Watching the ghastly events at Isleworth Court this week, it was pretty much a forgone conclusion I’d be Team Nigella since it would take a lot for me to back a man who throttled his wife. But it was also because Nigella has probably been the biggest influence on my cooking career of anyone.
It was her columns in Vogue in the very late 90s that turned me from being able to make food to being able to cook and understanding the power of writing and talking about food. Prior to that, most of my food influence had been from family or watching people like Keith Floyd on TV, but Nigella introduced me to food writing. Her columns seemed incredibly grown up and very cosmopolitan. I felt so very adult cooking things she wrote about while friends made baked potatoes and Old El Paso kits when we went round for dinner before a big night out.
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Surprisingly, I’m not yet thinking of what to have for Christmas dinner. Instead my mind is occupied by what I can create for this fantastic challenge by BuyAGift.co.uk in aid of the Trussell Trust who run many of the foodbanks in the UK. Setting aside my annoyance that foodbanks need exist in this day and age, this is a great idea.
The challenge is to see if you can cook a festive meal for two people for just £3 in total. You can then enter your dish(es) into the competition and help win £600 for your local Trussell Trust food bank and a little something for you as well. Rules and full details can be found here. The competition runs until December 15th and is a great way to challenge yourself to try something different on a budget.
I’ll be very impressed if you can buy the entire dish for £3, but you can use portioning to keep within the budget. So if your bag of sugar costs £1 and you use a quarter, then it’s 25p of your whole budget. This challenge is likely to test my maths skills to the maximum as I go!
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This year I have finally been organised enough to make a Christmas pudding. Our mum came to visit in November and I seized the opportunity for her to take the pudding back to Belfast on her luggage allowance rather than trying to cram it in my case at Christmas along with presents and my winter woollies.
Luckily the recipe makes two puddings and therefore I’ve been able to try one before the big day and tell you that it works very nicely indeed. I had originally intended to use just apples for the pudding, but I had some quinces in the house that were doing that usual trick of just sitting there waiting to be used. So I thought I’d use them instead. This makes the pudding lighter and more moist. I’m so glad to have finally found something where quinces really shine! [click to continue…]
I’m going to say something deeply unfashionable in foodie circles: I like Dutch cuisine. I like hearty soups and stews and mountains of cabbage anyway. I’m very Northern European in my tastes and I like small deep fried things, thus I enjoyed the hell out of the food when I visited Holland.
Dutch food gets a bad rap and I’m sure a lot of that comes from the fact tastes have changed and this kind of solid, simply flavoured food doesn’t translate well when cooked in bulk or done cheaply like in ready meals. But frankly, I think it’s pretty outrageous of the Irish or British to criticise other countries’ food as being bland or boring. It misses the point, creates a kind of food snobbery and ignores the seismic effect World War II had on Northern European food and the attempts to regroup from that. [click to continue…]
I’m on the home straight of recipe testing for Recipes from Brixton Village as I finish up the last 20 or so recipes while completing the manuscript. I’m loving learning about new ingredients and challenging myself so that you will all have a few surprises in store when you all see the book. But it does mean that when I’m cooking for myself I want simple flavours and simple dishes.
I also want things I can eat with the minimum of fuss and thought, preferably as I write and edit so I can believe in the myth of multi tasking. Popcorn has been fitting the bill perfectly but my usual scattering of sweet and salty needed a shake up. I wanted something sweet, but sophisticated and definitely not sickly. [click to continue…]