeze of tomato puree, the grated zest of half a lemon, salt and pepper, some chopped fresh parsley or coriander and combine into burger shapes.  As usual, rest in the fridge, then dredge with semolina and cook in the pan or roast them in a hot oven until crispy.


You get the idea.  Burgers can be made of anything.  So get experimenting! And don’t forget the bits!

Vegetarian scotch eggs

It’s Summer. It’s picnic time. I am going swimming.

Yesterday we attempted – and failed – to get to Sea Palling. Traffic.

Today we will leave late afternoon and head for our old haunt, Walberswick beach. For years we would camp there every summer. Kids, friends, swimming, beach fires, swimming all hours of the day and night.

Scotch eggs are called for. Of the vegetarian variety. And cold potatoes with aioli. And radish, tomato and onion salad. To be eaten post-swim, on the beach, with beer.

i realised I’d not made a scotch egg since I was at school, let alone a vegetarian one.

Hard boil four or five eggs. Cool and take off the shell.

Drain a tin of chick peas and half a tin of red kidney beans.

In the food processor add one small onion, three fat cloves of garlic, a handful of parsley and fresh coriander, a good sprinkle of Aleppo chilli flakes, a tablespoon of medium oatmeal, two teaspoons of cumin seed, the seeds from half a dozen green cardamom, a flat dessert spoon of garlic powder, salt and black pepper and a tablespoon of  yeast flakes. Blitz in the processor then add the beans, blitz again until it is no longer chunky, but make sure it doesn’t turn into hummus! It needs a bit of substance to it. Turn into a bowl (the moisture, not you!), cover and put in the fridge for half an hour.

Prepare for action.  Have plenty of kitchen roll ready for draining. From right to left, have a bowl of cold water, your bowl of bean mixture, eggs, brinjal chutney (my special ingredient but you can delete if you don’t like it), a work surface dusted with gram flour (chick pea flour), a slotted spoon and then your vegetable oil in a pan.  The pan should be big enough for you to turn the egg over whilst it is cooking but not so vast that you waste a lot of oil..

Wet your hands then take a good palm full of bean mixture. Flatten it out across your palm then spread a teaspoon of brinjal over it, then roll the egg in the flour and put the egg on top.  Cup your hand so that the mixture spreads up the side of the egg, then gently seal the bean mixture round the egg at the top so there are no gaps and no air trapped inside. Do this with as many eggs as you need then put on an oiled plate, cover and put in the fridge to firm up for 15 minutes.

Heat the oil to 200C – or put a small amount of the mixture in to test it.  It should rise quickly to the surface   -click link for video.  If  it just sits on the bottom of the pan and doesn’t look ‘lively’ then the fat is not hot enough.

Gently lower in one egg at a time.  Leave it I disturbed for 3-4 minutes so that the bottom crisps, then gently roll it over until all surfaces are golden brown giving each ‘roll a further two minutes until evenly brown and crisp all over.  Repeat.

Cool on kitchen towel on a rack.

(If you want to join us. We’ll be on the beach near the huts about 18.00)




Why is it that when you know you can’t eat lots of grains and flour, you really, really want CAKE?!  Especially, in my case, sticky, gooey gingerbread.

I have a couple of go-to books that are great for intolerants.  Cake Angels by Julia Thomas and The Intolerant Gourmet by Pippa Kendrick, who I’ve mentioned before on this blog.

I’ve adapted Julia’s Gingerbread  recipe here and its the one I shall be using for one layer of Wil and Angie’s wedding cake in March #watchthisspace.

Grease and line a 21cm square cake tin.  Heat your oven to 170C.

You will need black treacle and golden syrup here.  Top tip for how to measure it out at the bottom of this page.

175g molasses (black treacle)

75g runny honey

75g ginger syrup from the ginger jar

175g Flora or similar

100g dark  muscovado sugar

350g gluten free plain flour (brown or white)

0.5tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tbsp ground ginger

1 tsp mixed spice

1 tsp cinnamon

3 preserved ginger chopped into small pieces

2 tsp ground flax seed (just grind in a pestle and mortar or coffee grinder) mixed with a little cold water

150ml soya or almond milk

Heat the runny ingredients and the margarine in a large saucepan, in a gentle sort of fashion.  Allow it to cool. Add the ground flax seed and its water (this is a raising agent). Add the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and mixed spice plus the chopped ginger and beat with a balloon whisk until it’s all combined and looks glossy.

Pour into the lined tin and bake in the middle of the oven. Check after one hour by inserting a skewer into the middle. If it comes out clean, it’s done. If not, put a square of tin foil on the top and bake for another 15 minutes or so at a slightly lower heat.

Cool the cake in the tin for an hour before removing to a wire cooling tray.

This cake tastes best if you can bear to leave it for a week in an airtight tin.  It’s lovely with a little runny icing drizzled on top.  Equally, it is delicious with Cheshire cheese!  You can also make more than one, cook in round cake tins and then sandwich together with whipped coconut cream.

Whipped coconut cream

Put a tin of high quality coconut cream (the liquid kind) in the fridge overnight.  In the morning, open it and pour away the liquid, reserving the remaining solid element.  Put this in your food mixer bowl then whisk with the balloon whisk until it is really thick (like double cream).  Add a little chopped preserved ginger, a teaspoon of vanilla essence and a tablespoon of maple syrup.  Whip again.  Then cut your cake in half and slather it on then add the top half!  If you feel really fancy you can even pipe it!

Believe me the combination of rich ginger cake, light coconut, maple syrup and vanilla is #fanbloodytastic


Weigh then grease a shallow dish then coat liberally with cornflour. Pour your syrup and treacle into the dish. Weigh it.  Slide out into the saucepan and you should have a clean dish and no sticky residue! I learned that at school!

Gluten free steak pie – by request

The pieThis is by special request.

750g chuck steak.  I use steak from Yare Valley Oils Belted Galloways  or Beautiful Beef in Tharston Red Polls.  All herds are free-range, ethically raised and slaughtered locally.  I say that because some of my friends are very sensitive to animal welfare and not that excited about me eating meat.  I live with a vegetarian and so meat doesn’t figure that high on our menus.  However I am happy with my conscience knowing that I have incisors (therefore I am a meat eater) and I won’t buy cheap mass-produced meat, preferring to know its provenance.

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, chuck steak.

750g chuck steak. Two medium sized onions. One large knobbly carrot. One stalk of celery. Two cloves of garlic.  A teaspoon of cumin seed. The remainder of a bottle of red wine (about 100ml), Gremolata   Beef stock (in my world, that’s Oxo), half a tin of chopped tomatoes, a little cornflour (this is made from maize, not wheat!), black pepper.

Cut your steak into medium sized pieces and put in a bowl.  Add a good tablespoon of gremolata and a good few churns of the pepper grinder, add the cumin. Drop in a couple of bay leaves. Add two tablespoons of cornflour and mix around to coat the meat.

Chop your celery into fine dice and your onions into slices and your large knobbly carrot into moderate sized pieces.  Put a big glug of oil into a pan (I use the le Crueset I’m going to use for the meat) and bring it to a moderate heat.  Add the vegetables and sweat them slowly and gently with the lid on until soft. Remove vegetables from the pan and scrape around the bottom of the pan a bit.  Add a little more oil. Get it hot then drop in about 30% of the pieces of meat and sear it till it gets brown.  Don’t overfill the pan otherwise it will just steam and it will go grey instead.  Remove meat from the pan and add to the vegetables.  Repeat until all the meat is browned. turn up the heat and add the red wine so that it bubbles and boils, boiling away the alcohol. Keep scraping the bits off the bottom of the pan as it boils. Then take off the heat and add the meat and vegetables, turning them round in the winey sludge at the bottom.  Put back on the heat and add the tomatoes and sufficient stock to cover the meat. Bring gently to the boil with the lid on, then turn the heat down and simmer for a good 2 hours. Or you can put it in the oven.  Then allow to cool.  Check the seasoning to see if you need more salt.   After it has cooled down, if you are making it ahead of the game, put in the fridge and take out the next day and allow to come to room temperature before you put into the pie.

For the pastry.  Use 250g gluten-free flour (plain white, or plain wholemeal) and 120g Flora or similar. Half a teaspoon of salt.  Rub the fat into the flour then add sufficient water to bring the dough together. Then leave the dough for half an hour.  Put your meat and its gravy into a dish and if you have one, add one of those pretty little pottery birds in the middle – the ones that let the steam out!

pie bird

Wet the edges of the dish. Roll out your pastry making it a good 2cm wider and longer than the dish.  Cut long strips off the pastry and lay along the dampened edges of the dish.  Then roll the pastry onto your pin and roll it over your dish, making a little hole for the birdie’s beak to poke through.  press the edges down, then glaze either with egg wash or with soya milk mixed with a little custard powder or turmeric.  Believe me, it works!

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 190C for about an hour, turning down to 160 and maybe protecting the top with a bit of tin foil, after 40 minutes. Depends on your oven.

What can best a good pie, with mash and gravy?

Intolerant? Moi??

IMG_2468OK. So I am clearly entering Erikkson’s eighth psychosocial stage.  That of wisdom and despair.  I’m happy with the wisdom bit. And I’m not a despairing sort of person as those who know me will attest.  However I have found over the past 3 years that parts of me – including my digestive system – is more sensitive. Along with my first ever bout of gout, combining alcohol with my drug regime (!) and a dodgy hip.  And so a few adjustments have been made.  The good outcome is dropping two dress sizes.  Less good is being unable to drink beer, eat too much liver, mackerel, smoked salmon, sardines, spinach and cavolo nero, having to moderate the wine intake and be careful about eating too many grains.  Has it driven me to despair though?  No it hasn’t.  It’s another opportunity to adapt and find new things and new ways.  Does it mean I never eat any of those things? No!

So here’s my first ‘sensitive’ recipe.  Gluten-free vegan mince-pies.

Soak 100g raisins and a tablespoon of chia seeds n some hot tea for half an hour.  Drain then add 2tbsp maple syrup, 1tbsp of molasses and the grated rind of a small orange.  Grate two eating apples into the raisins and then 2 tbs pine-nuts and two of pumpkin seeds.  Add about 25g marzipan paste (egg free) chopped into tiny pieces. Add about 1 tbsp of any spirit such as brandy, whisky or port.  Combine all the ingredients.   Best do this a few hours before you are making the pastry – or put in a sterilised jar and keep in the fridge for no more than a week.

I used 240g of Dove’s Farm gluten-free flour for the pastry, half a teaspoon of salt, a sprinkle of baking powder, a little grating of lemon rind and 120g Flora.  Just make it like normal pastry by rubbing the fat into the flour, pull it together with some cold water and leave to rest for half an hour.  You will find that gluten-free flour makes a very ‘soft’ dough and – inevitably – it’s not very stretchy.  But it is perfectly workable with a little care.

Prepare  your tins by greasing liberally first, then  throw in some coarse semolina and swirl around the base and the sides.  This makes the finished article lovely and crisp on the bottom and prevents stickage!  Roll out the dough, use a cutter that’s big enough (don’t know about you, but incy-pincy mince-pies look so mean, so I use a muffin tin – call me greedy if you like).  Fill the bases with your fruit mixture, then add the pastry tops, using a little liquid to seal the edges.

#Three Top Tips.

  • Grease the tins and then throw a little coarse semolina into each depression and swirl it around to coat the bottom and the sides
  • Use a round-bladed knife just to ease the edges away from the pan after you’ve added the tops, then they won’t seal as if stuck by super-glue when you try to take them out!
  • Mix a tablespoon or so of soya milk with a tiny amount of custard powder if you don’t like egg-wash.  Use egg-wash or the yellow milk to glaze the tops.

Bake toward the top of  a pre-heated oven at 200C for 15-20 minutes.  Check just before 15 minutes.  I swear you will burn the roof of your mouth because you won’t be able to wait for them to get cool!


Buttering up

I was a frequent flyer at the Festival of Food tent at Latitude Festival last weekend.  All sorts, from a recording of The Kitchen Cabinet, baking, sourdough. Felicity Cloake (How to Cook the Perfect…. in The Guardian) was worth seeing, if only for her tips on making butter.

Yesterday morning I thought I’d have a go – having loads to do already, it seemed a good way of not getting on with what really needed to be done!

900ml double cream (95p per 300ml from Asda).  2 tbsp live yogurt.  Put it in the food mixer bowl and use the balloon whisk.  First, whisk it to the point where you might use it for spreading the cream on a cake or a trifle.  Then continue whisking until the curds separate from the whey.  Strain through sterile muslin and squeeze out all the buttermilk (the whey), and reserve this.  Put back in the bowl with 500ml ice cold water. Whisk again (the reason for this is to wash out the buttermilk which turns the butter sour if it is too wet).  Drain again. ‘Wash’ again and whisk.  Drain again.  Now squeeze out as much liquid as you can.

Turn out the solids into a clean dry bowl or onto a new piece of muslin and sprinkle with seasalt to taste.  If I had kept my granny’s butter paddles I would have used them at this stage to ‘pat’ and turn the butter.  But I had failed to recognise what use they might be and they went to a jumble sale 20 years ago.  Instead I used two spatulas.

The result was 500g of butter, which in £££ terms is better value than buying two 250g packs of President or similar.

My reward was fresh bread, spread with butter then with Marmite.  Bliss!

I am in love with Diana Henry

After 4 days sweltering at Latitude, today I dipped into Diana Henry’s latest How to Eat a Peach.  It is divine. For a few years I was in love with Nigel Slater and Dennis Cotter. But Diana Henry has it. Great writing. Great stories. Great history. Brilliant no-fuss food.

Latitude was exhausting although the food outlets there excelled themselves.  Bao Buns, Souvlaki, 90second pizza from local foodies Fundhi, pop-your-head-off Rendang beef…… ooo, and hot sugary donuts and hot chocolate in the middle of the night. And a vertiginous Ferris-wheel ride with my man.

Tonight though, it was Fideua. A Valencian dish that is a bit like paella but without the fish and the rice!

It is simple. Chopping and prep take about 5 minutes, cooking no more than 20. So here we go.

Empty the oil from a small jar of artichokes into a wide shallow cooking pot.  Add finely diced celery (about 1 stalk), one chopped onion, one chopped courgette, one chopped red pepper, sliced fennel, two grated cloves of garlic and finally the artichokes that we’re in the bottle. Cook for 5 minutes.  Add two generous teaspoons smoked paprika (picante) and stir around. You will notice that the paprika, steam plus oil makes an emulsified vermillion coating for the vegetables. Make 1litre stock from good quality pouches or cubes. Add a large pinch of saffron and pour it into the vegetables.

Add 250g of fine pasta – I used Greek Mitzes from Asda.  Add the liquid and just a little salt if necessary (depends on the saltiness of the stock.  Stir once, then leave it bubbling away gently till the pasta is cooked. The key is not to stir. The best bits are the slightly crunchy bits on the bottom.

When nearly ready – 10 minutes tops –  throw in some frozen peas or if you are up for it, blanch some broad beans in advance, then slip them out of their little grey overcoats onto the pasta.

Guaranteed success – just don’t stir the pasta or the carbs will release and make it gloopy!

Angel Cakes?

Just a brief post to recommend Angel Cakes Tearoom at New Buckenham.  Stacey and Ryan are onto a winner here.  Beautiful village, great walks (we fell in through the door after a 6 miler across the fields), great service, great business ethos, perfect food.  What more could you ask?

I had a corned beef and pickle sandwich – nothing stinted – butter, proper chunks of corned beef and big dollops of Branston. David had tuna mayo which was falling out the edge of the sandwich. Nice garnish (though maybe just a touch of dressing on it would have been nice) and crisps.  And the tea…….  loose leaf, hot, strong and the best cuppa I have had outside my own kitchen in a long time.

Great banter, and lovely potential to

  • get out of the house on a work day and just pop in here for lunch
  • meet clients here
  • take my mum out for tea
  • meet friends

Upstairs, Stacey was beavering away putting the finishing touches to chocolate eclairs.  She came waltzing downstairs with six on a platter. I couldn’t resist. David said he didn’t want one but it didn’t prevent him from eating half of mine, I noticed!

I’ll be back.

Long day, cold night, hot pilau

So let me tell you about my day….. up early and do a 100 mile round trip to mother’s, counsellling myself to be good, not get cross and to be kind. I did all those things, we had a good natter, I checked through the ‘falls alarm’ details fitted last week, at last we agreed it would be a good idea if I did a supermarket order for her once a month we agreed a timetable for me reminding her to check the falls alarm and at the same time do the Waitrose order. I made her two latte’s, went to the Co-op, mended the phone and reminded her how to turn up the heating thermostat.  We agreed the rules (hers) for her 90th birthday party in May so nothing will be a surprise. Only as I had one foot in the van  did she hit me with her plan to get a mobility scooter. She’s subtle player, my mum.

Home in bright sunshine but by the time the tyres hit the drive it was snowing.  I inspected the crocuses and the #snowdrops, the white camelia buds about to get frost damage and smelled the heavenly scent of the Daphne Odora. And the hellebores were out.  Then I tackled two collapsed panels of side fence –  wind injured last week whilst we were gallivanting in blizzards at Seahouses.  Looking forward to a couple of hours with Jonathan Raban and the wood burner, I collapsed like a frozen thing into the kitchen.

But instead of Jonathan Raban I was sidetracked by Nigel Slater in Turkey on iPlayer and images of vegetable pilau kept floating around in my head.

Last night’s dinner was a good old standby and we had some left over.  Pilau would bulk it out.  Last night we had

Chick peas with coconut, chilli and tomato

This is so ridiculously easy and easily adaptable without fuss.  Pulse two onions, three fat cloves of garlic, a thumb of fresh ginger and a medium sized red chilli in the food processor. Then add two big carrots and pulse again but only so the carrot is chopped not puree’d. Heat some oil sufficient to cover the bottom of a medium sized saucepan or large terracotta dish, throw in the onion mixture, turn around in the oil. Add a cinnamon stick. Sweat for ten minutes.  Add a tin of chick peas and the juice, add a tin of chopped tomatoes, half a tin full of cold water, half a tin of creamed coconut, a tablespoon of pomegranate molasses (or brown sugar).  Mix together, clamp on the lid, bring to a slow simmer and then leave it for three hours. Then remove the lid, add some salt to taste. Take off the heat and just before serving add chopped fresh coriander.

Anyway, half that was left over from last night. Now for the


use a small Le Cruset for this, purchased in alimoges in 1982. It gets very hot on its little bottom and it gives the right amount of ‘crunch’ at the base of the pilau. Essential, I think.  On the hob, add oil and butter to the pan then add sufficient chopped vegetables (whatever you like) – I used cauliflower, onion, loads of garlic, carrot, aubergine, tomato.  Cook on a high heat, then add 1 tsp each of cumin and coriander powder, three ground black cardamom (or green, there is nothing precise here), three ground cloves, one teaspoon turmeric, a teaspoon of fennel seed and about a teaspoon of salt.  Mix well into the vegetables, then add two handfuls of brown Basmati rice, then a layer of spinach, then one handful of rice.  Pour in 500ml stock and put a lid on it and put in the oven.  The idea is to cook the rice with the lid on and crisp up the base.  Leave it for 45 minutes then check it. It should be done. Take off the lid, and dot with butter and a little home made garam masala (use ‘search’ on this site).


You can serve this with some of my chutney and pickle recipes, or just with yogurt.

I have been writing this whilst it is cooking and I can smell it is nearly done..  Himself has kindly poured me a glass of red and I am looking forward to settling down in the depths of the sofa for an hour (with or without Jonathan Raban) before a conversation with a couple about their wedding plans latter in the year (see my alter-ego if you are planning getting hitched) and hopefully you will find I am jus the same on that site too – loving life, loving food, loving new things, loving couples in love)!

I like bread and I like butter. But I like bread with butter best.

Bread making has been an on-off affair in this household.  In the early years there was Pete’s bread from the original Metfield Bakery and sold – ah, now there’s a memory – in Marion and David’s shop Beano’s in the early 1980s.  Once Pete sold the bakery it was not the same.  His was dense and damp and with a good weight to the loaf. Later it had a more open texture, more aerated, lighter.  I preferred the former.  But in those days there was no need to make it because Pete made it better than anyone.

For years income dictated that wherever we lived the houses were cold and draughty and not conducive to a rapid ‘prove’ in the dough. Then came the packed days of work, teenagers, long hours, unpredictable timetables. So another excuse not to make bread. The revelation was the purchase of a Panasonic breadmaker which was (is) marvellous – for cooked loaves, and dough for rolls, pizzas, ciabatta and focaccia.  Then came the second revelation.  Marion and  Saskia kindly bought me a weird silicone thing called a LEKUE.  You can still buy them in Lakeland and online. It couldn’t be simpler.  You add all the dry ingredients to the bowl, then add water, mix around with a wooden spoon to a wet dough, no kneading, fold the top over, prove for two hours then put in the oven to bake in the same bowl. Couldn’t be simpler and I thoroughly recommend it.

450g wholemeal bread flour

150g white bread flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

a glug of oil

1 tsp fast acting dried yeast

a handful of sunflower and pumpkin seeds

a handful of milled linseed

about 500ml warm water or sometimes I use part water part Kefir or plain yogurt.


Mix it all together, close the lid on the Lekue for an oval loaf or leave it open for a round loaf, prove for a couple of hours then into a hot oven (200c) for about 35 minutes, then slide the loaf out of the Lekue (careful it’s hot) and return the loaf upside down to the oven reduced to 180 for about 10 minutes.

The only problem with bread like this is that you have to eat it.  And because it’s good bread, what better than butter. And Marmite?  Try resisting it when you are working from home and tied to a computer screen the whole of January!

Kefir – further adventures of a fermenting novice!

I thought my first encounter with Kefir was on The Archers. In fact, having read more about it,  I must have drunk it in Sweden, in Russia, in Siberia, in Turkey, in Mongolia and not realised what it was.

Kefir is a cultured and fermented milk drink. It can be made with cow, sheep, goat (and probably yak, camel, mares although that is likely to be in short supply where you are).  It can also be made with soya milk and nut milks  including coconut, although I understand that you will need to start the culture with ‘proper’ milk.  It works best with full cream milk. Why? Because it is a live yeast/bacteria culture that feeds on the proteins in the liquid milk and animal proteins are more robust in that regard.

I started with a Kefir grains purchased via the internet.  You might have a friend who has some spare – the grains multiply quite quickly as you go through the process so advertising in local Facebook Marketplace or Freecycle might yield quick and local rewards.

I first became a fan of raw milk when I passed the dinky little Friesian painted hut at Fen Farm near Bungay where there is an automatic dispenser for the milk. £1 for 2litres of full cream milk. It is delicious.  However when I decided to make Kefir I looked for a source  closer to home so now I go to the delightful Coston Hall near Wymondham. Exactly the same set up.

The watchwords here are scrupulous and cleanliness.  Himself laughed at my ‘special’ cupboard.  You don’t need much equipment.  I have two new 1litre Kilner jars, one nylon sieve, one dedicated wooden spoon, two plastic jugs but I keep them separate from all my other kitchen stuff.

Wash your hands.  Remove the Kefir grains from the package – they look like plump little transparent pearls.  Drop them into a plastic jug.  Add 250ml of  milk and mix carefully with a wooden spoon (don’t use any metal utensils). Pour all this into a Kilner jar, close the lid and put somewhere warm (the airing cupboard in our house) and leave it. Don’t fiddle with it!!  In 24 to 48 hours take a look and you should see a) bubbles and b) a clear separating vein of  whey. If you don’t see it, be patient. Check again the next day.

Little whoops of excitement (mine) came from the airing cupboard when I looked and found that separating vein.

When this happens, pour the contents carefully into a clean plastic jug through a sieve and help the liquid through with the wooden spoon. Do this  gently.  You will find the grains in the bottom of the sieve.  Drop these grains into a clean jar and add 250ml milk. Repeat the process about 4 times.  The purpose of this is to give the grains a good ‘feed’  and to make them robust.  This is a living organism and needs to be cared for. The remaining liquid part will get thicker every time (I eat it on muesli).

When the liquid comes out really thick it is time to increase the amount of milk, first to 500ml, then 750ml  then 1litre. By the time you get to 1litre you will probably need to leave it to ferment for 4days – sufficient to use about 250ml a day for two people once you are ‘brewing’ 1litre quantities.  After a couple of weeks you will have a really robust ‘starter’ (just as you would for sourdough or ginger beer, for example).  Once you get going you will get into a lovely rhythm and you might find that your starter is so robust that the volume of Kefir you are making looks like it might get out of hand!  Now is the time to be generous – use half the grains and give the other half to someone else. they will need to start the process from scratch.

Bur what about when I go on holiday I hear you cry?  Well there are two options….. either you leave the grains in a cool place for no more than a couple of weeks with just a little milk but at low temperature to reduce its activity, or you lodge it with a trusted friend who feeds it and has free Kefir.  They might even be future recipients of a starter culture themselves.

I found it very helpful to look at YouTube clips such as this one from HappyKombucha to get the whole process embedded in my head, and I noticed a distinct difference when comparing the  commercial Kefir made with pasteurised  and unpasteurised milk which I bought from Asda, Tesco and a wholefood shop to begin with.  True Kefir should have a slight ‘fizz’ to it nd I have found that those made with pasteurised milk do not have this.  This is the main reason I use raw (unpasteurised) milk from TB-free registered herds.

Happy Kefir making. I am by no means an expert, but do contact me if you are making it and want to talk about it.

Fermenting in the airing cupboard.

All sorts of things happen in our airing cupboard.  Like proving dough, storing bicycle helmets, Culturing kefir grains (see subsequent post), hidden toys between the sheets and  it is wonderful hide-and-seek territory; and it has sufficient constant warmth for fermenting.

January is always open head and open heart territory.  Don’t get stale, try something new.  I’ve already started with fermenting on a small and very domestic scale. Sufficient for us.  Yet again I was inspired by Cornersmith, I’ve mentioned it before.  Anyway, here’s a few things I’ve learned along the way.

Fermented carrots

A jar of fermented carrot, with its friend pickled fennel, just lounging around in the fridge.

These seemed the easiest to start with and We’ve used fermented vegetables as side dishes and as part of dishes such as in salads, roasted vegetable taboulleh, Freekah with aubergine.

Fermenting is, in its simplest terms, a method of preserving. You either use a starter culture, whey or brine.  I use brine as it is the easiest way to start.  Fermenting might sound a bit of a fad – it is all about ‘good’ bacteria – but it is embedded in worldwide culinary culture; think sauerkraut, kimchi etc. Think East European. North European. Scandinavian. Think Middle East, Far East. Fermenting is ancient and universal – it isn’t new at all. So although ‘good bacteria’ might sound like a fad, finding such bacteria is normal and natural and is embedded in old cultures across the world.

Start with something easy and inexpensive like carrots or radishes.  Take 10g salt and add 500ml filtered water then bring to the boil and leave to cool.

Sterilise Mason or Kilmer jars making sure they are absolutely spotless.

Mix 1 thinly sliced onion with 40g grated fresh turmeric  and 40g freshly grated ginger.  You can substitute ground turmeric (1 heaped teaspoon) but fresh ginger is a must. Slice 500g carrots very thinly. Mix all these ingredients together then pack into the jars. be careful not to bruise the vegetables (I use a pestle to gently press them down).

Pour in the brine. Add one thick carrot or celery stick across the neck of the jar so all the ingredients are submerged. Seal the jars.

Let the jars sit at room temperature for 2-4 days when you should notice small bubbles inside the jar.  The longer you leave at room temperature the more lacto fermentation will progress but it does depend a lot on the ambient temperature.  Being too parsimonious to have the central heating on all day, the only place where we have consistent temperature in our house is the airing cupboard! Once fermentation is underway the environment within the jar is hostile to bacteria.  The ferment should smell slightly yeasty or sour.  It should have visible bubbles.  The kids might look slightly rounded if you are using metal tops. It should not smell foul! Put the jars in the fridge after a few days to slow the fermentation.  You might need to release a little ‘gas’ from the jars occasionally so keep an eye on them. Should keep up to 6 months in the fridge.

After you have experimented a bit, you might want to get more daring!

From Olia Hercules Kaukasis published by Mitchell Beazley and one of my cook books of the year.

Straight from Olia Hercules book Kaukasis comes fermented beetroot and cauliflower.

Make a brine with 1litre filtered water and 25g salt. Add aromatics such as allspice, coriander seed, pink peppercorns or sprigs of thyme.

Peel four beetroot and slice very thinly. Break one cauliflower into florets. Peel a few garlic cloves and one or two sticks of celery chopped into bite sized pieces.

Put all the vegetables into a 3litre sterilised jar and pour in the brine and aromatics and as before, wedge a piece of celery or carrot across the top. Now pour in the brine making sure everything is covered.

Cover the jar with a piece of muslin and leave the jar at room temperature for 5 days or so – it depends on how warm your kitchen is. Look for bubbles. Once there are bubbles, remove the muslin and out on the lid.  Keep in a cool place for a couple of months.

Good luck, and let me know how you get on!




New Year Reflections, gremolata and aquafaba!

I was talking with Bruce and Peter this afternoon – something along the lines of  ‘not everything that’s important can be counted, and not everything that is counted, counts’. I think it’s an Einstein quote.

New Year, for me, is always a time for reflection…. what have I done, what will I do this year?  On my list are the following:

– only do work that is of value

– spend more time with people who are kind

– walk daily!

– write more

– try hard to desist from attempting stupid things like standing on cupboards and falling off, being reckless with sharp kitchen knives

– spend more time on the beach

– increase wedding and funeral bookings

I have been thinking about this whilst meditatively (a-la Nigella) making gremolata this afternoon. 

I have also pondered on making small themed books for Will and Anna – family food, family recipes.  For years I have talked about publishing a cook book and it is all there in skeleton form.  But have I left it too late and maybe I should be more picky about where I put my energy? I am undecided. Answers on a postcard please.

Many people have said to me that they see me as someone with loads of energy. And it is true – mostly I have. But sometimes I don’t. Being perceived as someone with boundless energy is great however there are other parts of me to discover! Go on, give it a try! Invite me to do something with you that is something known to you but new to me.

I have a low boredom threshold and it drives my energy bank, of that I am certain. In using energy I create momentum, change, challenge and I like those qualities to be present and tangible in my life.

But in true Erickson terms, the stages of life are evident and although creative, I am also a realist. So I am rethinking that drive, recalibrating it; making it work for me in my mid 60s in ways that will still bring me joy, adventures, new experiences. For the past few years I know I have been drawing on my 40 year old energy bank.

Life remains an adventure. I want to have adventures. Having had a good go at leaving this mortal coil a few years ago, you could say I am living on borrowed time.  I prefer to think of it not as borrowed time but as a gift and the best gift of all.  So sticking around a bit longer, always being up for having fun, always cooking and getting a dozen people around the table will remain key driver for me.  Of that, too, I am certain.

So this weekend has been a time of deep reflection -reading my two new cookbooks – Two Kitchens by Rachel Roddy and The Modern Kitchen by Anna Jones – pootlong  about collecting rosemary from various people (for which, thanks to Bruce and Peter, Anna and Karen) and thinking about friends who have struggled this year. You know who you are. You should know that you inspire me.

I have also been doing further experiments with aquafaba and made the best toad in the hole to date.  I said I would update the lovely Rachel and Dean – this is the next instalment and I think I’ve cracked it – use two tablespoons of chick pea water for every egg you would have used.  I used four tbsp chick pea water in lieu of two eggs.  Whisk  till light and fluffy.  Four tablespoons of plain flour with a little salt, whisk into 200ml milk (any kind), fold in the whipped aquafaba.  I used chestnut and tofu sausages (click here).  Cook toads  as normal.

And so, I wish you a peaceful, healthy and happy 2018.  You deserve it! We all deserve it!



Pasta dumplings

It is a dead cert that I will get a brilliant cookery book or two for Christmas. This year it was Kaukasis by Olga Hercules who – since her previous publication Mamushka – has become one of my favourite food writers. The fact that I was given two copies of Kaukasis, one from my daughter in law and one from my daughter just goes to show they both know me well. It wasn’t a problem as someone will be the lucky recipient of the second copy at some point during the year.

It is also a dead cert that rarely do I stick to a recipe as written on the page.  For me, all my (many) cook books are simply inspiration. A starting point. Dyushbara were no exception. In Georgian kitchens these little pasta dumplings would be filled with a mixture of spiced lamb and pork which in my ‘normal’ world would be fine. Except we are approaching 2018 and again I am leaving meat and fish and dairy off the menu for a few weeks.  And David is always and forever a vegetarian and I wanted him to try them too. So there was no meat and the pasta substituted tofu for eggs (there are other similar recipes for egg-free pasta on this blog).

First to the filling.  I spent a relaxing 5 minutes chopping onion, garlic, squash and half a dozen vacuum packed chestnuts and dark green kale into small pieces then I sweated them off in good Sicilian olive oil provided by Nino and Marion until the mixture was very soft.  Further flavourings of a scrape or two of nutmeg, a crushed clove of garlic, some chilli flakes and a little shake of smoked paprika were added.  I mashed it all together and left it to cool.

Then out came the Kenwood and its pasta attachment and into the food processor went 400g OO grade flour, 150g fine semolina, 175g  tofu, a teaspoon of salt, churned a bit till the tofu was mixed in then added  2tbs olive oil and 2tbs cold water. Processed again until it all came together into a clump.  If you press a little pasta between two fingers and it feels dry of grainy, add a little more oil and process again.  Then gather it all together into a ball, knead very lightly then cut the ball in half.  Put half into the freezer for lasagne sheets another day and wrap the other half in cling film,  and put into the fridge for 30 minutes.

Do a little test run with your pasta machine to make sure you remember how to work it! Alternatively, scatter a work surface generously with fine semolina and roll it out with a rolling pin. Either use the pasta machine or a rolling pin to roll out strips of dough then cut into 2cm squares, put just over half a teaspoon of the stuffing into each square wet the edges then fold once, corner to opposite corner, making a triangle. Pick it up and pull down two neighbouring corners to make a ‘tail’  (see picture).  Do this as many times as you need to get a collection of pasta dumplings on your tray.  Apparently in Georgia women make these swiftly and less than half the size. As they do in Italy.  Not in my kitchen – my fingers are not nimble and although this was a bit of a zen experience I wasn’t that keen!

At this point you can freeze them if you wish, or drop into a wide shallow pan of stock for 2-3 minutes remembering that home made pasta cooks in no time at all,  and serve in individual dishes with a little stock in the bottom and  sprinkled with sweet crispy fried kale or grated parmesan.

I can hear you muttering “too much hassle Dawn”.  But if you have a spare afternoon and it is too wet and cold to go fossil hunting in West Runton and the traffic in Norwich is sufficiently atrocious to prevent any attempt to get to the Rembrandt exhibition at the Castle Museum, then what could be lovelier then pottering around in the kitchen and messing up someone else’s recipe!


Post script – they were delicious!

Gravlax – you still have time!

My late pa-in-law Dennis was always in charge of the Gravlax at Christmas. And it was always gorgeous.  So I make no bones about it – this is the recipe he gave me. I have just added one twist to it.

Take one large fillet of wild salmon. Please don’t use the farmed stuff – it’s pale pink and it hasn’t worked hard enough and it is all flabby like a wet tissue.  A wild salmon is bright pink, firm and dense in texture.  Many, many books and people will tell you to ask for the ‘thick cut’ – ie furthest away from the tail where it tapers off (where it is not so thick).  If you buy the whole fillet it is often cheaper and you will have plenty to cure and sufficient at the tail end to mix with pasta, creme fraiche, dill and anchovy for a quick supper, leaving the nice thick rump and head end for your gravlax.

The gravlax takes only minutes to prepare.  First wash your hands and work surface thoroughly, and pour boiling water into the container you are going to use, to sterilise it.  Finely chop a large bunch of dill leaves (the equivalent of four of those little packs from Waitrose).  Put the dill in a large bowl with six tablespoons of rock or seasalt, two tablespoons of light muscovado sugar, two teaspoons of black pepper and mix together.  Now take your fillet and first cut off the thinner bit at the end, where it starts to taper.  Cut the remaining fillet in half across the fish so that you have two thick fillets of equal (ish) size.

Use any container that can accomodate the fish and where it will fit snugly inside.  Dry the container after sterilising it. Put one third of the dill mixture on the bottom.  Place one thick fillet skin side down on top of the dill. Now add another layer of dill on top of the fish and finish with the second fillet and the remainder of the dill mixture.  Press down hard.  My addition to the Dennis recipe is to add 75ml of vodka before putting on the lid or covering in clingfilm then adding a heavy weight on top to press it all down.  Put in the fridge of 24 hours then remove from the fridge and carefully remove the contents of the container onto a plate, upside down.  Now use a fish slice or a pallet knife and return to the container, this time with the fillet that was at the top, now at the bottom.  Scrape any dill mixture that might have escaped back onto the fish, and any vodka juices.  Now leave in the fridge for another two days without touching it.

On Christmas Day, take it out of the fridge about an hour before you are going to use it, scrape away the dill cure, take one fillet and carve it thinly across the grain (not down) and eat for breakfast with scrambled eggs and rye bread.  Oh and the first glass of fizz.   At least, that’s what we do. Works every time.

This will keep for about a week in the fridge so long as you return it to the fridge in the original container and the cure as soon as you have carved it, and cover it tightly.  Doesn’t last that long in our house though.  You will get about 15-20 servings from this.

RIP Dennis and thank you.

Quick, light, easy pickles for last minute guests and as gifts

You can make all these in less than 45 minutes!

Davinder’s Lemon Pickle

Sandip brought these round one night – he is always so generous with his foodie gifts and they are always so delicious.  Later on his mum Davinder texted me the recipe for which I was very grateful – it couldn’t be easier.  Slice a lemon into eight pieces. Do this with 6 lemons. Put in a stainless steel bowl with a teaspoon of turmeric, as many chilli flakes as you dare, a couple of fresh chillies if you double dare.  Add six tablespoons of salt and half a small bottle of lemon juice. That’s it.  Pack everything into sterilised jars and add the juice and leave a week before eating. Keep in the fridge.

Cornersmith’s Fennel Pickle

This is from one of my favourite cookbooks – Cornersmith  – which is a co-operative in the suburbs of Sydney.  They take excess garden and allotment produce and make lovely things with it. Including this. I’ve adapted it slightly. One day I will go there. Slice two bulbs of fennel and one brown onion very thinly.  Put in a stainless steel bowl along with one tablespoon of fennel seed, one tablespoon of mustard seed, one tablespoon of nigella seed, one tablespoon of chilli flakes. one tablespoon of salt.  Mix.  Put 500ml organic apple cyder vinegar in a stainless steel saucepan along with 60ml agave syrup. Bring to the boil.  Pack your fennel tightly into sterilised jars and pour over the hot vinegar and seal.  Ready in a week, or sooner.  Will keep in the fridge for about a month but no longer. Great with cold meats and anything vegetarian, it doesn’t mind which.


You’ve read about this  before but it is my go-to condiment for fish, vegetarian, pasta, meat – the lot.  Go out in the garden and cut a very large handful of rosemary. Come indoors and turn on Radio 6Music. Remove all the leaves from the stems by stripping them off against the way they grow.  Use a nifty zester to remove the zest from three lemons.  Chop 4 large cloves of garlic.  Now get nifty with a knife or a mezzaluna and chop everything very fine – don’t use a blender or processor as it over-processes it and loses the freshness.  Put everything in a stainless steel bowl and add an equal quantity of seasalt or rocksalt.  Pour into a jar or jars.  Will keep for ages.  I suggest you don’t use this in cooking but rather use it as a last minute sprinkle just as the dish is finishing off in the oven – or on pasta once its drained.

Easypeasy apple, quince and maple syrup tartin

This tartin is simplicity itself.

If you have some poached quince in the freezer, which I had because last year was a bumper crop and I had loads (because John had sent out an appeal in Wingfield and I was invited to empty a whole tree by a delightful gentleman).  Defrost the quince and cut into apple sized slices, goodly thick though.  Cut a good rosy apply into 8 slices, taking out the core.  Put 2oz raw cane sugar – a mixture of soft brown and muscovado – in the bottom of a tartin tin (tin, tin, tin) put it on the hob and let it melt and begin to caramelise. Don’t stir it because it will crystallise. Just be patient and eventually it will melt.  Take off the heat. Add 20ml of good quality maple syrup then add a good knob of butter (if you wish). This will turn the base of your tartin into a delicious maple caramel mixture. Be careful it doesn’t spit at you.  Don’t stir.  Then add your apple and quince.  Set to one side and off the heat. Don’t stir!

Take one pack of frozen shortcrust pastry.  You might have to wait a bit until it is a bit softer than completely frozen (but it mustn’t be rollable). Alternatively think ahead and get it out of the freezer about an hour before you want to make the tartin. I forgot. I shoved it in the microwave on defrost for a minute.  Now comes the magic bit.

Take a good old fashioned cheese grater and grate sufficient pastry to cover the apples and quince and so it is about 2cm thick.  Or more, it just means you will need to add a few minutes to the cooking time.

Put the tin in the middle of an oven at 190C for 20 minutes then whack up the heat to 220 for 5 minutes if you are going to eat it today.  Don’t whack it up if you are going to freeze it.  Whatever your choice, take it out of the oven.

I’m going to freeze mine. I’ll take it out of the freezer on the morning I’m going to use it and then put back in a medium oven – about 160 or so for 20 minutes then 220 for 5 minutes.  Leave to rest for 5 minutes then place the serving plate (best have one with a slight lip) over the tin and carefully invert it. Place the plate on a flat surface and lift off the tin. The whole tartin will appear as if by magic and the magic mapley juices will run across the plate.

It’s done. It’s easy. It’s impressive and you neither have to make pastry or roll pastry. You grate it! Great!  Hope you enjoy it.

An easy supper for a cold winter night

image from

OK so we’ve been out all day and driven 100 mile round-trip in all weathers except sun. It’s rained, hailed, snowed, was foggy and now it’s freezing fog and raining again.

The first priority when we arrived home was to get the woodburner going. The next, kettle on.  Then the easiest prep for the easiest of suppers.

Roughly chop a half of one medium sized cauliflower – into moderately sized florets but you don’t need to be careful about it.  Slice one onion. Peel and chop four cloves of garlic.  Chunk a couple of sticks of celery, chop two medium sized potatoes and slice one red pepper into thick slices.  Chop half a preserved lemon having first scooped out the flesh and discarded it.  Throw everything into  big bowl.  Season liberally with seasalt, chopped rosemary and grate in the rind of one lemon.  Add one dessert spoon of powdered turmeric and the same of hot smoked paprika.  Add 30ml olive oil.  Mix thoroughly and go away and read a book for a couple of hours in front of the fire and drink tea.

Turn on the oven to 190C.  Put just a little oil into a baking tray and put the tray in the oven to get smoking hot.  Whilst it is getting hot add 250ml tomato juice or a tin of chopped tomatoes to the contents of the bowl in which you are marinading the vegetables.  Add one 1litre jar or two tins of chick peas and their water.  Mix in with the vegetables. So far so easy huh?

Remove the smoking hot tray from the oven.  Pour in the contents of the bowl. Squeeze over the juice of half a lemon. Put the tray back in the oven for 40 minutes.  Pour a gin and tonic.  Go back to the sofa and your book.  It just gets easier and easier!

When 40 minutes is up, empty one bag of pre-cooked rice into a jug and microwave for two minutes.  Chop some kale into a saucepan and add a scant amount of water, clamp on the lid and set to high so that it steams rather than cooks – just for a couple of minutes – you will know you’ve done it right if you don’t need to drain the kale and it’s done!

Take the tray of scorching hot vegetables out of the oven and drizzle some pomegranate molasses over the top – maybe 20ml or so.  Take a jar of aubergine chutney out of the cupboard. Take a jar of fermented carrots out of the fridge (recipe to come later) and pour 150ml Kefir into a small bowl – or you can use good organic yogurt  – and sprinkle with some fennel seed.  Now let everything that is hot rest for five minutes.

Now plate up – some rice, some roasted cauliflower and chick pea with sauce, some crispy kale. all garnished with carrot, some chutney and some cooling raita.  All in the time it takes to drink a G&T and read a couple of chapters.

Woodburner is burbling away. Himself is watching Japanese woodturning on Youtube with his headphones on. I’m on the sofa contemplating a second G&T and whether I should read another chapter of David Storey’s Saville or watch the final episode of Outlander. It’s been that sort of a day.

Nibbles #cringe


The word nibbles makes me cringe. It reminds me of gatherings with my parents and at their friends houses, things on sticks, messy, too many small plates, glasses and (at that time) fags to juggle.  As in a previous post, my preference is to throw a few things on the table when people in that have not taken an age to prepare.

The aim is to not make hard work of the ‘few things thrown on the table’  – do as little cooking as possible, keep creamy things to a minimum if you are like me otherwise there will be an unholy mess, concentrate on high flavour, low fuss – and nothing that requires last minute attention and everything must be easy to assemble.

Like what?

  • high quality crisps of course
  • a plate of charcuterie, good olives and cheese
  • stuffed peppadew peppers from a jar
  • Nino’s Sicilian olives pepped up with cumin and  chopped preserved lemon
  • chicory leaves with crumbled olive-oil slicked toasted breadcrumbs and gorgonzola
  • chick peas tossed in smoked paprika and olive oil and roasted
  • old bread toasted and cut into squares with a smear of sobrasada (creamed chorizo)
  • shop-bought rye bread cut into squares with horseradish, smoked salmon and dill leaf
  • toasted naan bread cut into squares  piled high with curried potato and pea
  • rice paper wraps, dipped in hot water and wrapped around shop bought prawns and sliced lettuce and a dab of chilli sauce
  • little cups made of tortilla wraps pressed into small bun cases and flashed in the oven to make them crispy then fill with halloumi, chopped tomato and basil
  • bowls of cornichon

After all you want to have fun don’t you? Or would you rather be a slave to the kitchen?  I have posted previously on ‘nibbles’ along the lines of Abigail’s party, and I guess someone might be doing mini yorkies with roast beef, or little quiches, or sausages, or crudite and dip. But that person won’t be me.

Anniversary Pie

I know, I know. It’s been a while. More than a while. It has been a busy  year and I apologise. I have been remiss. I have failed to post. I have been doing other things. And a bit of me wondered whether you might be bored with my persistent food blogging. So I stopped for a while.  But so many of you have said in the past few weeks “what’s happened?” “where are our Christmas recipes?” “have you given up?”.  And I realised that nothing had happened, being me I had simply filled my time with other things; the Christmas recipes are still in there. And no I haven’t given up!! When have you ever known me to give up?

So here’s a new pie that I invented and which made its’ maiden appearance at Marion and Andrew’s first wedding anniversary celebration at ours last week end.  The meat eaters had some marvellous pheasant with deep orange and pomegranate sauce. But the vegetarians had the star, which was the new raised pie. I seem to have become addicted to making wholemeal hot watercrust pastry and it is now my pastry of choice for pies and for flans. It neither shrinks nor cracks, it is very mouldable. Most of all it is easy.

8oz wholemeal flour, half a teaspoon of salt, 1 oz coarse oatmeal.  Mix these together in a bowl then add 15ml white wine vinegar, 30ml olive oil, about 60ml hot water (maybe more but you will have to judge that by the feel and how the mixture binds together). Sometimes I add some grated cheese.  Knead lightly then set aside for 30 minutes to relax (the pastry, not you!)

Wash and peel 300g Jerusalem artichoke and slice thickly then cook gently with one chopped leek in butter and garlic. Season with salt and black pepper. Set aside.

Chop 300g of good old gnarly carrots and cook gently in butter, lemon juice and a tiny bit of sugar at the end. Allow to cool. Season with white pepper, then add a little chopped tarragon or basil. Not both.

Unpack one whole vacuum pack of chestnuts and dice.  Saute some field mushrooms with garlic and add the chestnuts and at the end a little bit of dark soy sauce.

Now you are ready to construct the pie – or pies.  If it’s pies then it will make 3 small pies.  Either prepare 3 empty bean tins by removing labels, washing thoroughly then grease the OUTSIDE and dust with coarse semolina before you roll out 3 circles and form the pastry by hand around the outside of the tins until it comes up the sides about 3.5cm.  Then put them on baking parchment and into the fridge for 20 minutes to firm up.   Or (this is easier) use a small loaf tin, grease and line with coarse semolina then roll out the pastry into a rectangle and line the tin.  Then whether it’s loaf tin or baked bean tin, add layers of the filling – if using baked bean tins then remove the tin, obvs!!  Make sure the filling is good and moist as there is no meat in here to give you juices!  Then roll out the lids, brush the joins and tops with egg wash and put in the oven at 190C for 25 minutes and then turn down to 170 for 10 more minutes.  Take out of the oven and leave to stand for 10 minutes before serving.

What’s the deal with coarse semolina?  Those who follow this blog regularly know that I use it instead of flour to dust the inside of pans and tins.  For savoury dishes I use it liberally as it helps keep the crust crusty and the gravy inside!!

Veganuary Day 31 Chocolate and Chestnut Celebration Cake

img_8105What an auspicious day to finish my veganuary culinary adventure. It is my son Will’s 39th birthday today.  How on earth did that happen? Surely I cannot be that old? #pausesforaminute Oh! Yes. I am!

To celebrate the birthday of such a lovely man is a pleasure. That he is my son is my privilege.  And I shall see him at the week end  and we are eating at Patricias which The Guardian described as ‘a little belter’. We shall see. And so can you in my new ‘review’ section on this blog.

So I thought I would share this lovely cake with you as the final Veganuary ‘passing out parade’.  It is one of Pippa Kendrick’s recipes.  Not only does she live in Norwich and used to live next to Marion, she also writes brilliant books about food for people who have sensitivities to certain ingredients. For myself – I have few, but her recipes and particularly her cakes are simply delicious. This is one of my favourites. By the way, the photo is not of the chocolate and chestnut cake (although it was a layer therein) but of Marion and Andrew’s wedding cake.

To the cake:

You need to heat your oven to 170C and grease and line a 20cm cake tin.

Blend 4tbsp ground flaxseed with a quarter of a teaspoon of baking powder and 6 tablespoons of water.  This is a totally effective replacement for eggs in cake.  Set it aside for a few minutes and the flax will swell up. You will be left with a thick paste.

Now put 110g sunflower mararine in a bowl with 150g sweetened chestnut puree.  Mix it until it is pale, light and luffy then add the egg replacement paste a little at a time, whisk as you go until it is fully incorporated into the puree.  Sift in 110g plain flour (gluten free if you are intolerant of flour) with two tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder and a pinch of salt and incorporate it all using a metal spoon.  Now add 6tbsp almond, soy or rice milk.

Spoon it into the tin and bake for 35 minutes until it has risen and springy.  Remove from the oven, let it cool for 10 minutes then remove from the tin onto a wire rack.

Break 75g dairy free chocolate into a bowl and melt it in a bowl placed over simmering water.  Remove from the heat and stir in the chestnut puree.

When the cake has cooled, spread the ganache over the cake, cut into slices and serve.  Believe me. It is gorgeous. My mouth is watering.

Veganuary Day 30 Roti Canai

roti-canaiThis is an extremely easy dish. And extremely yummy.  The only new trick you  might need to learn is tempering – no, not as in ‘keeping your temper’ but cooking spices in very hot oil and adding them at to the dish at the last moment.  See? Not difficult.

Put about 150ml yellow split peas in a large pan, cover with water and bring to the boil then add 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric and half a teaspoon of ground ginger.  Boil away for about 10 minutes and remove the scum that forms on the top.  Now add one aubergine chopped into 1cm chunks, one chopped onion, five chopped tomatoes, one chopped carrot, a medium sized chopped potato and a medium sized green chilli (chopped). So far so easy.  Add about 500ml of boiling water and then simmer until the vegetables are soft and the whole lots looks a bit like porridge.  If it gets too stiff, add more water bit by bit.  Remember that you are then going to stir in 200ml full fat coconut milk,  so don’t make it too runny before you do this, add some salt to taste and about a tablespoon of tamarind paste.  Actually, add two. It adds a wonderful sourness. Stir it all around.

Now put a couple of tablespoons of oil into a small pan, fry a chopped onion and four or five sliced garlic cloves 1 teaspoon mustard seed, 1 teaspoon cumin seed, 1 chopped green chilli and a little turmeric powder at the end of the frying.  Fry for a couple of minutes then pour it over the dal and stir.  Check your seasoning – you will probably need to add more salt.

For the roti, either use the recipe for flatbread on this blogsite (just ‘search’ flatbread).  Or make flaky roti using 450g plain flour, 1 teaspoon of salt and one teaspoon of sugar – mix the dry ingredients with about 300ml water then knead it (or make in a mixer with a dough hook) and cover and leave to rise in a warm place for at least a couple of hours.  Then grease the work surface with oil and oil your rolling pin.  Take a nugget of dough about the size of a satsuma and roll it out, then continue to stretch it with your hands, rubbing oil into it as you fold over the layers. What I mean by this is as you stretch it out, fold the edges to the middle as you go round.  Then roll and stretch it all out again without folding, making  sure the dough is rolled and stretched into a strip, not a circle, then ‘pleat’ each strip (ie one flatbread) into a much thinner strip (remember I said pleat not plait!).  Then roll this strip into a circle, like a Catherine Wheel,  and finally roll it out agin to form an average sized flatbread.  It sounds a bit complicated but it isnt. You are simply making the dough, letting it prove, breaking off a piece, rolling it out then stretching it into a strip that is longer than it is wide.  Then pleat it so the length has four or five layers and then roll it round from the centre, finally rolling it out into a flatbread shape again.  Cook on a medium heat on a skillet.  You will end up with a fluffy bread that flakes as you eat it.

Veganuary Day 29 Almost there (Eat your heart out Andy Williams)

Andy Williams. Thanks to

I always wanted to be the girl Andy Williams picked out of the audience, and danced with real close, at the end of his show.  Which is showing my age of course.  Listen to this if you need a reminder.  No clips of the closing sequence, but some of you will remember how it went.  Oh how I wanted to be that girl in the black and white polka dot dress with the circular skirt and the can-can petticoat.

And then – I wanted to be taller, thinner, more clever, always the one who got the handsome man.

And now – I just want to be me.  So I remain short, not thin, averagely clever but I really do think I got the handsomest man.  He is not Andy Williams. He is far better.  So I win!!

And so – this Veganuary month is almost finished and what have I learned?

  • I do not have to eat meat, I choose not to eat meat 99% of the time
  • It is not difficult or time consuming to prepare and eat plant based meals
  • I like soya milk, especially when I make it myself
  • Making soya milk is easy
  • Shops that call themselves ‘vegan’ in general have a very limited stock of ‘real’ food
  • People who come for dinner can eat for the whole evening and not notice that they are eating plants (not animals)
  • the arguments about balancing ecosystems and ‘positive’ stuff  that relates to meat production, employment and countryside management can be countered by arguments  that are just as valid about GM production, methane production, animal welfare and agri-business
  • Generally, you will eat more vegetables, roughage and whole grains in a good and well balanced vegan diet, than eating  a meat based diet
  • I feel much better for it, I really do

Today has been a busy day. Those of you who know me, will know that I cram a lot into a day. Those who know me well, know the reason for that.  However eating vegan has not affected my energy levels nor my stamina – Today I started at 8. I’ve had a tricky phone conference setting up a new piece of work, which took an hour; done two hours work at the computer, been for a march round the block, driven to Norwich and had my eyes tested, had coffee with my good friend and fellow-traveller, driven home, drafted out a report, marched round the block, sorted out the lovely man who is replacing our fence, taken delivery of a Raleigh Shopper for David’s bicycle renovation projects, ordered two dial-phones for my mum, driven back to Norwich, done a one hour radio interview, come home, lay on the sofa, checked out the child care requirements for tomorrow, written this blog.

I have not starved during this vegan way of eating, and neither has food preparation has taken hours and hours.

Today I have consumed:

Oaty porridge with pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, almonds and figs with half a pint of soya milk

Two apples, two pears and an orange

A chilli and bean burrito stuffed with salad from the vegan stall on Norwich market

A slice of wholemeal toast with tofu cream cheese, tomato, bean and alfalfa sprouts with walnuts

About 2l of water

I am about to take a mug of hot almond milk infused with maca powder and coco nibs to bed with me.  Me and Julian Barnes have a date and I don’t want to miss it.

Ordinary life – as lived by a temporary vegan  who is considering indefinite leave to remain.