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Purple Hasselback Potatoes with Pumpkin, Chorizo, Cheddarm Chilli and Thyme

Hasselback Purple Potatoes with Chorizo, Squash, Green Chilli and Cheddar

I love potatoes. They are just the best thing. I have always been a fan, as a child I had a phase where I would eat nothing else, and I have found a myriad of things to do with them since. I grew up surrounded by potato fields and we would collect the unwanted baby ones to make things with at home. Now of course they are trendy and more expensive than the bigger ones. Life is a funny thing. 

My potato joy expanded when I discovered that there were more types than just the potato that grew in the field behind my house. There were waxy and floury, red skinned and blue fleshed. There are even yellow fleshed potatoes from Peru. Of course all potatoes are from Peru originally, but you know. 

Occasionally I can get my mitts on purple potatoes at my farmers market. They used to be at the supermarket too but I guess maybe I was the only person buying them as they don’t sell them anymore. It is hard to beat a purple potato, both for visuals and flavour. They have wonderful sweet rich flesh (although nowhere near as sweet as a sweet potato, they are still quite savoury too). 

I have made crisps with them before (I love crisps), and served them with a chilli mayo dip. This time I went the hasselback route, cutting the potato into thin long wedges and roasting until crisp. Increasing the surface area this way not only looks superb, but it tastes great too. Especially when you baste them with butter relentlessly. And I did. They also look a lot more complex than they are. They are just potatoes that are not quite sliced through, and carefully. 

Of course you can use normal white potatoes and they will be just as good, but do keep an eye peeled for the purple ones just to try them. They are addictive and I think would be perfect for Halloween too, no? 

Recipe: Hasselback Purple Potatoes with Chorizo, Squash, Green Chilli and Cheddar

Serves 2 (or you know one for now and one for lunch the next day as I did)


4 medium potatoes, skin on, washed
125g butter (yes it is a a lot but the potatoes don’t absorb all of it)
75g chorizo, sliced in half lengthways and then chopped into horizontal slices
1 small pumpkin or squash (not a munchkin though!), deseeded, peeled and diced
1 mild green chilli
a few sprigs of thyme
100g cheddar, finely grated
sea salt
fresh ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 200 deg C.

Prepare your potatoes by slicing them with a sharp knife not quite through to the end every 3mm or so.

Grease a baking tray and place the potatoes in. Divide the butter in 5 and firmly squish one fifth on top of each potato. Leave the remaining to the side. Sprinkle with sea salt and some of the pepper.

Put in the oven for 20 minutes, after which you should baste the potatoes with the melted butter, and continue to do this every 20 minutes. They should be finished after 60 minutes but this will depend on the size of your potatoes. They will be done when nice and crisp on top and soft within (test with your sharp knife gently).

While the potatoes are cooking, in a separate oven proof dish add the remaining butter, chorizo, chilli, pumpkin, thyme and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Mix well and put in the oven once the potatoes have been in a half an hour or so. Take them out after 10 minutes and give them a good stir. These should be cooked (when the pumpkin is tender), once the potatoes are done. If done before the potatoes, remove them and put back in the oven for 5 minutes before serving.

Serve when done with a quarter of the cheese on each and the chorizo and pumpkin mix.



A Postcard from Canada (Alberta -> British Colombia -> Nova Scotia)

Greetings lovely readers! I have just returned from an 18 day trip exploring Canada. It was pretty epic, starting in Alberta (Calgary & Banff), moving to BC (Vancouver & the Okanagan) and finishing in Nova Scotia (Halifax & Cape Breton mainly).

Here is a little postcard – enjoy! Back soon with recipes, stories and details.

I had less than a day in Calgary but I did it justice in the time visiting Pigeonhole, The Nash, Corbeaux Bakehouse, the Yellow Door Bistro and Charcut. I also managed a little spice shopping in the wonder that is the Silk Road Spice Shop. The food scene in Calgary is thriving and has been growing enthusiastically for the last 5 years. As is common now there was lots of local sourcing, cocktails are popular and well executed. Calgary is inland and is famous for beef, but there are interesting takes on fish too. Did you know that there are cowboys in Calgary? Yeah, and one of the worlds largest rodeos! Boutique bitters are a thing, and there are lots of interesting Canadian ones, which make for very interesting drinks. It is definitely somewhere I would like to return to, both to explore the food scene locally but also to explore the Rockies and areas like Jasper, further.

I then headed to Banff to board the Rocky Mountaineer. I am a little obsessed with trains and I love slow travel. This trip has been on my bucket list for a while, from Banff in the Rockies through to Vancouver over 2 days. A luxury experience with great food, how glorious is the carriage with the transparent ceiling? So immersive. It is also pretty hard to beat and old school dining car. The food and wine offering was very well executed, featuring local ingredients cooked well, and local wines and beers. The service was exceptional, and I especially loved standing in the vestibule, an exterior portion of every car where you could soak it all in.

I had a brief stop in Vancouver. I stayed in the Fairmount downtown, and had enough time for a couple of brunches (L’Abbatoir and Café Medina),  dinner (Royal Dinette) and drinks (Salt Tasting Room – all matched with charcuterie & cheese) and an afternoon tea (at the Fairmount where I stayed). Vancouver is a fun spot with lots going on. I definitely need to return and spend more time there.

From Vancouver to the Okanagan, one of Canada’s established wine regions. It surprises many to hear that Canada has a desert, there is also an enormous lake here, 131 licensed wineries, and many more grape growers. I visited the NK’MIP Desert Cultural Centre to learn about the Osoyoos Indian Band, one of the Okanagan First Nations. They also own a winery, NK’MIP Cellars, and produce terrific wines, my favourites their pinot noir and ice wine. We enjoyed them over a hyper local lunch cooked by Okanagan chef Chris Van Hooydonk at Backyard Farm. Justin Hall, a member of the Osoyoos Indian Band and assistant winemaker at NK’MIP Cellars also lunched with us and matched wines to the meal. It was a wonderful experience. I tried lots of wines while in the Okanagan, as with much Canadian wine, little is exported so you just have to dig deep and try as many as you can there. Right?

Following the Okanagan, I journeyed back to Nova Scotia. Canada is enormous, there is a 4 hour time difference between the two coasts and the East and West coasts contrast in many ways. I love Nova Scotia, I have visited twice before to see a friend but had never explored the region properly. This time I got to visit Cape Breton, a large island to the north of Nova Scotia which had lots of Scottish, French and Irish settlers, and the Celtic music and language traditions are very much alive there. I also explore Halifax returning to my favourite Obladee (who are now doing terrific lunches) and Field Guide

With thanks to Destination Canada and also to the Rocky Mountaineer who sponsored my trip.


No Place Like Home with My Recipe for Moutabal & a Competition (In Partnership with British Gas)

This post is a sponsored post in partnership with British Gas who are running a No Place Like Home Competition, where you can win £100 John Lewis gift vouchers, a personal chef to cook for your family worth up to £1000 and lots of other prizes by tweeting @BritishGas describing the one thing that makes your house a home, together with the hashtag #NoPlaceLikeHome.

I love home and I love it more as I get older. When I was younger I didn’t give a fig. I travel so much it is deeply important to me that reconnect and that I feel at home when I am there. I need to maximise and immerse in the time I have, the first few days after a long trip I hardly leave. When jet lagged especially, I don’t always feel like myself (and I am jet lagged as I type this, so I know).

I pine after a home of my own, increasingly in recent years, but for now, like most other Londoners, I rent a place that I need to put my stamp on. My home is centred around my kitchen and my living room. Together, they would fit into my bedroom, they are both tiny, but I love those spaces, to the point that I frequently fall asleep on the sofa because I don’t want to go to bed (yes, I am over 5, but you know!).

The first place I head when I go home is my kitchen, often with a plan that has been fermenting for the previous few hours. On sleepy days, I make something quick and satisfying that will speed me to the sofa to catch up with whatever series I am hooked on at that time. Because that is the kind of thing that I can only do at home. 


One thing that I love to make when I am home and want to relax is my speedy snacks, often midnight feasts when I am working too late or am jet lagged. I love to deep fry pasta, my favourite pasta crack (deep fried dried pasta tossed in parmesan, paprika, sea salt and oregano). I love to make a speedy guacamole or a quesadilla. To pimp some firey instant noodles from Chinatown with a fried egg, spring onions, frozen peas & sweetcorn and chilli oil. Or, to blister an aubergine over a flame on my hob until smoky and tender, and make a dip, usually moutabal. 

Moutabal is a wonderful flavour packed Middle Eastern dip that packs a lot of punch and is relatively speedy. It takes 10 minutes to blister and smoke the aubergine. Allow it to cool in a plastic bag, then peel, and combine with tahini, lemon juice, cumin and garlic. Season, top it with pomegranate seeds and maybe a little bit of parsley, and you are good to go. Then there will be no place like home.

Be sure to let British Gas know on Twitter using the #NoPlaceLikeHome hashtag to win! I bet for most of you, No Place Like Home is in the kitchen, just like me.

For your chance to win £100 John Lewis gift vouchers, a personal chef to cook for your family worth up to £1000 and lots of other prizes , enter the British Gas No Place Like Home Competition, by tweeting @BritishGas describing the one thing that makes your house a home, together with the hashtag #NoPlaceLikeHome. Further details and Ts & Cs on the British Gas Website here. Easy, right?! 

Recipe: Moutabal

Serves enough for 2 snacking – you might want it all for yourself though


1 large aubergine
2 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice (adjust to taste)
Pomegranate seeds of half a pomegranate
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted in a dry frying pan and ground or 1/2 tsp ground cumin (first is better)
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
Good extra virgin olive oil
sea salt

Toasted flat bread or pita to serve


Toast the aubergine over a gas flame using a tongs until the flesh is soft and the skin is burned.
Allow to cool a little in a plastic bag, then peel the skin off and discard the skin.
Mash the flesh with the cumin, garlic and tahini. Add the lemon. Season with salt.
Serve with the pomegranate seeds and a drizzle of olive oil on top. Some parsley works very well too if you like that.
Serve with torn toasted flat bread or pita.


Nopi’s Sweet Potato Pancakes with Date Molasses

Fans of Ottolenghi (and I am one) will be thrilled to discover that there is a new cookbook to explore from Nopi, their central London restaurant. The book has been co-authored by Yotam Ottolenghi and Nopi head chef Ramael Scully. I popped by to have brunch with them and chat about their book before I left to explore Canada a couple of weeks ago.

The first thing you notice when you chat to Ramael is just how enthusiastic he is about cooking. He loves it and has lots of little projects on the go in the Nopi kitchen. I tasted some fermented rice that he was playing with (and that was good, very interesting & complex flavour!), and chatted to him about his culinary influences. The food at Nopi is a little different to the food at their other restaurants, steered by Ramael’s cultural influences which include his Malaysian heritage. He is also clearly inspired by other Asian cuisines, the food and recipes that result are joyful and very interesting.

I cooked the Sweet Potato Pancakes with Date Molasses from the Nopi cookbook at home, with a cheeky substitution of cream cheese for yogurt as that was what my fridge offered up that day. I would recommend it, the sharpness of the cream cheese was wonderful with the date molasses and sweet potato pancakes. I also highly recommend the Black Rice with Coconut Milk, Banana & Mango and the Courgette and Manouri Fritters with Cardamom Yogurt (both of which I have had in Nopi but I have yet to cook at home. 

Date molasses? A syrup that is made from pure date juice, wonderful, unctuous and thick. I am lucky that I can get it locally, but you can buy it online from Ottolenghi too (they deliver worldwide). Or, substitute maple syrup or honey. 

Recipe: Nopi’s Sweet Potato Pancakes with Date Molasses

from NOPI: The Cookbook

Serves 4


2 medium sweet potatoes, unpeeled (about 700g)
200g plain flour, sifted
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp grated nutmeg (do this fresh – it makes a huge difference)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 eggs, yolks and whites separated
150ml full fat milk
50g unsalted butter, melted (plus 80g extra cut into dice for frying)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp runny honey
coarse sea salt

To serve

160g Greek yogurt (or cream cheese if feeling indulgent)
60g date syrup
1 tsp icing sugar, for dusting (optional: I didn’t include this but it is in the original recipe)


Preheat your oven to 240 deg C (220 deg fan oven).

Place the sweet potatoes on a parchment lined baking tray and roast for an hour until completely soft and browned. Remove from the oven, set aside to cool, and peel. Discard the skin and place the flesh in the middle of a clean piece of muslin or j-cloth. Draw up the sides, roll into a ball and squeeze out any liquid that is released from the flesh. The drained weight of the sweet potato should be about 320g. Reduce the oven temperature to 180 deg C (160 deg fan).

Mix together the flour, baking powder, nutmeg and cinnamon in a medium bowl with 1.5 teaspoons of salt. Place the egg yolks, milk, melted butter, vanilla and honey in a separate bowl and whisk well to combine. Fold into the dry ingredients and stir to combine before adding the sweet potato flesh. Whisk well until completely smooth. You can make the pancakes a day in advance up to this stage.

Place the egg whites in a separate bowl and whisk until stiff, this should take 3-4 minutes if whisking by hand or 1-2 minutes if using an electric whisk. Gently fold into the sweet potato mix and set aside.

When ready to serve put 20g of the diced butter into a large frying pan and place on a medium heat. When the butter starts to foam, ladle about a heaped tablespoon of pancake mix into the pan. You should be able to cook 3 pancakes at a time. Cook for 3-4 minutes, turning once half way through once the edges of the pancake are brown and the mixture starts to bubble in the middle. The pancakes are quite soft, so be careful as you turn them over. Transfer to a parchment lined tray and set aside while you continue with the remaining mixture, wiping the pan clean before adding 20g butter with each new batch. You should make 12 pancakes. Transfer to the oven for 5 minutes to warm everything through.

To serve place 3 pancakes in the middle of each plate (or create a ridiculous tower as I did ;) ), and spoon the yogurt (or cream cheese) on top. Drizzle with the date syrup, dust with icing sugar (if using), and serve.


Fabulous Leftovers: Cheesy Spaghetti and Ragu Frittata

So you made a big batch of ragu, and you have leftovers, or you are about to. And you don’t want to eat the same meal every day, several days in a row. People fret about leftover pasta, reheating means it loses its al dente texture, and it might get all flabby. Don’t worry, help is here. Turning leftover pasta into a frittata is a joyful thing to do. 

I first described this idea in recipe form with a papardelle and ragu leftover frittata in Comfort & Spice (my first cookbook) in 2011. Recently, I had a fabulous spaghetti carbonara frittata at Vico in Cambridge Circus (the new outpost from Jacob Kenedy and team in Cambridge Circus). It got me thinking as I stared at my bowl of leftovers yesterday. 

Normally, I would have parmesan with my spaghetti and ragu but I envisioned a cheesy frittata, and I needed something that would melt beautifully and that was also sharp, so I chose cheddar. This is so so simple, and intensely gratifying. The pasta on top becomes lovely and crisp encouraged by its cheesy chaperone. If you have fresh herbs feel free to add them too. 


Recipe: Cheesy Spaghetti and Ragu Frittata

serves one

leftover spaghetti and ragu (or similar) – about 2/3 of a portion per person
2 eggs, beaten lightly
50g grated cheddar cheese
a pinch of sea salt
optional: some chopped tomato, fresh herbs like thyme or basil
light oil for frying

small frying pan / skillet – I used a 20cm / 8 inch frying pan (I recommend a pan this size if you regularly cook for one person)


Add half the cheese and a pinch of salt to the eggs and beat lightly. Add the leftover spaghetti and ragu and stir through. If using tomato or herbs add now too.
You can fry or bake it at this point – I have done both. Frying is quicker but requires a little more attention (if baking bake at 180 deg C for about 10 minutes).
Add a little oil to your frying pan. Add the frittata mix and cook over a medium heat for 4 – 5 minutes.
Cover the top with the rest of the cheese and put it under a hot grill to finish. When the cheese is bubbling and starting to crisp it is ready to eat.

Spaghetti with BLack Garlic and Beef Ragu - Recipe

Spaghetti with Beef and Black Garlic Ragu

There is no point making a little ragu. Proper ragu is about time and patience and a glass of red wine and a book while you wait for it, inhaling those gorgeous smells all the way. So I make a lot, even if I am making it just for myself. I eat it in different ways over the following days, ragu just gets better and better the day after, and the day after that. Have it with pasta, put it in an empanada, or make a terrific frittata with the leftover spaghetti and ragu.

I have written about authentic Italian ragu in the past (Making Tagliatelle with Ragu with Anna – an Emilia Romagna Recipe), authentic in that the recipes that I sourced were all from Italians, and mainly people from Emilia Romagna, the home of Tagliatelle with Ragu. What I learned is that ragu varies, not just regionally (Romagnola ragu is heavy on the tomato, Emilia ragu is heavy on the meat), but from house to house.

Ragu usually starts with a soffrito (celery, carrot and onion). After that the meat varies (usually pork and veal but often beef and sometimes including sausage), some use milk, some use red wine, others use white wine. One person I cooked with used red and white wine, because that is how is father does it (white first and red later), there is always tomato but the amount varies. For seasonings some use bay, most use rosemary. I had a wonderful ragu in a countryside restaurant made with lard and white pepper. One thing that they all agree on is that there is definitely never any garlic and any Italian will fight you about that. But they don’t have black garlic, and if they did, I bet they would stick it in there. Controversial, right? Not when you taste it.

Black garlic is cured garlic from Korea. It isn’t fermented (as kimchi is) but it is cooked gently at a very low temperature over a number of weeks so that it caramelises, resulting in sticky black garlic that is rich, deep, savoury and sweet. It tastes a little like liquorice, a lot like molasses and balsamic vinegar, a little like roast garlic. It is a flavour bomb, and you know how much I love them.


I have never tried to make my own. I thought about it, I do love a bonkers project like this, but everywhere I read that it stinks your flat out, and I didn’t think that even I could cope with that in my small old London apartment. It is easy to buy now, besides. I have bought some in pharmacies in Asia, it is viewed as a health food there, and while I have not seen any scientific evidence, anecdotally it is referred to as a super garlic and is said to boost the immune system and lower cholesterol. They also make a tea with the husks. There are producers in the UK now too, and it is easy to source online (Ottolenghi uses it a lot and black garlic is available from their online shop too). 

Black garlic is terrific with lots of things, but I love it with beef. I make marinades for BBQ steaks with it, and I love sneaking some into a ragu. I say sneaking because nobody actually knows it is there, they just know that they love that deep lovely flavour. 

Give this a try, and come back tomorrow for a lovely recipe for the leftovers, it is worth making this just to make my lovely cheesey spaghetti and ragu frittata. Enjoy!

Note on the recipe: this takes time, give it at least two hours. Ragu tastes of little until it comes together, and then it tastes of everything, all at once. Worth the wait!

Spaghetti with Beef and Black Garlic Ragu

Makes enough for 6 – 8 people but use as much as you need and store the remainders in the fridge for 3 days or in the freezer for a month


1kg minced beef (fat is flavour – don’t go for a lean one)
2 red onions, finely chopped
4 sticks of celery, finely chopped
4 carrots, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
8 cloves black garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp worcester sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 x 400g tins good tomatoes
light oil for frying

1 tbsp fine grated parmesan per person, to finish
fresh basil leaves

100g spaghetti per person
sea salt

large sauté pan or frying pan / skillet that will accommodate the volume


Make your soffrito by gently sweating the carrot, onion and celery in a tablespoon of oil over a gentle heat until starting to soften, about 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and leave to the side.

Add another tablespoon of oil and cook the beef in batches so it isn’t crowded over a medium heat until brown. Return all of the beef and soffrito to the pan and add the black garlic. Stir for a couple of minutes, then add the tomatoes, worcester sauce, soy sauce and bay leaves. Bring just to the boil, reduce the heat to low and cook for at least two hours. Season to taste when done.

When you are happy with your ragu, cook your spaghetti according to packet instructions. Add a ladleful of ragu per portion and mix completely. Top with parmesan, and the fresh basil leaves.

Eat immediately. The ragu keeps very well in the fridge for 3 days or in the freezer for a month.


Chipotle Elotes

Chipotle Esquites (Gorgeous Mexican Corn Salad)

Do you know Magic Corn? Those little stalls that you see in random places? They sell corn mixed with butter (although I think margarine), spices, powdered cheese etc. I must confess to having a little pang every time I walk past it. I know it is utterly processed but it tastes so good. I discovered it in a moment of weakness in a suburban shopping center a few years back. I try not to have any now. My body is a temple, a temple dedicated to indulgence and joie de vivre. I am trying to turn that around just a little bit.  Incidentally, the same goes for haribo, which is my kryptonite. 

So, rather than fail and submit at the Magic Corn stand, I started to play around with corn combinations at home. Corn in butter or oil with spices, different cheeses, lots of different curious dressings. One of my favourites is Esquites from Mexico, where they have 59 different types of indigenous corn and a lot of wonderful corn dishes. Esquites is similar to Elote, where corn on the cob is slathered with mayonnaise (I sometimes prefer creme fraiche for brightness), Mexican cheese (feta works), coriander and lime. It is gorgeous. Esquites is pretty similar but the corn kernels are shucked from the cob. The result is a gorgeous vibrant corn salad, a world away from Magic Corn and with even more satisfaction. 

Note on the recipe: I used dried chipotle, which I suggest you seek out (you can buy from Cool Chile Co online and in some shops and delis, The Spice Shop also sells chipotle online. I love the smoky heat, it is gorgeous with the corn. You can also get tins of chipotle in adobo which you could use too. You can substitute normal chilli, and it will still be good, but the chipotle gives it something special. You can substitute frozen corn if out of season, about 500g. In Mexico cotija cheese is used but I substitute feta as it is more easily available here. 

Chipotle Elotes (Gorgeous Mexican Corn Salad)

Serves 2


3 ears of corn, corn kernels removed (cut the end off, stand the cob vertically, then run a knife down close to the core, releasing the gorgeous kernels – save the cores for stock!)
1 tsp finely chopped dried chipotle
1 tsp dried oregano (I used Italian oregano, which is not the same as Mexican oregano but works very well)
3 cloves garlic (peeled and finely chopped)
3 spring onions, finely sliced (green and white parts)
150g feta cheese (in the US you can easily get cotija cheese, but feta substitutes well in Europe)
2 tbsp mayonnaise
juice of one lime
1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp light oil

sea salt and black pepper to season


Sauté the corn kernels in the butter and oil over a medium heat until tender – about 12 minutes.
Add the garlic, oregano and chipotle and cook for a few minutes further.
Take off the heat and stir through the spring onions, mayonnaise and lime juice. Season to taste. Crumble the feta on top and stir through lightly.
Eats well warm or cold.


Where to Eat Pasta & Pizza in Rome

You have not been to Rome? You must go, make it your next trip away. You have been already? Go again! Rome is constantly evolving and on top of wonderful traditional old school restaurants, there are lots of new and exciting things to explore when you next visit. And it is Rome, the Eternal City, a very special place. There are some cities that I will always try to spend a few days in if I am passing through. Rome is one, one of the first world cities that I visited at a very naive and tender age of 19. I didn’t leave Ireland until I was 18, so it was an exciting time, and I loved it.

Rome was magical for me. I had spent the summer in Nice, and hopped on the train to Florence for a princely sum of about £25, Irish pounds, there was no euro yet. The trains were still quite old school then, little rooms with wooden doorways and glass windows, with six seats in each. There was a lady with a cat in a box opposite me and it all felt so exotic and utterly European, I travelled wide eyed and excited, I mean imagine travelling with a cat, didn’t they just stay at home? (I was VERY naive). I hadn’t told a soul, it was my secret. This was really the awakening of my sense of adventure.

I stopped first in Florence but I found it it too quiet and there were so many old people (did I mention I was 19?) so I headed to Rome. Rome captured my heart swiftly by virtue of its sheer gorgeousness and further via channels of potato pizza, pasta and gelato. I couldn’t quite believe how beautiful was. I felt small, I felt overwhelmed, I felt every inch a part of it.

It was in Rome that I had my first coffee, becoming a daily cappuccino, the start of a fully fledged coffee obsession. I discovered chickpeas, I mean what were these things? In tins, but no tomato sauce? You said they were beans?! My childhood diet had been a very traditional Irish one, and I was experiencing a sensory overload. I stayed in a hostel near Rome’s Termini station and met people from so many different places all over the world. Rome changed the way I thought about food and the world that I live in. It sparked something joyful in me.

I have now been to Rome five times. Each time is different, that is just the way Rome is. There are so many areas, so much to discover and it is evolving and changing all the time.  I do have favourite restaurants that I always try to return to there are always lots of new ones to explore. I have stayed in many different places, Prati a couple of times (near the Vatican), Termini (near the main train station) and the last two times I have stayed in the Aventino, a sleepy residential hill in Rome just next to Testaccio.

Aventino is wonderful. A residential hill peering over the Tiber with Tesctaccio to the side, it is sleepy and calm. There are lots of trees, few people (although there seems to have been a segway tour invasion recently) and a beautiful quiet orange grove overlooking the whole city. I highly recommend it for the sanctity and the calm.  Last year, I sat in that orange grove and watched two young nuns gather pine nuts and eat them while I supped on a little glass of wine (smuggled from my hotel).

Rome is a calorific city but in a glorious way. Don’t even think about calories when you are in Rome, for me. Rome grabs you by the chops and forces you into submission. Romans love cheese, they love guanciale (the best bacon made from the jowl of the pig), they love pasta, which they in turn love to coat with cheese, bacon and egg. Romans love to fry things, they are famous for their fritti. And Romans will cut an enormous slice of Roman pizza for you using a scissors, or better still, a sandwich made from porchetta in pizza bianchi, as big as you want. I always order more than I can eat. I just can’t help it. And then I walk everywhere, at least 10 miles a day. It all balances out.



Yes, Rome does pizza too. In Rome there are two types: pizza al taglio and Roman pizza. Pizza al taglio is made in large rectangular trays and served at Tavola Caldas (places that sell hot food to go or eat in, translating as hot tables). The best of these are Pizzarium or Panifico Bonci, both owned by Gabriele Bonci. The pizzas here are excellent, as are the suppli (Roman croquettes made with pasta and other bits and bobs).  At Panificio Bonci there is also tremendous porchetta which is served in a sandwich of pizza bianchi, an olive oil brushed flat bread and a must in Rome. Head to Antico Forno Roscioli for their pizza bianca which they are deservedly famous for. 

Panificio Bonci

The other pizza to try, is Roman pizza. This  traditionally has a thin crisp base. Try it at trendy Pizzeria Emma, which uses the best of ingredients and delivers a solid product in the heart of Rome. My favourite was at old school rough and ready Pizzeria Remo in Testaccio who serve terrific pizza and fritti.

Pizzeria Emma

Pizzeria Remo


Rome = pasta joy. There are four main pastas of Rome that you have to try: cacio e pepe (pecorino and black pepper), gricia (pecorino, black pepper and guanciale), carbonara (pecorino, black pepper, guanciale and egg) and amatriciana (pecorino, tomato, guanciale, chilli). So that is your list to start, and here is where you have them.

Armando al Pantheon

You must go to Armando al Pantheon, a gem of a restaurant just by the Pantheon. Dodge the selfie sticks and tours and slide into the serene room that is Armando al Pantheon.The carbonara here has wonderful flavour and is golden from the yolks. I am ravenous just thinking about it and I want to go back. Also order the lardo on toast with fried quail egg. I mean, COME ON! You must book in advance. 


The carbonara at Roscioli is a must. Roscioli is a superb restaurant in a deli. Far from undiscovered, there are lots of tourists here but lots of locals too. Again, order the lardo, a lardo selection, I die. Burrata with anchovies (or sun dried tomatoes) is wonderful, and the carbonara is one of the best in town. 

Flavio al Velavevodetto in Testaccio is one of the favourites of lots of local food writers. I liked it a lot. The pasta used is rigatoni which makes a nice change from spaghetti (which no matter how much I eat, I can only love). 

Da Felice a Tesctaccio

Da Felice a Testaccio is properly local. Everyone orders the Cacio e Pepe here, which they combine with speed and vigour and the help of a fork tableside. HELLO. I had a wonderful plate for fritti to start and a pretty lovely tiramisu to finish.

Head to L’Arcangelo in Prati for sublime Gnocchi di Patate alla Amatriciana. Pillow soft with a rich fruity sauce sharp with guanciale. 

Lots more coming soon – I am working on comprehensive food and drink guides for everywhere I have visited, but as you can imagine, it ain’t a small job!  You can always look at my instagram and twitter and search for places I have visited. I always put the places I loved there. 


Nine Minute One Pan Linguine with Tomatoes, Chilli and Basil

The 9 Minute One Pot Pasta Dish from Puglia that is Taking the Internet by Storm

Yeah, that is right, the 9 minute one pot pasta dish from Puglia that is taking the internet by storm. It surely can’t be good, can it? I mean, really?

I gave it a try and I was pleasantly surprised. I will make it again, and again. I am obsessed with pasta and all the good carbohydrate things (hello potato!), but I like to do things properly, and well. This doesn’t mean that they need to take a long time. I love geekery and tricks, I love surprising new ways of doing things. I like to cook something really good in just a few minutes (my first book has a chapter on Speedy Suppers which are a regular feature of my week). 

It is easy to be suspicious of simplicity, but I think we are all agreed that simple good things, taste really, well, good. My curiosity around this pasta dish was based mainly in the fact that nothing was sautéed first. Wouldn’t that affect the flavour? Most dishes require a little bit of sauté, whether that for pasta is simply starting with a speedy hot oil bath for garlic or pancetta to release their joy and goodness.

It was in Asia that I first realised that this is not essential for flavour. I have cooked with home cooks and restaurant chefs there who don’t sauté a thing, not even the meat, and the finished dishes don’t miss a thing. What about the lack of sauté here? Well, you don’t get any browning and the garlic slices leave a pungent (and gorgeous) taste, but when this dish is finished, you top it all off with some glorious extra virgin olive oil and parmesan. When you use good tomatoes, the flavour is so round, you don’t miss a thing. 

Cooking pasta by absorption, another great pasta trick and one that is similar to what is used here, is a superb way of cooking pasta. In Italy this is called pasta risottata (cooking pasta like risotto), and it simply means that in the same length of cooking time and with a little more care, you can create a perfectly textured pasta dish by adding hot water a little at a time and letting the pasta absorb it. The flour that coats the surface of the pasta remains in the sauce instead of in the water in the pot that you throw away. For this, you need very good pasta for it to work well. 

The advantages of this dish? Speed, flavour, and it really delivers. But you must use good pasta, you must pay attention and stir it regularly, and ensure you finish just as the pasta is al dente and no later. Like all simple dishes, the quality of your ingredients will determine the end results, so best tomatoes and best everything else. I always have a stash of great pasta in my pantry, it is a worthwhile investment, and there is no going back once you start using it. Hit your local Italian deli and ask their advice, or seek out Rustichella d’Abruzzo* (which you can buy from Odysea in the UK) or Pastificio dei Campi (which you can buy online from Food in the City). Both cost a little more but are worth every penny.

*I visited Puglia with Rustichella d’Abruzzo recently but this did only served to reinforce my faith in their product. I highly recommend it. They have lots of gluten free pastas too but more on that soon. 

Nine Minute One Pan Linguine with Tomatoes, Chilli and Basil

Based on the original Martha Stewart One Pan Pasta recipe, as told to Nora Singley in Puglia. The story of which is detailed nicely here on Food52 (along with 7 further recipes).

Nine Minute One Pan Linguine with Tomatoes, Chilli and Basil

Nine Minute One Pan Linguine with Tomatoes, Chilli and Basil

Adapted to serve 2 people (generously) and with metric measurements, I didn’t include onion in mine


200g linguine
200g cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered if large or a diced peeled great tomato
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
a pinch of chilli flakes (to taste)
2 sprigs basil, plus torn leaves for garnish
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
500ml water (you may need to top it up a little – I didn’t – have some water boiled just in case)
freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

a large pan that will fit the linguine horizontally, I used my sauté pan


Combine the dried pasta, tomatoes, garlic, chilli flakes, basil, oil, 1 teaspoon salt, a pinch of pepper and the water in a large shallow pan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil the mixture, stirring and turning pasta frequently with tongs, until the pasta is al dente and water has nearly evaporated, about 9 minutes. But keep an eye on it.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, divide among 2 bowls, and garnish with fresh torn basil. Serve with a drizzle of oil and Parmesan.


Paradise Garage – New Kid on the Eastern Block from The Dairy

A quick one for you today! Another London restaurant for your lists, I think this is an essential. Chef Robin Gill of The Dairy, The Manor and The Delicatessen seems to have the midas touch or is that the lardo touch, right now? I say with that with great respect and affection, lardo is one of the most delicious things on the planet, and Robin has the good sense to wrap some around a gorgeous egg.

With head chef Simon Woodrow and Robin’s wife Sarah, Robin has created one of my favourite new openings this year, Paradise Garage, in the railway arches near Bethnal Green tube station. They have delivered a menu that is as exciting as it is comforting. I went for lunch recently and it was one of my best lunches this year. So, I just had to let you know.

Venison tartare, preserved egg yolk & watercress

Venison tartare, preserved egg yolk & watercress

Venison tartare, preserved egg yolk & watercress – a lively and gorgeous dish to start my meal. On top was grated preserved egg yolk, tasting a little like bottarga.

Tilley's farm egg, charred grelot onions, spinach & lardo

Tilley’s farm egg, charred grelot onions, spinach & lardo

Tilley’s farm egg, charred grelot onions, spinach & lardo – I thought that I had crossed a line when I started covering my breakfast eggs in lardo, I was thrilled and relieved to find Paradise Garage were doing the same. This was a terrific dish, the spinach purée underneath a perfect rumbling contrast to the bright egg.

Lady Hamilton's pollock, Norfolk Peer potatoes, seaweed, pied de mouton

Lady Hamilton’s pollock, Norfolk Peer potatoes, seaweed, pied de mouton

Lady Hamilton’s pollock, Norfolk Peer potatoes, seaweed, pied de mouton – a very elegant dish, the pollock was covered in a layer of brown butter gorgeousness.


Iberico Presa, pig head, coco beans, anchovy & lettuce

Iberico Presa, pig head, coco beans, anchovy & lettuce

Iberico Presa, pig head, coco beans, anchovy & lettuce – don’t be nervous to read pigs head, the pressed pigs head in this dish is one of the tastiest things that I have eaten this year. This dish brings pork and beans to the next level, seasoned with anchovies and lifted with some lightly fermented lettuce. 

Apricot tart, milk ice cream & lemon thyme

Apricot tart, milk ice cream & lemon thyme

Apricot tart, milk ice cream & lemon thyme  – I often skip dessert, I am much more of a salty individual, but Kira Ghidoni is a woman of rare talent and produces the most amazing desserts at The Manor and now Paradise Garage too. This apricot tart was nectar sweet and soothed with a milk ice cream. Joyful.

Prices are fair, and the drinks list is interesting. I went at lunch time and had 5 dishes and a couple of glasses of wine and my bill was not far over £50 (I have mislaid my receipt!). For the calibre of the food here, this is terrific value. There is also a £45 tasting menu which I will be returning for.

If all of this was not enough, Robin was awarded Chef of the Year earlier this year by the Good Food Guide.

Ps you could do a lot worse than start with an aperitif at gorgeous Mission E2, a Californian wine bar a few doors down from the folks behind gorgeous Sager & Wilde.


Paradise Garage
254 Paradise Row, London
020 76131502

Whipped Feta with Roast Tomatoes, Oregano & Mint

Whipped Feta with Roast Tomatoes, Oregano & Mint

Yes, feta dip. All your problems solved. Salty and sweet. The perfect weekend indulgence for when the weather is just being a pain outside. Crackers, feta dip, juicy pop-sweet tomatoes. Are you ready?

This is so very easy. All it is is a little single cream (or heavy cream if you are stateside), some cream cheese, and then the bulk of it is feta, proper feta from Greece. None of that fetta or anything that looks like feta but isn’t. Real feta is protected and nothing else can be called feta, that is f-e-t-a.

Feta is made from sheep’s milk, or sheep and goat’s. Never with cows. If there is cow milk in there, it is not the real deal. You want real feta for the sweetness and richness of the sheep’s milk which is brilliant with the salty brine. I thought I didn’t like feta until I went to Greece when I was a student, all I had had before then was the weird inferior stuff with the odd taste.

You can of course just shovel whipped feta into your carcass but it is a little better and nicer with gorgeous lightly roasted tomatoes. Staying Greek, I roasted them with oregano, a small pinch of salt (the feta is salty enough) and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Some crackers as a delivery vehicle work perfectly, as does toast. Anything really, but try to get something that isn’t flavoured or salty if you can. There is enough salt and flavour here and you want to focus on that.

Whipped feta with roast tomatoes, oregano and mint

Whipped feta with roast tomatoes, oregano and mint

Recipe: Whipped Feta with Roast Tomatoes, Oregano & Mint


200g feta
75g cream cheese
50ml single cream (heavy cream)
a handful of gorgeous small tomatoes
1 tsp good dried oregano
1 tsp fresh mint
extra virgin olive oil
freshly cracked black pepper

crackers or similar to serve with


Preheat your oven to 18 deg C. Put the tomatoes, oregano and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil in an oven proof tray. Roast for about 10 minutes until just squishy.

While the tomatoes are roasting prepare your dip. Whip the cream first, then combine the feta and cream cheese separately in a blender, then fold the cream in with a spoon.

Serve with the tomatoes on top and a little fresh mint and black pepper.



An Ode to Lardo, and a Recipe for Spatchcock Lardo Roast Poussin

I have this thing with lardo. I want to help you embrace it. It is so misunderstood. All of this clean eating lark, well it is a bit depressing, isn’t it? All of that unnecessary deprivation, where is the joy? I am not suggesting you go out and eat fried chicken for a living (although certainly you must eat good fried chicken once in a while), what I am saying is, it is important that we just enjoy eating, eat what we like, and what our body needs and enjoys. Throw off all the anxiety related to it, eat well if you can (many can’t), and take pleasure in it. If we don’t eat well we suffer, we become ill, we can become neurotic when we obsess about the details. Walk a little bit to balance it out, dance occasionally. Life is good, right? 

I try to embrace a balanced diet, and eat a little meat, I try not to eat a lot of it. I love vegetables. I adore fruit, I love salads, I love lightness. I adore fish, and avocados. I try everything and build a naughty list of stuff that I won’t try again. Before avocado toast was trendy, people considered it too high fat to have regularly at home. I always did because it is delicious, and it is healthy. Those fats are good for your brain, and for your soul. I love lardo too. Lardo? It is pure cured aged pork fat that you eat by the slice. Bear with me. 

There is always some confusion about lardo because people confuse it with lard. (Pork) lard in Italy is called strutto, and it is used for many things including piadina, those lovely Emilia Romagna flatbreads (which I have a recipe for, and which I will share later on). Lardo is charcuterie, or more accurately salumi (which is different to salami). Salumi is an umbrella term for Italian cured meat products, predominantly but not exclusively made of pork. It gets more confusing when you see that you can buy lardo in a jar that is spreadable, or when you come across pesto Modenese (a lardo based pesto made with lardo, rosemary and garlic). These are made with lardo, but look like lard. It doesn’t help that almost everyone translates lardo as lard. It just isn’t the same thing. 

Lardo is the jewel in the salumi crown for me. The cured back fat of a pig, a pure white block of cured slippery gorgeous fat, flecked with herbs  and very occasionally striped pink with a little meat. It is usually served sliced so fine that the minute it hits your tongue, it succumbs and releases its gorgeousness, it lasts just a minute, it is divine.  Lardo has incredible flavour and texture and there are many regional variations to explore.  

If you already know lardo, it is likely that you know or have tried lardo di Colonnata, a Tuscan lardo that has been made since Roman times in the hamlet of Colonnata in the Apuan Alps. Lardo di Colonnata has an IGP just as parmesan does (Protected Geographical Indication – it can’t be made anywhere else in Europe and called this, by law). Carrara marble is also mined here, and lardo di Colonnata has been traditionally cured with salt and fresh herbs in large carrara marble boxes over a period of months. I really need to visit. This is no ordinary pig fat, and it demands our respect and attention. 

Lardo selection appetiser at Roscioli in Rome

Lardo selection appetiser at Roscioli in Rome

There are many more types of lardo, and one of the joys of Italy is that you can order things like a lardo selection as an appetiser (pictured above in Roscioli in Rome last year). It is also relatively inexpensive, and once you vac pac it, it is absolutely fine to take home (within the EU anyway). I brought four types of lardo home from my last trip. Pre sliced, as you need it really thin to appreciate it as it is. Unless of course you intend it as an ingredient for pesto Modenese or similar, then you can just chop it. I love lardo so much, I am contemplating investing in a small meat slicer so that I can slice it finely at home.


Lardo egg – dream breakfast

It has been a fun week at home of lardo play and indulgence. Lardo is wonderful on toast, yielding slightly on it, but still standing strong. Lardo makes the most perfect soldiers for your dippy boiled egg when draped over sourdough toast and cut accordingly. I have covered my breakfast egg (mainly the yolk) with fine slices of lardo and allowed it to gently protect it as it cooks. This is bacon(ish) meets egg in a delicate and intrinsic fashion. The lardo shelters the egg and then becomes part of it. For me, this dish is an expression of love.

You can do almost anything with lardo. Lardo is divine when allowed to melt into a steak as you finish cooking it, just on top, just as it finishes. Better still on the BBQ. I made lardo chicken wings recently which were as good as you are now imagining, I also covered a spatchcock chicken in lardo and allowed it to roast tenderly. For a speedy evening meal for one, spatchcock a poussin, season it and cover it with a lardo blanket before roasting it with some bright veg on the side. It will be done and on your plate in 45 minutes. One of the best things about poussin is the ratio of skin to flesh is perfect. Lots of crispy skin. 

Spatchcock lardo roast poussin

Spatchcock lardo roast poussin

Go on. Do it. And enjoy! 

Buying lardo: any good Italian deli will have it, and you can source it easily online. The Ham & Cheese Co in Bermondsey Spa Market have a particularly good one.

Recipe:  Spatchcock Lardo Roast Poussin


per person

1 poussin
enough finely sliced lardo (of your choice) to cover it – I used 6 slices
a little sweet hot chilli flakes (like Calabrian chilli, pasilla chilli or Turkish pul biber)
fresh rosemary, the needles from one sprig, chopped really fine
black pepper

veg of your choice – I used baby courgettes, tomatoes and peas
sea salt


Preheat the oven to 200 deg C.

Spatchcock your poussin (or have your butcher do it) by cutting out the breast bone using a sharp knife or poultry scissors. This is the bone in the centre of the two breasts (I know, obviously but just in case!). Press it flat with your hand and put it in an oiled ovenproof tray that will accommodate it.

Sprinkle a little chilli and the rosemary on the poussin. There is no need to salt it as the lardo is quite salty already. Cover the poussin with a layer of lardo and put it in the oven to roast. It will take 35 – 40 minutes. It will be done when the juices run clear, as with a chicken. Baste it every ten minutes or so and keep adding that lardo flavour to the poussin.

After about 25 minutes add the veg and spoon the fat over them. You can roast them separately in olive oil if you prefer.

When the poussin is done let it rest for 5 minutes. Serve on top of the veg with a very light sprinkle of salt, it won’t need much. How good is that crispy lardo? I can still taste it.



Walking Piedmont: From Barolo to Monforte d’Alba (& Where to Eat)

I left Barolo full of the joys of Spring, or was that the intense heat of summer? The first half of my walk was joyful, through the upper terraces of the Barolo vineyards, passing gardens rich with vegetable bounty, courgette flowers, plums, so many tomatoes. The occasional yappy dog, they do love them in Italy. I knew I was tired when I was overtaken by an elderly man walking two tiny dogs as I approached Monforte d’Alba, yet another of Piedmonts beautiful hilltop towns. I was in no rush, I smiled, attempted to communicate in Italian, and carried on. 

My arrival was less glamorous. The Hotel Villa Beccaris, a beautiful four star property at the top of the hill was beautiful, relaxed and had the most glorious views. But after a long walk in the sun, the hill was a challenge. It surprised me that it ended with a sprint, one of those yappy dogs fled his old lady owner in pursuit of me when he decided that my ankles were much more appealing. Speckled with mosquito bites, sprayed with deet, and covered with sunscreen, who could disagree? She yelled at him, I shrieked and ran. And there I was in Monforte d’Alba. 

The evenings are lovely there, in July still warm and scented with jasmine. Monforte d’Alba is lively, there is lots of music, particularly Jazz throughout the summer. One of my evenings there on my walk home uphill, I was enticed enough to descend again by the sounds of live jazz on the soft summer breeze. I followed it, winding down and around the narrow streets and up some steps where I met a crowd watching a jazz band playing on an open piazza. 

I had two nights in Monforte d’Alba, one of my non walking days (although plenty of options are offered for those that want to keep going). I focussed instead on the food. 

Lunch at Trattoria della Posta

I only realised after eating at Trattoria della Posta that it was featured on The Trip to Italy last year. In a country house a few kilometres outside of Monforte d’Alba, the first thing I noticed was the beautiful large country kitchen which you can see from the reception desk. I sat outside in the hint of a breeze and chose between primi and secondi – I know, but truly, I can’t do a crazy large lunch and a large dinner too, this much I have learned.

There was a very enticing rabbit roasted in lardo on the menu but the pasta was too good: I ravioli verdi di caprino con salsiccia di Bra e porri – green ravioli filled with a fresh goats cheese with cooked Bra sausage on top. It was gorgeous, the pasta so thin and delicate, the cheese bright and so fresh and the sausage a beautiful crumbly contrast. I also had a very pleasant vegetable soup, why I ordered hot soup on such a hot day, I will never know. I will be back for the rabbit some day. 

Dinner at Il Giardino da Felicin

Il Giardino da Felicin is bubbling. A restaurant set in a garden, also a hotel, the terrace was packed and very lively the evening that I ate there. The food is based on tradition but is not conventional. I had a beautiful handmade pasta, but I also had a salad which is a twist on fried chicken (it is tasty and fun). The details are impressive, tiny herbs picked fresh from the kitchen garden garnish the dishes, and the flavours are bright, the tomatoes in particular were divine. There is an impressive cellar for wine lovers wishing to explore the region with dinner.   

Dinner at Osteria dei Catari

The night I arrived in Monforte d’Alba, I was taken by the sight of this little alley, painted in bright colours with a cat at the top of it. I was still making my way to the hotel, but I made sure I found out what was down there, and it was Osteria dei Catari, one of the restaurants at which I had planned to eat at. Another open courtyard restaurant (you can eat inside in the winter as with da Felicin), Monfortina ham with summer truffle was gorgeous, the colour seductive and the flavour intense, almost like a bresaola. For primi I had buckwheat maltagliati (misshapen pasta) with bra sausage and fresh tomato. They really care about the sourcing here, sourcing mainly from local small farms, and you can taste it. 

Breakfast at Hotel Villa Beccaris

The breakfast at Hotel Villa Beccaris is buffet style, as with most Italian restaurants. There are eggs you can boil to your liking, pastries, beautiful jam tarts and juices. But what is most impressive is the incredible glass room in which it is served. It is like a Victorian greenhouse. I loved my mornings there. 

My Gastronomic Walking Tour of Barolo was sponsored as part of a #30activedays project, a partnership between Captivate Digital Media and Headwater Holidays to celebrate 30 years of  activity holidays by Headwater Holidays, including Gastronomic Walking and Cycling TripsI maintain full editorial control of the content published on this site, as always.


The New Sunday Roast at Bob Bob Ricard

It would be improper of me not to let you know about the new Sunday Roast at Bob Bob Ricard in London. Or to mention Bob Bob Ricard at all, it has been a while. Bob Bob Ricard is a most under rated restaurant. It doesn’t care about trends, the food is classic, and it is very well executed. It is refreshing and it is fun. Even though Bob Bob Ricard is in the heart of Soho, it feels like it could be a grand restaurant from 100 years ago or a very large carriage of a luxury train. When I have visitors in town, we often go.


It is famous for being the home of the famous Press for Champagne button. I always allow myself to press it at least once. When you do, your table number lights up above the bar, and a glass of house champagne is delivered to you. Another essential drink for every visit is the rhubarb G&T, bright pink, intensely flavoured and textured with egg white. The cocktails generally are very good.


The menu is part Russian, and I always order some Russian dishes. Baked Oysters Brezhnev were like a parmesan truffle soufflé with a delicate oyster underneath.


For starters, I had the beef tea soup, a crystal clear gorgeous broth with Siberian pelmeni, traditional beef and lamb dumplings. Others at the table had lobster, crab and shrimp pelmeni; seabass ceviche with avocado and truffled potato and mushroom vareniki (also traditional dumplings served with crispy onion and shimeji mushrooms).

Then the main event, the Sunday Roast arrived. Preceded by plates with perfect Yorkshire puddings, slow roast potatoes, carrots and parsnips roasted in beef dripping with honey and thyme, horseradish cream and truffle gravy, the USDA prime black angus was delivered perfectly pink. The beef was a roast rump cap, a cut that I love for the rich beautiful flavour that it has. We don’t see enough of it here, but is is hugely popular in Brazil, where it is called picanha. We also had bright sweet creamed corn and buttered greens. To drink, we had Crimson Pinot Noir from Ata Rangi in New Zealand. I would normally go for something fuller, but at lunchtime, something light seemed more in keeping, and I do love a good pinot noir, particularly from New Zealand.

I opted for a simple dessert of a trio of sorbets (lime, lemon and pink grapefruit) served with platinum vodka. Bob Bob Ricard specialise in vodka too, so I felt it important to have a tipple. The signature chocolate glory is a must for chocaholics, and there was one at my table. It is a chocolate jivara mousse, chocolate brownie, berries and passionfruit and orange jelly served as a perfect gold ball on which warm chocolate sauce is poured, which collapses it. Very dramatic, and tasty too.

I loved it. Bob Bob Ricard is a place you go because you love to eat, and you want to be a little decadent. I am planning to go back very soon. 

I attended a press preview of the Bob Bob Ricard Sunday Roast. The Sunday Roast is available at Sunday lunch time, a 16 oz portion of USDA prime black angus with all of the trimmings costs £29.50. Opinions, photos and words are all my own as always. Of course!

Breakfast Eggs with a Lively Black Bean Chilli Sauce

Breakfast Eggs with a Lively Black Bean Chilli Sauce (Trust Me)

You might think that I have lost the plot here. It isn’t the most attractive of recipe titles but, trust me, this new recipe of mine for boiled eggs with a lively black bean chilli sauce is GOOD. And it is simple and speedy too. I mean, we all love black bean sauce, right?

Fermented black beans, also called salted black beans or preserved black beans, are a Chinese staple. You can get them in most Chinese food shops, often with ginger. They are really inexpensive plus a little goes a very long way. I recommend that you all get some for your cupboard, you will find them indispensable on days when you want something speedy with a flavour punch. The work has all been done in advance for you with the fermentation of the beans.

These are superb in a speedy sauce with pork, they are excellent with clams and thin strips of pork belly too. I have used them with beef in a speedy Asian ragu that I had with rice noodles (fusion much?). These little black beans are super versatile. Treat yourself to some (they won’t cost you more than £2) and play around. They are easy to source online too if you don’t have a Chinese shop nearby.

Start here! Enjoy.

Recipe: Breakfast Eggs with a Lively Black Bean Chilli Sauce (Trust Me)

per person – although you might want 2 eggs, I did! So maybe double up :)


3 tbsp black beans
2 spring onions, chopped finely (white and green parts)
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp mild flaked chilli or one fresh mild chilli deseeded and finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh coriander leaves
light oil like groundnut oil
1 gorgeous egg


Soak the black beans in enough water to cover them for a few minutes, then drain. Heat a tablespoon of oil over a medium heat. Add the garlic, spring onions and chilli if using a fresh chilli. After a couple of minutes add the chilli if using dried chilli, and allow to cook over a gentle heat for about 5 minutes.

In this time boil your eggs until just done. For me, and the eggs I like to use (Old Cotswold Legbars that are usually large but sometimes more medium), I add them to boiling water and take them out after 6 or 7 minutes. A trick I learned when I was a kid is that your eggs are boiled when the water evaporates off the shell immediately when you take them out of the water. Peel and quarter.

Stir the coriander leaves through the black beans, saving some for a garnish. Spread a little of the black bean mixture on the plate – those eggs can be slippy! – then place the eggs on top. Place the remaining black bean sauce on the eggs, gently with a spoon. Garnish with the remaining coriander leaves.

You will notice I don’t salt them, the beans season the dish plenty. But yours might be different, so taste first and then decide.


Barolo - the most gorgeous of Piedmont towns

A Gorgeous Day in Barolo, Piedmont (and Where to Eat)

Barolo is an aspiration, in every way. I want to drink the wine, all the time. The Barolo, the Arneis, the Barbera and the Chardonnay. I had wanted to visit there for a while, who wouldn’t want to go to the epicentre of Barolo production, home to truffles in summer & winter, the food must be good too, right? 

Getting to Barolo (when already there) is a mission, when on foot, at least. I could not believe my eyes when faced with a sneaky hill seemingly hidden behind of and leading into this pretty town. I was in denial at this point, you see.

But, it was worth it.

I spent the bulk of my day there, choosing to walk early in the morning to Barolo from the top of that hill where Castiglione Falletto is perched. That hill. That vicious one. It was a gorgeous walk, through vineyards, by a stream, under boughs of elder tress laden with enthusiastic overarching elderberries. It seemed as though they were playing in the sun. It was hot, and so I paused by a fountain and in a moment of sweet release, poured a bottle of water over my head. Finally a use for long thick hair in that heatwave, soak it and let it cool you down. 

It was hot, I walked from tree to tree, stopping for some shade each time, up the hill to the arch through which you walk (or drive), to reach Barolo. One of the nicest towns in Piedmont (and they are all pretty gorgeous) Barolo is well set up to cater for tourists, there are wine tastings everywhere, lots of shops selling local food and wine, a wine museum and a corkscrew museum, and plenty of places to eat. Yet, it doesn’t feel in any way tatty, as some tourist towns can be. It is elegant, and refined, and in general tastes really good. I had planned two lunches, an early and a late one, just you know, so we know where is best to go? I did this for you, and for me. Oh yeah, I did, really, you know I did. Don’t look at me like that.

I started with Barolo & Friends, a trendy modern affair, and the first place I spotted when I turned into Barolo after that wretch of a hill. A glass of Barolo to start, some very good veal crudo (a veal tartare essentially), with summer truffle on top, a whisper of what is to come with the white truffles in the Autumn. Then some pasta, some plin ravioli filled with three kinds of meat, very good too. The good thing about Barolo & Friends is that it is open all day, which is rare in this part of the world. It can be difficult to eat outside of meal times in Italy.

As charming as it is, I would suggest that if you are in Barolo for just one meal head up the road a little to the wonderful Rosso Barolo. I am so glad I decided to have a late lunch here, just at the end of service. I loved everything about it, the room, the service, the lovely wines by the glass and the food. It was my perfect kind of lunch, I just had my book for company, and all the time I needed to enjoy it all.

I started with vietello tonnato, sliced veal with tuna mayonnaise, particular to the region. I think this is the best version of that dish that I have ever had. I struggled to finish the large portion, and at one point raised my eyes from my book to see that the lady of the house had her eyes level with my unfinished dish, at which point she looked directly at me, intensely, she tutted, in a slightly stern but funny way, and then she walked away. I finished it. For primi, I had a wonderful tajarin with fresh summer truffles, tajarin is a local fine pasta noodle, and it was handmade, of course. And that was all I could eat. 

I proceeded back down the street and sat on a bench in the shade next to two local ladies gossiping intently about everyone who walked past, saying hello and then passing comment as soon as they were gone. I allowed the sun to go down a little, and then I proceeded on my walk from Barolo to Monfort d’Alba. This was my my favourite walk of the week through the vineyard terraces out of and above Barolo, affording the most gorgeous views of that prettiest of Piedmont towns.

My Gastronomic Walking Tour of Barolo was sponsored as part of a #30activedays project, a partnership between Captivate Digital Media and Headwater Holidays to celebrate 30 years of  activity holidays by Headwater Holidays, including Gastronomic Walking and Cycling TripsI maintain full editorial control of the content published on this site, as always.


Linguine Vongole with Guanciale, Tomato & Chilli

This post is about vongole (clams) but we must first talk about guanciale, the magical bacon that is cured from the jowl of the pig. It has a flavour that is different to all others. It is bacon, sure, but it has a volume to it, a roundness that consumes you when you eat it. It is big, it is present, and it is one of the best things that you can eat. It is traditionally Italian, and can be tricky to find here, I think because in the main we are so nervous about fat, which is ridiculous as fat is flavour, and we are built to digest it. Partially, it may be because it was traditional to eat the whole of the pigs head here, and maybe not cure it. Guanciale is perfection, eat it, just don’t have it every day.

Clams are perfect with pasta and so good with pork. There is something about the subtle brine and flavour of the sea released from each shell, the slick saline sauce that coats the pasta and compliments the sweet pork meat. The pop that is each small clam as you retrieve it as you eat. 

I have made many versions of vongole (Italian for clams) with linguine or spaghetti over the years. This time I had a gorgeous plump sweet Roman tomato, so I put that in. Peeled and deseeded, which is so worth the effort, so that you just get the purity and intensity of the tomato flesh. And who wants to pull tomato skin out from between their teeth? Chilli, because I love it, and it is a perfect flavour enhancer plus it gives a vibrance to the dish. Guanciale is perfection wherever it sits, and it is brilliant here. Peter Hannon makes a terrific guanciale which is stocked at Fortnum & Mason in London, and any decent Italian deli will have it too. If you can’t get guanciale, I would suggest looking online for it, or substitute with pancetta or streaky bacon.

Recipe: Linguine Vongole with Guanciale, Tomato & Chilli

takes 30 minutes
per person


350g fresh vongole / clams
100g linguine
1 gorgeous fresh tomato, peeled and deseeded (peel by cutting a cross in the base & covering with boiling water for 30 seconds, drain and peel skin)
1 mild chilli or some fruity dried chilli, deseeded and chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
50g guanciale, chopped into 1 cm dice
a handful of chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
sea salt
a little fresh cracked black pepper


Soak the clams in water for as long as you have, up to an hour, although just 10 minutes will be ok too. Just to remove any sand that might be still in them. Then drain, discard any that are open and won’t close when you tap them (these are dead) and leave the remaining to the side.
Sauté the guanciale in its own fat for a few minutes over a medium heat, stirring as you do. Add the garlic and chilli and fry for a minute, then add the tomato.
Cook your linguine in salted water until al dente. When there is just a few minutes to go, add a ladle of the pasta water to the tomato and guanciale mix, then add the clams. Cover with a lid for a couple of minutes or until the clams open.
When the pasta has a minute or two to go, drain it and add the pasta to the clams. Stir through ensuring the linguine is well coated in the sauce.
Add the parsley, stir through, check the seasoning and add salt if necessary (with the guanciale and clams you may not need to), and finish with a little black pepper.


Sponsored: Uncovering the Best & Most Surprising Food As We Travel (In Partnership With Travelex)

This post is sponsored by leading foreign exchange provider Travelex, whose research revealed that over half of Brits now choose their holiday destination based on what food they’ll eat. Since then they’ve been eavesdropping across Twitter to uncover the hottest food trends around the world.

The world is a peculiar place, there is no doubt about that. People travel to London to find the best British food, while us Londoners obsess with ramen, udon, and gourmet hot dogs. Go to Bubbledogs, we roar, and eat fantastic and quirky hot dogs, wash them down with grower champagne! Don’t neglect Koya! Do you fancy some Peruvian food while you are here? Let’s swing by Lima! And when in Lima, the city in Peru, not the London restaurant, you must eat Japanese food. It is excellent there due to the wave of Japanese immigration in the 20th century. 

Noodles and quail at Koya Bar in London

The report by the travel money provider also delved into social media to check out where in the world people were getting excited about different food, revealing Londoners to be a little obsessed with gelato and we do it really well. I eat more in London than I do when I visit Rome. Where? Where? Gelupo is London’s essential gelato stop for blood orange granita or bergamot sorbet. Seasonal, fresh and flavourful, you can taste before you decide too. It is also home to London’s best affogato (ice cold gelato with hot espresso) and ice cream cakes too. We all need at least one point in our lives where a good ice cream cake at the centre of it. I had my first for my first birthday, and it is one of my first memories too. Long live the Arctic Roll too! A swiss roll sponge with jam and ice cream within. (Although, I don’t think Gelupo do one of these, but they should!). 

Rose granita at Gelupo in London

Who knew that in New York, curry is your friend? According to the Travelex social media analysis, NYC tops the list for most buzz around the dish. London always had the curry crown but we now have competition. Brick Lane Curry House, named after our own East London restaurant strip specialises in Phal, a habanero curry. Tamarind Tribeca is renowned for their take on Britain’s Chicken Tikka Masala, a dish that originated in the UK, not India at all. NYC also does wonderful food markets. Smorgasburg, a Brooklyn flea food market, is home to Asia Dog, which serves an Ito dog with Japanese curry and homemade kimchi apples. The Bombay Sandwich Co serves a chana masala sandwich, slow cooked spiced chickpeas topped with mixed greens, pickled onions and homemade date chutney on a tasca ciabatta roll. With so many dining options, it’s no wonder the average person spends £250 on food alone whilst away.

Smorgasburg and Asia Dog in New York

The figures also show Toronto is obsessed with Japanese sushi, and has its own twist on that. They even had a Toronto Sushi Festival this year which was so popular, they had to change to a bigger venue to accommodate Torontonian sushi fans. Nami, in downtown Toronto, is like a slice of Kyoto, and is famous for its spider roll. Purists should splurge on Omakase at Sushi Kaji, and don’t neglect the spicy tuna rolls. Ja Bistro does a seven piece sushi platter, but the blow torched sushi is the thing here. Reviewers claim “it is as close to raw fish heaven as you’re going to get”. That sounds pretty good to me. While in Canada, I must mention Richmond in Vancouver which has some of the best dim sum outside of Hong Kong and three massive Asian shopping malls

Toronto and dim sum in Richmond, Vancouver

I am hungry now, aren’t you?!


Dispatches from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Where to Eat & Stay)

Even though it is only a couple of hours flight away, Sarawak feels very different to mainland Malaysia. Sarawak is hotter, the humidity is particularly intense, and it feels very rural. There is a lot of jungle, and you know, orangutans and proboscis monkeys. Lots of lovely primates. And while Sarawak may only be one of two Malay provinces in Borneo, most of which is actually Indonesia, you could fit the whole of Ireland into it one and a half times. It ain’t small.

Kuala Lumpur by comparison felt very urban, and while I was prepared for a very sticky situation in terms of heat and humidity, it felt cooler, although so would almost anywhere. Kuala Lumpur is a tall city, with the Petronus twin tours and several bars perched high with great views. Despite this, Kuala Lumpur feels very accessible and not overwhelming, and people don’t feel rushed. It is very doable as a stopover which is essentially what I did.

I laid my head at The Majestic Hotel, a Kuala Lumpur institution still very attached to its colonial roots (the doorman is dressed in old colonial gear). I had a Junior Suite, a large room with four poster bed, day bed, sofa, table for 4 and 2 desks! A bath too, and all of this at a very accessible price (rooms start at £170 a night). I hadn’t realised until I got to KL that it has a reputation for luxury on a budget, something that I plan to take advantage of another time. 

We started with an afternoon tea in The Tea Lounge, there is also a beautiful orchid room which unfortunately was booked out. Breakfast was the best of the trip with a broad selection of dim sum, sushi, curries and my favourite fresh roti canai with dal. That roti canai was perfect, and I am trying to work out how to make it at home. It is all technique, swirling and swishing, teasing the dough like a tissue and introducing air. Then folding, frying and tearing it to dip it in dal or curry, which clings to the grooves and the pockets. So lovely, I could eat one every day.  

We were very lucky in KL to have Guan lead us, and introduce us to some Nyonya food. Guan was born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, and while he is based in London now, he is devoted to his food culture through his own Nyonya supper club. You may remember Guan from The Taste, right?

Guan brought us to one of his favourite restaurants, Limapulo, which strictly speaking is Baba food (baba = grandfather and nyonya = grandmother). Guan ordered and the table was filled with food not long after. A rich Nyonya curry laksa was my favourite. We also had kuih pie tee (aka “Top Hats”), crispy outer shells with turnip filling, sambal sotong petai (sambal squid with ‘stinky’ petai beans), ayam rempah (braised chicken in nyonya spices, chillies and coconut milk), ayam pongteh (chicken stewed in fermented soy bean paste and palm sugar), hu chnee rempah (mackerel stuffed with sambal spice paste and udang masak nanas (prawn & pineapple curry). You mustn’t miss this restaurant when you visit KL. It is incredibly good value too.

There is lots more to see in KL, I am sure of it, but start here, and you will be very happy. 

Related posts from Malaysia and Borneo:

Read my previous post on my trip to Kuching and surrounding Sarawak directly before

Cooking in Sabah: Two Healthy Sea Gypsy Recipes (Fish Soup & a Fish Salad)

The Street Food Markets of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo

Sabah: Observing Orangutans at the Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort and Sepilok Orangutan Rehabiliation Centre

Visiting Sabah Tea Plantation & Facing My (Non Tea Related) Fears

A Postcard from Sabah, Malaysian Borneo

Dispatches from Brunei’s Bandar Seri Begawan in Borneo

My trip to Sarawak was sponsored by Malaysia Airlines, who are the only carrier to offer a twice daily non-stop A380 full service link between the UK and Malaysia. UK passengers can also take advantage of frequent onward connections to destinations across Malaysia, Asia and Australasia. Economy class return flights from London Heathrow to Kuching via Kuala Lumpur International Airport start from £817. Business Class from £3167 (prices including taxes and charges). To book visit or call +44 (0) 871 4239 090.


Brunch This: Potato & Tomato Hash with an Egg & ‘Nduja Onions

Yes! I am back in my kitchen after 10 days in Italy. My trip was split between Abruzzo and Rome and was deeply inspirational, if a little hot. No very hot, and all the mozzies got the memo that the pink Irish person was in town. Little gits.

Italy always gets my cooking neurons firing, I go there as often as I can, but this trip was particularly interesting as I was travelling mainly with talented chefs and food writers. The trip in general was centred around one of my favourite things, pasta! But, more on that soon.

I got back last night, very late after lots of delays. I was tired, my luggage was heavy with wine, charcuterie, beans and maybe a small arrosticini grill. There may have been a chitarra too. I know, I know, I have a problem. It was a lot to lug home solo, but the people of London were awesome, as always, and so many total strangers offered to help me as I went. I got home eventually, hungry, and enthusiastic to cook. I needed to make something speedy with a punch. The answer to that turned out to be a steak salad with ‘nduja onions. And it was good.

‘Nduja onions? What even are they? Red onions, caramelised gently for half an hour or so, with firey ‘nduja stirred through. ‘Nduja is a magical concoction of pork, fat and Calabrian chilli, in a spreadable sausage. I mean, YES. I actually can’t have it in the fridge all the time as I find it hard to go past it. The ‘nduja goes perfectly with the sweet onions, and the onions disperse the chilli a bit? You will want to put them in everything. You will want to dry them, and grind them to a powder, and well… use as a rub? (Gotcha!). I think these are a perfect garnish generally, and I plan to make a big batch and keep them in a jar in the fridge to use as I go.

Along with my brazen onions, I also had a perfect Roman tomato that I had brought with three others in my hand luggage home. I had some sorry looking potatoes which I revived by peeling off the limp skin, dicing, par boiling, and then frying gently until completely crisp and fluffy inside. I love a fluffy spud, it tickles my insides and awakes childhood culinary memories as it does. Memories of fields and flowers and summers spend gathering leftover small potatoes to do whatever we wanted with. Usually we tried to make crisps, but we were always disappointed (I have mastered the craft now ;) ). Anything, a country childhood forces you to be creative and I am still grateful for that.

Almost there. (Puglian) oregano is about the only thing that can shout over ‘nduja and calm it down a bit, so I popped some of that on too. For contrast, a little bitterness and some texture, I wilted some baby gem lettuce in the last minute or so. Then an egg, fried until the white is perfectly set and the yolk still runny.

It is good to be back in the kitchen! And back at my desk too.

Happy Monday, all! I hope your week is a good one.

Recipe: Potato & Tomato Hash with an Egg & ‘Nduja Onions

45 minutes
serves 1


‘Nduja onions – I would recommend quadrupling this and storing it in the fridge, if you can

1 red onion, peeled, cut in half and finely sliced
2 tbsp ‘nduja

Potato, Tomato & Lettuce Hash

1 average potato, peeled and diced
1 meaty tomato, peeled, deseed and roughly chopped (or a handful of good cherry tomatoes, halved)
1/2 tsp dried oregano (removed from the stem)
1 small head of baby gem lettuce, washed with leaves removed

1 egg
sea salt
light oil for frying


Heat a tablespoon of oil and add the onions. Cook gently for half an hour or so (longer if you have time), then stir through the ‘nduja. Leave for a further 5 minutes then turn off the heat.

Parboil your potato until just tender, which will take just a few minutes. Heat a further tablespoon of oil in a new frying pan and fry over a medium heat until crisp all over. Add the tomatoes and oregano, the potatoes will get a little squishy, but that is what you want. Cook them for a further 5 minutes. Add the lettuce leaves for just a minute.

At this point I would normally just crack an egg in the middle here, but this morning I fried it in a separate pan. Up to you! I find I get my eggs perfectly right when fried over a medium heat with a lid on top. This allows the white to set perfectly while still having a runny yolk. I am a bit freaky about egg whites, I must confess.

Season the egg and hash with sea salt, and serve the hash with the egg on top, and finish with those feisty ‘nduja onions.

Joy! Enjoy it.