Showing posts from January, 2012


My son is a big fan of Heston Blumenthal, the more ridiculous and wacky the better, and he's persuaded me to watch Heston's latest series on Channel Four 'How to Cook Like Heston'. I resisted at first: Heston's kitchen pyrotechnics are the food equivalent of Chinese Rock Star pianist Lang Lang, who irritates the sh*t out of me, but I'm warming to the bald guy with Joe Ninety glasses.

A recent episode focused on chocolate, and my ears pricked up when Heston mentioned popping candy, which was called Space Dust in the 1970s. I remember when it first arrived in the local sweet shop in Sutton Coldfield: kids, ten pence pieces clutched in their sweaty palms, queued around the block to get the novelty confectionary which exploded on your tongue. I never really liked it, but it amused me when my son discovered it a few years ago.

The "explosive" element of this chocolate tart is in the biscuit base, which contains, yes, you've guessed it - popping candy.…


So delighted was I with the super-succulent roast chicken in a brick (see previous post), that I decided my next "meal in a brick" would be 'Tava', a delicious yet simple dish from Cyprus. The recipe comes from Tessa Kiros's evocatively titled book Falling Cloudberries, which is part cookbook, part family memoir. It qualifies as 'cookbook porn' as alongside the varied and wonderful recipes from all the places where Tessa and her family have lived (Greece, Cyprus, Scandinavia, South Africa) are beautiful illustrations and snippets of family memorabilia.

It was interesting discussing with a friend who manages Waterstones (now officially minus its apostrophe!) the buying habits of his customers in the run up to Christmas. Every year, he says, cookery books do well, especially glossy, glamorous, heavily illustrated coffee-table type cookbooks. Nick actually gave me one such book for Christmas - Thai Street Food by David Thompson, a massive hardback tome (33.…


When I was a student in the mid-1980s, I owned a chicken brick. It was one of my most treasured possessions, bought for my birthday by some of my housemates, and used a great deal as I learned to cook in my final year a university.

The chicken brick came from Habitat, the home store established in the swinging sixties by designer, design entrepreneur and restaurateur Terence Conran, the man who, almost single-handedly, shaped the look of everyday British life post-1945. (He also introduced us to the duvet, the paper lampshade and the wok.) I recently reviewed an exhibition at London's Design Museum about Conran's work and legacy (you can read my review here) and, nestled amongst the display of simple kitchen kit, was a chicken brick. My son asked me what it was for, and when I explained, he said "we should get one".

I don't remember what happened to my first chicken brick after I left university. I suspect I continued to use it for some years and then it got brok…


I was delighted when one of the people I follow on Twitter, a fellow foodie, flagged up a link to the new website and blog of Ash Mair, 2011 winner of Masterchef: the Professionals. Throughout the contest, Ash produced fascinating and delicious-looking dishes, many inspired by his travels in Spain, a country whose cuisine I adore. His personality and approach is also very appealing: as he says on his website: "I like to cook faff-free food that tastes nice and makes people happy". Ash, you iz the man!

The site is easy to navigate and includes Ash's musings on the whole Masterchef experience, as well as links to some of his recipes (more coming soon). You can also find his recipes on the BBC's Masterchef pages, including the dishes he cooked in the final, and recipes from other contestants.


I thought I had already blogged this recipe as I make it fairly regularly, but a search through the annals of Demon Cook proved fruitless, so I had to resort to Nigella's Lawon's excellent book Nigella Bites for the recipe.

As befits a Monday night supper in dreary January, this dish is simple and comforting, and can be made from things you are likely to have in your store-cupboard. You don't even have to make it with fish and/or seafood: it works well with chicken, or you could even do a veggie version by adding things like baby corn, sliced red peppers, mushrooms etc. I nearly always have a tin of coconut milk and a tub of red Thai curry paste stashed away, and there's a good chance some salmon will be lurking in the freezer somewhere. Butternut squash - a rather suggestive-looking beast (!) - is a regular resident in my veg drawer, and a sprinkling of fresh coriander quickly turns this dish into something more classy. Serve with Thai jasmine rice for an authentic tw…


My son persuaded me to watch Heston Blumenthal's new tv show on Channel 4 the other night. I've always been really cynical about Heston's kitchen pyrotechnics - to me he is the culinary equivalent of the pianist Lang Lang: all flashy show and no substance. Friends who have eaten at his restaurant The Fat Duck by the Thames at Bray tell me the food is incredible, and my son loves Heston's 'laboratory-style' cooking. The new series sees Heston in a more domestic setting, cooking things we can all manage in our kitchens at home, without the need for liquid nitrogen or other gizmos, and the first episode focused on beef.

I'd been meaning to make a proper beef bourguignon (literally beef cooked in Burgundy wine) since we returned from our Christmas holiday in the French Alps. In his programme, Heston demonstrated some key techniques for cooking beef, including his "tip" for bringing out the flavour of the meat: surprisingly, star anise, a spice more co…


This comes from Nigella Lawson's wonderful book How to be a Domestic Goddess which is cramful of lovely cakes, puddings, pies and more. It is exactly as the title implies and is a handy standby if you're stuck for a pudding. It looks very elegant and can be tarted up with fruit (raspberries, strawberries and/or blueberries work particularly well), ice cream or whipped cream. The great thing about this cake is that, apart from the marzipan, it's made from things you are likely to have in your cupboard all the time. I was pondering what to make for pudding tomorrow evening when I found half a block of marzipan in the fridge, leftover from my Christmas Stollen.

Nigella's cook's note: take the marzipan out of the fridge ahead of making the cake, otherwise it won't "ooze into the cake batter".  The quantities can be doubled or halved easily: just adjust the cake tin size to suit the quantity.

250g softened unsalted butter
250g softened marzipan (yellow or…


Yesterday, I got drenched while visiting London's Design Museum to review 'The Way We Live Now', an appreciation of Terence Conran's life in design, and an exhibition I found rather nostalgic, not least for the inclusion of a Habitat chicken brick (I had one as a student) and various other pieces of furniture and kitchen gadgets which I own or have owned. My son was fascinated by the idea of the chicken brick (it works on the same principle as a tagine - you don't need to add additional liquid) and persuaded me to buy one - which I did.

Leaving the Design Museum and heading back along the Thames Path towards London Bridge we were subjected to the full force of a mini typhoon: the gale whipped icy, stinging rain into our faces and in a few moments, despite our sensible outdoor coats, we were soaked. We had a jolly, healthy sushi lunch at Itsu, and it was while we were eating, that I remembered the parsnips in the vegetable drawer of the fridge, left over from Christ…