Showing posts from April, 2012


On Friday evening I cooked away from home, in Pimlico, for my very good friend Jacky, who is recovering from surgery. Jacky is partly responsible for this blog, as she nicknamed me "Demon Cook" because of my ability to rustle up Nigella-ish feasts for friends, ladling out warming tagines and baking "Fran bread", my version of that Italian classic, focaccia. (Jacky also nicknamed me "Demon Shopper" for my habit of seeking out bargains and unusual shops....)

Most Friday evenings, I have a few friends round for an informal supper (what I would call a "kitchen supper" if I had a kitchen big enough to accommodate everyone). Because of the regularity of these suppers, I try to cook something new and interesting each week, though we do have firm favourites, such as kleftiko (Greek lamb stew), chicken-in-a-brick, and various aromatic and comforting tagines.

Since Jacky couldn't travel down to Teddington for supper, it seemed a sensible arrangement t…


Last night, renowned cook and writer Prue Leith gave a talk at Waterstone's, Richmond, on the occasion of the publication of her book of memoirs Relish. Prue has enjoyed a rich and varied life, from her childhood in South Africa, to studying in Paris, and moving to London in the swinging sixties, when she first started her catering business. She has gone on to be one of the UK's most respected cooks and businesswomen, and has also published several novels.

When talking about the particular appeal of cooking and food, she said she liked nothing better than "standing at the head of the table, doling out ladlefuls of food" to a group of friends seated round her dining table. This really resonated with me, as this is largely my motivation for cooking (apart from greediness, another trait Prue admitted to!): food, its preparation, serving and eating, is, for me, a convivial, nurturing and sharing activity. It should never be simply about fuelling the body, as far as I&#…


I used to buy cook books all the time, with a tendency to collect the entire oeuvre of a particular cook or food writer, such as Nigel Slater or Nigella Lawson. Many books were purchased on a whim, for one or two recipes and a collection of sumptuous photos, which amount to "food porn". Then I realised many of my cook books were lying idle on my bookshelves, gathering dust from neglect. These days, I tend to cook from a handful of favourite books, and various recipes culled from websites, friends and magazines.

I think the last cook book I purchased was Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty, an enjoyable and imaginative collection of vegetarian recipes, and a follow up to his excellent Ottolenghi Cookbook. Lately, I seem to be buying sheet music compulsively, gaining an almost childish pleasure from receiving new parcels from Amazon and browsing through the heavy, creamy pages of a new Henle or Weiner urtext edition: I even read music scores in bed these days....

Claudia Roden is a …


An enjoyable morning at the wonderful, quirky, treasure-trove museum at Sir John Soane's house ended with lunch at the India Club at the Hotel Strand Continental. This may sound very glamorous, the word "club" adding a certain cachet. In fact, the hotel and the restaurant are rather shabby, redolent of the cheap hotels I stayed in when I was travelling through northern India as a student in the 1980s. Yet, there is a certain faded charm too; indeed, both restaurant and hotel have hardly changed since they opened in 1946. The hotel and restaurant were a hub of political activity in the late 1940s, where discussions about the newly-independent India took place.

The restaurant is hidden away on the second floor. You access the hotel from a small door on the southern side of the Strand, east of Waterloo bridge. Curling paper signs promise "an authentic experience of 1940s India". When I first ate at the India Club, way back in the late 1980s when I was in my first…