Thursday 29 December 2011

Amaretto tiramisu to kick trifle off your Christmas list

Amaretto Tiramisu ready to serve
My festive season is always a wonderful mixture of nostalgic celebrations – some timeless societal traditions, plus some more recent personal rituals. Each Christmas eve my former schoolfriends and I are reunited in the same local pub to swap stories of the highs and lows of the past year, and each Christmas morning I awake to discover that the snowman stocking my Mum made me as a baby has been filled with gifts.

Sunday 4 December 2011

Prawn and chorizo paella for one person to enjoy

Prawn and chorizo paella

With my partner away for the weekend, I was struggling to motivate myself into making a real evening meal. Ironically, the thought of just throwing some pasta into a pan and onto a fast boil when I’m preparing a “dinner for one” is even more tempting now that I’m a (relatively) confident cook than it was when I was a (relatively) naive student. A large portion of my love of cooking comes from seeing other people enjoy my food, so the culinary process seems significantly less pleasurable when there’s no-one else around to appreciate my efforts.

Friday 18 November 2011

A festive feast with Love Your Larder

The dry chill in the air and cascade of commuters clutching red coffee cups that greet me every morning en route to the office is a sign of only one thing – Santa Claus is coming to town! I’m totting up a long wishlist of London food markets to get me into the festive spirit, but I’ve asked my friends at Love Your Larder to share their favourite seasonal recommendations to make sure that your Christmas is a cracker, no matter where you live. With over 1000 gourmet products on offer from 80 different independent producers, you’re bound to find the ideal foodie gifts for all the family in their online marketplace…

love your larderAll the good things about Christmas, the giving and sharing, spending time with loved ones and celebrating this time of year just wouldn’t be as good without all the gorgeous food and drink it is almost compulsory to indulge in at this time of year. There is no other occasion in the year where it is perfectly acceptable to have chocolate followed by champagne at breakfast, followed by smoked salmon, more chocolate and lots of gorgeous joints of meat and roast potatoes before eating decadent Christmas pudding with lashings of cream or brandy butter. And that’s before we even start thinking about what we are will be washing it all down with.

Working at Love Your Larder means sampling lots of food and drink (hard job we know, but someone has to do it) and here are our top picks for the festive season, whether you’re looking for something to give the foodie in your life or want to make your Christmas dinner the one that goes down in family history.

Friday 4 November 2011

Magnificent meatballs to leave him wanting amore

Beef meatballs with rosemary tomato ragu
I’ve received an urgent recipe request on my Facebook fanpage for the perfect meal for a romantic night in. Like a savvy lady’s pre-date beauty regime, the dish needs to be dressed to impress without breaking the bank balance or taking hours to prepare.

For me, Italian food is ideal for inspiring intimacy – and the classic combination of pasta and meatballs is the ultimate embodiment of this. The heady scent of rich tomatoes and fresh herbs instantly conjures up images of gondolas gliding over Venetian canals, and what better way to get into the mood for amore than by recreating the infamous spaghetti-sharing scene from Lady and the Tramp?!

Sunday 23 October 2011

Brilliant basmati to take on the takeaway

Lamb dopiaza with basmati rice
As my own kitchen skills have gradually improved, I’ve noticed a correlating change in my attitude towards eating out. In the past, I was renowned amongst friends as the “voucher queen”, always able to sniff out a bargain meal that we’d all accept as a satisfactory supper. But now (if my purse allowed…!) I’d far prefer to shun the high-street chains in favour of spending a bit more money on a high-end dining experience. As much as I adore Italian cuisine, I can’t bring myself to cough up for an overpriced bowl of pasta and sauce – especially when I know I can rustle up a pretty mean risotto in the comfort of my own home using just the bare essentials.

Friday 14 October 2011

A roasted piece of meat to last all week

Gammon cooked in coke with a sweet mustard glaze
In the past, I never understood the appeal of the quintessentially English roast dinner. It seemed to me that people spent a disproportionate amount of their designated Day of Rest slaving over a hot stove, considering how bland and limp the resulting "meat and three veg" often tasted. My favourite part of a roast dinner was previously the Yorkshire pudding, so given the option I would generally have preferred to just eat the batter alongside a couple of decent meaty sausages as Toad in the Hole.

In my eyes it was particularly incomprehensible why anyone would want to spend every Sunday cooking a roast. There’s such a plethora of delicious dishes available from such a vast array of different cuisines - spicy Mexican stews, tender Moroccan tagines, fresh Italian pastas with silky sauces - why would you choose to restrict your weekend dining to a lump of dry meat and a plate of soggy vegetables?

Monday 19 September 2011

Souk-scented chicken tagine and fruity couscous

Chicken and butternut squash tagine with orange-infused apricot and raisin couscous

Marrakech is the holiday equivalent of Marmite. For some people, the cacophony of sensations that hit you as soon as you arrive in the Djemaa El Fna square are just too overwhelming – the traders’ attention-grabbing hollering is too loud, the labyrinth of overflowing stalls is too claustrophobic, the bustle of busy shoppers and speeding mopeds is too chaotic.

But just as I was hooked on Marmite the first time I tasted it sandwiched between crunchy toast and nutty cheddar cheese, so I fell in love with Marrakech the moment I stepped into the souk.

Monday 5 September 2011

Brunching at The Breakfast Club


The Breakfast Club's avocado, bacon and egg on toast with Pommy Granny smoothie

Food plays a starring role in all of my social interactions these days. Whether it’s organising a gossip session with my girlfriends or planning a romantic date with my sweetheart, my thoughts will instantly turn to what meal the occasion should revolve around. I’ve even started ranking London’s plethora of museums and galleries based on the standard of their dining facilities (the V & A currently tops the list, thanks to its outstanding selection of baked goodies).

Whilst I’m never one to turn down the offer of a nice cuppa tea and slice of cake, my first preference for combining feasting and friendship will always be brunch. Maybe it’s because I normally restrict my breakfast intake to healthy fruit and oats, but feel justified in pushing the boat out when I’m technically merging two meals into one. Maybe it’s because I recognise that most people aren’t as bouncy as I am at the crack of dawn and would probably appreciate a lie-in. Maybe it’s just because I like the word. Whatever the reason for my love of br[eakfast / l]unch, I’ve made it my mission to munch my way around my new hometown with my nearest and dearest.

Saturday 3 September 2011

Spicy sausage stew for a sunny day in Spain

Spicy sausage stew #8 - served with mixed potato and corainder mash
The weather gods appear to have misunderstood the meaning of British Summer Time. This year we lost an hour as normal, but didn’t seem to be gaining any increase in temperature in return. So when my boyfriend told me we had the chance to escape breezy Britain for a trip to sunny Spain with his family, I jumped at the chance.

I’d been caught out in the rain so many times over the past couple of months, I’d finally accepted there was no point in purchasing the Gladiator sandals I’d promised myself – so this sojourn sounded like a dream come true. As someone who grew up by the sea, there’s nothing I love better than siesta-ing on a soft sandy beach, listening to the backing track of waves lapping the shore. However, he confessed there was just one tiny thing about the holiday I should probably know in advance…

Saturday 27 August 2011

A week’s worth of eats and treats

An unexpected adjunct to my burgeoning passion for the culinary world is a blossoming interest in photography. A hallway full of school portraits exposing my past as an acne-ridden, speccy teenager has given me an aversion to appearing in front of the camera, so I generally prefer to rely on my memory for a record of any seminal moments.

But it’s an entirely different story when the photo’s subject is a dazzling dessert or a stunning supper. Admiration for the cooking skills on display at my favourite eateries, and disbelief (plus a hint of pride) at the dishes being served up at my dining table means I feel increasingly obliged to provide photographic evidence of my dietary habits.

Saturday 20 August 2011

Heartwarming apple and blackberry crumbles

Blackberry and apple crumble #3
It’s been a year since my better half and I made the first tentative steps towards a relationship. Wanting to celebrate, but feeling somewhat skint after recently making the (slightly larger!) step of moving in together, my boyfriend offered to spend the evening cooking any dish my heart desired in the comfort of our new home.

It’ll be no surprise to hear that my love of gastronomy means that 95% of meals eaten by our foundling nuclear family are produced by me - so this was a particularly gallant (some might even say brave!) suggestion. To show my gratitude, I felt it was only fair if he were compensated for this potentially painful hour slaving over a hot stove by being treated to his favourite pudding: apple and blackberry crumble.

Tuesday 16 August 2011

Devouring Borough Market

Having recently moved to London from Hampshire, I’m still regularly dumbstruck by the abundance of fine food that I now find myself surrounded by. Whilst I may have been able to experience an authentically rural Farmers Market in my previous life out in the sticks, in reality the opportunities to buy quality ingredients were few and far between.

Thursday 28 July 2011

Resorting to Risotto

Without wishing to sound arrogant, I make a pretty mean risotto.  I don’t really understand how this happened, as I only discovered the delights of this wonderful oozing rice dish a couple of years ago, but it has rapidly become a reliable recipe for storecupboard emergencies and situations when I need to impress.
One of the things I love most about risotto is the way its flavour entirely depends on which ingredients are added to the rice mixture – almost like an Italian version of the fabled stone soup. Creamy and sweet with parmesan and leeks, crisp and fresh with asparagus and smoked salmon, silken and earthy with butternut squash and sage...there’s a combination to satisfy any craving and every mood.

Thursday 7 July 2011

Use your (chocolate and banana) loaf!

I confess that I’m not much of a baker - but this is more for reasons linked to desire than to ability. When cooking, you generally want to taste the finished dish to judge its success or failure, decide what needs adapting to improve the flavours next time, and hopefully ensure that it will bring a smile to the lips of any dinner guests. The danger I face if that dish is a tureen of velvety chocolate mousse or a basket of cupcakes is that my sweet tooth will overcome my sense of portion control, and pretty soon my body will involuntarily wibble and wobble more than a jelly on a plate (and not in the way Beyonce meant…!).

Saturday 25 June 2011

Flocking to Hummingbird

Yesterday was a seminal moment in my foodie life - my first ever visit to the famous Hummingbird Bakery. I am now a proud member of the exclusive club of gourmands who has visited both this London bakehouse and the Magnolia Bakery, the even more renowned American version of cake paradise.

Friday 24 June 2011

A proper "pukka" pie

When it comes to food, we all have our own preferences and peculiarities. After all, eating is the very definition of a matter of taste - indeed, one person’s manna from heaven may well be another’s vision of hellish torture. 
This subjectivity extends not only to the flavour combinations we enjoy, but also to the quality of ingredients and standards of production that we will accept. The sticking point for me is sausages - I refuse to consume a banger containing less than 75% meat. But my boyfriend’s crusade of choice is the quest for the perfect pie. In his eyes, a proper pie is a meaty filling encased entirely in pastry, and a pie “without sides” is nothing more than a stew with a pastry lid.

Friday 17 June 2011

Destiny in the form of a date (and ginger naan)...

As a recent convert to the benefits of healthy eating and regular exercise, I’ve mainly succeeded in ending my long-standing relationship with doughy goods. Painful memories of speeding treadmills and heavy dumbbells can be an effective deterrent against the temptations of even the crunchiest French baton or softest herb-studded foccaccia.
But Indian naan bread is still my weakness. 

Sunday 12 June 2011

Saturday night spaghetti

Discovered some rather tasty looking chorizo whilst perusing my parents’ fridge. My first opinion of paella was rejected due to laziness - spending Saturday night home alone may be one thing, but spending the majority of the evening standing over a stove stirring rice would just be a step too far.

Wednesday 1 June 2011

"It is impossible not to love someone who makes toast for you" - Nigel Slater
I don't make much toast, but I do make a pretty decent bacon sandwich, with lashing of tomato ketchup. It might even have a fried egg in it too, if you're particularly special...

Wednesday 25 May 2011

"Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all" - Harriet Van Horne

Sunday 22 May 2011

Pancake perfection

As part of my birthday weekend in my hometown I enjoyed a first brunch visit to the new Camden Bar and Kitchen in hip and trendy Ashley Cross.

I had been hoping to try their wild rice and berry parfait, but they’re still developing their menu so I had to settle for blueberry pancakes instead (such a hardship!). I’ve been experimenting with American pancake recipes for a while, but still haven’t quite captured the art of getting the pancake to lie flat on both sides…clearly I need to get some tips from Camden’s chef, because these were perfect!