Month: November 2011

Evening Standard Column: Lentil Soup with Harissa Croutons

I love proper bread, bread that has been allowed to develop properly and not been rushed through a commercial process. I think sourdough is my favourite. How I really love bread is not in a slice or in a sandwich. I love it as an ingredient with other things, to thicken soups, in Italian panzanella or pappa al pomodoro, and especially as a crouton or fried. I really love bread fried in pork fat. Big slices, little chunks. I’ve burned my tongue on them far too many times. (I will never ever learn). Naughty I know, but really delicious. Croutons are incredibly versatile, they are just the perfect vehicle for many things. Whatever you want really! So, in this weeks Evening Standard recipe, I have pimped my croutons with some delicious homemade spicy harissa. I love serving this with a red lentil soup. The simplicity and rustic nature of the soup is a great counter to the spicy, crisp harissa croutons. The recipe for the soup & croutons is on the Evening Standard.  I have …

Competition Time! Get Creative with Carrots & Win

Ok folks! I am hosting a competition over the next few weeks where you can win a £200 restaurant voucher to any UK restaurant of your choice, with 3 runners up winning a copy of my book, Comfort & Spice. Nice Xmas treat, no? You just need to get creative with carrots and email in the recipe, then I will choose the winners. Entering the competition is easy. All you need to do is: Share a carrot recipe on your own blog; Mention the competition in the post; Tell us by emailing the URL of your entry before 21st December 2011 to Love The Garden. The orange root vegetable is a traditional ingredient for Christmas dinners, but your recipe doesn’t have to be Christmas themed. More details on the Love The Garden blog.  

Red Hot Women Awards 2011

What a lovely year it has been. My first book, Comfort & Spice, has been published (and you seem to like it – I am still nervous even though I am proud of it, it is hard to explain), I won the Observer Food Monthly Blog Award last month, and most recently I was nominated for the Red Hot Women Awards 2011. It wasn’t my night but what a thrill and an honour to be nominated with these fantastic women. Hearty congratulations to Sasha Wilkins for her well deserved win and to Red for these wonderful awards. Jane Cunningham, British Beauty Blogger Britishbeautyblogger.com Catherine Hanly, Hot Dinner, Hot-Dinners.com Emily Johnston, Fashion Foie Gras, Fashionfoiegras.com Katherine May, The 52 seductions, 52seductions.com Tatiana Mercer, Bar Chick, Barchick.com Niamh Shields, Eat Like a Girl, Eatlikeagirl.com Becky Wiggins, English Mum, Englishmum.com Sasha Wilkins, Liberty London Girl, Libertylondongirl.com

Feeding My Coffee Habit

I am a coffee junkie. I love the stuff. I need it so. A drop didn’t pass my lips until I was 19, and living in Nice. I discovered pretty early on that, socially, I would be a little inept without a cup in my hand in a local café. That was where everyone met when the sun was cruelly hot on a mid July afternoon. At first I found it too bitter, but hot chocolates at 35 deg C was not a sustainable habit, and it started to feel silly, so I embraced the cappuccino and quickly developed an obsession. An obsession that spiralled out of control when I was at university drinking way too many cups of awful tecoffee (termed so as the tea tasted of coffee and the coffee of tea) and getting the jitters. Over the years I have developed somewhat of a balance, but have always feared having a coffee machine at home. I am a little faddish you see, and had visions of never leaving the house and bouncing around my kitchen fuelled …

Jamon, Jamon! The World of Jamon Iberico de Bellota

I have a cultural and genetic obligation to love the humble pig. Traditionally all Irish houses had one, hiding behind the half door, and it would feed a family for much of the year. Bacon and cabbage is a national institution, we’re obsessed with white and black pudding, and the Christmas ham is wheeled out all through the year. My mother was raised on pigs head and trotters (we call them crubeens – little feet in Irish), but we never had them as children. They would be raised as a threat if we wouldn’t eat our mash and peas. Now as an adult, I adore them. Spain takes the humble ham to a different level with their Jamon Iberico, specifically Jamon Iberico de Bellota. The pata negra (pigs with black feet) love acorns and live in an area where there are many. They are like small shuffling acorn junkies. They are allowed a lot of space to move, and to forage for and snaffle acorns so they get a lovely dispersal of intramuscular fat. This …

A Postcard from Seville

Seville is charming and very pretty, and even though I am back, I had to post some photographs. This is just a selection of the ones I have gone through so far so it’s not comprehensive. I took so many, and it takes a long time to go through them all. More soon on my visit to the pata negra farm (black pig) and jamon iberico de bellota factory. Swoon, I miss that jamon. So delicious. Also, my favourite tapas which were at El Rinconcillio, Cafe Bar Las Teresas & E Morales (listed now as a few of you have been in touch asking for recommendations :).

Exciting News for Irish Readers: All About Home Economics by Deirdre Madden is Now Available

Now, I know a lot of you must be thinking, eh? But really, this is very exciting news for me, and for a lot of Irish readers too. 3 years ago I posted a plea, asking if anyone had a copy of the Home Economics book written by Deirdre Madden that we used in school from the age of 12 – 15. It’s how I learned all of the cooking basics, in two 3 hour sessions weekly, and it is also where I learned the basic building blocks of nutrition (pre my physiology degree!). I feel very strongly that all children should be taught this today. I shared my book with my sister and we cooked from it at weekends. Biscuits, cakes, mainly sweet things. One of the few savouries we were interested in was Welsh Rarebit. It definitely suffered a lot of wear and tear, I remember a big hole in the cover and subsequently the cover falling off. We loved it. About a year ago, Deirdre’s daughter, Kate, got in touch via a comment …

Evening Standard Column: Chicken & Chorizo Pie

These pies, from my book Comfort & Spice, are hands down one of the most popular recipes in the book (although there is firm competition from the overnight roast shoulder of pork and lamb recipes). They are really easy to make, full flavoured and perfect for this time of year. Make a little one for yourself or a giant one to share with friends. Don’t forget a gutsy red wine like a rioja to go with it. Recipe on the Evening Standard

Recipe: Borlotti Bean & Broken Pasta Soup

Whenever I travel, it’s inevitable that I bring back random ingredients to play with when I get home. My cupboards are rammed with randomness, so much so that I nearly knocked myself out when something came hurtling at my head on opening the cupboard door earlier. I appreciate that even the idea of this creates stress for a lot of people, but I love my Aladdins Cave cupboard full of random delights. Last week in Croatia I picked up lots of curious things including three brands of paprika (I want to see what they’re like starting with some goulash experiments soon), a big bag of dried corn kernels that I bought from an old lady at Pula market, and lots of fresh borlotti beans from another old lady who grew them in her garden. Fresh beans? Why? They’re not easy to come by in the UK and I love them. When I do find them they’re quite expensive. Fresh borlotti beans are succulent and firm, with lovely flavour. They require no soaking, and in relative …

Evening Standard Column: Chocolate Mousse with Honeycomb

I made this really simple and delicious recipe obsessively when I was younger. As there are only two ingredients in the mousse, make sure you use really good chocolate and really good eggs – you will taste the quality. The honeycomb is also easy but takes care. Do invest in a sugar or jam thermometer and watch it. If it looks like it is burning, take it off the heat. Use a high-sided pan because when you add the bicarb, the sugar will go crazy and rise a lot. This is also the phase when you are most likely to burn yourself, so do take care.  ps. this is one of my favourite photos from my book! Recipe on the Evening Standard

New Favourite London Haunt: Duck Soup

It’s time for a little break from my Croatia adventures and a little bit on London. I thought that I would tell you about where I have been spending a lot of my time there: Ducksoup. Ducksoup is a new London restaurant on Dean St in Soho. Frankly, if you haven’t heard of it by now, you must be living under a rock. Soho is so exciting right now, with new resaurants that have character, great food and drinks. A perfect antidote to depressing chains, Koya (opened last year-ish) is a favourite, Ducksoup is of the same ilk. Relaxed, deceptively simple with attention to detail in every aspect, and very reasonably priced it has natually proved very popular already. Chef, Julian Biggs, ex head chef at Hix amongst others, serves up a handwritten menu of full flavoured food, updated daily on their tumblr and twitter. A record player plays vinyl in the background (I have heard that you can bring your own), the atmosphere is fun and buzzy, and the (natural) wine list is updated frequently and is very good. Plates are priced at …

Some More Photos from Istria (Croatia)

So, here I am immersed in truffles and gorgeous natural wine, and all I want to do is go to bed, because I overindulged SIX HOURS AGO.  Now, that’s a bit excessive isn’t it? A bit? Just a little bit. But it was all very delicious, and I couldn’t resist. Before I do go lay on the sofa, and try to find something in English on my temporary Croatian tv (don’t judge me, I must, I am exhausted!), I will share a few photos with you here. Back soon, thinking clearer, I hope!

A Recipe for You: Fritole (Gorgeous Apple Yeast Doughnuts) from Istria in Croatia

Hello readers! This week I am in Croatia – Istria in the North of Croatia to be precise. I am here for a week, eating too much, looking for truffles, sampling the (delicious) local wine, and cooking with some of the locals. I am quite lucky as I have some friends with an apartment here who have put me in touch with some local people who are very passionate about their food culture. I had been to Dalmatia, further South (I am sure you will have heard of Dubrovnik) so had some expectations which were not realistic. Istria is more like Italy (not surprising as it used to be part of it) and so there is lots of homemade pasta and risotto. There is also a huge Hungarian influence, so you see lots of goulash too. One of the first things that I ate here, and still my favourite, is little sweet apple doughnuts called fritole (pronounced frit-oh-lay). They are served cold, although I would quite like to try them warm too. Most recipes are …

A Postcard from Istria, Croatia

  A very brief dip into my weekend in Istria in Northern Croatia. It has been fairly busy, really good, the only downside is that the internet has been lacking. But maybe that is a good thing? There is lots more to come, I am here for the week. They love food and wine here, are passionate, and very particular when it comes to quality.  I am gathering recipes as I go too. I love this kind of trip. Roman Amphitheatre in Pula – one of only 3 remaining in the world, including the Roman Coliseum. Fish at the fish market in Pula Chillies at the vegetable market in Pula Young Croatian winemaker, Marko Gerzenic, making terrific, very clean and delicious wines in Istria. His father is a hunter, and cures meat and makes sausages. A common occupation in Istria, as there is lots of game, grapes and olives, and lots of passion for good food and drink. Some photos from the Boletus (Mushroom Festival) in Brtonigla. This guy was so lovely, he’s proudly displaying …

Eyre Brothers Tenth Anniversary Celebration Menu

If there was ever a restaurant that was the definition of under the radar (or under my radar at least), it is Eyre Brothers. David Eyre was one of the founding partners of The Eagle – credited with pioneering the modern gastropub movement – and he subsequently sold his share and opened Eyre Brothers with his brother Robert. How I didn’t know about this restaurant, I just don’t know. I pride myself on my knowledge of Londons culinary map, and for a good many (recent) years have lived within a mile of Eyre Brothers. It’s exactly the kind of food that I love to eat – big flavours, hearty, well sourced ingredients – and the wine list and sherry list are impressive too. Some of my favourite London chefs, including Jose Pizarro, worked there. How did I not know? Anyway, I was invited to preview their 10th anniversary menu and loved it. I will be returning again soon. To quote David, good food is in the shopping, not the cooking, although I would say that his …