Thursday, December 13, 2007

HELEN'S MOUSSAKA. changed my childhood memories.

helen made moussaka the other night. i've never been that partial to this dish, because i think my grandmother made a well greasy one.helen's however, was so delicious and homely, and yet the cheesyness was light and not claggy either. the trick, she says, is in using mascapone for the topping, and lots of cinnamon in the meaty bit. and she used 6 aubergines to feed four of us. so it does require a serious vegetable commitment. which i'm always a fan of. i wonder whether the addition of some chocolate would give it yet more depth? i may try it out.we had a lovely dinner at pat's with will too, the latest addition to the south london are some of the naughty market children who pester me in the nicest possible way.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Sunday was a very lazy day due to two smashing parties the previous night, envolving lots of dancing, rice and peas on the Walworth road, one or two whiskey shots too many with Alice, and hanging out with boys in bands who were probably too young to be drinking.
So Raf started the day off with the ace idea of homefries which I had an inkling of in my memory from New York breakfasts. So I chopped and peeled while he made excellent apple and orange juice. The trick to the homefry appears to be a little soy sauce and some cayenne pepper. And actually slightly burning the potatoes so that they begin to stick and brown and balance the sweet sweated onions and garlic. It’s breakfast comfort, along with eggs and bacon.
After more sleep and tv we needed another feed (the pattern on Sundays being that of a baby. Sleep, eat, small bout of fresh air, sleep, eat, sleep). Settling for Madhur Jaffrey curry vibes, we made a light lamb and spinach gingery curry (once the weavels had been removed from the coriander. Nearly a complete crisis) and carrots in coconut milk. But the best bit in my mind, was the cucumber salad. Basically pickled cucumber.
METHOD FOR CUCUMBER SALAD: Skin and slice the cucumber (skinning highly recommended by Dot Cotton)
Chop a chilli and add to 100ml white vinegar. Heat this in a small pan with 50g sugar to make a syrupy pickle dressing. Some of the liquid should evapourate. Pour over the cucumber and let it sit for an hour. You can remove from the plate or leave it swimming in this gorgeousness. The thickened vinegar really knocks you between the eyes, and chilli is moreish and tickly.
Sleep, film, sleep...
Monday again.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

en cocotte.... just one way of doing it.

The Elk in the Passage, in camden passage, do really tasty eggs en cocotte. alice and i once ploughed our way through a piping hot one there, and i was struck by the dish. i thought i'd recreate it the other night because i had an impromptu dinner with helen and zahra, two of my absolute bestest. we do lady dinners with a little too much wine, really well. en cocotte can be almost anything, that is, any thick sauce, in a ramekin, with an egg pon top. the classic, as we had, is a quite sweet and thick tomato sauce. but i've seen mushroom, ham and cheese, chorizo.. all sorts. i like this dish particularly, because eggs are my favourite. they are just so clever. so perfectly formed. so well packaged. they almost make me believe in god.
for classic eggs en cocotte, fry an onion in some olive oil, and then add a finely cubed courgette and 4 tomatoes chopped into 8 pieces each. when the courgettes are turning transparent and the tomatoes are beginning to break down at the edges, pour in 100ml of passata and simmer on a very low heat until it is a thick sauce. add a teaspoon of sugar, pepper and salt, and even a dash of balsamic vinegar. if you own ramekins (then you are begining to grow up) spoon the sauce into 3, leaving enough room at the top for an egg (about half and inch). if you don't have these, then one nice ceramic dish will do. place in a preheated oven at 180C. when the sauce is hot, crack in the eggs and return to the oven for 10 minutes or until the eggs are firm. serve, as we did, with little roasted new potatoes and a big green salad.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Potatoes, Pepper, Thyme and Courgettes. a meal in itself

when we were children, my mum used to make this amazing summer hash of courgettes and potatoes with thyme and lemon juice (that i still bore on about til she makes it). it was so fresh and zesty and full of flavour, and on a hot day, these fried vegetables were part of our refreshing garden picnics... part fried that is, and then the lemon juice softens the crispiness and melges the pieces into a more homogeneous whole, together. last night i did a roasted winter version with little waxy potatoes and yellow pepper and courgettes, with a lemon thyme from my balcony, thus combining the two childhood aromas in the one herb. the results were really good, and the perfect accompaniment to Trinny & Susannah and text tennis with haz. if i'd had a whole chicken at hand i'd have roasted it with lemons and had that with it too. but i had the veggie pauper version instead! xxxx

Monday, December 3, 2007


my dad and I went round to flora’s last night. And she devised a very well thought out soup: carrot, with wilted spinach leaves, and a yoghurt and nutmeg dollop in the middle. It was one of the most intelligent and careful things I’ve tasted in a long time. Because the carrot and yoghurt relate, being sweet and sour, consecutively, and the nutmeg and spinach are a marriage that bring out the best in one another. So it was an academic and sense triumph. Like flora herself.

Saturday, December 1, 2007


i've been making parsnip and caraway soup all week. it's delicious for this time of year, being full of sweetness and also substance. it makes quite a thick and hugging soup. my friend joel has pointed me towards the addition of ginger. so now it has a teaspoon of cinnamon, a thumb of ginger, 3 cloves of garlic and a tbsp of caraway seeds, and is a perfect balance of aromatics.

but my real triumph yesterday was charlotte's amaretti & chocolate cake. my dear friend charlotte, when i was ill, brought round a left over side of this dense joyous cake. straight after dinner (an amazing feast by her) i quizzed her for the recipe. i've slightly adapted it because i didn't have any amaretto at hand:

125g butter melted in a baine marie with 150g green & blacks espresso chocolate.
120g sugar beaten with 3 eggs yolks until it is light creamy and pale. Hold whites aside in a very clean metal bowl.
Combine these two mixes, being careful not to cook the egg mix with the warm liquid chocolate. therefore mix them together very quickly.
Add 70g crushed amaretti biscuits to the chocolate mix and also 60g plain flour.
Whisk the egg whites until they are forming firm peaks. Add I tbsp sugar and continue to whisk as you might when making merangues.
fold the egg whites into the chocolate mix, with a slotted spoon but be careful not to beat out the air.
Turn into a 8” greased tin and crumble over a few more amaretti biscuits to make a topping. bake for 30 minutes at 180C. turn the oven off and let the cake sit for a further 15 to dry it out. Remove to a baking tray and cool a little.
You could serve this warm.
It’s especially good when the centre is still quite wet and tempting. one of my customers had a slice, and promptly ordered a second, all for himself. that's success.
right-ho, i'm off to make more chutney.