Tuesday, 29 March 2011


It's my sister's 34th birthday today and apparently when you've known someone for almost 32 years thinking up new ideas for birthday and Christmas presents can be tricky.

As teenagers there were baskets from The Body Shop filled with bottles, soaps, lotions and bath pearls. We picked the basket and the things to fill it and took it to the counter where they would nestle everything in shredded paper and wrap it in cellophane. First there were animal shaped soaps, later dewberry everything.

On her 30th there was a silver charm bracelet with a small heart charm and in the few years since gifts inspired by summer holidays to come. A Greek cookery book, a beach bag, and some trashy beach reads. A Spanish cookery book, paprika, paella rice, saffron.

But this year I was struggling.

I decided to send a cake.

A cake I have been meaning to bake for a long time now.

A cake that I baked and wished I could taste.

This cake.

A cake that was wrapped in foil, baking parchment and bakers twine before being placed inside a tin, inside bubble wrap, inside a box and taken to the post office.

A cake to be eaten with whipped cream or ice-cream. A cake so rich it should really just be for adults but a cake that I suspect will be greedily devoured by a certain seven year old and a certain eleven year old.

Happy birthday Zoë.

Friday, 25 March 2011


I'm tall so I suppose it was inevitable that I would have big feet.

My Mum says that Taid, my Grandad, would say to her 'If your feet were any smaller you'd fall over all the time'. This is no consolation and also not true.

I have evidence...

Falling over in Tesco with a full basket of shopping. A small child pointed and laughed. Mortifying.

Falling over outside a lecture theatre while a few hundred fellow students streamed out.

Falling headfirst down some steps while Chris looked on in horror. And then laughed once it became clear that I was fine.

Falling down a hill wearing 4 inch heels and bloodying both knees in the process. I had ballet pumps in my bag.

Falling over on my parents patio, dropping my camera and smashing the lens.

Is that enough proof?

Big feet clearly do not help my balance.

Maybe they aren't big enough?

And what exactly has prompted this foot related outburst?


Too small in a 41, out of stock in a 42. Sigh.

But, just as I started to write this these arrived.

Too big in a 42 but just right in a 41.

Apparently my feet like to keep me guessing.

I'll be cooking this weekend. In fact I'll be baking. Possibly twice. Hell, if I go crazy maybe even three times. I have the recipes lined up so you just never know.

Thursday, 24 March 2011


It was the last Radcliffe and Maconie evening show on Radio 2 last night.

What will we listen to when we eat dinner now?

Tuesday, 22 March 2011


The other day I was thinking about catching up here and thinking about what to write but for some reason I felt like there wasn't much to say.

It's silly really. That implies that I haven't been cooking, haven't been making new recipes, haven't been doing this thing that this space is supposed to be about but that just isn't true. In the last few months I have cooked more new recipes than I have for a very long time. I've been braising fennel and chicory and cabbage, making curries from cauliflower and chickpeas, eating quick soups with sourdough from my new favourite place. I've been boiling kale to eat on toast with a fried egg, wilting spinach with onion and aleppo pepper for Saturday lunch, making basic salads to bring to work.

So why, with all of this going on have I not been coming here to say look, look at this cauliflower which I didn’t think much of before now, look at this red kale that made our toast go purple, look at the fennel with its caramelised edges so perfect for serving with sticky sausages?

I'm going to put it down to the end of Winter. It's been my excuse for everything lately but gosh it was starting to drag with its cold and its darkness. But this week, we have seen some sun, real sun with a hint of warmth, and now I can imagine long, bright evenings. I can almost even imagine Summer.

So, for now, I will continue. I will continue opening up The Art of Braising to decide what to make for dinner, continue perusing blogs for new ways with vegetables, continue reading, continue waking up to the idea of Spring. And, for now I'll just give you this...

Serves 2

Clicia is a small restaurant in Stoke Newington. We would go for breakfast and I would order the breakfast of fried halloumi, garlicky sausage, olives and cucumber while Chris ate two poached eggs on toast with a side of spinach. In our last weeks in London I started to order the spinach and, when our flat was full of boxes we would go most lunchtimes to spend a little time enjoying eggs, spinach and toast. That spinach was good but I didn't think about trying to recreate the taste until we made Molly's boiled kale and it all clicked into place. We ate spinach with caraway seed bread and scrambled eggs for lunch that Saturday.

1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 small onion
a pinch of aleppo pepper flakes
250g of spinach, rinsed

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat, add the onion and allow it to cook until tender and translucent. Now add the pepper flakes and the spinach and allow it to wilt in the pan. After a minute or two the spinach will be cooked through. Serve with eggs and toast.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011


At the end of last week I had a long post ready and waiting to be published on Friday but we all know what happened next.

I didn't, and still don't, have the words but not saying anything was not an option. In the last few days I have watched the news, followed the live blogs on the BBC and The Guardian, donated to the Red Cross and hoped. In the midst of all this I read as bloggers tried to find their words and found myself thinking about a few posts that stayed with me. Namely this from Luisa and this from Celia.

If you're in London on Friday you might want to stop by Cakes for Japan. Buy a cake, donate some money. And there'll be another Cakes for Japan event in Edinburgh on the 26th March.

But for now, if you're in need of quick comfort, something warming, soothing, can I point you toward this? We've made it three times in two weeks. The recipe originally came from Heidi but we borrowed a suggestion from Brian and now carrots, fennel and cumin seeds are firmly established parts of the recipe.

(Adapted from 101 cookbooks)
Serves 2 hungry people

You can replace the vegetables with any quick cooking veg you fancy or add to the list below. We have used savoy cabbage and kale over the last few weeks. Both were good.

1 tablespoon of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds
2 carrots, cut into small chunks
1 litre of stock, we have used both chicken and vegetable
a big pinch of red pepper flakes (I like aleppo)
100g couscous
1 large handful of broccoli florets, cut into small pieces A handful of cauliflower florets, cut into small pieces
4 spring onions, thinly sliced

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium-low heat and add the fennel and cumin. After 30 seconds add the carrot, stir and add a splash of water to allow the carrots to steam. Cover the pan and leave over a medium-low heat for around 5 minutes. Once the carrots are tender add the stock and the red pepper flakes to the pan and bring to the boil. As soon as the stock is boiling take the pan off the heat, stir in the couscous and leave for two minutes. Next stir in the broccoli, cauliflower and any other vegetables you are using and leave for two minutes, just long enough for the vegetables to stay crunchy but lose their rawness. Ladle into waiting bowls and serve with spring onions scattered on top.