All posts filed under: Recent and Random

creamy pumpkin rigatoni

At this time of year, I invariably have odd half cups of pumpkin puree leftover from making pancakes, waffles, and the like. This year I even played around with a pumpkin pie ice cream, which was, in the end, really rather tasty. So a pumpkin overflow isn’t exactly the worst problem to have. In fact, come lunchtime, it’s often the best ingredient for a fast, seasonal and, most importantly (at least on cold, dreary days), warming meal. This takes about as long as your pasta takes to cook. While it bubbles away, you can hover near the stove assembling and stirring the sauce, and enjoying the balmy heat of the kitchen (a boon when your flat refuses to acknowledge that the heat is on full whack). You’ll notice that much of this is “to taste” – from the amount of nutmeg to the parmesan. Embrace that. Grab a spoon and taste as you go. After all, the oven’s on and it’s a nice warm place to be. Maybe you want your pasta extra cheesy today? …

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 …

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 …

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 connoisseurs 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 – just a smile), 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 got …

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. J and I started in Bologna. Land of ragù. We expected to drown ourselves in olive oil and local wine, indulge in far too much 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. Sauntering into luxurious hotel bars 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 I tried one …