Friday, 2 August 2013

a mingling of flavour

When you treat your body well, then everything feels great. Ok, so there are still a few things that suck [might have underestimated on the 'few']. One being, that I've continued to eye up the Adidas by Stella McCartney collection in the window on Fulham Road, and unfortunately I'm still performing a debit account countdown in my head. [When will this end? I'm almost 30!]. But, when considering one's own finely tuned machine, there will be something to feel great about. Your mind and emotions will be cruising on more of an even keel, every cell coming alive and buzzing along to the hum drum beat of your physical prowess. Tempted yet?

What I was tempted by recently, was a bag of Aero bubbles. Strange, seeing as I'm usually more of a 75% cocoa content kinda girl. Even more extraordinary seeing as I was trying to hold it together in the unexplainable July heatwave. Chocolate should have been the last thing on my mind. But there they were, winking at me. Since when did Aero get all over the flavour pairing? Chefs have been doing it for centuries, but it seems to have become a little more daring of late.

Loving to explore different flavours myself, but on more of a holiday countdown [including 'Hell Week' at Barry's Bootcamp] sort of mood, I decided to save those chocolates for a rainy day, and created a healthier stylish flavour combo myself!

It's been hot, so I settled on something fresh, vibrant and full of colour.

Vegetable and fruit. Fruit and vegetable. Do they go together? Yes!

Beetroot and pear salad

Raw beetroot is such a joy. Nothing like the soft pre-cooked balls you pick up in the supermarket. It's deeply earthy, sweet and best of all, crunchy. The crunchier a salad, the better for me. It makes such a huge difference, and hits those senses at every angle. The pear, less acidic than an apple, but sweet, aromatic and has a little more grittiness and character.

The sweet nature of this salad calls for a sharpness to cut through it, and the pear makes a great partner for ingredients with a tannic edge, such as red wine vinegar. Throw in some bitter-sweet jeweled pomegranate seeds that'll burst in your mouth, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil and some toasted pumpkin seeds for a nuttiness, and you've got yourself a little party in your mouth! Feel free to use mint, but more delicate herbs, like the feathery subtlety of dill or even fennel to heighten and freshen are better, as the mint runs the risk of taking over everything. Mint is very competitive!

Serving alone? Goes really well with salty cubes of feta cheese to complement the sweetness of the salad.
Serving with? The salad is very moreish and will go with anything like fish cakes, fish, grilled meats etc.

It also keeps very well in the fridge, keeping it's colour and it's crunch.

The breakdown: serves 4

4 good-size beetroots, scrubbed, peeled, cut into fine strips (mandoline makes this easy)
2 ripe pears, peeled, cored, cut into fine strips
Juice of one lemon
10 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
Drizzle of red wine vinegar (taste and test how much/little you want)
1 large handful of toasted pumpkin seeds
Sea salt and fresh black pepper to season
2 tbsp dill, roughly chopped - feel free to use fennel or mint

Friday, 20 July 2012

summer gazpacho

It's July, so we're officially in the thick of summer. If, however, you're in England, then you'll be fully aware that Weather currently has a bad case of schizophrenia. She is behaving a little delusional lately and can't decide whether she is in a fresh, happy, tense or angry disposition. It's so hard to keep up. My advice is that we be patient with her short attention span and dis-organised thinking, and make plans with or without her help.

I'll nudge this under your nose...perhaps you need a little help remembering?

Gazpacho is usually consumed during the summer months. I've tried various variations and many have left me unimpressed. They are either too lumpy / thick / imbalanced / rich, but this one is sweet, sharp, refreshing and light. An unassuming but winning opening act before the main course.

Serving 4

  • 1.1 kg cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 heaped teaspoon minced fresh red chilli
  • 2 heaped teaspoons chopped onion
  • 275 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon red wine or sherry vinegar
  • 2 heaped teaspoons caster sugar
  • 2 rounded teaspoons sea salt
  • Grinding of black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil and fresh chopped cucumber to serve

All ingredients into a blender. Work to a puree, and then pass through a sieve into a large bowl. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour, but not for longer than necessary.

Ladle the chilled soup into bowls (I like small portions - a taster). Put a small handful of chopped cucumber on top, to really infuse it with freshness and a drizzle of evoo.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

pumpkin bread

Pumpkins...Halloween...tis the season

It's about this time of year we keep seeing all those celebrities visiting Pumpkin Patch in LA. Heidi Klum, Jessica Alba et al all getting their pumpkin fix.

You'd be blind to miss the plentiful supply of bulbous orange squash sitting in the supermarkets. Did you know that Halloween is coming up? Have you carved your scary face?

Stupid costumes aside, I love the pumpkin side of October. My American friend makes a pumpkin dip to dunk sharp sour apple into, but my flat mate made this wonderful bread found on Joy of Baking, that can be enjoyed for breakfast with a cup of coffee, your afternoon tea, or just a snack. It is sooooo good. She used far less sugar, as there is no need for so much, and quite frankly I've always enjoyed pumpkin only slightly sweetened, so that all the spices come through and it doesn't become too sickly. We like it on its own, but you might like a little spread of butter.

The smell coming from the oven is amazing. It makes two loaves, so either eat one very quickly, give them away, or freeze one. It keeps very well. Also I recommend a really good loaf tin. A non stick silicone one works perfectly, and means no need for greasing or lining. I got one of these lately.

You definitely need some of this before you proceed!

Cream Cheese Filling:
227g cream cheese, room temp
100g granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour

Pumpkin Bread:
110g pecans or walnuts
450g all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/3 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
4 large eggs
400g granulated white sugar (NB we only used 300g)
226 g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
425g can pure pumpkin
120ml water
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Oven @ 180 ' C for 50-65 mins, 2 loaf tins.

Toast nuts on baking tray, cool and chop.

Cream cheese filling - using spoon or processor, cream the cheese until smooth with the sugar. Then add the eggs one at a time, and stir in flour. DO NOT OVER PROCESS OR OVER STIR, otherwise it'll be too thin and will be absorbed by the bread when cooking. Leave to the side.

Pumpkin bread - in a large bowl sift flour, baking powder, soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

In another bowl whisk eggs, and add sugar and melted butter. Whisk together. Stir in the pumpkin, water, vanilla and nuts. Add the flour mix bit by bit and stir in until just combined. DO NOT OVER STIR AS IT WILL MAKE IT TOO TOUGH.

Divide batter total in half and the cream cheese filling so it will be enough for 2 tins.

For one loaf, divide half the batter and spread into tin. Place the cream cheese filling on top of the batter and then top off with the remaining half of batter (use two spoons to place small dollops of batter on top of the filling so not to mix together).

Repeat for 2nd loaf tin (or use the same loaf tin after the 1st has cooked).

Bake for about 50-65 mins, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.


Friday, 21 October 2011

red wine risotto

Oh the red wine did floweth!

It might just be me, but I CAN'T stop eating right now. I especially can't stop drinking red wine.

My god I can't stop.

There was one tiny whiff of a cutting cold draft and the cork was already open.

It might be colder, but energy wise, that only amounts to an extra 200-300 calories needed a day, not the 750 like I'm putting away!

News flash, I'll be a stone heavier by Christmas and I'll be looking like the Steps reunion. Slightly distorted!

This is dangerous.'s getting dangerous. Suddenly I'm finding reasons to get red wine into my meals. My flat mate is watching me sink into this caricature of myself as the evening rolls on. My jokes are getting sharper, I'm getting wittier by the second, my judgements are getting harsher and my waistline is getting fuller. Unfortunately the laughs are made by me, egged on by me and responded to by me!

Serving 4
1 bottle of red wine
100g unsalted butter
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
300g risotto rice
450ml chicken stock
110g Parmesan cheese freshly grated
sea salt, black pepper

Bring the wine to the boil in a small pan, then leave to simmer over a very low heat.

Melt half the butter, then add the onion to sweat for a few minutes until soft. Add the rice and stir for a minute until complete covered in all the gloss. Start to add the red wine one ladleful at a time, stirring well as you go. You want the rice to absorb all of the wine, not be drowned by it!

Bring the stock to the boil.

When all the wine has been absorbed, then add the stock one ladleful at a time. The risotto should take roughly 25-30 minutes to cook in total.

You want to stop cooking the rice when it has a bite to it and whilst there is still a moistness to the sauce. Stir in the Parmesan and the remaining butter and add seasoning as desired.

Serve straightaway and add extra grated Parmesan to taste.

If you haven't drunk half a bottle of red wine whilst cooking then I'll be very proud of you!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

love bakery, kings road

LOVE red velvet cake

Take a celebratory christening and wrap it up in a spot of sunshine...add to that some very pale rose, and what do you get?

...the icing on the cake, which literally is, the icing on the cake!

Red velvet cake from Love Bakery on Kings Road, Chelsea (founded by Sam Blears).

The girls from Love are full of love too, I hear from a dickie bird that the girls in a certain store nearby get end of day treats for free!

Try out their cupcakes. By far my favourite cupcakes in London. They do a delicious cookies and cream one. Far better then all the others out there!

Get your gob around that!
Love Bakery, 319 Kings Road, London SW3 5EP
020 7352 3191

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

twice-cooked belly of pork


Pork belly might be a fatty bit of meat...but boy it's good. It works perfectly well in keeping the pork incredibly moist (I know there are haters for that word, so sincere apologies). Unfortunately though, that is where most of the flavour comes from.

This is perfectly suitable for a Sunday lunch or dinner party, just make sure to keep yourself a slice or two for that Tuesday night supper alone!

Pick up a piece of pork belly about 25cm x 18cm and take the skin off (safer to get butcher to do that or buy from supermarkets where it might come without skin on the piece) leaving a layer of fat on top.

Season all over and put in slightly oiled casserole dish (meat side down) and cover with water/stock and some white wine, bay leaf, onion slices, carrot and a celery stick or whatever. Bring to simmer and then cover (I also put buttered greaseproof paper on top of pork) and put in low oven (130C) for about 3-4 hours till meat very tender (test with sharp knife).

Leave to cool in stock.

Remove the pork and put a piece of greaseproof paper or cling film on pork and weigh down with a flat board with some weights (cans of tomatoes work very well!) to flatten slightly. Leave for a few hours and refrigerate. When ready (immediately or up to a few days) cut in thick slices (10x3cm) and fry fat side down slowly to warm through and brown top and get rid of some extra fat in a frying pan. Turn over after about 5 mins and fry other side for about a minute to brown and warm through.

Serve with jus and potatoes and green veg and carrots or red cabbage.
(I also ate mine the day after with some green salad and beetroot).

Jus: Reduce stock by about 2/3 and then add some reduced port or Madeira-add nob of butter when nearly ready. Should be almost syrupy to glaze the pork and as the gravy. Adjust seasoning.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

hearty lentil stew

All that's needed is a sausage or two!

Lentils bring to mind that very traditional French 'peasant' cooking.

I adore it and thank god there is that chill in the air now, so we can get back on the stews again.

A warmth that pummels straight to your bones!

It makes me remember a trip to Cluny, in the Burgundy region about 8 years ago. Minus 2 weather. Bitter, crisp, fresh cold. Numb fingers and toes. A steaming hot brasserie. A glass of hot mulled wine. A plate of sausage and bean casserole. A sing song in the corner.

I was actually meant to make a soup, but I let it reduce so much, it turned out far better!
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • strips of pancetta, chopped (I used a whole packet)
  • 1/2 tube of tomato puree
  • 4-5 new potatoes, halved
  • 250g dry green lentils
  • 1 pint of water(to start)
  • salt and pepper
  • optional extras (red wine, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves)
In a deep thick based casserole dish, on a medium heat, cook the onion for a few minutes, and then add the chopped carrot, celery and garlic and saute until the onion is soft. Then add the pancetta and continue to cook for a few more minutes until golden. Add the tomato puree and lentils and stir through before adding the water. Make sure you bring it to the boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and leave for a good 30 minutes. Add the halved new potatoes, and salt and pepper. Check the liquid level. If it at any point starts to look too dry then add some more water. You want to then leave this to simmer for at least an hour and end up with a rich thick sauce.

Of course, if you have any other ingredients please use them. At the liquid stage, add in a generous helping of red wine if you like, and some thyme and rosemary. I made this on a Sunday night without these, but it tastes just as good. The slow cooking ensures you drain every inch of flavour from every single ingredient.

Good on its own or with a couple of good quality sausages.

Bon appetit!