... and roses too.

The worker must have bread, but she must have roses too.

Category: in the kitchen (page 1 of 2)

Recipe: Courgette and lentil moussaka, after Rick Stein

Boo! The cold weather is back. We were so nearly through February too.

I hate February. It’s the month when new year’s resolutions crumble and fall, and yet spring still feels so far away. A cold, grey month with a backdrop of misery.

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Recipe: Hearty curried lentil and coconut soup

Brr! It’s getting cold now, even in the city. And the rain this past month has been welcome for the water table, but not so much when I’m out and about. (Rain, stop driving in my face please, that’s just rude.)

(Also I lost my coat. Or maybe left it at the dry cleaner’s. Can’t remember tbh and I didn’t like it much anyway. Stop nagging me, Christy, I’ll get a new one at some point.)

A couple of weeks ago, I fancied a hearty lentil soup for supper. Ted got all excited, thinking I meant a dal soup. I didn’t, but compromised, and as so often with compromise we ended up with something better than either. (Hmm, maybe there’s a lesson here for all of us, are you listening world?)

Things I love about this soup:

  • It’s a vegetarian recipe (well, vegan actually, but let’s not get too excited) that Ted, my meat-loving husband, is more than happy to eat.
  • It’s made of storecupboard basics, aside from the fresh coriander, which is optional – so no last-minute dash to the supermarket on a rainy night.
  • It will make you glow with warmth all the way from the top of your head right down to your new winter boots, which look great by the way – nice choice.

It also only takes about half an hour to get to the point where you can put it in the slow cooker and forget about it for a few hours. I love that – the flavours mingle together in this magical way, scenting the kitchen with the promise of tastiness to come.

via GIPHY

(Anyone else watching the Sabrina reboot? It’s all gone a bit weird, hasn’t it …)

So it’s one I put on at lunchtime and then leave to bubble away until supper. But you can totally simmer it on the hob for about 40 minutes (or until the lentils are soft).

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Recipe: One-can, Ottolenghi-style, cheat’s hummus

Hummus isn’t the kind of thing you can get passionate about, really, is it? Or so I thought until Simon, quite a few years ago now, dragged me to Hummus Bros for lunch. I thought he was being a bit weird, tbh – no one gets that excited about chickpeas.

Boy, was I wrong. Nutty, heavy on tahini, scented with cumin, it’s a completely different thing from the cold, beige pots of supermarket gunge – so I mainlined it once a week or so, and had major withdrawal symptoms when work took me elsewhere.

Thus, the search for a replacement recipe began. I looked at Ottolenghi’s (don’t you love Ottolenghi? His food, his writing, his determination to dirty every receptacle in your kitchen whenever you make one of his recipes) and it was deliciously familiar, but it involved so much faff (cooking chickpeas from dried – lovely, but for a simple lunch it just takes.too.long) and I ended up with about two litres of hummus at the end. (I mean, I love hummus, but …)

So here’s a cheat’s version. It uses one tin of chickpeas, so there’s no boiling for hours, and you end up with, hmm, about the equivalent of 2-3 supermarket tubs. That’s enough for Sunday pre-dinner snacks, then lunch on Monday and Tuesday. But it’s way nicer, and faster to make than popping to the shops.

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Recipe: Quite frankly the world’s best tomato sauce

There comes a time in every cook’s life, no matter how competent she thinks she is, when the holes in one’s repertoire start to show.

So it was with me and tomato sauce.

For many years, I’d got by with frying onions, adding garlic, tomatoes and herbs, and cooking it for a bit.

But none of these attempts resulted in the thick, savoury, hyper-tomato flavour that one gets from a simple plate of spaghetti al pomodoro in any half-decent Italian family joint. To be honest, it was all a bit … studenty.

So a couple of years ago, I embarked on a mission to fix this. But it proved much more difficult, with far more experimentation, than expected.

  • I tried Diane Seed’s, the ones from her otherwise completely ace book, “The top 100 pasta sauces”. (Surprisingly uninspiring.)
  • I tried Delia’s. (Too fussy.)
  • I tried Marcella Hazan’s, via Smitten Kitchen. (Delicious, but it’s got so much butter in it that there’s no way it can claim to be an everyday staple.)
  • I tried both the recipes from the Silver Spoon. (They were … fine?)
  • I tried Felicity Cloake’s allegedly perfect amalgamation of all the greats’ recipes. (It was not.)
  • I even tried the Mothership’s, but for some reason, mine never turned out reliably like hers.

Thus, a dead end had been reached.

And so it was that I found myself in Mark and Niki’s kitchen, telling my sorry tale over a cup of chamomile tea.

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5 gins reviewed: Bloom, Brighton Gin, English Rose, Silent Pool, Ely Gin

Mothers’ ruin. Or mothers’ delight, maybe. Delight in the Mothership’s case, certainly. A delight that her fabulous friends have been only too happy to enable. (Thanks, guys!) This has resulted in a rather fine selection of bottles in her personal collection.

Now, you may not know this, but the Mothership was originally a biologist, fully committed to the scientific approach. So when I suggested we nip through her gin library and do a comparative tasting, her inner lab geek kicked in.

Four gins were selected, eight teacups were produced and a *very* small tin of Fevertree “naturally light” tonic appeared on the table. Then we added a small bottle of Brighton gin, just to be sure. We then poured a little dribble (tiny! Barely anything at all) of each gin into a cup, then smelled it, tasted it and tasted it again with a little splash of tonic.

Scientific rigour at its best.

Our aim was to discover which one we liked the most; our method was careful and consistent; the results and conclusion are below.

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Recipe: Bahn mi: An inauthentic take on the real thing

Sometimes there are days when you want to be transported to somewhere else. Somewhere exotic. Somewhere far away from the sadness in your city. 

But maybe in these times, it’s a case of putting one foot in front of the other. Of picking ourselves up and being resolutely normal. 

Today I was determined that everything would be normal. 

So I started thinking instead about what I could cook to take us away from the awfulness of last night, and remembered I had a pork fillet in the freezer and a small jar of pork and green peppercorn pate in the cupboard. 

Which means one thing: 

Bahn mi. 

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Recipe: Asparagus and lovage pesto pasta 

I’m delighted to introduce Ted’s first appearance in the blog! He went to the farmers market today and found the first asparagus of the year – cause for celebration indeed. He teamed it with the most lovely homemade lovage pesto – his own delicious invention – and made us the most gloriously green spring lunch. I begged him to write up the recipe and he did. Here you go. 

What to do with lovage, the world and Joe want to know. It’s a vigorous herb which produces lots of big green fronds that look suspiciously like flat-leaf parsley. Unlike parsley, however, lovage is not mildly-flavoured. Its taste is not unpleasant – like a very strong celery leaf – but I’ve always struggled to know what to do with it as it always seemed like it would overpower most other flavours. So I’ve been left with a herb that grows unchecked and unharvested until it kicks out its flower spike in mid-summer and finally dies back.


Then, while gardening one weekend and looking again at the rapidly expanding lovage, I had a brainwave – what about making all those leaves into pesto? It turns out that other people have had the same idea and there are several recipes already on the web. See here and here

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The most comforting roasted red pepper and butternut squash pasta bake

While it does sound a bit ridiculous to keep puréed, roasted butternut squash stashed in the freezer, it does come in handy at times. Like when your husband stumbles in, as he did last night, exhausted from a really tough day at work and needs some comfort food, stat, but you’d planned some healthy, crunchy, veggie wraps. 

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Recipe: Retro 90s chicken liver pâté 

For various reasons, this week I’ve been thinking about female friendship, how we nurture and care for each other, and how we express our friendship through the things we make and do. 

More on that another time, but it then got me remembering happy days in the mid-90s when two of my besties and I played house while at uni. 

(When I say “played house”, I mean “covered a perfectly nice terraced house in a thick layer of charity-shop cardigans, budget lager cans, Kitkat wrappers and Eau d’Essay Crisis.) 

But we shared food, cooked together, learned each others’ recipes and laughed a lot. 

(Also there was that time when we fed the chaps’ – now husbands’ – Sunday roast dinner to someone else because they buggered off to the pub. Fair play to him, Ted’s been there for supper ever since.) 

We had a chart on the wall listing things we liked, and things we didn’t, and top of the likes was chicken liver pâté – or CLP as it was known to us. 

So I made this today to celebrate female friendship, and to remind myself of happy times with Pippa and Mary at 95 Marlborough Road. 

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Classic, comforting celeriac soup

The poor celeriac.

“I’m just fooling myself, she’ll never see me as anything… but a monster.”

He’s an ugly beast.

This soup turns him into a beauty, though.

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