Tuesday, 31 May 2011


Another recipe courtesy of the Ottolenghi Cookbook, the ingredients for this mash suggest an autumnal dish, yet the addition of creme fraiche and butter gives it a lovely, summery lightness. There's no need to stick rigidly to the "pumpkin and parsnip" combo; in fact, when I made this yesterday, I used butternut squash, sweet potato, a carrot and two parsnips. Celeriac, turnip and swede would also work very well here. The addition of roasted garlic is inspired, lending a delicious extra sweetness to the soothing flavour and texture of the root vegetables. Serve with roast chicken or spring lamb, or robust fish.

Parsnip and Pumpkin Mash
Serves 4-6

600g (peeled weight) pumpkin or butternut squash, cut into 2-3cm dice
5 medium parsnips, peeled & cut into large chunks
3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 whole head of garlic
200ml sunflower oil
2 onions, sliced into rings
80g unsalted butter
1 tsp ground nutmeg
300g creme fraiche, at room temperature
15g chives, roughly chopped
salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200C (Gas 5). Toss the pumpkin or squash with the olive oil and a little salt and pepper, spread out on a baking tray and roast until soft and mashable (appox 30-45 mins). Meanwhile, cut about 1cm off the top of the garlic head and place in the bottom part of the oven, next to the roasting squash. Cook for approx 30 mins until tender and soft.

While the pumpkin is roasting, cook the parsnip (or other root vegetables) in boiling, salted water for approx 30 mins until soft. Drain and keep warm.

Heat the sunflower oil in a medium saucepan, heat well and fry the onion rings in 2-3 batches until brown and crispy (almost burnt). Drain on kitchen paper.

Mix all the veg together in a large bowl, or in a food processor. Hold the garlic head and press out the soft flesh Add the nutmeg, butter and seasoning. Gently fold in the creme fraiche and chives to form a ripple in the mash (that's the "cheffy bit"!). Spoon a mound onto each serving place and garnish with the fried onions and a drizzle of olive oil.

Sunday, 29 May 2011


A new guest at my dinner table on Friday evening, and therefore an opportunity for me to show off in the kitchen (an activity I almost never shy from). Now that my Friday afternoons have been eroded by teaching piano, Friday supper always has to be straightforward and, preferably, a meal I can make in advance. Thus, aware of my time-poverty on Friday, I made the pudding on Thursday, and prepared the rest of the meal on Friday morning before I began my daily ritual of 'piano pilates', followed by 20 minutes with Claude Debussy, with whom I am developing an extremely intimate relationship at the piano. I also had to go and look at a piano with the parents of one of my students when I finished teaching on Friday, which left me with even less time.....

This simple main course dish is very easy, but looks lovely, with the brightly coloured pepper salsa set against the delicate pink flesh of the salmon. You could serve the salmon cold for a delightful summer lunch or supper dish. The salsa would also go well with grilled chicken or lamb, or with cold cuts and cheese. This comes from the Ottolenghi Cookbook, another great favourite of mine, and a real treasure-trove of unusual and imaginative dishes.

Roast Salmon with Red Pepper and Hazelnut Salsa
serves 4

4 salmon fillets, approx 200g each, seasoned with a squeeze of lemon and salt and pepper

2 red peppers
6 tbsp olive oil
15g hazelnuts (whole, or chopped & roasted)
15g chives, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
juice and grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp cider vinegar

Make the salsa in advance. I roast the peppers over the flame on my gas hob until the skin is black. I then put the blackened peppers in a sealed bowl and leave them for about 10 mins: the steam eases the skin off. But you can also roast them in a hot oven (200C) and then use the same trick to remove the skin.

Dry roast the hazelnuts and chop roughly. (I'm afraid I cheat here and buy pre-roasted, pre-chopped hazelnuts.)

Chop the peppers into 5mm dice. Mix with the hazelnuts, olive oil, lemon zest and juice, garlic, chives and cider vinegar. Set aside. Note: this salsa should be served at room temperature rather than straight from the fridge.

Put the salmon in a hot oven and cook until the flesh is just done. Serve with the salsa, boiled new potatoes and a green salad. On Friday, I served the fish with Ottolenghi's French beans and mangetout with hazelnut and orange (recipe here), substituting the French beans for asparagus which is in season right now.

For pudding, we had Nigella's Tender and Damp Lemon Polenta Cake, a great favourite in this house. And easy to make in advance!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011


Here's a simple, tasty dish that can be quickly prepared in advance, left to marinade, and then bunged in the oven, or slapped on the barbie for a delicious, summery supper. It is taken from Moro The Cookbook, recipe book from the eponymous restaurant in London's trendy Hoxton. The original recipe is for chicken wings, marinaded and then grilled, but I use the marinade ingredients to coat chicken thighs, for a more substantial meal. I have also marinade a whole, spatch-cocked chicken. According to the recipe preamble, this is "a classic Lebanese dish, perfect for the barbecue". Serve with tahini sauce, fresh parsley leaves, and wedges of lemon. Oh, and some good bread.....

Serves 4
12 chicken wings, tips removed, or 4 large chicken thighs
Tahini sauce
1 small bunch fresh, flat-leaf parsley
1 lemon quartered
sea salt and black pepper

3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp tahini paste
1 tbsp olive oil

Mix all the ingredients together, add the chicken pieces and leave to steep for at least an hour.

A barbecue is ideal to cook the chicken (if using bigger chicken pieces, make sure they are properly cooked). Alternatively, the chicken can be cooked in the oven at 220C, until the skin is golden brown and slightly charred, and the meat is cooked through. Serve with Tahini Sauce (below).

Tahini Sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp tahini paste
juice of 1 lemon
5 tbsp water
black pepper
sea salt

Combine all the ingredients, using the water to loosen the sauce, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve at room temperature.

Moro website

Saturday, 21 May 2011


I was celebrating (one of my adult students gained a Merit for his Grade 1), and Nick was de-stressing after a heavy week at work. We'd drunk most of the bottle of rather fine frizzante red wine I'd purchased in my local Italian deli (Girasol, on Teddington High Street, for local readers) before we sat down to supper. I made La Caldareta, a slow-roast dish from the Extremadura region of Spain. The recipe itself comes from Moro East, the third Moro cookbook, and one which I spend large amounts of time salivating over though not actually cooking much from it. I am determined to right that wrong!

I made this dish a couple of weeks ago, with a lamb shoulder joint which lends itself to very slow cooking. It's a one-pot meal, as it contains potatoes and needs only a green salad and a hunk of good bread to accompany it. According to the preamble in the cookbook, "the herbs should mimic the vegetation the Extremaduran sheep and goats graze on" (thyme and rosemary). It is a very easy dish to make and can be assembled in advance.

La Caldereta

For 4-5
1 shoulder of lamb or kid, about 2kg in weight
3 tsps fine sea salt
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
5 tbsps olive oil
1 large onion, roughly sliced
18 garlic cloves, skin on
2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 smoked sweet paprika
1/2 bottle Spanish white wine
3 tbsps brandy (optional)
1 kg medium-sized firm or waxy potatoes, peeled, quartered and rubbed with 1/2 tsp salt (I use Charlotte potatoes).

Rub the meat joint with the fine sea salt and half the thyme and rosemary, and let it stand on a plate for 20 mins - 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 175C/Gas 4

Put the olive oil, garlic and onions in a large roasting dish with a pinch of salt. Fry over a medium heat until the onion softens and starts to colour. Stir in the bay leaves, fennel seeds, paprika and remaining thyme and rosemary, followed by the wine and brandy (if using). Place the meat on top, skin side up, and roast for 2.5 hours, basting regularly. Toss the potatoes in the juices in the roasting tray, increase the heat to 220C and roast for a further 40 mins, by which time the meat should be caramelised and sticky on the outside, and falling off the bone. Add a splash of water to the roasting tray if the juices have dried up. Check for seasoning and leave to rest for 10 mins before serving.

Cook's note: the first time I made this, I cooked it in my Le Creuset casserole, leaving the lid off for the first 30 mins to brown the meat, and at the end to brown the potatoes. When I made it last night, I used pig cheeks instead of a joint of lamb; if anything, the pig cheeks were more tasty than the lamb. We had a nice bundle of steamed English asparagus and lots of my homemade focaccia.

For pudding, we had strawberries hulled and sliced, tossed with icing sugar and a dash of rosewater and left to steep for a few hours. I made Barbados Cream to go with them - it sounds glamorous and exotic, but it is really very easy. It's one of Nigella's favourites, and is simply equal quantities of Greek yoghurt and cream mixed together and then sprinkled with soft dark sugar (Muscovado). Left in the fridge for a few hours, it develops a lovely fudgy topping. You can also use Mascarpone, as I did. The cat ate what was left....

Monday, 16 May 2011


A message on Twitter today, and blogs by Betty Herbert and Gretchens Pianos have prompted me to invite "guests posts" for Demon Cook. Anything food or foodie - a favourite recipe, a special meal, a particular ingredient, food travels......... I'd love to hear from you!

Please send your contributions to me by email at franwilson66@googlemail.com. Submissions will be subject to a degree of moderation, and text should, ideally, require little editing. Do include a photo or picture if you want to. Oh, and by the way, if you're interested in music and the piano, check out my other blog The Cross-Eyed Pianist. I'm inviting guests posts for that too.....

I look forward to hearing from you, and to reading your articles!


I was out all afternoon yesterday, in my alter ego as a keen concert-goer and reviewer for Bachtrack.com, hearing grand old man of piano, Charles Rosen, playing Chopin. When I got home, I wanted something quick and easy for supper, because I had to file my review and do the usual Sunday night reality tasks.....

Despite having had a large delivery of food from Ocado the day before, when I opened the over-stuffed fridge I felt entirely lacking in inspiration. It's funny, but I am often more creative when there is very little in the fridge, or when my son and I play "freezer roulette" (the rules are simple: open the freezer and the first thing you take out must be a constituent part of a meal). There was half a bag of watercress in the vegetable drawer: another day in there and it would be past its best. Ditto that bag of baby spinach.....

A quick trawl of Google threw up a couple of interesting recipes for tilapia (a firm-fleshed fish, not unlike cod in texture and flavour), including one with a Thai-inspired sauce. Nearly all required the fish to be dusted in flour and pan-fried. Simple and quick. I made the pesto first. I love watercress and its bright peppery flavour. I was surprised at how delicious the pesto was, more so than the trad basil version which can sometimes be rather too pungent. The watercress version was fresh and vibrant, and a squeeze of lemon added a nice piquancy. I wilted the spinach in the microwave, because I am not above a bit of 'kitchen cheating', and then wilted it some more in the wok with some sliced garlic, olive oil and lemon juice (a Moro recipe). The fish, duly dusted in cornflour, was fried in olive oil. As you can see from the picture, I did a 'cheffy thing' with the fish fillets, neatly balancing them on the bed of wilted spinach and topping the whole thing off with a generous dollop of bright green watercress pesto. I enjoyed it so much, I bought two more bags of watercress, reduced in M&S at lunchtime today, to make more pesto this evening. It goes well with fish (it would be lovely with salmon, a natural partner), but I would also serve it with chicken. It's also extremely delicious, eaten off a spoon, straight out of the bowl of the Magnimax, Nigella-stylie.

Watercress pesto

50g watercress, any woody stalks removed
2 tbsp pine nuts
1 fat garlic clove, peeled
Approx 2 tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese
Juice of half a lemon
3 tbsp olive oil

Whizz all the ingredients together in food-processor.

You can read my review of the concert here

Wednesday, 4 May 2011


After the excitement of the Royal Nuptials, the enforced extra-long weekend was spent gardening (ugh) and decorating (double ugh). In between these activities, I was continually called upon by the rest of my family to provide sustenance: drinks, snacks, meals, for the workers. Every time I tried to slope off to do some much-needed piano practice, I would hear "MUM!!!" from upstairs, which put me in mind of put-upon mum Lois from 'Family Guy' (see end of post).

I fancied fish for supper on Bank Holiday Monday, and purchased some nice thick salmon steaks in anticipation of this. Then I remembered a rather flavoursome, yet easy-to-make fish tagine, which I haven't cooked for ages. I thought the recipe was in one of the Moro cookbooks, but no amount of searching could produce it, so I made it from memory - which is how I do most of my cooking anyway.....

This dish is simple to put together and can be made in advance. The sauce is 'charmoula' (or 'chermoula'), a Moroccan sauce which lends a lovely, garlicky piquancy. It goes well with grilled meat as well as fish, and I sometimes put it on a wrap with avocado and Emmental slices, which I then toast on my cast-iron ridged griddle pan. The rest of the ingredients turn this into one of those neat one-pot meals: it needs nothing else, not even a salad. Any firm fish will do: I usually use salmon, but monkfish or cod would work equally well.

Start with the Charmoula (this recipe is from Casa Moro - the second Moro cookbook)

2 garlic cloves
2 tsps cumin seeds, freshly ground, or 2 tsps ground cumin
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
3/4 tsp sweet paprika
Small bunch of fresh coriander
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and black pepper

Being purists, the authors of Casa Moro suggest making Charmoula in a pestle and mortar. I prefer to whizz it in the Magmix. When done, set it aside and turn your attention to the rest of the dish.

2 fish steaks (salmon, monkfish or similar)
2 red peppers
2 garlic cloves, slivered
approx 250g baby new potatoes
approx 20 baby plum or cherry tomatoes
generous handful of good black olives

Oven 200C

This should, of course, be made in a tagine. Failing that, use a Le Creuset type casserole.

First, prepare the peppers by blackening their skin over a flame and then placing the blackened peppers in a plastic bag or covered bowl. This is Jamie's clever trick to get the skin off easily - the steam eases it off. After about 10 mins, rub the skin off or rinse away under a tap. Remove the stalk and seeds and thinly slice. Add to the tagine. Add the rest of the ingredients, and stir in a couple of tablespoons of Charmoula.

Cut the fish into chunks and use the rest of the charmoula as a marinade. Put the tagine in the oven (without the fish) and cook until the potatoes are soft. If using a casserole dish, check intermittently to make sure it does not dry out - you can add some water if it is getting dry. About 10 mins before the end of cooking, add the fish pieces and return to the oven until the fish is cooked.

'Family Guy' - Mom Mom Mummy