All posts filed under: Recent and Random

duck and bulgur salad with feta

Packed full of herbs, earthy from the bulgur, with a slow sharp slap of creamy zing from the feta, this is a memorable salad that’s just right for this time of year. It’s been, as the Scots say, dreich for days now. Low grey skies and clumps of wet leaves as far as the eye can see. But I love this kind of weather. It smells good outside, fresh, like everything’s getting a good scrub. Getting right to the quick. Finding myself in need of a lunch for one, and a break from work, which was causing me not a little amount of stress, I decided to bring together a few ingredients for a nourishing meal. To take a proper break to make something that would taste good and make me feel great. The result is an autumnal meal, slightly nutty from the fine brown bulgur, and rich from the duck, but one that’s light and fresh nonetheless. A meal that makes the rest of your day feel full of promise. I don’t recommend cooking …

tahini toast with apple and cinnamon

This is one of my perfect autumn breakfasts. And although I’m writing about it here, it’s hardly a recipe. More of a suggestion of how to assemble a pretty cracking piece of toast. Basically, spread some good sourdough toast thickly with tahini, layer on some thin (thin) slices of fresh apple, and then sprinkle it all with ground cinnamon and crunchy Maldon salt. Eat with a hot cup of coffee alongside and just wait – everything in the universe will align in that bite, and everything will feel good, and warm, and autumnally-suffused with spice. This is a simple dish, and as such, you will taste all the elements involved. That’s kind of the magic. You get the crunch from the bread, and the savoury pop from the snowy flakes of good salt (hello, Maldon, you delicious beast). The warm freshness of the apple balanced by the smooth nuttiness of the tahini. And then cinnamon wrapping it all in scent and spice. So, pay attention to what you use. Starting with the bread: I would …

almond, manchego, and green olive bites

There are few food rituals I love more than aperitivo. Cocktail hour. It’s the in-between time. The day is ending, the night is beginning. It’s a time for talk. For laughter. For food. Whether it’s a stiff G&T and peanuts in an English garden on a sunny evening, or a vibrantly-coloured Aperol Spritz and a few olives on a cobbled street in Bologna as the lights twinkle on, you can’t really go wrong. J and I have reproduced this ritual many a time. It’s a treasured holiday tradition, and an elegant everyday treat. We’ve enjoyed it with our families. In far-flung places. Sitting in a sunny patch on our living room floor, like cats stretching out in a puddle of sunshine. It’s not fancy – that’s kind of the point. You don’t need much to throw together a pleasing nibble feast. You need a good drink, something you love. Some radishes. A small bowl of nuts. Some rosy, languorous lengths of proscuitto. A few olives. And, in my opinion, these compelling little bites. They’re ridiculously …

courgette carbonara

Now, let’s get this out of the way first, the name of this dish is likely to cause consternation with Italians – Romans, in particular. Obviously, the only true carbonara is an actual carbonara. But I was faced with a dilemma: what do you call a pasta dish that utilises the basic components of a carbonara, but which actually uses courgette instead of pancetta (or guanciale)? Carbonara sans meat? Courgette pasta? Spring rigatoni? Nah. I’m just calling this like I see it – this is a courgette carbonara. By the way, you won’t miss the crisp chew of pancetta nubs in this. You can take my word for it – I have a true and lasting love for anything that even remotely resembles bacon. Lardons (yes). Pancetta (yes). Actual strips of bacon (hell yes). What I can’t abide, incidentally, are those freeze-dried bacon bits that somehow keep finding their way into jacket spuds. I mean, come on. There are so many better things to put inside a fluffy spud: baked beans and cheese, creme fraiche …

bread baking

More often than not nowadays, there is a smudge of flour somewhere on my person. Usually it’s on the cuffs on my favourite baggy blue cardigan. Sometimes it’s on my face. I’ve gone out with it splashed down my front, like a walking Rorschach test, and with handprints on my butt from where I’ve hastily brushed off the snowy white dust before dashing off a few lines on my laptop, or darting to the oven to check on whatever is currently making my kitchen smell like heaven. You see, I’ve been baking a lot of bread. I’ve made bagels and wheaten bread. Challah and cornbread. And one of my happiest achievements to date – sourdough. Sourdough is a tricksome beast. The first time I tried, it was completely off. More like a dense wholemeal loaf than the chewy, crispy, airated bread I was aiming for. All was not lost, however; the brown doorstop made a pretty decent bread salad (once liberally doused in olive oil and introduced to the grill). The problem – I surmised, …

Clementine Drizzle Mini Loaf Cakes

clementine drizzle mini loaf cakes

I‘ve been making some variation on this recipe since I was a kid; my family are now connoiseurs of this particular baked treat. Fairy cakes were one of the first things I ever learned how to cook and this recipe has evolved out of those first messy, gloopy attempts. Aged seven or eight, I remember baking them at a friend’s house and scrawling down the recipe we used on pink notepaper to take home with me. There’s something magic about the alchemy of baking and I am firmly of the opinion that if you bake with love (or – at a pinch – in fits of giggles), you can taste it. Like something fresh and sparkly behind the buttery goodness. I kept that little pink recipe for years, eventually absorbing the recipe and merging it with one from Nigella Lawson, I think. It’s one of those recipes that I’ve now been making for so long that I kind of do it without thinking. As I got older, baking became my stress relief and this recipe …

the joy of an Aperol spritz

I was in Italy last year. It was a spur of the moment, run away from reality, throw yourself into life kind of trip. Change was happening and life was full of possibility. So, obviously, I wanted to go somewhere to properly experience the feeling. Since Italy is my happy place, off we went. The boyfriend (J) and I started in Bologna. Land of ragu. We expected to drown ourselves in olive oil and local wine, indulge in far too much fresh pasta, and knock back rich, bitter espresso when we got footsore. What we did not expect was… the Aperol spritz. Having now imbibed more Aperol spritzes than I care to mention, I can tell you that the drink tastes like warm summer evenings and destination-less strolling through cobbled streets, ducking into monasteries to escape sudden rain storms and sauntering through luxury hotels and pretending I belonged. But most of all, every time I drink one, I feel happy. It’s a kind of deep breath, light-hearted happy. And I thoroughly recommend it. But before …