Monday, July 30, 2007

I Bought

Arrived at Borough Market about 9 on Saturday with a hangover and no plan at all. Not ideal. Went to Ginger Pig, decided steak dinner was the only option for Saturday supper. Bought a thick slice. With salad and garlic bread it was sensational, leftovers went into lunchboxes Monday They had topside on sale for £10.95 a kilo and the piece we had recently was so fabulous that I bought a huge hunk of that - had forgotten we were out Sunday night so it's in the freezer for next week - lots of beef for £36.

Next was some juice from total organics - £3

Some golden yolked eggs from Wild Beef - scrambled eggs Sunday night after brilliant Kronos Quartet and frittata Wednesday night for the other half - £1.50

Oak leaf, cucumber - salads Saturday and Wednesday, leeks - vaguely unsuccessful curry Thursday night and garlic from Ted's Veg - £3.80

Strawberries - smoothies - from Chegworth - £2.50

Zucchinis - frittata, rocket - with peanut butter and sprouts for fabulous sandwiches for lunch on Saturday, potatoes, butternut, aubergine - all still in the fridge, bananas, beetroot sprouts and lemons - fridge from Booths - £10

Ummed and Ahhed about a bag of ham bones at Brindisa but didn't get them - might next week and cook them with some beans - will buy some this week me thinks

Milk - daily, bread - lunch and dinner Saturday and yoghurt - smoothies and breakfast in the week -from Neals Yard - £9.50

Almond croissant and chocolate brownie - indulgence- £3.50

Then time to go home for coffee and a little sit down - £69.80

Friday, July 27, 2007

And this week

Saturday night we had chicken kiev for supper that we'd made earlier at the ginger pig class and they were sensational. Served with boiled new potatoes and broccoli it was like being transported to the best version of the past. The kitchen smelt like warm garlic butter when we got up Sunday - lovely.

Sunday we had smoothies to start the day with a coffee before setting off for a little light shopping. Thick slices of pork pie on our return then roast pork for supper with roasted butternut, potatoes and steamed cabbage.

Monday was smoothies again then cold roast pork and butternut with salad for lunch and out to see Seventh Seal in the evening before a light supper at St Johns and home in the pouring rain

Tuesday I had defrosted a tub of rhubarb to go with yoghurt for the weeks breakfasts, for lunch more pork and salad and supper was pasta with leeks and porcini

Wednesday we had cold pasta for lunch then herb-crumbed aubergine with pepperonata for supper

Thusday we had the last of the roast pork with pepperonata and salad at lunch and the chicken fest continued in the evening with drumsticks stuffed with spiced mousse served with spiced rice and cabbage and ginger salad - a really interesting and well flavoured meal

Friday lunch were little bits of all that was left - spiced rice, pepperonata, ginger cabbage and little plum tomatoes. Dinner with Marie tonight

So at the end of the week there was another chicken breast in the freezer, the carrots and beetroots in the crisper await there fate, and one loaf of bread also went into the freezer for another day

Spiced Rice

After our chicken class at the Ginger Pig a couple of weeks ago I still had many treats in the freezer. Chris and Karl patiently taught us to bone out the legs and then stuff them, skewer them and tie them with string. We stuffed one pair with ham and cheese and the other with a mousse of minced chicken breast seasoned with chilli, garlic and coriander. We had the spiced legs last night - simply roasted till golden in the oven. They needed accompaniments.

I have a foolscap book into which, a few years ago, I taped the masses of recipes from magazines and newspapers that had been building up. Having started I was convinced that I would continue with this practise as it made finding all the stray bits so easy. I would, from that moment on, be an organised and tidy keeper of recipes and by extension my whole life would be transformed into a neat and orderly existence.

Sadly that's not quite how it turned out. I do still have the foolscap book - it is a bulging mass of loose bits of paper torn from magazines and newspapers interspersed with loose pages stuck with earlier recipes that have come free from the binding over the years. Though it's a mess it is also a treasure trove of ideas and a kind of history of what attracted me, foodwise. Some things I wonder what on earth I was thinking but others are a joy. Some things I have cooked, most I haven't but it's always interesting to leaf through. Some of the bits in there are recipes my mother has written out for me over the years and it was one of these that was seemed to me the perfect pairing with our chicken dinner.

Spiced rice! I remember mum serving it years ago when I was home on a visit and how thrilled she was with how good it tasted, the way that everybody enjoyed it. So I thought it was time to revisit it and see if I could recreate the pleasure.

Spiced Rice

1 tbspn butter
1 tbspn olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped
1 tspn cumin seeds
1 tbspn fish sauce
1 cup rice
2 cups water

Melt butter in a large saucepand. Add onion, chilli and cumin seeds and fry gently over a moderate heat for a few minutes till the onion is translucent and the seeds start to pop.

Stir in the fish sauce, rice and water and bring to the boil. Turn the heat to low as it will go, cover the pan with a lid and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let it stand, still covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.

And that's it. Quick, simple, elegant and utterly delicious. Much like the style of my mother's cooking.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Herb Crumbed Aubergine

I'm a sucker for things that are crumbed. Even when I know it will be a mistake I will invariably take a bite, no matter what, just to see what's inside. It's a special treat somehow - the crumbs make a casing that needs to be breached to discover the contents. Even if it's a disappointment there's the compensation of eating the crust - the combination of crumbs, egg and hot oil is usually a winner.

This is a straightforward recipe that has a few steps involved but makes a yummy dinner that is slightly different every time, depending on the choice and quantities of herbs used. I tend to salt the aubergine slices before I start not to rid them of bitterness - not really necessary these days - but they tend to soak up less oil as they cook if they are salted first.

Herb Crumbed Aubergine

2 medium sized aubergine
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tbspns finely chopped fresh herbs that you like
1 egg
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
Salt and Pepper
Sunflower oil

Slice the aubergines into rounds a little thicker than a pound coin, salt them and leave them in a colander to drain for half an hour. Rinse and pat dry.
In a bowl mix the garlic, herbs and breadcrumbs and season. In another bowl beat the egg till frothy. Then dip each slice of aubergine first into egg then into crumbs and coat thoroughly. Chill in the fridge for half an hour or so to set the crumb.

Heat about half a centimetre of oil in a heavy based pan then fry the slices in batches, turning them after a couple of minutes till all are golde. Drain on kitchen paper and keep them warm in the oven as you go.

I really like them served with some warm pepperonata and perhaps some salad or little pastas. Though they don't retain their crispiness they are remarkably good cold for lunch next day.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Penne with Leeks and Porcini

I've always thought that leeks are the most sophisticated member of the onion family. Silky in texture they have a sweet and subtle flavour and eat well across the whole gamut of simply steamed with a little butter and pepper to nestling under a blanket of cheese sauce, they go well with many things - dairy, potatoes, spices. Pale and bright they always add pleasure to a meal.

Relished throughout Europe they have been cultivated for so long that their beginnings are uncertain though they are strongly associated with Wales. Phoenician traders introduced the leek to Wales when they engaged in the tin trade in the British Isles - a casual act that would unexpectedly elevate this humble plant to national status.

On St David's Day in 2007 Prince Charles, accompanied by Camilla, visited Bosnia and presented leeks to all Officers and also men of the Prince of Wales's Company, while Camilla gave leeks to No 2 Company, No 3 Company and Headquarter Company. Soldiers from Princess Irene's Guards, a Dutch Guards Regiment who were raised in Wales in 1941 and Bulgarian troops at MNTF NW also received leeks. Imagine their excitement! I confess the idea amuses me - the royal couple weighed down with hundreds of leeks progressing slowly past soldiers stiffened in welcome handing leeks out one at a time which those in uniform presumably accepted straight faced. Pomp and leek.
Still it is at least a useful gift. If they put them all together they'd have done worse to have ended up with this pasta dish for their supper that night to celebrate in style. It is a version of a richly scented dish in the ever useful - and sophisticated - River Cafe Pasta Book.

Penne with Leeks and Porcini
350g penne - the book recommends pappardelle but I had none and the penne worked well
500g leeks, peeled of their outer layer and cut on the diagonal to match the penne
50g dried porcini, soaked in 150ml hot water for 30 minutes
50 g unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tbspns thyme leaves
50g Parmesan, freshly grated
Olive oil

Drain the porcini, keeping back the soaking water. Rinse the now soft porcini in a sieve under running water to remove any grit, then chop roughly. Strain the soaking liquid through two sheets of kitchen paper in a sieve to get rid of all the grit.

Heat 2 tbspns oil and half the butter in a heavy pan and add the garlic, cooking till soft. Stir in the porcini and fry for 1 minute then add a little of the porcini water to keep them moist, adding more as the liquid is absorbed. Cook for 20 minutes then season.

In a separate pan heat another 2 tbspns oil and the rest of the butter. When hot add th leeks and the thyme. Season and stir-fry briefly, add 3 tbspns of boiling water then cook over a high heat for about 5 minutes until the liquid is reduced. Add the porcini to the leeks and toss together. Check seasoning.
Cook the pasta till al dente, drain and add to the sauce. Stir in the Parmesan and a little more butter if desired then serve.

This was a remarkably rich and sumptuous dish, good cold next day - cold as in room temperature not fridge cold. It worked because summer has brought no heat with it but I think it would be even more amazing late autumn when the light has gone.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Pepper and Potato Fritatta

Eggs are wonderful things. You get to the end of the week, there's a little bit of this and a small amount of that, none of it particularly related in a gastronomic sense and then you realise there's still some eggs and voila! you can make magic. Hard boiled egg and salad makes a very good lunch to take with you to the office, or wherever you may be heading. Lightly scrambled with some toast, this breakfast will see you through till midday without rumblings. If the cupboard is heading towards bare with only lentils to be found, cook them gently with some herbs and garlic then serve with a poached egg atop them for a very satisying supper.

Last Friday I had a couple of new potatoes, one red pepper, a handful of baby plum tomatoes and an onion, some celery, half a cucumber and a couple of carrots. Even with the last of Pie d'Angloy soft cheese it doesn't instantly shout Dinner for two! But then I also had half a dozen eggs so when I suggested to the man that we could have frittata for tea he smiled and said, we like frittata.

So I scrubbed the potatoes and halved them then boiled them till they were soft. Meanwhile I sliced the pepper thinly, heated a little oil in the base of a heavy pan and cooked it, lid on, over the gentlest heat till it was sweet and tinged with gold. I added a knob of butter, increased the heat to medium and stirred in chopped onions and some fresh thyme. When the onions were translucent in went the drained potatoes. Turned the grill to high. Then I beat the eggs with salt and pepper and a tiny splash of milk and poured it over the vegetables. I cooked it on a medium heat for about 15 minutes till most of the egg was set then scattered little pinches of soft cheese across the top, put it under the grill for a few minutes till the rest of the egg was set and whipped it out again. Quick sprinkle of basil from the garden.

Rested for a few minutes while I made a crunchy salad with celery, carrots and cucumber dressed with spiced orange oil. Served up it was a really good supper - almost like I'd planned it all along.

Monday, July 23, 2007

I Bought

If it's possible to have blustery sunshine then that sums up Saturday morning at the market. Heavy storms for the afternoon. Not busy at Borough so that was something. We started as always at the Ginger Pig where Karl was glowering at the world and assuring all who'd listen that he needed a holiday - he's not wrong. We bought pork leg on the bone, as Chris is forever saying no one buys it and it ends up in the sausages, a bargain at £6.99 a kilo and with a chicken breast it was a quite reasonable £17.70

Juice with fennel, orange and carrot from Total Organics - £3

Eggs from Wild Beef, the last lot were lovely with really deep golden yolks - £1.50

Tomatoes from Isle of Wight - £3.50
Bunches of baby beetroots and carrots, onions and garlic from Ted's Veg - £4

Coffee beans from Monmouth - £9

Strawberries the size of a child's fist, less than a dozen to make a pound wieght - from Chegworth - £2.50

Pork pie from Mrs Elizabeth King - £4.90

Cabbage and potatoes, sugarsnaps and beans, aubergine and bananas, an orange and a big head of broccoli, and a butternut squash to go with the roast pork - £10

Peppers from Tony - 3 for a pound

Milk and bread and yoghurt from Neals Yard - £6.70

Croissant and chocolate brownie for our brunch - £3.50

Satsumas from Elsey & Bent - £1.20

£69.50 - then home on the bus

Friday, July 20, 2007

This Week

The week definitely started with a bang not a whimper. After lunching on salami and rocket sandwiches I spent an engrossing afternoon preparing dinner - effort that paid off with glazed spare ribs, coriander salad and red peppers with preserved eggs to start, followed by red braised pork, bean curd puffs, sea spice aubergine and peppers with black beans served with jasmine rice. It was a pretty sumptuous dinner and not surprisingly we didn't need the melon for dessert - it made a change for breakfast mid week instead.

Sunday we had the remains of the banquet for lunch and then utterly trad supper of roast beef, roast potatoes, steamed carrots and courgettes and very fine it was.

Monday there were smoothies for breakfast, cold roast beef and salad for lunch and spiced cauliflower and stir fried green beans for supper

Tuesday we had smoothied again and cold rice and cauliflower for lunch and a class at Ginger Pig in the evening where we learned to bone a whole chicken and then made chicken kiev(!) - haven't had that for many years. Entertaining and informative as ever the guys then fed us boned chicken stuffed with sage and onion roasted with vegetables and salad - perfect end to the evening

Wednesday we had sliced gaia melon for breakfast, cold roast beef and salad, olives and celery for lunch - the same till the end of the week and for supper we had one of the many delights we'd brought home from class Tuesday - boned drumsticks stuffed with ham and cheese, secured with skewers then made tight with a little corset of string so they roasted without bursting. Brilliant with a big green salad and some hot baguette

Thursday was pork chops roasted with garlic and herbs and some baby plum tomatoes with salad

Friday will be frittata with the last of the new potatoes and cheese and some herbs from the garden

Not much left at the end of the week - the chicken breast went into the freezer, along with stock I made Wednesday night to use the carcasses from the chicken class, one aubergine but it will be okay for early next week and the last of the celery and cucumber but they may well make a crisp salad with the frittata tonight. A tub of yoghurt but there will be smoothies before it expires

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Dry Spiced Cauliflower and Garlic Beans

The dull weather continues though it is less cold - some days even 20C! Fast coming to the conclusion that there will be no summer. Because it is a little warmer but not cheerier I wanted to make something spicy but not particularly heavy for supper Monday night. The jasmine rice I bought in Chinatown is quite delicate and I needed something that would match that. A dry spiced dish seemed best and I had a fresh cauliflower so that was an obvious combination. I had made a slightly bastardised version of an abel & cole recipe recently that was very good so went with it again and it was just what I was looking for.

Roasting the cauliflower with the spice mix crisps the outside of the florets and seals the moisture into the middle when the edges are golden. Tossing hot peas and lots of fresh coriander through at the end gives it colour and contrasting flavours that worked really well mixed into the rice. It is a very easy dish to make, five minutes to chop and mix then roasting time and cook the peas at the end. Very good for a Monday and very good cold for Tuesday lunch.

1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 fist sized onion, chopped roughly
1 tablespoon olive
2 tspn chat masala - or 1 tspn each of cumin and coriander
2 tspn garam masala
2 tspn fennel seeds
2 tspns salt
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbspn grated fresh ginger
1/2 tbspn zested lemon peel
1 tspn ground black pepper
2 handfuls frozen peas, cooked till just tender
1 handful chopped fresh coriander

Preheat the oven to 200°C, 400°F, gas mark 6. Place the cauliflower, onions, oil, chat masala, garam masala, fennel seeds, salt, garlic, ginger, lemon peel, and pepper in a large bowl and toss the ingredients together until each piece of cauliflower is coated.

Spread the mixture in a large baking pan, and roast for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cauliflower is crisp-tender, turning every 10 minutes. Mix in the peas and coriander and serve over hot jasmine or basmati or even plain rice.

I also had some green beans left over from the previous week that needed using up. Topped and tailed and tossed in a couple of tablespoons of sesame oil and wilted before adding a few cloves of crushed garlic and a pinch of paprika for a sort of szechwan beans, they were the perfect thing to top the lot. Also good cold, but they didn't last till Tuesday.

All in all a really tasty supper with almost no effort at all.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Roasted Peppers with Preserved Duck Eggs

Some things are a leap. I had invited the lovely Marie to dinner on Saturday night and wanted to cook Chinese. More specifically Hunanese from the oft used Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook by Fuchsia Dunlop. I have hugely enjoyed owning and using this book. She tells great stories ahead of the recipes giving them both context and depth. But, more interestingly for me, she has given me the skills and confidence to cook a different sort of cuisine with ingredients I have never used or, in the case of tofu for example, never used successfully. This has given me a great deal of pleasure - I love amazing food.

So, having decided that this was the plan for Saturday night I sat down with the book mid-week and started making lists of what I'd like to have. Chinese being difficult to structure into courses as such combined with the need to finish a lot of dishes off simultaneously I decided to have cold starters. Eases the pressure. Rather than my usual method of marinating and roasting them, the very first recipe in the book is for bite sized spare ribs simmered with aromatics then coated in a reduced glaze. Which sounded pretty fab. A few pages on was a very simple dish of coriander salad chopping whole stalks, again into bite sized pieces with a chilli garlic dressing. A definite.

But what caught my eye and refused to leave my imagination was the photo next to the recipe for roasted peppers with preserved duck eggs. The description of the eggs was marvellous, the presentation was beautiful with the eggs sliced into 'petals' round a tangled heart of silky peppers. I could not resist. So off I went to chinatown and bought the eggs to make this dish and didn't think till I cracked the shells that perhaps it is a little challenging to a dinner guest to serve up slices of eggs where the 'whites' are like a rich brown beef jelly surrounding yolks that are marbled green. She's only been over once before! Luckily Marie is an adventurous type, not easily fazed and they went down very well. To my delight they tasted ultra eggy rather than like a sulphorous mess from the depths of hell, as my friend Vicki was expecting when she was offered them in Singapore as a treat. But she has 'issues' with eggs.
So I'd seriously recommend this as a dish to start a Chinese dinner. It's good to experiment sometimes outside what you already know. And with this you're bound to like the pepper salad.

Roasted Peppers with Preserved Duck Eggs

3 red peppers, or a mix
4 preserved duck eggs (1,000 year old eggs or century eggs)
2 tspn very finely chopped garlic
1 1/2 tbspn light soy sauce
2 tsp Chinkiang vinegar
1/2 tspn sesame oil

Char the peppers over a flame or in the oven till blackened and wrinkled then put them into a bowl and seal with plastic wrap. Leave till the peppers are cool enough to handle, then take one pepper at a time, reserving any juices in the bowl. Rub off the skin - it should come off with little encouragement. Slice open the pepper, discard the stem and seeds and then cut it into 1cm/ 1/2inch strips. Pile these into the center of a serving plate, then repeat with the remaining peppers.

Peel the preserved duck eggs, rinse well and then cut each into 6 segments. Arrange these round the peppers like the petals of a flower.

Combine the garlic with any juices from the peppers, and then stir in the soy sauce, vinegar and salt to taste. Add the sesame oil and then pour over the peppers and eggs. Use chopsticks to mix the sauce into the peppers before eating.

Confound your expectations.

Monday, July 16, 2007

I Bought

Arriving just before nine on Saturday morning Borough Market was blissfully quiet and easy to get around. Had a chat with Karl and Chris in Ginger Pig about their lack of plans yet for the chicken class we're going to tomorrow night at the Marylebone shop but no doubt they'll think up something. Bought a lovely piece of belly pork, a couple of pork chops and a quite magnificent piece of topside to roast and a breast of chicken for £30.50

They had no spare ribs so bought a rack of ribs from Silfield for £3.80

Next was green pepper and cucumber juice from Total Organics to keep us going - £3

Tomatoes from the Isle of Wight - but no garlic stall which was disaster - £3.50

Bought onions and garlic instead from the stall out the back - £1.60
Dried olives from Taste of Turkey because they'll go well with cold roast beef in lunch boxes - £1.25

Then a slice of ginger parkin for my man because he loves cake and knows what a parkin is (I have no idea) £1.50

Didn't need cheese or coffee or chocolate so it was back to the other side for strawberries from Chegworth after a chat with Marie - £2.50

Napoli salami from Gastronomica for a sandwich with rocket for lunch - £1.80
Dried butter beans from herbs from heaven - £1.30

Decent tuna from Brindisa - £3.50
Then to Booths for potatoes, cucumber, spring onions, bananas, rocket, celery, cauliflower, aubergines, sugarsnaps and a sweet smelling gaia melon - £10

Lots of peppers and a bowl of seedless grapes from Tony - £3

Milk, yoghurt - cow's milk as there was none of the lovely ewe's milk yoghurt I bought last week, bread and spaghetti and a small tub of cream - £12

Almond croissant for me from Flour Power and pain au raisin for the man as he really likes a good pain au raisin though sadly this turned out to not entirely belong in that category - £3.50

A not unreasonable £82.75 but a very heavy collection of bags

Set off later for Chinatown to get the rest of what I needed for Chinese supper and bought thousand year old eggs - that's them in the photo, coriander and ginger fresh, cumin and coriander powdered, fresh egg noodles and jasmine rice and a coconut for £12.90

So overall I spent £95.65 but it will be a good week

Friday, July 13, 2007

This Week

Saturday the sun shone all day - still haven't got over that particular miracle. Rained ever since. July going the same way as June and May before that. We made the most of it. After a quick snack of sausage roll and almond croissant we went to Victoria to meet up with the always delightful Jaey and Marie and watch the time trials for the Tour de France - first ever grand depart from London. Lots of whizzy bikes and men in lycra - why is it always only men in those outfits? - amongst a genial crowd. It was fun. Had a pub lunch, which seemed a good idea but sat heavily for the rest of the afternoon. We sauntered off home for dinner of spaghetti bolognese I'd made Friday night, salad and garlic bread preceded by olives and hummus and vine leaves and followed by cheese and oat cakes. Easy peasy and close to perfect.

Sunday it was smoothies for breakfast, scotch egg for lunch and the second pork loin from our butchery class barded with rosemary, sage and garlic and roasted with potatoes, carrots and courgettes. It was a beautiful piece of meat, and great cold in lunch boxes for the week.
Monday my man made smoothies for breakfast - he's talented like that. We had chick pea curry, dry spiced cauliflower and rice for dinner and the leftovers cold for lunch on Tuesday.

Tuesday it was rhubarb and yoghurt for breakfast - I bought so much rhubarb last time that I froze some for the future and the future is now. After work we went to see Panic Attack, the punk art exhibition at the Barbican which was great idea poorly curated then home to hot pitta bread with the rest of the hummus and salad followed by cheese and oatcakes which made for a fabulous supper ready in about 5 minutes

Wednesday it was back to roast pork and salad for lunch and spaghetti with tomato and ginger for a bright supper

Thursday the sun shone momentarily after a day of drizzle so we had sausages with potato salad and beetroot salad and a green salad in case we don't see the sun again till next year

Friday we shall have courgette frittata with the last of the truffle cheese for a decadent Friday repast while I make a vague plan for next week

Bar a couple of lemons that will be happy till next week there was nothing leftover or thrown away this week which is good but I did run out of garlic, which is akin to disaster

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Spaghetti with Tomato and Ginger

I don't imagine that ginger is a major ingredient in many pasta dishes but this recipe from River Cafe Pasta Book makes perfect sense if you think about it. Pasta and chilli make a great combination in lots of recipes and the pungent warmth of ginger heads somewhere in the same direction.

Native to south-east Asia whose cuisine relishes its flavour, ginger has been renowned for millennia in many areas throughout the world. Ginger is mentioned in ancient Chinese, Indian and Middle Eastern writings, and has long been prized for its aromatic, culinary and medicinal properties. After the ancient Romans imported ginger from China almost two thousand years ago, its popularity in Europe remained centered in the Mediterranean region until the Middle Ages when its use spread throughout other countries. Although it was a very expensive spice, owing to the fact that it had to be imported from Asia, it was still in great demand. In an attempt to make it more available, Spanish explorers introduced ginger to the West Indies, Mexico and South America, and in the 16th century, these areas began exporting the precious herb back to Europe. If you want to know more, take a look at

The most amusing use I've come across for ginger creates an instant recognition. Before the First World War, it was common for mounted regiments to receive large vats of root ginger before public ceremonies, which were peeled and cut into suppositories for the horses. The burning sensation made the horses hold their tails up; this practice is called Figging or feaguing. But I haven't verified it!

This was almost a store cupboard dish last night. There is always tinned tomatoes and pasta, invariably a bigger or smaller knob of ginger in the fridge. As luck would have it I had the last of a chunk of Pecorino in the fridge that needed using up and I have a mass of marjoram in the garden so it had to be.

Spaghetti with Tomato & Ginger
350g spaghetti
80g fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated
2 x 400g tins of peeled tomatoes drained of their juices
4 cloves garlic, crushed
3 dried red chillies, crumbled
Juice of a lemon
150g aged pecorino, freshly grated
3tbs chopped marjoram
Extra virgin olive oil

Heat 3 tbs of olive oil in a thick- bottomed pan and fry the garlic until soft. Add the ginger and chillies and cook until lightly browned. Add the tomatoes and season. cook over a medium heat, stirring from time to time, breaking up the tomatoes and season. This will take about half an hour. Smooth the sauce with a stick blender or pass through a blender.

Cook the spaghetti in obiling salted water until al dente. Drain and return to the pan. Over a low heat add 2 tbs of olive oil and the lemon juice and toss. Stir in half the pecorino, the tomatoes and the marhoram.

Serve with the remaining Pecorino sprinkled over and a bit of crusty bread.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Chick Pea & Tomato Curry

In May this year my mother reached the magnificent age of 70. Always a family that likes to feast for birthdays, this was an obvious cue for a gathering of the clan to celebrate. The main event - in a week of them! - was lunch at the best seafood place in town brilliantly organised by my father, with 17 of us having travelled various routes to be around the table for a great meal.

The night before - this being Australia - it had to be a barbie. My brother, with some justification, considers himself barbecue king so it was all round to his for Saturday night. Though with the barbie light tends to shine on the meat, it can never be considered a success without all the rest that goes with it - the salads and breads and snacks handed round with drinks - done delightfully in this instance by my charming nieces. While Matt was turning steaks over hot coals my sister in law Jo was spending a lot more time in the kitchen creating the support act in this fabulous repast.
One of the offerings was this lovely curry, the spicing going really well with the slight char on the sausages like a best ever choice of ketchup. She promised me the recipe, and true to her word I got it in an email on my return to London.
Sadly with all the rain bbq is not very high on the list of possible activities at the moment, so I made it for supper with a dry spiced cauliflower and steamed rice. Quick and easy it is essentially cooking aromatics and spices to a heady perfume then adding some things from tins and let it meld with the softening effects of the coconut cream over a gentle heat. Different scenario to sunshine and glowing emebers but still very good indeed.

Chick Pea & Tomato Curry
2 tbs vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tbspn grated ginger
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tspn garam masala
2 tspn ground cumin
2 tspn ground coriander
2 tbspns sweet paprika
1/2 tspn chilli powder
1/4 tspn ground turmeric
1 tspn yellow mustard seeds
400g/14oz tin chick peas, drained and washed
400g/14oz tin chopped tomatoes
2 tbspn coconut cream
2 tspn salt

Heat the oil in a large pan and cook the onion over a low heat till it is lightly browned. Add the ginger, garlic and spices and stir till the mix is fragrant.
Stir in the tomatoes, chick peas, coconut cream and salt. Cook over a low heat till the mix thickens.

And as we did for that week in May - enjoy.

Monday, July 09, 2007

I Bought

After what seems like an eternity the sun shone from a sky that was endless blue, that it was also Saturday raised it to pretty much miracle status. Joy of joys, there was no one much at the market at 9 o'clock so it was quick and easy to shop.

Started at Wild Beef for eggs and sausages - they sell particularly fine thin beef sausages - £5.80

Needed Parmesan and wanted cheese to finish supper Saturday night so stopped at Gastronomica and bought as well a hard sheep's cheese studded with black truffle, a meltingly soft ewe's milk disc the size of a saucer and an ash covered log of ripe goat's cheese- with a good chunk of Parmesan it was £20 the lot

Then on to Borough Olives for a tub of dolmades - a bargain at £2
Chocolates from Maison du Chocolat for Mandy at work who's about to be a bride - £4

Lettuce and cauliflower and onions from the veg stall out the back - £3.20

Strawberries because it is summer from Chegworth though their supplies were a little depleted after all the rain we've had - bought a big punnet just in case - £2.50

Then saw Marie at her new olive stall in fine form. She queried whether, by shaving their legs, the men competing in the Tour de France really do go faster. But it must be true - I'd done mine before going out and we were much faster round the market than usual!

Scotch egg and a hot sausage roll from Ginger Pig - call me Madam Piggly Wiggly - £6

Semi dried black olives - a new favourite - from Taste of Turkey and a thick block of olive oil soap to see what it 's like - £3.75

Booths for beans and sugar snaps, red Duke of York potatoes, lemons and packed cooked beetroot, courgettes and bananas and a couple of little cucumbers, like the ones I used to eat in Sydney - £6
Neals Yard for milk and bread, yoghurt and pasta - £12.70

Then it was only a brownie and an almond croissant from flour power to round out the morning - £3.50
Total of £69.45

Friday, July 06, 2007

And this week

Saturday we shared a scotch egg for brunch which seemed a little decadent but was very good nonetheless then I had a cheese sandwich while the man had half his pie for lunch. After watching the wonderful Golden Doors at the Ritzy and a quick shop at Lee Ho Fook supper was smoked salmon, marinated tofu and vinegar rice which was pretty fab
Sunday was smoothies to start, vinegar rice, smoked salmon and salad for lunch and the best roast chicken stuffed with bacon and barley, a quite magnificent bird surrounded with roast potatoes and onions, delightful cauliflower cheese and peas. Proper Sunday dinner

Monday was smoothies and coffee for breakfast, chicken, stuffing, cauliflower cheese, roasted onions and raw sugar snaps for lunch and also for Tuesday and Wednesday, and dinner Monday night was noodles with tofu, pork fillet (from the freezer) and bok choy

Tuesday was rhubarb and yoghurt for breakfast - same for the rest of the week and supper was polpette with tomato sauce and orrechiette

Wednesday I went to see La Bout de Souffle at the Barbican and the man had the last of the fab Ginger Pig beef stew for supper and I had the last of the roast chicken with salad when I came home much later and we went to bed happy

Thursday we had polpette and pasta for lunch - very good cold and I was out for a farewell dinner with my friend Andrea who's off to live in Edinburgh

Friday I shall buy my lunch from one of the many stalls in Whitecross Street market and dinner may well be something from a stand if the rain holds off - after the last month that seems pretty unlikely - and we go to the Oval for twentytwenty cricket. The man loves cricket.

Some leftovers this week - one of the packs of ground beef went into the freezer but is out again now along with the rest of the bacon to make spag bol Saturday night, carrots and tomatoes but they are fine for next week, a little of the cheese but that will get snacked on and half a cucumber that might still be okay for salad with the pasta. A couple of onions too but they will get used but the last of the rocket had to be binned.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


Polpette are Italian meatballs, mostly found in the south of the country and mostly made at home. Traditionally made to use up leftover cooked meat and often stuffed with a surprise treat like a slice of truffle or a pitted olive they are the frugal cook's delight. This version uses ricotta mixed with the meat to make it very light, but stale bread soaked in milk is also very common, more economy that produces a wonderful dish.

You seldom see meatballs on western menus - they are an essentially domestic creation, a family meal most would be unlikely to serve to guests. Certainly not to someone you didn't know well. And that's a shame really - they are great food. Not haute cuisine perhaps, but well flavoured and textured and generally juicy they are a proper treat.
This recipe is from Anna del Conte's Classic Food of Northern Italy - in her introduction to it she tells of eating them as a child at home to use up cooked meat with 'surprises' inside. The surprise in this version is little nuggets of grated Parmesan, a treat. I served them with a light tomato sauce and some little ears of pasta but they would be equally good with salad and crusty bread, probably a more practical way to serve them mid week. They are certainly fantastic cold next day for lunch.

450g/1lb ground beef
125g/4oz fresh ricotta
1 egg
3 tbspns flat leaf parsley leaves only
1 clove garlic, crushed
salt and pepper
about 2 tbspn plain flour
1 tbsp olive oil
15g/ 1/2 oz butter

Put the meat in a bowl and mix in the ricotta. Lightly beat the egg and then incorporate it into the meat mixture together with the parsley, garlic and Parmesan. Now season with salt and pepper. Anna del Conte says - do remember that salt brings out the flavour of the ingredients; be wise but not mean. (Not a bad rule to follow in general). Mix everything together very thoroughly - by hand works well here.

Pull away some of the mixture the size of a golf ball. Roll it in your hands quickly and gently and flatten the balls at opposite poles to shape the polpette. continue making polpette until you have used up all them meat. If there's time, refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm them up.

When you are ready to cook put the flour on a plate and lightly coat each polpette. Heat the oil and butter together till bubbling then slide in the polpette in batches and cook them for about two minutes. Turn and cook the other side for about three minutes. If you prefer your meat well done turn the heat down a little and let them cook a few more minutes.

I made a light tomato sauce and let the balls infuse with it for about twenty minutes while I cooked some pasta and it was a great dinner.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Cauliflower Cheese

I love cauliflower cheese but I haven't made it for years. My man told me once, early on in the time I have known him, that he didn't eat it so it simply dropped from my repertoire. It's not really a dish to make for one. On Saturday at Borough I bought a cauliflower with the idea of roasting it with chilli and spices to go with tandoori chicken.

The Ginger Pig have introduced a new chicken - quite big birds from a traditional French variety - and I bought one to try. Because it is new I felt that I wanted to cook it more simply than tandoori as a means of determining its flavour and texture more accurately. Stuffed with barley and herbs and roasted seemed best. And then I really wanted cauliflower cheese because to me it is one of the all time perfect accompaniments to roast chicken. Something about the slight nuttiness of the vegetable matches the luxury of cheese sauce. As a pairing with roast chicken it is close to perfect. Having spent £14 just for the bird I wanted to create a magnificent spread to surround it. So I asked the man if he was quite certain he detested cauliflower cheese. He thought for a moment then declared he'd probably like it if I made it but he loathed the stuff he was served up at school. Result.

Cauliflowers are a really attractive vegetable with their curly knitted curds poking creamily from the clasp of green leaves. They are waning in popularity which is a shame - they make great soups and curries as well as give great texture raw in salads and with dips. This recipe is quick and easy to make and a joy to eat. Especially with roast chicken.

Cauliflower Cheese
1 cauliflower, with tight creamy curls
2 tbspn butter
1 tbspn plain flour
500 -750 ml milk, whole is best but semi skimmed is also successful - I've been known to use cream but mostly in winter
150g well flavoured cheddar, grated
1/2 tspn ground cummin
1/2 tspn freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper
1tbspn fresh breadcrumbs

Cut the cauliflower into evenly sized florets and cook in salted water till just tender - about 7 minutes. Drain and set aside.

For the cheese sauce, melt the butter over a gentle heat in heavy based pan and add the flour. Mix the flour smoothly with the melted butter and cook till it is a pale biscuity colour - you don't want the flour to be raw. Gradually add the milk, stirring to incorporate it with the roux. Keep adding more milk till you reach a slightly runny consistency then increase the heat and add the cheese. Stir briskly till it melts and the sauce thickens. Add the ground spices, check and add salt and pepper as needed.

Put the cauliflower into a casserole dish, pour over the cheese sauce, then sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top and dot with a little butter. Cook in a moderate oven for about 20 minutes. Serve hot.

The man is now a fan.

Monday, July 02, 2007

I Bought

Thoroughly bored with the rain now but still it comes. The market was wet and occasionally very wet to the point of unpleasant like London in general this last month. On the upside, it wasn't terribly busy. We started at Ginger Pig and bought a chicken which was £14 - a lot of money for a single bird but it was a sizable creature, pale pink flesh that was soft and dry not shiny and slimy like the supermarket versions. I wanted roast dinner Sunday and the left overs and stuffing would make fine lunch boxes so with that in mind I bought it, along with some diced bacon and eggs for a total of £16

Then across the other side for some mince from Wild Beef, 2 packs for £8 a bargain because the meat is fabulous

Little plum tomatoes from the Isle of Wight £3.50

Cauliflower, onions, a lot of rhubarb, parsley, and baby carrots from the veg stall at the back £10.50

Then to the Gastronomica shop for ricotta and pasta - £4.20

Strawberries from Chegworth 2 punnets a pound

Coffee from Monmouth - £8.50

Then to Booths for more veg - rocket and sugar snaps, cucumber and bananas - £4.30

Smoked salmon from the Irish stall - first time I've seen them for weeks - £4.50

Scotch egg and a steak and kidney pie from Ginger Pig - £8.50

Chocolates for Sam's birthday treat - £2

A sizeable lump of Montgomery cheddar along with bread, milk and yoghurt cost me £18.40 at Neals Yard
Then it was only a brownie at the end for my man - £1.50

Which comes to £90.90 but we needed lots to get through the week