Blog and recipes

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.

Veganuary Day 28 Different ways with vegetables


img_0871Little Gem lettuce with peas

Does your fridge suddenly ‘grow’ lettuces?  Mine does

Because it does, this little gem (sic.) came to pass. It is adapted from a Little Gem, pea, avocado and mint salad I make in the summer.

But this is winter. Take two little gem lettuce and slice lengthways into eight. Snick the bitter end off (but not too much). Chop a small bunch of spring onions including the green bits. Add a little olive oil to a shallow pan on a medium heat. Add the onions then the lettuce then two cups of frozen peas, 50ml water and a squeeze of juicy garlic. Turn the heat up high. Clamp on the lid and when it is steaming, give it 3 minutes. Then remove from the heat and stir in two tablespoons of coriander chutney (seebelow). Swirl around a bit.

It is divine.

Green coriander chutney

Take one bunch of fresh green coriander.  Two cloves of garlic.  Half a green chilli.  A teaspoon of sugar.  A squeeze of lemon juice. The thick residue of a tin of coconut milk (just drain the fluid from the tin, you should have a good half tin of coconut if not dilute it slightly with the fluid you’ve just drained).

Put the garlic, chilli and coriander in a small food processor or Nutribullet.  when finely chopped add the sugar, lemon juice and the coconut.  Whizz madly.  Check to see if it needs salt.  Pour about half of it onto your Little Gem with peas.  Keep the other half for when you have a curry tomorrow!

Stir fried sprouts

Slice your sprouts into 1cm thick slices.  Chop some onion and a clove of garlic.  Grate the rind from half a washed lemon.  Heat some oil in a wok or wide pan until it is smoking.  Add the onion first, swirl around for about 30 seconds. Then add the sprouts.  Add the garlic last. Stir around for no more than a minute. Then add the lemon rind, seasalt and lots of black pepper.  Take off the heat. Add a little more olive oil.  Serve.

Carrots with caraway

Sweat half an onion in the bottom of the pan in olive oil (be generous).  After five minutes add carrots cut into chunks, a dessert spoon of caraway seeds, half a teaspoon of sugar and half a chopped preserved lemon.  Don’t add salt.  Pour in a cup of water and bring it all to the boil then put a ring of greasepeoof paper on top of the carrots (it’s called a cartouche) and then the lid.  Now turn the heat to barely on and cook for about an hour either on the ring or in the oven.  Don’t remove the lid or the cartouche until you are ready to serve.  The carrots will be meltingly soft and suffused with sweetness, countered by the bitterness of the lemon and warmed by the caraway.


I love cauliflower but this is one of my favourite ways of cooking it. (No, it is not cauliflower ‘rice’ although that has its place, to be sure).  This cauliflower is roasted.  Take a whole cauliflower and break it into large-ish florets.  Then cut each floret into slices about 1.5cm thick.  The idea is that you want to make them lay flat on the surface of a baking sheet.  Put the florets in a bowl and mix with the following:  5ml seasalt flakes, a good grind of black pepper, two teaspoons of cumin seed, one teaspoon of turmeric powder, one onion chopped (but not too fine), a few chilli flakes, 30ml olive oil or rapeseed oil. Mix well.  Put a sheet of greasproof paper on the baking tray and pre-heat in the oven set at 200C.  Then turn out the contents of the bowl onto the baking sheet and roast for about 30 minutes.  Some of the florets should look a bit charred – this adds to the flavour in my opinion.  If you don’t like ‘a bit charred’ then take out of the oven a bit sooner.


We get through a lot of courgette but I don’t ever give them the star treatment.  They are a good workhorse in the kitchen. And sometimes they have to stand alone as a vegetable.  Chop courgettes into rough chunks.  Don’t make them into smooth circles, but alternate the direction of your chopping so you get irregular shapes. Try and make them a good 2cm at the thickest part.  Dredge with seasoned coarse semolina.  Put a little oil in a wide pan and heat it smoking.  Then add a small chopped onion, lots of chopped garlic, fresh thyme leaves. Have some chopped fresh parsley and chopped fresh basil ready.  Then throw in your courgettes and keep moving them around so they stir fry but never ‘catch’.  After four minutes or so, add cherry tomatoes that you’ve cut in half.  Toss these into the pan and leave for two minutes.  Then add seasalt and black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. Take off the heat and then add the parsley and basil.


So many ways with celeriac.  One of my favourite and simplest ways is to make mash with equal amounts of potato and celeriac.  Or to slice it into 2cm thick slices, slather it with oil, chilli flakes and coriander powder then roast it till it is soft on the inside then slightly charred on the outside.  Eat it as a burger, slapped in a bun with red slaw and horseradish.


Veganuary Day 27. Burnt aubergine with black lentils

In my kitchen
In my kitchen

Sorry about the no-show on Day 26.  We went to our first djembe drumming lesson.  I came out totally confused but having had the best time!
Easypeasy supper thanks to Yotam. Roast an aubergine rubbed in oil either under the grill, on a gas ring or with a blow torch. Roast deep and hard till the skin is charred and the insides are soft. Put aubergine in a sealable sandwich bag. Yes, really!

Chop equal proportions of celery, onion and carrot. Sweat in rapeseed or olive oil till soft with half a chopped chilli plus seeds then squeeze on a clove of garlic and sprinkle on half a teaspoon of ground cumin. Pour 25ml red wine vinegar on the sautéed vegetables and boil till almost gone then add a packet if Merchant Gourmet black beluga lentils, chopped fresh parsley and 150 ml vegetable stock. Cook gently till most if the stock has been absorbed then season with a little salt and lots of black pepper. Keep warm.

Rub the aubergine around in the bag till the charred skin is loosened then remove from the bag and pick out most if the black bits. Put the squishy – and it must be squishy – aubergine in a bowl and mix till roughly puree’d. Season with black pepper, add a bit more oil, a little smoked paprika and some chopped almonds.

Pile the lentils into a dish, top with aubergine and dairy or soya yogurt sprinkled with chopped coriander and nigella seeds.

Yum yum with flatbread.

Veganuary Day 25 The day I fell off the wagon

img_7448Only a brief post on this bitingly cold day.  Just to say that today, I fell off the wagon.  It’s all Gail’s fault. She was coming round. We were going to hatch a plot.  Then she cancelled.  I did my walk, then settled down to work, the final push quality checking a big document.  Lit the woodburner.  But I could feel those wintry icicles outside and and I neede warmth.  I needed comfort. Oh well, I thought, I was going to make some scones for Gail anyway. I’ll make them and David can take them to work tomorrow.  So out with the flour and the butter and the eggs.  As they cooked the house filled with   a heavenly buttery warm-cake smell.

Hardly were they out of the oven than I had eaten one, all crumbly and moist and fragrant. Steaming it was.  Plus a large mug of tea.

In penance I took some round to Jas and Dick next door, with a jar of black currant jam.

I cannot tell a lie. I fell off the wagon.  I only ate one.  But it was all Gail’s fault.

Veganuary Day 24. Lasagne

img_3817So you remember the tofu pasta?  Well half of it was languishing in the freezer. So here goes another experiment….. frozen pasta. In lasagne.

I decided after the first attempt that the pasta needed to be cooked before adding to the dish.  So I poached the sheets gently in simmering water for about 3 minutes then drained them on kitchen towel.

Before that I made a good batch of David’s tomato sauce and in a separate pan I sautee’d mushrooms with garlic and then some whole leaf spinach and left it to cool.

Then it was simply a matter of layering it up – sauce, pasta, spinach and mushroom, lookey-likey soya mozarella (yes, I know, but I thought I’d give it a go), pasta, sauce, pasta, sauce, lookey-likey cheese.

It has just come out of the oven (45 minutes at 190C) and I am leaving it to reduce from scorchio to tolerable before dishing up.  With an extremely healthy salad that includes my home spun sprouted seeds and a very garlicky dressing.  I’ll be crocheting macrame saucepan holders next!  If it looks good when I slice it I will post another picture.  If you don’t see one here, it didn’t hold together that well!

40 minutes later……..

So.Here it is. Held together nicely.  These are the lessons learned:

  • tofu pasta freezes well
  • the lasagne sheets benefit from ‘poaching’ before use
  • use plenty of sauce because it will be absorbed by the pasta
  • season everything really well because the pasta will ‘dull’ the seasoning
  • dont bother with the looked-likey tofu mozzarella – it didnt add anything
  • have at least four layers of pasta then it will hold its shape when you cut it.



Veganuary Day 23 Udon noodle supper

01efdaebb89cc7048904e1cc5986b0ddc9eed5c90aTo be honest, a bowl of udon noodles with mushrooms is not the prettiest dish on this planet.  So here’s a lovely bright photo of Spain instead, to cheer you up.

This supper, or a version of it (depending on what’s in the fridge), is a regular.  It’s quick, uncomplicated and very tasty. Although it is a bit brown. Hence the ‘cheer up’ picture.

To serve two, you will need onion, garlic, mushrooms (a variety would be good, but if you only have a few chestnut or button mushrooms kicking around in the bottom of the fridge, they will be just as good).  Plus onion, garlic, chilli flakes, cornflour, soya milk and/or soya cream, mushroom ketchup, fresh herbs, the other half of the jar of Seitan from the other night, pak choi.  I haven’t given precise weights of ingredients simply because this is so simple you should practice doing it by eye instead of weight! Call it the Rees method.  Approximate.

Chop the Seitan into smaller chunks and marinade in two tablespoons of soy sauce. Sweat the chopped onion with garlic and chilli flakes.  Then add chopped mushrooms and cook till just done. Add the Seitan and its marinade. a tablespoon of nutritional yeast flakes and a couple of tablespoons of mushroom ketchup.  Combine all the ingredients then take off the heat.  Sprinkle about a tablespoon of cornflour over the contents of the pan and add about 100ml of soya milk and about 50ml of soya cream. Combine and then stir till it thickens. Check the seasoning but remind yourself that the soy sauce and the mushroom ketchup is a seasoning in itself, so you probably won’t need any extra salt.  Add chopped fresh basil leaves.

Meanwhile, cook the Udon noodles as per instruction on the packet and simultaneously (steady now!) steam the pak choi that you’ve quartered.  It will only take three or four minutes.

As soon as the noodles are done, drain and put in individual bowls.  Pour the mushroom and Seitan sauce over them, and top with the pak choi.

It’s slurpy. It’s yummy. It’s quick (15 minutes start to finish). It’s easy. So what are you waiting for?

Veganuary Day 22 Green pie

Green pie

img_3809What a great evening!  Old friends.New friends.Good food.

Good food usually means lots of prep but I was going for scrumptious but simple.

So, for the green pie, be kind to yourself.  Take one pack of filo pastry.

Cook 500g of spinach and 500g of kale in separate pans and a scant amount of water in each. Take the spinach off the heat before it turns to mush. Drain into a colander lined with kitchen towel.  Cook the kale for a bit longer then drain in the same way and then strip the leaves from any chunky stems.  When cool, chop the kale and the spinach into smaller pieces and only then, season with sea salt.

Meanwhile, sweat two chopped onions in olive or rapeseed oil and when very soft, add two grated cloves of garlic and a grating of nutmeg.

Prepare a 21cm springform cake tin by greasing it and dusting liberally with coarse semolina.  Have a pot with oil and a pastry brush close to hand.

Clear as much work surface as you can. Ideally you would have a run of about 1200cm. Lay out sheets of filo in a strip, overlapping on the short side and brush the joins with oil – so you have one long line of filo.  Spread the onion and mixed greens in a line about 2cm wide along the length of the pastry, and about 1.5cm from the bottom edge. Chop a large handful each  of mint and basil and sprinkle over the greens. Then sprinkle with nutritional yeast flakes (in a non vegan version I would add crumbled feta cheese).  Then brush the remaining exposed pastry with a little oil and roll up from the bottom so you end up with a long sausage. Coil it tightly inside the tin and brush with more oil.  Cook in the oven at 180C for about 30 minutes till golden brown.

Bulgar with walnuts (Kisir)

Put half a cup of water in a bowl with two cups of boiling water.  Cover with two cups of boiling water.  Chop or crush half a cup of walnut halves.  After 30 minutes the bulgar will have absorbed the water.  Mix with the walnuts, chopped spring onions, two tablespoons of tomato purée, chopped fresh dill and a good slug of pomegranate molasses.  The final ingredient is the most important in terms of flavour….. half a preserved lemon – removing the pulp and finely chopping the flesh.  Dont add more salt because the preserved lemon is salty.

Roast red peppers with black garlic

img_3810Slice three red peppers and remove the white pith.  Remove. 4 cloves of black garlic from its skin and chop into pieces. Roast in olive oil for about 20 mintes.  Allow to cool then put in a bowl with one tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.

Serve with a luscious salad of avocado with bitter leaves and a basket of flatbreads.

Veganuary Dawn 21. Aquafaba Blood Orange Cake

Blood orange cake
Blood orange cake

I am always on the look-out for blood oranges in January. Their season is relatively short and they are so juicy and the flesh and juice such a rich colour, that they are impossible to resist.  They look pretty innocuous in the farm shop – indeed there weren’t that many around as the harvest – particularly in Spain – has been affected by snow and frosts.  So I had the last half dozen in the farm shop and wasn’t tempted by the hybrid on offer.  I had a taste. But it wasnt the same and had a much thicker skin.  No. I like the thin-skinned originals.

There are eight for dinner tonight and I am cooking  Turkish.  Herb pie, flatbreads, duk-kah, roasted red pepper with black garlic, cucumber and fennel pickle salad, aubergines in pomegranate molasses.

What I am really looking forward to it the experiment with the ubiquitous clementine cake, which I have adapted using blood oranges and aquafaba, and which we are having for pudding.

Put four blood oranges (or six clemetines and a lemon) in a saucepan so they are a snug fit, cover with boiling water and boil away for a good hour.  Let them cool and then whizz to a pulp in the food processor.  Take five tablespoons of aquafaba (the water from tinned chickpeas – see previous posts – or search ‘aquafaba’) and a tablespoon of cider vinegar, and whisk until frothy not foamy – so it looks like well-whipped egg whites. The aquafaba takes the place of the eggs in the original recipe.

Put 200g ground almonds, a heaped teaspoon of baking powder, 30ml unflavoured oil and 175g soft brown sugar in the food processor with the blood orange pulp and combine at high speed, then pour into a clean mixing bowl.  Gently fold in the whipped aquafaba with a metal spoon then pour the batter into a 21cm round springform tin that you have oiled and dusted heavily with coarse semolina.  Put in the centre of the oven, pre-heated to 180C, to cook until firm in the middle.  Note that these proportions are smaller than the previous recipe so I would check it after 30  minutes and then lay a double thickness sheet of baking parchment over the top, then leave for 10 more minutes.  It should be done by then.

Remove from the oven and onto a cooling rack (still in the tin). After half an hour, run a round-edged knife round the tin and invert the cake onto a wide plate.

Whilst the cake is cooking, thinly slice two or three more blood oranges.  Put 100g soft brown sugar in a wide shallow pan with 150ml water.  Bring to the boil and reduce a bit then add the slices of orange and any juice that is on the cutting board.  Cook in the pan until the syrup is thick and the oranges are almost sticking to the pan but not quite. Remove from the heat.

When the cake is cool, arrange the oranges on top of the cake and pour the syrup over the top. Sometimes I add more syrup. There is often some in the fridge.  Earlier in the year it was quince and lime syrup. At the moment it is Seville orange syrup that I drained from a batch of Seville orange and quince marmalade that would not set.

This cake is a complete experiment on my part. I am eager to see how the aquafaba works.  The cake itself looks great at the moment.  But we’ve not eaten it yet! I will report in later!


Veganuary Day 20 Soya milk and Pesto

img_3806Yesterday’s ‘cold’ in my head and the achy joints that threatened to interfere with weekend plans, have receded a bit.  Probably helped by the kill-or-cure approach to finishing off the massive wood pile on our drive. We had a convoy (of two) barrows going from front to back, and with every circuit I managed to sort out in my head what needed to be done in the back garden in a few weeks time.  It’s the ‘garden’ equivalent to my ‘swimming pool’ meditation where similar issues get processed.

Anyway. In between barrows, helping out a neighbour, reading the paper and making a trek to Tesco to find some Mamade for my mum (more about marmalade another time) I made some soya milk, experimented a bit more with aquafaba in a cake that’s tomorrow’s Day 21 post sorted) , some pesto and some soup.

When I re-read what I have written on these blogs I often wonder why I rarely do one thing at a time.  I dont know the answer but I think its something to do with running things in parallel means you get more done. Rarely is there sequential activity going on.  It must be the project manager in me. I shall ponder more on that in the swimming pool.

Soya milk – making your own

The first lot of soya milk going through the muslin

First the soya milk.  I actually like it. Some people don’t and prefer nut milks. I am happy with both.  I haven’t made any tofu yet but I think Marion has a batch going at the moment so I will ask her to do a guest blog. I use organic and GM free soya beans from the wholefood shop.  If you want to read a bit more about the soya production/consumption debate you could google it of course, or you could start here.

Put 125g soya beans in a bowl and cover with 500ml boiling water.  Soak overnight.  If you

Squeezing it out!

are not that keen on the taste of soya beans in the milk then discard this water the next day, rinse the beans, then put in a large and powerful blender with 750ml water.  Blend on high for a good 30 seconds then lay some muslin in a colander (knew I kept those baby muslins for something 35 years ago) and pour in the contents of the blender.  Squeeze the liquid through the muslin and return the dry-ish residue to the blender with another 500ml water.  Blend again and go through the same sieving process.  Pour into bottles or containers that are scrupulously clean and have been scalded with boiling water.  Put the lid on that’s it.  About 1.25l of soya milk.  Some people add a little sugar. I don’t. Some people flavour it with vanilla. I don’t.

The final product

Walnut and basil pesto

This is, of course, an adaption of traditional pesto which contains lashings of parmesan.

Walnut and basil pesto

In a pestle and mortar, completely crush one fat clove of garlic with half a teaspoon of seasalt.  Then add half a dozen walnut halves and crush to a pulp.  Then add few large fresh basil leaves – probably about 10 and about 10ml of any oil. I used rapeseed.  Keep pounding it till it becomes a mush.  Plonk a teetering teaspoonful in the middle of a bowl of some home made leek and potato soup and tell me it’s not gorgeous.  Of course, other nuts are available, and other herbs. You could invent your own blend.


Veganuary Day 19 Pie, there must be pie!

Seitan pie before its lid is on

It is cold and I want to get warm. Me and three year old Otto have had a busy day.  Trampolining. Playing Octonauts.  And moving logs in our wheelbarrows.  Him one log at a time.  Me a barrowload at a time.  And we both have colds. So after the gym pick up for Monty (6), by the time I got home I was hungry as a hunter but achy in the back region and with a very dull head.  To be honest, I was tempted by temptation itself and called in at Asda (also looking for MaMade for my mum) where I was momentarily seduced by Linda McCartney pies.  They even morphed into my basket, as if by magic.  Then I read the label and muttered ‘No Dawn. Walk away from the pies’.  Such a wholesome image.  So many ‘safe’ additives.

So when I got home I was determined there would be pie. I needed pie. It had to be made.

Turn the oven on to 190C.

First the pastry.  Four tablespoons of plain wholemeal flour, one of plain white flour and two of fine oatmeal.  A little salt.  Rub in about 40g  mararine.  Dont shout! I know.  But it was avocado oil margarine. With no canola or palm oil.  Then add a tablespoon of olive oil.  Bring it together with a little water then leave it to rest while you do the rest. Why, you might ask, why the oatmeal.  I have done a lot of experiments with wholemeal flour in order to get the right ‘feel’.  As with so many things re vegan and vegetarian, you really have to adjust a lifetime of eating habits. And that includes tasting habits too.  The oatmeal gives the pastry a more open texture without adding more fat.  And in my opinion it solves the age-old wholemeal pastry problem which is that it tends to be hard as bullets unless you load it with fat. However, if you add about 10% oatmeal it will be softer.

img_3795Next, wash and quarter some average sized potatoes (unpeeled).  Put in a bowl with black pepper and two teaspoons of turmeric, a slug of oil and a tablespoon of coarse semolina. And a sprinkle of seasalt flakes before they go in the oven.

Sweat chopped onion, garlic, celery, celeriac and squash in a shallow wide pan in some rapeseed oil, or similar.  I only use a little oil, so keep an eye on it then add half a glass of water when it looks like its just beginning to stick. This saves  you using more oil than is necessary.  Season with sea salt, black pepper and thyme – fresh if you have it.  Cook for another five minutes with the lid on, till the vegetables are on the firm side of soft.

Seitan marinaded in light soy sauce

Meanwhile open a jar of Seitan.  Now I’ve talked  about this before in other posts – essentially it is the total protein of wheat grain and it comes in a jar in chunks. It looks disgusting and the last time I posted about it I couldn’t bear to expose it for public scrutiny! Or derision! I used about a third of a jar, sliced it into smaller chunks and marinaded it in light soy sauce and a grated clove of garlic for a few minutes.  Then I added the seitan and the marinade to the vegetables, stirred them round, put the lid on and started a quick and easy sauce.


The pie as it came out of the oven

Put one teaspoon mustard powder in a bowl with two teaspoons of tomato purée, half a tablespoon of nutritional yeast flakes and about 150ml water.  Mix it round then add to the veg and seitan in the pan.  Heat gently till it thickens. Take off the heat. Allow to cool with the lid off for about 10 minutes. Check the seasoning and adjust if you need to.  Then pour it into a dish and pop the little singing bird in the middle to stop the middle bit of the pastry dipping.  Top with the pastry and brush with oil. Put the pie in the oven on the bottom shelf and the potatoes on a hot baking tray on the top shelf.  Swap them over after 20 minutes and cook for a further 20.

Yummy.  Ready in 5 minutes starting from……… NOW!

A slice of pie anyone?




Veganuary Day 18. Aquafaba yorkshire puds

img_3776Day 17 explained what aquafaba is and told you how to make mayonnaise with water and no eggs.

Today we have further aquafaba antics in the form of Toad in the Hole. With no eggs.

Put six tablespoons of chick pea water in a bowl.  Gill tells me this is equivalent to two eggs.  Add 10ml cider vinegar.

Now let me introduce you to Elvis.  Elvis is my 25 year old electric hand mixer.  When we could still be bothered to put it back in its Elvis box it sat the top shelf.  Now the Elvis box is long gone.  However Elvis is still here.  Why Elvis?  The serial number on the box was ELV15.  When Anna saw it she called it Elvis. And Elvis it remains.

Anyway.  Whip up the bean water and vinegar until it looks like whipped egg white.  Then sift in 120g self raising flour and a teaspoon of baking powder. Whizz it madly until combined, adding 175ml of soya milk as you go. Now you are required to make a judgement call.  Does the batter look thick/thin enough?  Compare it in your mind to other batters your have made.  If you think it is still too thick, add more soya milk – up to another 75ml.  This is the mistake I made this evening when I made it for the first time. I added the liquid all at once and it was too thin.  Bear that in mind.

Whilst I was gathering the batter ingredients together, I turned the oven on to warp factor 200C and quickly roasted the chestnut sausages straight front the freezer till they were just done.  When I took them out of the oven I turned up the oven to 220C, and added a slug of oil to each hole in a muffin tray.  I was insufficiently courageous to attempt my normal pagoda-style one-yorkie-in-a-single-roasting-pan version.  With good reason. I should have listened to my instinct.

When the muffin pans were smoking hot, I gave the batter one more riff with Elvis, twitched my hips a bit, snarled, then poured some into each of the muffin tin holes, dropped half a sausage in each and quickly returned them to the oven.  They were done in 15 minutes.

img_3774Now dont get me wrong.  They were actually really tasty.  And passed muster as a yorkshire pudding.  However, to be honest, the batter could have done with being thicker and so they didn’t rise as much as I would have liked.

And for those of you who think I can cook anything, well I probably can. But I don’t cook everything well. It is always trial and error. And sometimes I make mistakes.

However, next time…………. and there will be a next time……..  it will be different!

Veganuary Day 17 Aquafaba (aqua-what?)

img_3766 img_3768It is true.  There is nothing new under the sun.  I reckoned I knew a lot about ingredients and kitchen stuff. But until about three months ago I had never heard of Aquafaba. Aquawhat?

Mr Google will tell you everything you need to know, but I will save you the trouble.  Aquafaba is the water from a tin of chickpeas. Or Pinto beans. Or Haricot beans. Or any beans – except baked beans.  The salted water from the bean can contains magical properties – protein strands that mimic egg white.  The theory is that if you whip it, it not only looks like egg white, it behaves like egg white.  So the only question is, does it work or is it a gimic?  Look at sites like and they will tell you all about its history, the science and more stuff than you probably need to know in order to make mayo. Even The Guardian is talking about it. And it has its own Facebook page.  There’s millions of stuff about it.  Trillions.  So why had I never heard of it?  And does it work?

Yesterday I promised I would try out Yorkshire pudding today – it being full of egg and milk n’all.  But this morning I was sidetracked.  I was just about to sit down in the office – to work – when I started thinking about mayonnaise.  Never been a great fan. And since I had a nasty dose of campylobacter last year from dodgy restaurant hollandaise, me and eggs are not good friends. So why not give the eggless mayo a try, I was thinking,  whilst procrastinating about other more urgent tasks.

Your best friend today is not the food processor but a stick blender. Consider me a sort of matchmaker – you and all the implements that I have in my kitchen. Some never used.  The stick blender is the implement you plunge into a saucepan full of soup when you want it to be smooth not lumpy.  the sort of implement that if you don’t have it fully submerged in the liquid, produces a fountain of scorching hot leek and potato soup that lands down your front at lightning speed.

Put 1 tbsp of cider vinegar in a  small-ish jug along with half a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of ground mustard and 3 tablespoons of chick pea water straight from the tin.  Whizz them for a few seconds till they are well blended then gently and slowly pour in three-quarters to a whole cup of good quality oil – I used a mixture of grapeseed and extra virgin olive oil whilst whizzing away with the blender. (I hope you are impressed with my one handed blending-whilst-videoing-on-my-ipad trick) until the mixture thickens and thickens some more.  Check the taste. It should taste like mayo.  Mine certainly did.  You could add some grated garlic, or some fresh herbs, or some grated lemon rind depending on what flavour you are seeking. Or you could just have plain old mayo.

I put mine in a jar and then in the fridge. It’s supposed to get thicker in the fridge. It has.

I hope that if you visited this page more than half an hour ago you can now see the second half of the page that I accidentally deleted.  In the process I have learned a new skill.  To those who kindly pointed out that half the post was missing and I implied it was their machinery, I apologise.  I promised that the link would be back in 10 minutes.  I was sidetracked by doing a Google cache search for the lost half.  I found it.  Now I have changed it.  Knowing how to access Google cache –  it’s a handy skill to have.  I didn’t know I had it until 10 minutes ago!



Veganuary Day 16 Sauces and gravy

P1020631“The problem with vegan and vegetarian food Dawn, is you can’t get a good gravy”.

I wish I had a quid for every time someone said this to me.  The fact is that it just isnt true.  However if you want gravy to taste like the gravy you would have with mile-high roast rib joint then obviously any non-meat gravy is just not going to!  In my adventures in vegan and vegetarian-land, however, I have learned a thing or two.  Here are some of them:

  • avoid processed food that wants to look like meat – it tastes nasty. So if you want to eat meat – then eat meat
  • If you want a vegetarian sauce that ‘tastes’ like beef or chicken gravy use gravy granules.  Read the labels….. they contain no meat but they do contain maltose, dextrose and all sorts of other rubbish
  • If you want a tasty vegetarian sauce or gravy made from scratch it is not difficult
  • A freezer is the eighth wonder of the world
  • Keep a good stock cupboard (arrgghh – I sound just like my gran).  The fact is of course that the more ingredients you have, the more options you have.


In my stock cupboard there live the following that assist the ‘gravy’ dilemma:

  • Nutritional yeast flakes that you can get in most wholefood stores and some supermarkets.  These add a lovely savoury flavour to many dishes, and to gravy.  Technicians call it ‘umami’. I call it lip smacking good.
  • Marmite (or similar) but not Bovril (obviously)
  • Soy sauce
  • Tomato puree
  • Burgess Mushroom Ketchup
  • Passata (tomato sauce in a box or a jar  – or a tin of chopped tomatoes put through the blender)
  • red lentils
  • cornflour
  • stock – either cubes or pots or home made
  • turmeric powder
  • smoked paprika
  • good old tomato ketchup and HP
  • mushroom ketchup
  • ground almonds
  • fresh herbs
  • spices
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Here are some regular attenders at the sauce and gravy table.

Cashew cream sauce

Put two cups of cashews in a bowl with 1.5 cups of water. Soak for two hours only, then blend with two cloves of garlic, a flat teaspoon of salt and 15ml olive oil.   That’s it.  Could it be simpler?  No.  It’s easier than making gravy.  You can then use this sauce as a base for other flavours, you could add pesto, harissa, chopped parsley or coriander.  If it feels a bit too thick, then loosen it with some almond milk.  You can serve it hot or cold, thick or thin.

David’s basic tomato sauce

I like to think I am a good cook – never a chef – but David makes a mean tomato sauce.  Here goes.  Gently fry one finely chopped onion and two cloves of garlic and add a sprinkling of chilli flakes.  Then add half a wineglass of red wine and reduce to practically nothing on a high heat.  Then turn the heat down and add a tin of chopped tomatoes, or passata, and some salt, black pepper and chopped capers.  Then let it simply burble away in the pan until it is thick and reduced, and the oil is splitting in the sauce. Yes splitting, not spitting!  This is the stage of ‘cooked-ness’ when the main ingredients of the sauce begin to very slightly separate from the oil.  This happens when the sauce is cooked slowly – about 30 minutes in the pan.  The key here is to use a wide shallow pan and not a saucepan.  You can add whatever fresh herbs you like at the end (never at the beginning) – such as basil, chopped rosemary, tarragon, parsley etc.

Coconut and lentil gravy

Cook a cup full of red lentils in two cups of water until they are ‘floury’ – about 15 minutes.  Fry a chopped onion and garlic in olive oil.  Add a teaspoon of turmeric powder and a teaspoon on ground cumin.  Add four chopped tomatoes or four juicy tinned tomatoes on a high heat and let them sizzle for five minutes, break them up with a wooden spoon then add half a tin of coconut milk and the coooked lentils.  Now cook again for 10 minutes without a lid, ensuring all the ingredients are combined.  Season with salt and black pepper then blend with a stick blender into a smooth sauce.  This is particularly good with dishes that combine brown rice and other vegetables because  nutritionally, the brown rice plus the lentils complete a protein chain and without that pairing your body will not extract the full nutritional value of either the rice or the lentils.  More about this another day.

Mushroom and onion gravy

This is the one for chestnut sausages or burgers or toad in the hole!  First, soak some (a couple of ounces) dried mushrooms in 200ml boiling water for at least half an hour.  Chop and gently fry one onion with two cloves of garlic (getting the message here?) in a shallow pan with the tip of a teaspoon of hot smoked paprika.  Then add peeled and finely chopped fresh mushrooms.  Keep stirring. Take off the heat and add three flat teaspoons of cornflour.  Now loosen the cornflour with the liquid from the soaked dried mushrooms. Then chop the soaked mushrooms and add to the pan plus a good tablespoon of Burgess’ Mushroom Ketchup (from most supermarkets, usually on the shelf with the Lea and Perrins). Bring almost to the boil, stirring all the time, then taste and season at the end.

Roast gravy

This is the one we use for dishes like nut roast, stuffed cabbage etc.  Roast onions, garlic, potato, carrot, celery in a roasting pan with a bay leaf or two, until the vegetables are well cooked but not charred.  Add 750ml boiling water to two vegetable stock pots (like Knorr).  Mash the vegetables down with a potato masher and then sprinkle on some nutritional yeast flakes – probably about a tablespoon and season with pepper. You probably won’t need salt.  Remove the bay leaves.  Now slowly add the  liquid stock to the vegetables and bring to the boil on the top of the stove, stirring all the time and breaking up any lumps.  When fully combined, let it cool a bit and pour it through a sieve if you must or just use a stick blender, to combine it all.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Now I don’t know about you, but I find this a right hassle so the best thing to do is when you have a spare hour, make a whole batch and then freeze it.  It tastes  lovely.

Tomorrow I am going to have a go at cooking with Aquafaba (chick pea water) – it contains miraculous molecules and proteins that make it act like egg. I am going to have a go at making yorkshire pudding with it!


Veganuary Day 15 Roast squash with chillies and cashew cream

At the market in Carcassonne
At the market in Carcassonne

Today it is bright, clear, crisp, nose-tip pink cold.

I have been sitting in the office here all day, a slave to the keyboard. it is 16.00 and – having been eating what Nigella would call ‘temple food’ today, which is neither warming nor comforting –  I am in need of something earthy and colourful and satisfying.  Squash.  They look warm before you have even cooked them!

For four people, chop a medium sized squash – of whatever variety – into half then quarter it.  This makes it easier to deseed and then peel.  Then chop the squash flesh into large chunks.

Now you need a bowl or a plastic bag.

Throw in the squash, some peeled shallots or peeled onions cut into quarters or smaller depending on the size.  Then add half a dozen plump cloves of garlic. You could also add some potatoes if you wish.  And some celery chopped into chunks. Or some peeled carrots. Or some beetroot.  Then add half a dozen medium sized tomatoes.  Oh, and a chopped red chilli or some chilli flakes.  And some sea-salt flakes and black pepper. And a small shake of turmeric powder and smoked paprika.  Think that’s it.  You get the idea – throw in anything you like so long as it is good and c0lourful.

With all the vegetables in the bowl or in the bag, pour in 30ml of good olive oil or rapeseed oil and mix it all around and to increase the flavour let it sit there for a good hour.

Pre-heat the oven and a roasting pan to 190C then when it is up to temperature empty the contents of the bag or bowl onto the tray and roast for about 45 minutes. Don’t turn it or the vegetables will start to break up.  The idea is that the edges should char very slightly.  After 30 minutes mix together a tablespoon of tamarind sauce (mine from Asda) with soy sauce then pour over the hot vegetables, squashing down the tomatoes so that they release their juices.  Grate some lemon rind over the top and a sprinkle of finely chopped fresh rosemary (please don’t use the dried stuff).

When it’s ready it should smell divine – hot, smoky, paprika-ey.   Turn into a bowl and serve with brown rice, or jacket potatoes or just with a good slice of bread.

In non-vegan land I frequently add chopped feta about 15 minutes before the end.  In vegan land I also serve it with a cashew cream (see Day 16 – sauces).

Go on treat yourself. You probably have most of these ingredients in stock.  If you prepare it now you can put it in the oven when The Archers comes on!

#Veganuary Day 14. Okora burgers

img_3710I have some soy experiments running at the moment. Soy milk and tofu production, with lots of help and advice from the fount of all knowledge and all round good mate Marion.  We have undertaken many mass catering projects over the years.

Anyway……. a bi-product of skqueezing (oh, that was a typo but I rather like its onomatapoeic resonance so I will leave it there) soaked soya beans to extract the ‘milk’, is all the solids that remain. Called Okora. (The automatic spell check made Okora into Korea, but that wouldn’t be right at all!).  There are a thousand and one recipes for how to use the okora on many Vegan websites.  I will offer just one at this stage for fear of boring you.

I soaked and drained 250g soya beans and when I had pulped them and extracted the milk from the solids I had about 400g of solids remaining.  These solids are highly nutritious and there is no way I was going to discard them.  I had a little think and made something up.  So this is the recipe for okora burgers.

Put your bean pulp in a bowl.  Add one large onion that you have pulsed in the food processor, and grate in two cloves of garlic.  Add one flat teaspoon of cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper, plus two flat teaspoons of ground cumin and half an average sized bunch (how on earth do you measure that I wonder?) of finely chopped fresh coriander. You could also add a tablespoon of unsweetened desiccated coconut if you wish.  Mix it all together.  It will look fairly dry if you have squeezed most of the fluid out beforehand.  In non-vegan land, at this stage, I would probably add an egg.  But in vegan land, I added a tablespoon of nutritional yeast flakes (adds an umami savouryness) and a good dash of dark soy sauce.

Okora burgers before they go into the freezerWith clean wet hands, form into burger shapes and make sure they are not too thick. Best more like quarter-pounders than Big Macs’.  Coat in coarse semolina. Now lay them on a baking tray lined with baking parchment and put them in the freezer for half an hour to firm up.

Shallow fry in a flavourless oil that you’ve heated in a shallow pan on a medium heat.  They are a bit friable, but they are delicious, so I recommend that you don’t put too many in the pan at once so you can turn them carefully after five minutes without knocking the edges off the sides as you do so.

I have tried eating them straight away, but I think they are better frozen when cooled, then cooked in a hot oven for 20 minutes or so, on Formed okora burgerstop of a couple of slices of tomato seasoned with salt, chopped rosemary and a little lemon zest.

Tonight we are having them with yellow potatoes, lots of dark green and a rich mushroom and onion gravy enhanced with Watkins mushroom ketchup, surely one of the best condiments ever invented?


Veganuary Days 12 & 13 Ceps, Porcini and all things mushroom

mushroom-976592_1920We are huge fans of mushrooms in this house.  On non vegan days, lots of them, cooked in butter and garlic – on sourdough toast  – over a leisurely breakfast on Saturday. With lots of coffee, and long conversations before we get started with the day.

Or large and small mushrooms chopped and fried with onion and garlic and a little potato and finished off with cream. On non vegan days.

Or sautee’d with leek and garlic and topped with sourdough breadcrumbs and parmesan and flashed under the grill. On non vegan days.

Or very lightly smoked, chopped fine in the food processor and mixed with a little salt, black pepper and cream cheese then dropped into hot pasta. On non vegan days.

But what about the VEGAN days?  Mushrooms in all their various forms can definitely hold their own without need for dairy.

On Day 11 I was browsing around Norwich market and at the front of my favourite fruit and veg stall  were some beautiful ceps. I had no inkling that I was going to buy ceps that day but they looked so wonderful it would have been a sin not to.  So I bough four big fat ones.  I was succumbed to an unbidden vision of them settling into a fragrant fennel, leek and pea risotto. And so it was.

Leek, fennel and pea risotto with porcini mushrooms

rotfurohrling-1571066_1920Risotto is a friendly  and comforting meal and at home we always have it in a bowl. Never on a plate.  It is quite hard to spoil it and my preference is for it to be ‘soupy’ and definitely not dry like a paella. Don’t get the two confused.  This is why you use different rice for these two dishes.  Arborio rice – for paella – has a shorter grain and a starch that melts around the edges of each grain which gives the risotto creamy texture. Paella rice is harder has a long grain which means the grains tend not to stick to one another.

For two people, saute finely chopped onion (one small), celery (one stick) and fennel (half a medium sized bulb) in olive oil. When soft, add two chopped cloves of garlic and the grated zest of half a lemon. Then add a mug full of arborio rice and move it around gently to coat the grains in oil. Then turn up the heat and add a wine glass full of Noilly Prat or Fino sherry or dry white wine. My preference is for the Prat. Let it bubble and splutter and boil away until the alcohol has reduced to almost nothing. Then turn the heat down to low and add a ladle full of hot vegetable stock, stir, and gradually add stock as needed (every time it has all but disappeared from the rice pan), it really does make a difference if you add the stock bit by bit and stir every few minutes. Don’t be tempted to throw it in all at once. In fact,  consider it your gift to yourself. This is all you need to do for the next 20 minutes. Just stand, ladle in more stock and stir. It is a contemplative and simple task.  You will probably use about 750ml stock using this method.  You can be clever and make your own stock – which I sometimes do – or use one of those lovely Knorr (or similar) stock pot thingys.

Wipe two medium sized ceps and make sure they have no evident grit.  Slice them into thick slices, length ways, and drop into good olive oil and garlic and fry gently until they are tinged with golden brown at the edges. Did I just say ‘golden brown’? …… until they are brown at the edges.

Back to the risotto.  Check the stock level in the risotto – by about 20 minutes it should be nearly ready – by which I mean the rice will be just cooked and there will still be stock in the pan –  and it should be looking creamy.  At this stage check the seasoning. I suggest you don’t add salt early in the cooking because if you are using stock pots or cubes they are likely to be salty. So check the seasoning and adjust toward the end of the cooking time, and if you are not vegan,  add a handful of parmesan and frozen peas and a large knob of butter. And maybe a little chopped fresh mint leaves.  If you are vegan, just add the peas and the mint!  Cook for a couple more minutes and then serve.  Just be aware that the longer you wait at this stage, the quicker the rice will absorb any liquid, so always have a little more liquid than you think you need in the pan because by the time you have fiddled for a couple of minutes the thirsty grains will have sucked it all up.

Make sure your bowls are warm then spoon in the creamy risotto.  Top with the ceps, a grating of lemon zest and sea salt flakes. And parmesan if you must.  In our house it is obligatory to eat this curled up on the sofa, accompanied by slurping and little gasps of pleasure.

Mushroom pate – would that be smoked or unsmoked madam?

mushrooms-1167181_1280Take 250g mushrooms of any type and check they are grit and dirt free. If you are smoking them, either use your home smoker or if you don’t have one I suggest you use an old saucepan and a camping gas stove and do this outside.  Throw a small handful of the  wood shavings of your choice into an old pan or enamel breadbin with a rack (maybe an old cooking rack cut to size).  Huge Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage book on simple smoking and preserving is a good one and gives you more detail.  Place the mushrooms on the rack and light the wood shavings (make sure the rack is a few inches above the shavings so any initial flames don’t flare up and scorch the mushrooms).  Put the lid on and allow to smoke away for about 15 minutes.  Then remove them and allow to cool.

Now to our old friend the food processor.  Process the cooled mushrooms (or the unsmoked mushrooms) until finely chopped then add one tub of Tofutti cream soy cheese (or cream cheese for non-vegans), and combine with the mushrooms. Check whether it needs any salt, and add a couple of grinds of black pepper and a little tiny grate of nutmeg. That’s it!  Remove from the processor then if you like you can add chopped chives or herbs such as chopped dill or tarragon.  It really is yummy  — on toast, in sandwiches, on crackers and in jacket potatoes – but make sure use it up within a couple of days.

#Veganuary Day 11 Fennel pickle

img_3746I am feeling a bit lazy tonight so we are just having a chestnut sausage and casserole with jacket potatoes and Savoy cabbage.

But I wanted to share with you a little gem from another favourite book, this time Cornersmith. Cornersmith Cafe is in a suburb of Sydney and it works partly because it operates a fairly sophisticated barter system.  Local people bring their excess produce in exchange for fresh sourdough or pickles or pies. Wonderful.

So this recipe is lifted straight from Cornersmith and with thanks.  Great book.  Hope I can visit you one day!

Thinky slice two bulbs of Fennel. Mix them with a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of chilli flakes and a teaspoon of Fennel seed. So far so simple. It continues.

Pour 400ml cider vinegar in a saucepan with 100g caster sugar. Bring it to the boil and boil for 2 minutes then take off the heat.  Sterilise 3 standard sized jam jars (I swill it round with vodka) warm the jars slightly then pack with Fennel and pour in the vinegar. Wipe the tops with paper towel, then snap on the lids then release a quarter turn and put in a deep tray or saucepan full of boiling water – the water almost to the lid.  Let the water simmer away for 10 minutes then remove from the heat and tighten the lids.

Cool then store in a dark cupboard. When you open a jar, keep it in the fridge.

This is such a fresh, cool pickle. It is mild and full of flavour. Scrumptious.