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Eat like a Bajan: Cooking Bajan Sunday Lunch with Heather in Barbados

Heather, one of the chefs at The Club, who generously invited me into her home to teach me to cook Bajan food. Here with Mac Pie.

Heather, one of the chefs at The Club, who generously invited me into her home to teach me to cook Bajan food. Here with Mac Pie.

On arrival in Barbados, you quickly learn a few things. Things from Barbados are Bajan, and Barbados is affectionately known locally as BIM. The people here are so warm, friendly and very generous.

I am always asking lots of questions about food – as you know – as I try to understand what the local food culture is and where it comes from. This nosiness I am sure can annoy, but in Barbados people loved to share, and one lady, Heather, a chef from The Club where I am staying, invited me to her home to cook a traditional Sunday lunch.

How exciting. It is the best thing that I could hope for when visiting another country.

Local neighbourhood where I went to cook in Barbados

Local neighbourhood where I went to cook in Barbados

Heather lives in a lovely neighbourhood, calm, near the sea, and primarily composed of the traditional Bajan chattel houses, lovely wooden homes, usually small, some big, almost always colourful. Heather welcomed me with a traditional Bajan lemonade (recipe soon!) and we got started.

Mac pie, a key part of Bajan Sunday lunch

Mac pie, a key part of Bajan Sunday lunch

The traditional Sunday lunch here has mac pie (a Bajan take on mac & cheese, with lots of spice flavour, and long strands of macaroni), rice and peas (we used local green peas, gumbo peas or split peas are also used), Bajan fried fish, pork or chicken, butter sauce / gravy (a spicy fruity buttery sauce) and coleslaw. Again, a Bajan interpretation with some spice.

Bajan fried mahi mahi (dolphin but not as we know it)

Bajan fried mahi mahi (dolphin but not as we know it)

The macaroni for the mac pie comes in long strands like spaghetti and you break it as long as you want, ours were about three inches long. We cooked mahi mahi (known locally as dolphin), marinated first in lime and salt, as all meat or fish is here before cooking, then stuffed with Bajan seasoning, a Bajan chimmichurri of sorts but much thicker and not used as a dip. It was a wonderful time, I have taken notes on all of the recipes, and I will cook them and write my take on them when I get home.

Bajan lemonade - so refreshing

Bajan lemonade – so refreshing

Cooking a traditional Bajan Sunday lunch

Cooking a traditional Bajan Sunday lunch – loved these colourful curtains

So, watch out for that, and in the meantime, enjoy the photos. I leave Barbados today, on the red eye to London. Very sad to leave but excited to get home and cook, and share lots of Bajan recipes with you.

Stuffing mahi mahi with Bajan seasoning

Stuffing mahi mahi with Bajan seasoning

Seasoned flour to coat the fish

Seasoned flour to coat the fish

Butter sauce / gravy

Butter sauce / gravy

Macpie

Macpie

Bajan fried fish

Bajan fried fish

Heather in her kitchen

Heather in her kitchen

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A Postcard from Barbados

The wild and gorgeous east coast of Barbados

The wild and gorgeous north coast of Barbados

Well, hello there! And greetings, now from Barbados. I am on the second leg of my Caribbean break, nearing the end of it, this time at The Club in Barbados.

It has been a super week. I have gotten under the skin of Bajan food, learned to cook it, had lots of gorgeous fresh local fish and a few cocktails. Typically, I finish with a backlog of all the things that I wanted to do but didn’t. So, I start at 8.30am tomorrow with a trip to see some turtles, cooking in the kitchen here and getting a recipe for pepper sauce (I love that stuff!) and I am going to finish it all with a massage and facial. Then back to London overnight on Wednesday and straight back into meetings and insanity.

Here are some photo highlights. Back soon with recipes, stories and lots more photos.

Bajan fishing boats, Barbados. And people swimming behind!

Bajan fishing boats, Barbados. And people swimming behind!

Heather, one of the chefs at The Club, who generously invited me into her home to teach me to cook Bajan food. Here with Mac Pie.

Heather, one of the chefs at The Club, who generously invited me into her home to teach me to cook Bajan food. Here with Mac Pie.

Cornmeal cou cou which I learned to make at Enid's Cooking School at The CLub - recipe along with others, soon

Cornmeal cou cou which I learned to make at Enid’s Cooking School at The Club – recipe along with others, soon

Bajan fish cakes in Bridgetown

Bajan fish cakes in Bridgetown

Mural at the Catholic church / school

Mural at the Catholic church / school

Bridgetown, so colourful

Bridgetown, so colourful

Taking it easy in Bridgetown

Taking it easy in Bridgetown

Morris Greenidge, a local historian, who I went on a fascinating tour of Bridgetown with

Morris Greenidge, a local historian, who I went on a fascinating tour of Bridgetown with

The synagogue in Bridgetown - fascinating history, more soon

The synagogue in Bridgetown – fascinating history, more soon

Granny's at Oistins

Granny’s at Oistins

Playing dominoes at Oistins

Playing dominoes at Oistins

Soaking it up at Oistins

Soaking it up at Oistins

Lobster on the grill at Oistins

Lobster on the grill at Oistins

Oistins, Barbados

Oistins, Barbados

Uncle George at Oistins

Uncle George at Oistins

The grill at Uncle Georges with flying fish in the foreground

The grill at Uncle Georges with flying fish in the foreground

BBQ pig tails, possibly the best thing EVER

BBQ pig tails, possibly the best thing EVER

Bathsheba, Barbados

Bathsheba, Barbados

Bajan surfer at Bathsheba, Barbados

Bajan surfer at Bathsheba, Barbados

Old plantation windmill

Old plantation windmill

This crazy little bird was trying to steal my biscuits

This crazy little bird was trying to steal my biscuits

Cotton growing in Barbados

Cotton growing in Barbados

Cotton field in Barbados

Cotton field in Barbados

Door

Door

The wild and gorgeous east coast of Barbados - up close

The wild and gorgeous north coast of Barbados – up close

The Cliff - amazing location and beautifully designed, good food too!

The Cliff – amazing location and beautifully designed, good food too!

A rum baba at The Cliff, with some Mount Gay Very Old Rum

A rum baba at The Cliff, with some Mount Gay Very Old Rum

Mar-tea-ni at The Cliff, Barbados

Mar-tea-ni at The Cliff, Barbados

Travel Info: I am in Barbados on the Barbados Blogathon, sponsored by Tropical Sky & Elite Island Resorts.

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Recipe: Chef Baka’s Banana Fritter Recipe (from Palm Island)

Chef Baka's Banana Fritters

Chef Baka’s Banana Fritters

Every morning on Palm Island, I would ask what the local breakfast was, and almost always order it. I love Caribbean breakfasts.

On my first morning, the local breakfast was banana fritters. Well, yes please. The bananas here are fantastic, rich and sweet, almost like they have been soaked in a rich banana syrup. I made banana fritters in school at Home Economics and was quite taken with them. These, however, were different.

My school banana fritters were slices of banana, fried in batter. Just that and for a 13 year old Irish cailín a revelation. These Caribbean banana fritters are more of an intense banana American pancake with some gentle spicing. Fluffy, light and like a morning banana tickle. Except that sounds quite rude. It isn’t!

Like banana bread, they are made with bananas just on the right side of brown – speckled skin with some yellow bits – mashed until soft (do you remember banana sandwiches?! I used to love them) and then added to the fritter mixture. Perfect for bananas that have gone too far to eat. Frugal & a wee bit healthy too.

I loved those banana fritters and I ordered them regularly, so I asked Chef Baka for the recipe. He went one better and showed me how to make them. He does weekly cooking demos on Palm Island so he did this one for me.

Cooking Banana Fritters with Chef Baka

Cooking Banana Fritters with Chef Baka

So, here it is. Enjoy! Do let me know how you like it.

Note on the recipe: the recipe is in American cups which I have converted to mls / g. I have included both. Our bananas are not as sweet as the ones here, so it may be wise to add the sugar if not completely ripe, or a drizzle of maple syrup.

Enjoy!

RECIPE: Chef Baka’s Banana Fritters

Ingredients

3 big ripe bananas, mashed
1 & 2/3 cups / 250g flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp nutmeg (more if you like it – I do!)
1 tsp Cinnamon
2/3 cup / 160ml milk
1 egg
2 tbsp brown sugar (optional)
Oil or butter (for frying)

Method

Mix the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar in a bowl.
Beat egg well, then combine mashed banana and milk.
Add dry ingredients and stir with a fork until the batter is smooth.
Heat a frying pan to medium-hot and add enough oil to coat the flat area.
Scoop a tablespoon of the batter onto the pan when the oil is heated to medium hot.
Fry on one side until small bubbles start to come through the batter, you will know then that that side is done.
Flip over and flatten the batter slightly.
Fry for a couple of minutes until medium brown.
Place cooked fritters on a few layers of paper towels to absorb excess oil. Best served warm but cooled is good, too.

Further info on Palm Island, and on Tropical Sky’s package to Palm Island.

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A Postcard from the Grenadines: A Lobster Lunch at Tobago Cays

Sailing on the Pink Lady

Sailing on the Pink Lady

I wish I had more time to write, but as I sit here typing, I really should be packing. I leave in an hour you see. However, I really wanted to share some pictures of my fantastic lobster lunch yesterday.

I left Palm Island on the Pink Lady – a small sailing boat that can take up to 4 passengers. We went to Tobago Cays, a protected series of tiny islands and a nature reserve. It is also the home of many turtles which you can see pop their heads up occasionally to breathe. I did see them, but I also snorkelled to have a look. I am possibly the worst and most panicky snorkeller in the history of creation. But I saw turtles, starfish, some seahorses. So despite the fact that I nearly choked when I came up for air, it was worth it.

Back to lunch. One of the small islands has several barbecues and for  EC$12 a pound they will cook you lobster. The lobster lives in little lobster pots off the shore (they buy them from local fishermen and store them live in the sea). When you request one, they retrieve it, kill and prepare it there and then, and really not long after you are eating it. I also had the normal Palm Island picnic, also on the barbecue – chicken, fish, beef, pasta, salads, fruit, fresh juices, rum punch, wine – way too much, but I tried most of everything. So good.

So here are some pics. I am off now. Next stop Barbados!

Leaving Palm Island for Tobago Cays

Leaving Palm Island for Tobago Cays

Island kitchen

Island kitchen on a tiny island at Tobago Cays

Lobster fresh from the sea

Lobster fresh from the sea

Lobster prepped and ready for the BBQ

Lobster prepped and ready for the BBQ

Time to cook!

Time to cook!

The BBQ

The BBQ

Lunch

Lunch

Table is set - isn't it lovely?!

Table is set – isn’t it lovely?!

Lobster grilled on the BBQ with a lovely pepper dressing on top.

Lobster grilled on the BBQ with a lovely pepper dressing on top.

Rum punch on the pink lady on the way back

Rum punch on the pink lady on the way back

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A Postcard from St Vincent

Good morning and greetings once more from Palm Island. Yesterday I went across to St Vincent, principal island of St Vincent and the Grenadines. I flew there, it took about 2o minutes in a tiny plane. They used to make me nervous but I have grown to trust the pilot and the air industry and now enjoy the sense of adventure instead. Unless it gets rocky, then all bets are off.

I went to visit a farm. By sheer coincidence, before my arrival the people who supply Palm Island with passion fruit visited, and when I arrived they came up in conversation. It sounded wonderful, so a visit was arranged.

Becky and her husband have repatriated to St Vincent in the last two years. Becky’s husband was born and raised in St Vincent but they have spent most of their adult lives in the US, returning now to farm his grandparents land, now called Madam Ground Farms. The farm is on a steep hill and is packed with passion friut, pineapple, papaya, ginger, mangos. It really is amazing how lush and fertile the land is here. Volcanic soil seems to sprout everything and at speed. It tastes great too.

They are working on an ecotourism project which I will be watching with interest. Five days is not enough here, I need to come back, spend longer and explore thoroughly.

Some highlights from the day in photos follow.

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Union Island Airport – my plane was a little bigger (but not by much!)

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Mango sellers on St Vincent

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And this is their lunch – turkey with green bananas, pumpkin & yam

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Tiny puppy hanging around a countryside bakery

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Preparing bread for the oven

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Passion fruit fresh from the vine

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Freshly dug ginger

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Cheerful red roof

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Cocoa pod

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Cocoa pod up close

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Breadfruit tree. This was knocked over in the last hurricane and lots of new trees sprouted from the old one.

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Freshly harvested okra

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Mango

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Kojo, one of the farmers I visited

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Baby pineapple – had no idea they started pink!

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Mature pineapple

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… we harvested it

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which was more fun than I expected :)

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Looking for fallen nutmeg below the nutmeg tree

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Harvesting papaya

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Loofah, straight from the tree

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Pirates of the Caribbean fans might recognise this (I haven’t seen it!)

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lunch

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Creole chicken – delicious

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Spotted this guy cooking lobster on the beach from the ferry on the way back

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Gorgeous sailing boat at sunset (again, from the ferry)

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A Postcard from Palm Island in the Grenadines

Glorious sunset this evening on Palm Island

Glorious sunset this evening on Palm Island

I know. I am so very lucky.

Here I am in the Grenadines, on a glorious Caribbean island, not even a mile long. I am here as part of the Barbados Blogathon, where four bloggers have been sharing their experiences of Barbados. I am the last one. I tagged on an extra island, as I am a little greedy that way. So, before I hit Barbados, I am spending 5 nights on Palm.

Palm Island is off of Union Island, a short ride in a tiny plane from Barbados. It felt like such an adventure, and it is. Once I arrived at Union, I jumped on a boat, and landed 5 minutes later on Palm. We were greeted with a delicious rum punch and the last 2 days have been bliss.

A wee glimpse now, I will be back shortly with lots on what I have been up to, the food, and also some recipes.

See you soon!

Palm, taken from the top of the Iguana trail on the island. You can see where it gets its name.

Palm, taken from the top of the Iguana trail on the island, with Union Island in the background. You can see where it gets its name.

Rum punch on arrival

Rum punch on arrival

STOP - hammock time!

STOP – hammock time!

My lodgings for my 5 nights on Palm, a stones throw from the sea

My lodgings for my 5 nights on Palm, a stones throw from the sea

A fantastic little - actually quite big - fluoro iguana!

A fantastic little – actually quite big – fluoro iguana!

More Iguanas - I love them - the big one on the right is George - he has been here for years, and the restaurant is his turf

More Iguanas – I love them – the big one on the right is George – he has been here for years, and the restaurant is his turf

Another local - this gorgeous red food tortoise - indigenous to the island

Another local – this gorgeous red food tortoise – indigenous to the island

One last sunset pic

One last sunset pic

You can follow the Barbados Blogathon on twitter, #bdosblogathon.

Disclaimer / info: I travelled to Palm Island with Virgin Atlantic, courtesy of Tropical Sky, and I am staying at Palm Island courtesy of Elite Island.  All animals photographed could not give permission, but I am sure that George is delighted ;) 

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Behind the Scenes at Ottolenghi and Lunch

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Sami Tamimi of Ottolenghi, cooks us lunch

Some of you are going to hate me now, but here goes.

Yesterday I went for lunch behind the scenes at Ottolenghi. The hub of all Ottolenghi activity, where recipes are developed and a lot of the restaurant items and most of the deli items are made.

Ottolenghi are proud of their sourcing, and this is evident from the food. Each bite has an intensity of flavour and freshness that isn’t delivered unless you take extreme care with your ingredients, and how they are stored. Secret places and people. Every good restaurant has these. They generally don’t share them with us.

Except Ottolenghi does now. In response to readers craving exotic ingredients from the books in order to recreate the food at home, Ottolenghi have now set up an online store, and they deliver all over the world. Ingredients, products, and wine too.

Exciting, eh? And really delicious. Date molasses, sumac, za’atar, rose petals, (proper) rose water, dukkah. Fragrant and delicious. I cook a lot with rose petals (see the rose petal butter in my book among others), dried and fresh, but the dried rose petals that we ate there, were fantastic in their fragrance. I was surprised. At once delighted that I could source them, and disappointed with the ones that I had been using before.

Yotam’s co-author and business partner, Sami, cooked us lunch. A gorgeous meal peppered with stories of Sami’s cooking with his grandmother, and stories making homemade mograbiah and pomegranate molasses in the Palestinian sun.

The food was divine, I will be digging out the recipes and recreating them at home for myself and for friends. Great wines too, an unusually complex and rich prosecco from Casa Coste Piane di Loris Follador, a spicy rich orange wine, Tenuta Grillo from Baccabianca, and a spicy soft fruity red wine, a Nerello Mascalese from Caruso & Minini.

Most of the recipes are from Ottolenghi’s books and Guardian column, and all ingredients are available online. So you can also recreate yourself at home.

Enjoy!

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Sweet potato purée with date syrup and black sesame seeds

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Labneh sprinkled with za’atar

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Dukkah

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Halibut wrapped in vine leaves, fresh from the oven

Halibut wrapped in vine leaves, grilled with dukkah and lemon and served with piccolo pepper, cherry tomato, caper, basil and chopped herb salsa

Halibut wrapped in vine leaves, grilled with dukkah and lemon and served with piccolo pepper, cherry tomato, caper, basil and chopped herb salsa

Roasted chicken with sumac, za'atar and fresh lemon

Roasted chicken with sumac, za’atar and fresh lemon

Muftoul & mograbiah salad with dried Iranian lime, celery, tomatoes & cucumber

Muftoul & mograbiah salad with dried Iranian lime, celery, tomatoes & cucumber

Rose cupcakes

Rose cupcakes

Black glutinous rice pudding, with orange blossom, pineapple, banana, rose and green pistachios. Toast with halva on the side (I was greedy!)

Black glutinous rice pudding, with orange blossom, pineapple, banana, rose and green pistachios. Toast with halva on the side (I was greedy!)

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Those rose petals

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Halva on toast – will be my new favourite breakfast although it will have to fight with the rice pudding

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Recipe: Prawn and Pork Lemongrass Patties in Lettuce Leaf Wraps with Carrot Salad

Recipe: Prawn and Pork Lemongrass Patties in Lettuce Wraps

Recipe: Prawn and Pork Lemongrass Patties in Lettuce Wraps

The inspiration for these patties comes from fond memory of a lovely trip to Sydney some years ago, pre blogging, so I have never written about it here. Particularly, of an evening in a Vietnamese restaurant in Sydney’s Chinatown. Now, brace yourselves. At the time, I didn’t eat meat. It is ok really – calm down – it really is ok.

I ordered a prawn on sugar cane dish. I asked what was in it, was there any meat? No just prawns, don’t worry. Any meat at all, any pork? (I expected there would be). No, no! Just garlic! The waitress looked at me, suddenly worried and said: do you have a problem with garlic?

No, no I don’t. Bring it on.

I took a bite. SAUSAGE. Pork sausage with a lick of the sea. It was lovely and I couldn’t resist it. I conferred with the waitress who said, why yes, there is pork in there! Of course there is.

I ate every bit, it was delicious. And that taste memory, and the recall of a lovely dinner with an old friend, is what inspires this recipe today.

These patties are super speedy, packed with flavour and versatile. I have been eating them all week in different guises. As sandwich fillings, as meatballs in a beautiful aromatic home made chicken broth made from raw chicken carcasses and lots of veg, served with noodles, bean sprouts, pak choi and fresh herbs. That should keep any illness at bay.

The simplest and quickest way was a fresh light lunch of these patties in lettuce leaf wraps with a light carrot, coriander and red onion salad. I made a big batch of the paste and stored it in the fridge, using it as I fancied over the course of 3 days.

I will post the recipe for the soup soon too. For now, enjoy these wraps.

Carrot, coriander and red onion salad

Carrot, coriander and red onion salad

Note on the recipe: a food processor is best for this, if you have one. I have been asked if it is possible to substitute chicken for pork. I will work out the recipe for this too and post it. You can half the recipe too, obviously, if you are making for one or two.

Recipe: Prawn & Pork Lemongrass Patties in Lettuce Leaf Wraps with Carrot Salad

Makes approx 10 patties

Ingredients

Patties:
600g minced pork – avoid lean, fat gives moisture and flavour, I used 8% fat
400g raw shelled and deveined prawns
2 red chillies (to taste – I like heat)
1 stick of lemongrass, outer layer peeled and bottom removed
1 inch of ginger, peeled
3 cloves garlic, peeled
4 spring onions, trimmed with green tops
handful of coriander leaves
juice of a fresh lime
sea salt

a couple of heads of gem lettuce

Carrot salad:
3 carrots, peeled and grated
1 red onion, peeled and finely sliced
a handful of fresh coriander
juice of a lemon
2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced and crisped for about 30 seconds on each side

light oil for frying

Method

Soak the red onion for the salad in the lemon juice, while you make the patties, so that the sharpness of the raw onion mellows out.

Put all of the ingredients for the patties, except the pork and prawns, in a food processor and blitz to a paste. Add the pork and prawns. Blitz until thoroughly mixed and a paste. Season with sea salt and fry a small bit to taste. Adjust and repeat if necessary.

Divide the patties into 10 pieces and fry for 3 – 4 minutes on each side, until brown and cooked through. Don’t overcook or they will become dry.

Add the carrot and the coriander to the onion and lemon juice and mix. Serve each patty in a lettuce leaf with the salad on the side and the crisped garlic on top.

Enjoy!

rhubarb-rose-porridge
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Recipe: Rhubarb, Rose and Pistachio Porridge

Rhubarb, Rose and Pistachio Porridge

Rhubarb, Rose and Pistachio Porridge

I had the weirdest day yesterday. In the middle of Balham, in broad daylight, a random stranger kicked me up the arse.

I KNOW.

I was shocked too.

He kicked me hard too. Very aggressive and actually quite scary, he thought I had hit my shopping trolley off his car, started roaring at me. I explained that I hadn’t, that I had merely hit the kerb. He roared “HANG ON! WHERE ARE YOU FROM?!” and was suddenly further incensed.

At this point it was obvious that he was out of control and I said that I would call the police if he didn’t stop. So he went for me.

I am so thankful that someone intervened. It is all in the hands of the police now but WHAT A WEIRD DAY.

I am tired and sore and in need of nourishment. I am also startled. If it weren’t so in line with a Fr Ted episode (kicking Bishop Brennan up the arse), it might not be quite so bizarre. As awful as it was, the constant reminder of Fr Ted brings a chuckle. How can it not?

So I made this.

January is joyless in many regards. Grey, moody and lacking lustre. But Nature comes to our rescue via some clever Yorkshire Victorian farmers, who decided that they would force rhubarb. Force rhubarb to do what? Well grow in the dark under large terracotta forcing urns  to be harvested by candle light. The lack of light forces the terracotta to grow long, lean and bright pink. Sweeter than normal rhubarb and so very tender. It is divine.

Rhubarb loves rose, rose loves pistachio, pistachio loves rhubarb too. The three together, and in my porridge mean everything is right with the world again.

Notes on the recipe: if you are planning this, soak the porridge in the milk overnight, it makes a difference. I prefer rose extract to rose water as it is punchier, if using rose water, use a tablespoon and adjust to taste. I use a lot of milk as I find these steel cut oats just drink it and I like my porridge to be soft and a little runny. I subscribe to the school that more-is-more when things are delicious so there is a lot of rhubarb and pistachio here. For extra luxury, add a little cream.

Update: if using normal rhubarb, use more honey as it is a lot more sour. It will still be lovely though.

Recipe: Rhubarb, Rose & Pistachio Porridge

Feeds: one hungry person / two normal not so hungry people

Ingredients

50g steel cut oats (I used Flahavan’s)
300ml full fat milk
150g rhubarb, cut into inch pieces – forced rhubarb if you can get it
25g pistachios, shelled and chopped
3 drops or so of rose extract – to taste (or 1 tbsp rosewater)
2 tbsp honey – to taste

Method

Poach half of the rhubarb with 1 tbsp of the honey in just enough water to cover it. It will take only a few minutes. Take off the heat when soft, and before it surrenders and collapses.

Put the oats, milk, rosewater, the rest of the rhubarb and the other tbsp of honey in a pot over a low heat and allow to cook gently for about 10 minutes until the oats are tender and the rhubarb soft. Adjust the honey and rose to taste.

Serve immediately with poached rhubarb and pistachios on top. The poaching water is gorgeous – fragrant, delicious and bright pink, so I add some of this too.

Enjoy!

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Recipe: Spaghetti with Tomato, Calabrian Chilli, Rosemary & Kale

Recipe: Spaghetti with Tomato, Calabrian Chilli & Kale

Recipe: Spaghetti with Tomato, Calabrian Chilli & Kale

I found myself down an unfamiliar January cul de sac yesterday evening. Already in the midst of a Spring clean (my hoarding demands it) and with my eyes and mind firmly planted on a tin of pork sausages confit in goose fat in my cupboard, I found myself wander as I cleaned, towards the bag of kale in the fridge.

I love kale, I find it fiercely underrated and viewed as the cheap relation to the swisher (and also delicious but more expensive) cavolo nero. However, I had determined that after the horror of spring cleaning I wanted indulgence. Goose fat preserved sausages seemed more my thing. I went with the kale though, to kill the craving, I was beginning to obsess. The cleaning had demanded freshness and vibrance instead.

Spaghetti is frowned upon by dieters but ponder this: (good) pasta cooked al dente is low GI. When I say good, I mean pasta that is made with great flour that is high in protein, made properly using bronze dies and not teflon so that the pasta has roughness and grip and clings to the sauce.

The best comes from Gragnano in Italy, and I prefer Pastificcio dei Campi. In itself it is an indulgence, but once you start using it, it is hard to turn back, as my last two years of pasta eating testify. It is often assumed that fresh pasta is superior, this is not the case. Great fresh pasta is, but there is poor fresh pasta too (I am looking at you supermarket chillers).

Back to my kale. I am obsessed with crispy kale too, making it at least weekly if not several times each week. I finished this pasta with some crispy kale on top, to add texture and further deliciousness. (Looking for alternatives to the word delicious, please).

Recipe: Spaghetti with Tomato, Calabrian Chilli & Kale

Recipe: Spaghetti with Tomato, Calabrian Chilli & Kale

This is simple, the flavours are strong, fresh and restorative. You can substitute some things, which I have indicated in the recipe e.g. Calabrian chilli is wonderful (and highly recommended) but if you can’t get it, a normal red chilli will do.

RECIPE: Recipe: Spaghetti with Tomato, Calabrian Chilli, Rosemary & Kale

Ingredients

(for two)

200g spaghetti
2 generous handfuls of shredded kale, leaves removed from the stem (most supermarkets sell it like this already)
1 dried Calabrian chilli, finely chopped (or a normal red chilli)
2 cloves smoked garlic (normal garlic will do), peeled and finely chopped
1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 stem fresh rosemary, pines removed from the branch and finely chopped (optional – gives an extra layer of flavour, but not essential)
1 tin good chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp sherry vinegar (cider vinegar will do too)
sea salt to taste
light oil for frying
extra virgin olive oil for crispy kale

Method

Preheat your oven to 180 deg C.

Sauté the red onion over a medium heat in a tbsp of light oil until soft but not brown. About 5 minutes.

Add the garlic, chilli and rosemary for a minute.

Add the tomatoes, sugar and vinegar, bring to the boil, and reduce the heat and allow it to simmer for 10 minutes.

Place one handful of the (washed and dried) kale in a shallow tray in one layer. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Toast until crispy, 8-10 minutes. Leave to the side.

While the sauce is simmering and the kale crisping, cook your spaghetti until al dente, according to packet instructions.

When the pasta is almost done, add the remaining handful of kale to the tomato sauce and cook for a minute or so. Season to taste.

Add the spaghetti to the sauce and toss, ensuring that the pasta is coated with sauce.

Serve immediately with a sprinkling of crispy kale on top.

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Recipe: Quail Eggs Diablo with Chorizo

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Brunch! Quail Eggs Diablo with Chorizo

January demands delicious comfort. More than any other time of the year. It is so grim. All your money is gone, you have just seen all of your friends and now everyone is hiding at home. A spring clean no doubt looms after the Christmas chaos. I hate spring cleaning.

It just sucks, doesn’t it?

So why then, would you deprive yourself of the only nice things available to you? Nice food and drink?

Well that is my theory anyway. January should be a fun month. A month to evade the low grey sky hanging so gloomily over our heads and brighten things up a bit. Red tights with black dresses, yellow umbrellas. Whatever you can do to add a bit of sparkle, just do it.

I have been kick starting my 2013 mornings with firey brunches. Chorizo has been my best friend, and I have been combining it with all sorts of things, always eggs, sometimes braised lettuce, often smoked garlic. This morning I loved my brunch so much, I thought that even though I just have a photo on my phone, I must share it.

Picture the scene. Slothful in the flat in a giant pink dressing gown (think a pink Bear in the Big Blue House, it is a BIG dressing gown). Almost out of coffee but there is just enough. There is chorizo, but I am out of normal eggs. But I have quail eggs.

They will do. In fact this is better as the ratio of yolk to white is higher and I get 4 delicious yolks to dip my chorizo in.

I finely slice a small red onion and fry it gently for maybe 10 minutes, until it starts to crisp. I then add the chorizo, 75g, sliced in half and then sliced small. Slowly cooked for about 5 minutes. 1 tsp of a firey Mexican smoked chilli paste which I have come to use lots, Gran Luchito, is added and stirred through.

The bass notes are sorted so to lift this, I add a sprig of fresh rosemary, pines removed from the branch and finely chopped, and a finely chopped clove of smoked garlic. Then while this is cooking slowly, I gently crack the shells of four quail eggs with a sharp knife, and slide each egg slowly into a ramekin. I don’t want to break those precious yolks.

I stir the chorizo mixture one last time and make a hole in the middle (I use a small frying pan which is best for my brunches for one). Then in with the eggs, and on with the lid. These cooking gently for 2 minutes or so until the white is set and the yolk still fluid.

Handsome and delicious. I loved this spiky colourful brunch.

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Well, hello there 2013! Come on in. Plus the top recipes from 2012.

A joyful 2012 moment, at a chilli farm in NZ. I think this expresses my enthusiasm for 2013 perfectly :)

A joyful 2012 moment, at a chilli farm in NZ. I think this expresses my enthusiasm for 2013 perfectly :)

HELLO 2013! Well, it is lovely to see you. Come right in. Would you like a cup of tea? Some coffee? What about a chocolate truffle. I have just made some.

2012 was exciting, traumatic, generous, and depriving. A whirl of activity, almost too much and everything it should and shouldn’t be. 2012 taught me lots, and I am entering 2013 with a generous and happy heart, full of enthusiasm for life, food, exploring and plans I started scratching in the sand last year.

There will be bacon, there will be products, there will be lots of writing (in several formats), cooking classes and there will be lots of travel. I want to enjoy every minute, sleep a bit more, and wake up eager and not feel like I want to hit myself over the head.

I didn’t do a 2012 round up. I started but found the idea exhausting and thought it better to just wave it goodbye and bound on. Are they even interesting to read anyway? Some are but I wasn’t sure mine would be, devoid of enthusiasm as it was.

I did do a little explore of my statistics to see what recipes you cook the most – judging by the views at any rate. Pork belly is still the king and my vegan squash curry the queen. There will be lots more recipes this year. I am competing with myself to knock those listed below off their idle thrones. Popular as they are, it is time for the new.

So, I am off now. Into London town to explore fabrics and papers. For these all form part of my plans.

Happy 2013 everyone. Lets grab it, eh?

Top Recipes for 2012

  1. Roast Pork Belly, cooked simply
  2. Butternut Squash, Chickpea and Spinach Curry
  3. Prawn Curry (again)
  4. Rich Roast Duck Legs (Chinese Style)
  5. Whiskey Bacon Jam
  6. Winter Warmer: Chicken and Chorizo Pie (Recipe)
  7. Slow Roast Pork Shoulder
  8. Spaghetti Corkese (Spaghetti with Black Pudding & Tomato Sauce)
  9. Chinese New Year: A Recipe For Jiaozi (Beijing Dumplings) and a Wine Match
  10. Slow Roast Pork Belly with Cider & Lentils