Monday 30 November 2009


I think we can all agree that I failed with the concept of posting every day in November. I guess I should have known. Things happen. This November the main distraction has been the arrival of a new niece and now all I can think about is Christmas in Edinburgh and lots of new baby cuddle time.

But yesterday in a fit of almost December preparation I shopped and I stirred and I baked and I ended the day with a Christmas cake well wrapped and awaiting weekly feeds of brandy, two jars of mincemeat, a vat of soup, and a clementine cake because it seemed unfair to spend the entire day baking and not end up with anything that could be eaten straight away.

Next weekend Christmas pudding.

Sunday 22 November 2009


My last few posts have been all words and no pictures so here's one from yesterday afternoon to try and redress the balance.

Thursday 19 November 2009


While in the midst of my Sunday cookathon (probably between waiting for the cake to bake and starting on the bolognese) I sat down with Tender ready to decide what to try next and placed the ribbon against a recipe for peppers stuffed with pork mince, parmesan and rosemary.

Unlikely though it sounds I couldn't find normal red peppers so had to use the long skinny Romano peppers. They taste great but do not lend themselves to easy stuffing so it was more of a pepper and pork gratin. A layer of soft floppy peppers topped with the minced pork mixture and parmesan. It may not have been the prettiest dish (there were photos but you really don't need to see them) and it may not have been the easiest dish to serve but Nigel's place in my heart is safe. Another easy tasty midweek supper option from the house of Slater.

Peppers with mince, parmesan and rosemary (from Tender: v.1: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch)
Serves 4

a large onion
2 tablespoons of olive oil and a little more
2 cloves of garlic
3 bushy sprigs of rosemary
2 large tomatoes
350g of minced pork
50g of breadcrumbs
6 small red peppers
grated parmesan

Set the oven at 200ºC/Gas 6.

Peel and finely chop the onion, put it into a large, shallow pan with the oil over a moderate heat. Let the onion soften without colouring. Peel and slice the garlic, chop the leaves from the sprigs of rosemary and add to the onions. When all is soft and fragrant, chop the tomatoes and stir them in. Continue cooking until the tomatoes have collapsed into the sauce. Season with salt and black pepper, then stir in the minced pork and the breadcrumbs. Remove from the heat.

Cut the peppers in half lengthways then lower them into a pan of boiling water for 6-8 minutes until they are slightly limp. Remove them with a draining spoon and put them skin-side down in a baking dish.

Divide the pork mixture between the peppers then moisten with a little olive oil. Scatter grated parmesan over the peppers and bake for 35 minutes till sizzling.

Wednesday 18 November 2009


One of the upsides of good friends staying in your flat is that those very same good friends might make dinner.

Pearl barley risotto with butternut squash, sage chicken, and a green salad.

So nice to sit down to a meal that requires no shopping, no thought, no effort after a day at work and I'll definitely be experimenting with pearl barley in the future.

Tuesday 17 November 2009


No not that type, this type. Very good it was too.

Monday 16 November 2009


I really should have learned by now.

Yesterday I cooked four separate dishes all requiring separate sets of ingredients, separate cooking methods, and separate amounts of time in the kitchen.

But did I give these four separate dishes four separate posts in this month of (apparently) daily posting?



Because that would have made my life far too easy:

Sunday 15th November - granola
Monday 16th November - soup
Tuesday 17th November - spaghetti bolognese
Wednesday 18th November - cake

See how easy that would have been? It would have been Thursday by now.

Instead I'm sitting here watching nonsense on the TV but with a full belly from yesterday's soup with bread and cheese followed by a slice of yesterday's cake. All good just not all that blog savvy.

Sunday 15 November 2009


Clearly NaBloPoMo and I are not going to get on very well this year.

Ah well, even if I'm not quite managing every day I am at least managing to post an awful lot more than I have in recent months.

Our friends Sarah and Rob are coming to stay. We visited them in Toronto in June and they've decided to move to London. They've found a flat close to us but it isn't free until early December so until then they will be with us which will mean being a lot more organised if we are to feed four people out of our tiny kitchen.

So, yesterday we cleaned and today I spent the day finishing off a few things around the flat and pottering about in said kitchen.

First a batch of cranberry, almond, and honey granola for us all to have for breakfast this week with yoghurt or milk.

Next some root vegetable soup - onion, celery, carrot, parsnip, turnip, potato, bay, stock and a parmesan rind which had been sitting in the fridge being forgotten about for far too long. I had planned to boil, blend, cool and store the soup but after tasting a spoonful I had to sit down with a bowlful straight away, the parmesan brought creaminess and a savoury something that made it more than a simple root vegetable soup.

As I write this Nigel Slater's spaghetti bolognese is simmering on the hob. Enough for us to have for dinner with leftovers for the freezer.

Before I started on that I decided there was time for a cake. Mid November seemed as good a time as any to pull Nigella's Christmas off the shelf. After perusing the pages and mentally bookmarking some recipes to try in the run up to Christmas I decided to make a vanilla cake. I'm saving it for tomorrow so I'll let you know how it tastes but, in the meantime, the flat smells of vanilla and baking. Never a bad thing.

SPRUCED-UP VANILLA CAKE (from Nigella's Christmas)

225g/8oz soft butter, plus extra for greasing
300g/10½oz caster sugar
6 free-range eggs
350g/10½oz plain flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
250ml/9oz low-fat natural yoghurt
4 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and place a baking tray into the oven to heat. Grease a 2.5 litre/4 pint 8fl oz bundt tin very liberally with butter or flavourless oil.

Mix the butter and sugar together in a large bowl with a wooden spoon or hand blender until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking each one in with a tablespoon of the flour. Carefully fold in the remaining flour and the bicarbonate of soda using a large metal spoon, then fold in the yoghurt and vanilla extract until well combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and spread until level.

Place the tin on the preheated baking sheet in the oven and cook for 45-60 minutes, until well risen and golden-brown. After 45 minutes, push a metal skewer into the centre of the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is cooked.

Remove the cake from the oven and place onto a wire rack, without removing it from the tin. Leave to cool for 15 minutes. Gently pull away the edges of the cake from the tin with your fingers, then carefully turn out the cake onto the wire rack. Leave to cool completely and, if you want to, sprinkle some icing sugar over the cake before serving.

Friday 13 November 2009


Did you notice the lack of post yesterday?

I thought about being bad and back dating but I can't, I'm just too law abiding.

I was going to write a post during my lunch hour yesterday but for some reason my work computer does not like letting me see my blog, very frustrating. And then, after a frankly strange day at work we headed out to see a friend's exhibition opening, ending up having a few drinks followed by food at Wagamama. We didn't get home until 11.45 and all I wanted to do was get into bed, so no post.

I was only going to wax lyrical about the return of the Pret Christmas sandwich so it's probably no loss. I can always save the discussion of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, spinach and crispy onions (the most important part) between two slices of granary bread for another time. Actually I can't, that's it. It's good and the amount of crispy onion bits seems to be in direct correlation with happiness levels while eating the sandwich.

Wednesday 11 November 2009


Sesame Street turned 40 yesterday. My first instinct was to just enjoy the Google celebratory banners. But then I saw Cake Wrecks and I had to share. Happy 40th Birthday Sesame Street. I'm not sure what Big Bird did to deserve this...

Tuesday 10 November 2009


After sitting on the bus home for almost an hour on a cold evening and walking up five flights of stairs I usually prefer to stay put once I get home. I try to buy food for dinner on my way back and if I've forgotten something then mostly I just ignore it and hope it doesn't really matter.

But this all hinges on one thing.

Knowing what to have for dinner? The supermarket having everything I need?

No, it hinges on not leaving my wallet sitting on top of a pile of magazines in the flat when I leave for work in the morning.

I think you can see where this is going?

So, having realised that I would be spending the day without money I gave thanks to the invention of cashless canteens and hoped I had enough on my card to cover lunch and then started planning a storecupboard dinner.

I sweated a leek in butter and a little water over a low heat for about 15 minutes before stirring through some fresh thyme. I cooked some pasta in chicken stock (not home made, my storecupboard is rarely, if ever, that organised) and, when it was cooked, stirred through the leeks, a knob of butter and some freshly ground black pepper.

Apparently good things can come out of a spot of absent mindedness.

Monday 9 November 2009


It's getting cold now.

I shouldn't be surprised, it is November after all, but somehow I am.

At the end of October I was saying that I remember Autumn being colder. I remember being wrapped up in a bundle of layers to go out.

I know what the difference is now. Those memories. They must have been November memories.

I'm in my merino tights now, my sweater dresses, constantly wearing a scarf. I even wore my wrist warmers at work this morning. So when I was catching up on my reading and saw a dish of mashed potato with eggs baked on top and spinach to the side on Rachel's blog I knew it was the cold weather comfort dish we needed. I would have happily followed Rachel's recipe to the letter but when I showed it to Chris he said that when he was small his granny would make something similar but with the spinach mixed into the mash. So, for the curly headed boy who has always loved spinach, we ate this for dinner tonight. It warmed us so thoroughly that the scarf has been abandoned, the slippers discarded, and the heating turned off. Success indeed.


baking potatoes
salt and pepper

I make mash by baking potatoes and then just scooping out the flesh and forking through butter and seasoning. Its easy and you get potato skins to eat with sea salt as a cook's treat. I know that mash is a personal thing, just go with your method of choice, this is mine.

Bake the potatoes in a hot oven until they are completely cooked through (about one large potato per person for about 90 minutes). Take the potatoes out of the oven (but leave the oven on and put a baking dish in to heat) and leave to cool a little while you cook the spinach.

Rinse a large bag of spinach (I used 300g for two of us but increase it for more people, or decrease if you don't want such a strong iron punch) and put it into a large pan with just the water that is still clinging to the leaves. Cover the pan and leave over a moderate flame for a few minutes. When the spinach starts to wilt turn the leaves over in the pan with a wooden spoon and when all of the leaves are wilted drain the spinach and set it aside.

Turn back to the potatoes and scoop the flesh into a bowl. Mix in butter, salt and pepper to taste. Add the spinach to the mash and then put everything into the preheated oven dish. Make small wells in the mash and crack an egg into each one (as many as you want to eat, we had two each). Dot the dish with a little butter and place into a hot oven for 5-10 minutes until the white is cooked but the yolk is still soft. Serve immediately.

Sunday 8 November 2009

Saturday 7 November 2009


I'm going to spend a night in Sussex tonight. I'll be fed by my Mum and sleep in the quiet of the countryside. I'll take my camera and maybe I'll buy some of those Christmas magazines for the train...

Friday 6 November 2009


Why is it that I will sigh with exasperation at Christmas adverts starting on TV at the beginning of November but bite my lip in anticipation when I see the lights going up in Covent Garden?

Why is it that Christmas windows in shops in October give me a heavy heart but seeing the Christmas magazines on shelves this week made me eager to hand over vast sums to the newsagent?

Why is it that I felt an excited flutter when I realised that Sunday's Observer Food Monthly would be the Christmas special?

Why is it that I realised that I could finally pull out the Christmas books again (Nigella, Delia, Sarah - sigh) and, most worrying of all, why is it that I found myself humming a Christmas song today?

I blame the smell of mulled wine in the evenings.

I blame the lights which have been up in Stoke Newington for a little while now.

But really, I'm a sucker for Christmas, I can only blame myself.

Thursday 5 November 2009


Earlier on today I thought I might fail at this whole NaBloPoMo lark. I couldn't see how a day could be redeemed when the best thing in it had been the bowl of chocolate and peanut granola that I had eaten for breakfast, which, incidentally, I blogged about a year ago today, and when the thing I was most looking forward to was curling up with my new book.

But then we came home, we stood wrapped up on the balcony watching fireworks exploding all across London and we ordered food from Rasa. I'll let our food (well, the menu) speak for itself...

Beet Cheera Pachadi
An amazingly vibrant dish, traditionally only served at wedding feasts. Fresh beetroot and spinach are blended together in a yoghurt sauce with roasted coconut, mustard seeds and curry leaves - a must for the adventurous.

Savoy Cabbage
Thoran, an essential dish at every Kerala feast, can be made from a variety of vegetables. This one is made from chopped cabbage, cubed potatoes and lentils stir fried together with onion, fresh coconut and mustard seeds

Lemon Rice
A tangy, fresh tasting rice tossed with lemon juice, fresh curry leaves and mustard seeds.

A very fragrant bread made of rice flour, Indian shallots, cumin seeds and roasted coconut blended together and cooked into a thick, crispy flat bread.

Surely you're tempted?

Wednesday 4 November 2009


After spending lunchtime hunting for a new pasta recipe I thought I had found the perfect option - sausages, pasta, lemon, white wine, parmesan, parsley, oregano - what's not to like? I was busy planning a post in my head as I made my shopping list but somehow, between leaving work and arriving home, that simple and perfect plan had started to fall apart.

I went to M&S for some sausages but they didn't have any lemons so I planned a bus route home that would take in a stop for lemons, fresh parsley, parmesan, and wine (convincing myself that I had dried oregano in the cupboard).

So far so normal.

But then my bus went on a diversion around the streets of North London and when I looked at my watch I simultaneously realised that I had already spent 75 minutes on the top deck of the 243 and that I wouldn't get home before 8 despite leaving work at 6. I gave up. I got off the bus and walked the rest of the way home.

I popped into an off licence for wine and decided to give up on the rest in the, frankly ludicrous, hope that I would have it all in the fridge. But no. No lemons, no dried oregano, no dried chilli. The end of a hunk of parmesan and some sprigs of fresh parsley were just luck.

We ate some and we went back for seconds and while it had been sitting in a covered pan something had happened. The sausage was juicier, the flavours had mellowed. I think next time I'll just cover the pan and ignore it for a couple of minutes and hope that magic wasn't a one off.

SAUSAGE FUSILLI (adapted from a recipe on
Serves 2

1 heaped teaspoons fennel seeds
½ teaspoon paprika
olive oil
300g good-quality coarse Italian or Cumberland sausages
a wineglass of white wine
250g good-quality fusilli
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
a knob of butter
a small handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
a small bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped

Bash up the fennel seeds in a pestle and mortar until coarsely crushed and mix in the paprika, then put to one side. Heat a splash of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan. Squeeze the meat out of the sausage skins and put into the pan, breaking it up using the back of a spoon. Fry for a few minutes until the meat starts to colour and the fat has rendered slightly, then crush it once more so it resembles coarse mince (or, if you're me, until it resembles small balls of sausagemeat. Coarse mince eluded me.). Add the fennel seeds and paprika and cook on a medium heat for around 10 minutes until the meat becomes crisp, golden brown and slightly caramelized.

Pour in the white wine and allow it to reduce by half. Turn the heat down to low while you cook your pasta in a large pan of salted boiling water according to the packet instructions. When the pasta has cooked al dente, drain it in a colander, reserving some of the cooking water, and toss it in the pan with your sausagemeat. Add the butter, Parmesan, chopped parsley and a few spoonfuls of the reserved cooking water. Taste and check for seasoning, then serve with a little extra grated Parmesan sprinkled over the top.

Tuesday 3 November 2009


So, I suppose I should explain now that there is a high likelihood of a few foodless posts cropping up in November. Some days I'm just more preoccupied with other things like coveting the perfect Autumn coat, oggling bags, and browsing stationery shops for birthday cards...

But my new favourite? My new obsession? I'm sure you all know about 3191? I'm sure that if you read any of the same blogs as me then you've heard of Lines & Shapes? I'm sure I'm not alone in being drawn to things I read about on my favourite blogs so let me suggest that you go and visit their site and when you're there you buy at least one little thing. But don't blame me when you receive that one little thing and you find yourself happily ordering their entire back catalogue plus the books they have started publishing under their new wing, Other Books. Just don't say I didn't warn you.

Monday 2 November 2009


People say that everything in London is expensive and I suppose they have a point, but one thing has surprised me over and over again since moving here, it is very easy to eat cheaply.

We eat Vietnamese food two or three times a month - summer rolls, grilled beef in betel leaves, grilled pork with cold rice noodles and sweet chilli sauce for me, pho for Chris. We go to Turkish restaurants and eat chargrilled lamb chops and scoop up onions in pomegranate sauce with bread that has been used to mop up the lamb juices on the barbecue. We order southern Indian vegetarian curries to eat at home - beetroot curry, spinach with paneer, lemon rice, paratha. We eat well.

Often at the weekend when we leave the house we are going out and need to grab a quick something for lunch that can be eaten on the run. When we lived in Edinburgh this could be that start of a frustrating search that left us staring disconsolately at the chilled sandwiches in a local shop. Here, for the grand sum of £1.50, we have choices...

Lahmacun. We usually go to Numara Bos Cirrik. You order a lahmacun to go and sit and wait for a couple of minutes. A very thin flatbread with a crisp underside and a fine coating of spiced herbed lamb mince arrives from the kitchen. The guy behind the counter adds salad and asks if you want garlic or chilli sauce before rolling up the whole thing in paper ready to be eaten.

Gözleme. Ladies in headscarves sit working as the piles of cooked gözleme mount up. We usually have the cheese gözleme - lightly spiced feta in a soft pancake, but there are spinach and potato options as well.

I have never taken photos as I always eat these too quickly but I don't know that I could ever get tired of having either of these for lunch.

Sunday 1 November 2009


I didn't grow up with peanut butter and I didn't even think I liked it all that much until relatively recently. First there were Peanut Butter Cups and Reese's Pieces then there was the 2007 Edinburgh Moonwalk. Four of us were walking together and on our 20 mile training walk Glenys pulled out peanut butter sandwiches when we got hungry. The perfect mid walk combination of protein and carbs it was the first time that I had eaten peanut butter on bread and enjoyed it. I packed peanut butter rolls on the night of the final walk and at about 4.00am when the sun was starting to peek over the horizon as we walked along the water we all tucked in for a much needed energy boost.

I still don't eat peanut butter regularly but on this year's Moonwalk I once again packed peanut butter rolls and they once again kept me going when hunger hit in the early hours. Since then there has been the end of a large jar of peanut butter sitting in the cupboard. I had been meaning to make cookies with it but every recipe I looked at said the natural stuff wouldn't give the right cookie consistency. Yesterday, on a cookie mission, I decided to go on a recipe hunt and found a recipe that said natural was best and, even better, it only needed a few other ingredients. The cookies took 5 minutes to make, if that, and 10 minutes to bake. They are crunchy on the outside and slightly fudgy within. Delicious and can be made at a moment's notice. Ideal.

PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES (recipe from Joy the Baker)

1 cup of natural peanut butter
½ cup of light brown sugar
½ cup of caster sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon of baking powder

Preheat the oven to 170°C and line a baking tray with baking parchment. Mix the peanut butter with the sugar until well combined then add the egg and baking powder and mix. Roll into walnut sized balls and press down lightly with the back of a fork. Bake for about 10 minutes until the cookies are golden brown. Leave to cool on the tray for a minute or two before transferring to a cooling rack.