Wednesday 22 February 2012


Cabbage frittata

I love leftovers - greedy people who try and wolf up anything on the table evoke unholy thoughts. One solution is to serve up in the kitchen - the effort of getting up from the dining table to replenish their plate is often too much for the glutton. I always cook extra potatoes and never scrimp with half a cabbage - bubble and squeak - how delicious is that? Add a couple of beaten eggs and some streaky bacon with a good dollop of Tiptree Brown Sauce on the side for a comforting quick, hot lunch.

However the lunch box has different demands and frittata is a portable, happy addition. Made today with last night's leftovers by tomorrow all the flavours would have melded in perfect reciprocity. Boiled Cornish new potatoes sliced and fried in olive oil with savoy cabbage - let me tell you about the cabbage, this is seriously tasty and a delicious accompaniment to some fantastically fishy mackerel - butterflied and cooked in the oven and then topped off with chopped parsley, garlic and sweet paprika.  But let's talk cabbage - take 2 teaspoons of coriander seeds and crush with a clove of garlic and 15g of butter in a pestle and mortar. Gently blanch the shredded cabbage until just tender. Drain well, return to pan, grate in some nutmeg, salt and pepper and then add the butter mix - sweet, garlicky, aromatic cabbage - yes it is possible. 

Back to the frittata - lay the cabbage evenly over the potatoes, warm through and then pour over 4 lightly beaten, seasoned eggs - cook gently and either invert onto a plate or pop under a hot grill to brown the top.

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Green vegetable soup

Green vegetable soup
Green vegetable soup - the words themselves lift my spirits, tasty, delicious, simple, and so satisfying in a comfortingly salty way. This soup is waiting for you at the bottom of your fridge - forgotten random vegetables and an old crust of parmesan cheese. The trick is to chop the vegetables quite small so they don't need a lot of cooking - and so keep their fresh greeness whilst the potatoes make the soup wonderfully creamy.

Finely chop a shallot, 3 sticks of celery and a clove of garlic.
Cook gently in some olive oil until soft and sweet.
Add two small potatoes - sliced and diced, cook until they start to go soft, add a splash of white wine if you've got it or some plain water to stop it catching.
Chuck in the crust of a piece of parmesan - this will give the soup an umami kick.
Add 2 courgettes - sliced and diced and a handful of chopped green beans.
Barely cover with water or vegetable stock if you prefer - taste for seasoning.
Simmer until the green veg is just cooked - remove a few ladles of soup and blitz in a food processor - so making the soup thick and creamy, or just leave as a clear broth if you prefer.
Add some chopped parsley and a swirl of olive oil to serve and fight over who gets the chewy surprise at the bottom of the bowl.

Monday 6 February 2012

Bakewell Pudding

Bakewell pudding - almonds, raspberry jam, egg custard and puff pastry

Bakewell pudding - almonds, raspberry jam, egg custard and puff pastry

I have a distant memory of visiting Bakewell many moons ago - long walks in the mist and rain through eye poppingly beautiful scenery. A landscape in harmony with its weather - a palette of brown, green and grey.  Mysterious and distant, the smell of wet earth and damp vegetation stirring a primal sensibility. But the memory is further hightened by the experience of eating a Bakewell Pudding.

As a lover of all things almond, Bakewell Pudding touched me. Warm, eggy, almondy  served with custard it was nothing like the sweets that masquerade under the same sobriquet. So the memory has haunted me...until 2008, when deep in the rare books section of the British Library, researching an eighteenth century apple scoop, I came across a recipe in a snappily titled book called 'English Recipes, and others from Scotland, Wales and Ireland as they appeared in eighteenth and nineteenth century cookery books and now devised for modern use', by Sheila Hutchins, published in 1967.

Well I'm pretty sure this is where the recipe came from, as I scrawled it down in pencil in my tatty notebook. As ever I have altered the quantities stated in the recipe - I prefer mine to be more almondy than buttery but will put both versions here - the original quantities are in brackets.

Bakewell Pudding
Grease a cake tin, line with very thinly rolled puff pastry, cover and refrigerate overnight
Next day, cover the pastry with raspberry jam - including up the sides
Gently melt 3oz (8oz) butter in a pan 
Whisk 4 (8) eggs with 4oz (8oz) caster sugar until pale and runny
Slowly run in the melted butter - keep whisking all together
Finally stir in 4oz (4oz) of ground almonds
Pour into the tin and bake at 180 Celsius until set and the pastry is cooked.

Sunday 5 February 2012

Puffed up

Puff pastry, jam

It's got nothing to do with austerity just the opportunity to enjoy those scraps of puff pastry transformed with a dollop of mixed fruit jam into a tasty treat.

Wednesday 1 February 2012

Fennel - pale and interesting

Fresh fennel

I love fennel. Fennel with orange and rocket. Fennel with beetroot and a squeeze of lemon juice to tart up the sweetness. Fennel with fennel. But all fennels are not equal and some can be a little on the tough side, so salad is not always the best option.

Until recently I'd always shied away from cooking fennel - loving it in salad as I do but my mum was the happy recipient of a case of fennel which had piggy backed onto a shipment of oranges from Sicily. The fennels were abundant and had begun to look a little tired so braising was their liberation. When the crunch of a delicious tender fennel has gone gently blanching and roasting replaces the missing element with a subtle sweetness and warm aniseed tone.
A delicious alternative to salad on cold winter days.

Braised Fennel

Quarter and slice the fennel and blanch in boiling salted water with a squeeze of lemon juice (to stop the fennel from browning) until just tender.
Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a baking dish. 
Dress with olive oil, ground black pepper, approx 3 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese and the same amount of bread crumbs - gently mix up and pop in a hot oven (200 Celsius) for about 10 minutes or until heated through and just browned.

You can cook chicory in the same way - just quarter no need to slice.