Month: October 2011

Recipe for Halloween: Stuffed Munchkins aka a Little Orange Hug

Stuffed Munchkins are a joyous thing. They will demand little of you, and can be put together in minutes. They’re tiny little pumpkins, if you’re thinking that I have lost the plot, and you can get them in most supermarkets. You can pretty much put anything in them and then retire them to the oven for approximately half an hour and leave it to cook. When done, the pumpkin wall will be tender, and you can pull the flesh off with your spoon as you eat the rest of the filling. Pumpkin has an inoffensive sweet flesh that goes with most things. It loves spices like nutmeg and cinnamon, adores chilli, plays well with herbs like rosemary, thyme and sage, and is blissfully happy with bacon and chorizo. The stuffing, if it depends on anything, depends on the size of the munchkin. They’re generally very small so will cook quicker than rice added raw, but some are bigger and can take it. I’ve stuffed mine with items that will cook relatively quickly, go well with …

Breakfast of Champions at Hawksmoor Guildhall

It takes a lot of love and curiosity to get me out of my bed and on the tube at 7am on a Monday morning. Especially when I had gone to bed at 1am, and woken again at 5. Hawksmoor can inspire this. This morning, I accidentally became one of the first official customers at the new Hawksmoor Guildhall. I was invited to breakfast last week during the soft launch, but there were some problems with the kitchen, so they kindly offered me a breakfast at my leisure to compensate. I picked today, as it was the friendliest day in my diary, to discover that it was the first day that the new Hawksmoor was officially open when I arrived. Not that you could tell, everything was perfect from service to coffee to steak. This is the third in the mini steak empire, now three branches strong. Based in Guildhall near Moorgate, this is the first branch to serve breakfast, from 7 am Mon – Fri. I quite like the way they ensure that every …

Recipe: Some Homemade Toffee Apples for Halloween

Toffee apples!  Don’t they just screech Halloween? That and swishing around the Irish countryside in a contortion of refuse sacks, crafted by myself to signify a witches costume. When I really made the effort I had backcombed huge hair sprayed blue to match. My sister, cousins and I would wail in 3 part harmony at our neighbours doors in the hope of some coins, fun size chocolate or the dreaded monkey nuts. We hated them so much (the monkey nuts that is). Toffee apples have become a more recent symbol for me. We made them once as children – they’re really very easy, I don’t know why we didn’t make them more – but it’s as an adult that I have come to enjoy making them more and more. They are receptive to flavours, but for this, I have stuck with the original and best. Simple, homemade pure butter toffee encasing a delicious apple on a stick. They’re also the perfect thing to give to visiting children on Halloween night. I like to use small …

Recipe: Spritely Halloween Pumpkin Soup with Lemongrass, Chilli & Ginger

Pumpkins are not just for Jack O’ Lanterns or pumpkin pie. No sir! Pumpkins are utterly delicious. You may remember my recent pumpkin & pecan mash on this blog. This time I have turned the humble – and cheap – pumpkin into an aromatic dish for Halloween. Now, don’t be afraid of pumpkin. They look big and intimidating, but roast it in quarters with the skin on and you can scoop lovely soft flesh out which is perfect for soup. Not only is this the easy way, it is also the best for flavour, the water evaporates off and you are left with something far more pumpkin-y than before. Lemongrass, with its gorgeous citrus high notes, is wonderful with pumpkin. Some chilli is required for a Halloween soup – it has to be a little scary – and to round it all off some lovely fresh ginger. If you haven’t used lemongrass before, worry not. It’s also easy when you know how and is very easy to source these days too in most supermarkets. Simply …

Exciting News: 12 Week Recipe Column in the Evening Standard

Exciting news here, folks! I have a recipe column in the Evening Standard for 12 weeks. It started yesterday (Thursday) with an interview piece also. So, don’t forget to look out for it, Londoners – every Thursday for the next, well, 11 weeks – hope you enjoy. Non-Londoners, don’t worry, it will be online. We started this week with Pumpkin Gnocchi with Sage Brown Butter.

Recipe: A little Indulgence with Chorizo, Smashed Pea, Mint & Scallops

We don’t eat enough fish. We really don’t. I don’t know why, for islanders, we have such an aversion to it and why it is so difficult to source good fresh fish. Of course, there are great fishmongers and we need to support them. Fish is so good for us, healthy and quick too cook too. It’s an ethical minefield but your fishmonger will advise what is good to eat. Ethical fish is often inexpensive too, there’s a lot of fish which we usually don’t eat – and therefore over fish – that tastes great too. Now, you hear scallops and you probably think ‘eeeek, they’re so expensive!’ And they are. Especially if you buy the ones that don’t harm the sea floor and taste better – and please do buy hand-dived scallops from your fishmonger if you can. However, there are ways of serving a scallop dish where it becomes a bit of a bargain. And that is to serve them with other ingredients that suit and also bring down the cost of the …

A Postcard from Tbilisi in Georgia

Greetings from Tbilisi in Georgia! I have the usual blog backlog with a couple of recipes to share with you this week – including an aromatic poached chicken (poached with lemongrass, galangal, chilli and such) – and also my mini guide to Gothenburg after last weeks trip. First though, while I am here, I want to share some photos of Tlibisi, the capital of Georgia, where I am spending my weekend. Highlights? The food market was a huge one, the flea market also, although I resisted buying anything despite the many amazing gems. Having spent the last month sorting items for storage, I had to talk some sense to myself before embarking on the flea market voyage. Lunch today was also great, featuring giant dumplings similar to my favourite Chinese Xiao Long Bao with soup inside. It turns out that they influence these, as they travelled to Mongolia, who brought similar here. That’s a rough summary, budding food anthropologists, but I just love a little cultural food quirk. Dinner was too, but I’ve not edited …

Recipe: Healthy Harissa & Yogurt Lamb Kebabs with Cous Cous

A little bit of spice and heat in our food does wonders for a blue mood brought on by dreary weather. Marinaded meats become super tender when allowed to sit and bathe for a bit, and a post work dinner becomes a much brighter prospect when you’ve done the (small amount) of work the night or morning before. These spiced up harissa and yogurt lamb kebabs are healthy too as they are oven baked. The harissa heat is soothed a notch by the creamy yogurt, with the tomato puree adding a little sweetness and fruitiness. Harissa is a delicious North African spice paste. It is very easy to make, and I often do. The blends vary but the core of it is chilli heat with spices like coriander. It’s quite easy to source too, although if you do, do try and find the Le Phare du Cap Bon brand available in little yellow tins and tubes. It is the best that I have tried, and I always have some in my cupboard for speedy suppers. …

OFM Awards: Best Blogger

I am still absolutely thrilled as I type this, and a little stunned. Last night I was at the OFM Awards and was awarded Best Blogger. It was a great night and the awards themselves were a really positive celebration of good things in food. To say I was honoured is a massive understatement. Lots of inspiring people were celebrated like Michel Roux for lifetime achievement in food, The Ethicurean in Somerset (only open a year but doing something wonderful and rightly being commended for it), Tristram Stuart for his work on food waste (including his book Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal). Johnny Pusztai from JT Beedham was best producer, and I really need to try his pork, the secret to the flavour is that he feeds the pigs smokey bacon crisps. I love it! Best restaurant was Dinner, to my great shame I have yet to eat there but must rectify that soon. I was delighted to see some of my favourite regular haunts awarded too: Koya for cheap eats (I can’t get enough of their noodles, they …

More Photos from Lovely Gothenburg

It’s my last night in Gothenburg. I have really enjoyed it, and I have only seen the tip. It’s been quite food-centric, as you might expect, but next time I do want to get out and see the islands and get out to the surrounding countryside. This all hinges on me learning to drive this Winter, which I have promised myself I will. I love the pace here. It’s all happy and very relaxed. Everyone is just getting on with their everyday business. For a city of its size (500,000) the food on offer is really terrific – 5 michelin starred restaurants and great mid-range ones too. It is expensive, but there are great offers too, which I have been exploring and will write about soon. For now some more photos. Enjoy!

A Postcard from Gothenburg

Greetings from lovely Gothenburg! I am here for the weekend to explore and eat (of course). One day in and I feel so relaxed. I love a second city – really I do! Hello Cork, one of my favourites where I lived for 8 years, and I really did prefer Split in Croatia to Dubrovnik. Hey, I am already wildly off the point. Gothenburg boasts 5 michelin starred restaurants and lots of mid range. I am exploring the gamut, hoping to get a little bit of everything. I am letting the trip evolve day by day, which I love to do. Here are some photo highlights of the trip so far. Enjoy!

The Importance of Cooking with Children & The Gentle Art of Cookery (Book Review)

One of my biggest “beefs” in food, is that we now seem to have been persuaded that in order to keep ourselves nourished, we need to be immensely talented. Chef talented. When really all it is, is in the best way, to learn as a child in a natural way, at home or in school. Now before, you slam your laptop lid shut and roar, HOW DO WE DO THAT, WE ALL HAVE TO WORK! My mother and father both worked, but I learned in school, as well as occasional baking forays with my mother and other family at the weekend. So, I was absolutely charmed when recently flicking through one of Quadrille’s most recent Classic Voices in Food, The Gentle Art of Cookery by Mrs CF Leyel & Miss Olga Hartley, originally published in 1925. Tucked towards the back of the book is a gorgeous and comprehensive chapter on cooking with children. Contained within are lots of classics that I remember making like fudge, meringues and toffee. There are some unusual things which probably …

Recipe: Cauliflower Cheese to Sooth the Nerves and Iron Out Your Soul

It’s hot outside, I know. But let us not deceive ourselves, it is October and that will all change soon, in fact, it’s changing already. So, I am going to help you to prepare for that first grim October day with a lovely comforting recipe for cauliflower cheese. A classic, no? What feelings does it evoke for you? It makes me think of nice warm fires and toasty toes in slippers. Dark nights closing in and mulled wine. Comfort, pure comfort, with a little hint of spice. I don’t go to the trouble of making a proper white sauce here. I prefer the simplicity and luxury of cream. It’s crap outside so lets make it very nice inside. There is a little pre-amble but it is worth it. I recommend flavouring the cream first with bay leaves, garlic and pepper corns. This gives the dish some warm aromatics and a little bit of oomph. Layers of flavour that will give your cauliflower cheese its own X Factor. Read more: Cauliflower cheese to sooth the nerves and iron out your soul …

Recipe: Trina Hahnemann’s Slow Roast Whole Celeriac with Salt Crust

It’s a terrible photo, isn’t it? TERRIBLE. Not only do I not have a proper camera as before, I have now mislaid the charger for this one and am on my last percentile of battery. So I had to take this shot in a dark kitchen (the bulb is gone), with a bright flash, in 15 seconds. I want to write about this though, so here you go. Normal service should resume soon. Trina Hahnemann, Nordic food goddess, shared this recipe with me last Xmas. I meant to make it but never did. Then she shared it at her Abergavenny Masterclass and brought it to my attention once more. I tasted it again and knew I had to make it as soon as I got back to my kitchen. Halen Mon salts were also at Abergavenny. I am already a huge fan of their salts (I would walk miles for the vanilla salt in particular), and discovered a new one (to me), spiced sea salt. It’s addictive. Halen Mon sea salts are large flakes of Anglesey …