Showing posts from March, 2011


A whiff of the exotic for supper tonight with this robust and flavoursome fish stew from the Bahia region of Brazil. In fact, there are many different versions of this dish around Brazil, and my Google search for a recipe threw up a number of interesting alternatives.  Don't be daunted by the long list of ingredients: it is simple to make, and very tasty.

I have a vague connection to Brazil in that my father is married to a Brazilian woman. However, my interest in Brazilian food began much earlier, in the early 1990s, when we used to go to a rather good cafe-style Brazilian restaurant in Hammersmith called Paulo's. It was there that I first tried palm hearts, fried plantains and Feijoada, a rich and hearty meat stew with black beans. Our meals at Paulo's were also accompanied by Caipirinha cocktails, another Brazilian speciality made with sugar, lime juice and Cahaca, a spirit made from sugar cane (my father always brings me a bottle back from his trips to Sao Paulo), or B…


I should probably rename this recipe (taken from Nigella Express) 'Coq au Liebfraumilch' as, when I went to buy the ingredients for it in my local Waitrose, the Riesling was far too pricey to use as cooking wine. Trying to think laterally (not easy at 8.30am!), I pulled my iPhone out of my handbag and attempted a Google search for "alternative for Riesling". Unfortunately, the basement location of my local Waitrose allowed "no connection". Discussing this dilemma as I served the food, one friend suggested another wine from the Pfalz region, while another pointed out that it was all about the grape variety..... As a matter of interest, a Google search just now threw up Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Gewurtztraminer, Moscato and Piesporter. Ho hum.

This recipe is the Alsace version of Coq au Vin and shares the same ingredients, except that the red wine is replaced with white and cream is added at the end to finish the sauce. It looks very enticing in the picture i…


Popping corn

My mum used to make popcorn for me when I was little, and I remember loving the sound of it hammering on the lid of the saucepan as the kernels exploded in the hot oil. Once done, she would cover the bright white 'popped corn' with a wickedly sweet and naughty toffee sauce. I've always felt my mum's popcorn was far, far better than the stuff they shovel into cardboard buckets at the cinema.

When my son was quite small, but old enough to eat "proper" food, I started making popcorn for him as a snack (unsalted, unsweetened, of course). Later, I taught him how to do it himself: put a couple of tablespoons of corn oil or sunflower oil in a saucepan with a tightly-fitting lid, and cover with popcorn kernels (readily available in your local supermarket). Turn up the heat and put the lid on. When the corn starts to pop, shake the pan (with lid intact) regularly so that all the kernels have a chance to pop.

Serve with seasalt. Or make a naughty toffee sau…


I got the idea for this from a recipe in Nigella Express, but I had also eaten an Asian-inspired dish containing fried gnocchi at The Wookey Hole Inn some years before - and liked it. There is quite often a packet of gnocchi lurking in my fridge. It's a handy stand-by for a quick lunch or supper, and I particularly like it with a sauce made from grated and fried courgettes with garlic and lots of fresh parmesan. When I was on holiday in Liguria last September, I ate a lot of gnocchi as it is a speciality of the region. Very occasionally I make my own (with butternut squash) but it is rather labour-intensive, and can be tricky to get right when cooking as it can fall apart.

Since gnocchi is (usually) made from potato, fried gnocchi makes a nice alternative to chips for children, especially small children who tend to have a penchant for "dinky food",  and it has a pleasant "mouth feel" as it is crisp on the outside and soft in the middle. Mmmmm. It's particul…


An occasional series featuring favourite ingredients and kitchen kit....

Belazu Rose Harissa
"Small but sexy...... Made to liven cousous, naturally, but that warm spicy perfumed cocktail of chilli, coriander, caraway, garlic,olive oil and rose petals, will lift many a more mundane creation." (Matthew Fort, The Guardian)

Words cannot truly express how much I love this piquant, fiery paste, a traditional ingredient in North African tagines, and a great condiment. Belazu Rose Harissa is the best, and, like Nigella Lawson, I would love to receive a year's supply, gift-wrapped and delivered straight to my kitchen. On my two holidays to Ireland, I have always packed the Harissa: because I cannot live without it and it comes out with most meals. Other fans include my friends and regular dinner companions, Jacky and Nick, who often ask for the condiment, if it is not already on the table.

Made with chillis and over forty spices, including rose petals, Belazu Rose Harissa has a very…


Sounds strange? Trust me: it's delicious.

This recipe comes from The Moro Cookbook, which is one of my most favourite cookbooks of all time. I have all three books by Sam and Sam Clark, but the first Moro cookbook is probably the best. It is full of interesting and imaginative, robust and flavourful Spanish, Moroccan and Turkish recipes, many of which are reminiscent of summer holidays on the Med. I love the food of Southern Spain and north Africa, and this treasure-trove of recipes is one which I return to time and time again.

I have eaten at Moro, the restaurant run by Sam and Sam Clark, only twice, sadly. Its location, in trendy Hoxton, necessitates a long drive across London from my home in the leafy south-western suburbs. Having said that, it is well worth the effort, and the second time I went, I was joined by friends who have lived in Spain (the wife is from Barcelona), and who were able to select the most interesting tapas and wine. It was at Moro that I first tasted Zhoug


On the menu of my local Turkish restaurant (Diners Turkish Delight - a greasy spoon cafe by day), Saksuka is subtitled "Turkish ratatouille". Indeed, it shares many of the same components as rataouille - aubergines, peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes - but I prefer it to ratatouille. It is usually served as a mezze dish, with a dollop of Tzatziki and warm Turkish bread.

The trick with this dish is to cut all the vegetables into small cubes, approx. 1-2cms. Normally, I am not terribly good at finely chopping or cubing, but this dish really benefits from it. The addition of dill (fresh or dried) and smoked paprika give it its exotic, Eastern flavour. It is great served as a mezze, or an accompaniment to roasted or barbecued lamb. I quite often serve it with couscous, with Feta cheese crumbled over the top and a generous sprinkling of fresh coriander (by which I mean a big handful - I love the stuff!) for a light vegetarian supper dish. You can vary the ingredients, though I woul…


In Clas Ohlsson ("the useful shop!"), which is like Ikea without the steroids, and which has replaced Woolies (also a useful shop) on the market place in Kingston, I purchased a baguette tray. Not sure why, as in all the years I have been baking my own bread, I have never before felt the need for specialist equipment, beyond some decent flour, Dove's Farm Quick Yeast, my trusty Kitchenaid mixer, and a good hot oven. However, I will own up now to a slightly fetishistic "thang" about kitchen kit: sometimes just have a few professional-looking accoutrements around me makes me feel better (the heavy-duty garlic press, the 'mezza luna' herb chopper (Nigella's is particularly fetching), the Global Japanese knives). In reality, I use very few pieces of equipment when I'm cooking, my essentials being: a good chopping board and knife, a heavy-duty deep frying pan, a Le Creuset lidded casserole (now very old), a garlic press and a lemon squeezer.

So, I bou…


Farrington's Mellow Yellow Rapeseed Oil

Drive through the countryside in the late spring/early summer, and you will see field after field of vivid yellow flowers. This is rapeseed (Brassica napus), also known as oilseed rape. It's been a feature of our countryside, and agricultural production, for many years now, and the harvested oil is used for biodiesel, and for human consumption, in the form of rapeseed oil.

My mother-in-law, who shares my inquisitive mind and taste buds where food is concerned, introduced me to Farrington's Mellow Yellow Rapeseed Oil. It is a beautiful saffron-yellow oil with a pleasantly nutty flavour, not overpowering. It can be used in dressings, or drizzled on bread, just like olive oil, and its high smoke point (around 220C) makes it ideal for stir-frying and roasting. Farrington's rapeseed oil is produced in the same way as superior-quality olive oil, by cold-pressing, which ensures the full flavour and essence of the oil is preserved. As wel…




Gastropub of Fran reopens tonight; closed last Friday because I was away, my regular dinner guest, friend and Scrabble champ, Nick will be joining me to try a new dish, a Lamb Tangia from Jamie Oliver's foodie tour guide 'Jamie Does.....'. Although I only saw Nick two weeks ago, we have been behaving as if it's a lifetime - "will be great to catch up", "looking forward to seeing you" were some of the text exchanges yesterday. Whether we will be up to post-supper Scrabble remains to be seen....

I have a lot of time for Lovable Jamie, despite his Mockney accent and all that "pukka this" and "pukka that". He cares passionately about what he does, yet he delivers his message in an accessible way. His recipes are consistently excellent and I often return to his earliest cookbooks for favourite dishes. In his book and tv series 'Jamie Does.....', he visited Greece, Sweden, Morocco, Spain and France, cooking a selection of regio…


My trusty Magimix Cuisine Systeme 5100 is about 15 years old. It's had several replacement blades and bowls, and once had a trip to the mender's after Other Half tried to make carrot juice and managed to burn out the engine. The 'pulse' button has sprung out and is held in place with sticky tape. Other than that, it still works a treat.

When I bought my matt grey Kitchenaid, in that fervour of excitement that followed Nigella's first TV series (where one could regular enjoy seeing her draw the curved bowl of her Kitchenaid to her ample bosom), I thought the Magimix would be redundant, but while the Kitchenaid is brilliant for bread dough, cake mix and the lightest, most heavenly meringues, I doubt I could ever find another kitchen gadget that does chopping and pureeing as well as the Magimix. I can make pesto in moments, hummous in the blink of an eye, whizz up a garlic sauce, or mayonnaise "just like that"! The only down side of it, is that it lives at t…


No. 7 'Brunette' praline spread

The knives are out - and in a good way. 'Brunette' is a wickedly sweet and utterly delicious hazelnut praline spread, made by upmarket bread shop and cafe chain Le Pain Quotidien. It's like Nutella - without the chocolate. And that makes it better.....

I first tried it at the Marylebone High Street branch of Le PQ, in the good old days, when I was a skinny latte girl and a lady who lunched. Marylebone High Street, just north of Oxford Street, is a long, chic street of designer fashion and designer furniture shops. At the Baker Street end is La Fromagerie, one of those uber-trendy, uber-expensive delicatessens. Le PQ occupies a nice corner plot and is a cheery, friendly place for a late breakfast/brunch, a welcome pause when one is shopping.

At Le PQ, coffee and hot chocolate comes in big bowls, a la Francaise. If it weren't so nice, it would be pretentious. The bread menu is extensive, and each table is blessed - yes, blessed - wi…