Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Seasonal Change

Me making fruit bars, Lucille Ball style.

Apologies for sporadic posts, I have been busy with a couple of new projects. A book on my favourite condiment of all time - Ketchup; an E-book guide to etiquette and manners, and the other is a gluten-free snack bar I hope to launch before the end of the year. I do love a challenge and if all or none of them work out, I'm really enjoying the process.

The book on manners has been brewing for quite a few years now, the catalyst being a recent disastrous business meeting. Six ( youngish ) grown-ups conducting  a tech start-up marketing meeting with no idea how to make each other comfortable, awkward handshakes, mumbled introductions, it made this old fart cringe watching. A basic idea of etiquette, even in tech-type "new" industries,would have made such a difference to the atmosphere and the outcome of the meeting. 
Having worked in the hospitality industry for a long time, good, no GREAT manners are the key to any successful service based business. Great food is often spoiled by staff being
inattentive and lacking in knowledge. A lot of guests don't know how to be served.
Both of those things come under the umbrella of bad manners, 99% of the time, the restaurant owner's bad manners for failing to hire and train the right staff. And although "the customer is always right" Sometime they're not. Anyway I will save my puffed-up-ness for the book.

I could really re-name this blog All Things Tomato UK, if anyone had a view of my kitchen at the moment. I bought 2 cases of  tomatoes from the market ( the smell is amazing! ) and am busily experimenting with different recipes, in the valiant hope that I can pass the best on on to you gentle reader.

Something that makes me laugh, is the snootiness regarding one of the worlds most popular condiments , check out number 4 too!, a lot of chefs will not allow it anywhere near their food but use it liberally out of sight, after hours.
I'm trying this one from The Guardian first.

Tomato Ketchup
(makes about 2½ litres)

3.3 kg ripe 'seconds' tomatoes – roughly chopped 
1 onion roughly diced
1 head of garlic – peeled and roughly chopped with any of the green shoot removed
110 grams salt
900 grams sugar
600 ml red wine vinegar 
½tsp cayenne pepper or chilli flakes
1 generous tsp whole cloves
½ a nutmeg – grated (added at the end)
Put all the ingredients, apart from the nutmeg, into a large pan and simmer for about three hours.
Take care to stir often so it doesn't catch and burn on the bottom.
Leave to cool slightly before putting the sauce through a food mouli  (or use a food processor and then sieve) and then add the nutmeg.
The ketchup is best stored in small stoppered bottles or small kilner jars that have been sterilised. Sealed correctly, these will keep fine in a cool dark cupboard as you would store jams and chutneys.
Once opened, the individual bottles should be stored in the fridge. It will keep well for up to a month.

I'll let you know how it turns out but do let me know if you decide to give it a go yourself.

The leaves are falling, it's getting frosty in the mornings and we've had the log fire burning. A perfect time to wrap up and sample the delights of Chocolate Week here in the UK.
If you are in London, there are two days of all things chocolate at the Salon Du Chocolate at Olympia West.
Have a great week.

Love food X

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Celery. Raw. Is Good For Your Jaw.

"Celery- raw, is good for your jaw" Ogden Nash.

We go through about 5 bunches of celery a week. FIVE.  It probably seems a little excessive. No-one is on a diet. No-one has a Bloody Mary habit, to my knowledge.
I think we may be crunch addicts though. Mostly it's for classic snacks with either peanut butter or cream cheese but it does go into a lot of my cooking too.

Apart from being a low calorie crunchy vegetable, celery is a hot bed of antioxidant goodness. Not only the usual vitamin C, manganese and beta-carotene, it also contains many phytonutrients from the phenol category that are proven to be anti-inflammatory and therefore can help to undo the damage caused by stress, exposure to toxins and acute and chronic illnesses. 

When I looked for some new recipes using celery as the main ingredient, interesting ones were few and far between. Lots for celeriac but not many for good ol' celery.
One of my favourites is a classic from Jane Grigson, adapted by Delia Smith for 
Poached Celery with Pheasant , a lovely softly flavoured, one pot dish, perfect for a Sunday 

Another classic, the Waldorf Salad.This simple apple salad got its name from the luxurious Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. Invented in 1896 not by a chef but by the maître d'hôtel Oscar Tschirky, the Waldorf salad was an instant success. As often happens, many variations evolved—some with raisins, some with chopped nuts. This one has green apples and red seedless grapes. This one from Epicurious serves 6 as a starter.

Waldorf Salad
  • 2/3 cup dried tart cherries*
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 4 Granny Smith apples, cored, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 1/3 cups very thinly sliced celery
  • 1 1/3 cups red seedless grapes, halved
  • Romaine/ Cos lettuce leaves
  • pecans
Soak cherries in 1 cup boiling water until softened, about 10 minutes. Drain.Whisk mayonnaise and next 3 ingredients in large bowl. Add apples, celery, grapes and cherries; toss. Season with salt and pepper.Arrange lettuce on platter. Spoon salad over. Top salad with pecans.*Sold at specialty foods stores, natural foods stores and some supermarkets.
You should definitely have a go at making your own celery salt, really easy and the method can be used with different herbs. Serve piles of the bright green salt with soft boiled quail eggs and icy glasses of Manzanilla, perfect  on a summer's evening.
From 101 Cooks Homemade Celery Salt

Love Food X

Friday, 11 July 2014

Venison, My Dear.


Okay. Venison is the Anna Wintour of meats. Rich, very lean and for some, very scary. The thought of eating deer, or any game, rabbit, pheasant, wild boar can bring on the instant heebie jeebies in even the most committed carnivores.

From Jane Grigson's English Food,
"Game animals and birds are man's oldest food as far as meat is concerned. The deer swimming across the river painted on the walls of Lascaux, the bones in in every Paleolithic excavation, are evidence of that. The surprising thing is that deer in particular who can become tame and biddable, have never been fully domesticated. Sheep, goats, cattle, dogs have all become part of human society over the best part of 9,000 years. Why were deer ignored by Neolithic farmers, when venison had been the most widely eaten meat in Paleolithic and Mesolithic times? The bones of red deer have been found in 95% of European sites: in southern parts this means a period of 50,000 years."

The thing to consider especially if you are concerned with where your food comes from ( and who isn't? ) - is how the animals that you eat are treated.
In the UK, we have an abundance of wild deer, the population in Scotland alone is estimated at close to a million, with no natural predators,hunting and preparing your own is an option. There are an increasing number of commercial deer farms that are engaged in ethical and sustainable meat production and that may be the easier way to go. The leanness of the venison is very appealing to many but much like kangaroo in Australia, the fashion for venison goes up and down like hemlines.

Using venison sausages, this dish is the perfect introduction for people that are not so familiar with eating game, as it is not too overpowering but has a very pleasing depth of flavour.
The redcurrant jelly adds a mellow sweetness to the dish but you could substitute that with a well sieved orange marmalade or fruit conserve if you don’t have any redcurrant jelly handy. Although this recipe is for four, it can be easily doubled for a crowd and would work well as a Sunday lunch, without too much stress. Serve with wilted spinach and lashings of buttery mashed potatoes.

Venison Sausages with Mushrooms and Red Wine
Serves 4
1 tablespoon dried mushrooms ( porcini, chanterelles or a wild mushroom mix)
1 tbsp olive oil
8 venison sausages
6 shallots or 1 medium sized onion, cut into quarters
200 grams  chestnut or baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
25 grams butter
½ tablespoon plain flour
1 heaped tablespoon of Dijon mustard
1 large glass of good red wine
1 sprig rosemary or thyme
2 tablespoons redcurrant jelly

salt and pepper

Put the dried mushrooms in a small bowl, cover with boiling water and put aside to leave to soak.
Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed casserole and brown the sausages and the shallots all over. Remove and set aside.
Pour off the excess fat from the pan so that you are left with about 1 tablespoon.  Turn down the heat, add the garlic and the fresh mushrooms and cook for a few minutes.
Gently stir in the flour, cook for about a minute, then add the wine and mustard.
Strain off the mushroom soaking liquid and add to the pan. Add all the dried mushrooms to the pan. Return the sausages and the shallots  to the pan add the rosemary, redcurrant jelly, then season. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to a very gentle simmer. Cook the sausages for a further 20 minutes. The cooking juices will reduce and thicken during this time, add a little water or a splash of wine if needed.. Taste, and adjust seasoning if necessary. Scatter with chopped parsley if you have some and serve straight away.

Love Food X

Monday, 19 May 2014

Menu Monday 19th May

What a week. I had tears and tantrums and an embarrassing encounter concerning a pool table trick, an osteopath, and a retro ladygarden. All mine. How was yours? 
This week is National Vegetarian Week in the UK and my girls have asked if we can participate. Nightmare. Now don't get me wrong, I am a big vegetable fan and we usually have a couple of meatless meals every week, but I do think you have to have a good source of fresh produce and not everyone is lucky enough to be near a farmer's market or fabulous greengrocer. Maybe a veg box delivery service could be the answer for people that don't.

This one Kitty made yesterday and we are having it tonight Spicy Chickpea Stew, probably with some rice and pita bread.

Busy day for all of us and I will be dashing out to my new Tai Chi class before dinner, woohoo, so it will be Tomato and Red Pepper soup and Jalepeno Cornbread from the freezer.

One of my favourites,  Mushrooms on Toast and maybe a tomato and red onion salad on the side.

I'm not a big fan of vegetarian dishes that try to mimic meat dishes, you know the soy mince, fake bacon etc, I'd rather have a baked potato. But I think we might have a go at these,
Epic Crispy Quinoa Burgers, you eat them with the sweet potatoes fries INSIDE the burger! Epic indeed!

We would normally have fish, but tonight I think I'll just see what veg is looking good and treat it like fish, steamed or pan fried and served with lots of lemon juice and herb butter. Think asparagus, courgettes and char grilled peppers, maybe even add some shards of Parmesan and some good sourdough bread

Enjoy the week ahead and I hope you try some veggie dishes as main courses

For more inspiration, take a look at OrgJunkie

Love Food X

Monday, 12 May 2014

Menu Monday 12th May

I'm happy to be back to a normal week at last! Still waiting for some sunny weather to arrive but the gardens are looking glorious despite the constant drizzle we've been having in my part of the world. Really looking forward to getting the BBQ out one day soon... Have a great week and good cooking!


A little bit of effort , but worth it for this #MeatlessMonday, Quinoa, red rice, black lentil and spicy cauliflower salad.


A quick Chicken Caesar salad before an epic badminton re-match ( long story...)

I'm going to make double the quantity of this classic stew so that I have a meal to serve for Sunday lunch as well, a lovely Lancashire Hotpot .

Loads of good quality and good value asparagus around so a spaghetti, pea and asparagus dinner will be easy, fresh and tasty. Add some frizzled chorizo if you want some spice.

Fish this Friday is salmon as my fishmonger has a good deal going. This is Gordon Ramsay's version of Salmon en Croute . I must confess, several times I have used the ready made one from Aldi, it's good and a total bargain at around £5. Add a big green salad and you won't be disappointed.

Have a brilliant and peaceful week and for more inspiration check out OrgJunkie .

Love food x


Monday, 7 April 2014

Menu Monday 7th April

April Showers

Another busy week. I've done a course that made me really use my brain and a Manic Street Preachers gig that made me shake ma booty, all good. Glad I made some soup for the freezer last week as along with those April showers, comes a nip in the air so a bowl of soup still goes down a treat. Not long until Easter, can't wait for a break and some serious relaxation. Have a great week and here's the plan!

#MeatlessMonday but still delicious will be homemade Butternut Squash Soup with
Cheesy Jalepeno Pull Apart Bread .

Take one Roast Chicken, I serve mine with brown rice from my family food post.

A really simple dish of John Dory with lemon butter sauce and a tomato and onion salad.

We'll be having the leftover chicken and rice, turned into special fried rice by adding finely chopped ginger, garlic, chilli and a couple of eggs and a good glug of soy sauce and whatever greens that are in the fridge.

Friends over for dinner, we're doing a bit of a cider tasting so think I might drag out the old fondue pot for a some Cheesy fun.

 Have a brilliant and joyful week and for more menu inspiration visit OrgJunkie.

Love Food X

Monday, 31 March 2014

Menu Monday 31st of March

The clocks have "sprung" forward this weekend and the evenings will be getting longer, can't wait for full on BBQ season to start properly. I plan big things in the smoking and marinade department and am collecting some funky herbs and spices, will keep you posted. In the meantime, here's what's happening food-wise in our neck of the woods.

We're getting an early crop of very nice aubergines/eggplants from Spain in my local market so #Meatless Monday is a classic Egg Plant Parmigiana .


Tasty, speedy and easy to make Lamb and Pea Keema Curry have with rice or naan bread.


Main course salad, quick to throw together, White Bean, Chorizo and Herb Salad, chunk of crusty bread, done!


I have today off so I'll be making stock for future soups etc and actually have time to make 2 courses for tonight. Starting with Persian Duck with Walnuts and finishing with gorgeous and seasonal  Rhubarb Crumble.


Making burgers. Grilled fish, homemade tartare sauce served on oven- bottom Barms, shredded iceberg lettuce and tonnes of sweet pickled beetroot!

Have a great week and for more inspiration visit OrgJunkie 

Love Food X

Monday, 24 March 2014

Menu Monday 24th March

Get Fresh

After a brilliant weekend away playing with friends, laughing way too loud on public transport and learning more than I ever thought possible about cranes, I'm ready to tackle another week of the baffling and delicious stuff the universe sends me. Hope you are ready too! 


For Meatless Monday today the Greek classic feta and spinach pie, Spanakopita is perfect. If you can't find filo pastry, I know it's not authentic but I put the mixture into a pie dish and top with ready rolled puff pastry. Not "perfect" but still delicious. 


An easy one pot dish from Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall, Chicken with Tomatoes and Tarragon, served with nutty brown rice, cooked while the chicken is roasting away.


Home late tonight,so some super quick pasta!
Peppered Smoked Mackerel Pasta
500 grams of dried pasta, best with shell types to catch the sauce. 
150 - 200 grams smoked, peppered mackerel, skinned removed and broken into chunks
100 ml single cream,
 handful of spinach and/or frozen peas
squeeze of lemon juice
Cooked the pasta as per directions on pack, drain.
Put the cream in the pot on a medium heat while pasta is
draining. Add the fish and frozen peas, simmer for a minute or two.
Throw the pasta back in the pot with the sauce and add the spinach, 
heat through and add lemon juice, taste, adjust seasoning and serve.
Any leftovers are brilliant served cold for take to work/ school lunches.


Putting the kids in charge of tonight, a simple and delicious tortilla, Spanish Omelette with some bread and  salad. Ole'!


Bit of a fancy date night dinner, Pan-fried Sea Trout with Spinach Puree, Spring Vegetables and Sauce Vierge . 
Serving that with the first of the seasons glass of rose', maybe a cheeky large bottle .

Have a great week and for more ideas visit OrgJunkie 

Monday, 17 March 2014

Menu Monday

Deep in Pink Thought..

Monday has a bad rep but I really do love the start of a new week and the chance to do it all over again but better and bigger and with a little bit more throwdown!! I hope your week starts the way you want it to, here's the menu plan. 


My kids tell me I've been" living under a rock "cos I hadn't heard of pizza dough made out of cauliflower, Doh. It's all kinda Paleo and Low Carb and it looks delicious and perfect for Meatless Monday, Cauliflower Pizza Crust-with-Roasted Vegetablesand GoatCheese.   
Let me know what you think of it if you give it a try.


This is quite similar to a dish of mine but I love apricots  so I'll give this a try,  Saffron Chicken with Apricots and Cardamom


Even though I should really wait till the summer to make these , I have a major craving for one of my favourite dishes, Piedmontese Peppers and serve them with piles of good sour dough bread to mop up the yummy juices.


Friends over for dinner so it's one of Nigella's recipes an easy one pot wonder, Coq au Riesling, chicken in white wine with mushrooms.


Going to the movies tonight so a quick batch of Fish Tacos, I shorten the length of the marinade to the time that takes me to shower and put on some slap!

Friday Night Cocktail would have to be a marvelous Margarita.

Have a great week and for more ideas visit OrgJunkie . 

Love Food X

Monday, 10 March 2014

Menu Monday

Menu Monday
I'm old Mother Hubbard today. I went to the cupboard, no bone for the poor dog,nada for us, just a whole lot of bare happening. So it's off to the shops and the fruit and veg market, so happy the sun is shining and spring really is in the air! Hope it's fab where you are too. Here's this weeks menu.

Monday -  Keeping to Meatless Monday and thankfully my girls are fans of both spice and veggies. We will be having Black Bean and Vegetable Burritos but will be swapping the Monterey Jack for cheddar.

Tuesday - The pickled veg are great with these Vietnamese Grilled Pork Skewers and cucumbers are 4 for £1 in my local market at the moment, result!

Wednesday - I get home late most Wednesdays so it's a quick stir-fry of udon noodles, broccolini, ginger, chicken  and kecap manis. But after dinner I'll make the Labneh for tomorrow night.

Thursday -  Bulgar Wheat and Spinach Pilaf with Labneh , great recipe, add a platter of grilled lamb chops and it makes a perfect spread for a crowd.

Friday -  I made this last week, well worth the effort, repeating Ottolenghi's  Codcakes in Tomato Sauce .
Friday night cocktail, the Lemon Gingertini .

Have a great week.

Love food X

For more menus visit Orgjunkie

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

5 Cool Gifts For Mother's Day

Mother's Day Top 5 Gifts
"My Mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it" Mark Twain

Mother's Day in the UK is on the 30th of March this year, are you prepared? Are you tired of giving the same old presents to your Mum every year? Well I bet she's a bit sick of petrol station chrysanthemums and the daggy nighties from M & S but way too sweet to say anything..  Check these little giftlets out and hopefully they might inspire you a wee bit.

I'll have 5000 yuan on the West Wind !

1. Mahjong Set
I have always been fascinated by Mahjong. Full of west winds, red dragons, kongs, pungs and chows it seemed full of magic to me and you can play for money!
Mahjong is a Chinese game of skill, strategy, and calculation. Researchers have recently developed a form of healing using Mahjong, as they believe that playing the game is beneficial for individuals suffering from dementia, cognitive and memory difficulties but that's probably better kept to yourself....
Buy beautiful vintage ones on Ebay for between £10 and £40 or new one from game suppliers such as fruugo  for around £60.
Antique Mahjong Set on Ebay

2. Home Brewing Kit
There has been a boom in microbreweries in the last few years, nearly 200 started brewing last year and over 1500 are now operating in the UK. Although female brewers are at the forefront, it's not a new thing, even Jane Austen was happily ensconced making a few brewskis in between writing novels back in the 1800's. I wrote about my Dad's home brewing here in 2012, he's been doing it for over 50 years and he'll chew your ear off with his money saving stats and hops to barley ratios but as well as saving you money, brewing your own is fun and I'm sure a lot of Mums would love to give it a go.  Check out CAMRA for brewing information and Muntons for kits, although there are loads of different great sites around. Basic kits start from £55.

She Bangs!

3. African Drum Lessons

How epic would this be?? Unleash your beats in an African drum circle! Courses are quite readily available worldwide, you can even do them via Skype. Great fun, uplifting and affordable.Gift vouchers are available in £10 increments from the  London African Drumming in the City of London.

Tim Ferris as Curator

4. Quarterly Co.
Quarterly Co is a subscription service for wonderful things. You can subscribe to a curator such as Tim Ferris, Bill Nye, The Cool Hunter, Jordin Sparks and others, to receive a box of items selected from that curator. A sample of one contained amongst other things, a microscope, Mexican jumping beans, magic tricks and a piece of wood that sells for $25,000 a pound - oudh.

 It's a drop-dead smell, very complex, honey, fresh tobacco, spices, amber, cream. ... Incredibly strong, first of all. It knocks you over, clubs you like a falling stone. But its vast dimension is what astonishes: a huge smell, spatially immense, and incredibly complex, a buttery layer as deep as a quarry…
Oudh grows inside a particular species of evergreen tree in south Asia. When the fungus attacks the tree, its wood becomes dark and resinous. Oudh is arguably the most-highly prized ingredient for perfume makers and a pound can cost as much as $25,000 (making it over six time more costly than high-grade medical cannabis).
What mother wouldn't want some of that?!

5. Fungi To Be With.
Fungi to Be With, is dedicated to "connecting the Greater London public to the natural environment through the magical world of fungi". They provide educational walks and workshops about all things mushroomy, or to put it correctly, all things Mycological. A great combo of being social and learning something about the world of foraging. Gift vouchers are priced at £25 for a foray .

If none of the above float your boat, as a mother myself, the presents don't matter but my kids being present really does.
Oh and I wouldn't mind somebody cooking me dinner, craving a bit of sunshine, this looks nice doesn't it? .

Love your Mum, Love Food X


British by Google There's always an avalanche of articles published in the new year with predictions of the food and drink that...