Friday, 31 October 2008


November is almost here, it’s cold and I’m resisting the urge to pull on a woolly hat because, to be honest, they just make me look like an overgrown baby, all round cheeks and dimples. I'll have to give in eventually but October just seems a bit too early.

Aside from the Winter wardrobe woes I’m also looking for something, anything, to focus on other than another day spent in an overly air-conditioned office where opening windows is classed as a potential health and safety disaster. What it all boils down to is this, amidst the petty frustrations of day to day living I need a distraction, I need a purpose, I need a goal, I need to blog every day between now and November 30th (hmm, somehow that last part doesn’t sound like the obvious conclusion to have come to). I tried this last year and was, frankly, crappity crap crap crap. I wrote a grand total of ten posts. To be fair, or to feebly excuse myself, this is still my highest ever monthly total but I don’t think a one third completion rate qualifies as success, ever.

So, 2008, another year, another November, but this time I have learned my lesson and am aiming small. Some days you’ll get the whole kit and caboodle, photos, recipes, the lot. Some days maybe a few carefully (I hope) chosen words will suffice. Some days I may be feeling a little uncommunicative and it will just be a picture. So wish me luck, pop by frequently, and get ready to offer me a congratulatory (or conciliatory) glass of bubbles on the 30th.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008


Leon, for those of you who don’t know, is the culinary fast food saviour for anyone who lives, works, or frequently visits central London. When I first moved my favourite was the aioli chicken with summer slaw and basmati rice, a few months later the moroccan meatballs had moved to the top. At the moment it is (or was, see below) all about the roasted sweet potato falafel wrap. Mildly spiced sweet potato falafels with crunchy slaw, a big slice of pickle, and aioli wrapped up in a flatbread and all for £3.20. Bargain. So, when I realised that there was a cookbook with all the best Leon recipes ready for making and eating at home I pounced. I had been planning on making a sweet potato and goats cheese spoon bread that has been bookmarked forever but my Amazon parcel arrived and I was easily swayed, as I so often am.

I baked the sweet potatoes and managed to resist the temptation to just eat them as they were (I’m more than a little addicted to baked sweet potato at the moment), mixed the flesh with some cumin, coriander, garlic, salt, pepper, and gram flour, formed the sticky mix into (and I quote) ‘falafelly type things’, sprinkled them with sesame seeds, and baked for 15 minutes. We munched them in pitas with salad and houmous.

I decided to head to Leon again for lunch today. They’ve started serving the new Winter menu (maybe they were waiting for the first snow) and I’m now doubly glad I got my last fix for dinner as sweet potato falafel are off the menu. It was a halloumi and sweet chilli wrap for me. Oh well, it was a pretty good substitute and I can always get my falafelly fix at home.

As a little side note if you do make this or any other baked sweet potato dish can I suggest putting the sweet potato skins back in the oven for a few minutes with a little sprinkle of sea salt and eating them as a pre dinner snack? They will get stuck in your teeth but that doesn't matter.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008


I used to think that there was some magical skill involved in making soup. I thought that the proportion of ingredients was vital, I thought you needed a mysterious understanding of solid to liquid ratios, I thought it all sounded like a recipe for disaster. I watched people knock up soups without a second thought. When I asked what had gone in they just shrugged and said 'oh just some vegetables, stock, seasoning'. I didn't believe them.

I bought many unsatisfactory plastic containers of faux home made soup. I made a few soups from recipes and, one day, I learned that those people whose soup talents I envied were right. It really can be just veg, stock, and seasoning.

Now the soup I most often make is simply an assortment of root vegetables. It is naturally creamy, always tasty, and mostly bright orange (apart from the time I threw in a lot of purple sprouting broccoli that needed to be used up, we named that batch pond soup, it was still good). There is always a leek (an onion occasionally but I prefer a leek), and apart from that nothing is too fixed. There might be a couple of large potatoes, carrots, and parsnips. There could be sweet potato, squash, celeriac, turnip, swede. Sometimes I have some left over broccoli (see colour warning above) or cabbage. Use what you have, buy what you fancy, a few starchy ingredients and a few to add sweetness are my standards. My best piece of advice is to have two bowls in front of you when you are preparing your veg, one for peel and one for the pieces. No one needs a cluttered chopping board and no one needs to be going backwards and forwards to the bin with all that peel every 30 seconds.

Just dig out a large pan, melt some butter, let’s say a tablespoon, add the leek (or onion), and garlic if you want some, to soften, after a few minutes throw in the rest of your vegetables that have been chopped into roughly equal pieces. Stir them round, season a little, pour over enough hot stock to cover (I mostly use a weak stock of Marigold vegetable bouillon apart from on the rare occasion that I have an abundance of fresh chicken stock). Add a bay leaf if you have one, don't worry if you don't. Cook for about 25-30 minutes, check all of the veg are cooked, blend until smooth (hand blenders are cheap and perfect for soup), check the seasoning (trying not to burn your mouth), add a bit more liquid if it is more baby food than soup, serve. Last night we had walnut bread and a fresh Dutch goats’ cheese to eat with the soup. We ate lots and still have two pots in the freezer for future cold evenings.

Monday, 13 October 2008


After at least a few months of eager anticipation I bought Nigella Christmas on the day it was released. I must have been in a funny mood the day I bought it because when I looked at it I was hugely disappointed, I just couldn’t get over it. I looked through my new book, which should have been my pride and joy, and couldn’t get passed my initial impression that it wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be. I put it down and waited for the weekend to have a good read through and, relief, I fell in love. I want it to be Christmas now, I want to throw Christmas parties with an overabundance of food in candle lit rooms, I want Nigella’s Christmas china, I want her little reindeer salt servers, in short I want it all.

There is one problem with this. It is October. It isn’t even late October. I can’t start making Christmas food. I’m not about to start stirring up a pudding, feeding a cake, and drenching dried fruit in copious quantities of brandy for mincemeat. So what did I do? Simple, I made granola. Cranberry, almond, and honey granola from the brunch chapter to be more precise. I mixed together oats, sugar, cinnamon, salt, almonds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, honey, and a little oil. I baked it until it was golden brown and the whole flat smelled of cinnamon and then popped it into a jar ready to be eaten for breakfast. I’m going to make a double batch next time.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008


I was promptly punished for my 4am excesses with a horrible cold. Off I went to bed and pretty much stayed there for three days. I would have stayed there for longer but we had people to see, people who I couldn't miss, specifically two very good friends from Boston and their four week old baby, followed by two friends from Toronto who were coming to stay. So with one thing and another, friends, late nights, eating out rather a lot…, eating anything worth a mention in the flat has been thin on the ground. There was an involtini that was delicious (thanks Nigella), a few quick meals, a very late night kebab (oops), a great Indian takeaway from Rasa, and finally, and most importantly, a meal at Moro. It was a Monday and we were hungry – we ate a lot, all good.

So after all that I didn’t really have a post planned. Well I did, I had planned to do a Sugar High Friday entry. I even had my cupcakes all planned out but the right cupcake baking time just didn’t present itself. I had been half writing posts and deleting them and planning meals in my head and not making them. Then, on Saturday, we stayed in the house all day apart from a quick excursion to buy the paper. There were some blackening bananas on the worktop, and there are way too many in the freezer to justify adding any more, so banana bread it was as it so often is.

The recipe comes from How To Be A Domestic Goddess. I have never made the original version with the booze soaked fruit. I skip right to the end of the recipe in the book and the description of the chocolate banana bread. I ignore the part about substituting 25g of flour for cocoa powder and just make the plain, slightly vanilla scented bread without any of the fruit (except bananas obviously), and stir 100g of dark chocolate through at the end (give or take a square or two that goes in my mouth instead). It's the recipe I use the most and it's great. My favourite part about it is that you can make it at the weekend and have moist banana bread to slice and wrap in foil and enjoy every day of the week which makes a working week go a lot more smoothly.