Showing posts from July, 2011


It's the holidays for me now, a 7-week break from piano teaching, so this week I've decided to have a clear out and a tidy up. I started with the kitchen drawers, at the back of which I found a 'Savu Original Food Smoker Bag', an ingenious 'device' which hails from Finland. I can't remember where or when I purchased it, but I suspect it came from somewhere like Lakeland, which offers a million kitchen gadgets and gizmos you think you can't live without. The Food Smoker Bag is just what is says on the packet - a foil bag containing natural raw wood "specially selected from Finnish forests", which, when heated, creates a delicious smoked flavour. You put the food in the smoker bag, seal it up, place in a pre-heated oven and cook. The end result is a pleasantly smoked flavour. It's particularly good for fish.

There are, of course, more sophisticated ways to achieve a smoked flavour, the most obvious being the barbecue (note: a 'proper'…


As my mother-in-law frequently, and correctly, points out, I am very lucky to live close to the heart of the best city in the world, and have access to all it has to offer, should I desire it. There are specialist food shops, markets like Exmouth Street and Borough, wonderful food halls and a myriad of other retailers purveying wondrous delicacies. Yes, I am really very spoilt.

However, what I do lack is Olives et Al, a wonderful small specialist retailer which started out 18 years ago selling olives, and has since developed into a company which supplies oils and vinegars, pestos and tapenades, wonderful snacks, and other lovely foodie goodies. From humble beginnings, the company now has a well-stocked and friendly factory shop on the edge of Sturminster Newton, a small town in Dorset, where I stayed on my wedding night. Despite living in a leafy suburb of London, which has several good delis on its high street, I cannot buy Olives et Al products locally, so whenever I am in Dorset, I…


I'm enjoying a mini break in darkest Dorset (well, Blandford Forum, to be precise, an almost perfectly extant Georgian town, the result of a fire in the 1700s and an extensive rebuilding programme masterminded by the Bastard Brothers. I kid you not.). Apart from having to contend with two dogs - and I'm not good with dogs - who bark ceaselessly just before 9am every morning when it's walkies time, I also have to face off the Aga every time I want a cup of tea or a piece of toast.

I've blogged, and grumbled, before about the Aga. For someone in possession of a 6-burnergas hob atop a professional-style modern range oven, I find the Aga quirky and unsophisticated to cook on. It has only two 'settings': hot and not hot. It loses heat very quickly if one of its lids is left up, and if someone has been using the hot plate before you, you have to wait at least an hour for it to heat up again, just to make a cup of tea. Making toast is a feat in itself: turn your back …


First, apologies to Demon Cook fans and followers for the lack of posts recently: I have been exceptionally busy in my other life as a piano teacher, with end of term concerts, paperwork (to ensure I get paid next term!) and various other piano admin. The end of term is nigh, at last, and I can look forward to a rest and lots of therapeutic cooking and piano playing (mine - and other people's at Prom concerts this summer).

Now, for tonight's supper. When I asked Other Half what he fancied for dinner, he said "Moroccan style lamb chops, grilled" which I instantly translated at Lamb Mechoui. Hailing from Morocco, mechoui is whole lamb, spit-roasted over the embers of an open fire, basted with a mixture of butter, saffron, cumin, salt and paprika. Translating this to a more domestic setting is simple enough: swap the whole lamb for chops. The spice mixture remains the same. I sometimes do this on the barbecue, which probably lends a more authentic flavour to it, but othe…


Eight for dinner tonight, and I wanted to make something simple and elegant. One of the guests does not eat meat, so rather than make a dish especially for her, everyone will have fish.

I've got a bit of a "thing" for Thai food at the moment, ever since that glorious (and somewhat boozy) supper at Caroline's last month, and my discovery of the local Asian supermarket. Perhaps it has something to do with the change in the weather, for the better, that I crave bright, fresh flavours, rather than sultry stews and slow roasts?

This recipe is from the Sainted Delia, her 'Summer Collection', a book I return to fairly frequently, as it does contain a lovely selection of summery food (the homemade lemonade recipe is hard to beat). Like many of the dishes I cook, this can be easily made in advance and set aside until you are ready to cook. For a starter, I'm doing my take on Chinese pancakes: instead of crispy aromatic duck, I'll fill them with a mixture of cr…


I've borrowed the title of this post from the back page of the Waitrose food magazine, where each month a celebrity reveals something about him- or herself through a series of food-related questions.

Who taught you to cook? I am largely self-taught, and have always enjoyed experimenting and tinkering with food. I learnt the tricks of pastry-making from my mother ("keep it cold"). I hated domestic science lessons at school because everything had to be so tidy, but I still use the basic roux sauce recipe that I learnt in school.

Is there a dish you've never really mastered? Less "mastered" and more "attempted". I haven't tried Baked Alaska yet, nor Beef Wellington, though neither is particularly daunting for me. Watching 'Masterchef: the Professionals' last winter taught me a lot: food that appears complicated is not always what it seems. Often, it is in the construction and presentation of a dish, rather than the actual ingredients or coo…