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 gotta do? Well, why not take that cheque for that book, and spend too much of it on a big ass trip to Argentina? I never said I was practical.

Best room service ever? Rabbit empanadas on the terrace at Fierro Hotel... and the recipe!

SLURP! Empanadas at El Cuartito in Buenos Aires

A wonderful mishap - getting lost and finding a wonderful roadside parrilla in BA

The best empanadas I have ever eaten (in Mendoza)

Amazing day pretending to be a Gaucha, high up in the Andes

Lunch at La Cabrera in Buenos Aires

Beautiful Ceviche at Sipan in Buenos Aires

Recipe for Passion Fruit & Lime Ceiviche

A guide on where to eat in Buenos Aires for you (and those are dulce de leche pancakes!)

Some time relaxing - and a little horse riding - at Estancia Los Potreros in Cordoba, Argentina

A trip to Septima Winery in Mendoza, Argentina

... and their tasting menu with wines

A visit to Salentein Winery with a wine tasting and art exhibition launch


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

One of my first recipes last year - Calamari with Blood Orange & Fennel

One of my first recipes last year - Calamari with Blood Orange & Fennel

Near perfect weekend brunch - recipe for Turkish Eggs

A trip to Lyon for the Bocuse D'or (commonly called the cheffing world cup)

Trip to Lyonnaise Bouchon, Cafe Les Federations - Poulet Au Vinaigre (gorgeous - still think of it)

Recipe for Winter Warmer: Chicken & Chorizo Pie

A Weekend Trip to Cornwall

Persian chicken stew with sour cherries, walnuts and pomegranate

Mardi Gras in Orlando

Spuntino opened in Soho - I liked it a lot

Included in The Irish Times Food File

Recipe for Wild Garlic Frittata

Recipe for Crab Claws with Wild Garlic & Chipotle

A Trip to Florence

.. and to Emilia Romagna

Towpath Café re-opened, and there was much rejoicing

A trip home for the frankly superb Waterford Festival of Food

A trip to Barcelona

... and a lovely lunch at Cal Pep

A trip to a haunted restaurant in Halifax, Nova Scotia

THAT Bacon Jam recipe (with smoked scallops)

Lovely Nova Scotia

How could I resist this Nova Scotian roadside diner?

More Irish madness in New Brunswick, Canada

Fiddlehead foraging in New Brunswick

Recipe for Ricotta Frittata with Tomatoes & Fiddleheads

One of my favourite recipes from last year - smokin' hot red eye ribs

One of my favourite launches of 2011 - José (tapas and sherry bar) opens in Bermondsey

… and I am going to stop there as it is 12.42 am and if I start going through my Argentina posts I will possibly book a flight back (oh how I would love to) and I definitely won’t get enough sleep.

More tomorrow – night!


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 in order to feel comfortable cooking in their kitchen. Philip describes essential tools, pots, pans and knives, essential ingredients and then describes how to cook from scratch. It has a mine of tips and information that even advanced cooks will appreciate and is a lovely read too.

In at the Deep End by Jake Tilson

This isn’t Jake Tilson’s first cookbook, but it is a cookbook with a twist. Jake had a fear of fish his whole life, and set out to resolve this by cooking and eating fish from Venice to Tokyo. The result is a feast for the eyes and the imagination with beautiful recipes and stories. His strengths as a designer make it an even lovelier tome.

Supper Club: Recipes & Notes from The Underground Restaurant by Kerstin Rodgers (Ms Marmite Lover)

Kirsten’s supper club, The Underground Restaurant, is well known in London and beyond. It has been mentioned in the press in Ireland as well as many times in the UK, and I am sure in other places. She was one of the pioneers of the supper club movement in London, and weekly runs a themed night from her home. In her book she shares the menus and recipes from these nights with lots of great stories and also plenty of tips for the aspiring supper clubber. It has a beautiful cover too.

Small Adventures in Cooking by James Ramsden 

Disclosure: James has also been published in the New Voices in Food Series but independently of me.

This book is a lovely collection of recipes, perfect for the new cook who wants to experiment with bright culinary ideas in their kitchen with clear instruction. It’s also great for regular cooks who want some new ideas to try. I really want to try the Moroccan Shoulder of Lamb – Nigel Slater did and he loved it so much, he included it in one of his December recipe columns in The Observer.

Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi

When I first moved to London it was the Middle Eastern food that first grabbed my attention (along with the terrific curries available). I worked in Kings Cross for 5 years when I still had a day job, and was thrilled to discover Ottolenghi nearby on a lunchtime wander. I frequently treated myself to a take away lunch from there on pay day. I was overjoyed when I heard he was writing a book. The resulting book is wonderful and really inspiring. A modern classic, it is a must for all serious cooks (and maybe not so serious too :)

The Boy Who Bakes by Edd Kimber

I bake but it isn’t a passion of mine and I do it infrequently. I am utterly at home with, and in love with savoury. So I was surprised when I was smitten with Edd Kimber’s baking book, The Boy Who Bakes. I shouldn’t say surprised, Edd has a lovely blog (he was a blogger before TV star, having won The Great British Bake Off the year before last) and I love his writing. The point is, even for non-bakers like me, this is a gorgeous book that will encourage you to bake, and you should buy it.


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 of Food. I am sure it is terrific if it is anything like the others.

An Irish Adventure with Food: The Tannery Cookbook by Paul Flynn

Paul Flynn is an extremely talented Irish chef with a fantastic restaurant – The Tannery – in my home town of Dungarvan. He is well known in Ireland, with his own tv show and also two books, both of which are beautifully written with much wit and humour, and also delicious accessible recipes. The one I am recommending here is the first one, but his second book, Second Helpings, is terrific too.

Ballymaloe Cookery Course

The Allen family are well known internationally, and Darina Allen is somewhat of a matriarch in modern Irish cookery. As well as being a very successful food writer, she runs the Ballymaloe Cookery School, which teaches scores of students how to cook in a 3 month course. I’ve not done it – I learned to cook in Home Economics over 3 years in secondary school – but I do really enjoy the Ballymaloe Cookery Course book. It’s comprehensive and has a strong Irish flavour, but also includes international recipes which have been shared by students and colleagues over the years with Darina.

All about Home Economics by Deirdre Madden

This is not strictly from my part of Ireland, but it was a big part of my culinary education. As mentioned above, I learned to cook in school, learning all of the basics and more mainly using the All About Home Economics textbook. It has just been republished, I published a plea for a copy 4 and a half years ago, and got an email from her daughters saying that she had sadly passed away but they would try and source a copy. Over the years this developed into a lengthy conversation in the comments of my post, which resulted in one of the commenters going on Irish radio. The long and the short of it is, it resulted in the book being republished and happily I have a copy of it again now.

It has lovely simple recipes and basic instructions, notes on everything you could imagine you would need. We had to learn to draw animals with the various meat cuts, bottles of milk split into portions detailing the nutritional value of milk and much more. There are also sections on things which don’t pertain to cooking but which are useful like how to dressmake (we had a long dressmaking session weekly), chapters on floor coverings (!), personal hygiene and how to set the breakfast table. Everything you could possibly need to be the perfect housewife. Joking aside, it really is useful for all kids, and should be taught compulsarily now. It is a really useful charming book, and I heartily recommend it.

Note: The Cliff House Hotel also has  a cookbook but I haven’t got a copy yet, I will rectify that soon.

Another post should complete this, but we’ll see! Come back and check in tomorrow.


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 manuscript in 2012.

In a way it is like working in a kitchen or a restaurant and understanding how difficult it is to run one, and especially to run it well. I feel the same about books now. I understand the graft and the birthing pains. It has left me with an even greater respect for the authors whose books charm my days and grace my kitchen counters.

These are some of my favourites from 2011 and others that I love and would heartily recommend you look up too. This list isn’t definitive, there are more that I will mention soon so that you can buy them or add to your wish list. It was getting really lengthy too so I have split it, and will publish the next part soon.

Apricots on the Nile: A Memoir with Recipes; Return to Paris: A Memoir with Recipes; Madeleines in Manhattan a Memoir with Recipes

I have to start with this book. I read it when I first moved to London and fell down a culinary rabbit hole. I had discovered foul moudammes a few years previously and was obsessed with it. I found this book and rejoiced in Colette’s childhood stories of watching it being made in Egypt as a small child, and she shared the recipe. Her first book, and the following two, are gorgeously immersive stories of her transition from early childhood in Cairo, to Paris and finally to New York peppered with recipes en route. I recommend these all the time in person, and it really is about time I did here too.

Shark’s Fin & Sichuan Pepper

Like most, I have long been a fan of Fuschia Dunlop’s cookbooks, particularly her book on Sichuan Cookery. Her story is wonderful, she went to Chengdu to study and instead became the first westerner to train as a chef in the Sichuan Culinary Institute. She spent many years traveling China, gathering recipes and absorbing the culture and details it in this wonderful book, Shark Fin & Sichuan Pepper. It really is absorbing and startling. For the first time I felt I really started to understand Chinese food culture (in a way I didn’t even know I needed to), how they value texture and also how they prepare food, it was quite a shock to read about a rabbit being skinned for the pot while it was still living and breathing. Fantastic book, while not for the squeamish, and heartily recommended

Bocca Cookbook

Weirdly, I have yet to eat at Bocca di Lupo, but I am an enormous fan of Gelupo, their Gelateria and deli across the road. I go every week at least when in town. Their cookbook, Bocca Cookbook, from first inspection became a firm favourite. It is detailed, comprehensive and peppered with charming detail. There is a whole section on charcuterie ( I will definitely be making the n’duja and guanciale) and another whole chapter on their gelato including gelato cakes (swoon!). Added to that there is a generous selection of recipes, I am keen to cook duck cooked like a pig.

Hawksmoor at Home: Meat – Seafood – Sides – Breakfast – Puddings Cocktails

I can’t claim the same about Hawksmoor, I have eaten there several times and am a big fan of their breakfast, burgers, steaks and cocktails. The charming Hawksmoor cookbook was published earlier this year with recipes for all of these and others. I will be cooking their sensational Tamworth Belly Ribs and I am desperately in need of some Anti-Fogmatics right now (cocktails to clear the mind they say).

Secrets of Scandinavian Cooking – Scandilicious

Signe, the author of Scandilicious, is a treasured friend of mine that I met through blogging. Earlier this year she published this beautiful tome, full of charming Scandinavian recipes. Everyone loves it, and deservedly so. I need to make the Daim Cake soon and power my way through lots of her wonderful healthy recipes. A job for January when I need the cleansing wonder of Scandinavian cooking. Her second book on Scandinavian Baking is out in 2012 so watch out for that one too.

Come back soon for the rest of my list featuring Philip Dundas, Jake Tilson, Edd Kimber (The Boy Who Bakes) and Kerstin Rodgers (Ms Marmite Lover) among many lovely others.


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.

Sunset at the Forbidden City, Beijing

Snack Seller, Beijing

Beijing Rickshaw & Bicycle

The Forbidden City, Beijing

Sidecar tour of Beijing

I love these dinosaurs - Chinese art that is sadly way out of my price range

Another piece of Chinese Art in Beijing

Snowman in Beijing - with a deodorant can nose!

Dumplings near Wan Chai Market in Hong Kong

Luk Yu Tea House in Hong Kong

Peking Duck at Duck de Chine in Beijing (roasting in a wood fire as is traditional)

Peking Duck at Duck de Chine

Mustard Goose Webs - the web of a goose foot cooked in mustard - curious and crunchy

Duck Soup at Duck de Chine

Beautiful dim sum - made with Chinese turnip

Perfect Xiao Long Bao - dumplings with meat & soup inside - at Duck de Chine in Beijing

Glorious milk and yolk buns - stuffed with an egg yolk custard - now one of my favourite things


Merry Xmas Everyone!

At the Great Wall of China earlier today, almost falling over. Gorgeous there in the snow. Now it's 20 deg C in HK at midnight. I'm confused.

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*

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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 will always have my bright pink one on the kitchen counter at home.

Tip: the classic mixer is significantly cheaper (by £160 on Amazon) but we all love the more expensive coloured ones. Shallow and ridiculous but true.

KitchenAid Classic Stand Mixer, White

KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer Red

Gaggia Classic Coffee Machine

I’ve written about it before, but I honestly wouldn’t be without this now. I am a coffee fiend, and I work from home, often quite late and starting quite early. This piece of kit affords me delicious cafe style lattés to kick start my day. Friends who have tried it have bought it since too and I know it is appearing under a few Xmas trees this Sunday morning.

Gaggia Classic Coffee Machine with Professional Filter Holder, Stainless Steel Body

Cuisinart Professional Ice Cream Maker

I love making home made ice cream, and had to do a lot of testing for my book. I wanted something that would be good and that I could also use on a whim. I am really rubbish at forward planning and putting an ice cream bowl in what is probably a too packed freezer anyway. This requires none of this and is ready to go once you have made your custard and you have ice cream in less than an hour. I love it.

Cuisinart Professional Ice Cream Maker

As a side note, I have had the Gaggia Gelatiera recommended to me too by my friend Signe who has had one in her family home since the 80’s and it’s still going strong. It also freezes for you and requires no forward planning.


Good knives are an essential cooks tool, no matter what level. It makes your life so much easier and smoother when you have proper knives. Not only that you are actually more likely to injure yourself with a blunt knife as you have to put so much pressure on it.

Earlier this year, I was sent some knives by Chroma Knives to review and was seriously impressed so don’t hasten to recommend them. I use them every day now. The Porsche knives (Type 301 knives designed by FA Porsche) have quite a masculine design (no surprise there) but are really solid and fit beautifully in the hand. They make an excellent kitchen knife, especially the Japanese chefs knife which is a great starter knife.

My personal favourites were the Haiku Japanese knives which are really elegant and powerfully sharp. On first use they sliced through a lamb bone like butter. So I use them every day now, and with great care. These knives are made in small Japanese knife factories out of high-grade modern steel and are light to hold too.

Good knives are the first thing that every ambitious home cook should invest in, and are a great gift too.

Amazon is still sending so I have included links. Get shopping and I will too :)


Recipe: Whiskey Bacon Jam

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 big batch last night and will be selling it at Covent Garden Market today – my last day this year – and possibly forever unless I find a sensible way of doing a stall where I get more than 3 hours sleep a night and don’t strain my back (tiny violin). I will also have cider & chipotle pulled pork sandwiches (cooked for 8 hours) in a homemade blaa (fluffy white bread roll from Waterford for new readers). Hope to see you there!

Whiskey Bacon Jam Recipe


500g streaky bacon (it has to be streaky), chopped into small dice
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 red onion, finely diced
50g brown sugar
50mls maple syrup
50ml cider vinegar
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
150ml fresh brewed coffee (NOT instant – important)
100ml whiskey of your choice (I used Lagavulin)
2 chipotles in adobe (1 chillies – NOT 2 tins!), finely chopped or 1 fresh red chilli


Sauté the bacon over a medium heat until starting to crisp.

Take the bacon out and pour off most of the bacon fat, leaving just enough to fry the onion until soft but not coloured – about 5 minutes. Add the garlic for about a minute.

Transfer the bacon, onion, garlic to a large pot with the rest of the ingredients.

Simmer gently for one hour, adding a little water every 30 minutes if required (I only had to do this towards the end). Add the red wine vinegar in the last 5 minutes.

Pulse it in a food processor briefly (to retain the course texture) – although it can be quite nice coarse.

Ready to serve. Will keep in the fridge too although I doubt you will have any leftover.


That Big Comfort & Spice Christmas Lunch at Blacks

The gorgeous fireplace 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.

Overnight Roast Pork Shoulder (recipe from my book Comfort & Spice)

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.

Nibbles incl bacon jam on toast

Time then to make the bacon jam, it was just an hour to arrival. And to bring the brie from Neals Yard Cheeses to room temperature. Toast the bread, spice and heat the cider and get ready to serve in gorgeous silver teapots, and we were almost good to go.

Comfort & Spice Xmas Lunch at Blacks

We lit the fire and guests arrived and Blacks started to bubble. It was fun! Not awful. I secretly worried it might be really stressful, having never catered for such numbers by myself at a sit down lunch before. (I had, of course, catered for large numbers with a team of others many times before).

Spiced Pumpkin Soup (Recipe from Comfort & Spice)

Spiced Pumpkin Soup (Recipe from Comfort & Spice)

Overnight Roast Shoulder of Pork from my book Comfort & Spice

Loadsa honeycomb to serve with chocolate mousse (recipe from my book Comfort & Spice!)

Chocolate Mousse with Honeycomb for dessert

I loved it. I really did. Being in a proper kitchen was great, and tough, but I liked the pressure and I liked getting things done, ticking things off the checklist. Robin, head chef at Blacks, was terrific and calm and a brilliant support. He guided me gently through a mornings work in his kitchen.

One of the happy dining rooms at Blacks

So that was that. And it’s Christmas now, almost. Another tick for a lovely year. I will definitely be going back to Blacks. And hopefully to their kitchen.

Happy Christmas! :)



Comfort & Spice Xmas Lunch at Blacks Tomorrow!

Overusing this pic maybe but it is fabulous! Thank you Georgia Glynn Smith

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 fancy coming in to say hello, come join us for a drink at 12.30. If you want to buy a signed copy of Comfort & Spice be sure to pop in too.

I am very excited! *Twirls*


Back to Market with a BANG

Overnight Roast Pork Shoulders (using best Yorkshire pork!)

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.

Homemade blaas

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 become entranced and have to have it. I think it’s the combination of crisp crackling, melting tender pork and soft blaa with the piquant hot relish.

I also made Slow Roast Pork Shoulder & Black Bean Stew and Brindisa Chickpea & Chorizo Stew.  Both popular but with time constraints this week, and my mental health in mind (I need more sleep this time! 3 hours is not enough), I am only going to serve the Brindisa Chorizo and Chickpea Stew.

Another hit was a new recipe, Spiced Warm Apple Juice. I am using Luscombe apple juice, a delicious apple juice from Devon made using a mix of rare heirloom varieties. That will be back this week and I will post the recipe soon.

I failed to bring home the bacon jam, but will rectify that on Thursday. I am contemplating making brownies too. There will be signed copies of Comfort & Spice too – perfect Xmas present! ;)

Back at market - with sleep deprivation, spiced apple juice and signed copies of my book! :)

So, I am off to get ingredients so that I can get moving again. Hope to see you on Thursday!


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.


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

Overnight Slow Roast Pork Shoulder - photographed by Georgia Glynn Smith for Comfort & Spice

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 :)

I will be cooking – of course – and a rough sketch of the menu includes my favourites from the book:

Spiced Pumpkin Soup
Overnight Slow Roast Pork Shoulder
Chocolate Mousse with Honeycomb

Hot spiced drinks on arrival

Vegetarian options on request – do let me know as early as possible.

To book: email  Spaces are limited. Lunch will be served at 1:30pm.


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