Category Archives: Recipe

Award-Winning Writer

We are told to ‘keep it local’ when it comes to buying food, but my food writing has now been recognised on a very local level too.

My home county’s village farm, Fanny’s Farm, ran a marmalade competition last month. Prizes were available for best female, best male and an additional prize for marmalade-inspired memories – all to be judged by JoAnne Good from the BBC London. My mum has been making marmalade for as long as I can remember, so she entered the women’s section, whilst I submitted my Marmalady piece to the writing competition.

We both won first prize!

Well, that’s not strictly true. My sister actually won first prize, but she used my mum’s recipe. Even though Mum didn’t win herself, I’m sure she is still proud to know that her recipe informed the winning marmalade, and her marmalade inspired the winning story.

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Whip cream with a jam jar

I have discovered the most convenient and amusing way to whip a small amount of cream in minutes.

Take a small, clean glass jar and fill it just under half way with double or whipping cream. Shake!

Depending on how fast you can shake the jar, the cream whips to a firm texture in no time. My dinner guests were pretty over excited when a race emerged between two competitive shakers – just make sure the lid is firmly on each jar to avoid catastrophe. 

I’m now wondering what else I can take my jar method to; whisking eggs? frothing milk for cappuccino? mayonnaise? … watch this space.

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Spaghetti with Marmite?

Whilst looking for a Tiramisu recipe online, I came across this recipe for Spaghetti with Marmite instead (am I the only person to get so distracted looking for recipes on the web?)

375g dried spaghetti

50g/ unsalted butter

1 tsp Marmite, to taste

freshly grated parmesan, to serve

  • Cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling, salted water, according to the packet instructions.
  • When the pasta is almost cooked, melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the Marmite and one tablespoon of the pasta water, mixing thoroughly to dissolve.
  • Reserve half a cup of the pasta water; then drain the pasta and pour the Marmite mixture over the drained spaghetti, adding a little of the reserved pasta water to amalgamate if required.
  • Serve with plenty of grated parmesan.

This recipe comes from Italian cookery writer Anna del Conte, by way of Nigella Lawson. I’m yet to try it – but I think I know what I’m having for tea tonight.

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Terrine

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall said it would be a cinch to make this game terrine; it was twenty past midnight by the time we took our crafted brick of layered meat out of the oven, and pressed it with the weight of three bricks and a cookery book.

I don’t think I’ve ever handled so many different types of animal meat in one evening, as chicken liver, pheasant, duck, pigeon breast and sausage meat each passed through my hands, layered one atop the other with a sprinkling of salt and pepper in between. This morning the kitchen is heavy with the smell of thyme, parsley and rich, mellow meats; this hearty, solid terrine seems like the only thing we should be eating at the turn of winter.

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brioche for breakfast

If you’ve ever made chocolate truffles, marmalade or quiche you’ll know that feeling of a simultaneously sinking heart and quickening pulse – as The Truth is revealed to you. Once you’ve read the list of ingredients (usually including butter, sugar, or cream – or all three if you’re lucky) it’s no wonder these foods tastes so good. Like Eve eating the apple of knowledge, the postlapsarian slide into realisation is sweet, but irreversible.

Tonight I made brioche – which it turns out it mostly flour and butter: 340g butter to 500g of flour. That’s pretty much a 2:3 ratio – which is a lot of butter. (I love butter: read this.)

I was driven to make this satanic incarnation of butter after eating some shop-bought brioche. In my usual mixture of ego and curiosity, I looked at the ingredients and thought – I could make these! I did the same with Jaffa Cakes. And macaron… and now I find myself in the same post-cooking haze at ll o’clock at night, wondering why I bothered! There are three proving stages. We aren’t going to eat these bad boys until THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW!!

The basic recipe involves mixing fresh yeast into warm milk, then whisking that with some eggs into a mound of flour. This creates possibly the stickiest substance known to man: if superglue where to have a culinary equivalent, this is it. I tried to mix the dough in my food processor, but when the smell of burning rubber overtook the scent of fresh yeast, I thought better of it. The sticky dough had somehow managed to get down the central shaft of the mixer and was winding its way around the mechanism (I don’t think the recipe’s recommended ‘preparation time’ included cleaning this complicated mess up).

Once you’ve finished breaking your kitchen utensils, you whisk unmentionable amounts of butter with sugar, and then rub the butter into the dough. I tried to do this on the work surface, but ended up moving to a bowl as obscene quantities of greasiness was oozing even further around my kitchen than the stickiness.

I am struggling to find a way to describe what it feels like to rub butter into an already rich dough. It made me laugh with the excess of it; digging your hands into a bowl of butter, taking a handful, and then squishing it between your fingers as you massage it into the dough. Argh! You’re just not meant to deal with butter by the handful – it’s so wrong. I loved it!!

At this point you leave the dough to rise for eight hours. Yes: 340g of butter has the same effect on yeast as it does on your coronary arteries – it slows it right down. The butter clogs up the yeast’s raising properties, which means you have to leave the dough to prove for 8 hours, 4 and then another 2 hours. Because I was at work, I ended up leaving it overnight, knocking it back and leaving it all day, shaping it, and then leaving it over night again.

I started making the brioche on Tuesday night, and we had them for breakfast on Thursday morning.

8.15am Thursday morning: Coffee and homemade brioche… I’m in love.

I used the recipe from my Leith’s Cookery book, but here is a simpler one from the BBC. I’m going to try the quick one next time, so see if the results are the same. Let’s face it, you’ve got to be some kinda wannabe foodie to even think of making brioche in the first place: here is the most honest account of making brioche I found!

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featured…

Every woman needs an obsession: and I am obsessed with culinary obsession.

Every other week, it seems, I get some gastronomic bee in my bonnet, and I just don’t feel at peace until I’ve cooked it. First it was making homemade Jaffa cakes, then fig chutney, then handmade marshmallows. Once the idea has occurred to me, I’ll constantly think about a recipe, and when, how and with who I’ll whip up these little gustatory delights. Yet as soon as I’ve made a big mess in the kitchen and have something edible to show for my efforts, I move onto the next obsession. I’m like some donkey providing my own interminable carrot so that I am never left with the sense of having nothing left to cook. Each obsession reflects a different side to my character, or rather…

I’ve been featured! See my guest feature on the beat that my heart skipped to read more of this piece!

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take in take out

Chicken Chow Mein, fish and chips, Hawaiian pizza – the carnage of a late night take away. Take out tends to only taste good when you’re drunk or desperately hungry – but why order take out when you can ‘take in’ at home.  The greasy spoon favourites don’t need to come with extra helpings of MSG; you can cook all the take away classics in your own home without the disgrace of being surrounded by polystyrene cartons in the morning. More…

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