Friday, 18 April 2014

Cinnamon cranberry porridge with rhubarb, blood orange and raspberries



It’s rhubarb season, and I feel like an excitable little girl with a penchant for Disney and ponies every time I take a tray of the stuff out of the oven, its radiant fuschia guaranteed to perk up even the lowest of spirits, even if only for a moment. While you can bury this delicious sweet-tart vegetable under a blanket of pastry or a smothering of crumble, it seems a shame to hide it when it’s so beautiful. There’s a reason rhubarb at this time of year is called ‘champagne rhubarb’: it’s far superior to the summer stalks in colour, flavour and texture. It makes sense, then, to show it off. 

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Chickpea, blood orange, kale & almond salad with tangy chargrilled chicken



Blood oranges make winter worthwhile. Grey rainy mornings are a little bit brighter as you take your sharp serrated knife and gently slice the skin off these reassuringly weighty citrus fruits, revealing the stained-glass segments within. Marigold orange with blushing tinges of red, through to the dark scarlet of lifeblood, every blood orange is different, and part of the enjoyment is taking a moment to admire the individual tones of the specimen you’re about to eat. You can eat them as they are, of course, but I like to mix them with other ingredients, particularly where their gorgeous colouring can be fully appreciated. 

Monday, 17 March 2014

Vietnamese-style crab, glass noodle, pomelo and edamame salad


A fabulous combination of soft, comforting noodles bound together with an incredibly complex sweet-sour-citrus dressing, brimming with the tang of lime and the fiery rasp of fresh galangal and the richness of soy, brown sugar and tamarind. There are bright, moreish edamame beans for crunch, chilli for heat, and then the rich, sweet taste of fresh crab meat, all topped off with chunks of sweet pomelo and toasted sesame seeds. I’ve essentially thrown all my favourite far-Eastern flavours into a pan with some noodles and some crab, and it emerged as something far more than the sum of its parts. It’s very loosely based on an incredible dish of glass noodles with crab and garlic that I ate in Vietnam, but with an added arsenal of punchy flavours that magically work beautifully together: the sweet pomelo and yuzu brighten up the rich crab, while the toasted seeds and edamame beans add earthy depth and texture. Go visit the Appliances Online blog for the recipe!

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Persimmon, avocado & green bean salad with lemon, garlic & paprika prawns



Few people seem to know what to do with a persimmon. In fact, most people I know have never encountered them before. They’ll either hear me mention one and say ‘what’s that?’, or they’ll glance over at it in the fruit bowl and look confused. I can kind of understand why: persimmons do resemble large, squat orange tomatoes, so seeing them nestled there amongst the bananas, apples and pears might seem a little odd (even though the tomato is, of course, technically a fruit). I explain the unique qualities of this fine fruit, tell them how good it is in a variety of dishes…and then of course they say ‘Oh right’ and promptly forget, assuming this is another of my mad fruit whims to be humoured and then quickly disregarded.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Spiced apple bundt cake with ginger icing


Apple puree is a very versatile thing to have in your kitchen. Made by simmering peeled, cored, chopped cooking apples with a little water until they turn to mush, and then blending to a pale green foamy puree with a silky texture, it has a multitude of uses in cooking. You can add a little lemon juice and a pinch of sugar and turn it into a tangy accompaniment to roast pork. You could mix it with a little maple syrup and drizzle it over ice cream. You can use it, mixed with honey, cinnamon and vanilla, to coat muesli mix before baking to make homemade granola. You can cook it down to form a dark, thick spread that Americans call ‘apple butter’, which is delicious on toast. And you can also use it to make cakes.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Pear, cocoa, hazelnut and raspberry baked oatmeal



For me, mornings are the worst part of winter. I normally count myself as a guaranteed lark, reveling in the early hours of the day, but those early hours in the colder months of the year barely deserve the label ‘morning’. Mornings mean sunshine, beams streaming through the window and the promise of productivity and good things to come. Mornings don’t mean opening your eyes in darkness; the hazy, nauseating orange glow of streetlamps replacing real rays; the rasp of cold, clammy air against your skin as you tentatively reach an arm outside the duvet to check the time and remind yourself that no, it isn’t a mistake, it genuinely is time to get up despite the dark and the cold and the feeling that you might be turning into a hibernating mammal. Mornings shouldn’t mean having to shiveringly shroud yourself in a dressing gown to make the briefest of journeys between bedroom and bathroom, or turning all the lights on in the kitchen just so you can find the all-important switch on the kettle.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Quinoa salad with blueberries, toasted pecans and roast goose


There are some fruits that people are, generally speaking, fairly comfortable encountering in a savoury dish. Few people would bat an eyelid at a sliver of apple turning up alongside their roast pork, either in sauce form or maybe – outré prospect as it is – in thick wedges, roasted alongside the meat to soak up its delicious juices. Although a subject of mockery, ham and pineapple is a pretty established combination by now, whether it’s performing the ludicrous feat of turning your margherita into a ‘tropicana’, or in the form of a lurid golden ring of fruity goodness perched atop a fat pink slab of salty gammon.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Côtes du Rhône Chinese takeaway challenge


Ahh, a nice bottle of Côtes du Rhône wine. Makes you think of a good ripe cheese, perhaps, to go with it. Maybe a hunk of crusty baguette that splinters into shards as you tear it greedily to line your stomach. A big plate of charcuterie, to be eagerly sliced and devoured in myriad salty morsels alongside the bold, fruity tannins of the wine. Fat, glossy olives, glistening with herb-flecked oil, or a melting hunk of confit duck. Cassoulet, perhaps, rich and silky, full of comforting starch and hearty meats, or a classic coq au vin.

You probably don't envisage a pair of chopsticks, a bowl of fragrant rice perfuming the table with its toasty, nutty aroma, or a plate of food seasoned with five spice, soy, ginger and chilli. If the idea of tucking into morsels of Chinese food with chopsticks in one hand and a glass of Côtes du Rhône in the other is somewhat alien, you're not alone...but you might just be surprised.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Five things I love this week #8


1. Making my own marmalade. I grew up around this process; my mum used to make her own every year, but since it started gathering dust in the larder because no one in our family eats toast any more, she has sadly stopped. I decided to pick up the orange baton and initiate myself in the mysterious world of the magical seville after spotting crates of them at the market a couple of weeks ago. I've made twenty jars since then, trying two different recipes. The first was a Waitrose recipe that infuses the marmalade with herbs - I used bay and rosemary. The oranges are simmered whole in water until totally soft, then the flesh scooped out and the peel shredded before the whole lot is simmered again with sugar until it sets. This is pretty easy and can be made in an evening, although I didn't slice the peel finely enough so it was chunkier than I'd have liked. The herb flavour didn't come through as much as I'd like, so I might use more rosemary next time, as it's so good with oranges.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Seared tuna steak with Asian-style persimmon and avocado salad



Few people seem to know what to do with a persimmon. In fact, most people I know have never encountered them before. They’ll either hear me mention one and say ‘what’s that?’, or they’ll glance over at it in the fruit bowl and look confused. I can kind of understand why: persimmons do resemble large, squat orange tomatoes, so seeing them nestled there amongst the bananas, apples and pears might seem a little odd (even though the tomato is, of course, technically a fruit). I explain the unique qualities of this fine fruit, tell them how good it is in a variety of dishes…and then of course they say ‘Oh right’ and promptly forget, assuming this is another of my mad fruit whims to be humoured and then quickly disregarded.

Monday, 27 January 2014

How to turn a bird into dinner



When people ask me what my favourite thing about food is, I have an instant answer. Cheese, I say. (No not really). What I love most about food, and increasingly notice the more I indulge and explore my passion for this most fundamental of human drives, is that it's a brilliant social tool. Food can bring even the most unlikely people together. I first became aware of this when I spent two years in the Oxford University Royal Naval Unit during my undergraduate degree. Among the many arduous tasks this involved - sailing warships, trying to cook in a metre-wide sea-tossed kitchen while holding a sick bag to your mouth, shoe polishing, cleaning the ship's toilets, the unpleasant itch of mass-produced uniform, swabbing frozen decks without gloves in the middle of January - was the requirement to attend a fair few fancy dinners with various important naval personnel (OK, so not that arduous, really...until I tell you that I had to both wear and therefore learn how to tie a bow tie). Oh good, I thought. Small talk. My favourite.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Festive apple jelly


The word ‘jelly’ fills me with a little bit of horror. Firstly, it conjures up images of lurid children’s birthday party food, weirdly fluorescent transparent goo in odd shapes that wobbles under the pressure of a spoon or a fat youthful finger. I’ve never liked jelly or even tried it, as I recall; I think I’m afraid of the strange way it would feel in my mouth, not solid but not quite liquid either, trampolining oddly against the teeth. I have an irrational aversion to the stuff.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Apple, cinnamon and sultana hazelnut crumble cake



Baking, in our culture, is so often inextricably connected with love. Family memories and relations are shaped around food; some of our fondest recollections of our mothers and grandmothers are perfumed by the heady scent of a baking pie or cake. Missing the closeness of home and the familiarity of domesticity is frequently couched in terms of our longing for a particular dish, and even parental ineptitude in the kitchen is usually recalled with wry affection. Childhood friendships are formed and dissolved over the sharing of cake and other baked goods: I still remember once refusing to speak to my best friend for a week because she stole my lunchtime flapjack and ate it. We bake cakes, bread, brownies to cheer up our loved ones or as a token of our affection; the humble combination of flour, butter and sugar has become fetishized in our culture to such an extent that we apparently believe there are few gifts more redolent of love than a homemade baked good. 

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Bacon-wrapped pheasant with gin and quince gravy


Of all the preparation that goes into cooking a meal, there are some tasks that I enjoy more than others. Preparing food is often seen as a chore, particularly when compared with the relative pleasure of eating it, but I think any keen cook will agree with me that actually, when you really enjoy the process of working with food, you learn to relish some of the simplest kitchen tasks. Separating an egg, for example - there's something quite satisfying about rocking the golden globule of yolk from shell to shell, allowing the viscous white to trickle through your fingers into the bowl beneath. Rubbing butter into flour for a crumble, sending up delicious waves of buttery scent that hint at the promise of golden crumb forty minutes later. Melting chocolate over a pan of simmering water, watching as those dark, matt cubes collapse into a thick, glossy silken mass. Blitzing spice pastes in a little blender, watching a tangled mass of disparate ingredients harmonise into a powerfully aromatic paste of fragrant flavour.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Favourite food moments of 2013


The end of the year is a time for reflection. Nostalgia. Thoughtful musings about life, progress, achievements, goals, regrets. Vague notions of self-improvement and self-denial. Bittersweet pangs and spirited hopes. Tears. Smiles. Thinking through your emotions, considering your true self.

But, luckily, this is a food blog. This is the sort of place where I post a photo of some meat or a cake and say 'omg yum, best thing ever to go in my mouth', occasionally interspersed with hilarious anecdotes about my teenage self or mildly homicidal rants about slow people. This is not a place for the kind of sentimental rubbish we might normally associate with the year drawing to a close. PHEW, right?

Instead, I thought I would commemorate the end of 2013 with a brief recollection of my favourite food-related moments, and some nice pictures. Can't say fairer than that, I hope.