Sunday, 27 February 2011

Creamy courgette, leek and lemon risotto

I came up with this risotto after a trip to Carluccio's where I ate their delicious Penne Giardiniera with grated courgette, chilli and deep-fried spinach balls.  Very, very tasty and highly recommended!

Although I generally think of risotto as a rather summery dish - and this one in particular with it's light lemony zing - it also has a creaminess that works as comfort food.  And while there's still a nip in the morning air I need a bit of that.

Serves 2

200g arborio rice
300g grated courgette
the grated rind of a lemon
1 litre of vegetable stock
1 small leek, very finely diced
50g butter and a tsp of vegetable oil
half a glass of white wine
40g grated parmesan
2 tbsp cream cheese or mascarpone
a dozen finely chopped chives

1) Melt a tablespoon of the butter in a frying pan and cook the courgette for a few minutes until soft, then set aside.

2) Heat the remaining butter and the oil in a large saucepan and gently fry the leek till soft and translucent.  Add the rice and lemon rind and fry for a couple of minutes more.  Add the wine and allow to reduce.

3) Keep the stock on a gentle simmer on an adjacent hob on your stove, then add it to the rice a ladle at a time, stirring often until all the liquid has been absorbed.  Then add another ladle, and so on, and so on.  When the rice is soft but still has a little resistance in the centre, add the cream cheese, chives, parmesan and courgette and serve.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

I can dream

Hobnail Milk Glass Cake Stand, by Barking Sands Vintage at Etsy

Etched glass domes, by Camel & Yak

Green American Milk Glass Cake Stands, by Re-Found Objects

Dessert pedestal, by E. Isabella Designs at Etsy
Dessert pedestal, by E. Isabella Designs at Etsy

Today has felt like an unexpected summer.

It's been glorious to feel the sun on my face and escape the drudgery of cold, wet days that have made up the last couple of months.  My friend Jess popped round this morning with her three month old baby, who squinted into the sun for the first time in my back garden.  Baby sunglasses will be coming soon...

So I'm starting my summer wish list, and leading the way are these vintagey cake stands to supplement my burgeoning collection.

Close your eyes, sit back and imagine the fancy cakes teetering precariously high on one of these lovelies as you pour yourself a second glass of fresh lemonade.  Maybe butter a scone while you're at it, and why not?  It's summertime.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Teriyaki sardines

I can't wait for summer to arrive so I can try out these on the barbecue - something tells me they'll be even better with a little smoky charring.

This is a pretty flexible teriyaki sauce which can be used for a whole range of fish, and this would work well with salmon, halibut, or herrings too.  I'll be testing out a vegan version using cotton tofu, the roughly textured type, then slicing and adding it to stir fries or perhaps a warm noodle salad.

Or like here, just serve with steamed greens and a mound of fragrant jasmine rice.

Serves 2

6 small whole sardines
4 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp mirin
1 thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, grated
4 tsp golden caster sugar
ground black pepper

1) I like to bone the sardines before cooking to make them easier to eat but you can cook them whole instead.  To bone, scale the fish then split them up through the belly and remove the innards before washing and drying.  Now remove the head and lay the fish, belly down, onto a chopping board and firmly press your thumb all along the backbone.  Turn over the fish and gently pull the backbone from the flesh, and cut off at the tail.  Trim away any additional bones and repeat with the other fish.

2) Combine all the remaining ingredients in a small pan and heat until the sauce has reduced to a syrupy mixture, then brush over both sides of the fish.  Grill at a high heat for a minute on each side, brushing again with the sauce before turning, and serve.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Heaven scent

The weekend is full of possibilities.

I've always thought that making bread-y breakfasts would eat into my precious lie in time, but not this recipe. By making the dough and forming the buns ahead, they last up to two days in the fridge or even longer in the freezer, ready to rise overnight whenever needed.

I made this batch of a dozen buns a day ahead, freezing half and cooking the rest as a decadent Saturday morning treat.

There really is no better smell to wake up to than sweet cinnamon drifting from the kitchen...


Makes 12

~for the dough:
200ml warm milk and 50ml warm water
1 tsp vanilla extract
120g butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs
½ tsp salt
210g golden caster sugar
3 tsp instant active dry yeast
600g bread flour

~for the cinnamon filling:
150g butter at warm room temperature
250g dark brown sugar
6 tbsp ground cinnamon

~for the vanilla glaze
150g golden caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
8 tbsp water

1) Whisk the milk, water, vanilla, butter and eggs in a large bowl, then stir in the yeast, sugar and salt. Leave for 15 minutes, then stir in the flour. You should have a slightly sticky dough - if it feels dry at all, add another tablespoon or two of water. Now knead the dough on a lightly oiled surface for ten minutes, until smooth and bouncy. Leave to rise until doubled in size in a large lightly oiled bowl, covered with cling film.

2) Once the dough has risen, punch down and roll out into a 40cm x 60cm rectangle - this is quite large so plan your space beforehand! Using a spatula or a pastry brush, spread the softened butter from the cinnamon filling all over the surface of the dough, then mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl and evenly sprinkle the mixture over the butter.

3) Roll the rectangle into a sausage, starting from the longest edge. Don't roll it too tightly or it will become misshapen during cooking. Dab a little water along the far edge to moisten it, and then pinch it firmly to the outside of the roll to seal.

4) Using a very sharp knife, cut a thin slice off each end of the roll to neaten it, then divide the rest into twelve equal slices. You can now freeze these on a tray for later use, or bake them straight away. If baking immediately, place as many as you want to cook into a 8cm high sided baking tray, leaving a 2-3cm space between each slice for them to rise. Leave in a warm place to double in size, or overnight if you like.

3) Bake on a low shelf at 350f/180c/gas mark 4 for 25 minutes, until golden and risen. Leave to cool while you make the glaze, by bringing the sugar and water to the boil, then simmering until a medium-thick syrup (the consistency of maple syrup) has formed. Stir in the vanilla, and brush over the buns.

Prepare ahead: These can be frozen for later use by making them up to stage 4 and laying out the slices on parchment paper on baking trays, which can then be bagged up when firm.  To cook for breakfast, take out as many as wanted and place on a high sided baking tray the night before, and allow to rise overnight.  Then bake and glaze as before.  Easy!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Green giant

Lush green kale is surprisingly versatile, which is good since a seemingly small bag goes a long, looong way.  This week I've had kale pasta, kale with pan fried trout, kale with miso sauce (accompanying a Japanese-style meal of rice, salmon and edamame) and stir-fried kale and scallops with oyster sauce.

I know it's brimming with antioxidants and will probably extend my life by a decade but I can't take any more. 

No. More. Kale.

Serves 2

140g rigatoni
2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
2 fresh red chillies, seeds removed, finely sliced
20 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 large handfuls of kale, chopped
3 tbsp whole, blanched hazelnuts
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
parmesan, to serve

1) Steam the kale for a few minutes until tender, then drain and set aside. Now pop the pasta onto boil while you make the sauce.

2) Toast the hazelnuts under a medium grill for 2 minutes until browned, then crush into chunky pieces. Heat two tablespoons of the oil in a frying pan and fry the chilli and garlic for a few seconds before adding the tomatoes. Press them against the side of the pan a little to release the juices and fry for a minute before adding the kale, hazelnuts and seasoning with salt and pepper.

3) Drain the pasta, reserving a few spoons of the cooking liquid, and stir into the sauce, adding the water if the mixture seems dry. Spoon into bowls, and top with parmesan and drizzle over the remaining olive oil to serve.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

To dry for

Pots and Pans, by Louise Fougstedt
Carrot tea towel by H&M
Hat tea towel by La Cerise Sur Le Gateau
Doves tea towel, by Sara Berner

Yes, I realise that tea towel appreciation is a rather niche activity but I'm hoping that someone out there might share my passion for these dish drying beauties!

I've always shied away from owning truly lovely kitchen textiles on the grounds that they would inevitably be ruined within moments. I've lived with other people for long enough to know that you can't trust anyone (no, not even your most trusted friends) to truly respect the pristine beauty of a spotless new tea towel. And an expensive tea towel covered in spilt pasta sauce is enough to reduce me to tears.

So the conundrum: to buy or not to buy?

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Pan fried trout with kale and garlic breadcrumbs

I've been overdoing the chocolate for the past few days, gorging on a lethal combination of posh chocs and Nigel Slater's very good chocolate brownie recipe, made even more sinful by replacing the chocolate gravel with honeycomb.

So, healthy food this week - starting with this fish/greens/lentil combo which is both virtuous and tasty. Here's hoping it's the start of a new era.

Serves 2

2 large trout fillets (about 225g each)
120g kale, shredded
8 tbsp large breadcrumbs
2 cloves garlic, crushed
the juice of a small lemon
extra virgin olive oil
light olive oil
50g butter
2 tsp capers

1) Wash the kale and steam until tender in a saucepan with a tight fitting lid, about 5-8 minutes over a medium heat. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a frying pan, then add half of the crushed garlic and the breadcrumbs, and fry over a low heat for a few minutes, until golden brown.

2) Set aside the breadcrumbs, rinse out the frying pan and heat up 2 tablespoons of light olive oil then place the trout fillets skin down in the pan. After 2-3 minutes lightly season the fillets with salt and turn over for another 2-3 minutes on the other side. Add a small knob of the butter to the pan.

3) Season the kale and plate it up with the trout on top, scatter over the breadcrumbs. Now use the trout pan to melt the butter with the remaining garlic until it starts to brown, then add the lemon juice and stir through the capers. spoon over the fish and serve.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Thursday, 10 February 2011

How do you like your eggs in the morning?

Well, I like mine with a kiss...but if there isn't one forthcoming then I'll settle for having them whipped into a batch of fluffy French toast.

I had a french stick going to waste in the kitchen after gorging on baked camembert and roasted garlic a couple of nights ago.  Luckily it makes perfect French toast, so I made two scrumptious dishes and had a warming sense of waste-not-want-not to boot.


Serves 2

french stick, cut on the diagonal to make 6 large slices 1.5cm thick
5 large eggs
3 tbsp milk
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ nutmeg, grated
½ tsp vanilla extract
1½ tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp butter

~for the compote:
1 cup mixed berries
2 tbsp caster sugar

1) Whisk together all the ingredients except the sugar, and soak the bread in the mixture until well saturated.  Meanwhile, heat the berries and sugar in a small pan for 5 minutes to make a compote.

2) Heat the butter in a frying pan over a medium low heat, then fry the toast in batches until golden brown on both sides. Sprinkle with the sugar, fry for a further 30 seconds on each side and serve with the compote.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Lovely legs

Oh sugar bowl, how much do I love thee? I was admiring some Blaue Blume crockery in a tea house window last week. Ok, not admiring, lusting after.

This fanciful sugar dish is from the same range by Tina Tsang. Adding sugar creates a bubble bath from which you may sweeten your beverage of choice.

Bathtime fun for all the family.

Monday, 7 February 2011

My darling clementine

No recipe today, just sharing a snapshot from my kitchen table.

When I tossed a couple of clementines onto a plate this morning I was struck by the vibrant colour contrast. It's not often my kitchen surprises me with an unexpected moment of beauty.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

No more guilty pleasures...

Well, maybe a few but this certainly isn't one of them. I have enough bad habits as it is, so surely eating oily, sustainable fish must bring me one step closer to that culinary halo?

This less-is-more approach to cooking mackerel gets straight down to business, just the pure flavour of fish with aromatics and a glug of vinegar to cut the oiliness.

Something plain like boiled new potatoes helps bulk up this otherwise rather slim and elegant dish into something more lunch-like and substantial. Don't neglect the apple sauce though - it brings the whole dish together.

Serves 2

2 large mackerel, filleted
175ml white wine vinegar
1 small onion, peeled and halved
½ tsp mustard seeds
12 whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
a strip of lemon peel
2 tbsp demerara sugar
a small pinch of salt

~for the apple sauce:
400g bramley apples
1 tbsp demerara sugar
a pinch of salt

new potatoes, to serve

1) Place the vinegar, onion, mustard seeds, peppercorns, bay leaves, lemon peel, sugar and salt into a small stainless steel pan and bring to the boil. Now lay the mackerel fillets out in a single layer in a ceramic ovenproof dish and pour over the vinegar mixture. Cover tightly with tin foil, and bake at 350f/180c/gas mark 4 for 20 minutes.

2) Meanwhile, halve the new potatoes and boil for about 15 minutes, or until the tip of a knife slides in easily.

3) Finally the apples, sugar and salt into another pan, pop on the lid and simmer for 5 minutes until the apples have broken down into a pulp. Stir well, then serve with the mackerel and new potatoes and a little of the cooking liquor.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Basil linguine with rocket and pine nuts

Sometimes I just want a big plate of soul warming carbs.

It's wet and windy in London today, and to venture out of the house is to be whipped around the face by a bracing gust. I'm barricading myself in tonight with this week's Glee and a nice bowl of pasta.

Serves 2

150g linguine
50g rocket leaves
30g basil leaves
40g parmesan, grated
2 anchovy fillets
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
5 tbsp pine nuts
the juice of a small lemon
½ tsp demerara sugar
2 large egg yolks
salt and pepper

1) Boil a large pan of water and cook the linguine until it is al dente, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, tear up the basil leaves then pound in a pestle and mortar with the anchovy, olive oil, lemon juice, sugar, egg yolks and a pinch of salt and a good grinding of black pepper. Transfer to a large bowl big enough to toss the pasta in.

2) When the pasta is cooked, scoop it into the bowl with the dressing and quickly toss, then scatter with the parmesan, pine nuts and rocket leaves and mix again. Add a few spoons of the pasta water to loosen up the sauce until it is smooth and silky.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Happy New Year (yes, again)

Last weekend was my first Chinese New Year do - Gung hay fat choy! To feed my many hungry guests I made a vast mountain of Chinese food which, to my relief, disappeared by the end of the night. I find it a bit tedious having to find space in the fridge for leftovers.

Alongside homemade prawn dumplings and a vegan jai (recipe to follow soon...) was this spicy Ma Po Do Fu, which packs one heck of a kick. I've never added so much chilli paste to a dish in my life! It smelt wonderful but dangerous...there was a sort of a malignant quality to it as it bubbled a deep, volcanic red on the stove. If ever a dish were plotting something behind your back, it would be this one.

This recipe is an adaptation from Sichuan Cookery by Fuchsia Dunlop, a Christmas present that has been a fixture on my bedside table since I received it.


1 block of cotton (firm) beancurd (about 500g)
4 large spring onions
100ml vegetable oil
2½ tbsp Szechuanese chilli bean paste
1 tbsp black fermented beans, chopped
5 whole dried chillies, seeds removed and the shells crumbled
250ml vegetable stock
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp soy sauce
3 tbsp cornflour mixed with
4 tbsp cold water
½ tsp ground roasted Szechuan pepper

1) Cut the beancurd into 2cm cubes and leave to steep in very hot or gently simmering water which you have lightly salted. Slice the leeks or spring onions at a steep angle into thin 'horse-ear' slices.

2) Heat the frying pan or wok, then add the vegetable oil and over a medium heat add the chilli bean paste and stir-fry for about 30 seconds, until the oil is a rich red colour. Add the black fermented beans and crumbled chillies and stir-fry for another 20-30 seconds until they are both fragrant and the chillies have added their colour to the oil.

3) Pour in the stock, stir well and add the drained beancurd. Mix it in very gently then season with the sugar and a couple of teaspoons of soy sauce. Simmer for about 5 minutes, until the beancurd has absorbed the flavours of the sauce.

4) Add the spring onions and gently stir in. When they are just cooked, add the cornflour mixture in two or three stages, mixing well, until the sauce has thickened enough to cling glossily to the beancurd. Finally, pour everything into a deep bowl, scatter with the ground Sichuan pepper and serve.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Lemon and nutmeg Welsh cakes

For any Welsh cake virgins out there, these are somewhat like a scone crossed with a pancake, with biscuity overtones.

The scone-like texture is dense with a slightly moist crumb, but unlike scones these can be eaten alone.  Or better still split, warmed up and served oozing with a good layer of butter. 

Either way, they must be enjoyed with the compulsory pot of strong tea.

Makes 20-30

225g self-raising flour
110g salted butter, cut into small cubes
1 large egg
50g golden sultanas
85g caster sugar, plus 5 tbsp for dusting after cooking
5g butter to oil the pan
1 whole nutmeg, grated
the grated zest of a lemon

1)  Sieve the flour into a bowl and rub in the butter using your fingertips.  When the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, stir in the lemon zest, 85g of sugar, sultanas and egg, and bring together into a ball.  If the mixture seems a little dry add a teaspoon or two of milk.

2) Roll out the pastry to 6mm on a floured surface and either use a cutter to make 8cm rounds or cut the pastry into squares with a sharp knife.  Mix the nutmeg and 5 tablespoons of caster sugar together in a bowl.

3) Heat up a cast-iron griddle pan (or a heavy bottomed frying pan) over a very low heat for a few minutes, then use kitchen towel to oil the pan with butter, wiping away any excess.  Cook each cake for about 3 minutes on each side, using a knife to flip them over.  When they're ready to flip you'll see that they will have risen slightly.  Leave to cool on a wire rack, then sprinkle with the sugar and nutmeg mixture on both sides.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Enough on my plate?

Is there such a thing as having too many plates? Not when they're as weird and wonderful as these little beauties from Anthropologie.

I feel like I've been banging on about how great their homewares are for ages now, but each season they come up trumps again with a new collection of kitschy and quirky must-haves.  It's very unlikely that these will fit into my overstuffed cupboards but I'll continue to lust after them nonetheless.

There was a medium-sized plate smashing disaster in my kitchen last night (not me I might add!) which has set me thinking that maybe now there might be room for just one or two of these..?
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