Monday, 30 November 2009


I think we can all agree that I failed with the concept of posting every day in November. I guess I should have known. Things happen. This November the main distraction has been the arrival of a new niece and now all I can think about is Christmas in Edinburgh and lots of new baby cuddle time.

But yesterday in a fit of almost December preparation I shopped and I stirred and I baked and I ended the day with a Christmas cake well wrapped and awaiting weekly feeds of brandy, two jars of mincemeat, a vat of soup, and a clementine cake because it seemed unfair to spend the entire day baking and not end up with anything that could be eaten straight away.

Next weekend Christmas pudding.

Sunday, 22 November 2009


My last few posts have been all words and no pictures so here's one from yesterday afternoon to try and redress the balance.

Thursday, 19 November 2009


While in the midst of my Sunday cookathon (probably between waiting for the cake to bake and starting on the bolognese) I sat down with Tender ready to decide what to try next and placed the ribbon against a recipe for peppers stuffed with pork mince, parmesan and rosemary.

Unlikely though it sounds I couldn't find normal red peppers so had to use the long skinny Romano peppers. They taste great but do not lend themselves to easy stuffing so it was more of a pepper and pork gratin. A layer of soft floppy peppers topped with the minced pork mixture and parmesan. It may not have been the prettiest dish (there were photos but you really don't need to see them) and it may not have been the easiest dish to serve but Nigel's place in my heart is safe. Another easy tasty midweek supper option from the house of Slater.

Peppers with mince, parmesan and rosemary (from Tender: v.1: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch)
Serves 4

a large onion
2 tablespoons of olive oil and a little more
2 cloves of garlic
3 bushy sprigs of rosemary
2 large tomatoes
350g of minced pork
50g of breadcrumbs
6 small red peppers
grated parmesan

Set the oven at 200ºC/Gas 6.

Peel and finely chop the onion, put it into a large, shallow pan with the oil over a moderate heat. Let the onion soften without colouring. Peel and slice the garlic, chop the leaves from the sprigs of rosemary and add to the onions. When all is soft and fragrant, chop the tomatoes and stir them in. Continue cooking until the tomatoes have collapsed into the sauce. Season with salt and black pepper, then stir in the minced pork and the breadcrumbs. Remove from the heat.

Cut the peppers in half lengthways then lower them into a pan of boiling water for 6-8 minutes until they are slightly limp. Remove them with a draining spoon and put them skin-side down in a baking dish.

Divide the pork mixture between the peppers then moisten with a little olive oil. Scatter grated parmesan over the peppers and bake for 35 minutes till sizzling.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009


One of the upsides of good friends staying in your flat is that those very same good friends might make dinner.

Pearl barley risotto with butternut squash, sage chicken, and a green salad.

So nice to sit down to a meal that requires no shopping, no thought, no effort after a day at work and I'll definitely be experimenting with pearl barley in the future.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009


No not that type, this type. Very good it was too.

Monday, 16 November 2009


I really should have learned by now.

Yesterday I cooked four separate dishes all requiring separate sets of ingredients, separate cooking methods, and separate amounts of time in the kitchen.

But did I give these four separate dishes four separate posts in this month of (apparently) daily posting?



Because that would have made my life far too easy:

Sunday 15th November - granola
Monday 16th November - soup
Tuesday 17th November - spaghetti bolognese
Wednesday 18th November - cake

See how easy that would have been? It would have been Thursday by now.

Instead I'm sitting here watching nonsense on the TV but with a full belly from yesterday's soup with bread and cheese followed by a slice of yesterday's cake. All good just not all that blog savvy.

Sunday, 15 November 2009


Clearly NaBloPoMo and I are not going to get on very well this year.

Ah well, even if I'm not quite managing every day I am at least managing to post an awful lot more than I have in recent months.

Our friends Sarah and Rob are coming to stay. We visited them in Toronto in June and they've decided to move to London. They've found a flat close to us but it isn't free until early December so until then they will be with us which will mean being a lot more organised if we are to feed four people out of our tiny kitchen.

So, yesterday we cleaned and today I spent the day finishing off a few things around the flat and pottering about in said kitchen.

First a batch of cranberry, almond, and honey granola for us all to have for breakfast this week with yoghurt or milk.

Next some root vegetable soup - onion, celery, carrot, parsnip, turnip, potato, bay, stock and a parmesan rind which had been sitting in the fridge being forgotten about for far too long. I had planned to boil, blend, cool and store the soup but after tasting a spoonful I had to sit down with a bowlful straight away, the parmesan brought creaminess and a savoury something that made it more than a simple root vegetable soup.

As I write this Nigel Slater's spaghetti bolognese is simmering on the hob. Enough for us to have for dinner with leftovers for the freezer.

Before I started on that I decided there was time for a cake. Mid November seemed as good a time as any to pull Nigella's Christmas off the shelf. After perusing the pages and mentally bookmarking some recipes to try in the run up to Christmas I decided to make a vanilla cake. I'm saving it for tomorrow so I'll let you know how it tastes but, in the meantime, the flat smells of vanilla and baking. Never a bad thing.

SPRUCED-UP VANILLA CAKE (from Nigella's Christmas)

225g/8oz soft butter, plus extra for greasing
300g/10½oz caster sugar
6 free-range eggs
350g/10½oz plain flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
250ml/9oz low-fat natural yoghurt
4 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and place a baking tray into the oven to heat. Grease a 2.5 litre/4 pint 8fl oz bundt tin very liberally with butter or flavourless oil.

Mix the butter and sugar together in a large bowl with a wooden spoon or hand blender until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking each one in with a tablespoon of the flour. Carefully fold in the remaining flour and the bicarbonate of soda using a large metal spoon, then fold in the yoghurt and vanilla extract until well combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and spread until level.

Place the tin on the preheated baking sheet in the oven and cook for 45-60 minutes, until well risen and golden-brown. After 45 minutes, push a metal skewer into the centre of the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is cooked.

Remove the cake from the oven and place onto a wire rack, without removing it from the tin. Leave to cool for 15 minutes. Gently pull away the edges of the cake from the tin with your fingers, then carefully turn out the cake onto the wire rack. Leave to cool completely and, if you want to, sprinkle some icing sugar over the cake before serving.

Friday, 13 November 2009


Did you notice the lack of post yesterday?

I thought about being bad and back dating but I can't, I'm just too law abiding.

I was going to write a post during my lunch hour yesterday but for some reason my work computer does not like letting me see my blog, very frustrating. And then, after a frankly strange day at work we headed out to see a friend's exhibition opening, ending up having a few drinks followed by food at Wagamama. We didn't get home until 11.45 and all I wanted to do was get into bed, so no post.

I was only going to wax lyrical about the return of the Pret Christmas sandwich so it's probably no loss. I can always save the discussion of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, spinach and crispy onions (the most important part) between two slices of granary bread for another time. Actually I can't, that's it. It's good and the amount of crispy onion bits seems to be in direct correlation with happiness levels while eating the sandwich.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009


Sesame Street turned 40 yesterday. My first instinct was to just enjoy the Google celebratory banners. But then I saw Cake Wrecks and I had to share. Happy 40th Birthday Sesame Street. I'm not sure what Big Bird did to deserve this...

Tuesday, 10 November 2009


After sitting on the bus home for almost an hour on a cold evening and walking up five flights of stairs I usually prefer to stay put once I get home. I try to buy food for dinner on my way back and if I've forgotten something then mostly I just ignore it and hope it doesn't really matter.

But this all hinges on one thing.

Knowing what to have for dinner? The supermarket having everything I need?

No, it hinges on not leaving my wallet sitting on top of a pile of magazines in the flat when I leave for work in the morning.

I think you can see where this is going?

So, having realised that I would be spending the day without money I gave thanks to the invention of cashless canteens and hoped I had enough on my card to cover lunch and then started planning a storecupboard dinner.

I sweated a leek in butter and a little water over a low heat for about 15 minutes before stirring through some fresh thyme. I cooked some pasta in chicken stock (not home made, my storecupboard is rarely, if ever, that organised) and, when it was cooked, stirred through the leeks, a knob of butter and some freshly ground black pepper.

Apparently good things can come out of a spot of absent mindedness.

Monday, 9 November 2009


It's getting cold now.

I shouldn't be surprised, it is November after all, but somehow I am.

At the end of October I was saying that I remember Autumn being colder. I remember being wrapped up in a bundle of layers to go out.

I know what the difference is now. Those memories. They must have been November memories.

I'm in my merino tights now, my sweater dresses, constantly wearing a scarf. I even wore my wrist warmers at work this morning. So when I was catching up on my reading and saw a dish of mashed potato with eggs baked on top and spinach to the side on Rachel's blog I knew it was the cold weather comfort dish we needed. I would have happily followed Rachel's recipe to the letter but when I showed it to Chris he said that when he was small his granny would make something similar but with the spinach mixed into the mash. So, for the curly headed boy who has always loved spinach, we ate this for dinner tonight. It warmed us so thoroughly that the scarf has been abandoned, the slippers discarded, and the heating turned off. Success indeed.


baking potatoes
salt and pepper

I make mash by baking potatoes and then just scooping out the flesh and forking through butter and seasoning. Its easy and you get potato skins to eat with sea salt as a cook's treat. I know that mash is a personal thing, just go with your method of choice, this is mine.

Bake the potatoes in a hot oven until they are completely cooked through (about one large potato per person for about 90 minutes). Take the potatoes out of the oven (but leave the oven on and put a baking dish in to heat) and leave to cool a little while you cook the spinach.

Rinse a large bag of spinach (I used 300g for two of us but increase it for more people, or decrease if you don't want such a strong iron punch) and put it into a large pan with just the water that is still clinging to the leaves. Cover the pan and leave over a moderate flame for a few minutes. When the spinach starts to wilt turn the leaves over in the pan with a wooden spoon and when all of the leaves are wilted drain the spinach and set it aside.

Turn back to the potatoes and scoop the flesh into a bowl. Mix in butter, salt and pepper to taste. Add the spinach to the mash and then put everything into the preheated oven dish. Make small wells in the mash and crack an egg into each one (as many as you want to eat, we had two each). Dot the dish with a little butter and place into a hot oven for 5-10 minutes until the white is cooked but the yolk is still soft. Serve immediately.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Saturday, 7 November 2009


I'm going to spend a night in Sussex tonight. I'll be fed by my Mum and sleep in the quiet of the countryside. I'll take my camera and maybe I'll buy some of those Christmas magazines for the train...

Friday, 6 November 2009


Why is it that I will sigh with exasperation at Christmas adverts starting on TV at the beginning of November but bite my lip in anticipation when I see the lights going up in Covent Garden?

Why is it that Christmas windows in shops in October give me a heavy heart but seeing the Christmas magazines on shelves this week made me eager to hand over vast sums to the newsagent?

Why is it that I felt an excited flutter when I realised that Sunday's Observer Food Monthly would be the Christmas special?

Why is it that I realised that I could finally pull out the Christmas books again (Nigella, Delia, Sarah - sigh) and, most worrying of all, why is it that I found myself humming a Christmas song today?

I blame the smell of mulled wine in the evenings.

I blame the lights which have been up in Stoke Newington for a little while now.

But really, I'm a sucker for Christmas, I can only blame myself.

Thursday, 5 November 2009


Earlier on today I thought I might fail at this whole NaBloPoMo lark. I couldn't see how a day could be redeemed when the best thing in it had been the bowl of chocolate and peanut granola that I had eaten for breakfast, which, incidentally, I blogged about a year ago today, and when the thing I was most looking forward to was curling up with my new book.

But then we came home, we stood wrapped up on the balcony watching fireworks exploding all across London and we ordered food from Rasa. I'll let our food (well, the menu) speak for itself...

Beet Cheera Pachadi
An amazingly vibrant dish, traditionally only served at wedding feasts. Fresh beetroot and spinach are blended together in a yoghurt sauce with roasted coconut, mustard seeds and curry leaves - a must for the adventurous.

Savoy Cabbage
Thoran, an essential dish at every Kerala feast, can be made from a variety of vegetables. This one is made from chopped cabbage, cubed potatoes and lentils stir fried together with onion, fresh coconut and mustard seeds

Lemon Rice
A tangy, fresh tasting rice tossed with lemon juice, fresh curry leaves and mustard seeds.

A very fragrant bread made of rice flour, Indian shallots, cumin seeds and roasted coconut blended together and cooked into a thick, crispy flat bread.

Surely you're tempted?

Wednesday, 4 November 2009


After spending lunchtime hunting for a new pasta recipe I thought I had found the perfect option - sausages, pasta, lemon, white wine, parmesan, parsley, oregano - what's not to like? I was busy planning a post in my head as I made my shopping list but somehow, between leaving work and arriving home, that simple and perfect plan had started to fall apart.

I went to M&S for some sausages but they didn't have any lemons so I planned a bus route home that would take in a stop for lemons, fresh parsley, parmesan, and wine (convincing myself that I had dried oregano in the cupboard).

So far so normal.

But then my bus went on a diversion around the streets of North London and when I looked at my watch I simultaneously realised that I had already spent 75 minutes on the top deck of the 243 and that I wouldn't get home before 8 despite leaving work at 6. I gave up. I got off the bus and walked the rest of the way home.

I popped into an off licence for wine and decided to give up on the rest in the, frankly ludicrous, hope that I would have it all in the fridge. But no. No lemons, no dried oregano, no dried chilli. The end of a hunk of parmesan and some sprigs of fresh parsley were just luck.

We ate some and we went back for seconds and while it had been sitting in a covered pan something had happened. The sausage was juicier, the flavours had mellowed. I think next time I'll just cover the pan and ignore it for a couple of minutes and hope that magic wasn't a one off.

SAUSAGE FUSILLI (adapted from a recipe on
Serves 2

1 heaped teaspoons fennel seeds
½ teaspoon paprika
olive oil
300g good-quality coarse Italian or Cumberland sausages
a wineglass of white wine
250g good-quality fusilli
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
a knob of butter
a small handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
a small bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped

Bash up the fennel seeds in a pestle and mortar until coarsely crushed and mix in the paprika, then put to one side. Heat a splash of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan. Squeeze the meat out of the sausage skins and put into the pan, breaking it up using the back of a spoon. Fry for a few minutes until the meat starts to colour and the fat has rendered slightly, then crush it once more so it resembles coarse mince (or, if you're me, until it resembles small balls of sausagemeat. Coarse mince eluded me.). Add the fennel seeds and paprika and cook on a medium heat for around 10 minutes until the meat becomes crisp, golden brown and slightly caramelized.

Pour in the white wine and allow it to reduce by half. Turn the heat down to low while you cook your pasta in a large pan of salted boiling water according to the packet instructions. When the pasta has cooked al dente, drain it in a colander, reserving some of the cooking water, and toss it in the pan with your sausagemeat. Add the butter, Parmesan, chopped parsley and a few spoonfuls of the reserved cooking water. Taste and check for seasoning, then serve with a little extra grated Parmesan sprinkled over the top.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009


So, I suppose I should explain now that there is a high likelihood of a few foodless posts cropping up in November. Some days I'm just more preoccupied with other things like coveting the perfect Autumn coat, oggling bags, and browsing stationery shops for birthday cards...

But my new favourite? My new obsession? I'm sure you all know about 3191? I'm sure that if you read any of the same blogs as me then you've heard of Lines & Shapes? I'm sure I'm not alone in being drawn to things I read about on my favourite blogs so let me suggest that you go and visit their site and when you're there you buy at least one little thing. But don't blame me when you receive that one little thing and you find yourself happily ordering their entire back catalogue plus the books they have started publishing under their new wing, Other Books. Just don't say I didn't warn you.

Monday, 2 November 2009


People say that everything in London is expensive and I suppose they have a point, but one thing has surprised me over and over again since moving here, it is very easy to eat cheaply.

We eat Vietnamese food two or three times a month - summer rolls, grilled beef in betel leaves, grilled pork with cold rice noodles and sweet chilli sauce for me, pho for Chris. We go to Turkish restaurants and eat chargrilled lamb chops and scoop up onions in pomegranate sauce with bread that has been used to mop up the lamb juices on the barbecue. We order southern Indian vegetarian curries to eat at home - beetroot curry, spinach with paneer, lemon rice, paratha. We eat well.

Often at the weekend when we leave the house we are going out and need to grab a quick something for lunch that can be eaten on the run. When we lived in Edinburgh this could be that start of a frustrating search that left us staring disconsolately at the chilled sandwiches in a local shop. Here, for the grand sum of £1.50, we have choices...

Lahmacun. We usually go to Numara Bos Cirrik. You order a lahmacun to go and sit and wait for a couple of minutes. A very thin flatbread with a crisp underside and a fine coating of spiced herbed lamb mince arrives from the kitchen. The guy behind the counter adds salad and asks if you want garlic or chilli sauce before rolling up the whole thing in paper ready to be eaten.

Gözleme. Ladies in headscarves sit working as the piles of cooked gözleme mount up. We usually have the cheese gözleme - lightly spiced feta in a soft pancake, but there are spinach and potato options as well.

I have never taken photos as I always eat these too quickly but I don't know that I could ever get tired of having either of these for lunch.

Sunday, 1 November 2009


I didn't grow up with peanut butter and I didn't even think I liked it all that much until relatively recently. First there were Peanut Butter Cups and Reese's Pieces then there was the 2007 Edinburgh Moonwalk. Four of us were walking together and on our 20 mile training walk Glenys pulled out peanut butter sandwiches when we got hungry. The perfect mid walk combination of protein and carbs it was the first time that I had eaten peanut butter on bread and enjoyed it. I packed peanut butter rolls on the night of the final walk and at about 4.00am when the sun was starting to peek over the horizon as we walked along the water we all tucked in for a much needed energy boost.

I still don't eat peanut butter regularly but on this year's Moonwalk I once again packed peanut butter rolls and they once again kept me going when hunger hit in the early hours. Since then there has been the end of a large jar of peanut butter sitting in the cupboard. I had been meaning to make cookies with it but every recipe I looked at said the natural stuff wouldn't give the right cookie consistency. Yesterday, on a cookie mission, I decided to go on a recipe hunt and found a recipe that said natural was best and, even better, it only needed a few other ingredients. The cookies took 5 minutes to make, if that, and 10 minutes to bake. They are crunchy on the outside and slightly fudgy within. Delicious and can be made at a moment's notice. Ideal.

PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES (recipe from Joy the Baker)

1 cup of natural peanut butter
½ cup of light brown sugar
½ cup of caster sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon of baking powder

Preheat the oven to 170°C and line a baking tray with baking parchment. Mix the peanut butter with the sugar until well combined then add the egg and baking powder and mix. Roll into walnut sized balls and press down lightly with the back of a fork. Bake for about 10 minutes until the cookies are golden brown. Leave to cool on the tray for a minute or two before transferring to a cooling rack.

Saturday, 31 October 2009


Where have I been?

I've been here, I've been working and reading and watching TV, I've been around and about on a course through work, I've been reading the new Nigel Slater book and falling in love with him all over again, I've been watching the same lovable Nigel making his simple suppers and Jamie travelling around America, I've been getting sucked into the new series of Gossip Girl, succumbing to finally reading Twilight and enjoying the Millennium trilogy, I've been listening to The XX on repeat and when it isn't The XX it's Phoenix, I've been wondering whether I'm right in thinking that it used to be a lot colder at this time of year when I would have been bundled up in layer upon layer to go to a bonfire.

In short I've been doing a lot of things but there are two things that don't make the list. I haven't been cooking and I haven't been blogging.

There has been a lot of soup and pasta recently, too much. I need to force myself back to it again, remember that I love it, remember that when I write this blog I love that too, I love feeling that I can do this, that I can keep it going.

Most weekends I wake up early. I may sit around and read for most of the morning but I'll probably be awake by 8.30. Last Saturday I slept and I slept and I slept. I thought my eyes were opening but then they would fall close with a thud. That isn't like me. When I finally got moving I did something that I haven't done for much too long. I went to a new cookery book, I wrote a shopping list and I went to the supermarket with a plan, a plan that involved beetroot in vast quantities. I pulled on some disposable gloves to avoid the Lady Macbeth look and I got to work. We had beetroot and lamb mince meatballs for dinner that night and while we ate there was a beetroot seed cake cooling on the worktop waiting to be drizzled with lemon icing and scattered with poppy seeds. There is nothing better for prodding me back to life than a bit of quiet Saturday baking.

It's been all quiet on the cooking front since but it's a start and, with that start in mind I've decided to return to NaBloPoMo for the third year running. Year 1 was a failure of epic proportions, year 2 was a modest success (definitely a few filler posts), and year 3, well, fingers crossed so wish me luck.

BEETROOT SEED CAKE (from Tender: v. 1: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch by Nigel Slater)

Nigel says 'this tastes no more of beetroot than a carrot cake tastes of carrots, yet it has a similarly warm earthiness to it. It is less sugary than most cakes and the scented icing I drizzle over it is purely optional. The first time I made it I used half sunflower and half Fairtrade brazil nut oil, but only because the brazil nut oil was new and I wanted to try it. Very successful it turned out to be, too, not to mention boosting everyone's zinc levels'. I had macadamia nut oil sitting in the cupboard which really needed to be used so use it I did. I have no idea how much if it affected the taste of the cake but it was good. Serves 8-10.

225g self-raising flour
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 scant teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
180ml sunflower oil
225g light muscovado sugar
3 eggs
150g raw beetroot
juice of half a lemon
75g sultanas or raisins
75g mixed seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, linseed)
for the icing:
8 tablespoons icing sugar
lemon juice or orange blossom water
poppy seeds

Set the oven at 180C/gas mark 4. Lightly butter a rectangular loaf tin (20cm x 9cm x 7cm deep, measured across the bottom) then line the bottom with baking parchment.

Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and cinnamon. Beat the oil and sugar in a food mixer until well creamed then introduce the beaten egg yolks one by one, reserving the whites for later.

Grate the beetroot coarsely and fold into the mixture, then add the lemon juice, raisins or sultanas and the assorted seeds. Fold the flour and raising agents into the mixture while the machine is turning slowly.

Beat the egg whites till light and almost stiff. Fold gently but thoroughly into the mixture with a large metal spoon (a wooden one will knock the air out). Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 50-55 minutes, covering the top with a piece of foil after 30 minutes. Test with a skewer to see if done. The cake should be moist inside but not sticky. Leave the cake to settle for a good 20 minutes before turning out of its tin on to a wire cooling rack.

To make the icing, sieve the icing sugar and stir in enough lemon juice or orange blossom water to achieve a consistency where the icing will run over the top of the cake and dribble slowly down the sides (about three teaspoonfuls), stirring to remove any lumps. Drizzle over the cake and scatter with poppy seeds. Leave to set before eating.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009


Gourmet is closing down. Condé Nast what can you be thinking?

Thursday, 3 September 2009


So apparently it's September already? I was cold this morning in a jumper and scarf, it's blustery outside and leaves are falling far too fast. I like Autumn but I'm not sure that I'm ready for it just yet.

Summer has passed quickly while we've been busy doing nice things - celebrating 30th birthdays, eating out, going to some amazing gigs - but the upshot of all this doing of nice things is that eating at home has fallen by the wayside and when we do eat at home it is the usual rota of chicken with couscous, pork burgers, chickpea curry, pasta, and, the one I want to tell you about, my favourite new thing this summer, potato salad.

It started in June during our one single solitary week of proper summer heat. We wanted new potatoes and we wanted salad but we didn't want a claggy mayonnaise coated potato salad. I cooked some small new potatoes and let them drain and cool a little while I chopped spring onions, capers, and flat leaf parsley, mixed dijon mustard, sherry vinegar, olive oil, and salt and pepper to make a vinaigrette, and tossed the lot over the still warm potatoes. It was one of my finer moments and one that has been repeated many many times since. I'll probably try to squeeze it in again before thoughts start turning to baking and roasting.

Monday, 20 July 2009


If you're thinking about developing an American cookery book and magazine habit then I will give you a small piece of advice.


I know you've probably already got the measuring cups but believe me that is just the tip of a very large iceberg.

First you'll find yourself trying to translate a recipe into measurements that make sense. You'll attempt to work out exactly how much butter is in one tablespoon and will end up with a frankensteinian recipe utilising measuring cups, spoons, scales, and a good amount of crossing fingers behind your back for good measure.

You'll wish you had access to cake flour and butterscotch chips and cry, yet again, about how prohibitively expensive cherries are in this country.

Finally, and this is the most dangerous of all, you will develop a lengthy shopping list of essential kitchenware that you cannot live without as living without would mean resigning yourself to ignoring big hunks of baking books forever more.

And, so it was, that my must buy holiday shopping list included all of the current issues of all of my favourite US food magazines, a few cookery books, and, most important of all, a bundt tin. You can just imagine the fun I had lugging my case up five flights of stairs when we got home.

Bundts are not a regular feature in Britain so, sadly, there is not a big market for the heavyweight intricately moulded tins. I could have ordered one online but I wanted to see them in front of me and pick the shape I liked best. I was pretty surprised that Chris was on board with this purchase but I think the sculptural curves of the tin won him over and instead of wondering, aloud, where exactly this large tin was supposed to live in our already overflowing kitchen cupboards he stood beside me in Sur La Table and helped me to choose the shape for all our future bundts.

Friday came and an early finish from work meant I could sit on the balcony with my book for a couple of hours before knuckling down to some baking of the bundt variety. The cake of choice was a blackberry version of the blueberry raspberry pound cake from Molly Wizenberg's book which, in turn, is a recipe from the July 1986 issue of Bon Appétit. I swapped the blueberries and raspberries for blackberries and the kirsch for crème de mures. The resulting cake has a sweet crust, a firm purple stained crumb, and an easy manner that means it could be wheeled out for tea, pudding, or brunch. I suggest trying it for all three.

BLACKBERRY BUNDT (adapted from the recipe for Blueberry-Raspberry Pound Cake in A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg)

2 cups plus 8 tablespoons plain flour (use cake flour if you have access to it)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 large eggs
1 2/3 cups sugar
2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces) unsalted butter, diced, at room temperature
2 tablespoons crème de mures
2 cups blackberries
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Place a rack in the centre of your oven and preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F). Butter a standard-sized 9-cup Bundt pan and dust it with flour, shaking out any excess.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 cups plus 6 tablespoons flour, the baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of a food processor, blend the eggs and sugar until thick and pale yellow, about 1 minute. Add the butter and crème de mures, and blend until the mixture is fluffy, about 1 minute, stopping once to scrape down the sides of the bowl. If the mixture looks curdled, don't worry. Add the dry ingredients and process to just combine. Do not overmix. The batter should be very thick and very smooth.

In a large bowl, toss the berries with the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour. Pour the batter over the berries and, using a rubber spatula, gently fold to combine, taking care that all of the flour is absorbed. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly across the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the cake's center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 1/4 hours.

Transfer the cake to a rack, and cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Carefully turn the cake out of the pan and onto a rack, and cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Note. Sealed well and stored at room temeperature, this cake will keep nicely for 2 or 3 days. It should also freeze well.

Friday, 17 July 2009


I'm not always as good as I should be at taking photos of delicious meals so I'll have to give you a quick don't miss hit list of the places we loved and you'll just have to trust me...

Pearl Oyster Bar
I haven't been able to get beyond the lobster roll (buttery grilled hot dog bun piled high with lobster meat and mayonnaise with a side of crunchy straw fries) but if for some inexplicable reason this doesn't appeal then the tiny taste of Adam's halibut was great and I would have ordered it happily if it weren't for that pesky roll.

Momofuku Milk Bar
Sarah and Rob told us that we absolutely could not miss going here and ordering the pork and egg bun. They didn't go into too much detail so we dutifully ordered two buns and two blueberry beers not really knowing what would come. What we got was a bun folded over belly pork, hoisin sauce, cucumber, spring onions, and a soft fried egg. We ate while trying to avoid splattering ourselves in porky eggy hoisin wonderfulness and debated coming back later that day for round two. We bought cookies to take up to Central Park instead.

Phoenix Garden
Two years ago we were staying on East 34th St. and Adam and Renee (we have a habit of meeting up in New York, a habit to be nurtured I think) were staying a little further uptown. After deciding that we all fancied Chinese food to eat in our hotel room that evening we stumbled across Phoenix Garden on Zagat. Two years later we could remember that it was very good and we could remember that it was cheap but it took a little more digging around online to remember the name. We were visiting Adam and Renee's hotel a few short blocks away so it was an easy decision to call for a delivery. The food arrived and it was even better than we had remembered and, an extra bonus, even cheaper than we had remembered. A few nights later back at our hotel on our last night in the city Chris and I were tired and wanted food that was only available 24 blocks north and 7 east. We tried to convince ourselves that something else would work but all we could do in the end was succumb to our craving, hop in a cab, cross town, order food, go for a short walk, wait for the food while drinking a free jasmine tea, back into a cab, back across town, to sit down and look at out view and eat. We have a menu stuck to our fridge door now. Torture.

Cafe Habana
This was on my list of places to visit two years ago but somehow we didn't make it. Don't make the same mistake. Next time I'll go to the little take away place and grab an order of corn to eat while sitting on Elizabeth St. It's grilled and sprinkled with cheese, chilli powder and lime juice. I read a review describing it as crack corn and I would say that sounds just about right.

So, that's all from our trip. Now, there's a blackberry bundt cake in the oven and recipes to try. Goodbye Boston. Goodbye Providence. Goodbye Toronto. Goodbye New York.


We had always planned to spend a day in Brooklyn with Claire.

We hadn't always planned for it to start raining and then continue raining all day without a break.

We had always planned to go to Egg for brunch.

We hadn't always planned to be sitting outside under an awning watching soggy people wait under umbrellas while we ate.

My pancakes were the size of the plate and try as I might I couldn't quite finish them.

Claire's breakfast gave me my first taste of a biscuit. I always thought they were just like scones but they are lighter, fluffier, different.

Chris's breakfast of eggs rothko was a slice of toast with a hole cut in the middle and an egg cooked in the hole before cheese is melted on top. It was served with spiced homemade sausage which he loved but which would be a bit too punchy for my tastebuds in the morning (not a criticism just a comment, I have a fairly pathetic spice tolerance level).

The cafetiere of coffee was huge, the brown paper tablecloths perfectly designed for spilling, and the juice fresh.

After walking off brunch we dodged in and out of shops to avoid the rain as much as possible which lead to two new pairs of shoes for me and a big bag of records for Chris. Eventually we gave up on the weather and headed east to Alligator Lounge, a bar where every drink comes with a free pizza from the pizza oven at the back.

We headed back out into the rain to complete the Brooklyn experience with an evening at the Brooklyn Brewery. When the brewing work is finished for the week they set up a bar and welcome the hordes (mostly in wellies on this particular night) to drink beers and order from the takeaway menus scattered around. A fitting end to a good (if soggy) day.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009


Every so often, usually on a Sunday and usually after a late night, Chris and I will start talking food and will only come up with one option - Shake Shack. We go online and look at the photos of burgers, a form of torture that we should stop subjecting ourselves to, check out the Shack Cam and cry, yet again, about how we really should be able to live in New York. So, having already demolished a double shack burger, fries and the new Shackmeister beer as our first New York meal, it was a novel experience to wake up with a slightly fuzzy head and be in the location to eat the food that we really wanted. The hour long queue on a Saturday lunchtime is never going to be much fun but that double shack burger and those fries make it all worth it.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009


I've been trying to wirte a post about a deli we visited in Toronto.

It doesn't sound like a tough thing to do but everything seems to come out as pretentious twaddle.

I tried to describe where it is, 'imagine a Toronto side street, an unassuming building with a side door leading up to a dive bar' - twaddle.

I tried to describe the circumstances leading up to our visit, 'Sarah told us about a place that she and Rob had been planning to visit, a place famous for serving smoked meat sandwiches in an unpromising setting' - twaddle.

I gave up.

I'll just have to cut to the chase.

Caplansky's. Sit down, order, choose lean, medium, or fatty meat. Sarah and I say lean and are promptly told that a little bit of fat is a very good thing so we change our minds. Sarah orders coleslaw which I normally don't like but instead of being gloopy and mayo bound it is a tangy vinegary slaw which I taste, I order myself a plate. A bowl of cabbage borscht for Chris and sandwiches for all of us. A little bit of fat is a very good thing indeed...

Saturday, 4 July 2009


of a happy Toronto Sunday

I only wish I had taken a photo of us eating a hot dog from Leonard Cohen's favourite hot dog stand after seeing the Blue Jays beat the Red Sox (not actually wearing their red socks, very disappointing) at the Skydome on Saturday (I know it's called the Rogers Centre now but it is wrong. Skydome is clearly a superior name conjuring up an image of the Jetsons whizzing up from the Skydome and around the CN Tower in their flying car before heading home to their robot made dinner. Rogers Centre conjures up absolutely nothing, dull, dull, dull).

Thursday, 2 July 2009


We've been trying to plan a trip to Toronto for a few years now. I shared a flat with Sarah while we were on the same postgraduate course and she and Rob have been to visit us in both Edinburgh and London. We've shared our top food and shopping haunts with them and were ready to hear their top Toronto tips.

Ossington is an area firmly on the up and we spent the Friday morning nosing around the independent shops before jumping onto a streetcar to head west for lunch.

I had never heard of Jamie Kennedy but as we walked into Gilead Cafe and saw the lines of pickle jars on shelves lining the walls I knew I would like it.

Smoked arctic char, potato salad and some lightly pickled vegetables for Chris.

A cheeseburger with pickles, lettuce, and sauces on the side to add as I pleased for me.

Both dishes were more than enough to merit fond lasting memories of Gilead but I will really remember the cafe for this.

This is poutine with shredded short ribs. This is Jamie Kennedy's famous fries, topped with melting cheese curds, deeply meaty gravy, and shredded beef. My mouth is watering as I remember the taste even though I ate it over a month ago.

We shared this bowl between four but next time I'm getting one just for me.


In my first Boston post I very briefly mentioned a meatloaf sandwich from a Watertown diner.

Last night I got my first blog request from Chris. 'When you've written about Providence can you add an edit to your Boston post for the sandwiches?' How could I say no?

It was very wet when we left Providence and arrived back in Boston for our last day and night. I believe it is still that way now. We went to see the Shepard Fairey exhibition at the ICA before driving back to the house to put on more rain appropriate footwear and heading for the diner that Renee had been suggesting ever since we arrived.

I followed Renee's lead by ordering a Monte Cristo, that's a cheese and ham sandwich on challah bread, dipped in egg and fried to make it a french toast sandwich, and sweet potato fries (which I really didn't need but really needed to try).

Chris went for the meatloaf sandwich smothered in gravy and a side of spinach.

My sandwich was good but I think would need to be reserved for serious hunger / hangovers. If we went again I would go for the meatloaf. I can almost taste it now.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009


I can't help but love the names of towns and cities in New England. Portsmouth, Chester, Plymouth, Boston, Cambridge. All named after places left behind. All (with the possible exception of Cambridge and then only because of Harvard) nothing like those namesakes.

And then there is Providence.

God's merciful providence.

Or, as we know it, Providence where Shea'la of Tiny Showcase lives with her lovely cats Nook

and the majestic Moose.

Shea'la lived in Edinburgh for a little while and when she invited us to stay we jumped at the chance.

We headed to Jamestown to look at the lighthouses,

and to picnic on the rocks.

We peered into rock pools, and then headed to Newport to see the old money holiday homes (you say home I say mansion/chateau/palace) of the Vanderbilts and their old money friends.

After a restorative G&T in a terrifyingly neon tiki bar (I swear I'm not making this up) we made our way back to Providence for a drink at AS220, a local arts centre, followed by pulled pork sandwiches and beers at The Red Fez and another chance to play with those wonderful cats.

I still don't know much about Providence but I know that I'll stay there for an extra night or two next time.

Sunday, 28 June 2009


After getting over the hurdle, and subsequent agony, of walking 26.2 miles in the middle of the night wearing a bra decorated to resemble two watermelon slices (made of felt) I am finally ready to come back and remember our two weeks away. Two weeks, two countries, four cities, good friends, good food, good fun.

We always eat well with Adam and Renee.

They love to cook and they love to eat so it was no surprise to eat well in Boston.

We ate Korean food in a jet lag fog on our first night, meatloaf sandwiches smothered in gravy in a Watertown diner, pancakes for breakfast, and enormous sandwiches from a deli near Harvard.

But there were two meals which stood out from all the rest.

I would love to describe the first in all its glory. I would love to tell you about the 15 individual plates of food and describe the exact components of the Hendrick's cucumber gimlet that we started the meal with. I would love to tell you about the fig bread, the three different types of caviar, the beautiful single scallop I was presented with as an alternative to seared fois gras (which when I tried I would happily have devoured), the frogs legs and snail in garlic butter, the five cheeses we ate as course number 12, or was it 13... We sat for four hours and we ate and we drank and I would love to describe L'Espalier in painstakingly precise detail but it just wouldn't be right. I don't have any photos and I'm not convinced that I could do all those intricate dishes the justice that they deserve so all I will say is that it was impressive, and delicious, and as we ate each dish we all went silent for a brief moment and then mopped up every last morsel of every perfect sauce.

Thankfully not every Boston meal leaves me so lost for suitable words and thankfully not every Boston meal was enjoyed without a camera on the table.

On a hot May Sunday we headed to The Barking Crab to sit at a picnic table under a red and yellow striped roof,

to look out at the Boston skyline,

to drink pitchers of cold Sam Adams,

to eat Jonah crab claws, crab cakes, and oysters,

followed by lobster rolls with fries,

and a little more Sam Adams to wash it all down.

Fresh seafood, simply cooked, simply served, simply eaten and enjoyed. Do you think I could persuade them to open a London outpost?

Saturday, 23 May 2009


Boston today. Providence on Tuesday. Toronto on Thursday. New York to finish.

See you in two weeks with stories and photos.

Thursday, 14 May 2009


Well, there I was hoping for warm Spring days and Summery food and what do I get instead?

A stupid Summer cold.

For over a week now I have had a sore throat, a snotty nose, and, best of all, have been waking up at 2am every morning with a tickly cough that requires every potion in our medicine cabinet to make it stop for long enough to fall asleep again. The only thing to cure it so far has been a few glasses of wine followed by a bedtime paracetamol but somehow I don't think a doctor would approve, but somehow, at 2am, I don't really care.

So, while cooking has been but a distant memory of late I have been mainly filling my time doing one of three things (not counting lying in bed reading Jane Austen, doing endless Sudokus and watching DVDs)...

Daydreaming about our upcoming holiday. A week on Saturday we will be on our way to Boston and from there will go to Toronto and then to New York. Any suggestions are very welcome.

Daydreaming about the summery food that my body hasn't wanted to eat. For the past few weeks I have been mainly reading this...

And finally panicking about the upcoming Moonwalk. The 20th June is starting to look very close. I have a 16 mile training walk planned for this weekend so wish me luck and if you have any bra decorating ideas send them my way.

In the meantime a return to normality tonight saw a dinner of smoked trout, jersey royals and asparagus. A little sea salt and black pepper, some butter on the asparagus and some mayo or olive oil for the potatoes. Bliss.

Monday, 27 April 2009


On Sunday I was finally ready to plan cooking, photographing, and blogging a meal. What a breakthrough. Maybe it's something to do with putting all of the books on the shelves and getting rid of the majority of our cardboard boxes in the process. While three (large) sets of bookshelves filled to bursting is quite a sight, it is a much more pleasant one than a room filled with heavy boxes. I now have one entirely food related set of bookshelves (uh oh). That shouldn't come as too much of a surprise (yet somehow still did).

Maybe my first blogged meal in the flat should have been something elaborate that tested the abilities of my new kitchen equipment to the limit. Maybe it should have shown off the finest ingredients of the English Spring. Maybe it should have been something that we set the table for and ate with friends.

It wasn't any of these things.

It was a one pot dish and as such will probably come to represent a new style of cooking in this more confined space. It was a dish with a taste of Spring but using ingredients that can be bought at any time of the year without resorting to out of season vegetables. It was designed to use up some hot smoked trout without needing to buy much to go with it.

It was simply a pan of cooked pasta, a few teaspoons of chopped capers, a handful of chopped flat leaf parsley, the zest of half a lemon, a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, a dash of garlic oil and some freshly ground black pepper. Mix everything together and add some flaked hot smoked trout (that's hot smoked rather than smoked and hot, does that make sense?). Eat and enjoy the end of a sunny weekend while keeping fingers firmly crossed that there are more to come.

Friday, 17 April 2009


We're nearly there.

The record shelves are up, the kitchen is unpacked, I need to sort out my books and we need to buy a bed but then our minds can turn to nicer things. Things like buying folding outdoor chairs and plants.

Apart from Easter in Edinburgh food for the last couple of weeks has been quick and easy. Soup with good bread, bowls of pasta, lamb burgers in pita. I'm looking forward to discovering the kitchen.

Last night we had a break from unpacking and went to a Bill Granger evening at Divertimenti. A talk, some questions, a few glasses of wine, and canapés cooked using recipes from the book. I only have a couple of his books but now I want them all. He was a warm speaker with opinions that had me nodding in agreement all the way through. He answered questions honestly (I hope), cooks for his family, and quipped about his wife needing to buy another pair of Louboutins, how could you not be charmed? And, best of all, he has decided to move to London with his family and open an outpost of Bills. He was asked about locations and just said central London but that he had seen spaces in Notting Hill, Chelsea, and Clerkenwell so far. I'm pushing for Clerkenwell or Islington and keeping my fingers crossed that the famous hotcakes with honeycomb butter are on the breakfast menu.

One more highlight of the week was finding a free copy of The School of Essential Ingredients. I first read a rave review of this on Tea & Cookies and promptly popped it into my Amazon basket. I read another, equally glowing, review on Gluten-Free Girl Recommends and wondered why I hadn't bought it yet before remembering that I already had quite enough books to box up before moving and that American price tag had me hesitating each and every time I went to press checkout. So when I spotted the freebie I pounced. The book is a quiet exploration of a small group of people taking a cookery class. It inspires small smiles of both joy and sadness and had me holding back tears on the train. It drew me into the lives of these people and reminded me of a few of the reasons that I love to cook. It made me wish that the restaurant in the book were real so that I could add it to my list of Seattle places to visit one day in the future and it made me keen to find my new essential ingredients this summer. I think eating with friends, feeling the warmth of the sun on my face while I drink a cold beer on the balcony, and using freshly picked herbs that leave lasting scents on my fingers will all form some part of that.

Tuesday, 31 March 2009


I am mostly...

tired from the clock change. 7 still felt like 6 this morning but at least it is light when I leave work now.

packing. The books and records are done (and in about 60 boxes, I hope the removal guys are fit and ready for those 5 flights of stairs) so time to start on the clothes and kitchen stuff.

deciding whether to buy a green APC dress for summer before it sells out.

daydreaming about window boxes full of herbs and proper windowsills which might be adorned with something from here.

Maybe this...

or this for the breakfast table...

or this just because...