Showing posts from April, 2011


My republican stance was quickly toppled when Kate Middleton stepped out of the limo, and we all caught the first glimpse of The Dress. She looked lovely, and the dress, with its unmistakable nod to Grace Kelly's wedding dress, was divine, understated and elegant. I watched the entire ceremony, and hung on until the moment of The Kiss, or rather The Kisses, before sloping off to the kitchen to prepare a celebratory supper. It was supposed to be a "Not The Royal Wedding" supper, but in the end, we toasted the happy couple, and watched the highlights on the telly before sitting down to dinner.

The main course, lamb in a honey glaze on giant couscous, was my version of something we ate at The Bull on Easter Saturday. I used shoulder of lamb as it lends itself to slow cooking. Before marinading it, I made slits in the underside of each joint and slipped in pieces of garlic. I made a simple marinade from honey, lemon juice and cumin, plonked the lamb on some sprigs of fresh r…


Weeknight suppers are not normally a time when I hone my cheffy skills, but, inspired by dinner at The Bull on Saturday evening (see earlier post), I fancied trying to recreate, at home, the main course I had there: fillets of bream on white risotto with fresh pesto and breadcrumbs.

In many ways, this is not a cheffy dish at all - just quality ingredients imaginatively combined. Which to me is the essence of good food, whether it is cooked and eaten at home, or at a fine gastropub in deepest, darkest Dorset.....

I didn't have bream, nor did I have time to visit the fishmonger as I was working in Kensington this morning. Instead, I defrosted two seabass fillets. Sea bream and seabass are similar in flavour and texture and one can therefore be substituted for t'other, if need be. I always have risotto rice in the cupboard, ditto parmesan and all the other key ingredients for risotto, and there's usually a bag of homemade breadcrumbs (stale homemade foccacia whizzed in the Ma…


I have written before about this fine 'dining pub', and Easter Saturday brought a welcome return, this time for dinner. The pub is in the village of Wimborne St Giles, which is near to Blandford Forum, where my in-laws live. That is as much as I can tell you, for it truly is in the middle of nowhere. Driving through the sun-drenched countryside, which could have come straight out of Thomas Hardy or Wordsworth (sheep grazing quietly, lambs gambolling, daffoldils daffing and so on), it could have easily been an evening in mid-summer, so glorious was the weather.

The Bull is tastefully decorated, inside and out, in muted Farrow & Ball greens, and is elegantly furnished from India Jane (the owner of The Bull has a connection with this upmarket interiors shop).  There is a snug area with comfy leather sofas and glossy magazines, and a conservatory extension, with a view over the large garden. At 7pm, there were families in the garden, enjoying a drink in the fine evening sunshi…

SIMPLE PLEASURES - An Occasional Series

No. 1 Tomatoes on Toast

Not bruschetta. Ooh no, this snack is far less sophisticated. I really love this simple, two-ingredients (give or take a few) dish, and it is something I quite often eat for breakfast, especially if I've got that "morning after the night before" feeling. It shares the same comforting, nursery mouth-feel as beans on toast.

The nutritional value of tomatoes is well known, and this dish is also low GI, which means if you have it for breakfast, you won't be reaching for the biscuit tin at 11 am. Aside from all that, it is just plain tasty. You don't need specialist ingredients: the cheapest, hardest supermarket tomatoes will do - the cooking softens and sweetens them - and the most bog-standard white bread is fine, though I prefer something more rustic or an artisanal sourdough. Or my homemade foccaccia, spiked with rosemary, drenched in olive oil, and lightly toasted.

So, take a couple of tomatoes, slice them, but not too finely, as they have…



Not exactly a new "find" as I've known about this ingredient for years, ever since I first started making my own hummous when I was about 14. Tahini is a smooth paste made from hulled sesame seeds and is a common ingredient in North African cooking. It is, of course, a constituent of hummous, but it is found in many other dishes, lending a warm, nutty flavour. It can be eaten instead of peanut butter on toast or crispbread, and a couple of tablespoons of tahini mixed with yoghurt, garlic and lemon juice makes a quick and tasty dip to have with pitta bread and crudites. Tahini made from unhulled sesame seeds is darker in colour and has a stronger flavour, which is not appropriate for some recipes which require a lighter flavour.

Tahini is a nutritional powerhouse, containing many B vitamins, as well as being a source of Vitamin A, and is high in calcium. It also contains potassium, magnesium, iron and phosphorous, and is a richer protein source than milk, soya beans…



Chorizo is an Iberian pork sausage and flavoured with garlic and smoked paprika (pimenton), which gives it its distinctive flavour and deep orangey-red colour. There are several different kinds, ranging from a salami-type which is served sliced, as a tapa or in boccadillos (sandwiches) to a cooking chorizo, which is a fresh sausage and must be cooked before eating.

Once upon a time in the UK, you could only buy the sliced, salami type, but as our fondness for continental food has grown exponentially in the last 20-odd years, there are now many more varieties of chorizo available. For example, Waitrose stocks a premium-grade Chorizo Iberico, which is made from pork from the highly-prized Iberian pig, which feeds off acorns. It is very rich and flavoursome, and makes an excellent tapa with a glass of chilled fino or Cava.  Tesco now stocks cooking chorizo, which I use for paella, and similar dishes where a more traditional sausage is required. My son likes Spaghetti Carbonara mad…


Terre a Terre is a Brighton institution. I didn't know this, of course, when I visited the award-winning restaurant for supper last night, but immediately on arrival I could tell this was a very popular and well-loved eatery, busy at 8pm with families, couples, friends.

I was in Brighton for the night to visit an old chum from university, someone who I met 25 years ago, and haven't seen for at least 15 years. It was thanks to that organ of social networking, Facebook, that Emma and I reconnected last year, after years of not being in touch. Our evening started in Emma's flat on Royal Crescent, with a lovely view over the sea and the pier, and a bottle of Cordon Negro, and a healthy dose of Victoria Wood/Joyce Grenfell impressions, and re-enacting the tea room scene in 'Brief Encounter', before strolling along the seafront to the buzzing trendy centre of Brighton for our supper. We hardly stopped talking, except to draw breath, and soon those 15 years had melted awa…


For the uninitiated, Leffe is a wonderful Belgian beer, originally brewed at the Notre Dame de Leffe. The beer is creamy, sweet and flavourful. It is also very strong! Of course, you don't have to use Leffe for this recipe - any "ale" will do, though a real ale will offer greater depth of flavour. I didn't want to buy a 4-pack of Guinness because I knew I would want to drink it, so instead I bought a 75cl bottle of Leffe Brun, the dark variety which has full, sweet taste, and the same delicious creamy finish as the Blonde variety.

With the light evenings, sunny days and milder weather, I suppose I should really be cooking spring lamb, or something light, but Nick, my regular Friday night dinner companion, likes robust, wholesome food - and so do I, if truth be told. I also wanted something I could make in advance. The filling is adapted from Nigella's steak & kidney pudding recipe, and the pie crust is simply bought puff pastry. I could have, should have, mad…


When I put "chicken basque" into a Google image search just now, amongst the many pictures of the dish itself, was a cartoon of a chicken wearing a corset (or basque). Ho ho.

Eating this dish, you'd probably want to loosen your stays, if you were wearing them. Redolent of paella, with its fragrant, smoky rice, peppers, chorizo, and olives, this simple but very tasty dish is easy to make and a great standby for Sunday lunch or casual suppers with friends, as it can be easily doubled up to feed more. It's from Delia Smith's 'Summer Collection', and when the book first came out, to accompany the Sainted Delia's tv series, I made this all the time. And so did my mother-in-law. In the 'Winter Collection', she offers a Moroccan take on the same theme, with chickpeas, olives and preserved lemons, but I think the original Spanish-style dish is better. Do not be daunted by the long ingredients list: this dish is an easy one-pot meal. It can also be ass…