Month: December 2011

More of that 2011 Stuff – Argentina – it was a BIG trip

I didn’t go to bed after I wrote that last post. I had planned to but then Beverley Hills Cop came on and I am powerless in the face of that. It’s 10am now and I am in the airport on my way back to England, so it is time to continue reminiscing / reviewing 2011. So, that last post was busy wasn’t it? The first five months of 2011. But you know what, that was the quietest part of my year. You see all that time, I was working like crazy writing / cooking / testing recipes for Comfort & Spice. It went to press in May, and there was nothing more I could do about it. Brave New World, I could relax-ish, and work a little less hard (Jan – May was a super intense time), and I could really focus on travelling and eating some more (outside of my kitchen – I was so sick of the inside of my kitchen by then). So, what’s a girl that has worked too hard …

2011: Wham Bam, Thank You Mam!

And what a blast it was. I knew going into 2011 that I was going to be writing and publishing my first cookbook, and I had lots of travel plans. It was so much more than that though, and as I sit here and recap, all I can do is grin, and be very grateful. There were down sides – so many of my personal belongings were stolen – my camera and lenses (worth over £1000 with memory cards and memory sticks), my iPhone, my iPod, my bicycle and more at varying points BUT you know what, I didn’t even think of that until almost at the end of the post. All of that was horrible but there was lots of good stuff to balance everything out. Weirdly, as I look through earlier posts, they seem like they are 2 years ago, rather than one. But that was 2011 for ya! I crammed a lot in. As always, thanks for reading. – all photos link to the associated post … and I am going to stop …

Favourite Food Books (Some from 2011 and Others that Deserve a Mention) – Conclusion

And *drrrrumrrrrrrooooolllllllll* – the concluding part of my favourite food books mini-series. I heartily recommend them all, so go on, strain your cookshelf, and fill your January with joy and cooking. This year, several bloggers were published (including myself), I’ve included my favourite books from those bloggers that published here.  I have included Scandilicious in an earlier part of my round up, Sig would be here otherwise. I’ve also included a chef and restaurateur, who is really well known for his restaurant, Ottolenghi, and books, but less well known for his blog. His books are really terrific and need no promotion from me having won awards and gracing bestseller lists. It is lovely though, and I do highly rate it, so it is here. I have also included Jake Tilson, who isn’t a blogger but I know him from twitter so…. at a (large) stretch, it all kind of ties in! Cooking Without Recipes by Philip Dundas Cooking Without Recipes is a generous and charming book that takes apprentice and novice cooks through everything that they would need to know …

Favourite Food Books (Some from 2011 and Others that Deserve a Mention) – Continued

And onto the second part of my favourite food books post, the first part is here if you missed it. In this post, I am including some gorgeous cookbooks from my part of Ireland – Waterford (where I was born and raised) and Cork (where I studied and lived for many years). Wild Garlic, Gooseberries and Me; A Chefs Stories and Recipes from the Land by Denis Cotter  I spent my university years in Cork. Money was tight, but when we had cause to celebrate – birthdays etc – we went to Cafe Paradiso. Cafe Paradiso is a vergetarian restaurant, but it is imaginative and delicious. I have not found anywhere (yet) that can match it in the UK. Denis Cotter has written 4 lovely cookbooks, his first, Cafe Paradiso is very much restaurant food, the second, Paradiso Seasons home food, and the third, the one I am writing about here, is a beautiful book full of stories and recipes, often using foraged ingredients. I must get my hands on his fourth, For the Love …

Favourite Food Books (Some from 2011 & Others that Deserve a Mention)

Books are such a pleasure. The best grab your attention and transport you away, whisking you to a kitchen or urging you to go to yours in the case of a cookbook. Food travel books should take you to distant lands and foreign tables and make you run to find unusual ingredients and recipes. Memoirs allow you a generous peek into the life of the author. Food memoirs share with you the authors own story, their earliest food memories and often recipes. As much as I love books, this year things are different as I am also now a published author. This changes my perspective as I now know how difficult it is to write a book, no matter how much you have to say or how much you love writing and cooking. It’s a very introspective, isolating process and the course of delivering a manuscript is a journey from agonizing to joyful, and over and back again. It is worth every moment and every tortuous pang though, and I hope to be delivering another …

A Reprieve from Festivities & Indulgence: Some Photos from Hong Kong & Beijing

Beannachtaí Lá Fhéile Stiofán – Happy St Stephen’s Day (in Irish :)! We don’t have Boxing Day here in Ireland, but St Stephen’s Day or the Day of the Wren. Wrenboys will be wandering down Ireland’s roads or lanes, travelling from house to house, with an effigy of a wren on a stick singing “The wren, the wren, the king of all birds, St Stephen’s Day got caught in the furze”. You don’t see it everywhere anymore but in my mothers home county, Cork, it is an active tradition. The rest of us will spend the day visiting family, and I am just about to do that. Before I do, my favourite books of 2011 and random-other-stuff are due, but I’ve spent the morning, and a lot of last night, reliving my Hong Kong & China trip. I finally found some time to edit the photos and am now madly craving Peking Duck & Dim Sum. Here are a few photos with proper details on everything soon.

Merry Xmas Everyone!

Merry Xmas everyone! I wish you all health, happiness and wonderful dinners. I was searching for a Xmas-y photo and I remembered the one on the Wall of China that was taken only 3 weeks ago in the snow – perfect! I am midst cooking xmas dinner. We’re having a rib roast of beef this year, from McGraths butchers in Lismore, a terrific eighth generation local butcher that farms their own beef and has a little abbatoir at the back of the shop (I’ve written about them before here). On the side we’re having crispy roast potatoes, a bounty of veg and black pudding croquettes using a wonderful black pudding from McCarthy’s in Kanturk. There will also be hot ports and mulled wine to ease me through the process – delicious. So, I best get back in to the kitchen but have the finest of Xmas Days all. *raises a glass – cheers*

Very Late Xmas Gift Ideas for Food Obsessives: My Favourite Kitchen Kit

Very late! Always very late. But would you expect anything less? I’ve not even started my Xmas shopping yet but hey-ho. I’ve promised a list every year of things I love and things I use in my kitchen and (blush) never actually delivered, so here you go. I am going to do it in 3 parts, one on kitchen kit, one on books and one on random stuff. I had to seriously beef up my kitchen kit this year with all of the cooking and testing for the book, not everything was essential but there are some I wouldn’t be without now. Here are my top 3 items from my kitchen, and one that isn’t kit strictly speaking, but is really important: knives. Kitchen Kit Kitchenaid Artisan Stand Mixer I use my KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer almost daily making anything from bread to marshmallows. It’s a great home machine and is very pretty to boot. I think I need to move on to the professional size next for the volumes I now require but I …

Recipe: Whiskey Bacon Jam

We all went a bit mad for bacon jam, first of all when I got my paws on some over 2 years ago from the US (longer?) and secondly when I posted a recipe earlier this year. You adore it in the main, some of you are perplexed, but you always come around to loving it. Why play around with the smoky spicy jam? The rich umami face slap that it delivers can surely not be improved? Well, I don’t think I can improve it, but I have created a naughty sibling that is definitely on a par with it. A teenage drinking bacon jam that has raided its parents drinks cupboard and swilled the most expensive bottle in there, that gorgeous 16 year old Lagavulin. Perfect for Christmas, this peaty meaty smoky jam gives you all you need. You have bacon (breakfast), coffee (BING), whiskey (god given and needed cure for Christmas morning). This stuff is the business and I will be wheeling out a jar as medicine on Christmas day. I made a …

That Big Comfort & Spice Christmas Lunch at Blacks

Wot larks! Much fun was had and there was a lot of cooking. We got started at 8am. The pork had, of course, gone in the night before and was cooking away gently on an overnight roast – the smell was luscious when we arrived. Fuelled by a strong black coffee, I got cracking on the chocolate mousse and honeycomb, regretting quickly the decision to plate up 40 individual chocolate mousses. A messy laborious business, I even got some in my eyebrows. The day chugged along, the pork finished and we crisped up the glorious crackling. Time to make the spiced pumpkin soup, a big vat of it. We made a robust root veg mash, some cavolo nero with bacon and chestnuts to serve with the pork. Some spiced apple relish too, a big bowlful for each table. The pescetarians had a lovely crab bisque with crayfish and red mullet, and the vegetarian (there was only one) a jerusalem artichoke, pear and gorgonzola risotto. Time then to make the bacon jam, it was just an …

Comfort & Spice Xmas Lunch at Blacks Tomorrow!

We’ve had a very naughty last minute drop out of a large group for our lunch tomorrow which sent a shudder through my bones – as with all things like this all ingredients are bought and everything is planned – but it is possibly good news for some of you lovely readers, as there is now space for you to come! So – briefly – Blacks is a gorgeous members club in Soho that is not normally open to the public. We have it for the day – to 6pm – and lunch kicks off a 12.30pm with spiced cider and bacon jam toasts (with something for veggies too!), spiced pumpkin soup, overnight roast pork shoulder (as in pic above) with spiced apple relish, root veg mash, cabbage & chestnuts (halibut for pescetarians and veggie wellington for veggies – please declare yourselves when you book), finishing with a flourish with chocolate mousse & honeycomb. A bargain at £30! Come, do come. You can book by calling 0207 2873381. If you already have plans for lunch and …

Back to Market with a BANG

So, I am back at market. I knew how hard it was on my own, all that cooking, delivery logistics, cooking in a poky domestic kitchen, moving everything from home to Covent Garden, lifting (all that lifting!) and serving all day. I hadn’t forgotten. I knew what I was getting into. But I had. It is so hard! Anyway,  the hard bit is the build up. It’s almost always lovely at the market itself. Last week I was slightly hampered by jet lag (I was in China until last Tuesday – more on that soon), a brutal cold that I picked up in snowy Beijing and severe sleep deprivation (WHERE IS MY TINY VIOLIN?!), but I got through it. An old friend came to town to help me on the day, and I will be forever grateful, it made such a difference. This week I made the usual Overnight Roast Pork Shoulder with Spiced Apple Relish in a Homemade Blaa, and as always it sold out first and early. That dish just does something to people.They …

Back to Market this Week! Slow Roast Pork Blaas Ahoy

Remember the market days? Those far from lazy hazy days. Those hard working but fun days where I would cook through the night all manner of things from slow roasted pork shoulder to chickpea and chorizo stew then serve them up at Covent Garden market? Well, they’re back! For a few days this week only, I will be serving up some of my market greatest hits dishes at Covent Garden Christmas Market, starting this Saturday and continuing next Thursday and Friday. Expect: Overnight Slow Roast Yorkshire Pork Shoulder with Spiced Apple Relish in a Homemade Blaa Brindisa Chorizo & Chickpea Stew Slow Roast Pork and Black Bean Stew Spiced Pumpkin Soup Spiced Warm Luscombe Apple Juice to warm your bones Jars of homemade bacon jam to take home Signed copies of my book, Comfort & Spice, will also be available to buy. Look forward to seeing you there!

Announcing: Comfort & Spice Christmas Lunch at Blacks Soho

It has been a busy year. You may have noticed! So busy that I never even managed to have a launch party for my book. Which is a very poor show indeed. To compensate, before the year is out, I will be cooking a Comfort & Spice Christmas Lunch at Blacks Private Members Club on Dean St in Soho on Saturday December 17th. It is a fabulous spot, and isn’t open to the public normally, so it is a great opportunity to pretend that you are a member for the day. Lunch will be intimate, seating 35 people. It is a bargain: £30, incl drink on arrival by the big open fire downstairs, and 3 courses (but excluding wine with lunch). Aubert & Mascoli are providing some very fairly priced wine matches, which are sure to be terrific and well sourced and always from interesting, small producers. It promises to be a cracker. We have sole access to the club until 6pm – so it will be like Comfort & Spice Club at Blacks :) …

Evening Standard Column: Beef, Beet and Horseradish Burgers

The burger fascists will hate me for this, but truly, I love to play around with a burger and this combination really does it for me. It’s always nice to spice things up a bit, and beef loves it. Fresh horseradish is firey and perfect with beef, it also has a fancy for beetroot. Together they form a beefy holy trinity and taste delicious. The only downside is the beetroot will turn your hands pink. If this is an issue for you, wear gloves, and Bob is your uncle. Or similar. Try them as meatballs too (which would be a lovely little Xmas snack on a cocktail stick). Recipe on the Evening Standard