Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Bacon, apple and cheddar potato scones

Potatoes get a bit sadly overlooked in my kitchen, and I'm sure I'm not the only one to neglect these noble tubers. I reckon I cook with potatoes once a month at the very most, and probably not even that. I'm not entirely sure why they're so seldom featured in my recipes. Perhaps because mashed potato is a little bit of a faff, so generally I accompany my food with rice or couscous, which has a more interesting texture and which I actually prefer. Perhaps because I cook a lot of Middle Eastern and Asian food, where potatoes don't usually feature. Perhaps because I've got into this habit of rarely using them, they're not something that comes into my head when I'm thinking up recipes.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Spiced banana bread

Sometimes, you just need to go back to basics. This is, of course, true in all areas of life, but I'm primarily talking about the kitchen. Sometimes you just need to. To put the mandolin, potato ricer, apple corer, waffle maker and julienne-slicer back in the cupboard. To leave the ice cream maker in the freezer. To unplug the KitchenAid mixer. To stack up the dariole pudding moulds and tuck them safely into the cupboard along with the bundt cake tin, the individual tart cases, the trifle glasses. To leave the oyster knife in the drawer along with the boning knife, filleting knife and cheese knife. To dispense with the mezzaluna and say goodbye to the sugar thermometer.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Five things I love this week #7

1. Lentil salad with roast butternut squash, blue cheese, cranberries and chestnuts. I made this to use up some leftovers: roast squash, a piece of Yorkshire blue cheese, and half a pack of cooked chestnuts. It was definitely better than the sum of its parts. I cooked lentils in chicken stock with some thyme, then stirred in the roast squash, some dried cranberries which I'd soaked in hot water, sliced chestnuts, and some lemon thyme leaves. I crumbled over some blue cheese, and had a delicious earthy autumn feast. It also works very well with feta, which I tried the next day. In fact, I think I prefer the feta version, but the only photo I got was the blue cheese one. This is possibly the most festive, yet healthy, dish you will find. Plus, isn't it pretty?

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Figs baked in sloe gin

If I had to name my biggest personality flaw (or, rather, select one from an epic list that includes 'raging temper', 'neuroses' and 'inability to not say what I really think'), it would probably be my impatience. I'm just awful. I notice it the most when in public places. Striding quickly down the street, for example, keen to get to my destination, I frequently find myself stuck behind some idiot who insists on dithering around, moving from side to side of the pavement and generally holding up my entire life with their sheer ineptitude. 

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Spiced mackerel with apple, fennel and beetroot salad

For the main course of my autumn feast in association with Floral & Hardy, I've come up with a riotous salad that showcases everything special and beautiful about our British autumn produce. It also uses my absolute favourite fish, mackerel, smothered in warm and aromatic spices and fried until crispy. This sits on a bed of tangy, crunchy, flavoursome salad that is also stunning to look at, using beautiful tangles of ivory fennel and apple, slivers of bold pink beetroot and sparkling pomegranate seeds. Just looking at it will make you feel warm and nourished, and every mouthful is an absolute treat to eat.

While not your stereotypical autumn comfort food - piping hot, featuring both meat and potatoes and generally various shades of brown - I sometimes think there is comfort to be had, in the frost of autumn, in vibrant flavours that wake your tastebuds up from their stew-induced stupor.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Stuffed squash with swiss chard, cranberries, chestnuts and gruyere

I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling that autumn is the best time of year to be cooking. While I love the colourful bounty of summer, particularly gluts of downy apricots and bouncy red berries, autumn brings with it wonders of equal beauty, along with another crucial ingredient: weather. 

You see, along with the mists and chill days of autumn comes that magical thing: an excuse to eat comfort food. Suddenly we can justify wanting nothing more than to curl up with a bowl of hearty stew and a pile of pillowy mashed potato. How lucky that Mother Nature chooses this time of the year to offer us dark, rich game; golden, robust  root vegetables; glossy burnished nuts; curled, crunchy, springy greens; mellow, juicy, russet-skinned orchard fruits. While perhaps not as obviously glowing and vibrant as the produce of high summer, to me autumn ingredients have a dark, subtle and muted magic of their own.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Apple and quince almond crumble tart

The street is a soothing, nondescript muddle of brickwork and grey cobbles, glistening slightly in the aftermath of the morning rain. The sombre wares of the shop windows merge into a blur; dusty vintage clothing, old leather-bound books, pens of various shapes, sizes and degrees of antiquity. Everything has an air of tiredness to it, of weary age yearning to be invigorated with new life. It's calming, easy to walk down the street in a daze as everything blends into the background.

But there they are. Sitting there in their little wicker basket. Great orbs of primrose-coloured sunshine, their vivid yellow blazing out like a flame amidst their drab surroundings. Their voluptuous curves whisper seductively of hotter, more exotic and carefree climes, yet the soft down that clings to their skin like cobwebs suggests light snowflakes, or a vain attempt to wrap up warm for the winter. They are firm in the hand; heavy, satisfying. They feel sturdy, promising robust, heady flavours; whispering of brightness both to look at and to eat. I pick up two, cradling them gently against my stomach, leaving the rest to their quiet yellow repose.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Baked fig and smoked mozzarella piadina

Generally, as a culture, we're getting to grips pretty well with the idea of street food. It's been the 'next big thing' in gastronomy for a while now, with nomadic vendors of everything from ice cream to burgers, particularly those in London, drawing huge crowds mainly through that potent combination of word of mouth advertising and a half-decent product to sell. I've heard countless stories of an obscure street trader suddenly faced with queues snaking round several streets, packed with people eager to sample his wares, simply because word got out on twitter. Such places are deeply trendy, especially if they start changing location and requiring you to be 'in the know' to actually be able to locate your dinner.