Sunday, 31 August 2008

Bread and Dips

The parents came over for dinner this weekend to see my new flat, so in between frantic cleaning, I had to plan what to make, the perfect excuse to spend some time cooking new things!

I recently went for dinner at the Portobello Organic Kitchen, which was fabulous, thankfully, we knew the chef so got a bit of a discount, but this just meant that we ended up eating twice as much as we would have. Anyway, for starters/canapes, we had homemade bread and dips.

The above was our attempt to recreate this and it was AMAZING, even if I say so myself.

We used Delia's pizza dough recipe, except we mixed in a handful of black olives too. Make up the dough, leave it to prove once, knock it back and then split in two, roll each ball out to about 1cm thickness, place on a baking tray, drizzle with oil and bake at 180C for 20mins

The dips were homemade hummus and tapenade. Both are really easy to make, especially if you have a little blender, and so much better than the ready made version. For the hummus, I get my chickpeas from one of the shops on the way home in brixton, they're much bigger and softer than the little bullets the supermarkets seem to be selling these days, I also use a bit of yoghurt to loosen my hummus, it means you have to use less oil and adds a little creaminess. For the tapenade, I used good quality kalamata olives, those cheap you can buy in a tin, are really just green olives dyed black and not worth bothering with, especially as the quality of the olives really affects how the tapenade will taste.


1 can chickpeas, drained
1 clove garlic
1tbsp tahini
juice ½ lemon
1 tbsp yoghurt
salt and pepper

Put all the ingredients in a blender and whizz, add more yoghurt if it seems a bit stiff. Drizzle olive oil over to serve. If you don't have a blender, you can mash the chickpeas first with a fork and then mix in the finely chopped garlic and the rest of the ingredients.

Black Olive Tapenade

200g black olives
1 garlic clove
4 anchovy fillets
juice ½-1 lemon
2tbsp olive oil

Add all the ingredients to a blender and whizz, adding more lemon juice if needed. Don't whizz too much as you want to keep a bit of texture. If you don't have a blender, just chop the olives, anchovies and garlic finely and mix with the oil and lemon juice. Read more...

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Lemon Drizzle Cake

I'm a big fan of plainer cakes, the kind that you can bake at the beginning of the week and have a slice (or two) everyday with a cup of tea. Lemon drizzle cake is a classic example of this genre, the syrup adds a little extra gooeyness to the cake.

This recipe is, naturally, Nigella's and you can't really go wrong with that. I like to sometimes substitute half the flour for ground almonds, or add poppy seeds to the cake (these little black seeds really transform it into something else). With my bottle of limoncello in hand, I've also been known to add a splash to the syrup. Now I'm also thinking that you could make a lime drizzle cake (use the zest of 2 limes instead) or orange, you'd probably need less sugar for the syrup.

We used this last night to make a mini trifle, I put a slice of the cake in the bottom of a small dish, topped with raspberries doused in icing sugar and limoncello and then topped with greek yoghurt (I couldn't be bothered to whip cream after I melted the wire on the my electric whisk).


125g unsalted butter, softened
175g caster sugar
2 eggs
zest of 1 lemon and 100ml lemon juice, about 1 lemon
175g self raising flour
pinch salt
4 tbsp milk

Cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs one at a time, whisking thoroughly in between and finally the lemon zest. Now sift in the dry ingredients and fold together, add a little milk to loosen the mixture if it looks too stiff, t should be of 'dropping' consistency (i.e. it 'drops' off a spoon when held up). Transfer the mixture to a greased and lined loaf tin and bake at 180C for 45mins or until golden and a tester comes out clean.

Whilst the cake is cooking, prepare the syrup. Add the lemon juice and icing sugar to a pan, heat gently, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves.

Once the cake is cooked, remove it from the oven and prick all over with a cake tester or knife, now pour the syrup over, allowing it to sink into the cake. Try to pour it over the middle so that it doesn't all go down the sides. Wait until the cake is completely cold before removing from the tin. Read more...

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Summer Fruit Tart

Mmm.. this tart just tasted of summer (despite the weather...)Its a base similar to a cheesecake, pressed into a tart tin and then filled with a creamy mascarpone filling and topped with peaches, I only used peaches because I had them, but you can use whatever fruit you have or indeed a mixture.

The contrast of the fruit with the creamy mascarpone and crunchy base is just perfect. I followed a Nigella recipe for this ( the black and white tart in How to be a Domestic Goddess) but found I had too much of the mascarpone mixture left over, so we had it with strawberries later in the week with some biscuits crumbled on top in a ‘deconstructed’ version of the tart. I’ve changed Nigella’s recipe and decided to use half greek yoghurt, half mascarpone and have done away with the egg – makes a quicker, more cost effective pud. Also, the limoncello is obviously optional, I only used it because I have it and it goes so well with mascarpone.


250g digestives
75g butter, melted
250g mascarpone
250g greek yoghurt
75g icing sugar
Squeeze of lemon
1 tbsp limoncello
Enough fruit to top

Blend the biscuits to a rubble and mix in the melted butter. Tip into a tart tin and press the mixture onto the base and sides. Leave in the fridge to set. Meanwhile whisk the mascarpone until smooth and add the icing sugar, beat until combined, add the limoncello and yoghurt and beat until smooth. Spread this mixture over the base and top with the fruit.


Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Chickpea and Haloumi Salad

Aaah another recipe from good old Cranks, combining all the old favourites, chickpeas, olives, sun blush tomatoes and haloumi. This is possibly my favourite way to eat haloumi, although now there is a contender in the fennel and pomegranate salad.

You could make up the chickpea part in advance and just add rocket and tomatoes to serve with the haloumi, the chickpea marinade will dress the salad.


Serves 4

½ small red onion, diced
juice ½ lemon
1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
olive oil
250g cherry tomatoes, roasted
1 block haloumi, sliced
1 tin chickpeas, drained
small bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
100g rocket

Combine the chickpeas, lemon juice, garlic, parsley and red onion with a 1 tbsp olive oil and some seasoning, stir well and set aside to marinade. Spread the rocket over a large plate, top with the chickpeas and sprinkle over the tomatoes. Heat a frying pan or griddle pan and fry the haloumi on both sides for a few minutes. lay over the top of the salad and eat immediately Read more...

Friday, 22 August 2008

Haloumi, fennel and pomegranate seed salad

You'll have to forgive the slightly hazy photos, they were taken when my friends Kat and Jamie came for dinner, they are not so used to the obligatory 5mins spent trying to take a good picture, so these were taken in haste.... I digress, the point is, this salad is great! Its actually a recipe from Waitrose, you know those little recipe cards you get in supermarkets? Except the Waitrose ones tend to be quite good.

Its a salad of fennel, leaves, haloumi and pomegranate seeds with a sour cream dressing. I've only recently come round to the idea of fruit in savoury food, but here, with the salty haloumi and garlicky dressing, it works really well.

This is the Waitrose recipe, I've also given my own below as I did it slightly differently and didn't faff about putting the fennel in iced water etc.


Serves 4
1 fennel bulb
100g yoghurt, sour cream or creme fraiche
1 small clove garlic, crushed
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 handfuls salad leaves - watercress or rocket are good
Juice of ½ lemon
1 pack haloumi, sliced
seeds of 1 pomegranate

Use the biggest plate you have, spread the leaves across the bottom. Cut the fennel in half lengthways through the root. If there any leafy fronds, finely chop these and add to the plate. Cut off any old looking ends of the fennel and slice as finely as you can. Sprinkle these over the leaves. Mix the yoghurt, lemon juice and garlic and season well. Set aside. Now heat a frying pan or griddle and fry the haloumi for a couple of minutes on both sides, lay the haloumi on top of the salad and drizzle over the dressing before sprinkling judiciously with pomegranate seeds. Read more...

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Courgette Caponata

With the bounty from my weekend doing Farmer's Markets, I decided to try making caponata for when my friends came over. This is a very loose version garnered from reading several recipes and then making it up! The general premise is that you cook onions, peppers and aubergine sloowly and then add some vinegar, tomatoes, capers and olives and continue to cook into a delicious stew, sweet from the peppers and onions and a bit sour from the capers and vinegar. Eat topped with pine nuts and basil. We had our slathered on toast, but I'm thinking you could have it with couscous or mixed into pasta. Any carb vehicle would do really.

I made mine with fabulous yellow courgettes, instead of the usual aubergine. So for a more authentic recipe, click here. I also made mine the night before to allow the flavours to develop and in fact you could keep a tub in the fridge for a few days, the flavours will just get better. We also found that it tastes better when cooled to room temperature rather than hot.

I'm pretty pleased that I got to use some basil from the bush we have growing in a window box. We got some other herbs at the farmers' market, so we'll see how they do. Including orange thyme, any suggestions on how to use it? I'm thinking perhaps with fish...


Serves 4

2 onions, sliced
3 peppers, sliced into long strips
2 courgettes, halved and sliced diagonally
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ red chilli, finely chopped
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp capers
2 tbsp olives, sliced
200g cherry tomatoes, halved

To serve:
basil and toasted pine nuts

Cook the onions, courgette and peppers in a liberal slug of olive oil for 10mins until softened and catching in places. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for a few more minutes. Now add the rest of the ingredients, and cook slowly for 20mins more until the tomatoes have broken down and you have a thick stew. Season and serve at room temperature with the basil and pine nuts sprinkled on top. Read more...

Monday, 18 August 2008

The Lavender Bakery

So, whilst trying to find a website for the post on Violet Cupcakes, I came across this blog for The Lavender Bakery. Another business making beautiful cupcakes with local, seasonal, organic and fair trade ingredients. It was this picture that caught my eye, how cute is this cake? I also saw a post where someone ordered lots of cakes to use as party invitations, I want my own cakes with my name on now! Read more...

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Violet Cupcakes at Broadway Market

One of the treats I procured at the market were these dinky little cupcakes from Violet, the stall next to ours, click here for pictures of the stall - which is beautiful. This are a bit more special than your run of the mill cupcakes, even more special than the more famous cupcake sin London. Firstly, its all organic ingredients. Secondly, the sponge itself is nice too, too often with these cupcakes, its all about appearances and the sponge is all dry and hard. Thirdly, the icing was amazing! They use real fruit purees to colour the icing, and you can really taste it. I must experiment with my own soon....


Saturday, 16 August 2008

Born and Bread Bakery

I spent the weekend selling bread for the Born and Bread Bakery. They are a fabulous artisan bakery selling the most delicious organic breads all made from a sourdough starter and baked in a proper wood-fired oven. They sell in the equally fabulous East Dulwich Deli as well as at various markets all over London. The best bread has to be the huge sourdoughs below, you can buy it in quarters and is definitely the most popular.
Its a fairly random arrangement, but basically, every so often I sell bread for them at one of the several markets they do. Its a bit of extra cash and I get to take home lots of lovely bread. Still, no one like getting up at 7.30am on the weekend...
I did Broadway market on Saturday. A bit out in the sticks for a South Londoner like me, but if you live anywhere near Bethnal Green, its worth a visit, make sure you don't eat before though as half the fun is all the stalls selling food to be eaten straight away. Special mention must be made of the stall selling amazing organic coffee (and Hampstead Tea!) opposite our bread stall at the entrance to the market.

Sunday was Queen's Park Farmers' Market, part of the LFM markets. I particularly like LFM farmers' markets as they are really strict about who sells there so you know that all the producers there genuinely grow and produce their food locally. Queen's park was actually quite big and had a fantastic range of products. I got some of these beautiful roses below and some fish from a stall sellling hand picked shellfish from the Dorset coast.

In retrospect, its actually so much fun doing the stall. I am still entertaining romantic notions of having my own market stall, even though doing it week in week out is serious work for next to no money... It did make me resolve to try harder to buy my food from markets though and not Waitrose (its on my way home from work). When you start with quality ingredients, its so much easier to cook anyway as everything tastes so good already.


Wednesday, 13 August 2008


I don't normally go in for homemade pizza, I would much rather make flatbread pizzas, so much quicker! But, dinner was left up to Pete and this is what he came up with. Very impressed I was too. He used the Jamie Oliver recipe for pizza dough (he prefers Delia's though) and we got 4 decent sized pizzas out of it with half the quantities.

Now the topping, invented by us is where this really comes into its own. We roasted cherry tomatoes with the usual garlic and dried thyme, then chucked some basil on them and mashed them with a fork (watch out for the boiling liquid that squirts everywhere!) . Two 250g packs of cherry tomatoes should be enough to cover 4 pizzas (Use this recipe to roast them).

And there you have a delicious pizza sauce that's pretty good on its own with some mozzarella strewn on top and some black pepper. Bake at 200C for about 20mins until bubbling and golden and the base is cooked. Once out, drizzle with some good olive oil, and sprinkle over some more chopped basil. A few slices of creamy avocado would be nice on top, a handful of rocket or some toasted pine nuts....

The toppings for pizza are endless, the only rule I would say with home made pizza is to avoid the temptation to overload with toppings as it can make the pizza soggy and its best to instead make a few different pizzas and be able to actually taste the individual toppings.

To really avoid the soggy bottom of homemade pizzas, you need to get a pizza stone, to achieve a really crispy base, that's if you're really serious. Or, like Pete you could use an old kitchen tile....


Monday, 11 August 2008

Big Mack Cakes

I've become mildly obsessed with reading other people's blogs (a list of my favourites to go up soon) and fantasising about 1. taking pictures as good as theirs and 2. being given my own book deal. I soon realised that I need to get a much flashier camera in order to take those kind of pictures, in the meantime, I'm getting increasingly frustrated with my own. So whilst I don't like this picture (bad lighting), I had to post it as these were the BEST THING EVER when we had them for tea last night.

These are not your run of the mill fishcakes. Firstly we used smoked mackerel, fast becoming my favourite omega 3/protein/fishy source, these add much more smoky flavour than the traditional smoked haddock and are obviously the sustainable choice. We also used organic potatoes from the veg box, I'm not always convinced that organic tastes better per se, but with potatoes you can really taste the difference, even against all these strong flavours. After a little research, I also decided to add some capers, chopped boiled egg and chives (mostly because we had them and no parsley). And there you have it, the ultimate fishcakes.

We just coated them in flour, but there's a nigella recipe where she coats them in flour, then egg, then crumbled ritz biscuits for crunchy coating. The joy with these is that you can then bake them in the oven. A bit labour intensive for me and the flour and fry method worked out just fine for us.

The other key component was a lemony creme fraiche sauce that we had alongside and worked really well. All I did was add some seasoning, lemon zest and the juice of ½ lemon to a pot of creme fraiche and set aside.

We had ours with salad, a particularly good one is pea, spinach and avocado or an astringent salad of baby gem lettuce, capers and chopped gherkin, both with a mustardy dressing.

250g smoked mackerel, flaked into large pieces
250g potatoes
2 free range eggs
50g butter
milk (for mashing)
2tbsp capers

Chop the potatoes and cook in plenty of boiling salted water until tender. Add the eggs to the pan for 8mins and remove. One the potatoes are cooked, drain and mash with the butter, adding a little milk to loosen if necessary. Peel and chop the boiled eggs and add to the mash along with the capers, ½ the lemon zest, chives and smoked mackerel. Stir together and taste, you may or may not want to add some lemon juice at this stage. Now divide the mixture into roughly 8 and shapes into cakes, roll in flour and set aside in the fridge for 30mins to firm up.

Meanwhile add the juice and zest of ½ lemon to the creme fraiche along with slat and pepper.

Heat some oil in a pan and fry the fish cakes on each side on a medium heat for 4-5 mins until warmed through and crispy on the outside.

Eat with salad and the creme fraiche sauce. Happy food dance optional. Read more...

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Thai Curry

I've been thinking of making a thai curry for ages, and obviously, I know I should make my own as all it is is a bit of chopping and blending, plus it tastes so much better. But, I gave in and bought a ready made version which was recommended to me and I have to say its pretty good, a reassuringly short list of ingredients.

The beauty of a thai curry is that you can pretty much use whichever vegetables you like - mushrooms, carrots, courgettes, greens, peppers, sweet potatoes, corn, butternut squash. Chickpeas are always a welcome addition too, but then again, I think chickpeas are a welcome addition to most things.

To make this curry, fry a tablespoon of the paste for a few minutes until you can smell all the aromatic ingredients, I added some chopped onions, carrots cut into thin strips and sliced runner beans and coated them in the paste. Add a can of drained chickpeas, stir and add ½ can coconut and 250ml stock. bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes. I also like to add some courgette, slice of the skin on all four sides, and cut into cubes, add these at the end. Then all you need is a good squeeze of lime juice, serve over rice with lots of coriander.

Obviously these are all vague ingredients, to make enough for 4, I would use 2 tablespoons of paste, and enough vegetables for 4, then add a can of cocount milk and a canful of stock. It all depends how rich you like it, I always like to use equal quantities of coconut milk and stock, otherwise it can be quite heavy, add more liquid if you want it soupier, which is good with noodles.

Now I have big pot of the paste, I'm trying to think of different uses, next on my list is this recipe for Asian Potato Cakes. I'll keep you posted... Read more...

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Swiss chard and Onion Tart

I know I've not been posting regularly recently. Its mostly because I've been eating fairly mediocre food that certainly isn't getting me excited, so I figured not many people would be either. Its amazing how quickly it is to fall into the habit of not cooking and eating rubbish food, and I'm obsessed with food! Anyway, the veg box arrived yesterday and I decided to make this tart, one to stop the chard ending up in a stirfry as most of the leftover veggies do and two because I've not made one for ages.

I cheated and used ready bought pastry, which made this really quick to make. In essence you can pretty much cook any veggies in this eggy mixture, another good combination is brocolli, walnuts and blue cheese, or leek and peas with perhaps feta, or roasted tomatoes, pesto and mozzarella.

This is perfect for packed lunches, just wrap in foil and take with some salad.

500g shortcrust pastry
3 onions, finely sliced
250g swiss chard, finely sliced
pinch nutmeg
4 eggs
1 142ml pot double cream
100g strong cheddar, grated

Preheat the oven to 180C. Roll out the pastry and line a tart tin, line with baking paper and fill with with baking beans. Cook for 10mins, then remove the beans and paper and cook for 10mins more. Meanwhile, cook the onions in a little butter until softened, add the sliced stalks and cook for a min or two more. Now add the leaves and cook until wilted, season well and add the nutmeg. Whisk the eggs and cream, season and mix in the cheese. Lay the chard and onion in the bottom of the tart and pour the eggy mixture over. Bake for 20-30mins until just set. Allow to cool for 10mins before serving. Read more...

Friday, 1 August 2008

Piece of Plenty

I went to visit Sally, whom I worked with whilst at Piece of Plenty, who are fabulous artisan food producers. They chiefly make granola, but I'm particularly taken with the seedy sprinkle that I literally sprinkle on everything. This is the kind of food you'd make yourself if you had the time (or inclination).

Anyway, naturally, there were suitably delicious things for dinner. We had homemade falafel, which just uses soaked dried chickpeas, and reminds me I must get the recipe and try them myself, with lovely pan fried and caramelised peppers , this is such an easy way to cook peppers, I will also do this myself again and give the recipe. Along with a mango salsa , some raita and other salads making the most of summer. Given the lovely weather recently, we also got to eat outside which was delightful seen as though I live in a first floor flat.

We had some fellow foodie friends eating with us and thanks to a sizeable Harvey Nicks discount, one of them decided to bring the water pictured, which actually sells for £12 a bottle!! The thinking was you have to try these things once, if only to see what the fuss is about. You'll notice that its called artesian spring water, I thought this was a pretentious way of saying artisan, but turns out its actually a type of well...
I must say that my palate was not sophisticated enough to taste any difference, that and I'd already had a glass of red wine, but the other diners seemed to like it....