Showing posts from August, 2010


I am very proud of this cake, an adaption of Greek Karythopitta or walnut cake. I made it with pistachios because I used the walnuts to make cranberry and walnut bread, and I couldn't be bothered to traipse round to Tesco on a Friday afternoon to buy more walnuts. I added some rosewater to give it a more perfumed Middle Eastern flavour. The resulting cake was delicious, its innards a beautiful green colour from the nuts and its flavour very subtly, though most definitely pistachio!

This recipe is adapted from one which appears in Claudia Roden's 'Mediterranean Cookery', one of my most favourite, much-thumbed and very stained cookbooks. It would also work with almonds, pecans or hazelnuts, or a mixture.

Serves 6, generously

50g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
scant pinch of salt
175g pistachios, finely chopped in food processor
3 eggs, separated
175g caster sugar
1 tsp rose water

For the syrup
250g sugar
1/2 pint water
splash of rosewater

Oven 180C. Prepare a cake tin by lining it …


I make no secret of my love of Tunnocks Teacakes. A disc of crisp biscuit, a snowy mound of marshmallow, all covered in, let's face it, rather cheap milk chocolate. They remind me of my childhood, when they were one of the few "bought cakes" my mother would allow in the house (she was, and still is, an excellent cake and biscuit maker).

I love their retro packaging, clearly largely unchanged since the day they were first launched, and they have a distinctly satisfying "mouth feel", being at once soft and crunchy, with melt-in-the mouth milk chocolate. It's a mark of their lasting appeal that there are now cotton tote bags, mugs, cycling jerseys and crash helmets, all with the Teacakes logo.

As a child, I probably had contests with my friends to see who could fit a whole one in their mouth in one go (I probably won); I now eat them in a somewhat more elegant fashion. A staple of lunchboxes and children's parties, their have rather downmarket cousins in the…


Good old Waitrose, tapping into the zeitgeist (I've always wanted to write that!), and in our recession-hit times offering "forgotten cuts" on the butcher's counter of their stores.

Of course, "forgotten cuts" are not really forgotten. I ate ham hocks and pigs trotters when I was a child, cooked slowly so that the fat becomes sweet and gooey, and the meat melts away from the bone. My mother also served stuffed hearts, as well as more familiar offal such as liver and kidneys. I am not squeamish about these parts of the animal (I have eaten both brains and sweetbreads, and horse meat in France, and saw whole suckling pigs at the central market in Barcelona without fainting) because I was brought up eating them.

Chef Fergus Henderson has been promoting 'nose-to-tail' eating for a long time, and his restaurant, St John, is a pean to enjoying the whole animal. And the Sainted Delia made lamb shanks fashionable. For a while, it was all rather trendy to eat …


Here's another of those simple-yet-delicious dishes that relies on good ingredients and only a small amount of preparation. I adapted it from a recipe in one of the River Cafe cookbooks. I have never eaten at the eponymous restaurant, though I have always fancied it. People who have been tell me it is very, very good, but oh so expensive - and the Methodist in me worries about spending so much money on a meal I could probably cook myself at home.

Until the 'River Cafe Easy' books came out, I was rather put off the main cookbook because of the bossy instructions to "only use the finest Calabrian anchovies" or "first cold pressing of olive oil from a hilltop farm in Emiglia-Romana". And where was I supposed to buy Cavolo Nero? (A friend of mine grows it on her allotment now, handily). I do not have a problem about using good ingredients, but I prefer to shop at Waitrose or the Whole Food Market in Kensington, or the local fruit and veg market, rather than …


There are two small jars of paste in the door of my fridge, which look like pesto. One has a red top, the other is green. They do not contain pesto.

Zhoug is a traditional Yemeni recipe for a hot and spicy chilli-spiked paste. It can be used in a similar way to Harissa (both as a condiment and as a spicy addition to various dishes) though be careful - it is very fiery! It is refreshingly different from harissa because it is made with fresh coriander and cardamom. Yemenis believe that daily consumption of Zhoug keeps away illness and strengthens the heart. It is a classic accompaniment to Israeli dishes, such as falafel, and a little added to Greek yoghurt makes a delicious dip.

It is known in my house as "the special stuff", which is a nod to the mysterious product Mr Briss the Butcher kept out the back of his shop in the dark comedy series 'The League of Gentleman', and the two jars in my fridge were a gift from Carlo, a fellow foodie and demon cook. It usually comes…


This scrummy dip combines two of my favourite foods: avocadoes and blue cheese. It's a variant on the classic Mexican guacamole, and is delicious served with corn chips or toasted pitta slices as a tapa or starter.

I can't understand why people are always going on about how bad avocadoes are for you. In fact, they are very good for you, and eating one a day gives many important vitamins, "healthy fat", and minerals. I love their clayey flesh, and often have an avocado simply dressed with lemon juice, olive oil and a grind of black pepper for my lunch. They are also surprisingly good cooked, and go well with things like prawns and crab.

This recipe is Nigella Lawson's. Easy to make and utterly delicious.

125g Roquefort or St Agur 60ml sour cream or creme fraiche
2 ripe avocados 35g sliced pickled green jalapeño chilli peppers from a jar 2 spring onions, finely sliced 1/4 teaspoon paprika 1 packet blue corn tortilla chips
Serves 4–6

Mix the cheese with the s…


So called because I always seem to cook this for my best girlfriends. It's at once simple and sophisticated: like the best dishes, it uses few ingredients, but the combination, clinging to the strands of pasta, is utterly delicious. It's also dead easy to make and can be knocked up very quickly for a mid-week supper. It would also make a great starter.

I first came across this pasta dish in 1990 when I worked for an eccentric and very bossy art and antiquarian bookseller who claimed to be related to the Viscount de Lisle. She had rather suspect people-skills and thought that giving her staff a slap-up supper once a month would keep us loyal: she was wrong. I lasted 14 months in that job (I got tired of her swearing at me and expecting me to organise her childcare), but she did introduce me to my next boss, for whom I worked very happily for seven years. One of the staff had spent some time in Italy, and lemon linguine was her "signature dish". It was so delicious that…


Apologies to Demon Cook followers and fans for the paucity of posts in recent weeks. I have been busy in my other life as a piano teacher, and have also been away on holiday.

Since August is the "silly season", here's a light-heated questionnaire which perhaps says something about my "food personality":

First food memory
Eating a pound of peeled prawns aged about 5 in the garden in front of my friend Estelle. Apparently, I said "I love prawns!" and proceeded to eat the whole bowl before being violently sick.

Memorable meals
Eating fresh crab sandwiches on the quay at Lyme Regis
Fresh samosas cooked before me in Old Delhi
'English' afternoon tea on a houseboat in Kashmir
Lunch at a waterfront restaurant in the Guidecca district of Venice, April 1990
Lunch under the tree ferns at Petersham Nursery

Marmite. Love it or loathe it?
Love it, especially on hot buttered white toast or sourdough

Peanut butter. Ditto.
As above. I also adore Reese's Peanut Butter …