Thursday, 28 October 2010

Hit the road Jack

After all, what's a road trip without something to nibble on...?

Sour cherry, pistachio and dark chocolate flapjacks

Makes 10

210g porridge oats
125 butter
150g soft brown sugar
80g golden syrup
the zest of an orange
90g dried sour cherrie
60g dark chocolate, chopped
100g pistachios
50g pumpkin seeds

1) Melt the butter in a large saucepan, then add the syrup and sugar and stir until well combined. Bring the mixture up to the boil then stir in the oats, zest, fruit, nuts, seeds and chocolate.

2) Line a 20 x 20 cm deep baking pan with a two strips of greaseproof paper so they form a cross with extra paper hangng over the sides - this will help you to remove the flapjacks later on. Spoon in the mixture, press down lightly and sprinkle over a few extra pumpkin seeds, if you like. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 325f/170c/gas mark 3 until the mixture is bubbling and the kitchen has filled with the smell of chocolate and orange, then remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before removing from the tin and cutting into fat fingers.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

A last supper

That's it. The bags are packed, my guide book well thumbed, and I've polished my miserly knowledge of the French language to as near as sparkling as it will ever get. I think I'm ready to go.

I fly to Marrakesh tomorrow, and in anticipation of a spiced-fuelled week I'm feeling nostalgic for some good old-fashioned home cooking before I go. This cannelloni straddles the divide between the lightness of summer eating and comforting winter stodge, combining the sun drenched flavours of courgette and lemon with the more homely overtones of a rich tomato sauce and cheddary golden top.

Summer and winter courgette cannelloni
Feeds 3-4 for dinner

2 medium courgettes, finely diced
1 medium onion, finely sliced
2 cans plum tomatoes
2 sweet red peppers, roasted (or use the pre-made version that come in a jar)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
5 sprigs of mint, finely chopped
the grated rind of 2 lemons
250g ricotta
25g grated parmesan
50g grated cheddar
3 sheets fresh lasagne pasta, or dried cannelloni tubes
olive oil

1) First make the tomato sauce by gently frying half the onion until translucent in a tablespoon of olive oil, then add one of the cloves of chopped garlic. Fry for another few minutes over a low heat, then pour in the tomatoes and their juices and the sweet peppers, and allow to simmer for ten minutes. Blend until smooth with a stick hand blender, then season to taste.

2) Now the filling - fry the remaining onion with the courgettes for ten minutes or until slightly browned and soft, then add the remaining garlic and lemon zest and fry for a further five minutes. Meanwhile, stir the parmesan and mint into the ricotta, then add the courgette mixture after allowing it to cool a little.

3) Spoon a little of the tomato sauce into the base of a deep 20 x 25cm dish, then cut the lasagne sheets into rectangles roughly 10 x 15cm. Roll large spoonfuls of the mixture up inside, and place on top of the tomato sauce. When you have used all the filling (this should fill about 10-12 rolls) pour the remaining tomato sauce over the top. There may be a little left over which you can pop in the freezer for another day. Top with the grated cheese and bake for 30-35 minutes at 375f/190c/gas mark 5, or until the cheese is golden.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Waffling on

Thank you Amber for this wonderful recipe. Thank you also for coming to my rescue by allowing me to wake you up by text and then not complaining when you had to get dressed and come over with the correct adaptor to make the waffle iron work. And thank you for cooking the waffles when I wasn't in a fit state to do it. I owe you a breakfast.

Waffles with pan fried apples and salted caramel sauce

Makes 8

2 cups plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
1½ cups milk
2 large eggs, separated
¼ cup caster sugar
60g butter, melted
4 tbsp cold water

~for the apples
2 large bramley apples
5 tbsp salted caramel sauce
10g butter

1) Sift the flour and baking powder together and set aside, then stir together the milk, egg yolks, water and melted butter until well mixed. Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, then add the sugar and whisk again to make a thick meringue.

2) Beat the milk mixture into the flour, making sure to remove all lumps, then gently fold in the meringue. Allow this to sit for 10 minutes before cooking ladlefuls in a waffle iron.

3) While the waffles are cooking, skin,core and thickly slice the apples, then melt the butter in a frying pan and cook over a medium heat until lightly browned. Stir through the salted caramel sauce and serve with the waffles.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Spare a copper guvnor?

The trouble with shopping for other people's birthdays is that you inevitably end up with a certain amount of gift envy. I have a friend would I think love any one of these vintage copper jelly moulds, and so would I!

Beautiful and functional, they almost justify the cost...

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Root vegetable casserole

My first proper winter dish of the year [sob] goes hand in hand with the arrival of the first frost. Yesterday the lawn was transformed from an unruly but lush green into a snowy winter wonderland. 

On the plus side, the chill outdoors gives me permission to revel in those wonderful comfort foods that just don't seem right before the cold weather proper kicks in.  And I love this casserole - the new potatoes sit proudly atop the bubbling vegetables beneath and emerge from the oven crisp and golden.  They make a nice contrast to the melting textures of the veg underneath and stop this teetering over the edge from comfort food into baby food.

Serves 4

6 Glamorgan vegetarian sausages
2 sticks celery, finely diced
3 medium carrots, cut into 1cm slices
2 medium onions
1 swede, cut into 2cm chunks
2 parsnips, cut into 2cm chunks
1 tomato, finely chopped
400g new potatoes, peeled and cut into 3mm slices
4 cloves garlic

1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
large pinch rosemary and thyme, chopped
a small handful of chopped parsley
1 bay leaf
3 tsp vegetable oil
2 tsp butter
500ml vegetable stock mixed 2 tbsp cornflour

1) Fry the sausages in a teaspoon of the oil until golden brown, then cut each into three and place into an 8cm deep casserole dish with the swede, carrots and parsnips.

2) Cut the onions in half then slice them finely. Fry on a low heat with the remaining oil until they are soft and very lightly coloured, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic, tomatoes, bay leaf, and celery, and fry for a further 5 mins before adding the stock and herbs. Turn up the heat until the sauce is bubbling, then season to taste with salt and pepper, remove the bay leaf and pour over the vegetables.

3) Toss the potato slices in a little olive oil and some salt, then arrange over the other vegetables in a circular pattern (not necessary but it looks pretty!), and scatter over some more rosemary and a little sea salt. Bake for about 90 minutes at 350f/180c/gas mark 4, or until the top is golden and crunchy and the veg is tender (test with the tip of a knife).

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Ginger and wasabi cookies with dark chocolate

A highly addictive biscuit full of warming ginger and wasabi, and studded with dark chocolate chunks. There's nothing better than snuggling up under a blanket with a couple of these, a large cup of tea and a good book...

The wasabi in these cookies doesn't appear until the very end, leaving a warm buzz as the chocolate recedes.

Makes 20 large cookies

175g room temperature butter
45g soft brown sugar
110g golden caster sugar
3 tsp wasabi paste
45ml golden syrup
85ml black treacle

310g plain flour
1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
2 tsp ground ginger
100g dark chocolate, chopped
extra: 2 tbsp caster sugar, for sprinkling

1) Mix the butter, sugars, syrup, treacle and wasabi together into a firm paste, then sift in all the rest of the ingredients except the chocolate. Knead into a smooth paste, add the chocolate chips, and knead again for a few seconds until combined.

2) Lay out a double thick layer of clingfilm and roll the dough up into a roughly 30cm long sausage, then twist the ends to seal and refridgerate for a couple of hours, or overnight.

3) Lightly oil two baking sheets and unwrap the dough, then slice into 5mm slices, sprinkle with the extra caster sugar and place onto the sheets, leaving a gap between each to allow for spreading while cooking. Bake for 10 minutes at 400f/ 200c/ gas mark 6, or until the top has spread and crackled. Leave to cool for a couple of minutes on the tray before transferring to a wire rack.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Now where did I leave that knife...?

Imagine that classic cook's conundrum: you've just whipped up a batch of spectacular something or other, and then you realise that your ring is missing. Now imagine it with an 6" cooks knife. One minute it was in my hand and the next....whooosh! Spirited away to who knows where.  I have an awful feeling it may still turn up embedded in a loaf of bread.

So, a new knife is needed.  I'm usually a Sabatier girl; I like the solidity and weight of their knives, but I do feel like this could be an opportunity to try something new.  I have friends who swear by razor sharp Japanese blades, but on a purely aesthetic level I find their design a bit cold and futuristic.

I found this rather classic knife block by Robert Knight while I was browsing for a replacement. It's been around for a while now so perhaps this is the perfect opportunity to buy a future design classic?  Oh, I was supposed to be shopping for a knife wasn't I..?

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Life in the sloe lane

A scarlet nectar with more than a whiff of Miss Marple about it. This was made with sloes from Hackney Marshes and is now a little over a month old - I'm hoping it comes of age just in time for drinking out of tea cups at Christmas time.


1lb sloes
1 litre of good quality gin
8oz caster sugar

1) Wash the sloes well and dry completely, then use a clean, sterilised needle to prick every fruit all over. This does take a while, but it's a bit like podding peas - rather relaxing and zen once you get into the rhythm of it.

2) Pour the sloes, gin and sugar into a large glass jar or wide-necked bottle (with a funnel) and leave in a dark, cool place to mature. Give it a little shake twice a week for the next three months. At this point it's ready to drink, though it will improve with age.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Schnapps night

This weekend brings an all too rare visit from a wonderful friend living in Munich.  Today we're off to the Frieze Art Fair, but last night we tested the four bottles of schnapps she lovingly transported here.  My first schnapps tutorial!

This was my favourite - cedar wood schnapps.

It's sort of like the liquid equivalent of taking an early morning stroll through a conifer forest after a heavy rain.  Very sweet and intense and woody, with only a small hint of Ikea on delivery day.  I rather like it.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Breakfast beigels

The Brick Lane Beigel Bake is my go-to shop for all things deliciously Jewish. They do a great smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel (of course), but the thing that entices me back time after time is the naked plain bagels.

Go at the weekend when the queue curls out of the shop and you can glimpse the bakers working flat out over great boiling vats of water, bagels bobbing furiously inside. The high turnover guarantees a bagel that has the requisite crispy crust and sweet, chewy centre.

Anyway, it seems churlish to only buy a couple, so here's a recipe for spares the morning after.

Scrambled egg and smoked salmon breakfast bagels
Serves 2

2 plain bagels
4 large eggs
a few chives, chopped
a few sprigs of dill, chopped
100g smoked salmon
salt and pepper
a large knob of butter

1) Lightly whisk the eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper, then melt the butter over a low heat and slowly scramble the eggs to your preferred done-ness. I like mine pretty soft and creamy.

2) Meanwhile, split the bagels and toast till golden brown. When the eggs are ready, throw in the chives, then spoon over the bagels and top with the silky smoked salmon and dill.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Congee with pan fried scallops and spring onions

I'm feeling under the weather, and just in time for the weekend. That tell tale tickle at the back of my throat is already starting to develop into something more sinister. Drastic action is needed...

Congee is the Chinese equivalent of chicken soup in Jewish cuisine, something infinitely and indefinably comforting. If I'm poorly, I make congee and everything seems a bit brighter than before.

A basic congee is just a thick, soup-like mixture of rice, water and salt - this may not sound enormously appetising I admit, but this mixture is just a blank canvas. My mum used to boil a whole chicken then add the stock and meat to the congee. My favourite version now has dried scallops or salted eggs but using fresh white fish is a good option too. Finish with some finely sliced spring onions, a drizzle of fragrant sesame oil, and a dash of soy sauce. Or like I did today, quickly caramelise a few plump scallops in a pan and spoon over some oniony, gingery supersauce (minus the chilli).

1 cup long grain rice (not basmati, it's too aromatic)
12 cups water
6 dried shitaki mushrooms
a piece of kombu seaweed
300g cod, sliced
3 spring onions, green parts only, finely sliced
6 fat scallops, cleaned and lightly oiled
10g butter
Sesame oil and soy sauce, to serve

1) Place the rice, water, kombu, mushrooms and cod into a very large pan, bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer for about 1 hour, stirring frequently.  The congee is done when it is porridge-like in consistency and the grains have broken down into a creamy soup.  You may need to add a little more water.

2) Remove the kombu and season the congee.  Now heat a frying pan until very hot and cook the scallops for a minute on each side, then add the butter and cook for another minute.  Ladle the congee into a couple of deep bowls and top with the scallops and the spring onions.  Add soy sauce and sesame oil to taste, or some of the beautiful green supersauce.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Jelly belly

The end. After a week of quince with everything, the last few fruits now find their way into this jelly, to be slathered thickly onto toasted crumpets in the cold winter months.

Quince jelly is truly a thing of beauty. If you're lucky enough to make a perfect batch it will have a delicate, quivering consistency and a complex fruitiness. Held up to the light, it glows a deep, ruby red. It's a pity to hide it in the fridge really.

My mum's quince jelly

Makes 4 x 4lb jars of jelly

5lb quince
1kg granulated sugar
juice of 2 lemons plus an extra squeeze of lemon
8 pints of water

1) Peel the quinces and chop into small pieces, keeping the pieces in a large bowl of water which has had a squeeze of lemon added.

2) Drain the quince and place in a very large stainless steel pan with the water and lemon juice, and boil until the liquid has reduced to 6 pints and the fruit is soft and falling apart.  You can help it along with a potato masher if needed.  Drain through a double-layered muslin bag or sterilised (hot washed) pillow case.  The best way to do this is to tie the bag at the top and leave it to drain overnight.  If you're in a hurry, you can just squeeze the bag.  The jelly won't be as crystal clear but it's a time saver!

3) Now reduce this liquid to about 4 pints, then add the sugar and boil rapidly until the jam reaches setting point, about 15-20 minutes.  To check whether your jelly is at setting point, place a saucer in the fridge then drop a little jam onto the plate and leave it for 30 seconds.  Now drag your finger through the jam, and if it leaves a crinkly trail, you're ready.

4) Pour the jam into four hot 1lb sterilised jam jars and then quickly screw the lids on to create a seal.  If you prefer, you can cover with waxed discs and fabric or clingfilm tied with ribbon.  Store somewhere cool and dry.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Oodles of strudel

What better way to spend the afternoon than by adulterating the buttery, flaky layers of an apple strudel with yet more quince?

This version has a lovely, almost baklava-like pastry, with the nuts and sugar forming a crisp, caramelised base for the soft fruit within. You can serve this with thick cream or ice cream for a really sinful pudding, but I rather like it on its own, still warm from the oven while the base is at it's crunchiest.

A crisp apple and quince strudel

400g bramley apples, peeled, cored and thickly sliced (kept in water with a drop of lemon in)
2 large quince, peeled, cored and sliced a little more thinly (in lemon water)
70g butter
filo pastry
45g crushed unblanched almonds
35g ground almonds
20g breadcrumbs
a scant ½ tsp ground alspice
100g light brown muscovado sugar
40g caster sugar

1) You'll need 4 pieces of filo pastry about 45cm x 30cm - if your filo pastry isn't large enough, you can glue pieces together with the melted butter. Yum yum!

2) Mix the breadcrumbs, nuts, spice and muscovado sugar together in a bowl, and melt the butter. Now place the first sheet of filo pastry onto a chopping board or baking sheet and brush all over with melted butter. Scatter the sheet with one quarter of the nut mixture, leaving a 5cm gap around the edges. Now place the next layer of filo pastry on top of the first, and repeat with more butter and nuts until you have used all 4 sheets of pastry. You should end on a layer of nuts.

3) Drain the apples and quinces and toss in the caster sugar.  Now pile the fruit into a log shape down the length of the pastry, fold over the long edges towards the centre so they overlap, then tuck under the ends. Cover the whole thing with more melted butter. If you have any little holes don't worry, just patch them up with some more filo pastry.

4) Bake for 45-50 minutes at 180°c/350°f/gas mark 4, until the pastry is golden and crisp.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Brain food

Tate Photography
I'm ridiculously excited about going to see the new Turbine Hall installation at Tate Modern.

The Chinese conceptual artist Ai Weiwei has created a deceptively simple work; entering the hall, a sea of dappled grey stretches out before you.  It looks bland, perhaps a little like the dull pavements of London outside.  As you walk closer, it becomes apparent that the mass is made up of millions of individual tiny parts, sunflower seeds.  But look closer - each 'seed' has been hand crafted and painted by the craftspeople of Jingdezhen, a Chinese town famous for producing ceramics for the imperial court.  And there are 100 million sunflower seeds on display, an inconceivable amount.

The sensory experience of walking through the hall must be quite extraordinary, every step casually displacing a day's labour for a dozen hands.  And being a Brighton girl I can imagine the rustling and laboured tread of walking on damp shingle.

It opens tomorrow and runs till May next year so there's plenty of time to pop down and have a look (apologies to non-Londoners!).  Just try to resist the temptation to nibble.

Easy thai green curry paste

This is super easy to make and really does make a more fragrant, aromatic final dish. The recipe makes enough for four curries, so portion up any remaining paste and freeze it for later use. You can even cook it straight from frozen so it's a useful standby for impromptu dinners.

Makes enough for four curries (to feed four people)

1 tsp whole cumin seeds
1½ tsp whole coriander seeds
3 spring onions
3 large fresh green chillies, stalks removed and 2 with seeds removed
the pared rind of a lime
1 stalk of lemon grass, outer layer and twiggy end removed
3 tsp fish sauce
4 cloves of garlic
1½ tsp fresh ginger, chopped
a small handful of coriander stalks
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp salt

1) Toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a pan for a couple of minutes, until they release a warm, toasty aroma, then grind to a fine powder.

2) Chop all the remaining ingredients into fine pieces, then blend to a paste with the ground spices in a blender or food processor. If it's too thick to blend, add a spoon of water.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Sunday breakfast: gorgeous, golden caramelised quince on toasted brioche

I'm beginning to ease into this quince-with-everything lark. A meal without quince now seems to be missing something...

Serves 2

2 thick slices of brioche
3 large quince, peeled
3 tbsp light brown sugar
6 tbsp apple juice
25g butter

1) Slice each quince into fat wedges,about 8 to 10 from each fruit. Then melt the butter in a frying pan and fry the quince for a few minutes until slightly softened, then toss in the sugar and continue to cook until the fruit is caramelised. Add the apple juice and let it bubble down to create a thick syrupy sauce, then pile high onto the toasted brioche.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

A curative thai green curry

It's cold outside. I have a mammoth hangover from the ill advised consumption of white wine followed shortly after by sake. I need some restorative food, something to revive me and make my head a little less hollow. Enter the Thai green curry.

I think of this as the culinary equivalent of rolling around on a bed piled high with fresh laundry still warm from the tumble drier - it cannot fail to bring a smile to your face.

Thai green curry with butternut squash, aubergine and spinach

Feeds 4

400g butternut squash, cut into 1" cubes
100g green beans, chopped
300g white aubergines (or regular if you can't find white ones. They taste similar but white aubergine won't stain the sauce)
2 large handfuls of baby spinach
2 slices ginger
3 strips of lime peel
1 stalk of lemon grass, bashed all over
1 tbsp green curry paste
1 tbsp demerara sugar
the juice of half a lime
200ml vegetable stock
1 can coconut milk
1 tbsp fish sauce

fresh coriander to serve

1) Take a couple of spoons of the thick coconut cream from the top of the can, and fry the curry paste until it smells fragrant and cooked. Add the squash, ginger, lime peel and juice, lemon grass, sugar, stock, fish sauce and the remaining coconut milk.

2) Simmer for 10 minutes then add the beans and aubergine, then cook for a further 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.  Add the spinach a few minutes before the dish has cooked through.

3) Serve with fluffy white rice, a wedge of lime and scatter with chopped coriander leaves.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Pretty in pink

I can't really pretend this is a very sensible way of using up quince as it only uses syrup from the compote I made earlier this week. But it's lovely anyway.

The perfect macaron has a crisp shell with a soft, yielding centre that melts in the mouth, and something sweet and delicious in the middle. And of course this is yet another marvellous opportunity to shoehorn some of my quince bounty into a classic recipe. Tomorrow, quince jelly.

Cinnamon, quince and white chocolate macarons
Makes about 25

175g icing sugar
125g ground almonds
½ tsp ground cinnamon
a small pinch of cream of tartar
3 large egg whites (130g)
75g caster sugar
food colouring (optional)

~for the ganache
220g white chocolate
40ml quince syrup
50ml double cream

1) Grind the almonds and icing sugar in a food processor or spice grinder (in batches) until very fine, then sieve into a bowl with the cinnamon and set aside. Whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar in a clean bowl until they form soft peaks, then whisk in the caster sugar spoon by spoon until the mixture is thick and glossy. Yum. Stir through a few drops of colouring, if you like. It's not essential but it does make for a pretty macaron.

2) Now very gently fold half of the almond mixture into the eggs until just combined, then fold in the remaining half. Stop folding when the mixture runs off the spatula in thick ribbons. Fill the mixture into a piping bag with a 1cm round nozzle (or a plastic bag with a hole cut in the end), and pipe into rounds onto 3 baking sheets covered with greaseproof paper. Each round should be about 3cm in diameter. Leave to dry for 30 minutes, then bake at 325f/170c/gas mark 3 for 18 minutes. Leave to cool for 5 minutes before removing from the tray.

3) To make the ganache melt the chocolate, syrup and cream over a bain marie. Try not to stir too much or the chocolate will turn grainy. When the chocolate has melted completely, remove it from the heat and leave to cool until it is thick enough to pipe. Spoon into a piping bag, and use to sandwich the macaron together in pairs.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Granny's favourites

Sadly not my actual Granny's cookbook, but possibly one she might have taken some tips from in her heyday.  I found this fab little book of meatless meals from 1934 in a Brighton junk shop.  Amongst the well-turned pages and tattered corners it has some real recipe gems, all fish based or vegetarian.  I think I may have found my culinary ancestry.

My personal favourites include Eggs a la Tripe (does not contain tripe!), Winchester Pudding (bread, jam and cinnamon steamed in a custard), Stargazy Pasties (as with the pie, the fish peek out of the pastry), and an Excellent Fish Pie, which casually suggests the inclusion of oysters which were apparently rather less expensive back in the day!

Anachronisms aside, it's fascinating that there was real interest in pescetarianism 80 years ago, or at least enough people reducing meat in their diets to justify the publication of a book of recipes.  I tend to think it's a rather modern dietary quirk, but apparently gran beat us to it.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

A quincey, appley, crumbly cake

A twist on the classic apple crumble.  The soft, melting quince acts as a hidden surprise here, with fudgy chunks of russet flesh concealed under a base of moist apple sponge.  The crumble topping isn't essential but gives a nice textural contrast to the sponge layer.

This is one of those sweets that is equally lovely served cold as a cake or hot as a pudding, perhaps stranded in a puddle of custard.

~for the cake

150g self raising flour
150g room temperature butter
150g golden caster sugar
½ tsp baking powder
2 medium eggs and 1 egg yolk
1 bramley apple (about 150g)
200g quinces, peeled, cored and cut into chunky slices
1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp sugar to cook the quinces

~for the crumble

½ tsp ground cinnamon
50g plain flour
50g ground almonds
50g cold butter, cut into small cubes
2 tbsp oats
30g golden caster sugar

1) To make the cake: cream the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs one by one.  Sift the flour and baking powder into the mixture, and fold in lightly.  Grate the apple in (peel and all) and gently stir into the mixture.

2) Sautee the quince slices in the butter and sugar for a few minutes, until slightly softened.  Line a 20cm square baking tin with a strip of greaseproof paper in both directions, with some hanging over the edge of the tin.  This will help to remove the cake after cooking.  Place the quince at the bottom of the tin, then spoon in the cake batter, and bake at 375f/190c/gas mark 5 for 25 minutes.

3) While the cake is in the oven, make the crumble topping by placing all the ingredients in a bowl and lightly rubbing together with your fingertips until it resembles coarse breadcrumb.  After the first 25 minutes of cooking, cover the cake with the crumble topping, working quickly so as not to disturb the cooking process.  Return the cake to the oven for a further 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick poked in comes out clean.

4) Leave to cool a little before removing from the tin using the greaseproof paper 'straps', and cut into squares.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Cockney crafts

Hanne Rysgaard
James and Tilla Waters

Virginia Graham

Some truly covetable cup crafting by makers at the Origin showcase of contemporary craft at Old Spitalfields Market last week.

I'd love to have any of these in my kitchen, but particularly the beautifully understated stoneware cups by James and Tilla Waters - they have the streaky look of a chalk cliff or some undiscovered strata of the sea floor.  Just right for a piping hot cup of mulled cider come Christmas.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Quince and cinnamon compote

Phase 1 in the London Quince Offensive: making a simple compote.

Using apple juice creates an unctuous golden syrup with a bite of acidity, and scented with cinnamon for that perfect breakfast accompaniment. I'll be eating it with muesli, porridge, or greek yoghurt.  The quince is best left in chunky pieces so that the fruit retains its shape after cooking.

Makes one 0.5l kilner jar

600g quinces, quartered, peeled and cored
200g caster sugar
200ml apple juice
½tsp ground cinnamon

1) Place all the ingredients into a heavy bottomed stainless steel pan, bring to the boil, and then lower the heat.  Simmer for 10 mins, or until the quince is tender through and the juice has reduced to a rich amber coloured syrup.

Note: if the quince is left to simmer for a little longer, the syrup and fruit will become a darker, brick/ruby red and the syrup will become more intense and honeyed.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Putting the world to rights, one cup at a time

Behind St. Lazare station, Cartier-Bresson
I was cruelly betrayed by a pair of shoes today; I discovered a hole, previously unnoticed, but large enough to allow a sizeable puddle inside. Tut tut.

The skies over London have been pouring in a relentless torrent for what seems like weeks, but is possibly only since last Thursday. But there are very few things in life as trivial but demoralising as having wet feet.

The first thing I did on my return (after kicking off the offending shoes) was to make some crisp cinnamon toast and a small but intense cup of hot chocolate. It serves much the same purpose as adding a teaspoon of mustard to a scalding foot bath, as they used to do in ye olden days to ward off chills. I can't vouch for the mustard but chocolate and cinnamon seemed to do the trick for me.

Spiced hot Chocolate
Serves 1

200ml milk
a pinch of ground cinnamon
a tiny pinch of ground cloves
a little grating of fresh nutmeg
8 squares of Green & Blacks' 70% dark chocolate
1 tsp honey

1) Whisk all the ingredients in a pan until the chocolate has melted, the milk is frothy, and your patience can take no more. Consume wearing warm slippers and thanking your lucky stars that you at least had a brolly.

TV dinners

Finally!  The summer drought is over and there is a televisual bounty of food programming back on our screens.  I'm very glad to have Masterchef: The Professionals back (the hatchet-faced Monica who works for Michel Roux Jnr is worth the licence fee alone) accompanied by new projects by the lovely Hugh Fearney and Nigella.

The BBC and Channel 4 have pitted chef against chef by programming HF's River Cottage at the same time as Nigella's latest.  To my mind, there's no contest - there's a time and place for Nigella but Hugh's scruffy face is always a total joy to watch, so I'll be glued to his show for as long as they care to screen him.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Quince with everything

Quinces from my parent's garden in Sussex.  I spent today down at the seaside in a brief visit, and it's traditional for my mum to press food into my hands as I stagger home again.

This time I escaped with just four kilos of freshly picked quinces and an oregano plant, and although I do like quince I think I may struggle to find ways of using them up.  Still, they have such a wonderful distinctive perfume; my luggage smells heavenly now!
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