Friday, June 30, 2006


What a fabulous idea! Square Pie are holding a World Cup Pie competition. For each team in the world cup they have created a pie in their honour to accompany their normal menu. For example England has 'Steak & onions in ale', Australia has a 'Kangaroo pie' and Argentina has 'Corned beef, onion & potato'. They are available on the day that the relevant matches are taking place. Each of the world cup pies sold is equivalent to a goal and the most goal-scoring pie will win the competition. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to partake of this fine feast but if I think I’d plump for the French one - Beef bourgonion (though I think I'd spell it Beef Bourguignon!) It will be interesting to see who wins the world cup this year, England won in 2002 and I believe they are favourite again (I do mean pie and not football team here - I am not dillusional!)

Gary reaches new heights

I had the indubitable pleasure of a high-rise feast at Rhodes24 today. We shared the modern, elegant room with plenty of pink shirts overlooking the bustling city below. The odd sculpture keeps the décor understandably understated with just the fabulous views for embellishment. I have always been a huge fan of Gary Rhodes’ cooking and felt particularly since the travesty of him being knocked out of the Great British menu competition by Atul Kotcher’s Indian food (don’t get me started) that a visit was due. The website has been under construction for much too long so the delights that awaited us were a surprise. I have a momentary fear that the Jaffa Cake pudding would have been retired but I needn’t have worried.
It was as stunning as ever. There were many options on the minimalist menu I could have happily consumed and I am surprised that he hasn’t reinstated his tasting menu but a decision is made. My starter is lobster thermidor risotto which comes in the dinkiest copper pan accompanied by a kind of biscuit. It is so rich and supremely delicious. I had been intrigued when my order of risotto meant that I was given a spoon but it all made sense. This wasn’t an over sized white bowl of waves of unctuous rice with bits of lobster on top but just a perfect little pan of creamy, cheesy gorgeousness. Just perfection in every mouthful! My main course was rosy pink veal accompanied by a copper pan of truffled macaroni cheese and entirely unnecessary but greedily supplemented by another copper pan, this time of the infamous Rhodes mash potato. Mmmm, mmmm, mmmm. It is all so simple but stunning. I am truly in awe of this kind of cooking. Everything seems so uncomplicated but the layers of flavour belie the incredible construction of each dish. Even though we could barely eat another mouthful we managed to share the Jaffa Cake pudding. All I can say is that the Queen was robbed!

update: I managed to visit the fabulous Rhodes 24 again, have exactly the same menu - well if it's not broken why fix and here are the pictures... the chocolate UFOs are my favourite!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Peas please!

We went out for a few beers (and in my case Pimm’s) after work tonight. We sent the Kiwi to order some food and he dutifully ordered a platter of wings, spring rolls, and scampi etcetera accompanied by chips and wedges. However his accent coupled by the lack of potato wedges on the meant that we were delivered a bowl of veggies! And this turned out to be a bowl of carrot slices, shredded (and overcooked) cabbage and peas. How they expected us to share a bowl of peas remained a mystery. Needless to say they remained pretty much untouched.

C'est la vie

Another client meal but as I got to choose the restaurant, I plumped for Café Rouge (funnily enough just round the corner from Wagamamma’s). And a fine choice it was as well. We started off with some fat garlic doughy bread sticks just swimming in a garlicky butter. I had the chicken liver parfait again with the red onion and plum chutney (if it ain’t broke…). And despite the lure of the steak, I plumped for a Paupiette de Poulet which is a chicken breast stuffed with Brie, wrapped in jambon cru served with lovely fluffy risolée potatoes, French beans and an oregano & mustard sauce. Very good choice! And we share a yummy chocolate dessert and the crème brûlée. The service was a little slow, obviously keeping up with the French bistro theme, but I couldn’t fault the food. Not an elegant gourmet meal but fine reliable bistro fare, it can’t be beaten. Well I guess we could be in France and we could have accompanied it all with a fruity glass of red or two, but instead we have to go back to work and it all gets washed down with Evian instead. C’est la vie!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Life is a bowl of cherries

I have a late appointment at Canary Wharf and pop to Waitrose Food and Home for some food. I am drawn inexplicably to the home wares section and stumble on a rather lovely new line – Sophie Conran’s new range of crockery for Portmeirion. I can hear voices in my head saying that I don’t need any more plates but I ignore them and go for a dinner plate, side plate and bowl. Was has attracted me is that they have pleasing concentric ridges (a very rustic version of the new Gordon Ramsay’s Royal Doulton crockery) but also a slightly misshapen appearance which is very pleasing. I will have to demote something from the crockery cupboard as there really is no room at the inn, but I am sure I can find a small gap. I think the succulent Waitrose cherries look very happy in my new bowl too.

The final wing!

H’s bump demanded it’s favourite feast of KFC hot wings today. The bump has been craving a wider variety of foodstuffs in the last month or so, but occasionally harks back to its staple diet during its first trimester. Curiously both H and I decided that the wings didn’t settle well and declare a moratorium on all things from the hallowed portals of the Colonel, at least for the time being. D, MC & T declared a similar thought recently. It all tasted just a little bit greasy and the heavy feeling lingered all afternoon. I’ve never been a regular visitor but it’s always been a very occasional meal when fast food is required and those thirteen special herbs and spices call me. But no not today, one of those thirteen made me feel decidedly odd and I can’t see the craving returning for a long time. Ah well RIP KFC, it was good knowing you.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Saturday Decisions - Cooks or Kitchen?

Well AWT has departed to pastures new – the dark side perhaps and his spot has been filled with James Martin. Hmmm, what to watch? In the interests of academic study I watched both the new AWT offering (Saturday Cooks) and the new Saturday Kitchen on BBC1 with James. I always enjoyed having Saturday Kitchen on in the background of a Saturday morning – perfect to potter to. I’d normally pay attention to the Gary Rhodes exerts and less so to Delia and of course – no adverts! Now that Anthony has switched channels you’ve got much better prizes to the frankly embarrassingly easy competition (no change there then!) but there are so many breaks and of course ITV don’t have this huge back catalogue of excellent cookery shows so it’s more AWT and his guests and adverts instead! James has a new slot of a guest (celebrity) eater who regales us with food reminiscence, very dull if you’re not interested in the guest and at the end the viewers choose the final meal – either Heaven or Hell for the guest. The only thing that really surprised me about that is that ITV have a new Sunday morning magazine/cooking show that has exactly the same feature with exactly the same name. Spooky! AWT has a new twist on the viewers’ choice at the end of the show and the chefs’ ingredients are selected by a one armed bandit (fruit machine not an injured Mexican) to spice it up a little. The bandit selected soy sauce for all three chefs (maybe they had overbought on soy and had a glut) and the two guest chefs Jean-Christophe Novelli and Brian Turner were selected exactly the same ingredients. Double spooky!
I think I’m leaning to the BBC offering but I may record both and fast forward through the ads and/or celebrity chit-chat if required. Thank God for Sky+.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Sex on a stick!

It was the cook book club at the Blue Print Café again and this time as a hopeful nod to summer season, it was a barbeque. Charles Campion was presenting some tasty morsels from his new cookbook Food from Fire and lubricated with lashings of Champagne, we were fed extremely well. No burnt offerings, no sausages (not that I would have complained) and no dry up excuses of beef burgers. I can honestly say that the chicken livers skewered onto rosemary branches and lightly seared so that the insides were like the finest liver parfait were so unbelievably sublime I felt they should come with a health warning. Be still my beating heart! And a huge surprise was that the goat’s cheese was actually okay, nowhere near as good as most of the other food, but very edible nonetheless! The lamb was fabulous and charred from the sticky marinade and the Stinking Bishop and Gooseberry Fool were also seriously good. That’s another dessert that I wouldn’t have ever chosen as I’ve never been particularly partial to gooseberry but Jeremy Lee yet again performed some alchemy and produced a light, cleansing and zingy pudding. Well done Jeremy!
Worcestershire spare ribs
Malay chicken tikka
Rosemary chicken livers
Asofoetida kebabs
Devilled kidneys
Goat’s cheese in vine leaf parcels
Salt bath Sardines
Butterflied shoulder of lamb served with roast beets and horseradish cream, fattoush salad with grilled English asparagus
Stinking Bishop cheese
Gooseberry fool served with Auntie Lena’s Ginger Biscuits

And it didn’t rain! I can’t normally experience a barbeque without rain. Charles said that this was posh barbeque food; maybe it wouldn’t dare rain on a posh barbeque!


A client lunch beckons at Wagamamas. Not my favourite option considering my thoughts on noodles. I have enough of them wafting over from the flame haired H’s desk, slimy looking things with a very distinctive (and in my opinion) synthetic, nasty smell. I feel I have to do some research so I don’t go hungry or rush out of the restaurant screaming. After a glance at the Wagama website I opt for the mandarin, chicken and sesame seed salad. It sounds mostly harmless avoiding the twin evils of rice and noodles albeit rather dull. The duck in a dipping sauce (duck gyoza) sounds okay and does come recommended, I can’t see anything else that isn’t really me so dull chicken salad it is. I’ve had two lovely salads this week made by my own fair hands and somehow I think these will be the finest salads I eat this week. Well onward to new food experiences, this is what it is supposed to be about. H recommended a chicken ramen which is chicken and noodles in a thin broth. She declares is not really tasting of anything, which seems a rather odd recommendation. Bring on that bowl of hot slimy stuck that tastes of well, nothing. No, I don’t think so! It turns out that my initial reservations were right, it’s not an ideal place for a client lunch as it’s a little noisy. The salad was too soy and vinegary and also bland and boring. The duck was very nice though and if forced to visit Wagamama’s again, this is all I am having. The pineapple ice lolly for dessert was really refreshing also and took away that soy taste that I didn’t like. No sorry to all the bowls of noodles lovers, this is not making my top ten, not even top one hundred. Though never fear, I hope to have some fine food from the fire tonight!

Saturday, June 17, 2006


I know I shouldn't have but I was 'forced' to by a new frying pan at the Taste of London festival. I could blame the intriguing pink champagne/red wine/cider and excessive meat combo but honestly... I'm just weak! It has a removable handle which is black and silver (can you see how I was seduced?!) and is certainly lighter than it's predecessor. My largest, finest Wol has been thwarting me recently. It has decided to abandon all thoughts of being non-stick and just ruin everything that comes close to it. So until it can learn to behave again, I has been retired. RIP Wol, long live BergHOFF! I will be playing close attention to its nonstick-ability. Watch this space!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Beef 3 - Duck 2

I managed to drag my weary bones to the Taste of London in Regent's Park and it was indeed a taste. I was well prepared and had studied the form of the forty exhibitors and awarded 1-3 stars for each dish that tickled my palate. Though I had no intention to try all the starred dishes, as I possibly would have required treatment after that excess. I started with Le Gavroche and chatted to the Masterchef winner (and asked him about Digger Dean as I suspect everyone does!) I had earmarked a very fine looking braised beef in red wine & creamed rooster potatoes and a cheeky little red number from M&S to accompany. I found a bench to dine at and was joined by a couple who were so truly overwhelmed to see Anthony Worrall Thompson that they demanded I minded their bags whilst they had their photos taken with him. They then proceeded to forward these photos to everyone they knew it seemed. I pointed out Tom Aiken hanging around Yauatcha but they didn’t seem as impressed with him (they should taste his food!)
Next I strolled towards Club Gascon and struggled to choose between the two duck dishes but on the recommendation of the rather delicious Pascal Aussignac, I plumped for the homemade duck mousse, baby leaves and hazelnut oil. I did try and discover the fat succulent leaf in the salad, it reminded me of a cactus I used to have. Pascal did tell me what it was but clearly I was so seduced by his French accent and all the rest of him I ended up none the wiser! Nevermind, I was well fed and should there be a duck-tacular 2, I have some new recipes. All very good so far!
After a glass of pink champagne and a bit of a meander, I polished off one Tom Aiken’s recipes beef shin braised in Guinness with pommes puree & roasted parsnips. This turned out to be the star dish of the night; it was truly sublime. Though I should add that everything I had was fantastic and deserved the three stars I’d allocated, Tom just deserved at least four. And I learnt that he’s producing his first cookbook later this year – a visit to is in order. Despite being fairly sure I’d tasted the best dish of the evening, I batted on! Next I stumbled into the Novelli stand, Jean-Christophe Novelli hadn’t been due to appear at the festival but they squeezed a little stand in from which I got a very gorgeous smoked duck & foie gras parfait with cherries. It was getting more and more crowded and I was relieved I’d arrived as the gates opened. The largest queue of the evening seemed to be at Smith’s of Smithfield so I thought I’d better join in and see what all the fuss was about. Personally I didn’t mind the long wait as I was a little full but I managed to squeeze in the rare breed off the Barbie with hand cut chips and béarnaise. I then realised I had had a fine tasting menu of beef, duck, beef, duck and beef – nothing like variety! My fabulous meat feast was rounded off with Valrhona hot chocolate fondue with marshmallows, biscotti and strawberry kebabs from Boxwood Café. Well, I had to get a bit of Gordon in. I ate this watching the cooking demonstration from Jun Tanaka of Pearl and Steve Pooley of Fifteen. I wasn’t able to fit in any of Angela Hartnett or Marcus Wareing’s offerings but I was able to ask Marcus about his cooking a custard tart for the queen experience. I assured him that I’d Sky+’d the actual banquet as it was on at the same time as the festival so I’d catch up with up all at home. I had hoped to commiserate with Angela but she was busy with other visitors. The very lovely Mark Sargeant was lurking around the Gordon emporiums. Hmmm, I hear he’s getting married soon – such a loss! I really enjoyed the show this year, going by myself did mean it was a little easier to find a spot to perch to consume the delicious morsels but it would be great to share also.

Neglected Scallop Shocker!

Whilst in the bath this morning (maybe that's too much information), I realised that I’ve left scallops off THE list! And this is not acceptable! I have two choices, add a 48th (hmmm, I think Simon H. should be consulted, no he has 47 I concede to the master) or bump another ingredient off. So it’s mañana to Mango. After careful consideration my most favourite thing to do with a mango is add it to leaves, torn up balls of mozzarella, rosy pieces of Parma ham and ripped basil. So that recipe can go under Parma Ham or Mozzeralla anyway. Bye bye mango, hello scallops. Crisis over!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

C for miles

I was more selective with my Cs. Not like all those Bs (a veritable hive as D said!), though if I keep this up there are 7 Ms and 10 – count them – Ps! And no I haven’t been sad enough to count them I did a little thing in Excel, hang on – that’s pretty sad also!

- Anyone who knows me knows that come the winter months I mainline cauliflower and cheese soup. I make up a batch with just cauliflower and onion (I like to keep it pure), Bamix it, decant into little square black Tupperware boxes (that took real talent to find black ones!) and try and remember to take it to work for lunch.
- It can always be cauliflower cheese, I think of lamb and whereas others think of mint (a whole post may be dedicated to why that’s just wrong!), I think of cauliflower cheese and I made it for my first ever whole meal on the very first time I planned and executed a special 3 course dinner.
- D & I paraphrased a lovely Jamie Oliver recipe with risotto and cauliflower at Christmas, this was very comforting.

- Chambord Energizer – preferably with Sugar Free Red Bull or you have to be scraped off the ceiling – this has got more than wings, more like a jet propelled rocket pack attached to a roadrunner!
- A French Martini – a classic and everso elegant.
- A fabulous dessert made with fresh raspberries, raspberry and liberally doused with Chambord – very acceptable!

- Like Simon I have many favourites here. There’s nothing really like the pure unadulterated pleasure of ripping bits of a fine still warm roasted chicken and peppering and salting and putting it between two pieces of squashy well buttered white bread. And of course, savouring the oysters. Hmmm, mmmm, mmmm!
- In honour of H and her future wing-ed baby, I would have to add hot-wings! And I also recall H and I demolishing a pile of them late one night in a sports bar in New York, way, way before bump - don’t ask!
- For a dinner party (For S & C I think, as C is rather addicted to black pudding) I once stuffed slices of Irish black pudding under the skin of a plump chicken breast. It was really succulent!

- Oh God, where do I start? I think it would have to be a melting middle chocolate pudding as it’s important to get it right as there’s nothing worse than a melting middle pudding with no melting middle. You feel so cheated, deflated and rather middleless!
- Nigel Slater’s chocolate truffles. I made a ton of these for Comic Relief many years ago and the smell of the warm Valrhona permeated my walls for days afterwards. And I took some to my first Christmas with D & MC (& T, of course!)
- ‘My Very Best Chocolate Cake’ a recipe by Mary Berry that I’ve produced on many occasions and in many sizes. I’ve made them huge – the spectacular Millennium Dome cake with chocolate orange matchmakers as the struts and somehow transported to work on the tube and also a tiny individual heart shaped one for someone once.

- The fabulous crab ring introduced to by Nicky in Normandy and recreated as a terrine as I don’t have a ring shaped mould. If I did it again I could do a heart shaped one now!
- Tamasin Day-Lewis does a fine Potted Crab with a ‘a breath of spiced warmth from the cayenne’.
- I’ve got a really Welsh recipe I’ve been meaning to try - Bacon, Leek and Crab Cawl with Caerphilly Rarebit. Cawl is a kind of creamy stew and sounds very yummy and anything with Welsh Rarebit on the side has got to be a good thing!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Head full of Bs

Now that’s made me think of honey. No it’s not a front runner, I can live without honey. I like bees though but maybe that’s for another post!

My, what a lot of Bs I have on my list.

- I can happily have bacon wrapped around most things but small new potatoes works for me every time
- Bacon sandwich – on white bread with butter, not margarine, with some HP sauce but not enough to dribble down my clothes. I may have to add an egg to this!
- Salmon and bacon are a perfect marriage so a lightly smoked thick cut fillet of salmon from Waitrose seared in pan alongside snipped pieces of bacon and served drizzled with the fabulous Extrapesto olive oil.

- I adore pesto so maybe I start with that. And if I can’t be bothered getting out the mortar and pestle Harvey Nix do a very fine job!
- I think I have the finest olive oil in the world – Extrapesto, and will quite happily drizzle it on most things, so I probably have some salady thing.
- I need to experiment with basil desserts, may an ice cream or with a lemon posset

- Wellington, of course! My preference is for individual but the family sized ‘Moo’ was a triumph!
- A gorgeous pepper steak maybe with Béarnaise sauce also. Either served with skinny chips or mash or gratin daupinoise, no don’t get me started.
- The breadless burger that Henry Harris advocates – two large field mushrooms wrapped a fine steak burger topped with Cheddar, melted slightly and as he was advocating this in an Atkin’s style, I guess I’d forgo the potatoes and have nice green salad with a very fine French vinaigrette.

- Toast! No I can’t just do toast but maybe I could resurrect the Welsh Rarebit. I recall a Gary Rhodes recipe where you make a veritable vat of the cheesy sauce and use it to top bread, fish and a myriad of other delights
- A soft crust still warm from the oven cheese, bacon and onion bread – mmmmm, bread!
- I like the old James Martin recipe where you make the bread dough and not bothering to prove it, roll it through the pasta machine and then top with rock salt or pepper or herbs and then bake it. When baked, you can snap it into pleasing shards to accompany pâté.

- When I thought of Brie, I thought of baking it in a box. If this doesn’t work I’ll have to change it to Brie and Camembert as I need this recipe in my book! But I think Brie would work very well sloshed with wine and the box placed in foil and cooked. Maybe I could get some of the ‘special’ Chez Gerard French bread to dip into it
- I have a very yummy recipe for Brie melting in risotto – another fine marriage!
- And even though I‘d be perfectly happy with a fine Brie de Meaux with bread (again!), I have also had a lovely filo tart with bacon, brie, leeks and mussels.

Brussels sprouts
I used to make it my yearly challenge to convert some sprout non-believers at my Christmas meal and I was generally very successful!
- A much applauded dish was sprouts boiled and halved and sautéed with orange juice, a fine accompaniment to the goose many years ago
- Brussels and bacon and sploshed with Balsamic. Oh no Balsamic, how could I leave that off my list? No, there’s no room for any more Bs. Bzzzzzzzzz
- I haven’t put cabbage on the list even though it’s one of my favourites and as cabbage is really just a big sprout so my favourite cabbage steamed in a tiny bit of water and glazed with butter which have to make ‘the book’

- Beurre Blanc – made WITHOUT white wine and definitely WITH white wine vinegar – I’m sorry, insist.
- A fabulous crumby little sable biscuit would be in order. I normally like to make my sables in interesting shapes and I am gathering a goodly set of cutters now so there’s much chance for experimentation. I have my eye on a crab cutter and as soon as I think of a reason that I’d need to turn out a pile of perfectly formed crab-ettes, I will add it to the collection.
- Merrilees Parker has a very interesting recipe to make butter from double cream which would definitely be worth an investigation

Butternut Squash
- Butternut squash has such a pleasing colour and texture for soup so a favourite will always be roasted butternut squash soup with bits of crunchy bacon crumbled on top
- Butternut squash goes so well in ravioli with sage and butter sauce
- I’ve got an interesting recipe for squash and risotto formed into cakes around a ball of mozzarella and pan fried. As yet untried but obviously if I went ahead with ‘my book’ I would thoroughly and assiduously eat my way through all the recipes – in the name of research of course!

Oh no - no Giles eye candy!

I've been reading about the new F Word that starts next week and the format has been changed and our Giles Coren is not included! I will be wearing black in his honour, hang on...

Alphabetically speaking

Well let’s start with A. A is typically for Apple and I’ve realised I missed off Apples. Another oversight I think. Anyway to continue:

- That amazing fresh pasta filled with a poached egg on top of roasted vegetables sat on an artichoke heart that I ate on my first visit to Rhodes in the City.
- A huge globe filled with a cheese soufflé that I did with Nicky on my first sojourn in Normandy.
- A pizza with roasted artichoke, smoked chicken on a pesto base baked in a wood burning oven

- wrapped in silky pink slices of Parma ham and dipped in a soft boiled egg
- on a puff pastry tart with Taleggio, simply made with no custard
- asparagus coated in creamy Hollandaise


Whilst greatly enjoying Mr Hopkinson's fine book I got to thinking what my chapters would be if I were writing it. His format is a chapter dedicated to each ingredient with a short piece of maybe childhood reminisces or early days in a professional kitchen or maybe a rant about the curious habits of some eaters today. Then he has three exponents of each of these fine ingredients. He has 47, and a couple of his are on the 'banned list', so instead I'll go for my 47.
And these are, in no particular order:
Duck – naturally!
Brie (I know another cheese, but so different)
Risotto rice
Chambord (okay, unusual choice but it's my list)
Pepper (corns, not nasty slimy red or green things)
Ice cream
Mâche (or Lamb’s lettuce, if you must)
Purple sprouting broccoli
Potatoes (I was going to say ‘mashed potatoes’, but where would I put Gratin Dauphinois and duchesse potatoes?)
Mozzarella (Lamb bumped to make way for more cheese!)
Bacon – hmmm, or is this too similar to pancetta? No, on second thought I could think of so many lovely recipes enhanced by salty bacony goodness that I’ll leave it in.
Artichoke – globe not Jerusalem
Pasta – fresh, of course
Butternut Squash (formerly Hazelnuts)
Foie gras
Sprouts (Brussels not bean-)
Parma ham
Scallops (a late substitition for Mango)
And finally, but definitely not least, mustard

Hmmm, that was easier than I thought. I considered cherries, tarragon, peas, onion, strawberry jam, pork (though prefer to separate chapters for sausages and bacon) and broccoli but they didn’t make the cut. Oh no, I’ve just thought of Mozzarella, but what to ‘bump’? Ahh, and there’s also butternut squash. Okay this is a bad idea, I am going to be obsessed. Okay I think I will swap Lamb for Mozzarella, it may be a lovely sweet meat but my three recipes would probably all be get a fine specimen from Mr Knibbs, butterfly it, stud it aggressively with garlic, rosemary and pancetta and chuck it on the bar-b-que and then do it again and then again. And maybe Hazelnuts can go to make way for Butternut Squash – I love hazelnuts but just a handful or maybe in a salad or in chocolate so not what you'd really call recipes. Now I wonder if I can think of my very favourite three things to do with each one... hmmmm!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Another cookbook!

My shiny new Roald Dahl’s Cookbook arrived today – well actually last week but I wasn’t around to collect (just in case I am casting aspersions as to the speed of Play’s delivery). It does indeed look like another gem – thank you Simon, one of those that you read and savour. It is books like both of these that make me almost glad when the journey home is mysteriously extended! Almost glad! I think I say that it has soul. I flicked through it whilst having my lunch – the aforementioned mâche with hot smoked salmon crusted with mustard seeds, pale rosy strips of Parma ham and lashing of Balsamic.
It reminds me of the book that started this whole crazy cookbook collection off. It was Alistair Little Keep it Simple. I stumbled across it whilst staying with a friend and was so impressed by the chatty style and food. I mean a pizza that wasn’t supposed to have tomato on it – Pizza Bianca – I thought he must be a God! I was just so overwhelmed with the simplicity and the style. I had been used to the Good Housekeeping school of recipes – very reliable but somehow so dull! Here was a man who talked about food with passion and I was hooked. Therefore is it all Alistair’s fault! Maybe I should dig out the original catalyst and whip up something in his honour, a project for this week.

Salad days

Today is a salad day, it is a serious hot sultry day and I went in search of lamb’s lettuce and as much as I love lamb’s lettuce I am not crazy about the name. Do I suspect that it might as well be called namby-pamby lettuce or girlie lettuce as lamb’s lettuce? It’s lettuce for lightweights, for those who can’t cope with the more grown-up rocket or peppery watercress. I suspect sometimes that the ‘bitter’ part of my palate was omitted. Consider the evidence – I have never been able to get my head around coffee, beer always made my taste buds object and I am convinced that this is also the reason I demand blond toast and not the burnt offerings some favour! So it’s effeminate, limb lettuce for me but I may come over all French and call it mâche (pronounced mahsh!) And as you know, I am always happy to come over all French!

The blog with the hole!

I am very aware that there are posts to be made on this site! After avoiding the computer and typing and all those work like things I thought I would finally tackle some of the holes. And clearly the blog has felt lonely and abandoned and behaved so badly especially when I attempted to add the duck-tacular pictures. Obviously, I should have either one picture or no pictures. I was going for the picture paints a thousand words option but after wrestling the pictures kicking and screaming into the correct position (and failing somewhat, hence the odd mosaic approach!) I think I’ll have to go for the words will paint a picture approach! I am defeated! And I haven’t even started on Lille yet! But I promise I will, watch this space!

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Urban Chef

Wow, that Oliver Rowe sure has set himself a challenge. I have been watching him all week attempt to source his ingredients for his new restaurant venture from with in the M25, from locations he can get to by tube. What a seriously brave man! I have resisted Googling him to see how successful he has been and will wait for it to unfold on BBC2. The vegetables seem to be okay but he definitely needs to make friends with some younger more egg exuding chickens. And if the only cheese he is able to rustle up is goat – then it will be a very sad cheese board indeed. I cannot get my head around goat’s cheese, it’s just plain nasty! Anyway we shall have to wait and see if the great metal chain shortage of King’s Cross results in hugely successful venture and will his poor suffering girlfriend ever see him again.

Pole dancing

I never thought anything I ate in one of the canteens of my clients would feature here but much to my delight courtesy of a Polish chef we were able to tuck into a Polish beef wrapped beans with a lovely herby mash (could that be why I was so keen) and a red cabbage (that I didn’t bother with). The best treat of all was to have real china plates and metal cutlery. The food could have been hotter but was definitely the nicest meal I’ve had there. I hope it continues as a Friday treat.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Simon begat Roald

If an author I greatly admire waxes lyrical about another cookbook, I am compelled to consult at the first possible opportunity. That is how Simon Hopkinson begat Roald Dahl! Simon quotes him in the butter chapter where he bemoans the unreasonable drenching of everything in olive oil. When he talks about making a ‘proper’ risotto he says, ‘It’s butter! Butter, butter, butter and more butter beaten into the rice at its very completion.’ So that’ll be butter then I guess!

I scream for Ice Cream

H and I decided that some sustenance was in order before we tackled the ‘hen night’. I eagerly succumbed to the cheap allure of hot wings but on the way I had a yen for ice cream. Now this is unfortunate! For many years the cool parlour of Haagen Dazs would sooth me as I passed and I never entered its hallowed portal, I never partook of its icy comestibles and now, when I really need it, its gone! I feel bad that I never supported them, the time just never seemed right. I blame the location, I generally only passed by on the way to a restaurant, most likely a Conran establishment so it seemed somewhat churlish if not downright greedy to pop in. But now I have a very strong desire and what do I have to sate myself with – a KFC McWhippy style Avalanche. I scream indeed!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Vive la France!

I happened to be passing a Café Rouge today and feeling a little peckish I decided to avail myself of the set lunch menu – an extremely tasty paté followed by a gruyere and ham omelette. Pretty much a perfect lunch! Well I guess a glass a wine would have finished it off but not on a school day! However the day was not over and to continue a day of Francophile delights I booked a table at the local Chez Gerard for the team. This meant that I was able to indulge in lashings of gorgeous bread (Chez Gerard do very good bread!) dipped in a baked Camembert followed by a meat feast of steak, chicken and pork chop accompanied by a very fine mashed potato and a mouthful or so of melting middle chocolate pudding with H, though to be honest the middle wasn’t very melting! Then I could do nothing but roll home. Vive la France!


Simon Hopkinson's latest missive "second helpings of roast chicken" is an inspirational read. It's been seven years since the first serving of roast chicken and Simon is taking no prisoners. Woe betide an over enthusiastic use of either olive oil or coriander. Simon feels that as a nation we've forgotten how to 'cook nicely'. And I think he could be right and as much as I really enjoy the whole cooking experience I am also pleased I don't have to put on the full all singing all dancing performance every day. I am always being asked why I don't set up a restaurant. There are so many reasons why I believe this would never happen but I normally cite the reason as it all being too hard work and not fancying the hours. Truth be told most of the time I am organising some elaborate feast I am also running around working too many hours trying to do a demanding job and all those other things we fill our lives with and I don't know what it would be really like if that's all I did. Though saying that I think it would be seriously hard work and I'd worry that the joy would go out of it all. I think I'll stick the odd spectacular, the occasional mad splurge a la Kobe and some damn tasty rustle up meals on the remaining days. I definitely live to eat and not eat to live. Last night at dinner we were discussing our colleague in Germany who's adopted an uber vegan diet, macrobiotic raw vegetables and a few nuts only. How sad is that? I am sure Simon would agree, each of the fabulous 47 ingredient chapters starts with a little story around the particular food he's championing and a wonderful little illustration. He describes a chicken pie as requiring a 'modicum of toil' and this phrase delighted me, personally I think a modicum of toil in the kitchen is a vastly enjoyable way to spend time but as I've already said, I ration my toiling to an acceptable level. Oooh I am feeling so inspired!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Second helpings...

Simon Hopkinson's "second helpings of roast chicken" arrived in the post today, it has been eagerly awaited and has been sat in a preordered state in my outstanding list on Play from the moment I got a whiff of its release. And it hasn't disappointed. I haven't been able to do much more that a quick flick and a stroke of the pistachio coloured cover but it holds a great deal of promise and will definitely be a firm favourite, now where's my wooden spoon?

Monday, June 05, 2006

a tired postman

Oh such an embarrassment of riches today! My David Herbert’s ‘Picnics’ and Galton Blackison’s ‘a return to real cooking’ AND Paul Gayler’s ‘Steaks’ turned up. With all these parcels, you are spoiling us. I will read and report. The picnic book is in anticipation of the splendid Jool’s event in the park, more plotting and planning and poring over cookbooks. It’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it!
And tonight I'll be mostly eating steak or at least reading about it if I don't get to Waitrose in time!

Saturday, June 03, 2006


Well D-Day is here, time to release the ducks!
I think I’ve worked out the menu, but there’s always a chance I’ll have a wild last minute alteration! Ocado have done their part and now I just have to lock myself away in the kitchen and create!
And I have to scatter the black ducks etcetera in an artful manner on the table.
As it transpires - the menu turns out to be exactly as it was originally conceived:

Duck carpaccio and plum salad
Duck, spring onion and hoison sauce
Duck en croute with asparagus and Jersey Royals
Lemon posset
Chocolate and ginger cheesecake à la duck

This was all washed down with a lip-smacking Chambord and Champagne cocktail.

I think it all went very well, I was very pleased with the carpaccio - made with D and I's patented mini rolling pin method! The colour was really good against the plums and green leaves.
The duck tarts made from a base inspired by the recipe in the new Gordon Ramsay book which I thought may be a little too brown were just perfect - well done Gordon, I'll never doubt you again!
I hadn't been able to find a suitable duck cutter for the en croute nee wellington so I went for free-hand and they turned out pretty okay.
I thought the posset was so refreshing and as I couldn't face any cheesecake until the next day, I couldn't report that I am still not crazy about cheesecake until Sunday. I enjoyed picking off the ginger though!

I have a sneaky suspicion that I’ll be finding little black ducks forever! Well never mind – it was a duck of a good do!