Monday, 1 December 2014

Stuffed Zucchini or Pumpkin Flowers

I made these just before I left for a trip to the US, abandoning my veggie garden just as it was bursting into flower. Fortunately there were far more pumpkin flowers than we could ever keep alive to turn into pumpkins, and making these was surprisingly simple. I have no idea where you would get them in Australia if you're not growing them yourself. If you do have a vegetable garden, it's worth growing a pumpkin vine just for the flowers. They're incredibly hardy vines with surprisingly good tolerance for heat, and will happily produce flowers from late spring all the way to early autumn. I've had less success with courgettes, although their flowers do work a tiny bit better for this, because the base of the flower (where it joins the stem) is less likely to be bitter.


  • 12 courgette or pumpkin flowers, picked just before they split and open
  • 100-200g ricotta
  • generous handfuls of basil
  • zest of 1/3rd a lemon
  • salt and pepper
  • an egg, lightly beaten
  • a couple of slices of bread, blitzed to breadcrumbs
  • olive oil
Clean the flowers of any insects and dirt. Finely shred the basil and combine with the ricotta, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Combine the basil and lemon zest with the ricotta. Make a small hole in each flower, usually wherever they are about to split lengthwise first. Stuff each flower with ricotta, then press the flower petals back together. Dip in egg, then breadcrumbs to coat. Either bake for 12-15 minutes at 200C or deep fry for 2-3 minutes (in batches), depending on how decadent you're feeling.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Yasai Cha Han

This weekend was chore-tastic but also really hot, so I wanted something nourishing but not too heavy. I'm still working my way through the vegetarian section of the Wagamama cookbook, and this recipe called for things I mostly already had in the fridge. A quick cycle to the local grocer (and a quick swim when we got back to cool down) and I was able to pick up the rest of the ingredients. It was super-fast to prepare; easily a new weekday meal for me. You'll want really good fresh ingredients for this, as there are no other flavourings beyond soy sauce, so the vegetables need to speak for themselves. The rice instructions and the sheer amount of salt were both a shock to me, but I followed the recipe and they did work out.

  • A ladleful of Thai fragrant rice
  • Four ladlefuls of boiling water
  • two king oyster mushrooms, cubed
  • 250g firm tofu, cubed
  • 8-10 baby sweetcorn
  • 15-20 sugarsnap peas
  • 4 spring onions, trimmed and cut into 4cm pieces
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 eggs
Cook the rice in the boiling water on a medium heat for 4-5 minutes, until softened but not done. Drain and refresh under cold running water; set aside. If you have wobbly tofu (which I usually do), fry the tofu in a little oil in a hot wok, turning carefully and occasionally until lightly seared on a few sides. Scoop out and set aside.

Turn the heat up, add a little more oil, and stir-fry the mushrooms for five minutes, until golden and bouncy. Throw in the vegetables, rice, salt, and soy sauce, and stir fry for a further 2-3 minutes, until the rice is cooked and the vegetables are bright. Add the egss and stir fry until they are just cooked. Divide between two bowls and serve with miso soup on the side.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Pasta with Mushrooms, Asparagus and Walnuts

One of those spontaneous flavour combinations that occurred to me, and, minutes later, was confirmed as a perfect balance of warm and nutty, rich and earthy, and green and grassy.


  • pasta for two (200-300g)
  • a generous handful of walnuts
  • two king oyster mushrooms (or 10 chestnut mushrooms)
  • a bunch of asparagus (about 8-10 stalks)
  • a few stalks of curly parsley
  • 4 tbsp sour cream
  • 1/4 tsp mustard
Cook the pasta according to its packet instructions. Dry-toast the walnuts in a small frying pan until crisp and golden; remove and set aside. Cube the mushrooms and fry until golden; cut the asparagus into inch-long lengths and add to the pan; stir-fry until cooked. Finely chop the parsley and combine, turning the heat off. Drain the pasta, mix well with the sour cream and mustard, then tip in the fried vegetables and give a last toss about. Season to taste and serve.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Asparagus Shiraae

Asparagus is in season, and I have a Japanese food craving. Irreconcilable? I do not think this word means what you think it means! I went out on a limb and tried the most unusual (to me) recipe from The Guardian's Top Ten Asparagus Recipes. This definitely isn't for everyone... I can imagine the texture would really be off-putting for people who don't like jelly. But if you know you like soft tofu and sesame, give this a try. The recipe said serves four... well, that was total nonsense. Served two of us, with plain boiled rice and nasu dengaku to go with.


  • 300g soft/silken tofu
  • 200g asparagus
  • 4 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted and ground
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tsp light soy sauce
  • ½ tsp miso
  • Salt

Drain the tofu from the packet, wrap it in plenty of kitchen paper, put it on a plate and place a weight on top of it to squeeze the water out. Leave the tofu for 30 minutes, until it weighs around 180g. Remove the woody part of the asparagus, then cut each spear diagonally into thirds.Bring some water to the boil in a saucepan, then add a little salt and lightly cook the asparagus for a few minutes. It should still be firm when drained. Cool the spears under cold running water and pat them dry.

Put the tofu in a bowl and add the ground sesame seeds, sugar, light soy sauce and miso and mix thoroughly. Add the asparagus to the bowl and mix into the dressing, seasoning with extra salt if required. Serve!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Banana Pancakes

This is my new favourite weekend morning breakfast! The only problem is, I have to patiently wait all week for a couple of bananas to overripen: rare in our house. I used this recipe but substituting homemade buttermilk (milk with some lemon juice left for a few minutes); I reckon real buttermilk would give an even fluffier result. I halved this recipe to make enough for two.


  • 200g (1 1/3 cups) plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 55g (1/4 cup) sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 250g mashed banana
  • 330ml (1 1/3 cups) buttermilk
  • 40g butter, melted
Combine all of the ingredients together, stirring until the flour is no longer visible. Fry in dollops until golden brown (about a minute) and then flip for another minute. Serve with sour cream, maple syrup, and strawberries.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Caponata (Aubergine and Tomato Stew)

The title is totally unprepossessing, and I'm sure memories of poorly-cooked ratatouilles are sending you scrolling away from this screaming. HOWEVER! I implore you to stay. Try this recipe! Particularly in summer, when aubergines and tomatoes are in plentiful supply. The capers and olives make a fantastic contrast with the fresh vegetables, and it's amazingly filling as well. Yes, it's Jamie Oliver. Yes, olive oil must be glugged. But you won't be disappointed with a new away to jazz up those med veg.


  • 2 large aubergines, cut into large chunks
  • 1 heaped tsp dried oregano
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
  • 1 small bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and stalks finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons salted capers, rinsed, soaked and drained
  • 1 handful green olives, stones removed
  • 2-3 tablespoons best-quality herb (or at least wine) vinegar
  • 5 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons slivered almonds, lightly toasted, optional

Fry the aubergine and oregano in olive oil on a  high heat for around 4 or 5 minutes, giving the pan a shake every now and then. (Depending on the size of your pan you may need to cook the aubergine in batches.) When the aubergines are nice and golden on each side, add the onion, garlic and parsley stalks and continue cooking for another couple of minutes. Feel free to add a little more oil to the pan if you feel it's getting too dry.

Throw in the drained capers and the olives and drizzle over the herb vinegar. When all the vinegar has evaporated, add the tomatoes and simmer for around 15 minutes or until tender. Taste before serving and season if you need to with salt, pepper and a little more vinegar. Drizzle with some good olive oil and serve sprinkled with the chopped parsley leaves and the almonds if you like.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Mega Veggie Breakfast: Hash Browns

I prefer to shop once a week, since I just don't have much time in the evenings, and the challenge of extending the same shop through the week often prompts me to try different meals in order to use up the food while it's at its best. However, I also like starting my weekend with a proper cooked breakfast, rather than the bowls of cereal we have through the week. Sometimes it's toast, often it's pancakes or waffles, but every so often I want a proper English breakfast.

This week, I had the craving, but hadn't really done anything to justify pigging out on... well, pig. Also, the fridge was at Peak Bareness. So, I put together this Mega Veggie Breakfast :) The dregs of buttermilk were enough for pancakes from The Joy of Cooking, beans came from a tin, avocados I'd left ripening on the counter all week finally got sliced, there were leftover fried mushrooms from dinner, I poached eggs in the microwave (only one explosion), and made my first home-made hash browns. I used this recipe, modifying it for the two golf-ball size potatoes I had left in the fridge. Despite the tiny amount of potato, it made four hash browns - enough for two people as part of this breakfast. So you'll really make loads if you follow their instructions and use six medium potatoes!


  • 6 medium (about 1.2kg) desiree potatoes, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked
  • Pinch of salt
  • Vegetable oil, to shallow-fry
  • Select all ingredients

Coarsely grate the potatoes into a colander. Use your hands to squeeze out as much excess liquid as possible -- this is really, really important, so give it some welly!

In a large mixing bowl, combine the grated potato, flour, egg and salt, and stir until well-combined. Make flattened cakes with the potato mixture -- the thinner you make them, the faster they will cook, and the less oil you will use.

If you're feeling fancy, use a deep fryer to cook the hash browns. If you're feeling like you want to live a few days longer, use as much oil as it takes to cover the bottom third of the hash browns, and flip them once the underside is golden brown. Drain on kitchen towel and serve as quickly as possible, dusted with a little more salt.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Lamb Kofta with Tomato Sauce

The well-meaning but somewhat dappy SO managed to buy 1kg of lamb mince when I'd asked for diced lamb -- I suppose it was just extremely well-diced. So I had to think of a way of using a huge amount of lamb mince, and I didn't really feel like mousakka or shepherd's pie. So for the first time, I made kofta! I had a few jars of homemade passata that a friend had given me so used one as a base for the tomato sauce, but you could easily use a tin of chopped tomatoes and cook it for longer. Loosely following this recipe, we didn't fry the onions first, and the final result had a distinctly raw-onion-y flavour. So I recommend frying them first, if only for a minute or two, just to get rid of that rawness.  I served this with aloo gobi and plain basmati rice.


  • 1 onion (white or red)
  • a large bunch of parsley
  • a slice of day-old bread
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
  • 500g lamb mince
  • 75g plain flour
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked
  • a tin of chopped tomatoes or a jar of passata
  • 3 tbsp curry powder
Finely chop or zap the onion in a blender and fry for a few minutes, until the rawness has gone and the onions turn sweet. Meanwhile, blitz the parsley, bread, garlic and spices in a blender and dump into a mixing bowl. Fold in the cooked onions and lamb mince and blend well. Stir in the plain flour and then the egg. Bring the mixture together and form into large-egg-sized meatballs.

Fry in olive oil for a few minutes on each side, until browned. Meanwhile, cook the tomatoes with the curry powder in a large saucepan, seasoning to taste. As each kofta browns, drop it into the tomato sauce. Simmer for 20 minutes or so, until the kofta are done to taste and the sauce is thickened.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Pork Belly with Pomegranate Molasses

Using the fancy new oven timer, I slow-cooked this pork belly using solar power while I was out cycling. I used Nigel Slater's recipe with a generous dose of pomegranate molasses. I followed the recipe exactly so won't repeat it here.

The tart base of the pork belly was really tasty, the flesh was succulent, and the crackling was totally delicious, but it felt weird to be throwing away so much marinade. I wonder if there is a better way of getting the sticky tacky gooberiness of the marinade into the pork, rather than just having the occasional fragment of the base spiked with tartness. I think I might prefer simply roasting the pork belly as is, and making a dipping sauce to go with it.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Tarte au Chevre (Goat's Cheese and Onion Quiche)

Shamelessly stolen from the February 2011 issue of the Observer Food Monthly, where they share some excellent French recipes. I cheated and used store-bought pastry, and it wasn't as good, but I didn't have time to make it myself. I also had the wrong size tin so had to scale the recipe up by about 40%, and it worked fine, with 5 minutes extra cooking time.

We served this with their baked fennel (shown in the background of the photo), but I didn't find it a sufficient improvement on braised fennel to actually warrant bothering in future, unless I already had the oven on and felt like using the spare energy to heat something up.

For the quiche, you'll need a round 22cm tart tin at least 3.5cm deep with a removable base and beans for baking blind. I was extremely sceptical of their instructions for greasing the tin, but they really worked! One layer of butter, then another of flour.

For the pastry
  • 200g flour
  • 100g butter
  • 1 egg yolk
  • a little milk
For the filling
  • 400g onions (usually 2-3)
  • 25g butter
  • 2 tsp thme leaves
  • 2 eggs
  • 200g creme fraiche or sour cream
  • 200g full cream milk
  • 180g goat's cheese
Blitz the flour and butter together in a food processor, until it forms tiny breadcrumbs. Stir in the egg yolk and enough milk to make a pastry dough. Pat the pastry into a flat round and roll out large enough to line the tart tin. Lightly butter the tin and dust it with a small amount of flour, shaking off any excess. Lay the dough into the tin and push it right into the corners without stretching. Trim off the overhanging pastry and repair any holes. Chill for 20 minutes.

At 200C, pre-bake the pastry case, using greaseproof paper (or foil) and baking beans to hold down the base. After 20 minutes, remove the case from the oven, pour out the beans, remove the paper and bake again for another 5 minutes, until the base is dry to the touch. Remove from the oven and turn it down to 180C.

While the crust is pre-baking, you can finely slice and fry the onions in the butter and thyme for a good 20 minutes, over a low heat, until they are totally falling apart, golden and tender. Beat the eggs and creme fraiche together, then slowly add the milk. (It will look like way too much, but the volumes do work out!) When you have blind-baked the pastry shell, put the onions in a layer on the bottom, crumble over the goat's cheese, then pour over the rest of the filling mixture. Bake at 180C for 40 minutes. The centre should quiver when gently shaken. Let it rest for at least 10 minutes, so you can serve it warm.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Moroccan Braised Chicken

Back in Cambridge, we bought a second-hand copy of a One-Pot Cookbook which was really useful in the series of tiny kitchens where we prepared our meals. One of the standout recipes, which I always go back to, is probably incredibly inauthentic and doesn't even rate a photo in the cookbook (and you can probably see why, from mine). But it perfectly embodies the spirit of one-pot cooking. You literally only need a knife, a board, and a single large casserole dish to make this, and it will serve four or more (depending on the size of your chicken). Easy, no-fuss, and totally tasty.

  • a ~1.6kg chicken (giblets removed, etc)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 large onion
  • a thumb of root ginger
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground paprika
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 725ml of chicken or vegetable stock (from powder is fine)
  • 3 medium courgettes
  • 1 medium red pepper
  • 4 medium carrots
  • a 340g tin of chickpeas
  • 225g cous-cous
  • 50g seedless raisins
  • 30g pine nuts
Peel and finely chop the onion and ginger, then add to the large casserole and fry with the spices for a couple of minutes. Add the chicken and turn so it gets covered with the spices. Pour in the stock, salt, and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. Dice all of the vegetables, then stir them in and simmer for a further 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked. Mix in the chick peas and then pour in the cous-cous and raisins. (You can remove the chicken first, if you prefer -- it certainly makes serving easier.)  While the cous-cous absorbs the liquid, toast the pine nuts gently either in the hot oven or on a small frying pan. Serve the chicken and vegetables topped with the toasted pine nuts.

Apple Turnover

One of my colleagues at work regularly buys enormous decadent pastries for "lunch dessert", from the local patisserie. He let me try a bite of his apple turnover, which was taller than it was wide! It consisted of a puff pastry base, then inch-thick layers of pie apple, custard, and whipped cream, topped at least with a puff pastry hat. It was amazing.

I knew that sitting at home was a bag of extremely cheap apples, which had not turned out very good for eating. I resolved to make apple turnovers to use them up and satisfy my craving for such an awesome dessert. While you could add custard and cream to these, they're more of a simple quick dessert that you can serve hot, with an added side of ice cream. I've written instructions for just two turnovers, but they're easy to make in large batches, as long as you have enough oven trays.


  • two eating apples
  • 1 tbsp of lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • a sheet of ready-made puff pastry
Core, peel and dice the apples, dropping into the lemon juice as you go, to prevent browning. Stir in the sugar and cornflour, then microwave for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the apple has softened and the cornflour has thickened the juices.

Preheat the oven to 200C and lay out a greased or silicone-lined baking tray. Cut the sheet of pastry into two rectangular halves. Lay out one half and spoon half of the apple mixture onto one side of it. Fold the other side over the top and press the edges together all around, so the pastry sticks together. Prick the top a couple of times with a fork. Do the same for the other piece of pastry, with the rest of the mixture.

Bake for 15 minutes or so, until risen, golden and crispy. Serve immediately, with vanilla ice cream.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Yasai Itameru (Stir-fried tofu in coconut noodles)

I went back to the Wagamama cookbook for this one, and it wasn't half bad. I think the recipes still lack focus, having too many different kinds of vegetables, and the quantities are all over the place. However the sauce was very tasty, if a little rich. I also think it's silly to try to stir fry tofu at the same time as your vegetables: you can get a nice crispy skin if you do them separately, as shown in the photo. I'm posting my amended recipe rather than their original.

For the sauce

  • 1 garlic clove
  • a thumb of ginger
  • two lemongrass sticks
  • 100ml hot water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp sugar
  • 100g in of coconut milk or cream (depending on how fat you feel)
For the stir-fry

  • 75g rice noodles
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1 red onion
  • a bunch of Chinese vegetables, like pak choi
  • 50g sweet potato (about an inch from the middle)
  • 200g firm tofu, cut into cubes
  • a bunch of fresh coriander
  • juice of half a lime (or lemon)
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
Crush the garlic, peel and grate the ginger, and finely shred the lemongrass. Cook in a small saucepan in the hot water until the garlic has softened. Stir in the remaining ingredients and cook gently for a few minutes, but don't let it boil or the coconut milk can separate.

Cook the noodles according to their packet instructions. Peel and (if you like) deseed the chilli, then finely chop. Finely slice the red onion. Julienne the sweet potato. Clean and separate the pak choi. Stir fry the sweet potato and red onion until becoming tender, then add the rest of the vegetables and stir fry until just barely cooked, then remove from the pan to free it up for the tofu. Stir fry the tofu until golden and crispy, then return the vegetables to the pan and squeeze over the lime juice and soy sauce. Combine the noodles with the coconut sauce, and serve the vegetables over the top of them, topped with the coriander and a lemon or lime segment.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Pot-Roast Pork with Pears and Apples

Another winter, another conference season of failing to post! And before that, kitchen renovations; and before that, moving house! So, I'll try to get back into posting. Maybe a less ambitious target would be one new recipe a week? At least now that I have so many of my fallbacks posted.

During the move I took the time to reorganise my recipe file, which meant I found some recipes I had set aside meaning to try, but had forgotten about. Most come from the Observer, but British recipes often work poorly here because of the warm climate. Fortunately it's moderately cool at the moment, so I broke out a really gorgeous pot roast originally from Nigel in November 2009. I didn't expect much because the few times I have roasted pork, it's been dry and boring, but this pot roast was a revelation! I also simplified the recipe because in my experience, all that turning and browning at the start is totally pointless. I chucked in some fennel tops (the stalky bits that stay tough no matter what you do) to give the liquor a bit more flavour, and it seemed like a good way to use them up. This serves six with leftovers.

  • a couple of medium onions
  • 4-6 pears or apples
  • 2kg piece of pork on the bone
  • 400ml perry or cider
  • a couple of bay leaves
  • a few sticks of celery or leftover fennel tops (optional)

Set the oven to 200C. Peel, halve, and slice the onions. Core the pears/apples and cut into thick wedges. Pop the pork into a large oven-proof casserole dish (I use a Le Creuset) along with the pears/apples, onion, cider, bay leaves, and fennel tops if using. Cover and roast in the oven for about 90 minutes, or until the pork is cooked. (If it's leg, the meat will still be dark, but will have lost that 'squeaky' uncooked quality.)

You can rest the roast and serve it up, or (my favourite), put the whole thing in the fridge and serve a day later, with the pork cold and shredded, and the cooked apples and onions briefly reheated in the microwave, then seasoned. The pork works excellently with mashed potatoes and braised red cabbage.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Lemon Cheesecake

I had a sudden, inexplicable craving for lemon cheesecake. Not just the kind where the cheese has some lemon in it, but the kind with a delicious layer of lemon curd on top. I haven't made a cheesecake in over a decade, and had a minor panic when I found out there are actually two kinds: a "no-bake" version that you simply chill, and a baked version, which when I considered I decided was the kind I had bade before, and roughly knew how to do. I googled around until I found a good recipe, and ended up following this one, from a supermarket website, no less! I used block Philadelphia though; I've found the supermarket versions here have a weird plasticky texture, which is probably so they remain unmelted even when it's 40 C outside.


  • 200g plain biscuits
  • 125g butter, melted
  • 500g Philadelphia cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • Zest of a lemon
  • 2 eggs

  • Zest of a lemon
  • 1/4 cup Lemon Juice
  • 1/2 cup Caster Sugar
  • 40g butter, cubed
  • 2 eggs
Preheat oven to 180°C or 160°C fan. Grease a 20cm springform cake tin. Pulse biscuits in a food processor, or bash with a rolling pin until finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl and add the melted butter: stir until combined. Spoon biscuit mixture into prepared cake tin and press evenly on base and sides. Cool in the fridge for at least 30 min.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar and lemon zest with an electric mixer until smooth. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, until combined. Pour mixture into tin and place on a baking tray. Bake for 25-30 mins, or until just set in the centre. Turn off oven and leave cheesecake in the oven with the door ajar for a couple of hours or until oven is completely cool. Chill in the fridge for two hours.

For the lemon curd, combine lemon zest, juice, sugar, butter and eggs in a saucepan or double boiler over low heat. Cook, stirring, for 5-10 mins, or until mixture thickens. If you like, strain through a fine sieve onto a dinner plate or flat tray -- I usually don't bother. Pour the curd over the cheesecake and chill until ready to serve. Scatter with a little more lemon zest if you like.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Osso Buco

Still winter, and I'm still craving those yummy sticky warming dishes. Here's one I've never made before: osso buco, a Milanese speciality of cross-cut veal shanks. I was inspired by seeing a cheap pack of ox-tail at the butcher's, and figured a cow's tail is probably pretty similar to a calf's leg. I followed this recipe from and it was pretty yummy and very rich. So much so that we only had fairly small servings -- one large piece of ox-tail per meal was more than enough. So this recipe would serve six people, or maybe four if they've been hill-walking or ice climbing!

Osso buco
  • 1kg veal shanks or ox-tail
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour
  • 2 medium red onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 medium carrots, thickly sliced
  • 2 sticks celery, thickly sliced
  • 410g can crushed tomatoes
  • a glass of dry white wine
  • 250ml beef stock (cube/powder is fine)
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian herbs (oregano, thyme, rosemary, mint)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon rind
In a deep casserole dish with a lid, toss the veal shanks in flour and fry briefly to caramelise. (Or skip, if you're strapped for time). Chuck everything else in, stir well, and cook, just simmering, for about six hours, or until the meat is falling off the bone and the vegetables have disintegrated into a thick sauce. Check every so often to make sure it's not burning.

Combine the gremolata ingredients and serve on top of the osso buco, on a big pile of fluffy mash or gooey polenta.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Pot-Roast Turkey Legs

Aside from cheese, chocolate, Marmite, Shreddies, Grape Nuts, wild mushrooms, cold-weather vegetables and chestnuts, the food I miss most from the UK is wild game birds like duck, pheasant, quail and partridge. Cooking them was simple: pot-roast with lentils and root vegetables until tender and delicious. Especially as the weather turns cooler, I start to crave those autumn treats... but there is no shooting season here, and the only remnant of introduced hunting are the feral foxes.

I was walking through the poultry aisle at the supermarket when I saw a pack of turkey drumsticks. Aside from the occasional replacement for schnitzel or the ubiquitous Christmas roast, I've never really cooked with turkey. It suddenly occurred to me that the dark, gamy legs might substitute perfectly for the game birds I'd been missing. I whacked them in a casserole with a few of the usual accompaniments: carrots, potatoes, brown lentils, bay leaves and a bit of stock, and pot-roasted them for a couple of hours.

What a success! They came out deliciously tender, falling off the bone, and had something of that umami rich flavour that chicken never quite manages. A leg each was more than sufficient so from a pack of six we got three meals between us. Very tasty and easy: just substitute a leg per quail or a couple of legs per pheasant in any usual game bird recipe.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Kale and Apple Salad

One thing I'll say about no frost here is that it makes kale a premium, exotic ingredient. Instead of being a huge prickly vegetable so tough you either need to boil it or feed it to a pig, it's packed up like salad and is so tender you can eat it raw. A rather tasty way of doing so is to combine it with some mandolined apple and a handful of chopped dried fruits and nuts (e.g. raisins and almonds, as we did) and dressed simply with lemon juice and olive oil.

You still have to shred it finely, and it takes more of a chew than lettuce, but it's pretty filling, especially with a couple of boiled potatoes to give the sharp salad a contrast. If you want a bit more protein, feel free to shave over some feta, goats' cheese, or even parmesan.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Peanut and Ginger Stir Fry

We had a lovely weekend, cycling to the beach with some friends of ours and chilling out in the shade after a gorgeous swim in the ocean. When we got back we hung out some more for a nice lunch and a little 6 Nimmt. Our friends served us a really nice warm salad which inspired me to try a different take on my usual stir fry. Served over plain white rice, this gorgeous combination of peanuts and ginger really warms the tastebuds and sets off the fresh greens.


  • a ladle of plain white short-grain rice
  • two spring onions
  • a large thumb of ginger
  • a few handfuls of mange-tout or sugar snap peas
  • a generous handful of  roasted salted peanuts
  • a big handful of sprouting seeds or alfalfa sprouts
  • soy sauce
Cover the rice with two ladlefuls of boiling water, and simmer for ~10 minutes, or until cooked. Finely chop the spring onions and peel and finely grate the ginger.Slice the mange touts or peas in half lengthwise. Roughly chop the peanuts. In a large wok, get a little vegetable oil nice and hot, then fry the spring onion and ginger for a minute, turning constantly. Throw in the mange tout or peas and stir fry until the peas are cooked and bright green, but before they wilt. Stir in the alfalfa sprouts and peanuts, then turn off the heat. Serve the stir fry over the rice, with soy sauce on hand to add if you need it.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Walnut and Parsley Pesto (with Beetroot Pasta)

We have soooo much parsley this week. I picked up a huge bag for just a dollar, and now we're eating it with everything :) This was a yum and cheaper version of the classic basil pesto. We used it to jazz up some cooked beetroot and al dente pasta.
  • A large handful of walnuts
  • half a bunch of parsley
  • 25-40g of Parmesan
  • olive oil
  • black pepper
Toast the walnuts either under the grill, or in a dry frying pan, until crisp and fragrant. Clean the parsley and discard any tough stems. Finely grate the Parmesan, then whiz it together with the parsley and walnuts in a blender. Drizzle in olive oil until it takes on a pesto-like consistency, and season well with black pepper.


Niki Segnit tried to convince me to add more parsley to my tabbouleh. She likes a 5:1 ratio of parsley to everything else. I tried.... but it just tasted too much of parsley to me! My preferred proportions are below:

  • 75g cracked wheat
  • 1 large bunch parsley, chopped
  • 1 small bunch mint, chopped
  • 5 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 spring onion, finely chopped (I'm not a big fan of onions)
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • salt to taste
Pour 1/2 cup of boiling water over the cracked wheat; cover and allow to rehydrate for 10-15 minutes. Combine everything else together, then add the cracked wheat when it has cooled. Best served topped with a couple of BBQ'd lamb chops!

Friday, 10 January 2014

Nigel's Lemon and Demarara Cake

Almost every year, I forget to celebrate my own birthday. It's just so close to Christmas and New Years, but not close enough that everyone is still on holiday. This year I finally got round to baking a cake only three days late. Just like the last birthday cake I baked, I once again wanted a lemon cake. This time I used Nigel Slater's recipe from his excellent Kitchen Diaries II, and at first I was a bit nervous about the topping of simmered lemons, but after trying it I'm a total convert. Every lemon cake I make from now on will have this topping.
  • 2 large lemons
  • 200g butter
  • 200g plus 4tbsp demerara ("raw") sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 90g plain flour
  • 90g ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • extra demerara sugar
Line a loaf tin (about 25x11x7cm) with baking parchment. Finely slice one of the lemons and put it in a small saucepan with 4 tbsp of water and 2 tbsp demerara sugar. Bring to the boil, then watch closely for 5-10 minutes, until the water has almost evaporated, and the lemon slices are sticky.

Preheat the oven to 160 C. Beat the butter and 200g of sugar together (Nigel has a fancy food mixer; I have GOOD ARMS), until they are light and fluffy. Zest the other lemon into the mixture, and beat the eggs in one at a time. Combine the dry ingredients, then fold them into the butter mixture, keeping the air in it as much as possible. Scoop the mixture into the lined tin, then lay the simmered lemon slices on top. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

In the saucepan in which you simmered the lemons, add another 2tbsp of demerara sugar, and the juice of the zested lemon. Stir until dissolved, then pour over the finished cake.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Corn Bread Tamale Pie

Happy New Year! Champagne and oysters for everyone!

I didn't post much toward the end of last year because I was away for almost all of November and December. Now that I've recorded most of my usual meals, and all the discoveries I made in 2012-2014, I find myself using the blog more as a resource and inspiration rather than a daily recording. So I think I can probably manage a weekly update from now on, and that more achievable target will hopefully inspire me to cook at least one new thing per week.

In late December I stayed with some friends who live in the US South-west and they kept talking about  Mexican food, which really made me miss the food of my childhood. When I got back I figured that The Joy of Cooking would be able to help me out with some ideas, so I tried out its corn bread tamale pie. It was really good! I think it was thoroughly Americanised Mexican food but I just love corn bread, and this one had ingredients I could actually find, as well as feeding us for days.


  • 450g ground beef
  • 1 finely chopped white onion
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tin red kidney beans
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 cup of hot beef stock
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • a green pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 3/4 cup polenta/cornmeal
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
In a large oven-safe casserole pot (e.g. a big Le Creuset), fry the ground beef and onion together until the beef is browned and the onions are translucent. Let them rest occasionally to get a bit of colour, but don't burn. Tip in the tomatoes, sour cream, sugar, stock, spices, beans and green pepper; stir to combine; cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 220C.

Sift and mix all of the remaining dry ingredients together, then gently fold in the egg, milk and vegetable oil. When the chilli has been simmered through, give it a generous season, a stir, and then gently pour over the corn bread toping. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until the topping is risen, golden and set. Let rest a few minutes before serving with buttered corn or salsa.