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Kimchee, Kale & Cheddar Curd Quesadilla

Kale, Kimchi & Cheddar Curd Quesadilla

Kale, Kimchi & Cheddar Curd Quesadilla

I started to write this morning, but it was so moany and so dull, I had to stop myself. I mean, who wants to read that? I had fallen into a little pit of self pity. Woe is me, I couldn’t sleep last night, my tum was so poorly, I still have some of my book to do (panic! stress!) and so much work to finish. I am SO-VERY-TIRED.

And then I thought, pull yourself together, life is very short, and it isn’t much fun down this tiny shallow pit of not even proper despair, now is it? Especially when you are despairing because you are busy doing what you love to do? I don’t understand myself sometimes.

Right.

So I dragged my carcass to the kitchen and made myself a banana, raw honey and bee pollen smoothie (all whizzed with milk & a little yogurt, simple as that). Very worthy and I hoped, redeeming. I sipped away and thought, right! Lets get on with it.

I have an extensive cookbook collection – nay, huge – one that has got me into trouble because it becomes invasive, but I adore it and so I will fight for it. My favourites at the moment are Indian, Mexican and Italian books. Those cuisines remind me of summer, passionate places that make brilliant food (the secret ingredient is love, etc!). I particularly can’t get enough of three of the Grand Dames of cuisine – Diane Kennedy, Madhur Jaffrey and Claudia Roden. Such a pleasure to read, I don’t even need to go into my kitchen. I savour every bite with every word.

Today, I thought I would make use of my impulse purchased wildly expensive courgette flowers (zucchini blossoms if you are in the US), and make Diane Kennedy’s quesadillas containing them. Yes, definitely. I even contemplated making some queso blanco to go with them. I lined up a recipe, then binned that, before I thought about going to Peckham to buy some from the Gringa Dairy (it is very good). Then I got a hold of myself and told myself to calm down and get on with it. I was deep in procrastination now too.[Read more]

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Corn with Lime & Chilli Butter and Feta

Corn with Lime & Chilli Butter and Feta

Corn with Lime & Chilli Butter and Feta

This morning something joyful, simple and full of flavour. I was thinking about corn, how wonderful it is and quick, and remembering how I had had corn in some Mexican restaurants. With a fresh tangy crumbled cheese on top, and of course, a kick.

I am working on a whole slew of BBQ recipes this week, and some sides are warranted, so let us start here. Working with what we have, instead of a Mexican cotija cheese, I use feta. Feta, a Greek cheese, is protected, and can only be called feta if it is the traditional cheese produced in specific areas of Greece from sheep’s milk, or sheep and goat’s. You, of course, know it, and it is widely available in supermarkets. The real stuff is aged for a minimum of 3 months resulting in a salty firm & crumbly cheese with a bit of a tang. Imitators pale by comparison and sometimes taste odd, but there are some fantastic British & Irish sheep’s cheese you can use too. Like Irish Knockalara (from my home county of Waterford).

Corn, well that is simple enough. Buy whole corn that is fresh and still luscious and moist, not dry. Preferably with the green husks still on as they keep it nice and fresh. Good juicy limes and a fresh bouncy chilli. As hot as you like, I went for a fresh jalapeno.[Read more]

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Ras El Hanout Prawn Kebabs with Cous Cous & Chilli Tomato Sauce

Harissa Prawns with Tomato Chilli Sauce and Cous Cous

Ras El Hanout Prawns with Tomato Chilli Sauce and Cous Cous

It is hot. It is muggy. I know we aren’t supposed to complain, but hey, I have no air con and I work from home. I do love the bright light and long evenings, and firing up the BBQ, though. For the first time in 12 / 13 years in London, I have a little garden (same one as last year, but I am still rejoicing in it).

Summer has been busy, in a good way. I have had work related travel, travel related work, and lots of recipe development to get on with. Project Bacon is nearly there. I had forgotten how traumatic writing a book can be, or I thought that the second would be easier. Right now, I am the bottleneck and I have to finish it and let it go. I have a fabulous team who are waiting for me too, and have other projects that they are juggling.

Project: Bacon means a lot to me. It is a very personal project that will be a limited edition, firstly. So, it is special. There will be a digital one but right now the only hardback versions are available for pre-orders only (I need to get Shopstarter to change the date but you can still order there, if you want to). I love cooking, especially for friends and I want this book to inspire you to do the same. I want it to be different, brilliant and fun and I want it to send you rushing to your kitchens. I aspire for your faces to be joyful when you taste the results, and for you to want to share everything. Bacon is the ultimate seasoning, and while amazing on its own, it really brings some cakes, drinks and sweets to life too. It also contains a whole selection of bacon condiments, which are fun and utter flavour bombs too.[Read more]

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Brazilian Pastel with Beef & Cheese (In Association with Magimix)

Pastels with Beef and Cheese

Pastels with Beef and Cheese

I was more surprised than anyone when I started getting very involved with the World Cup Columbia vs Brazil match last weekend. I was out with some friends and when one spotted it she yelled “Niamh, what the hell is going on?!”.

I didn’t know.

I figured that this must be a very good game if it had managed to suck me into it. Or I was having a mini stroke? You see, I don’t really get football, nor do I watch it, normally. I never have. That goes for most sports. There are exceptions – the Olympics, for example, especially when they were on in London, limited amounts of tennis, that kind of thing – but when everyone you know is watching the World Cup, you want to be involved, right? Somehow? Well, we can do the snacks!

4200XL Satin 18434Magimix challenged me to come up with a Brazilian recipe using their kit (a Magimix 4200XL), so that was a good start. I already have a Magimix, battered from love and use and melted on the side as I placed it too near the cookers gas flames when I moved flat, but it still chugs away perfectly, and is one of my most treasured pieces of kitchen equipment. It is compact and speedy and it chops, grates, slices and kneads. Essentially, it does everything that I don’t want to do or can’t do when I am rushing. Which is a lot. I quite like the serenity of chopping and slicing and kneading when I have time, but more often than not Mr Magimix does it. It is more patient with kneading than I am, and it makes great pastry, as my super warm hands destroy it when I allow my paws to do it (I believe that that might be my super crap super power).

Ok! A snack challenge. The game was on for me. A game I could enjoy, finally!

I have never been to Brazil – a big black mark right there – but I know food, and I am already familiar with a lot of Brazilian specialities. I wanted something that would be a great snack, that would taste great, and that would have the right amount of challenge to be different and delicious, but not be too challenging to prepare. I whittled it down to about five things, the others will probably appear here in the near future.

I opted for home made (from scratch, natch) pastels with beef and cheese. Pastels appear to be the Brazilian version of the empanada. Maybe it is the other way around? I don’t know which came first, most South American countries have something similar. It seems fitting that the Brazilian snack that you cook for the final could also double as an Argentinian snack (sorry Brazil, I wanted you to win too). You can pretend, or to be authentic change the filling a little (no cheese, add eggs and olives to approximate my favourite empanadas from Mendoza, still one of the best things that I have ever eaten), and use lard in the pastry in place of oil. Remove the vodka too.

I always try to make wrappers myself, whether for pastel, empanada, dumplings, spring rolls or any other little parcel of gorgeousness wrapped in something crisp or steamed. It is always worth the effort, as you get a far superior result and lots more satisfaction. I love the geekery of it, getting down to the nitty gritty and understanding where the recipe came from. Also, it is not always possible to source wrappers if you don’t live in an urban centre, or a particular country, so I always like to provide a recipe for those of you that can’t, as well as for myself.

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Sunshine Rice & Eggs

Sunshine Rice & Eggs

Sunshine Rice & Eggs

Sunshine rice! Cheesy, isn’t it? But why is cheesy a bad thing when cheese is just so good? Shall we try and reclaim that? Like I was doing with Like a Girl when I decided to title this blog Eat Like a Girl . Which is now the subject of a viral advertising campaign, I notice, which is a very good thing. As Like a Girl is, and it is something to be proud ofNow, lets work on cheesy. Or, maybe we have other things to do? Like finish books and things. (Yes, nearly there with Project: BACON, and more on that soon!).

I looked at my breakfast this morning and thought, oh, that looks like a gorgeous perky sun, within another one peeking cheerfully from inside of it. And so, a sunshine breakfast was declared, and devoured.

The rice was leftover from my dinner the night before (pan fried mackerel with habanero, curry leaf & lime butter sat on top of it, that recipe soon, once I have tested it again). It is fairly speedy to put together though, and you should cheer your breakfast table with it so I will share the rice recipe here too.

I like to use short grain brown rice which is tense, fat and nutty, but really any rice would do here, so go with whatever you have in the cupboard. Turmeric gives it the underlying golden hue. I use turmeric because it is delicious (in small amounts though, and especially when using fresh turmeric), but also because it is so healthy. With anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, I hope that turmeric can somehow offset some of the more unsavoury habits of mine. Sweetcorn gives it further acute pops of yellow, spinach, finely shredded and added just as you turn the heat off, freshness and texture. I freshened it up by frying it in some extra virgin olive oil with some lovely diced ripe tomato and chilli. When hot and toasty, I cleared some holes, and fried some eggs in each. One egg per person is enough for me, but if you need more, go for it.

Enjoy! And do tell me what you have for sunshine breakfasts? :)[Read more]

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Rigatoni with Bolognese Style Ragu and Crispy Kale

Rigatoni with Bolognese Style Ragu & Crispy Kale

Rigatoni with Bolognese Style Ragu & Crispy Kale

Can you handle another ragu recipe? So close to the last? I ate this ragu several days in a row last week, which is normally something that I am loathe to do, but this was so delicious and utterly more-ish, that I couldn’t resist it. It has a little twist too. Normally ragu is served with parmesan, but I chose something else, also intense, oven crisped kale with paprika and sea salt, for a wonderful textural and flavour contrast. It is something that I do quite often, I have blogged about it before too.

One of the things that I love about Italy is their adherence to tradition. They love their recipe rules and stick stringently to them. Very much so. Do not break the rules! They eat so well as a result. Who wouldn’t want to be Italian?

One of the good things about not being Italian is that I can come home and absorb all of the different influences and stories and concoct something new. I can make something inspired by tradition, but not wedded to it. Italians, I know you are shrieking, but without this attitude my beloved Spaghetti Corkese would never have been born. I think you might even like it! Nor would today’s dinner, with the wrong pasta shape and a Bolognese inspired ragu that was a little too wet to be Bolognese, and that I finished with cream before topping with crispy kale.  I know, cream. Cream! But you know, delicious.

The rigatoni was the wrong pasta shape but it was a lovely one from Gragnano that I bought in Italy (the best dried pasta comes from there). It was there, and it was the perfect size tube for the ragu to snuggle and hide in. The cream was my Irish and indulgent take on finishing a ragu with milk. Just a lick of cream gives each portion a decadent texture and roundness, and when cooked in, you may not even know it is there. Now that I have done it, I am fairly sure that one of my favourite Emilia Romagna trattoria ragus was finished like this.

The recipe is based on the ragu that I made with Walter in Bologna. Walter is from Lazio and we cooked a ragu based on the one that his father taught him, but adapted so that it was Bologna style. I made it a little Irish, I think, but it is still more authentic than most you will get outside Italy.

Try it. Enjoy it. Make lots and eat it all week. And make lots of the crispy kale, as you won’t be able to stop eating it. Unless you don’t like kale, of course!

As the Italian say, cook with love and passion. Which I translate as: enjoy it, give it time and patience, and be tender. [Read more]

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Making Tagliatelle with Ragu with Anna – an Emilia Romagna Recipe

Serving up the ragu! Anna, on the left.

Serving up the ragu. Anna, on the left.

One thing  that I learned on my recent trip to Emilia Romagna is that every recipe and every dish is personal. Passion exudes from every pore, and never more than when the topic of food or the particulars of a recipe are under discussion. People in Emilia Romagna are very animated over lunch, and they are mainly discussing the food that they are eating, and just that. I love that.

People get particularly excited about homemade tagliatelle with ragu. It originates there, and Emilia has one way, Romagna another. Within those regions different families have their own approach. Bologna has a meaty dense ragu of its own (hence, Bolognese sauce). The personal differences are glorious. I had so many different ragus in trattorias all over the region. Some dense with meat and assertive, one cooked in lard and layered with white pepper (my favourite, I think), some rich and fruity with tomato with the meat appearing to surf it.

Romagnola ragu, ready to dish up.

Romagnola ragu, ready to dish up.

I cooked ragu with two people in Emilia Romagna. The first was Anna, a wonderful lady based in Savignano sul Rubicone in Emilia Romagna. Romagna, to be precise, so the ragu here is different to Bologna, which is in Emilia. Anna learned from her mother, a recipe that has been passed down the generations. Anna’s ragu is a rich sauce made from a mixture of minced beef, pork and (Italian) sausage, with soffrito, red wine and passata. The second was Walter, from Lazio, but we cooked in Bologna style. I will share that another time.

Hand rolling the pasta in Anna's kitchen. now my new favourite thing!

Hand rolling the pasta in Anna’s kitchen. now my new favourite thing!

Today I am going to share Anna’s ragu recipe with you. She is extraordinarily generous, and gave me her time, as well as her family recipe. She is a joy to watch and to learn from, cooking with love and care, and her ragu is incredibly frugal (as I think a lot of Italian food is).

It will feed 10 people, which is quite striking when you see how little meat is involved. You probably aren’t feeding 10 people, but you know, it tastes great the next day. I love all the little extra steps in Anna’s recipe. Set aside an afternoon and make it, and think of that lovely lady Anna, who took the time to share it with me, so that I could share it with you.

Do make the effort with the homemade pasta, if you can. It makes a huge difference. It is so rewarding, too. There is a link to and Emilia Romagna homemade pasta recipe and instructions in the method below.

Thank you, Anna!

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Mango & Lime Friands (Two Versions: Buttery & Dairy Free)

Mango & Lime Friands

Mango & Lime Friands

Sweet! I want something sweet! And full of sunshine. I can no longer take the grey, grey sky that hangs so low over my head.

Friands remind me of Australia. Bright blue skys, rolling frothy seas, cliff walks, great breakfasts, and all of their wonderful cafés. We have many great Australian cafés in London now too, and the friands are popping up, but like everything, you really can’t beat making them at home. They are so simple and take a maximum of 10 minutes to prepare, and 12 – 15 minutes to bake. You will be stuffing your face with friands in no time, and your biggest problem will be trying not to eat them all.

I love a friand but I don’t need twenty of them squeaking at me from the kitchen – eat me! eat me! eat me! – 6 is too many but it is the least you can make so make sure that you can share them with someone, or some colleagues. Maybe you are not like me and have some self control, but I know that if there are 6 in the kitchen, then I can and will eat 6 of them. I will start with one, have a second, contemplate a guilty third, and from then on it is pure trauma as I try to battle their sirens call.

The recipe is simple. Based on the French financier, but using only egg white (which makes them so light), the friand is composed only of butter, sugar, egg white, flour and ground almonds with the fruit of your choice. I chose mango and lime today as there was the most gorgeous mangoes flirting with me from outside the window of my local Caribbean butcher. Divine. Lime gives it the perk it needs, and gives me that gentle hint of invisible sunshine, which I really need right now.[Read more]

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Piri Piri Chicken (Using a South African Marinade Recipe)

Piri Piri Chicken

Piri Piri Chicken

Piri piri is the name of a chilli, and also a sauce containing it. Piri piri chicken (also called peri peri) is a terrific dish made using the sauce, and, er, a chicken, found in Portugal and Southern Africa, and increasingly everywhere else, thanks to Nando’s. I am not comfortable eating the Nando’s one though, as the chickens are barn reared and I think they could do better. I mean, why not? They are in a perfect position to raise standards rather than do the minimum to meet them.

I have had piri piri in many places. Portugal (the Portugese brought the chillis back from Africa, and also brought them to Goa), where the piri piri tends to be a chilli oil which is liberally brushed on a rotisserie chicken. I have had piri piri in South Africa too, where the sauce tends to be thick and fruity, with spice as well as chilli heat. I have also had piri piri from Mozambique, not in Mozambique but in Maltby St in London, where Grant Hawthorne aka African Volcano makes immense piri piri pork sandwiches and sells the marinade, sauce and rub too (details on African Volcano stockists on his website too).

I love a dish with a mish mash history just as this, it is fun to trace it and work on it, until you get the one that is perfect for you.  Whenever I taste something that I really love, I want to know how it works. How can I make it at home? How can you make it at home? We don’t live in Africa, so how can we make it with the ingredients that we have available to us? Lots of questions. I have had piri piri on the brain.

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The BCKT (Bacon, Crispy Kale & Tomato Sandwich)

image

I have been in Toronto for almost a week and I have learned a few things. Happily this trip coincided with fiddlehead season, again, so that was a treat. And I now see that everyone in Toronto is even more obsessed with kale than they were before. Green kale, purple kale, cavolo nero, baby kale for salads and kale juices (offensive, sorry, I tried and it was like drinking bile. Might work with some apple?). There are kale cookbooks, the Indian restaurant I am sitting at right now in Toronto airport has a kale salad but with an Indian twist. It is endless, and that is good, infernal stomach rotting juice aside, for kale, generally, is a very good thing. Especially when crispy.

(Mmmmm, crispy!* Now there is a word that polarises as much as kale. But I like crispy, even if incorrect and so I shall keep using it).

So, you all know I love bacon. I mean who doesn’t, at least who doesn’t that doesn’t have religious objections to it? I have never heard of anyone trying bacon and declaring it a terrible thing. When you hear stories about bacon, it is almost always that people ate it when they shouldn’t, just because they could no longer resist. And how could they? So, when concocting recipes for my recent sandwich feature, I thought a BLT will have to be in there, but what if it was with a twist, that made it even better? And so the BCKT was born. That being the Bacon, Crispy Kale & Tomato Sandwich. OH YES.

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Boozy Raspberry Chocolate Brownies

Boozy Raspberry Chocolate Brownies

Boozy Raspberry Chocolate Brownies

I am up to my eyes in bacon boxes, book writing and other work, so today I must be brief. Rather than disappear as I have done when very busy lately, I will write briefer posts and today, I will share with you one of my favourite indulgent recipes, my recipe for boozy raspberry chocolate brownies.

If you are afraid of baking, this is the recipe for you. So easy, and very delicious, this rich dark chocolate batter, spiked with pops of bright juicy raspberry is virtually impossible to screw up. I promise you. It also tastes like it was much harder work. The perfect recipe?

Boozy Raspberry Chocolate Brownies

Boozy Raspberry Chocolate Brownies

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Monkfish Cheeks with Clams and Sake

Clams with Monkfish Cheeks & Sake

Clams with Monkfish Cheeks & Sake

There are a few pervasive myths around cooking and eating. One, that good food takes time to put together, a second, that cooking takes a lot of skill, and the third, that it is expensive. This dish proves that none of that is true, at least all of the time. We can all feed ourselves well and simply.

I am blessed to have a great local fishmonger. Yesterday, I whizzed down on my bicycle when I had a craving for something light and fresh. I was thinking that it might be nice to make a light aromatic Asian fish broth with rice noodles. Nothing complicated but a dish that was full of flavour and sparkling with health that didn’t rob my evening with the effort.

I couldn’t decide which fish it should be, and my eyes were drawn to a collision of small elegantly shaped fish bits huddling with their smooth faces pressed against the counter. I enquired as to what they were? Monkfish cheeks, the fishmonger said.

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Wild Garlic & Chorizo Potato Gratin

Wild Garlic and Chorizo Potato Gratin

Wild Garlic and Chorizo Potato Gratin

Hello, hello, hello! How are you all today? I have had a day where I felt positively useless, and unproductive, despite all my efforts to the contrary, so there was nothing for it but to crack out some potatoes and make something comforting, to soothe my addled brain, and start again.

Earlier this week I re-enacted a near annual tradition. I met a bald man from Essex in a random part of town to make an illicit exchange. Something that I have that I am willing to part with, for something fragrant. He had in his hand a heavy grey plastic bag with green muddy tentacles peeking out. His name is Danny (Food Urchin), and he has brought me some wild garlic. Hurrah!

The tradition is thus. Danny has a garden full of wild garlic, and when I am in town in the season, I meet him and get a plant. In exchange he gets something random. In fact, that is how I first met Danny. I wandered to Borough Market to meet a strange man with a wild garlic plant, and it was him. Not so strange at all, and now a friend, if a wild garlic yielding one. This year, I gave him some of my Japanese SPF130 (yes!), for he is ginger, and is as a-feared of the sun as I am with my pale Irish skin.

Wild garlic is glorious. Ample and clumsy and generous, it has a fragrant sourness, and is pungent with garlic aroma. It loves cream and all things dairy, which really suits my mood today. While I sat freaking out about my to do list, it was peering out at me from its grey sarcophagus, tentacles waving (ok, maybe not) on my kitchen floor. I must plant it (with the hope of having lots more in my garden next year, it likes to take over), but before then, I want to use some.

Today, I needed something decadent but also perky, so as I stare at my wild garlic plant, hoping that it will reveal the secrets of the universe I think – got it! – wild garlic and chorizo potato gratin. Done. [Read more]

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For What Ails You: Aromatic & Hot Chicken Soup Powerhouse [Recipe]

Chicken soup for what ails you - but not as you know it! [Recipe]

Chicken soup for what ails you – but not as you know it! [Recipe]

So, I told you all about my curry eggs cold smasher the other day. Yes, it is a cracker, but it didn’t smash my cold quite as quickly as I wanted to. So, there was nothing for it, I had to call in the reserves: chicken soup, with a twist.

There is scientific evidence that supports the notion that chicken soup is in fact Jewish pencillin (as it has always been said to be). It tastes great too and is not too traumatic a recipe for when you are poorly, as long as you have a chicken in the house. I didn’t but a friend kindly brought one round for me and so I was set. [Read more]

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A Remedy for a Head Cold & Jet Lag: Eggs Poached in a Simple Homemade Curry [Recipe]

Eggs poached in homemade curry - perfect for a cold

Eggs poached in homemade curry – perfect for a cold

Singapore was great. My first visit, I was greeted by a vibrant and very friendly city that is obsessed with food. I ate what I could, but never enough. There are so many different dishes to try. I am heading back quite soon on a stopover to complete my list. Which is lost, but more on that in a minute.

As great (and brief) as the trip was, it didn’t end well. My phone, with so many of my photos, all my notes and recorded interviews was MIA. I left without it and have had no luck tracking it down. When I got home my flatmate asked if I had a cold and I realised, fark, I do! I had put it down to hay fever the previous days. I don’t like to moan – especially on here – but after a night of absolutely no sleep and a stonking head cold, with a missing phone, and falling behind with work as I can’t think straight, I feel like crap.

But, there is a solution. There always is. Cosy pjs and a cupboard raid rendered a lunch that I could actually taste, and one that is healthy too. My first thought was turmeric, I need to have it, it is so good for many things, being anti-inflammatory and great for all things intestinal like stomach pain and bloating. It is particularly good for colds too and one of the annoying things about a cold is not being able to taste anything, so I decided that a good, simple and bolshy homemade curry might sort me out. Or ease the torture for fifteen minutes, at least. My second thought was eggs. Eggs are brilliantly comforting and speedy too. They are also terrific in a curry. [Read more]

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Recipe: Silky Smooth Modernist Cheese Sauce for Perfect Mac & Cheese and Cauliflower Cheese

How do you like your mac and cheese or cauliflower cheese? No doubt you have your hidden secrets, your favourite cheese combinations (cheddar, provolone and parmesan work a treat, as one chef revealed recently to me), your personal twists (a little pickled jalapeno chopped and lingering like a tiny battleship), your many little ways of making your perfect cheese sauce. But do you ever get enough of that cheese hit? Even with all of that cheese?

I make my sauce really thin with the smallest amount of roux possible (roux? a combination of flour and butter used to thicken sauces). Even so, I sometimes can feel the flour lingering below the surface, a little scratchy, and as a result, I end up with a sauce that is not as velvet rich as I would like it to be. The flavour of the cheese often feels muted too. Making it as cheesy as I would like involves a lot of cheese, and that can be a little too thick. What I want in my mac and cheese is a sauce that is pure cheese, but with a perfectly smooth delicate texture. Simply melting the cheese won’t deliver this, as the cheese congeals as the fat and the water separate at high temperatures. Luckily, someone has worked out how to fix this, and that is what I am going to share with you.

Lots of American recipes for queso dip and perfect smooth cheese sauces use velveeta, a processed cheese with a smooth melting consistency. In principle, this is great, but I want to use real cheese, I think most of us do. I want the the best flavours made with real ingredients, but proper cheese won’t melt as velveeta does. (The same goes for happy slappy cheese, those cheap processed cheese slices favoured for burgers as they melt just right, in the same way as velveeta does).

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Recipe: Fuchsia Dunlop’s Spicy Peanut Butter Noodles (with Prawns)

Fuchsia Dunlop's Spicy Peanut Butter Noodles with Prawns

Fuchsia Dunlop’s Spicy Peanut Butter Noodles with Prawns

Convenience isn’t always about using your store cupboard bits and bobs. Convenience, for me, is often about avoiding leaving the house. I know. I live in a big city about 10 minutes walk away from a supermarket and 2 minutes from a reasonably stocked corner shop, but some days I am so deep in cabin fever / cosy / lazy / attached to my pjs, I will do anything to just stay indoors.

So, if I want a sandwich I may delay it so that I can bake the bread. Yes, I do that. Not often, but I do. That is also because I can’t stand the really processed stuff and the bakery is, well, 10 minutes away, but you know, I don’t want to leave the house (and I like baking). Or, if I need peanut butter to cook someone else’s store cupboard supper, I will make it at home rather than walk 2 minutes to the corner shop. The result is a much better peanut butter and the effort is not too great.

If you work from home (all the time, not just occasional days), you will understand this sophisticated form of cabin fever. When working from home I hold myself captive, until it spirals out of control and then I become a little weird and try to arrange everything so that it happens within a few metres of my living room. I need to get an office, with a kitchen, can someone arrange that, please?

Back to that peanut butter. Yesterday was OFM Sunday, and this months issue had a lovely feature on store cupboard suppers.[Read more]

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Recipe: Hot Wings with Blue Cheese Dip (Because We Must)

Hot Wings with Blue Cheese Sauce (Recipe)

Hot Wings with Blue Cheese Sauce (Recipe)

Some days demand chicken wings. Today is one. The best bit of the chicken for snacking on, the skin to flesh ratio being somewhere in the region of can-solve-most-of-lifes-problems, chicken wings are also very reasonable. Even in my local posh butcher, a kilo of lovely free range wings costs just over £5.

Everyone should have a recipe for hot wings in their repertoire. So easy and so gorgeous, spiked hot crisp wings dipped into a soothing cool blue cheese dip is all that you have ever wanted after a bad day. Or any day. Frank’s Louisiana Hot Sauce is what makes the wings sing, you could make your own, and it is the kind of thing that I often do, but in this case, truly, Frank’s have done all the work and made a great sauce. So, like every other hot wing fanatic on the planet, I use that.

They take little work. I roast the wings until the skin is just crisp, prepare the hot sauce which takes, oh, 2 minutes, then douse the wings in the sauce before returning to the oven for a little bit. Then I prepare the dip, which again is very complicated, ridiculously easy, a mish mash of strong blue cheese with natural yogurt, blended until they yield, and embrace each other.

Easy, and perfect for January blues, right? Enjoy.

Recipe: Hot Wings with Blue Cheese Sauce[Read more]

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Baking, Yorkshire Rhubarb & a Recipe for Rhubarb, Pistachio & Rose Frangipane Tart

Rhubarb, Pistachio & Rose Frangipane Tart (Recipe)

Rhubarb, Pistachio & Rose Frangipane Tart (Recipe)

I am not an obsessive baker like many food bloggers. Certainly not in the sweet sense. I love salt, broth, tender meat, spritely vegetables and all the other things that make savoury sing. I have always loved confectionery, especially making it, and I am partial to a lemon meringue pie, victoria sponge, swiss roll and lots of old school classics, but that was it when it came to home baking. I simply wasn’t all that inspired to explore beyond that. I was happy with my salt.

Then something changed. In the last few months I have developed a sweet tooth (which sits nicely next to my very happy salty one). In fact, I think that all of my teeth might be salty, and now there is one shiny sweet one in the mix.

And then there is rhubarb. Lovely pink tender rhubarb. Slender and elegant, the rhubarb of January in the UK is Yorkshire forced rhubarb (also called champagne rhubarb), grown in the dark in long sheds in the Yorkshire rhubarb triangle, and harvested by candlelight (it is an old Victorian technique). It spends a lifetime stretching for the light but never reaching it, trapped beneath the terracotta urn that houses it. Yorkshire rhubarb brightens January, and I always look forward to it.

Rhubarb, Pisctahio & Rose Frangipane Tart

Rhubarb, Pisctahio & Rose Frangipane Tart

Rhubarb goes beautifully with pistachio and rose and I was recently reminded just how much I love simple frangipane when I baked David Lebovitz lovely Galette des Rois. Frangipane is a simple almond cream, made with ground almonds, egg, butter, sugar and aromatics (rum and almond extract for example), but it can also be made with ground pistachios, and in this case, rosewater. [Read more]

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Thoughts On Dry January, Diets and a Recipe for Salmon Tacos

Homemade Salmon Tacos (Recipe)

Homemade Salmon Tacos

It won’t surprise you, but I don’t do dry January. Nor do I do diets. I reign myself in, become a little more pragmatic and try and restore balance by eating a little lighter but still in normal amounts. Or rather, I start eating normal amounts. Replacing sour cream with yogurt. Eating more fish and less meat. A bit more salad. Lots of avocados. Frying less, although still a little. Lighter Brighter cooking is what I shall call it. It is all about being aware that every little bit makes a difference but not killing the enjoyment of it. Food is sustenance and a source of great pleasure. The key to health is home cooking, moderation and exercise. And good sleep.

With diets, I think a lot of people feel better not because they have cut out a food group (don’t get me started), but because they have started paying attention to what they eat, and what they cook. One very big thing is cutting out processed food. Some go from not cooking at all to eating predominantly home cooked food. I bet that if you speak to a lot of very successful dieters, you will discover that they transitioned from not really thinking about what they ate to being a lot more considerate about what they cooked, and eating less processed food. They almost certainly exercised a lot more.

The reality (certainly for me) is that even when you think about what you cook (and I do a lot), it doesn’t mean that you are necessarily eating well. But when you do think about it from a health perspective, and start to feel the benefits of Lighter Brighter cooking, when you can see exactly what you are eating, not through a film in a plastic tray spinning around in a microwave, but because you have cooked it and see just how much of everything has gone in, that is empowering. When you cook, you can also adapt your recipes to make them lighter and no less delicious.

Enter salmon tacos. I am lucky that I live near a great fishmonger (and I have a great butcher too). Last Saturday I went late and there was not much left, but there was some lovely salmon. I did two things with it it, a teriyaki (a simple combination of 50ml soy sauce & 50 ml mirin with 1 tsp of honey, reduced by half over a medium heat, and then used to glaze a just-cooked piece of salmon, delicious) and also some lovely light salmon tacos.[Read more]