28 December 2007

For Melisa

A few years ago, this plant was the subject of yet another British/American Moment of Extreme Embarrassment when I exclaimed loudly the little green leaf was called cilantro. Not, what did you say? Coriander?

I know spend my time clearing cultural mind fields. Americans should know where not to step. I can be your guide. It’s called Coriander over here. Cilantro back home. That’s about as cartographic as I’m going to get. I never said I was a good guide. But now we know what its name, we can use it to save Fantasia! Oh Atreyu!

[ten points for spotting the reference above]

Of the thousand of uses for coriander, my most recent concoction is a simple salad to be eaten with humus. Yum!

The Tool Kit:

Handful of flat parsley leaves
Half the size handful of Coriander leaves
Juice of half a lemon
smidgen of Olive oil

Roughly chop or tear the leaves into a nice pile and add the lemon juice. Sprinkle with a bit of olive oil and serve with crusty or flat bread and humus.

This takes 2 minutes, and tends to be an “Oh sh*t” moment solution when you’ve had that extra drop of sherry before finishing off the dinner.

16 November 2007

YUM = ???

Risotto!! And it's yummy!

I like wine. I like wine a whole lot. A way to ceremoniously offer some wine to the little liver god is to make risotto. Risotto is a good guest to have for dinner, as he only wants one glass of white wine. Cheap date, even cheaper dinner.

Risotto takes about 30 minutes. I know some people can do it quicker, but this is how long it takes me. And this recipe is for 2.

Best to start with some unsalted butter. You're wanting to slowly fry up some thinly chopped onions, and the unsalted butter means:

  1. You can raise it to a higher temp w/o burning
  2. You have more control over the salt content, which will become important in a minute
Once the onions are soft [5 min] add a coffee mug's worth of Risotto Rice. [This rice tends to have a high starch content, hence the creamy texture at the end.] Stir all this together to coat the rice with butter [another 3 min]

Okay, if you haven't popped the cork yet, now's the time. You want a glass of white wine in with the rice. You can pour it in slowly, or all at once. Whatever way you want to make the offering. Once this starts to cook and soak into the rice, you'll recognise that smell which gives Risotto it's distinct flavour.

Alternate letting this simmer and stirring until it both evaporates and soaks into the rice. Then you'll want about 2 pints of chicken or vegetable stock. Here's where the salt bit comes in. Most stock has lots of sodium in it. Unless you've just boiled a chicken yourself, or even if you had, salt will be in there somewhere. So just watch out. You can always add more.

This continues for another 20 minutes or so, until all the stock is gone. Then add whatever you want. Chopped tommies, peppers, broccoli, frozen veg, PEAS PEAS PEAS are a must. Little Parmesan to finish [again, salty!!] and season to taste.

Good winter fair. Good hangover food. Good with a salad when you wanna stuff your face.


14 November 2007


Root Beer, or Sasparilla to the rest of you, is an amazing substance. It kind of tastes like EUTHYMOL. But I wouldn't put Euthymol on my ice cream, which one can do with Root Beer!

I hear one can acquire A&W brand Root Beer from one of the China Town convenient stores in Soho for the normal price of a canned beverage. Other than this, I'm not sure where to get it. It seems a taste unfamiliar to the British tongue, and when offered in a way similar to Marmite pushers, can be met with considerable hostility.

It is an old flavor. Spicy, but not reedy. There is a nasal component to the drink which perhaps only Americans can appreciate, being the nasal speakers that we are. The Root Beer Float is yet another step away from the European sensibility. It's an honest, messy and unrefined treat. It comes in a large glass mug. Root Beer poured from a fountain yields the best results; there being too many bubbles in the canned and bottled variety. A heaping spoonful of Vanilla ice cream is then lowered into the mug, bubbling and frothing up around the rim and overflowing the sticky contents onto the expecting napkins.

The Root Beer Float is a quick pint on the way home. It's full of empty calories and requires a minimum 7-10 minutes of my time. I must stop and reflect. My busy day compartmentalized into little freezing bites and slurps. Towards the end, I can down the last bits of melted ice cream and foam in the same continuous movement I finish a Guinness. And with my cheeks full I pause, take in the room, place my glass down on the bar and stand. Bag in hand I walk out the door feeling neutral and smooth, like a hinge recently greased.

29 October 2007


I'm in Chicago! For less than 24 hours! Then on to Houston. Land of rediculously fat people.

I've woken up early and decided that, although I have yet to purchase a camera, I can still post stories about food! Here's one I read in the Chicago Tribune today.

It's difficult for me to explain to a non-American audience the sobriety with which eating contests are referred to here. People routinely look past the symbolism of carelessly stuffing one's face with cheap, sponsored foodstuffs. It remains, it seems, ingrained in the American psyche that feats of physical ability, no matter how grotesque, will forever be enabled and applauded. Even if said physical feat impairs one's ability to compete in all other physical activity.

14 July 2007

Walnut Bread

Feeds: Small army
Prep Time: 20 – 30 minutes plus 2 – 3 hours rising time
Cook Time: 45 minutes

Walnut Bread
15g fresh yeast; or
2 tsp dried yeast plus
1 tsp sugar; or 1 sachet
easy-blend dried yeast
500ml lukewarm water
1 Tbs honey
375g wholemeal flour
175g strong white flour
2 tsp salt
Butter for greasing
125g walnuts, chopped

1 medium egg, beaten with ½ tsp salt

1. Dissolve sugar and honey in the water [this feeds the yeast] and add yeast. Leave for 15 minutes to froth up. If using easy-blend yeast, add it straight to the flour.
2. Toss the flour and salt into a bowl, making a well in the centre for the yeasty water [or plain water if using the sachet].
3. Stir with a wooden spoon to form a dough. Try and keep the dough as moist as possible. I know it’s difficult, but resist temptation to add more flour.
4. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes. Flour your hands if need be. Work until smooth and stretchy.
5. Butter up a bowl, plop in the dough and cover with cling film. I then put mine under the radiator, but anywhere warm will do. Leave for 90 – 120 minutes.
6. You’ll have enough dough for two separate 18cm cake tins [but any baking dish about that size will do]. Give the dough a good punch to disperse the air inside and knead in the walnuts.
7. Divide the dough into your two buttered up tins or dishes and cover loosely with cling film. You are wanting it to almost double in size again, so put back under the radiator for about half an hour.
8. Preheat the oven to 220°C.
9. Slash the top of each loaf then brush on some glaze. This makes it all shiny.
10. Bake for a quarter of an hour, then drop the oven temperature to 190°C and bake for half an hour. Let it cool on a rack on the counter and the whole house will smell divine.

The loaf above was devoured by 2 people at work in as many hours. Lightly toasted with a bit of honey makes it taste like a cookie. The top will inevitably get slightly scorched, but if you’re like me you’ll steal all the walnuts off the top anyway.

Lemon Thyme Tuna

Feeds: 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

Lemon Thyme Tuna

3 Tbs olive oil
1 garlic clove, chopped finely
4 fresh Tuna steaks
A few sprigs of Lemon Thyme
2 Tbs white wine vinegar
salt and pepper

1. Heat the olive oil in a shallow pan
2. Add the chopped garlic and cook for a few minutes
3. Add the tuna and 2 tablespoons of water
4. Season with salt and pepper and add the lemon thyme sprigs.
5. Cover and cook over a very low heat for about 20 minutes.
6. Add the vinegar and cook until it evaporates – serve.

You can try different types of vinegar [sherry, red wine, etc] depending on how punchy you like it. I used lemon thyme because I ran out of lemons [shock horror] and had just been herb shopping.

You really need fresh tuna. Frozen and vacuum packed has too much water and has no taste. These were bought from Borough Market where I was properly fleeced. They tasted great but were terribly expensive. Don’t trust the freckled red head kid at the big fish stall at Borough. He has a tendency to “round up”.

02 June 2007

Twice Baked Mash

Feeds about 4, depending on what you have it with
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Twice Baked Mash
450g lightly mashed potatoes
4 Spring onions, shredded
50g strong Cheddar, grated finely
3 Tbs milk
25g butter
salt and black pepper
Grated nutmeg to taste
2 medium eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 220°C and butter the Yorkie tin.
2. Mix the mash, spring onion and cheese in a bowl.
3. Warm the milk and butter with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Bring just below the boil, then beat milk into the mash. Now beat in the egg yolks.
4. Whisk egg whites until peaking. Add just enough to the mash to loosen up, then fold in as gently as possible.
5. Spoon the mash into the Yorkie tins and bake for 15 minutes until golden brown and well risen.

You won’t want to pulverize the potatoes when mashing. These come out very light and fluffy because of the egg whites. You can also brown off some bacon and add to the mash, and finish with soured cream. If you don’t have a Yorkshire pudding tin, you can always use a muffin or bun tin.

13 May 2007


Feeds: 2

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Left Over Hash

This is one in a long list of recipes for those who hate waste. Whether you can remember rationing or not, food waste is naughty. The UK is miles ahead of America on this front. The climate here means composting is ideal without trust funding pests, and having to shop more frequently [I can only carry so much back from Tesco] means using up everything is both economical and a time saver. I’m always on the lookout for more recipes like this. Migas is another one involving eggs…but here’s one that goes well with eggs…sausages…beans on toast…everything…

One of my most comforting things to eat is a stupidly large salad. Ingredients vary, but the mainstays are:

Lettuce [Botavia, rocket, romaine…any firm[ish] leaf will do]

Red onion

Tinned tuna

Tomatoes [sometimes]

Olive oil and Balsamic vinegar [Sherry vinegar works nicely as well]

Basically I’ll sit in front of the TV with my salad and bottle of wine and just munch all night. Invariably, I won’t finish everything, and the dregs of the salad get put back in the fridge and look all soggy and wilted the next morning. These dregs make the basis for the Left Over Hash.

Dregs of salad, oil and vinegar included

2 Tbs olive oil for frying

3 x medium potatoes, peeled and grated

Anything else that needs eating

1. Use a cheese grater to shred the potatoes. Do it on the biggest setting as the potatoes are raw and might be full of water.

2. Add all your ingredients to the bowl with the salad dregs using common sense on how much of the liquid [oil and vinegar] to keep. You won’t be using a binding agent so too much liquid and it will be impossible to keep together in the pan.

3. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium-high flame. Ball together some of the hash mix and brown each side. It will want to fall apart so be gentle with it.

4. Cook for 15 minutes, alternating sides.

This really is lovely. And every time you make it a different flavour pops out at you. I’ve used pine nuts, chorizo, mint leaves, shallots, garlic, salami, parma ham, falafal, humous, cabbage, bacon…anything you like really.


Feeds: millions [w/ Jesus] or 4 without him

Prep Time: 25 minutes plus 2 – 4 hours rising time

Cook Time: 40 minutes

White Loaf

15g fresh yeast; or

2 tsp dried yeast plus

1 tsp sugar; or 1 sachet

easy-blend dried yeast

300ml lukewarm water

500g strong plain flour

2 tsp salt

15g butter or lard


¼ cup lightly salted water

1. Dissolve sugar in the water [this feeds the yeast] and add yeast. Leave for 15 minutes to froth up. If using easy-blend yeast, add it straight to the flour.

2. Toss the flour and salt into a bowl. Use your hands to work the butter or lard into the flour. Then make a well in the centre and pour in yeasty water [or plain water if using the sachet].

3. Stir to form a dough, then knead with your hands until the dough leaves the side of the bowl.

4. Turn onto a floured surface and knead for about ten minutes. You want the dough to be firm and not sticky.

5. I rinse out the bowl I used to mix the dough in at this stage, and then put the firm dough back in. Cover with cling film and put it under the radiator [or anywhere warm]. Leave for 1 to 2 hours, or until double the size.

6. After it’s puffed itself up, give it a good ole punch. This is your chance to channel that aggression pent up from the other half saying “you’re making a mess of my kitchen. You’re gonna clean up this mess!” Punching not only disperses the air throughout the dough, it shows you mean business. You are a force with which to be reckoned. You are in control. You are Zen master. All of your chakras are aligned and you are at peace with the world.

7. You can either make one large loaf, or now divide the dough into two. I always find the loaves rather small anyway, so I don’t divide them, but this is the time to separate if you want, especially if you’re making rolls.

8. Place your dough, seam side down, into a greased tin or tray. Cover with cling film [although carrier bags work well if you are doing rolls or a large round loaf]. Leave to rise at room temperature for 40 minutes.

9. Preheat the oven to 230C. When the bread has risen for the occasion, brush the top with some salty water. Baked for just over half an hour.

10. If baking in tins, they should fall out when turned upside down. Tap the underside – it should sound hollow. If not, blast away for a few minutes more. If they are finished, rest on some cooling racks. Bring them to the attention of your dissenting party[ies], and watch how they grin sheepishly. They’re thinking they wish they knew how to do that. Comment on the smell. “How lovely”, works well. Use words like “rustic”, “salt of the earth” and “nature’s way”.