Friday, January 29, 2010

DINNER ON THE CHEAP. and perfect rice.

Dinner on the cheap can be great. I usually opt for Indian variations as there is so much that can be done with some lentils and a cup of rice. The key here though is in a well stocked spice cupboard. I still have pots that I brought back from India that are so fragrant and unlike what gets imported to the UK: the cardamom seeds are bright green and the mustard seeds are big and black. They take me straight back to the good times. And you really can never have too many cumin seeds in the kitchen.

The other night therefore, I made a sweet and sharp dhal, with coriander rice and a red onion raita. But RICE. Rice is hard to do. I have to really challenge myself. The natural instinct for me is to rush things, and get impatient. This does not lend well to rice cooking, which is all about patience and quiet confidence. It should be light and airy and in the case of basmati, each strand should be separate. There shouldn't be a burnt bottom to your pan, and the ratio of water to rice should be such that you never need to drain it. It's a holy grail. Last night however, the rice turned out just right. Here's the thing:

for 2 people

1 cup of basmati rice
1 1/2 cups of water
1 tbsp whole coriander seeds
a generous pinch of salt.

Measure out the rice and water into a medium saucepan. Place this on a high heat until it reaches the boil. Now turn the heat down to low. When you can no longer see any water, place a lid on the pan and turn the heat off. Leave the pan to sit for at least 20 minutes. Only at this point do you mix the rice.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

MEDICINE CAKES. for when everything else aches

January frankly, has been hard work. No holiday. No warmth. No joy to be honest. The culmination came today. I didn't get out of bed til midday. To remedy my morose state I decided that there was only one thing to do: turn up my favourite new record (Fionn Regan The Shadow of an Empire) and make some cakes. These aren't just any cakes. They are seriously medicinal cakes packed with sweetness and lidded with unctuous gloopy winter toppings. I'm keeping the recipes for my next book, so this is just to whet your appetite!

First up was a new super chocolatey cupcake. The cake is made with callets and cocoa, the topping a dark chocolate ganache, and finally pipped with a pound shop bon bon.

The next cakes were a date recipe I've been hoarding for ages topped with sticky toffee.

Now I'm going to put on The 2 Bears Ministry of Sound Radio show and make some curry. Things are getting better.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


First stop was The Ginger Pig to see Charlie. He sliced us off a dark and well hung beef fillet tail for our thai salad, wrapped a lovely french rack of lamb (that I'll be roasting on Tuesday for Grazia) and we chatted about the woes of a blunt knife in the kitchen. Check out Charlie's Blog for insider butchery knowledge here.

Next was the oyster search. We are making Friday nights in, with these slippy friends, an institution. We tried the more formal stops like Applebees. Generally the going rate for oysters here is £1. Then, harking back to a skiving Friday about 4 years ago, we retraced our old steps to Richard Haward's Oyster table. Back then we held hands nervously and gorged on shots of shell fish. Yesterday we confidently ordered our spoils, and for 80p a pop. Not bad, so long as you own a good shucking knife.

By this point feeling a bit faint, we ordered some lovely fruity drinks from The Organic Juice bar, and had a really nice chat with the owner. He told us the history of his back bar, and we got more Borough top tips from a veteran.

Pretty good for a Friday. Dinner was delicious and a stuffing three courses. A market trip, a good dinner and an early night makes January more bearable - and comes highly recommened!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


You know those days when you have an odd collection of foods in your kitchen, and you don't quite know what to do? Seeing the wood from the trees can be hard. I had just this the other day, and my Dad was due for lunch within the hour. Leftover peas with chilli and cumin, and seemingly not a lot else. This is the time to start foraging in the back of the fridge. Luckily I found a big old jar of standard black olives. Within minutes the cogs were ticking and I'd found half a jar of oily anchovies. I whizzed these up with a cornichon to make a paste to smear on the remaining ciabatta. A bit like a tapenade.

With the left over peas, I tossed in some shredded round lettuce leaves that were also hiding in the fridge. Topped with some friendly boiled eggs to nestle on top (it's always good to have some eggs around for these times) it was a verdant treat.

And thanks to Charlotte P, we had a few delicious Victoria Passion fruit sponge slices. It was really rather good, all left overs considered, and proof you don't always need to drop another £20 in the shops to have a nice lunch. No wastage either. Hurrah.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

BOB BOB RICARD OFF THE CUFF, even if the bill is a bit rough

We went to Bob Bob Ricard the other night. It was impromptu, after a few beers with some of the Crystal Palace football team (I've never met a footballer or been to a match, but am now rather tempted by both. They were lovely.) So there we were, hungry, on a cold night in Soho. Bob Bob Ricard was our first port of call. I've been meaning to go here for ages as there was an amazing review about a year ago, selling the all day serving of breakfast, lunch and dinner (a massive selling point if you like eggs benedict at any hour of the day like me.)

We had the most lovely service, hilarious back ground conversations to over hear - a mistress stamping her foot at her lover, and him sucking her neck and cornering her in the boothe - and a delicious dinner. It's bloody expensive but really you can not fault Bob Bob Ricard on any level. The shepherd's Pie was as if dreamt by the gods. If you imagine how you want your perfect pie to be, this is it: a sweet rich gravy, chunks of meat, tender peas, and a perfect moussy potato topping. Raf had a burger so attentively cooked, that it made my teeth ache with longing. But on top of this, it's the detail that really makes this place. Each booth has the BBR emblem, the milk jug, tea strainer and place mats were all the perfect design and demeanor for the joint.

This is a place to go and get your monies worth. You'll feel special and tended and though not blown away by the actual menu, what was on offer was utterly faultless. Go for a treat, but make sure, like my neighbouring girl, you have yeilding sugar daddy.

Monday, January 11, 2010

ANOTHER DAY another date

I dreamt of dates all night. It's probably because I bought date syrup yesterday and it really got me rooting around for recipes using it. I found, what today has turned out to be, a delicious cake recipe on a blog called divinetaste, which is well worth taking a meander around. Mine came out softer I think, but fingers crossed it'll fly off the cake shelf tomorrow.

I made a few alterations to the divinetaste model, mostly obviously, that in the topping, instead of just using butter and sugar, i added the date syrup again. It was delicious and toffee like and got more and more sticky as it cooled. I highly recommend you give this cake a go.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


After a busy Friday night out and about around London town (a classy combo of Fabric followed by Tinseltown) , I wanted to make a wholesome meal for friends on Saturday night. Luckily I'd ordered a rack of Lamb. It took minutes to roast and was melt in the mouth buttery good. Although this cut of meat may seem a bit expensive, it's really worth the investment. And if you allow your guests to get hands on with it, everyone will be clutching bones by the end of the meal, with messy but happy faces. I would have taken some pictures of the finished product, but trying to hold everyone back for devouring the rack proved too hard. Added to this, our friend Rosie, a new candidate in the meat eating world after 15 years vegetarianism, took down 2 massive pieces, so it must have been alright!

After that we had a winter pudding of poached pears with a lid of almonds and a sweet brown flour. The edges crisped up real nice, slightly biscuity and full of crunch. But the middle of the pudding was sweet and wet and full of comfort, especially good, off set by the swanky Creme Fraiche that I bought from the wholefood shop in a daze. My heavy hungover bags proved to be a real treat.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


It's hard to add more.

After The XX sculpture show at Phonica we headed out with The 2 Bears and co, and had the most satisfying china town meal at Leong's Legend.

They are AMAZING and they do really explode in your mouth, rich with ginger and salt, stocky soup and a nugget of firm pork.

There were lots of dried chillies, belly pork in a thick almost bisto like gravy, and this epic sticky stack of meaty mushroomy rice. Just home for the darts now.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


This is a recipe I've been meaning to try out for ages. My mum usually brings me one in an old cake tin when she comes up to London, and we sit around drinking tea and usually polish the lot off. I'm now kicking myself that I didn't try to bake it sooner, as it's super easy and it seems I managed to replicate her's to the T. This is always a relief. And it seemed just the right thing to make today, as it's wet and comforting with a little ginger kick to ward off the snow. You could definitely also serve this as a pudding cake with some creme fraiche on the side. Tomorrow I'm going to do it again with a generous dusting of cocoa powder on the top...


Grease a spring form cake tin and heat the oven at 170C.

Melt together the butter, treacle and sugar, so that the latter has dissolved. Give it a good whisk as the butter slightly seperates. Leave this to cool for 10 minutes. Now beat in the dry goods - the flour, baking powder, ginger and currants. It should look silky. Finally beat in the egg and then the water. Turn the batter like cake mix out into the greased tin and place in the oven for 1 hour. I actually did it for a little less and the center of the cake was lovely and gooey.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

BLACK RICE AND EDEMAME SALAD, good with a smoked mackerel fillet

This is the perfect antidote to Christmas.

Finely chop cucumber and spring onions. Make a dressing with honey, lots of wasabi, lemon juice, fish sauce, soy sauce and cooking wine.

Boil chinese black rice and also a good handful of edemame beans. Pod these.

Monday, January 4, 2010

SAKE NO HANA, Sunday supper like mana

After all this festivity and loads of work in the pre christmas run up, I found myself pretty exhausted and very much in need of some cleansing foods. Thank god for Alan, that's Alan Yau, the man behind Sake No Hana. This is exactly the sort of food I need after mince pies on the hour, every hour. Whilst the decor of the place does make one want to don a pin stripe suit a bit, the service was really lovely and in a good way, made me want to be more ladylike.

As the waitresses elegantly tip toed around us, we chose from a small but very appealing menu. The prices were varied, some things seeming very cheap (especially the yellow tail sashimi and a buttery aubergine dish with sesame paste) and others were deservedly pricey (a filling and sweet miso black cod with rice).

I don't go out to eat sushi in order to chat. Or to labour over it for hours with friends. I go for a shear indulgent hit. To spend a Sunday night treating ourselves with the guessing games of flavours (what is the green paste that accompanies the soft shell crab salad?) and the other world that makes for the art of Sushi was an absolute pleasure.

Each dish brought a new surprise of the unknown in texture, scent and savour, so much so that it made me high on my own senses. There were amazing leaves surrounding the sashimi that tasted hot, felt prickly and left a tingle. And the sashimi did exactly what I wanted it to do: melted down my throat and made my head wobble with delight. But the best part of all, is that our bill was reduced by 40%, thanks to toptable so even the finale was pleasure. Polished off with a coffee at Bar Italia, the first Sunday of the year couldn't have got much better.